Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Giving It the Old College Try

It appears Trent has picked his college, ending our yearlong search. Along the way, we heard so many pitches they began to sound alike. They all went something like this:
  • Look at these gorgeous trees and buildings. Our campus is a regular oasis in the city or located in a quaint community far from big-city hassles.
  • Our weather is beautiful. It’s warm year round and it never rains. Or, in the alternative, our weather is not as bad as they say and the brutal winter / blazing summer is only for a few months anyway.
  • We have more clubs than a community of cave dwellers. You can join the Men Enjoying Meat or the Women Vegetarians. Like Harry Potter? Did you know have a world-class quidditch club here?
  • And speaking of teams, did I mention that we have the best football / baseball / basketball / field hockey team in the Midwestern / Central / Eastern athletic conference?
  • Our class size is smaller than a knat’s behind here. You might actually get to ask a professor a question sometime. And we certainly don’t use as many of those God-darned teaching assistants as the other guys.
  • Take a look at these pictures of famous people who once went here. If you want to win a Nobel or Pulitzer Prize / go to the moon / act in a sitcom / be a senator or president, then you should come here, too.
  • We’re diverse. In fact, I dare you to look at this picture that was taken spontaneously on our campus and find one lifestyle / nationality / race that is not represented.
Many made the pitch, but it looks like IUPUI made it best.

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Prince of a Show

As a young man growing up in the 80s, I enjoyed Prince’s music, but never really had a desire to see him in concert. That hadn’t changed much over the years, particularly as I heard of some of his antics in live shows, such as keeping the lights down, espousing his political views, refusing to play his hits, leaving early, etc.
 
But Prince is Prince. He is one of our few remaining pop icons. So when tickets were sold for shows in Louisville, I decided to give it a shot.
 
Prince rewarded us Sunday night with his best behavior during the third of his four intimate “pop-up” events at the Louisville Palace over the weekend. The result was one of the finest nights of entertainment I’ve ever enjoyed. Decked all in purple, Prince sang and danced like the Prince of old. He played his hits, but with a little different flavor, making them familiar, yet fresh, starting with “Let’s Go Crazy.” And perhaps most surprising, at least to me, he genuinely seemed to enjoy himself and the audience.
 
Prince frequently invited the audience to sing along, even bringing one lucky member on stage. He weaved Kentucky references into his songs. He shouted with glee to the balcony. In short, he was the ultimate showman.
 
Prince was also playful. He updated the lyric in “Kiss” to “You don’t have to watch ‘Love and Hip Hop’ to Have an Attitude.” Midway through the set, he joked he’d like to continue, but “he’d run out of hits,” perhaps lampooning himself. Of course, he hadn’t … and the hits kept coming, well into the night, until the very last note of Purple Rain.
 
This show was a homecoming for Prince’s drummer, Louisville native Hannah Ford of 3RDEYEGIRL. She definitely put her stamp on it, flailing away at the drums like a pop version of Keith Moon. It all added up to one great night of power pop and funk without the moralizing or any other hint of Prince’s peccadillos.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Mathiang Exorcises Demons with Unlikey Jumper

Every fan base has moments where it felt its team was snakebit, but it seems like University of Louisville fans have had more than their fair share.
Mango Mathiang lifts Louisville

I first felt the sting in 1981 when U.S. Reed hit a half-court shot at the buzzer to send my beloved Cards packing from the NCAA tournament. I’ve felt it again many times since in nearly every sport.
 
Sure, there have been monumental wins that any fanbase would be lucky to have: NCAA championships (men’s basketball), championship games (women’s basketball and soccer), Final Fours, Sweet 16s, BCS bowl wins and College World Series appearances. But there also has been a lot of pain. 

Here’s just a few of the agonizing moments that I remember:

  • After coughing up a big lead, a marginal foul call at the buzzer gives Kentucky’s Patrick Sparks the three free throws UK needs to beat the Cards.
  • With the football team in control and well on its way to a key win at West Virginia, the Cards injure the Mountaineers’ starting quarterback. Enter Pat White who literally runs wild, leading WVU all the way back to victory.
  • With Louisville in a rock fight against Morehead State in the NCAA basketball tournament, the Cards best player and emotional leader, Preston Knowles, is hurt and Morehead advances.
  • With Louisville football about to tack on another touchdown to an already big lead over Central Florida, the ball is fumbled through the end zone, resulting in a touchback. The Knights rally and take the Cards’ BCS bid.
     
