Wednesday, January 24, 2007
The Super Bowl is two weeks, not one game
I remember when the Fighting Illini were in the NCAA Tournament Championship game against the UNC a couple years ago. After they lost that game, the next day Andy Dolan remarked how he was surprisingly not that bummed out about the loss. After some thought, he figured out why. That was going to be Illinois' last game anyway. They weren't eliminated. They just lost.
And so it is with the Super Bowl. The Bears won't be eliminated from anything if they lose the upcoming Super Bowl. There will be a winner and a loser, but nobody is advancing to anything. It's not "win or go home" anymore. It's "win and/or lose and go home."
And just like that Illini team was so incredibly fun to watch that it would have been a shame for them not to play the absolute maximum, I just kept wanting to see this Bears team play one more time.
And so now they will. One more time.
Do you ever wonder why no one ever talks about winning the Super Bowl? (Sure they mention that Dan Marino never won the big one, Peyton needs a ring, etc.) But by and large you never hear people speak much of "winning the Super Bowl." You hear "get to the Super Bowl" all the time. Because that's the pinnacle. That's the grand stage. That gives you a shot.
I realize the ultimate of any sport is putting on that ring or hoisting the trophy at long last. But it seems that in football more than any other sport…getting there is the goal. The Bears' preseason goal being verbalized over and over and over and over in training camp? Get to the Super Bowl. ("We have a good enough team to get to the Super Bowl." "We expect to be in Miami in early February." "I know that Rex is the guy to get us to the Super Bowl." "Anything short of the Super Bowl would be an extreme disappointment.")
This right here is the ultimate. These two weeks. Think about it. You get the podium and confetti and a huge trophy and big on-field presentation for just getting to the Super Bowl. And then you get two weeks of unadulterated glory.
Sure winning the ring puts you in a very elite group. But really…this is the fun part. If you win the Super Bowl, there is one night of post-game fame. Then what do you have…maybe a parade and then the next week you send a couple guys to the Pro Bowl just like most other teams.
The pressure is in getting there. The pressure is in avoiding the elimination. Now that they're there, I am considerably more relaxed. I don't feel on edge or the sense of desperation for a win (while all the while wanting and expecting one).
OK, so I'm not actually satisfied. When kickoff comes on February 4th, I'm quite sure that I'll be rooting insanely for the Bears to win that stupid thing. But more because it's a Chicago Bear football game on TV than anything else. That's who I am. In regards to it being the Super Bowl, it's almost that I want them not to lose more than I want them to win. I don't want to be the guy whose team lost the Super Bowl. I don't want them to have to live with that demon into next year. And yes, I want them to be the World Champs. Of course I do.
I discussed the following with a friend the other day. Are the Colts or the Bears a better football team? Obviously the Colts' program has had more long term success in recent years, but it's hard to know who has been better this season. The Colts won their games by an uncharacteristically close margin for the most part. But the Bears had an easier schedule. The Colts lost four of six down the stretch, but the Bears were in an unspeakably wretched division. The Colts were 12-4. The Bears 13-3. The Colts scored 427 points this season. The Bears scored 427 points this season (both tied for second in the NFL). The Colts allowed 360 points (23rd in the league). The Bears allowed 255 (third). But that still doesn't tell us much.
The ESPN weekly power rankings are little more than three or four so-called experts submitting a list and then averaging the outcome. Still, it can't be that much less reliable than the NCAA basketball polls that are so crucial to some folks. So I decided to average out the season's worth of power rankings for each of the teams (starting after week one action).
The Colts had the best mark in the NFL on the year with an average weekly ranking of 2.4 (including five weeks in the number one slot). The Bears were a close second with a 3.2 mean (also with five weeks at the top). See what I mean about a sense of satisfaction that the year's two best teams made it to the biggest stage?!?! (See my previous blog). It just feels a lot better this way. No one backed in. No one made a late run. No Wild Card teams. Just the NFL's best reaching the pinnacle.
Now these numbers serve only to provide a glimpse at the average perception of these two teams this year. But it does speak to consistency and national respect, I suppose. For what it's worth, the other solid teams this year came in this way: Chargers (4.2), Ravens (5.4), Patriots (5.9), and Saints (at a whopping 10.0). Furthermore, the Bears and Colts spent six different weeks in some combination of number one and two.
And they will finish one and two. Literally.
After the Bears suffered their first loss to the Dolphins, the luster of a would-be undefeated season was gone and the national talking heads seemed to lose interest. In fact, they were absolutely desperate for a different NFC powerhouse to emerge. They were so anxious for this to happen, in fact, that they began fabricating new teams to be the class of the conference.
First it was the Cowboys. Then the Cowboys fell miserably flat on their face. Then it was the Saints. But the Saints limped into the playoffs having lost two of three. So it had to be the Eagles, right? The Eagles couldn't even get out of the first round! And who's left standing? So much for all the wishings of the Sean Salisburys and Mark Schlereths. The Bears were the dominant team wire to wire. Like it or not.
It has been a magical season for the Chicago Bears. Like I mentioned, it started with (literally) everyone in the organization talking Super Bowl in August in Bourbonnais. Then they won at Green Bay 26-0 on opening day. After that, the 13 wins seemed to pile up somewhat effortlessly. They never truly relinquished their stranglehold on the conference. They said to expect a Super Bowl, and then they went out and exhibited consistency. Maybe that's why I was neither surprised nor overly elated when they blew out the Saints on Sunday (even though I picked the Saints to win…go figure.)
And speaking of which…what better way to get to the Super Bowl than a blowout? Sure the Saints were within two points in the third quarter. But 39-14??? Really?? That wasn't possible. Not only did the experts say the Bears couldn't win the game, they said they wouldn't be able to stop the Saints offense. They held them to 14 points (New Orleans had only scored 14 or fewer once all year long). Furthermore, they wouldn't be able to stop the fun. Deuce McAllister churned out a whopping 18 yards on the ground, while Reggie Bush dwarfed that with his 19.
And then to put up 39 on that defense? Even though the Bears got some takeaways, their defense only actually scored the two points on the safety. The Bear offense did the rest. New Orleans hadn't given up that many points all season long! On the other hand, that makes eight 30-plus point games for the Bears this year.
Something I heard on the radio today really intrigued me. What about the Bears' regular season made anybody think they couldn't hang in with the league's elite (NFC or AFC for that matter)? If anyone put any stock in that week 17 Packer loss, that was entirely foolish. I think the telling point was the three game road trip (Giants, Jets, Patriots) in November.
That stretch was supposed to show us what the Bears were made of to begin with. They started by blowing out the Giants. Then in one of my favorite games of the year, they gutted out a 10-0 road win over the Jets. The Jets proved to be one of the finer AFC teams in the long run. That game was indicative of a team who just knows how to win.
And so it was back east one more time the following week. The dreaded trip to Gillette. And yes the Bears lost, but again—what about that game told us they couldn't hang with the AFC's elite??? It took a Tom Brady fluke juke on a running play late in the game to keep the Bears from a legitimate shot at victory. In the end theylost by four, but that was a real football game. Two great teams battling it out. Two good defenses making plays and forcing turnovers. As Jimmy Johnson said in the postgame, "When you have two defenses like that, those aren't turnovers, those are takeaways." And I think he had a good point for once. That was one of three losses this season, but I kind of look at that as the Bears' statement game in a way.
So the fact that they handled the NFC's 11-5 Saints with relative ease down the stretch on Sunday shouldn't have been that big of a surprise I guess. Still, it sure seems like a good way to be headed to the Super Bowl—firing on all cylinders. At least that's what it looked like.
