Friday, December 28, 2007
Thursday, December 27, 2007
- In 2007, there were a total of four different teams ranked number one in the AP poll - USC, LSU, Ohio State, and Missouri. In 2006, OSU was ranked number 1 all season until they lost to Florida in the BCS championship game. In 2005, USC was ranked number 1 all season until they lost to Texas in the BCS championship game. In 2004, USC was ranked number 1 all season. Anyway, you get the picture: compared to the past few seasons, there was lots of upheaval in the top spot.
- In 2007, there were a total of 8 different teams ranked number two in the AP poll - LSU, USC, California, South Florida, Boston College, Oregon, Kansas, and West Virginia. Of all those teams, only one (LSU) jumped up to number one after being number 2. And LSU did it twice. Also, of all those teams, only three (LSU obviously, Kansas, and WVU) are playing in New Years bowl games.
- In 2005, the top 2 in the rankings were USC-Texas (in that order) for the entire season - until Texas beat USC in the champioship game. In 2004, the top 2 in the rankings were USC-Oklahoma (in that order) for the entire season - until USC beat the Sooners in the championship game and undefeated Auburn took over the number 2 spot.
All in all, I thought this was a great college football season. I think it's much more interesting when more teams are jockeying for position at the top rather than a couple powerhouse teams just mowing everyone down and cruising to the BCS championship. Here's to my favorite season of the year - Bowl Season.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
- It celebrates St. Stephen, the first christian martyr.
- St. Stephen's Day in Wales is known as Gŵyl San Steffan. Ancient Welsh custom, discontinued in the 19th century, included bleeding of livestock and "holming" (beating or slashing with holly branches) of late risers and female servants. Ah, the good old days of beating female servants...
- On this day, everyone must listen to a nice version of Saint Stephen by The Grateful Dead. For novices, I suggest the version on Live/Dead. For pros, I suggest just about anything from the early 70s, but a spring 77 show is always nice (5-8-77).
It's also Boxing Day, a holiday that dates back to the medieval times. There are several different stories as to how it started, none of which include throwing punches. This is the one I like the best:
In England many years ago, it was common practice for the servants to carry boxes to their employers when they arrived for their day's work on the day after Christmas. Their employers would then put coins in the boxes as special end-of-year gifts. This can be compared with the modern day concept of Christmas bonuses. The servants carried boxes for the coins, hence the name Boxing Day.
So, happy Boxing Day, happy St. Stephen's Day, and of course happy Festivus. Rest assured that a donation has been made in your name to the Human Fund: "Money for People."
Thursday, December 20, 2007
I can still remember
How that Grey Lot used to make me smile
For the past 26 straight years, I have been a proud Michigan Football season ticket holder. The first four years I was an undergrad and was allowed a single student section ticket. Every "Football Saturday" in Ann Arbor was a chance to be part of the wonderful tradition that for me included a chance to bring a few of my new found college friends down to the "Grey Lot" and tailgate with my parents (both alums of UofM) and a group of my parent's friends from college who still gathered religiously to support the Maize & Blue. As an undergrad the tailgate spread of nearly unlimited food, beer, and bloody mary's all proudly laid out for us to share was a dream come true on those sleepy, slightly hung over Saturdays in the fall. I marveled at the fact that my parents and their friends from college had stayed so close for all these years. The consistency and dependability of their tailgate party was comforting and everyone looked forward to seeing each other at the next game. The "Grey Lot" was their pre-determined meeting point every football Saturday and it was an ingrained part of their Michigan Football tradition and experience.
And I knew if I had the chance
That I would see those people dance
And, maybe, they'd be happy for a while
When I graduated I applied for and happily received (2) season tickets in the end zone and (1) Grey Lot parking pass. Two other fraternity brothers of mine who graduated with me and had tailgated with my Mom & Dad also were granted Grey Lot passes for the 1986 season and the tradition was officially passed on. The Grey Lot became the designated tailgate spot where Delt alumni and current undergrad brothers would gather. Soon our group had grown to include more graduated fraternity brothers, ten Grey Lot parking passes, and the official Delt Party Hut to mark the spot where we would raise the flag every football Saturday for the past two decades. Delt brothers coming in for a game at The Big House knew the Grey Lot would be the place to go to find everyone before or after the game. It has been common to see 30 to 50 people turn up for our Grey Lot tailgates, all connected through Delta Tau Delta Fraternaty, the Grey Lot, and the University of Michigan.
