RIP Mr. Cub: Ernie Banks dead at 83

Let’s play two.

I have one core rule: respect the game. Not only did Ernie Banks respect the game, in every moment of his illustrious career, in every second of his life, he played with more verve and sheer joy than perhaps any player in history.

Already this morning I see people on my sports lists debating whether Ernie was better than Honus Wagner, but it’s hard to argue the fact that he embodied, in just about every possible way, the essence of what baseball should be.

DeflateGate: a few quick thoughts for the no harm/no foul crowd

I’ve spent the past couple of days listening to pundits, casual fans and Patriot-backers emphasize, in the strongest terms possible, that it didn’t change the outcome. Some go a tad further, suggesting that it doesn’t matter if Belichick tried to cheat, so long as the outcome wasn’t unaffected.

This line of “reasoning” is at once mind-boggling and completely predictable here in post-sportsmanship America. So let’s take the principle and test it by applying it to other situations. Continue reading

CATEGORY: Sports

NFL head coach Mt. Rushmore: who’s on it?

I love this game, but have never written about it. So here goes. They’ve decided to erect a Mt. Rushmore for pro football coaches. What four legendary figures are on it?

The way I see it, three men are automatics.

  • George “Papa Bear” Halas more or less invented the NFL, coached nearly 50 years and won six titles.
  • Vince Lombardi: They didn’t name the trophy after him for nothing. Won five titles.
  • Bill Walsh: Reinvented pro football, creator of the West Coast offense, father of the modern game, and his legacy includes one of the two most prolific coaching family trees in history. Won three titles in eight years, then handed over the reins to protege George Seifert, who won two of the next six.

So really, the question boils down to who gets that fourth spot. There are a number of candidates.

  • Chuck Noll: The only coach to win four Super Bowls.

Continue reading

Belicheaties

Bill Belichick is the Richard Nixon of sports

Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning. – Hunter S. Thompson

Every time the New England Patriots win, I kind of assume they’re cheating. Even if they aren’t. Part of me wonders what they’re up to and how they’re getting away with it.

My Patriot friends call me a hater, but it wasn’t always like this. Like 95% of all New England fans, I didn’t even know they had a football team until 2001. But they found a great QB in Tom Brady and started winning Super Bowls, and I’m human. Any team other than mine that wins three championships is going to begin smelling like an evil empire, and in their case they didn’t even have the decency to be dramatic or interesting. Belichick is evil at its most banal and more often than not watching them play was about as exciting as watching Himmler knit with his grandmother.

But then they got busted. Spygate. Motherfuckers were cheating. No damned wonder they won all those titles. Which was infuriating, but give credit where it was due – finally something about them was entertaining. Continue reading

CATEGORY: Music

@Doc’s Best CDs of 2014

Jeffrey Dean Foster2014 was, in short, a remarkable year for music. Some hipster wanker pub recently lamented that there just wasn’t a great disc this year, and all I can do is hope that somebody forwards them this list, because they damned sure missed some things.

Let’s start with my co-CDs of the Year.

Jeffrey Dean Foster – The Arrow

You know that Desert Island List challenge? You’re stranded on a desert island and can only have 10 CDs to last the rest of of your life. What do you take? Continue reading

Merry Christmas from S&R

Christmas Tree Union Station DenverThe other day I wished everyone a Happy Solstice. Tonight, I wish my Christian friends a Merry Christmas.

Even though I have left that particular religion behind me, I can’t help feeling the tug of my childhood, when friends and family, lights and food, the magic of the manger story and, of course, the HDAD-inducing anticipation of Santa’s impending visit made this the most special night of the year. It still calls to me, across the decades.

I hope this is a special one for you.

Religion

A strange moment in a New Age bookstore

Never mind religion. Know your customer, right?

Something … odd … happened today. As I have noted here before, I am not a Christian. I’m either atheist or pagan, depending on your perspective, and this afternoon I was in full-on pagan mode, for reasons that will be elaborated on in the next couple of days.

So I head to a local New Age bookstore to pick up some things I need for a ceremony. I quickly locate what I’m after and go to check out. The nice young woman behind the counter rings me up. I pay and as I turn to leave she says “Merry Christmas!”

I thank her and leave and wait, what? The woman at the counter at the New Age bookstore just wished me a Merry Christmas? Continue reading

drunk-281x300

Facebook, the NFL and the GOP: #WTF

What a fucking day.