I know the Bears wanted another shot at the Patriots. At least some of them (Lovie certainly wasn't rooting for that to be sure). And it would have been interesting to get a rematch of 1986. History would have been on our side if nothing else. But a Bear/Colt Super Bowl is the best matchup in years. Hopefully that will translate into good ratings. And it would be nice if it could go down as one of the most memorable Super Bowls ever somehow.
While listening to The Score today, I heard Terry Boers discuss the upcoming showdown. He talked about how it would be a lot easier to develop and nurture hatred if it was the Patriots. It wouldn't take long to summon up some grandiose dislike for Bill Belichek. But the Colts? What's to hate? Said Boers, "I absolutely adore Tony Dungy..." Kind of weird. Then he said something that put into words what I truly feel deep down" "If the worst thing that happens is you go to Miami and lose the championship to Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning, I think that would almost be OK."
And that brings me to my original point. Peyton will likely need that ring someday to validate his career (according to some). And he may never get this close again. But I'm not hoping he gets it this time, that's for sure.
But what the heck… This is what it's all about. Two weeks of marinating in Super Bowl glory. The coverage. The outrageously-priced merchandise. The media day. The attention on the late night talk shows. The fluff pieces. The stories behind the stories. All the stuff you hate if your team's not involved. The winner? They get one night to bask. (And oh yeah, a place in history). But this is the last game either way. It's just a good old football game with my favorite team. No pressure. Go out, play well, and either win or lose. But enjoy the stage for everything it's worth. I know I will.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Sunday, January 21, 2007
THE BEARS ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE
Those are scores from eight different Bears' wins from this season. Eight out of the now 15! The Bears have won 15 games this year. And lost three. And they'll probably be viewed as underdogs in February 4th's Super Bowl. And I'm fine with that. They've certainly handled the doubting well so far.
The Bears have had one dominant season. They jumped out to the fast start, and so the initial national media talk was about their chances of an undefeated season. Really? No, that wasn't going to happen. But it gives them something to talk about. Then the Bears were the first to clinch a playoff spot, first to win their division, first to clinch home field...so on and so forth. But somewhere along the line the Bears went from being regarded as the league powerhouse to everyone's favorite team to rip on.
I've heard different people refer to the "lull" that the Bears ran into there for awhile. When was that?! Seriously. They dominated their schedule from week one. So when was the rough patch? Was it when the Dolphins caught the Bears sleepwalking through their week 9 game to interrupt their would-be perfect season? Was it three weeks later when the Bears were finishing a grueling three game east coast road stretch at New England? And they had a chance to steal that win deep into the fourth quarter? Was that the mis-step? Or was it the completely meaningless New Year's Eve game against Green Bay that the Packers had won by halftime so the Bears rested their starters?
See there were no losing streaks this year. Not even in preseason (they lost one, won one, lost one, and won one in that order). Sure they benefited from a little luck in the regular season Arizona win, but still they have rebounded from every single loss with a win. And usually another.
A rough patch would be like when the Patriots lost two crucial games in a row in November (Colts and Jets), or when the Colts lost four of six (including two in a row in the division), or like the Saints finishing the season by losing two of three. But the Bears? Not really. The Bears were just going through their schedule and clinching milestones along the way.
So to recap, they started quickly, lost a couple three times, had some crucial injuries, won a couple lucky games, won some more games, made the playoffs, clinched home field advantage, and now...made the Super Bowl. Good defense. Good special teams. Two good running backs. And a complimentary (sometimes flashy) passing game. Wire to wire. The best team in the NFC and one of the top teams in the NFL. Start to finish. The Bears are who we thought they were.
Rex Grossman's biggest problem was not Rex Grossman. It was Phillip Rivers and Tony Romo. If those two hadn't been overachieving as first time starters, people would have likely cut Rex a lot more slack. But because Rivers and Romo were playing unreasonably well, Rex suddenly was stripped of the excuse of being young. This was Rex' first full year as a starter. That's all you need to know. He played well, poorly and in between. And won. Because the Bears surrounded him with the right people.
And that reminds me, he did have some games were he was "just OK." (See Sunday's game v. New Orleans.) How many times did you hear the ESPNers say, "HAHAHAHA...all the Bears needs is some mediocrity from Rex Grossman!!!! He's either really good or really bad!!! There's just no in between!!!" Then they would spout off the stat of seven games with a QB rating of over 100, and then the five of below 37. "There's just no in between!!!" they would again proclaim. Let's see...seven plus five equals twelve. Last I checked the Bears have played 18 games, no? So needless to say, Rex has been "good enough" several times as well. I don't know what more you could ask out of the guy lately. If you throw out the weightless Green Bay game, he has only thrown one interception since week 13 (and that was the one that Muhammad dropped last week). That's outstanding work under pressure. And those seven games with a rating of over 100? That's second in the NFL this year.
Tommie Harris and Mike Brown. Sure there are other injuries, but those two guys were so huge on defense back when the Bears were dominant on that side of the ball early this season. And now they're gone. So you just replace them??? Well, the Bears have done well enough, I suppose. It would be frightening to see how well they'd be playing if they had Harris' pass rush and Brown at safety to help with the run defense and deep pass coverage. See there is a reason why certain guys start. Because they're better. And they provide identity to a particular unit. Just like Bob Sanders. It's no coincidence that the Colts can all of a sudden stop the run.
The funny thing to me is...when Mike Brown got hurt in the Arizona game, I heard someone on TV say, "well that's a big loss to the Bear defense, blah blah blah...a couple years ago when Brown went down it became a lot easier to run the ball on the Bears, blah blah blah..." And I thought, "You know, he's exactly right. I remember the defense looked average after that." Mike Brown is a huge part of this defensive identity. Not only is he the veteran leader, but he's the most versatile guy in the secondary. So slowly but surely the Bears' defense became more leaky. And shockingly all of the pundits seemed beside themselves as to the reason why. Duh. But inexplicably you didn't hear much if anything about the loss of Mike Brown.
And Tommie Harris. Lovie Smith said that the loss of Tommie Harris made the Bear defense go from special to normal ("just like everybody else"). Turns out, the Bears couldn't generate any kind of consistent pass rush without him. And they became much more vulnerable up the middle. But you play on.
And you keep winning. And you still blow a couple more people out. And you're still the underdogs. But now you made the Super Bowl.
I feel better about it going down this way. Every year after the Bears are out of it I root for the two best representatives from each conference to make it to the Super Bowl. I want history to be able to look back on a given year and remember what a good year the two Super Bowl teams had in that particular campaign. That's why I hate it when a team like the 2005 Steelers absolutely backs their way into the Super Bowl by stringing together some wins at the end of the year.
So the fact that the Bears were--talking Super Bowl from day one of Training Camp, began the year on fire, blew people out, won the NFC in the regular season, and now are rewarded with a trip to Miami... it just feels right that way. Nothing cheap about it. Easy division? Sure? Easy schedule? No question. But the Bears dominated their schedule. And they beat the Saints by 25 points. It's been a superb year any way you cut it.
Now we get to see them play for the big ring to put a lid on a dream season two weeks from today. And so win or lose, the Bears are indeed who we thought they were.
Monday, January 15, 2007
Colt Bear Ramblings
Tom Brady is tired. That's not a good story any more. Peyton Manning is always a good story. The NFL has been ready for him to get a ring for a long time now. I mean the NFL community as a whole. Maybe not the league officials. But I would think even they would want their unofficial spokesman to be known as a winner at some point. I think it's time for the Colts to win the Super Bowl. Or at least get there.
I have never been a conspiracy theorist. I like sport for sport sake and I want to believe everyone else does too. But I'm not dumb. I realize that people can't get enough of the New Orleans Saints story. I think "they" would be more than happy to be force-fed that piece all this week...and then eat it up for two more before the Super Bowl as well. Throw on top of that the Peyton/Archie Manning-New Orleans connection, and you have a storyline worth its weight in gold. The Colts are at home. They will beat the Patriots. The Bears are also at home. But I think they're supposed to lose to the Saints. I feel that's the way the script has been written.