But December made me shiver
With the news U of M would deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn't take one more step
My "Preferred Seating Location" invoice came in the mail yesterday along with my Victors Club packet, all glossy and glowing with details of the "Michigan Stadium Expansion Project", the "Preferred Seating Donation Program", and the dreaded "Priority Point Rankings." Bill Martin, the Director of Athletics at U of M, penned some wonderfully sugar coated phases meant to make me feel warm and fuzzy about everything that was about to be explained in this packet. Here are some of my favorites:
- "Because of donors, alumni, and fans like you, our self-supporting department has the resources to field 25 varsity sport teams with more than 750 student-athelites."
- "Your contributions help secure this Michigan tradition.."
- "The Priority Point Program is a comprehensive measure of your support & association with the University Athletic Department. Further, (oh no, here it comes) it is a means of allocating (that's never a good word) tickets, parking, and other benefits in an equitable way. (No! No! Noooooooooooooooooo!)
- "To qualify to purchase a football season parking pass, a Victors Club member must hold football season tickets (check) and have contributed an annual gift of at least $1,500." (check)
- "Beginning with the 2008 season, parking permits will be assigned based upon the priority point program and populated in descending order starting with Blue, Green, Grey, Purple, Red and Brown." (Huh? This doesn't sound good)
- "We regret to inform you that your priority points no longer qualify you for a Grey Lot pass. " Thanks for playing. See Marty Bodnar on your way out for some nice parting gifts. Enjoy the Brown lot. Have a nice life.
I can't remember if I cried
When I read about my wounded pride
But something touched me deep inside
The day the Grey Lot diedSo just like that after 26 years of building a tradition around Michigan football Saturdays my friends and I have been "prioritized" out of the Grey Lot. Our gathering spot that we have paid for every year for the past 22 years has been taken away because we no longer "qualify" based on our financial contribution ranking. I hope Bill Martin and company find this post and take a look at the photo of one of our recent "Bring your kids" games. Every one of those kids are potential UofM students who have been raised on fond memories of going to the games with their parents and meeting up with their tailgating friends in the Grey Lot. Just as my parents had passed that tradition on to me, I had hoped to pass it on to my children but instead I have been "measured, allocated, and prioritized." So sorry, no soup for you. Next!
So bye-bye miss american pie
Drove my chevy to the Grey Lot
But the Grey Lot was dry
And them good old boys were drinkin' whiskey and rye
Singin' "This'll be the day that I die."
"This'll be the day that I die."
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
- When his son, Ty Jr., flunked out of Princeton, Ty traveled to campus and beat his son with a whip to "ensure against future academic failure." His son then enrolled at Yale, where he was arrested twice for drunkenness and never graduated. However, he did eventually become a doctor.
- He apparently was a very wise investor. At the time of his death, his estate was worth over $11 million (mostly GE and Coca Cola stock). In 1961, he checked into Emory hospital for the last time, carrying with him a paper bag containing over $1 million in negotiable bonds and a Luger pistol. He died a month later.
- He served for 67 days in WWI, under the command of Branch Rickey, the legendary baseball executive. Also in his unit were fellow baseball hall-of-famers Christy Mathewson and George Sisler.
- In 1926, Cobb and fellow future hall-of-famer Tris Speaker retired from baseball (they were both player-managers at the time) on the same day. They were coerced into retirement by the commissioner because of game fixing allegations. After hearings with the commish, they were allowed to retire without any publicity. Two months later, they were both cleared and re-joined the league, albeit with different teams.
- Cobb was noted for his numerous fights, both on and off the field. After one on-field argument, Cobb and umpire Billy Evans arranged to settle their differences with a fistfight, to be conducted under the grandstand after the game. Members of both teams were spectators, and broke up the scuffle after Cobb had knocked Evans down, pinned him, and began choking him. In another incident, Cobb slapped a black elevator operator for being "uppity." When a black night watchman intervened, Cobb pulled out a knife and stabbed him (The matter was later settled out of court).