Item: Congress has tentatively agreed on a bill that will keep the government from shutting down. Now, there’s a lot wrong with it, starting with the fact that the Republicans are insisting on a huge payoff to Wall Street, basically holding the best interests of the people hostage to the best interests of the insanely rich. The smart money says the Democrats will:

a) raise holy hell, then
b) fold like the Vichy little bitches they are.

In other news, the sun is expected to rise in the east tomorrow.

None of this is the fun part, though. First, the GOP plan would … well, just read it. Continue reading

Music and Popular Culture

“Goodbye,” from The Well Wishers: Saturday Video Roundup

Greetings from the Pop Underground – here’s a track from one of my best CDs of the year…

Those who follow along know that I have a weakness for “Power Pop” – that retro, guitar-driven genre originally practiced by the likes of The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Badfinger, Big Star, The Who, The Raspberries, and others of that ilk. You don’t hear it much on the radio, sadly (although Foo Fighters have been on a roll of late) – we’re talking about a largely underground movement here – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t as dynamic as ever.

One of my favorite practitioners of the craft, The Well Wishers, released a new CD this year. It’s called A Shattering Sky, and like everything else Jeff Shelton has done in his various incarnations (WW, The Spinning Jennies, Hot Nun), it’s packed to the rafters with ringing guitars and melodic hooks and positively viral earworms – if you’re like me this disc will be buzzing around in your head for days. Continue reading

Business

Bob Garfield takes Jane Seymour and Kay Jewelers to the woodshed

I rarely post recommendations encouraging you to go check out a business writer. And by rarely I mean never. Today I’m making an exception, though, because it turns out that one of my favorites, MediaPost’s Bob Garfield, hates those motherfucking Jane Seymour Kay Jewelers ads as bad as I do.

Awww. Every kitsch begins with Kay.

But wait. Open your heart? No, unless by “heart” they mean “wallet.” Ladies and gentlemen, I give you open-heart sorcery: the black art of combining celebrity, cheap sentimentality, self-delusion, greed and borderline consumer fraud.

The practice exploits consumers’ emotions and invites them to delude themselves into thinking a product purchase is an act of charity. But it is not charity. Continue reading

CATEGORY: ArtsLiterature2

Poet Laureate Mark Strand dead: reflecting on something he said

Former US Poet Laureate Mark Strand is dead at 80.

In a 1998 interview with the Paris Review, poet Strand said something I find fascinating:

Well, I think what happens at certain points in my poems is that language takes over, and I follow it. It just sounds right. And I trust the implication of what I’m saying, even though I’m not absolutely sure what it is that I’m saying. I’m just willing to let it be. Because if I were absolutely sure of whatever it was that I said in my poems, if I were sure, and could verify it and check it out and feel, yes, I’ve said what I intended, I don’t think the poem would be smarter than I am. I think the poem would be, finally, a reducible item. It’s this “beyondness,” that depth that you reach in a poem, that keeps you returning to it. And you wonder, The poem seemed so natural at the beginning, how did you get where you ended up? What happened? I mean, I like that, I like it in other people’s poems when it happens. I like to be mystified. Because it’s really that place which is unreachable, or mysterious, at which the poem becomes ours, finally, becomes the possession of the reader. I mean, in the act of figuring it out, of pursuing meaning, the reader is absorbing the poem, even though there’s an absence in the poem. But he just has to live with that. And eventually, it becomes essential that it exists in the poem, so that something beyond his understanding, or beyond his experience, or something that doesn’t quite match up with his experience, becomes more and more his. He comes into possession of a mystery, you know—which is something that we don’t allow ourselves in our lives.

Continue reading

Police Violence

Ferguson, Missouri: eight thoughts on a smoldering dumpster fire

Ferguson, MO is currently a dumpster full of flaming grease and it’s a long way from being extinguished.

As I have been watching the Michael Brown/Darren Wilson case unfold, a few things have occurred to me.

1: Let’s just get this out of the way first: there were two distinct groups in the streets the other night. Group A comprised people with legitimate grievances about this case and its place in a much longer running history of injustice for minorities in the US. Group B was made up of punks and hooligans looking for any excuse to cause trouble. There’s no defending this element’s behavior in the wake of the announcement that no indictment for officer Darren Wilson was forthcoming. I mean, you done me wrong, so to show you how pissed off I am I’m going to burn down my own house? Not a lot of rocket surgeons in that crowd, huh? I never ate at Red’s Barbecue, but I bet it was good and I hate to think what the owners are going through right now sifting through the ashes and trying to figure out what to do next.  Continue reading