And besides, I have been absolutely dreading a Colts/Bears Super Bowl--as intriguing as it would be. It's always been kind of one of those pipe dreams I guess. My two favorite teams. But now that it's two collective wins away from happening, I am apprehensive. I have too many Colts fans too close (sister, Dad, Megan, roommate, etc) to be at all comfortable with two weeks of buildup and then a football game featuring those two. But I can't root against the Colts at this point. Especially versus the Patriots.
But if it does come down to a Colts/Bears Super Bowl, I need to watch it by myself. Or with another Bears fan. Somewhere. I have to get away. I should.
I guess it seems lightly unfair for Indianapolis fans--they're almost-success of the past few years. The Colts deserve a Super Bowl win somewhere along the way. I was only six when the Bears last won, but at least I remember it. Fairly well, actually. But I also lived in Indy long enough to gain respect for Manning and go to a few games and cheer and whatnot. So some part of me realizes a Super Bowl win would be nice for the Colts. But the Bears are the Bears. I've been a fan ever since I got that Hutch full uniform complete with shoulder pads and chin strap.
I don't know who's window of opportunity is smaller. Manning is still in his prime, and the Colts have seemed to lose a couple pieces here and there and still keep their identity. A few years ago you could have bet that a Colt Super Bowl would have included Edgerrin and Marcus Pollard. Not the case. On the other hand, the Bear defense is still relatively young, and their quarterback is essentially a rookie. But they could go either way so quickly. I feel that...even though the Bears have only recently joined the party of elite teams, their window may be smaller. Lance Briggs may be on his way out. Muhsin is getting old to be sure. Mike Brown is about to break. For good. And Urlacher can't be that dominant forever. I think the Colts' system has more staying power.
For awhile I was hoping that the Colts would hurry up and win their Super Bowl before the Bears got good again (same with the Pacers and Bulls, actually). Neither happened. The Bears are good again, and I feel somewhat badly that the Colts didn't get it yet. But that doesn't change my level of Bear-rooting come gameday, that's for sure.
But as I mentioned before, I don't believe the Bears will get to the Super Bowl. And it may be because Grossman throws three picks and loses two fumbles. It may be because McCallister runs for 137 yards and Bush for another 74. That's all possible. But I wouldn't be surprised to see the Saints somehow make it to the Super Bowl to complete the Colts/Saints/Peyton/Archie/Katrina magical puzzle. I'm not saying, I'm just saying... That would be a couple darn good story line to milk for two weeks.
And so my predictions...
Colts 24 Patriots 23 (AV at the horn)
Saints 28 Bears 17
And if that's the case, I'll be rooting for the Colts with abandon come February 4th. No doubt about that.
WHERE DID THE YEARS GO, WACO?
As the door begins to slowly but profoundly close on my Texas tenure, I'm primarily left with thoughts of inquiry. And that's not how I drew it up in the beginning. I decided for a long time that I was able to finally know why I moved to Texas... But alas now I only hope it will be clear some time on down the road.
It hasn't all been good, hasn't all been bad. Here are some things I found during my stay in Waco. (Some not having directly to do with Texas.)
I love Baylor baseball, Blue Bell Cantaloupe and Cream, free gameplay in the video game lab. I have great dislike for Casablanca's laundry room, dirty hat, belt buckle, and my research assistantship. I like First Alert 25 pre-spoken word era, hate First Alert 25 post-spoken word era. I love the early Texas Spring. Hate the non-arriving Texas Autumn. I love Bush's sweet tea, cheap rent, and the a sunset at the Baylor tennis center. I don't care for the Whataburger in the fast food jungle, the ne'er do wells on 11th St, or the service at the post office. I love driving to Dallas in the middle of the night with the windows down and the music on. I detest the stretch of I-35 between Ardmore and Oklahoma City.
And it got worse every time I drove it.
I hated going four years with no drums or ping-pong at my disposal. The two talents I had, have been on rot for too long. I love going to get some Brunswick Stew on a would-be chili Fall evening. I liked going to Kohls and buying nothing after a random Baylor volleyball game. I enjoyed thinking I was starting to make some semblance of sense out of my life. Hated getting the entire rug pulled out from underneath me.
I hate the tile on the walls of the Castelaw building. I love the walk from the parking garage to the Castelaw building though.
I hated working for Baylor Dining Services, but loved getting paid for driving around campus on a gator.
My Waco days were easily the best and worst of my life. I lived the hardest and hurt the worst. I went for the home run for the first time in my life only to end up being called out on strikes. I called a long pass play and ended up getting sacked for a loss. And lost the ball on downs. And got cut from the team. I loved more than I ever had, and hated for the first time in my life. I drove way too many miles in the Texas summers in my car with no air conditioner.
I thought "Live Like You Were Dying" was the most hokey song I've ever heard. I thought "Live Like You Were Dying" was extremely profound. I got way better at guitar, way worse at drums (as previously mentioned). I'll miss calling Derek "John" once per broadcast on the China Spring games.
In my first months as a Waco resident, I wrote a sarcastic song called "Wish I Was In Waco." At the time, NOT being in Waco seemed so far away. I don't know if I'll ever wish I was in Waco again or not.
Hope to see you down the road.
Friday, June 23, 2006
Major League Baseball All Star Voting
I did extensive research, and it seems the following are the most deserving at each position:
C Joe Mauer
1B Jim Thome
2B Jose Lopez
SS Miguel Tejada
3B Alex Rodriguez
OF Nick Swisher
OF Jermaine Dye
OF Vernon Wells
And some pitchers...
C Michael Barrett
1B Albert Pujols
2B Dan Uggla
SS Bill Hall
3B David Wright
OF Alfonso Soriano
OF Carlos Lee
OF Lance Berkman
And some pitchers...
Apologies to many folks such as Paul Konerko, Felipe Lopez, and Ichiro, but these position players truly appear like 16 worthy of starting.
I'll add some thoughts on pitchers soon...
Saturday, June 03, 2006
I knew I would like this movie if for no other reason than the fact that the city of Chicago was cast as a primary character.
And I liked it because of the cameos by such Cubs as Sergio Mitre, Todd Hollandsworth, and repeat appearances by Len Kasper. Awesome.
But this movie makes you think. A lot. Sometimes you live your life in fragments...your day to day issues surely aren't as monumental as Vince Vaughn's. But this movie makes you think. This stuff is it. This is all. This is life. Better make it count.
Saturday, May 20, 2006
Here I will post things that I want to. No real theme on this one. I'll just add to it when I feel like it. No, this isn't for you...it's for me.
My five favorite musical artists of all time are:
1. Satellite Soul
3. Jars of Clay
4. The Normals
I hate to include Jars of Clay and Switchfoot, but these are two bands I have followed extremely closely for a decade now. I am still loving the stuff Switchfoot is making--in spite of their mass popularity now. Yeah I liked it better when they were a three-piece, but oh well. As far as Jars of Clay, I don't think Dan is a good singer..but his voice is unbelievably pleasing to me. And I have very little shame in saying that. I think it's terrific. And the band has taken an artistically mature turn in the last five years or so. Also, being a collector, it is a nice challenge to try and acquire every different compilation that includes Jars of Clay. They get around. Honorable mention on this list would include U2, Rick Altizer, Vigilantes of Love, Smalltown Poets, Sarah Masen, Brian Barrett, Lifehouse, and The Elms. What do you think about that?