You get the picture … and I haven’t even talked about fake fair catches and second chance field goals.
 
I say all of this to give some perspective on what happened Saturday night at the Yum Center when Mango Mathiang hit an unlikely jump shot with just over two seconds left to lift Louisville past second-ranked Virginia. U of L Head Coach Rick Pitino joked that Mathiang was the 64th option on the plan, having missed 15 of his last 16 shots, most of them coming from much closer to the basket than Saturday’s game winner.
 
In the world of the unlikely, this ranked right up there with the best of them. Karma, which had taven away so much, finally had given some back.
 
On that fateful possession, Virginia Coach Tony Bennett did his job. He blanketed the Cards’ biggest threats, Terry Rozier and Montrezl Harrell. He even took away their secondary options, Wayne Blackshear and Quentin Snider. If you told Bennett before the game that his team’s fortunes would rest on Mathiang making a contested shot from 15 feet, he surely would’ve taken you up on it.
 
Not this time. Mathiang channeled his inner U.S. Reed, exorcising a few (but not all) demons in the process. Now, for the moment, it’s the Cavaliers’ fans who are surely cursing their bad luck. I know exactly how they feel.
 
How about you? What snakebit moments do you remember?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Remembering First Concerts

My 12-year-old son recently attended his first real rock concert, which got me thinking about this important rite of passage.
 
First concerts stick with you forever, whether they’re good or not. Trust me.
 
Fortunately for Clark, his first concert was a good one. He got to see the Eagles. People will be listening to Hotel California when they’re commuting to work in flying cars.
 
Trent, my oldest, did as well, if not better, than Clark. His first real concert was the legendary Paul McCartney of the even more legendary Beatles. The Beatles have inspired tribute bands, festivals and Las Vegas shows. Their legacy ain’t going away.
 

Tommy Tutone. Don't judge me.

And my first real concert? It was none other than Tommy Tutone. You probably don’t recognize his name, but chances are you remember his catchy song, “Jenny, Jenny.” Now you know why I shutdown whenever people discuss their first concerts, whether in an ice breaker or over a few beers. It was the 80s. Try not to judge me.
 
As I remember, people started hollering “Jenny, Jenny” from the moment Tutone took the stage. The longer he delayed; the more impatient they became. Finally, in an attempt to tame the restlessness, Tutone pledged, “We’ll play all the hits.” Problem is he had but one. He probably should’ve been playing it on a loop, including country, reggae and hip hop versions.
 
Bet Paul McCartney never had that problem.
 
How about you? Was your first concert a classic rocker or a classic one-hit wonder?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

An Enjoyable Trip through the Galaxy

Even though I grew up with the campiest Batman ever, I actually prefer it when my superheroes play it straight.

That’s the reason I wasn’t too excited for Guardians of the Galaxy. Based on the previews, it looked like they played it for laughs. Maybe that’s the way you market a movie where one of your leads is a talking raccoon.

Michael Rooker steals scenes as Yondu
And there are plenty of laughs in Guardians of the Galaxy. But don’t get fooled by the trailer. The movie actually treats its characters as seriously as a Spiderman or Batman flick with an actual plot and actual character development.

In fact, if I were to compare Guardians of the Galaxy to another movie, I’d compare it to early Star Wars. You’ve got a renegade, self-important and reluctant hero who bounds around the galaxy with a group of misfits that look like they came straight from the Star Wars cantina scene. Then there’s a huge, impenetrable, enemy battleship to be breeched. Sound familiar? Maybe George Lucas ought to get his attorneys on the phone.

Nevertheless I enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy. The special effects are fresh and interesting, especially the way Groot’s powers are interpreted. There is also a magical arrow shot that would’ve made William Tell envious.

The cast was terrific, including Chris Pratt playing the lead, Star-Lord, with just the right amount of swagger mixed with self-doubt. Michael Rooker of The Walking Dead steals his scenes as Yondu. And, of course, you can never go wrong with a Stan Lee cameo.