- In 1912, he attacked a heckler in the stands. The heckler was handicapped, having lost one entire hand and three fingers of the other hand in an industrial accident. He was suspended for the incident, and his teammates went on strike to protest. For that one game, the Tigers fielded a team of replacement players and lost 24-2. Cobb claimed that this protest led to the formation of the players union.
Can you imagine if this stuff occurred now? The dude would be thrown out of the league for fighting with an umpire or beating a man in the stands. Bottom line: Ty Cobb was kind of a dick.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Okay, so this is a bit late, but maybe that's indicative of the general apathy towards tennis in the United States these days.
I recently attended the Davis Cup finals in Portland, Oregon, where I live (so these pics are mine, and obviously not very professional!).
For those of you unaware, the United States was taking on Russia for the championship on American soil in hopes of winning for the first time in a dozen years. Former #1 Andy Roddick and up and coming top 10 player James Blake played in the two singles spots, with the world's best doubles team of Mike and Bob Bryan filling that role for the U.S. The Russian team featured Nikolay Davydenko, a top 5 player in his own right and a few other young, rising stars. Davydenko, surprisingly, didn't play in one of the two singles spots on Friday, the first day of play. This could have been because of his alleged involvement with gambling and throwing of matches (http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/tennis/6928635.stm).
Regardless, the matches were spirited and fun. If you haven't seen or been to a Davis Cup match, they are FAR more rowdy and loud than typical matches, even moreso than the U.S. Open in New York, which can be a lot of fun, too.
Andy Roddick started the string of victories for the U.S. with a big win over Tursenov in straight sets. One of Roddick's serves was clocked at over 150 miles an hour. He hit well over 20 aces in those three sets and it wasn't very close.
Next, James Blake took on Mikhail Youzhny. This match was much closer, and although Blake won the first two sets, he lost the third in a tie-breaker and had to dig deep to pull out the fourth in another tie-breaker. Blake is really fun to watch, because he slugs away from the baseline and loves to hit the ball hard. He doesn't have the huge serve like Roddick, so he has to rely on putting rallies away from the baseline and can do just that when he's on. Problem is, he can also be streaky, and when he's not on, things can go downhill quickly.
So, finishing up the first day of play with the U.S. up 2-0, the Bryan brothers had the opportunity to win this best of five match-up the next day, which they did.
After the win, you could really tell exactly how excited Roddick, Blake and the whole team were with this victory. Roddick said in an interview afterwards that it had been one of his lifelong dreams to win a Davis Cup and he envied the past winners like McEnroe, Connors, Agassi, Sampras and Todd Martin (had to get Martin in there -- I played tennis in high school with that kid!).
So, maybe this will start to increase support and visibility for tennis in the U.S. It certainly needs it. There has been a significant fall off in overall interest since Roger Federer has dominated the majors and the U.S. has failed to win any since Roddick won the U.S. Open in 2003 and Agassi and Sampras were still around and playing. John McEnroe has been a great ambassador since his playing days ended, but without his personality and play actually on the court, his impact has been marginalized.
It's a great international sport and one worth watching and supporting. If you have the chance to attend a live event, definitely do it.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Update - new logo.
I know what you are thinking - another long in the tooth, washed up, mid-sixties (both the era and their age!) band, that I should not waste my time reading this brief review, let alone think about seeing them. However, take the 3 minutes and read on.