- - - selah - - -
Here's something. I have never ever in my life used a drive through teller thing at the bank. In my mind as a kid that was something that grownups do. And I have never done it. I do all my withdrawls and deposits at the drive through ATM, and any other business (coin counting, etc...) I do in the lobby.
- - - selah - - -
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
TACO BELL BLOG - STORE 2485
I am normally not one to laud the accomplishments of a local fast food establishment, but this one I can not ignore no longer. Yes, I am devoting my latest blog entry to the local Waco Taco Bell.
The "fast food jungle" (as Derek calls it) right across I-35 from the Baylor campus is not necessarily a collection of the who's who of restaurant franchisees. In fact, the Taco Cabana is easily the worst in the chain. I've never had a good experience at the Whataburger there (easily the slowest drive through I've ever come across). The Wendy's might be alright, but nothing special. The Long John Silvers makes you pull ahead to park and wait for your food even if you're the only customer there. The McDonalds is...McDonalds. And the Sonic takes the cake. It is hardly ever worth your time to go to that Sonic. I came from living by one of the quickest Sonic branches (in Nashville). But this one in the fast food jungle in Waco is unbearably slow. And not necessarily delicious either.
But even if the above weren't all stinkers, the Taco Bell would still stand head and shoulders above them all. I'm sure it doesn't hurt that I actually like most items on the Taco Bell menu. But I have lived here almost three years now, and I am still in awe of the well-oiled machine that is the Taco Bell on 500 Cleveland in Waco, Texas.
I had been there before, but I discovered the magic of the Taco Bell drive- through in the summer of 2004. Now I realize this was the greatest period in my existence so far and things were very exciting in other aspects of my life, so I naturally associate good memories with all that went with it. This was a period where many days I would order a Seven Layer Burrito and a water at 11:45 in the morning and that would be all I had that day (also called "fasting"). Things were going well and this diet seemed to work wonders for me.
But I soon discovered that this was by far the greatest drive-through experience in my life. Two days in a row...three days in a row. Every single time. Not only were they lightning-quick. But every single time, they all went out of their way to say at least one friendly thing (beyond the norm). This included the people at both windows. And the food was always top notch (considering it is still just a Taco Bell).
At first I thought maybe I was catching them in a good stretch. But it lasted the entire summer. And then once the school year started again, they were much more busy. But I still found the same unbelievable service. I am not one to usually allow myself much time on my way to work. There were many times when I would leave the apartment much later than I had hoped to...starving. And I would buzz by the Taco Bell to see if the line was long. Over and over I would be convinced I was too late--that I couldn't make it in time. But the quickness of the drive-through would bail me out. Time after time. A few times the line was all the way around the building. Still...they got me through. Once or twice I thought it was hopeless. I have NEVER been late to work on a day I went to Taco Bell.
It is guaranteed every time. By the time I finish paying at window one, the car at window two is already gone. Every time. And I never have to put my car in park at window two. In fact, I hardly ever have time to put my change in the ash tray by the time they hand me my food. Sometimes it's borderline annoying. Just give me a second.
They almost always pass the "song test." No matter how many cars are in line when I pull in, they still get me through before the current song on the radio is over (provided it's not at the end when I get there). Seriously...I can't tell you how many times I am back on the road again--listening to the same song I was hearing when I was pulling in.
And it has remained consistent. No matter what time of day or night. No matter what time of year. Like I said, I once associated the process with a very positive time in my life. But it has transcended eras for me and has even seen me through the horrid times. (Strange consolation, I realize.)
Ok so I don't eat there that much anymore (I actually had Bear Bucks to use up that first summer). But it still never fails. They're still friendly. They're still almost maddening quick. They have only screwed my order up twice in two plus years...
I started writing this a long time ago. And every time as I pull out of the drive-through I vow to go ahead and finish it. I finally decided it was time. I haven't been in the dining room too much, but whoever is in charge of their drive-through process should publish curriculum.
It is that good. Maybe you can try it next time you're in Waco. (Watch it be slow as molasses for you...)
Monday, May 15, 2006
Myspace Myspace blog.
I know I won't be the first or the last to blog about myspace on myspace. Expressing awe of how this phenomenon is sweeping the www is not an original of mine, I realize.
My friend Jessica recently blogged: "Myspace really is so cool, just connecting people all over the world. I have this theory that Myspace is doing so well because we are ultimately very lonely people. A big fat lonely human race. We do everything alone... We live alone, we drive alone, we shop alone, we listen to our ipods alone... we are on our way to just completely isolating ourselves to where we hardly have any contact with other people ever... or at least, only when we have to. I believe that God made us for each other, that we as a people need people. This is why, I love Myspace... why people love myspace, why it's sweeping so quickly across society."
So God is using myspace? Who knew... (I wonder if He digs the ads for "True" when He logs off.)
But I am amazed at how the site is a). so embarrasingly much better than any of its counterparts, and b). has the ability to integrate so many phases of life. I actually thought I was jumping on the bandwagon a little late. But when I got on, I spent the better part of three nights searching for someone...anyone I knew. I only found two or three people. And believe me, I racked my brain to recall people from every sector of my life--all four states in which I have lived...all five jobs...all six churches...so on and so forth. I did hundreds of searches. And I struck out repeatedly. I even submitted many an invite--with no results. I couldn't find anyone to add as a friend. (Luckily Bucy joined like three or four weeks later.)
But the amazing thing is how short of a time it took to take off (speaking strictly among the people I have known in my life). I don't try to add every person I find, but all of a sudden I now have come across hundreds of people over the past year that I knew/know. Some of them I haven't heard from in two decades. Some of them I would never have dreamed would give in to something like myspace. Some of them I am quite sure don't remember me.
Myspace is the new email address--what with some people owning two, three, four different profiles. Not being on myspace is like still using a facsimile machine or something. You can get people to myspace you back in two minutes who wouldn't reply to your email in two years. Myspace has pretty much eliminated the need for the mass update email. Put your pics, thoughts, and now videos up and let the world come to view. Scary.
Myspace is seemingly as much a part of culture as cable TV right now. Comics don't even bother to include an explanation disclaimer when referring to the site in a joke now. Some bands have even completely forsaken the old fashioned "doubleyou doubleyou doubleyou dot band name dot com" in favor of simply a myspace page. I have heard entire segments devoted to the site on mainstream talk radio.
This is neither an indictment of, nor an endorsment for myspace. Believe me, (working at a family Christian talk radio station) I am well aware of all the dangers and all that. The fact of the matter is, how is it that much more potentially risky than other forms of media/entertainment/communication? There is good and evil in everything. And I don't doubt for a minute that God can use the technology to advance some sort of good.
Aaron N. James S. Joe B. Stacey G. All good people. I never intended for these people to slip entirely out of my life. What a thrill to find out that my best friend from Tremont, Illinois has four boys and a set of twins!!! What the heck... He found me somehow. And you can't log onto hotmail and run a search for specific people's email addresses, that's for sure.
Maybe it's not for everyone. But I have been astounded at some of the people who have signed up in recent months. It blows my mind. And if I ever really get that scared about that bad guys, I'll delete my account.
YEAH BRADLEY'S DOING PRETTY GOOD...
Most people who know me know that the Chicago Cubs are my favorite sports team of all time. But a lot of people have also heard me mention "Bradley basketball" at some point or another along the way. No one ever knew what Bradley was. And those who did know, certainly didn't care in the least. I had moved from the Peoria, Illinois area to Indiana when I was 13. And the fact that I could still get the Bradley games on the radio in Indy was enough to ensure my fanship for the rest of my life.
My brothers, dad, and I have attended the Missouri Valley Conference tournament in St. Louis for ten straight years now. Bradley has had some mild success during our decade of observing the weekend-long tourneys. But ten times we have gone, and ten times we have watched a school not named Bradley celebrate the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. To make matters worse, Bradley has been one and done for several years now--in their own tournament.
So you adapt. You get to know the other teams and find other guys for whom to root after Bradley has long since been bussed back to Central Illinois. But watching celebrations from afar can get old after awhile. The last time Bradley won a meaningful Valley tournament game (meaning not in the opening night play-in round for the league's bottom feeders) was in 2001. That year they advanced to the championship game and lost to Indiana State on ESPN. In fact, every Valley championship game would air live on ESPN. Living in Indy, then Tennessee and Texas..watching Bradley on television has just not been conceivable for me for years on end now. But every year I would throw a tape in the VCR for championship night--just hoping to capture some magic.
It wouldn't look right to see Bradley on TV. I've watched so many hundreds of basketball games in recent years, and the jerseys on the teams never say "Bradley." I know the Bradley players so well, but watching them on the screen playing basketball would be such a novelty. The same would go for the word "Bradley" being mentioned on Pardon the Interruption or Cold Pizza. It just doesn't sound right. It's like my family has taken such ownership of Bradley basketball, that it sounds like someone is talking about my family member when I turn on the TV and hear them discussing Bradley. It's weird. And I doubt I'll ever grow accustomed to it. I would even go crazy if I heard the Bradley score on the Chicago all-sports radio station. It just hit too close to home. And to think that BU would ever make it on the cover of Sports Illustrated... Never would happen.
Bradley basketball is the one primary link to my childhood. That and Cubs' baseball is what Dad and I loved to do. Dad would take me down to Carver Arena in downtown Peoria to see Hersey Hawkins and the Braves play such Valley foes as Tulsa and Illinois State. One time Hersey had a putback at the buzzer to beat lowly Drake. I was there. There has been plenty in my life to remove me from my childhood, but things like that are still tangible to me. And being interested in radio, the fact Dave Snell is still the radio voice of the Braves (and has been for long than I've been alive) is a huge deal for me. I can't say that for any of my other favorite teams. Snell has recently helped me out in several different ways, and I have been able to sit down and chat with him when I see him in St. Louis. He's been great to me. Like I told him, the fact that Bradley on the radio still sound the very same today as it did the first time I listened is huge.
But I was always the one that was talking about Bradley's NIT games when everyone else was talking about their NCAA brackets. And no one cared about them. And I was annoying. I hardly actually know any other Bradley fans other than my immediate family. But it was such a likeable team. Such a likeable school.
Well, you can imagine the outpouring of messages and emails I've gotten in the last five days or so. People know now. They know the Braves are in the Sweet Sixteen. They might even know that Bradley is in Peoria. And most of all they know I stuck with it through thick and thin.
But even as loyal as I've been...this year worked out so that I have been able to track the team much more thoroughly. First of all, they returned 95.7f their scoring from last year's team. So it's a veteran roster--one that didn't take long to know and love. Second, I was able to attend my first home game in ten years when I visited Peoria over Christmas break. Bradley beat top 25 Northern Iowa in double overtime that night. I was able to listen to the majority of this year's games on the internet. So by the time I made it to the tourney in St. Louis, I was more than primed for a nice long BU run.
But they drew Creighton in the first round. That's tough. Bradley was the fifth seed in a tough league. This year was the coming out party for the Missouri Valley, and Bradley was NOT one of the four or five teams usually discussed nationally. It would be a tall task to go far--even in the conference tournament. But I was so ready. It had been too long. Dad and I had on our new Bradley t-shirts (numbers 14 and 5, respectively). Suddenly, that first day as Bradley took a slim second-half lead over the powerhouse Bluejays, I was seven years old again. With Dad right by my side--matching me yell for yell--I hate to admit how much the whole spectacle meant to me in that instant. Dad gets so busy these days and doesn't always have time to really and truly care about sports. And that's alright. But the Valley tournament is our weekend. And to see how much he loved the little bit of success at last meant so much more than just a game to me.
And the next day Bradley took care of the number one seed Wichita St. And it was more of the same. Finally we were getting our money's worth. We always buy all-session passes for the tournament, but to think we would get to see THREE Bradley games? It was almost too much. What a difference.
Furthermore, the Sunday afternoon championship game was to be shown on CBS. No more cable. The Valley had moved up. We got there a couple hours early and went down on the floor and got pictures. Dad chatted up Patrick O'Bryant. People didn't know Patrick O'Bryant back then (two weeks ago). Now they do. "O'B" had 13 points right off the bat, and Bradley was making me proud in front of the nationwide audience. They led rival Southern Illinois at halftime, but came out and laid an absolute egg in the second half. I was ashamed. All in all the weekend was a monumental success. But Bradley wore down in the second half, and did not impress many of the experts with their 46-point performance.
But their 20 wins were enough to get them into the Big Dance as a 13 seed. It was all coming together. It had already been a magical season for me--even though they were 3-5 in their own conference at one point. The NIT would have been nice, but with as many seniors as they have--it would have been a shame for a roster with that much talent to miss out on a chance for the NCAA tournament. It had been a full ten years since I've seen Bradley on a bracket.
In 1987-88, Hersey Hawkins was a senior. He led the nation in scoring, and Bradley was nationally ranked. I didn't know any better. All I knew is that Hersey was almost supernatural, that he was going to the NBA, and that the Braves would have a long run in the NCAA tournament. That's what Dad said. I can remember hearing a pep rally on the radio before the first round that year. Hawkins spoke. Snell spoke. Head Coach Stan Albeck spoke. They all whipped the crowd into a frenzy. But Bradley lost to Auburn in the first round. I felt gypped... It was over. I didn't know that things wouldn't always be that way. Hersey ended up being the number six overall pick in the NBA draft that year, but Bradley wouldn't make the Big Dance again until 1996. And then 2006 after that.
But they hadn't won a game in the tournament since before I was following them. Until Friday night. They beat Kansas. And then they did it again. They beat Pittsburgh. And I got to watch the game on TV on Sunday. Every play. It looked weird. And to see them playing well? It was all too much to take in. These were my Braves. They were little more than a little family project. Seeing them on CBS--the only game playing at the time--it didn't look right. I knew that if they advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, it would be madness.
And it has been. The last BU team to make it this far was 1954. That's a long time ago. It was literally too much for me to take on Sunday. I was overcome. Hearing the emotion in Snell's description on the radio (internet) as he witnessed the scene, hearing dad's voice on the other end of the phone--so full of excitement, looking again at the TV screen and seeing that--yes it actually did say that "Brad" had more points than "Pitt." And knowing that I'm not a bandwagon fan in the least bit.
And for the next five decades, people will likely refer to the "2006 Sweet Sixteen team." That is unless they make a habit of this for awhile now. Or better yet, that is unless they advance to the Elite Eight. Or the Final Four. I know it's all nonsense. But so was a team that started out 8-6 and 3-5 in their conference--ending up making this kind of national noise.
I can't even read all the articles. I can't keep up with all the fluff pieces on Bradley airing on National TV. It may never happen again. But I'm finally getting that run I was promised in 1988. Two decades later.
And believe me, I appreciate it MUCH more now than I would have then.
Friday, January 20, 2006
Quotes That I Like
Ok, I did have a bunch of quotes on my facebook but it got much too crowded. I'm just starting this blog entry and I'll likely just add to it from time to time. These are quotes that are significant to me in some way, shape or form (some more poignant than others).
"Missing someone isn't about how long it's been since you've seen them or the amount of time since you've talked...it's about that moment when you're doing something and you wish they were right there with you."
"You give and take away. My heart will choose to say. Blessed be your name."