First, the venue I saw them at is a small club about 5 minutes from my house, so it is a low pressure, easy tuesday night out. Plus it is very small and intimate, and for an act like this, it is not very crowded - I would say 250 people with capacity in the 600 range. Plenty comfortable, and any show takes on a new complexion when you are standing literally 12 feet away from a legend of the San Francisco scene and sound, and real-deal hipster hippie Paul Kantner. In addition, in today's world of out-of-control ticket prices, it is refreshing to pay $25 at the door ($20 in advance). Kantner is still out there pushing forward and doing it for some reason. Sometimes sad to see these guys trudging through small, half full clubs, but they must adhere to "we used to play for silver, now we play for life". The 3 or 4 vintage electric guitars Kantner was playing was almost worth the price of admission - just beautiful! Along with Kantner, who looked pretty good for a relatively worn guy, is: David Frieberg of Quicksilver Messenger Service and now long-time JS member (he and Kantner were folkies together dating back to '62) who still has a heck of a voice but looked kinda-like a grand-ma (not grand-pa) with curly white hair; long-time JS lead guitarist Slick Aguilar who, while not spectacular, held his own in the big Scandinavian shoes he had to fill for these ears; one of the highlights of the night was drummer Prarie Prince who has played with Todd Rundgren (who I also just saw) and the Tubes - this guy was unbelievable, and put on one of the best, fullest drumming performances I have ever seen (honest!), and I have seen alot of drummers sharing a stage; the weak point of the show was the other side of the rhythm section, as they had a guy on a Korg synthesizer playing the bass lines and other assorted stuff - certainly NOT a replacement for the thundering Jack Cassady; and last but not least the sparkle and energy of the show, Diana Mangano singing the Grace Slick parts for JS since 1993. Diana has an incredible voice, is very easy on the eyes, lit up the stage, was an energy source, and certainly exuded sex appeal - great all around. She is from the surrounding Buffalo area, so she had alot of family there, which made it both fun and a real Buffalo gathering. Apparently Kantner hired her on the spot after listening to a demo tape of Diana singing Lather that was handed to him after a show he played in Buffalo back in '93.
One more side note before delving into the music - I love watching the people in the audience at these shows. "Who ventures out for these shows" I wonder, and then get some entertainment watching them. Grey haired out of shape guys dancing like crazy and older women grooving like they were at Alpine Valley in 1987; or the older guy who is probably an accountant or attorney standing there listening intently with an appreciative smile; or the 'younger' people like me, and some inquisitive real young people fill out the place. Why it still is unusual for me to see and think of 65 year olds dancing and juking to the music...of 65 year old musicians, I don't know, but it does. At the same time, I hope I am up dancing and juking when I am 65 - but these bands that I dance to will all be dead!
It all comes down to the music... They opened the show with a bunch of Airplane tunes - I was not expecting much to be honest, but they really blew me away. They started with Get Together (Youngbloods original, but Airplane did it huge justice), they did the biggies - Somebody to Love and White Rabbit, which Mangano really made work. Grace is awfully tough to truly do justice to, but this night Mangano did well. They played some other nice nuggets like Jorma's Good Sheppard, and a couple other assorted tunes. However, the fourth tune of the night legitimized the whole night and the band - Blue Eskimo Day simply blew me away (marquee line of the tune is "...the human name, doesn't mean shit to a tree"). It made me think of how damn good the Airplane was and that these guys really made it happen - I bought in, and relished that I was seeing this holy grail music performed live 15 feet in front of me. The power of Prarie Prince on the drum kit can not be stressed enough, and the timing of the band on a very distinctly timed tune was compelling.
Kantner left the stage to Frieberg and the rest, and he did the great folk tune San Francisco Bay Blues, followed by the Dead tune Loser. Aguilar continued the Dead scene by doing Deal. I think they partly do these Dead tunes to play to the crowd, but they did a good job with them, and IMHO they are justified doing them as they were friends and contemporaries of Garcia and the band. I think Aguilar then went solo on While My Guitar Gently Weeps, but we stepped outside to get some inspiration for the second half of the show.
Kantner and the rest of the band came back on and did a variety of good Starship tunes - the grandiose sci-fi, environmental tunes that Kantner was all into in the late 70's and 80's, and they played them with power and emotion. I am not overly familiar with most of the tunes or that era of JS, but have certainly heard some of them and definitely recognized the form and genre.
To close the show, they did a great old Quicksilver tune Pride of Man and then launched into the Frieberg composition Jane. Again, because I am not in tune (no pun intended) with the cheeseyish Starship stuff, this tune hit me out of nowhere - if you don't know it, you have to listen to it and you WILL know it: http://www.amazon.com/gp/music/wma-pop-up/B00000BKJ8002005 They pulled this power-cheese song off really well, Frieberg belted out the vocal, and it was really good. Back to serious business, they finished the show with the great Airplane tune and Kantner composition You and Me and Pooneil. The encore choice was going to be an Airplane classic - but which one? Kantner wrote some great ones like Have You Seen the Saucers, We Can Be Together, Wild Tyme, Saturday Afternoon, and co-wrote Wooden Ships with Stills and Crosby. The Airplane version of Wooden Ships is far superior to the CSN in my opinion and I would loved to have heard it, but they chose the hippie anthem Volunteers. The morning maniac music was a fantastic way to end a very surprising over the top performance.