"You're pushing forward with a guy you don't belong with. And you know as well as I do, one of these days he's gonna open up a bottle of white wine for you when you really prefer red. Except you never told him that. And you wanna know why? It's because he's not right for you Elliot. Are you happy now?" -- Zach Braf
"And I don't think that I'll see her again. But we shared a moment that will last till the end...You're beautiful. You're beautiful. You're beautiful, it's true. There must be an angel with a smile on her face. When she thought up that I should be with you. But it's time to face the truth. I will never be with you." -- James Blunt
"I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force-- if necessary-- to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security." -- John F. Kerry, Oct. 9, 2002
"I wont always love what I'll never have, I wont always live in my regrets. You'll sit alone forever. If you wait for the right time. What are you hoping for? I'm here and now I'm ready. Holding on tight. Don't give away the end..." -- Jimmy Eat
"If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program." -- President Clinton, Feb. 17, 1998
"I'm a leaver. I leave jobs I don't like. I leave situations that make me uncomfortable. I do it with a lot of grace and, hopefully, not inappropriately, but I leave easily. Friendships, relationships...if it gets too hard, I want to get out of there. That's not a character flaw you blow off easily in a marriage." -- Nicole Nordeman.
"Today we salute you, Mr. Constant Collar Putter Upper. You, bedecked in popped collar, teach us that we no longer have to live with a cold, back of the neck. Sure, your pink alligator polo may look feminine to some, but not to the 17 other preppy guys wearing the same thing at the bar. Where others may see thoughtless fashion conformity, you preach a higher gospel. You preach of a world where its okay for a man to go tanning. You ask "why can't we wear make-up, and use shampoo with lavender essence?" So crack open an ice-cold Bud Light, Mr. Abercrombie (or is it Fitch)? Because we all know, when we really need a piece of gum, you might have one...in your man purse!!!"
"That'll be fifteen yards. This a-way. Upside the head." -- A referree
"He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten time since 1983." -- Sandy Berger, Clinton National Security Adviser, Feb 18,1998
"Be still Cody." -- Jeff Goldblum
Nothing Is Sound Review
Oops...this review has been sitting in my email account for over two months now. I can't believe the album has been out that long. I had every intention of getting this review in the week it came out. Oh well, here goes (it's in progress, by the way).
To me one of two things happens when listening to a song or collection of songs. Either the music pursues you or you pursue the music. These days, the cases in which the music has pursued me have been fewer and farther in between.
And also these days there are only a handful of artists whose CDs I will automatically buy on release day, and most of those (ex: Satellite Soul, The Normals, Vigilantes of Love) no longer have record deals.
Switchfoot has been on that list since 1997, and I have never once been in the least bit disappointed (for a complete portrayal of my Switchfoot fanship, see a couple of my earlier blogs). But over the last two years our pop culture hasbeen so inundated by all things Switchfoot, that I didn't know if I was looking forward to this record or not. Oh it wasn't the whole "I-hate-them-now-that-they're-popular" syndrome. Not at all. It was more that Switchfoot always had that ability to fly under the radar and then sneak up on me with flat out great music, and this would be their first CD ever released amid a boatload of expectations.
I have sometimes fancied myself as a music critic of sorts. When I was younger I used to review about every disc I heard. These days I don't have much reason to do so-- unless an album grabs me and forces me to pay extra attention.
Because, I can listen with a critical ear and hone in on different creative things I hear. And I can force myself to respect a disc musically if I want to. Or I can also pretend I don't like a three-chord pop song on the radio (when in actuality I can't stop singing it in the car). And I can try to convince myself that I've matured my musical tastes and am now listening as a musician or some crap like that.
But what it all boils down to is, does the music pursue me or not? Oh it's a subconscious thing. But it's there. I don't like to admit it when I'm not crazy about a new release from one of my "must-buy" artists. Jars of Clay reworked a bunch of hymns on their last disc, and I was really looking forward to it. I loved the concept, I love the first single, and to be honest I really loved a lot of the stuff ontheir once it came out.
But it didn't pursue me. I didn't crave the CD when I wasn't listening to it. I liked it. I like Jars of Clay a lot. Their new releases always live in my player for months after their release. And I loved the idea of reworked hymns. But I flat out didn't listen to it very much. To me that's the true measuring stick.
So enter the new Switchfoot. I like the music. I like the concepts. I like the cover art. I like the song titles. I like the lyrics I've read on the CD jacket. But I didn't really expect this widely-anticipated release from a now popular band to pursue me like it has.
I wanted to like the record, but I was afraid I wouldn't. And I was afraid I would be too loyal to admit it and I was afraid I would have to listen over and over until the new stuff grew on me somewhat. That wasn't necessary in the least. When I'm at work, I wish I was at home listening to the record. When I get to the last song, I wish there were eight more. When I'm driving in my car, no other music is quite satisfactory right now. And I didn't really expect this...
Basically, despite the enormous amount of pressure put on the band--this really does seem to be the next album that they would have made at this point in their career no matter what. It fits chronologically on their artistic timeline--both musically, lyrically, and production-wise.
The thing I like best about this? They're not trying too hard. And they still took risks--like they have on every disc so far. And once again, they snuck up on me. This collection is anything but predictable.
Historically, Switchfoot's mellow, artsy stuff has come off better than their loud attempts. That said, this album's opener "Lonely Nation" is one of the tastiest rock songs you'll ever hear. But the album's opening single "Stars" is easily among the weakest of the thirteen. However, that's more of tribute to the quality of the disc itself than it is an indictment of "Stars."
More to come...
Monday, November 14, 2005
The Bears aren't very good
I've been meaning to post this for a little while now, but the Chicago Bears kept winning. I think it's four in a row now. They are 6-3 and in first place in the NFC North Division.
The funny thing is that they had basically beaten the Browns as well until two long passes in the fourth quarter by Cleveland. To think the Bears are two plays away from being 7-2 and tied for the best record in the entire conference is scary.
But the Bears aren't very good. They're kind of terrible in fact. They were worse last year (with the likes of Jonathan Quinn and Craig Krenzel at QB), but this year reminds me of last year offensively.
Except that this year they've already surpassed 2004's win total (5). And this year they've only used one quarterback instead of last year (4). Kyle Orton has been alright at best, but at least it's the same guy every game.
And the defense is better this year. In fact, it's probably safe to say this is the best defense in the league. Maybe not. They did give up those two inexcusable passes to the Browns. But Brian Urlacher is healthy this year and last year he missed a lot of time.
Still it's a lot of defense and special teams doing the damage and the offense just kind of a long for the ride. That's bad. The Bears scored some 38 points in week two against Detroit, but they haven't done a lot of scoring since then.
They haven't beaten any team with a .500 record, and some of the teams (Saints, 49ers, Ravens) they have beaten have been downright awful. They are 3-0 in their own division, but the division has been a laughingstock of the league this year.
I'm reminded of their 13-3 year in 2001. Going into the playoffs the critics said they didn't have a chance against Philly because the Bears hadn't beaten anyone significant in the regular season. They may have been right.
But some of the teams on their schedule were supposed to be good. I mean the Ravens weren't supposed to be this bad. The Vikings have been good for a little while now. They're just having a nightmare season. And the Lions? Well, I say the Lions are so bad partly thanks to the Bears. I mean, the Bears swept them! The Lions would be 6-3 if they had handled the Bears.
Still, the schedule has been a cakewalk. And they didn't beat the Browns. Did I mention that? Also, the playoff-bound Bengals took the Bears apart in week three.
The Bears have the Panthers next. The Panthers are currently regarded as the best team in the NFC. This isn't good. Then it's on to Tampa Bay. After that, who knows if the Packers will have gotten well by the time they play the Bears on December 4? It's very possible.