Moral of the story: give these lesser expensive acts - whether they are dinosaurs or new acts - a chance and support your local music venues. Maybe, just maybe, you will be pleasantly overwhelmed by this music!
- Wilco - Sky Blue Sky: This one is a masterpiece. I love Wilco's early stuff, but their newer stuff (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot as well) is turning out to be just as good. Jeff Tweedy has distinguished himself as a great songwriter and musician.
- Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - Raising Sand: See my earlier review. Great album. I just listened to it again yesterday.
- White Stripes - Icky Thump: I do not consider myself a White Stripes fan. In fact, when a band becomes the latest "fad" (as they did back in 2002 or so), it usually turns me off. I do not have any of their previous five LPs. However, when I heard "You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do as You're Told)," I decided to give this album a try. Good stuff.
- Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - Easy Tiger: I have almost everything he's released. This one does not disappoint. Great songwriting, and The Cardinals are the best band he's ever recorded with. Ryan is notoriously hard to work with, so I expect him to fire his band shortly. But until then, try to catch them in concert. He puts on a great show.
- Band of Horses - Cease to Begin: This was a new discovery for me. I can't remember where I heard about them, but they sound like a cross between My Morning Jacket and The Shins. "General Specific" is my favorite song on the album.
- Steve Earle - Washington Square Serenade: Unlike his previous couple albums, this one's less political and more personal. He's recently married and he also recently relocated to NYC, which is reflected in some of his songs. Steve Earle is always solid.
I know, it's a short list, but I am but one man. Add your favorite 2007 releases in the comments.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
- College head coaches who become successful head coaches in the NFL are extremely rare. Most of them are hired as potential NFL saviors because they have had so much success in the college game that they MUST be qualified to run an NFL team. The body count is astounding: Spurrier, Saban, Petrino, Dan Devine, Lou Holtz, Butch Davis, Daryl Rogers, Barry Switzer, Bud Wilkinson (I count Switzer as a failure because although he won a Super Bowl, he did it with inherited players. Once he put his own stamp on the team, they were doomed). I must be missing some - these are just the ones from my lifetime. Any others?
- There is two notable exceptions: Jimmy Johnson and Bill Walsh. Any others? Bobby Ross? Moderately successful, I guess.
- From what I'm reading, Petrino put the "dick" in dictatorial. His coaching style was abrasive and he did not make many friends in the Falcons locker room.
- He is quite a job-hopper. Arkansas fans had better not get too comfortable with him. Read what Pat Forde says about him on espn.com. One notable quote:
"...this is the fifth straight year Bobby Petrino has tried to get another job. Every single season he's been a head coach, he's ended it by pursuing something else."
- Bobby Petrino makes Nick Saban look like Don Shula.
- This is a great illustration of why Michigan needs to be careful with who they hire for their head coaching position. The last thing we need is to be doing this coaching search thing again in two years.
- This now officially deprives me of the perverse pleasure of my yearly Hogs-Dick-Nutt jokes. The Hogs have no more Nutts, and they will eventually be losing their Dick as well. At least they get to play the Cocks every year, so that's good for a few nice puns.
- And finally, just to keep things interesting, I bring you Tim Tebow's alleged girlfriend. There seems to be some dispute as to whether or not she is in fact his girlfriend. Either way, she is a Florida student. It looks like all the Big Ten bashers were right - the SEC is superior in many ways. Schwing....
UPDATE: That is not, in fact, the same chick that's in the infamous Tebow picture. She's a British model. I'm still leaving it up here. Regardless of her identity, um, well, what was I saying? Excuse me, I have to go do something...
UPDATE: I should also mention that I got this photo from the M Zone.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
And here are the Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens, their opponent for next weekend's Div. 1-AA championship game.