If the Bears can win one of the next four (CAR, TB, GB, PIT), that will be a borderline success. That would but them at 7-6 heading into the final three weeks. Nine wins could win this division.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Baylor and Oklahoma this Saturday
This Saturday is the Baylor v. Oklahoma football matchup. I have been a Baylor fan for three years now, and have never wanted them to win so badly. There are so many reasons for this, and I am so antsy and even a little paranoid. I am desperate for a Baylor win. But it's so much more than football to me...
I know Oklahoma fairly well. It used to be a second home of sorts for me. A year ago...if I had a free weekend, I was in Oklahoma City. I have also made at least two trips per year recently for Baylor sporting events--some in Norman, some in Stillwater. Even my family reunion has been held in Oklahoma the last two years.
Oklahoma holds a quadrillion memories for me. Most good. Some unthinkably miserable. But aside from a quick drive-through on the way back from an August road trip to Missouri, I haven't been in Oklahoma since things fell apart in my hands.
This weekend I return.
This is my third season as spotter for the Baylor Football Radio Network. During that time, I have only missed a handful of BU games (home and road). And I have rooted for them every step of the way. Growing up, the Fighting Illini were my favorite college football team by default, but I have never seen them play live. So rooting for Baylor was as easy as breathing. But I have never desired a win so badly as I do for this Saturday in Oklahoma.
People in the Big12 are supposed to hate OU. And so I do. Baylor has been humiliated twice by the powerhouse since I've been here. I hate "boomer sooner." I hate the sooner schooner. And I hate those freaking cannons.
But this year they suck. And so Baylor better show up. Do I expect a win? Man I don't know. TCU won at Oklahoma, but it's still a road game at Oklahoma. I tell you this much, Baylor better not get blown out. I remember two years ago driving to Norman and listening to Sooner sports talk on the radio. They were talking about how boring "Baylor week" is. This year Baylor is 4-2, so I hope it's not quite as boring.
And the game will be on National TV. Baylor better show up. Lately they've done real well in TV games. I think the nation is a bit curious as to OU's next miss-step. Here's hoping Baylor can cash in. Furthermore, Baylor's two losses have been so excruciatingly frustrating this year. They dominated the Aggies at A&M, and lost in OT. They were right in the game against Nebraska, until the coaching staff inexplicably took out the starting QB and ruined the game. Baylor is due for a big win, and Oklahoma is the next chance.
Long story short, I once wasted an enourmous amount of time, energy, and certainly gas money in Oklahoma, and was left incredibly empty-handed. Considering the fact that just the word "oklahoma" still sends shivers down my spine is one thing. The thought of driving back to the scene of the massacre has me in stitches. I'm not looking forward to this one.
But a win might help me slay some of those demons. If Baylor were to go up there and beat Bob Stoops and the unbelievably arrogant Sooner nation, maybe I could get some closure to the whole deal. I would love to be driving south back to Waco with a GOOD feeling about my trip to Oklahoma for once. I've been dreading this weekend for a long time, but opportunity is at hand.
A loss? A loss...??? I don't even want to think about it. The state of Oklahoma has kicked my butt too many times, and a defeat in the return to my old stomping grounds might be more than I could handle.
So sic 'em Bears. And I have never meant that so much in my life.
Cubs Cubs Cubs (in progress...)
I remember the first Cubs' game I ever listened to (we didn't have cable). It was a Saturday afternoon in 1986. Mom and my sisters went shopping for the day, and dad turned on the Cubs and the Expos. The Cubs lost 4-2. Don't quote me on this, but I think that Randy St. Clair got the win for Montreal.
A couple weeks later I remember my second Cubs game on the radio. This time I got brave and listened to a weekday game without my dad turning it on for me. And again the Cubs lost, this time to the Cardinals (4-2). Scott Sanderson suffered the loss for the Cubs, I believe.
And this is how baseball fans are born. Nobody told me I was a Cub fan. Sure I grew up in Illinois, but about halfway between Chicago and St. Louis. But man...the Cubs played day games. That was real baseball in my mind. Harry Caray would announce innings 4-6 on the radio. I actually thought he sucked. I could not wait until Dewayne Staats returned for inning number seven. I have since learned to appreciate what Harry did for the team.
But I didn't know the Cubs were loveable losers. I didn't know that they had a nationwide cable deal and that there were Cub fans in every city in America. I didn't know that I was supposed to hate the Sox, and I didn't know that Cub fans supposedly thrive on failure and deep down don't want the Cubs to win the World Series (as I've said before...not "Cub fans," but that's another debate...) Simply put, I didn't know the Cubs were any different from the Pirates or Mariners or Rangers.
Dad gave me a yearbook type magazine documenting the incredible 1984 season. That was Ryne Sandberg's first MVP year. I wasn't aware of the Cubs in '84, but Sandberg was certainly in his prime when I did begin to pay attention. So the fact that he was a skinny white guy who was good--coupled with the tall tales told in my yearbook--instantly made him my favorite baseball player of all time.
The book detailed the famous June 23rd "Sandberg Game." Incidentally that game is reruning on ESPN Classic today in celebration of Ryno's induction into the Hall of Fame. I reread the story over and over and over as I was growing up. The still images of Sandberg and his teamates from that book are forever cemented in my mind as the only way to visualize those men.
But the first time I saw the team live was not until 1999. It was in Cincinatti and the Cubs lost (something like 6-4). Larry Lubers (or Scott Sanders...one of the two) was the pitcher for the Cubs. That tells you all you need to know. It was a decent game, I suppose. But I don't remember any heroics from the team's stars--Sammy Sosa, Mark Grace, or Rod Beck. And the fact that I was accompanied by a gloating Reds' fan didn't help either.
I didn't get to Wrigley until 2001. My good friend Josh bought me a ticket for an early graduation present and drove me up there as we played hooky from both school and a work staff meeting. It was frigid. It was April 17th and 42 degrees. We had unbelievable seats...not too far behind home plate. Julian Tavarez started against the Phillies. I really did have the time of my life. We cheated and got better seats a few innings in. We bought hot dogs, but deliberated concerning how we were going to eat them without taking out hands out of our pockets. There was a man in an electric orange jumpsuit out in right-center field underneath the scoreboard. He was very distracting.
I tried to pee in the trough-style urinals but got stage fright. I spilled nacho cheese all over the sweatshirt that I had tied around my neck as if a scarf. Two members from N'Sync sang the seventh inning stretch that day. They were horrid. They sang in two different keys--neither of those being the correct key. I took pictures but my film was ruined somehow a few days later.
Speaking of film...there were some movie cameras and lots of extra commotion down the third base line seats as the game progressed. We never could quite figure out what was going on, but it seemed like some sort of production was going on. Everything was somewhat surreal.
The Cubs got way down early, but rallied and trailed in the bottom of the ninth inning. The bases were loaded with two outs and then, as if on cue, Todd Hundley struck out to finish the deal. Hundley was horrible as a Cub, and I got to see it in action. I can't stand that I don't have pictures from that day.
Looking back I am grossly disappointed with myself. Something happened between like 1992 and 2002ish. I had started working and became extremely busy. We didn't have the internet for the majority of that time and didn't get any newspapers. Whereas before, following the Cubs was my life, for about a decade there it was fairly hard work to keep up with stats and whatnot.
And by the time I was a senior in college, I was way behind. I suppose going into that game I knew the Cubs' record. I knew that Tom Gordon had been hurt and that Jeff Fassero was doing a remarkable job filling in as a closer. But approaching Wrigley that day was not quite sacred like it would have been for me in 1989 (or 2005 for that matter). I had just become so otherwise-focused (probably not a bad thing by any stretch). And while I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Wrigley that day, looking back I can't believe I didn't stop and drink it in a little more. I can't believe I didn't at least walk around the outside of the park or go try to find the Steve Bartman seat (Ok, that was before all that).