Look familiar? The Appalachian State Mountaineers will again be facing the winged helmets. Other than the shade of blue and the font used for the numbers, they look pretty much the same. This bodes well for the Mountaineers.
Back to Armanti Edwards for a minute. In case you haven't heard yet - he had an all-timer of a game on Friday night in App. State's semi-final game against Richmond. Check out this stat line:
Rushing: 31 carries for 313 yards and 4 TDs
Passing: 14-for-16 for 192 yards and 3 TDs.
The dude is a stud. If for no other reason than to have his awesome name on the roster, I hope an NFL team gives him a shot to play somewhere on the field when he graduates. He played WR in HS up until his senior year, so that's probably where he'll end up in the NFL. He 6'-0", 175 lb - probably too small for an NFL QB. And he's only a sophomore. I might have to have weekly Armanti Edwards updates next season if he keeps this up.Anyway, I'll be rooting for the Mountaineers to pull off the victory and capture the championship next weekend. Go Appalachian State.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
*Interesting side note, this was the only amendment ever ratified by the “state conventions” method rather than the normal state legistlature method. The amendment was proposed on 2-20-1933 and MICHIGAN proudly became the first state to ratify on April 10, 1933. (we’ve always got that going for us) The amendment did not become LAW until Utah (pause for a moment to consider the irony) became the 36th state of the then 48 to approve, which they did at 5:23 Eastern Time on 12-5-1933, and “Liberty’s Tourch was lighted once more.” President Roosevelt immediately issued a Repeal Proclamation, which like most other drivel from the mouths of democrats, meant nothing.
http://cocktails.about.com/od/history/a/prohibition.htm Fantastic article if you have the time.
- Granderson .302
- Polanco .338
- Cabrera .320
- Ordonez .363
- Sheffield .265
- Guillen .296
- Jones .285
- Rodriguez .281
- Renterria .332
They acquired a front line lefty starter and perhaps the best young hitter in the majors this side of Pujols without giving up anything significant. For opposing pitchers, this batting order has got to be a scary sight. The most notable thing about this lineup, other than the high level of skill and talent, is the lack of white guys. That's right, the Tigers everyday nine will include six latin players and three black players. Without doing any research, I feel comfortable in asserting that the Tigers are probably the only team in the majors that has this kind of lineup. And I'm not even talking so much about the latin players. Are there any other teams that start three black dudes and zero white dudes (no, Derek Jeter does not count as one of each)? By contrast, my current hometown team, the Astros, had an entire roster last year that included zero black players. Hooray for diversity!
Anyway, the bowl games haven't even started and I'm already officially excited about baseball season.
Monday, December 3, 2007
Maybe I'm in the minority, but until Miles signs a contract with LSU, or Michigan signs someone else up to be the head coach, it ain't over. There are a lot of things in this article that are a little hard to believe:
- That LSU would threaten to fire their head coach before their conference championship game
- That said coach would actually believe these threats and willingly acquiesce, giving up his dream of coaching at his alma mater
I'm just saying that it smells funny. I think there is still a chance that Les Miles is our head coach. Personally, I don't think I have the answer to "who would be the best head coach for Michigan?" Miles would probably be good, but so would a lot of other guys. Who woulda thought that a young assistant from Miami, OH would be the best man for the job when he was hired. I can't say I don't care who is hired, because I do. I just can't pretend to know who the best guy is. And I certainly don't believe all of the stuff that the "insiders" claim that they know.
They could hire any one of these guys and I would not be disappointed: Chris Peterson, Greg Schiano, Jim Grobe, Bob Stoops, Les Miles, Gary Pinkel, Brian Kelly, Jim Leavitt, Mark Mangino. And these are just the guys I can think of off the top of my head.
However, if they hire DeBord, I might have to stop donating money to the University. Oh wait, I already did that.
Until the process plays out, I'm not going to condemn Martin or Lloyd for screwing it up. I'm not going to pre-judge the guys before we know the final outcome. It's good to be a Michigan Wolverine (even if we get smoked by Florida).
You have to admit, it will be fun to root against OSU and for Les Miles in the NC game, even if he's not going to be our coach.