After graduation I had nothing but time living in Nashville, TN. The day I moved snapped a 12-game winning streak for the team. That's still the longest Cub streak I can recall in my lifetime. I once again learned the entire 25-man roster and the majority of the statistics. Not too long later I became a staff writer for a Cubs' website. It was my job to know the ins and outs and splits and projections. When Sammy Sosa corked his bat, I had to have an article ready the first thing the next morning.
When the Cubs made the playoffs in 2003 was the first time I had ever been able to watch more than two or three Cubs' games in a row. I had a good number of school assigments due in my graduate work, but everything (and I do mean most everything) took a back seat that October.
It was strange. My favorite thing about baseball has always been the relaxed feel of the game. Sure there's nothing quite like a good stressful playoff chase. But still one of my favorite things in the whole world is a meaningless early June baseball game. So when the Cubs started winning some, and I began to write for the website, every game began to matter--a lot. This was the first time that had happened with the Cubs.
The Cubs had been brutal in 2002, but I remember absolutely loving that season. They were out of it by the All-Star break, but there were so many subplots to follow. I found that season extremely enjoyable. They had stretches of good play, and I found small victories along the way.
So 2003 changed a lot of things. Since then they have had arguable the best pitching in baseball, but the pitchers haven't been healthy. Therefore, the team has underachieved in most fans' eyes. But my contention was that the 2004 team had no business even being in the Wild Card hunt in the last week. I thought they absolutely made the best of a brutal season (in terms of injuries and other distractions).
This year the Cubs have played the majority of the year without their three biggest names. Certainly Derrek Lee has risen to star status, and Aramiz Ramirez made his first All Star game, but Nomar, Kerry, and Mark Prior are the three superstars on this team.
And without those three the team has hovered around the .500 mark all year long.
(more to come...)
Ok, Derek and Bucy are gone so here goes...
As I was saying, I heard the :30 clips online before the record came out. Admittedly there are probably more reasons than just the good music why Learning to Breathe was so important to me. That album came out in a very good time in my life.
The faint opening sounds of "Dare You to Move" before the guitar strains actually kick in are a stroke of genious in my mind. That album was essentially the soundtrack to the Fall semester of my senior year of college. Songs like "Innocence Again" and "Playing for Keeps" didn't necessarily have mass appeal in my opinion. And for that I enjoyed them all the more.
But "Dare You to Move" quickly became one of my favorite songs of all time. Little did I know that the song would have like nine lives. Over a year later...after I had graduated and moved to Nashville, the song was littered all over the trailers for the Mandy Moore Film. I remember rediscovering the value of that piece all over again. And while I never saw the movie, I was greatly pleased at the exposure that Switchfoot got on account of Ms. Moore.
The first song I heard off of The Beautiful Letdown was "Ammunition." I didn't like it. Let me clarify. Relatively speaking I didn't like it. It didn't feel like good Switchfoot to me. But in comparison to most other music I heard at that time, sure it was great. I still bought the album the day it came out. I can't fathom a better album for spring weather from start to finish. The week following my purchase of The Beautiful Letdown brought the first nice weather in Tennessee that year. I remember driving around the city all during the months of March and April with that CD turned way up.
And again with the "Dare You to Move." I was mildly annoyed at the appearance of the near carbon copy of a song from the previous album. But instead of growing weary of hearing it, I again rediscovered a whole new depth to my connection with the song.
But that aside, I was genuinely excited about some of the stuff on this album. To me, the title track defies music. Sure it's a piece of music. But something happens in that track. It's more of an event than a song. And I felt that "On Fire" and "24" could not have been handled any better by band or producer.
And then the ninth life of "Dare You to Move"...it's release to radio. By this time, it would seem that if I was going to grow tired of it, I would already have. Wrong. The song got burnt out on seemingly every format across the dial. If I thought its initial three incarnations were overkill, this was unreal. But the funny thing was, I still wanted to hear it every single time it came on.
And I still do. I have never ever turned the song off in my life. Sure part of me hates that it became so trendy. But screw that. That songs still takes me places. Those initial guitar strains of which I wrote earlier still transport me to a chilli Fall evening in Anderson, Indiana when I was discovering a ton of things about myself and my world.
So here we are again. Number five on its way. I've heard "Stars" off the upcoming disc. Not great. Reminds me a lot of "Ammunition" to be honest. Switchfoot was such a nice-kept secret for four albums. Now people are waiting. That's never happened before.
Even I have always approached a new Switchfoot with minimal expectations. They've always been off-the-wall enough that I am just able to embrace everything they have done. I've never though Jon was a great singer. I do love the way his voice fits their music. But I never thought he had the kind of delivery that would be widely embraced. And I kinda liked that about them. They were the slighly-uncool band of surfers with floppy combovers who smiled in their promo pics.
I think we all want success for those about whom we care, and then regret it a little when it happens. I guess I'm not afraid of Switchfoot failing necessarily...but if this album is not a hit, I do want it to be because people couldn't identify with Switchfoot's unconventional ways and not because the guys were trying too hard this time.
Here's holding my breath...
I had every intention of writing about the Cubs initially but instead we're talking Switchfoot for starters. I am incredibly paranoid about the new Switchfoot disc. That probably doesn't mitigate my sense of anticipation for it, but there seems to be a sense of (can't think of a better word than innocence) that's been lost over the past couple of years. Not in them, but in the overall perception of the band I guess.
Switchfoot has always flown under the radar. The first time I heard of them was a few months before The Legend of Chin was released. The little blurb said "expect the unexpected from this trio..." I immediately liked their style. Hadn't heard them yet, but I liked their image, their cover art, and eventually the quirkiness of their lead single--"Chem 6A."
When the album came out, "Chem 6A" was probably still my favorite song on there (that has since changed.) But even at that point (with me in my musical infancy), I knew there was something different about the way Switchfoot made music. I was a fan. They were surfers, not rock stars. And I guess they didn't know they weren't supposed to smile in their publicity shots.
Their first tour ever was the Conspiracy No. 5 tour--opening up for Third Day AND All Star United. The first night was at Reardon Auditorium in Anderson, Indiana. They came on--just Jon, Tim, and Chad--and opened with "Ode to Chin." They played five songs in all. It was very raw, the sound was bad, and they seemed unsure. Tim was only 18 at the time. During the intermission I rushed back to the T-shirt table to get in line. There was no line. They were elated to discuss their set with my friend Jason and I.
Tim nervously asked how they sounded. I talked to Chad and found out he had only been playing drums for four years at that point. They talked as long as we wished, and posed crazily in the pictures we took with them.
New Way to Be Human is still my favorite Switchfoot album. I bought it as a graduation gift for myself the day I graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University in 1999. I remember the first time I heard "Amy's Song." I didn't think I had ever heard music that sounded like that before. And I hadn't. The album was the perfect summer soundtrack that year, and I still think that record strikes a remarkable balance between their current polished sound, and the newness of the Switchfoot experience.
I first heard Dare You to Move as a 30 second clip on a website before Learning to Breathe was released. I immediately indentified it as being anthemic. I bought the disc the day it was released.
Derek and Bucy are here so this will have to be continued...
I have procrastinated on blogging for quite some time now. I have actually started four different blogs on three different sites and am just now getting around to blogging. I actually hate blogs. Unless it's someone who's opinion matters like Mark Cuban or somebody like that. There is an authoritative, would-be witty tone that most laypeople assume when they start to blog.
And I want to be the next...
I don't know if this was always the case, but now myspace will only house your ten most recent blogs. I could hardly stand to see my handiwork go to waste. Luckily I had them all backed up. So I'm using this for archival purposes only. I will post the original dates of my old blogs when I copy them in here.
There will be no new blogging going on at this site (for the forseeable future).
My active blog can be found as alway at: