Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Snakes & Arrows

Rush will have a new album in stores on May 1st, titled Snakes & Arrows. Both Geddy and Neil have said that it is some of the best work they have done in years, although I suspect that most musicians probably say that when they have a new record coming out - or at least are instructed to say it by their corporate record company masters. There is an article on Neil's web site in which he talks a bit about the recording sessions for the new album, and the latest issue of Revolver magazine has an interview with Geddy. Also, a blog called Rush Is A Band has a number of posts on...well, all things Rush.

The first single is called "Far Cry" and the Rush Is A Band blog mentions in one of its posts that the new single will be on the radio March 19th or 20th. The official Rush web site says that the band will be on tour this summer, with details to follow. In the words of Stimpson J. Cat - "Happy happy, joy joy!" Hopefully having a youngster around won't preclude me from seeing Rush a sixth time.

Probably babies don't pop out of the womb already possessing a love of the music of Rush, right?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Notes On The Oscars

There is almost always something about the Academy Awards show that gets my hackles up: last year it was the Best Picture larceny perpetrated by Crash; a couple of years before that it was when Chicago won Best Picture; a couple of years before that it was when Julia Roberts won Best Actress for Erin Brockovich; and the entire 1997 show was marred by Titanic, and by Ben Affleck winning an Oscar.

(Odd aside, concerning Affleck and the Oscar he and Matt Damon won for writing Good Will Hunting: I read a small piece by William Goldman in Premiere magazine once, that had him telling the world that he had done most of the work on the screenplay for Good Will Hunting and that the Weinsteins had asked him to keep it quiet until after the Oscars. Just now, I brought up the IMDb page for Good Will Hunting, and the first item mentioned under the heading of trivia has to do with a WGA seminar Goldman attended in 2003, at which, apparently, he denied what is referred to as the “persistent rumor” that he had written Good Will Hunting.)

This year, however, there was nothing that really got my hackles up. Had I been a fan of Dreamgirls, I probably would have been pissed. I don’t usually care for musicals, though, so I didn’t really care that it pretty much got shafted. Technically, it had the most nominations, with eight, but three of those were in the same category - no surprise that the category was Best Song. Dreamgirls won only two Oscars, for Best Supporting Actress and for Sound Mixing. Maybe this had something to do with the snafu surrounding the way the fictional film hit a little too close to home with Motown founder Berry Gordy. A slew of hits can be found if you Google the following search string: [MSNBC “smokey robinson” dreamgirls].

And there were plenty of things that I thought were just fine. Ellen DeGeneres as the host was funny, even if she did seem a bit nervous. She was better than Jon Stewart was last year, though not quite as good as Steve Martin; and all three put together don’t even come close to Billy Crystal. There should be a new rule stipulating that Billy Crystal is to be the permanent host of the Oscars - he’s never nervous when he’s up there, is not remotely intimidated by his surroundings, and has an easy patter that is both respectful of the ceremony and fun at the same time. To put it another way, he hosts the Oscars almost like he was born to do it, like it’s just one of those things that he is suited for better than most other people on the planet.

I was also pleased with the two Oscars awarded to Little Miss Sunshine, which was sort of the odd picture out among the other four, much heavier, Best Picture nominees. It won Best Original Screenplay, which was not much of a surprise, and Best Supporting Actor for Alan Arkin, which was a huge surprise. Of the twenty-four awards to be handed out during the televised ceremony, there were six that were thought to be locks:

Best Actress to Helen Mirren for The Queen
Best Actor to Forest Whitaker for The Last King Of Scotland
Best Supporting Actress to Jennifer Hudson for Dreamgirls
Best Supporting Actor to Eddie Murphy for Dreamgirls
Best Documentary Feature to An Inconvenient Truth
Best Director to Martin Scorsese for The Departed

Eddie Murphy was the only one of those six locks who did not come away with the supposedly preordained Oscar. I also thought that Dreamgirls was a lock for Best Song, as it had three of the five nominations in the category - but was pleasantly surprised that Melissa Etheridge won for “I Need To Wake Up,” from An Inconvenient Truth.

Actually, there is one thing that got my hackles up - that The Last King Of Scotland was not nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. Little Children was nominated, but not The Last King Of Scotland?? Wilco Tango Foxtrot? Not that it would have won, of course, up against The Departed; but it should have been nominated. The stories in both the film and novel were the same, but told so differently that they could almost have been different stories. I dare anyone out there to read the novel and see the movie - or vice versa - and not come away thinking that the adaptation was quite excellent.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Is There Anybody Out There?

It occurred to me on the way home from work this evening that I never hear any really good Pink Floyd on the radio when I would like to hear some really good Pink Floyd on the radio. Also, when I do hear Pink Floyd on the radio, it is far too often something crappy, like non-A Momentary Lapse of Reason, post-Roger Waters songs - or "Us And Them." Rarely do I hear obscure gems such as "Goodbye Blue Sky," or anything from Animals or Meddle. Once in a great while, before WKLU was sold, changed formats, and began to suck, you would hear "Fearless," from Meddle, or maybe the occasional "See Emily Play."

I also do not have any Pink Floyd songs on any of the many CDs I keep in my car. This is likely to change. I have plenty of Rush, Pearl Jam, Eagles, and Bob Dylan in the car - but no Pink Floyd. It means I'll have to import a couple of Pink Floyd CDs into my laptop and come up with a decent Floyd playlist, but these are minor tasks. Of course, by the time I have done all of that, the yen for Pink Floyd likely will have abated.

No matter - it will be an amusing saga to undertake after the Oscars are over, while I am writing what will probably be a reasonably girthy post on the awards. Best Picture is really wide open this year, for the first time in a long time. All of the nominated films have won at least one pre-Oscar Best Picture equivalent. Most of the run-up buzz is on Little Miss Sunshine - it was the same run-up buzz (and homophobic voters) that gave Crash the undeserved edge over Brokeback Mountain last year. It's anyone's Oscar to win - if I were a betting man, I would put money on Babel; but it won't surprise me if it winds up being Little Miss Sunshine.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Remember When Patriotism Felt Like A Good Thing? Neither Do I.

This is an actual letter to the editor of the Indianapolis Star, in the online version of today’s edition. We are getting to the point in the conversation about the ongoing quagmire in Vietraq where we are talking about “escalation,” a term that was used a lot while the United States was embroiled in Vietnam a generation ago - and to a point where the comparisons between the two conflicts are becoming more and more clear. And though there are many similarities between Vietnam and Iraq, there is a difference that is not being talked much about yet - but which is a large part of what makes Iraq as unwinnable now as Vietnam was thirty years ago.

There is no light at the end of the tunnel for the people in Iraq who are making roadside bombs and strapping explosives to their waists and screaming, “Death To America!” And that is the difference between Iraq and Vietnam - the goals of the Vietnamese versus the goals of the Iraqis. You hear it bandied about that the worthless squandering of the lives of potentially usefeul Americans (Republicans refer to this as “war”) in Iraq is turning into another Vietnam.

In one way, this is accurate - both situations were begun on dubious terms, prosecuted incorrectly, and allowed to spin far out of control before anyone had the notion to rein in the violence. But in another way, one which people are not using enough to separate the two Asian quagmires, it is not entirely accurate to equate Iraq to Vietnam - because the aims of the two peoples are not the same.

The Vietnamese fought - first against the French (and really, it’s Dien Bien Phu that the whole world should have learned from, long before the bloody and horrific lessons of Hanoi, Saigon, Khe Sanh, and Tet) and then against the United States - for their own independence. Unfortunately, they had the great misfortune of mounting a major success in that fight - the aforementioned victory over the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 - in the mid-1950s, when the United States was at the height of its misbegotten paranoia over the spread of Communism.

Some Americans became convinced that all of Southeast Asia - and, not too long after that, the rest of the whole wide world - would fall to Communism if North Vietnam was able to defeat South Vietnam and unify the country under Communism. There was no such conspiracy afoot, though. Ho Chi Minh just wanted independence for his beloved Vietnam and its people. He saw Communism as the best way to advance independence - which helped the United States to justify their fear of him because his adherence to Communism allowed him to receive aid from both the Soviet Union and China, two countries that the United States did not work and play well with fifty years ago.

There are no such lofty goals for the Iraqis - even if they disguise their religious rhetoric under the burqa of autonomy for Iraq and national security in the Middle East. Any idea they want to throw at you is going to come back to religion, and the issue of religion in the Middle East comes down to the fact that the city of Jerusalem is where the three most popular mythologies about why we are here and what we are supposed to be doing while we are here emerged from the minds of frightened Bedouins who had not yet discovered astronomy and meteorology.

All these Iraqi insurgents want to do is combine enough explosives and shrapnel to that they can step into a marketplace and martyr themselves straight back to Muhammad and those seventy-two virgins. For Chrstians, that would be dying so they can hurry up and see Jesus - except that Christians don't blow themselves up nearly as much. Maybe Jesus should have promised virgins, too. The Jews had no lofty predictions of a specific messiah - perhaps a slightly more reasoned view of things, but look what they got for their trouble. Hitler.

No “troop surge” is going to quash genuine religious fervor, no matter how mistakenly percolated or incorrectly applied - a lesson that would have been well learned in the person of Saladin, who proved in the 12th century that no good could come from evangelical Christianity; and no non-binding Congressional resolution is going to make those Iraqi martyrs-to-be any more angry at the Americans.

And it is proper for the Democrats to attempt to check the power of our sitting President - a power that went unchecked for six years and did more to damage the United States than any President since Nixon. Had the Democrats been able to check the President’s powers before now, we might not even be having these absurd conversations about how a non-binding Congressional resolution is the equivalent, to hear these Indianapolis Star letters-to-the-editor writers tell it, of giving the Iraqis in the field command control of strategic nuclear weapons pointed at the United States.

The greatest damage done to the United States by George W. Bush? The perversion of patriotism as a concept. Patriotism used to mean something good here in the United States, because the United States was once a country of which its citizens could be proud. No more. Thanks to President Bush, we the people are as poorly thought of as we have ever been since the founding fathers floated over here to escape another despot named George. There is a difference between being a patriot and being a sycophant - and this is a lesson that far too many people in America have yet to learn.

And yet the Democrats (and the Republicans who are with them) are being denigrated in letters to the editor for emboldening the enemy? No - they are holding the President accountable for what he has allowed to happen in Iraq, for not working and playing well with others, and for not listening to the Iraq Study Group. As has been said often since King George II and Darth Cheney took office - blind faith in bad leaders is not patriotism. Thanks to George W. Bush, Americans are going to have to take a long hard look at themselves and try to come up with a better definiition of what it means to be a patriot.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Losing The Greg Oden Sweepstakes Without Even Trying

As per my usual, this started out as a comment to someone else's post - in this case, Shane’s post about the Pacers - and started to go too long. Shane noted that he did not think Jermaine O’Neal was a good leader - a good player, but not a good leader. And I think he’s bang on. See below for why.

I think he hit the nail on the head when he said that O'Neal is a good player but not a good leader. Obviously, I don't follow the Pacers that much, but I pick up a few things here and there (and didn't actually give up on them completely until after Artest). And I don't think O'Neal was ever really comfortable with the idea of being the team's leader.

His role is more of the quiet number two guy - which is why, I think, he excelled as he did while he and Reggie Miller were on the team together. Miller could be the team leader and the spokesman - and O'Neal could quietly go about the business of dominating the low post. When Miller retired, the role of team leader was foisted on O'Neal - maybe without his consultation, and probably, either way, against his wishes. Pacers upper management took a big chance on O'Neal and Artest after Miller retired. It's one of those things that breaks hard either way.

If the team had done very well with Artest and O'Neal leading the way, Donnie and company would have come out of it looking like geniuses. Instead, we got the brawl and Stephen Jackson - which was like still having all the troubles of Artest without a fraction of the actual on-court talent - and Donnie and company do not look like geniuses. They appear instead to have inherited Isiah Thomas’ unique ability to destroy everything around him.

I don't think the blame lies much with O'Neal at all. He's frustrated - with the way the team has team has been (mis)managed, with the way his teammates have comported themselves off the court, and with his own body for breaking down on him every time it seems like he needs to be at the peak of his game. I don't blame him for wanting to be traded - while he still has some value on the trade market - because this team is not going in the right direction. Donnie Walsh could not reasonably have expected to contend this season, and he and Bird should have had the wherewithal to start dumping big contracts and shipping out unhappy players.

I'm not saying they should have tanked the season on purpose - but they should have accepted the fact that the team as it exists now cannot contend. They should have begun the rebuilding process this year and been content with going into the lottery - if for no other reason than that the chance to get the #1 pick would have been so worth the gamble. Not everybody is on the Greg Oden bandwagon yet - he got hurt last year and spent the summer and part of his freshman year recuperating, and Ohio State did not start out looking like the world-beaters that the Oden fans thought they would be.

But take a look at it now. Florida got manhandled by Vanderbilt yesterday, and now Ohio State is poised to take over the #1 position in both polls when they are released tomorrow. Theoretically, #1 could go to any of the three teams below Florida - and those teams are, in order in both polls, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and North Carolina. My buddy Scott could give you a whole post on each team and why they should or should not be #1 - but pretty much all I can tell you is that they are all three extremely talented teams playing fairly tough schedules. And Ohio State hasn’t lost since January 9th, picking up five road wins in conference along the way.

Oden leads his team in scoring and is averaging almost a double-double. He’s the number one pick whenever he goes into the draft - although if he and fellow Indianapolis native freshman phenom Mike Conley stay in school, there is good reason to believe that this Ohio State team could set itself up for a series of NCAA tournaments the likes of which have not been seen in a long, long time.

I don’t know if Oden is the kind of natural leader that Miller was, nor if he will ever settle into that kind of role. But he is the kind of talent around which you can build a team - the kind of talent that can allow another kid to develop as a leader because he knows he doesn’t have to shoulder the budern of doing all the scoring. This is a relatively young team, apart from O’Neal and Armstrong (and Armstrong is obviously not any kind of long term answer to any kind of question), with plenty of opportunity for development - especially in the person of Danny Granger, who is in just his second year out of New Mexico.

But anyway...that’s what the Pacers could have done - accepted their place in the lottery and tried to spend this season getting to know their strengths and weaknesses, with the hope there in the backs of their minds that they might get that first pick in the draft. If there was a year when you were going to gamble on that kind of thing - rebuild with the hope of getting the #1 pick - then this certainly would have been the year for it. They gambled on Artest and lost, gambled on Stephen Jackson and lost...why not go for Oden? Third time’s the charm, it’s said.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Factory Girl

I held off on writing about this one until I had a chance to skim through the indices of some Bob Dylan books at the library and the bookstore this afternoon. I had also hoped to skim an index of a book about Edie Sedgwick, but books about her are fewer and farther between than books about Dylan. The one biography of Sedgwick that I did find does not include an index. Brilliant! Further, the Sedgwick references in books about Dylan are hit and miss - some have them and some do not. Either way, since this movie is a fictionalized “biopic” of Edie Sedgwick, strict adherence to the facts is probably not worth investigating too intensely.

Thus, the film must be taken as an entertainment, rather than a straight life story. This is problematic since a not insubstantial part of what we are asked to take as entertainment is Hayden Christensen playing a musician who is not named in the movie - and is listed simply as “Musician” in the credits - but who is clearly Bob Dylan.

Well...I should probably qualify that. It’ll be clear to people of a certain age that Christensen is playing Bob Dylan. If all you’re doing is listening to the movie, though, you’re liable to think that he’s playing Bruce Springsteen - even though Springsteen is eight years younger than Dylan and this movie takes place in the mid-1960s, when Dylan would have been in his twenties. Hayden Christensen is a horrible actor. He has two facial expressions - pissed off, and petulant; and he doesn’t sound at all like Bob Dylan, even though he tries (way too) hard. The film begins to tumble - though not from so great a height - almost from the moment the “Musician” enters the story.

It begins, though, rather nicely, with Edie Sedgwick leaving school and coming to New York to seek her fortune. Actually, since her family is rich and she is equipped with a trust fund, she already has her fortune - so what she comes to New York actually to seek is fame and all manner of ways to spend her fortune. Sienna Miller does a fine job as Edie - made the easier, I suspect, because she is a spot on match for the real Edie in the looks department. Miller plays Edie as vacuous and bubbly, a girl with a winning smile and an infectious spirit. She meets Andy Warhol and begins hanging out at the Factory, where she socializes with the Bohemian mob of sycophants Warhol has wrapped around his finger.

Guy Pearce plays Warhol with an understated care - measuring out his words and actions with a succinct delivery that suggests someone who is in complete control of what appears to be a very out of control environment. His business is the mass-production of art as an art form in and of itself - which subverts the nature of art at the same time that it lifts up and embraces art as the ultimate form of personal expression.

That Warhol is using Edie never seems to occur to her, and though she is propelled to fame by her association with the artist and her “starring roles” in his unique films, and projects the air of being close to Warhol, there is a personal boundary that Pearce’s Warhol seems to let no one penetrate. I suppose you could put this off on the fact that Warhol was gay, but as played by Pearce he seems to transcend any kind of sexuality at all. He could be an android for all we know, with his controlled voice inflections and ubiquitous sunglasses. Edie doesn’t want Warhol; she wants to be seen with him - fame by association.

Yet while Andy seems not of this world, Edie is clearly all-American - and as such she craves the personal attention and affection of someone who is “into” her. This is, however, a latent need - her domineering father sexually abused her from a young age, and she built up a boundary of her own that is not (at first) unlike Warhol’s. But the truth will out - and when she is introduced to Musician, the spark of physical attraction is immediate and plainly evident (Christensen’s lack of acting skills notwithstanding - he was involved with Miller romantically during filming, and their love scene is rumored to have been actual sexual intercourse, rather than the standard prop-laden dry humping).

At this point, Edie begins to spiral downward into increasingly hardcore drug use - and the implication is that Musician causes her to start along this harrowing path. (This is the major point of factual contention that nearly brought the release of the movie to a grinding halt - the real Bob Dylan’s people were to the point of suing the filmmakers over the idea that it was Dylan who drove Edie down the path that would eventually destroy her; and this is likely the reason that, Christensen...was credited as Musician rather than Bob Dylan.)

The film then devolves into a mélange of meltdown scenes chronicling the end of Edie Sedgwick as a relevant person in the 1960s New York counterculture. Miller is generally very good in these scenes, if a little overbearing. The Weinsteins gave the film very limited release at the very end of 2006, apparently with the hope that Miller might be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar (a pipe dream of staggering proportions). Armed with this knowledge, one can see the film almost as a contrived bit of storytelling and mythmaking intended solely as a vehicle for Miller. The irony? Pearce as Warhol is far better than Miller as Edie.

And yet - there is something to be taken away from this picture, for a narrow band of the folks who might view it. That narrow band would be people who are familiar with Dylan’s work and know nothing of Edie Sedgwick - and this is a band of people that includes me.

While the truth about the relationship between Bob Dylan and Edie Sedgwick seems to be unclear, the literature does at least agree on this: that Sedgwick is likely the inspiration behind some of the tracks on Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde album - particulary the tracks “Just Like A Woman” and “Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat.” If this is true, then it makes a strong case for the fact that Edie left some kind of indelible mark on Dylan.

More interesting, however, is the mark she might have had on one of Dylan’s other songs - “Like A Rolling Stone.” With no knowledge of Sedgwick, one can listen to “Like A Rolling Stone” and hear a man singing about a girl whose ups and downs in life parallel those of just about every person who has ever been born and raised with anything approaching privilege in the United States.

Inject the knowledge of Sedgwick gleaned from watching this movie, however, and the track suddenly becomes a biopic of this girl in its own right. It is far too simplistic to say that Dylan wrote the song specifically about Edie; but once you learn who Edie is and how her path intersected with Dylan’s, it is all but impossible not to see her in nearly every line of the song.

Dylan’s relationship with Joan Baez is much better known and chronicled than whatever might have been his relationship with Edie Sedgwick - the song “Positively 4th Street” is Dylan’s parting shot to Baez after their relationship ended, just as the Baez song “Diamonds And Rust” is her parting shot to him. But Baez got her hooks into Dylan early - shaping his career as a folk singer. Sedgwick came along later - as he was making the transition from folk star to rock star; and if whatever relationship they might have had so captivated Dylan that he was able to birth the album Blonde On Blonde and the song “Like A Rolling Stone,” well then...sitting through this movie is a small price to pay to bring one’s soul a bit closer to understanding the inspiration of probably the greatest singer-songwriter the world has ever known.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Year Of Reading Kurt Vonnegut (#2)

Hey, it only took me about six weeks of 2007 to knock out my first book in the Year of Reading Kurt Vonnegut that’s going on at the library.

The first book I chose to read was Hocus Pocus, a novel I had read once before but had not particularly enjoyed that first time. It’s about a college professor who chronicles his life on random scraps of paper while awaiting trial for supposedly masterminding a prison break. Like most Vonnegut novels, it is difficult to sum up in a sentence or two. The main character/narrator, however, among his other eccentricities, does not use profanity (substituting phrases that retain the spirit of the swear without the actual swear itself) and writes numerals when the word he would have written would have been a number.


• “The shit hit the fan” in standard vernacular would become “The excrement hit the air conditioning” in this novel.

• I might ask you to name the ten best movies you have ever seen. The narrator of Hocus Pocus, however, would ask you to name the 10 best movies you had ever seen.

Like I said, I did not care much for the novel the first time, but I enjoyed it very much this second time - a phenomenon echoed by Stephen King in Hearts In Atlantis, when Ted Brautigan says to Bobby Garfield that “good books don’t give up all their secrets at once,” after Bobby asks Ted many questions about Lord Of The Flies after having read the book only one time.

I happen to think it’s true, too. There are way too many books out there for any one person to read, but there are some - actually quite a lot, I think - that are meant to be read more than once. And there are a few, the ones we like the most by the writers who are the most important to us, that are meant to be read over and over and over again.

So that’s what I know today. Next up on the Vonnegut reading list is probably Galápagos, unless I find something more interesting at the library this afternoon. (I watched Factory Girl after work last night and need to find out a bit more about Edie Sedgwick, and re-read the book Greil Marcus wrote all about one particular Bob Dylan song, before I write about it. This will require a trip to the library downtown - which will likely result in a scanning of which Vonnegut books are currently available for checkout.)

UPDATE: For those interested, the "One Book" program, which encourages citizens of a particular community to read and talk about one particular book each year, is a nationwide thing. Click here to check out the web site.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Perils Of Free Speech...Run TMC Style

This one just has to wind up on Keith Olbermann’s MSNBC show Countdown. According to a story from the AP, which can be found on this link to MSNBC, former NBA star Tim Hardaway said on a Miami radio program that he hates gay people - among other things he said on the subject. This in response to the revelation last week by former NBA star John Amaechi that he is gay.

Surely this makes Mr. Hardaway today’s worst person in the world. Doesn’t it? Well, he did apologize, I suppose, so maybe he’s not. Yeah, except this is his apology: “Yes, I regret it. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said I hate gay people or anything like that,” he said. “That was my mistake.”

Gosh, I wonder how he really feels about it. Here are some of his other remarks: “First of all, I wouldn’t want him on my team. And second of all, if he was on my team, I would, you know, really distance myself from him because, uh, I don’t think that is right. I don’t think he should be in the locker room while we are in the locker room.”

Well, if he’s not tonight’s worst person in the world, I don’t know who is. I’m trying to think of some runners-up. Those NASCAR cowboys for putting jet fuel in their cars? Nah. How is that bad? Cheating in NASCAR? Embarrassment in NASCAR? The next thing you’ll tell me is that pro wrestling isn’t real.

Oh well...I’m sure Olbermann will think of two others. Technically, it happened yesterday, but according to the web site for Countdown, Hardaway was not one of the three worst people in the world yesterday. Maybe Keith was saving it to let it ripen. Countdown is on at 8:00 tonight, according to the web site.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Natalie Shrugged

Back on 7th December, I sent up this post about the Grammy nominations, noting that, from time to time, popular music and I actually collide. In it, I noted the Grammy nominations for the Dixie Chicks and Bob Dylan. Turns out that I missed one of the noms for the Dixie Chicks - they were also up for Song of the Year, for “Not Ready To Make Nice.” Not sure how I missed that, as it's one of the first noms listed and is considered one of the major awards. They were also, technically, nominated for a sixth award, because Rick Rubin, who produced their nominated album (and pretty much every other album in the world this year), was up for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical - with the Dixie Chicks album Taking The Long Way being one of the albums for which he earned his nomination.

Well...the Dixie Chicks won all of the awards for which they were nominated, and Rubin won the award for production. Bob Dylan won two of the three awards for which he was nominated - winning for Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance (for “Someday Baby”) and Best Contemporary Folk/Americana album (for Modern Times) but losing out to the Red Hot Chili Peppers for Best Rock Song.

(Those awards for the Dixie Chicks, by the way, are: Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal, all for "Not Ready To Make Nice"; and Best Country Album and Album of the Year for Taking The Long Way.)

I don't really have a lot to say about those wins - except that I like the music and am glad that the Dixie Chicks and Bob Dylan won. I'm especially pleased that the Dixie Chicks won, and won so big, considering how quickly country music and its hilljack constituency turned on them for Natalie's remarks about President Bush. Plus, the album sold - more than a million units without any major kind of radio airplay. Country music said to them, "We don't want you." The Dixie Chicks replied by saying, "We don't need you." (Those two sentences contain the essential theme of the novel Atlas Shrugged. If you ask the question "Who is John Galt?" in real life - it would be correct to answer by saying the Dixie Chicks.) Thus was born another country crossover band - here's hoping they get all the way over, and hoping that the next album is just as big. If it is, country music will have succeeded in thumbing its nose at one of its biggest success stories of all time - and in thereby helping to turn the Dixie Chicks into even bigger superstars than they were when they were mired in the purgatory of country music.

It’s too bad I don’t have any huge favorites when it comes to the Oscars, which are just two short weeks away - since it seems that Sundays are turning out pretty sweet for me of late, with the Colts winning the World Championship Of All Football last week and the Dixie Chicks cleaning house at the Grammys this week.

That’s not to say that I don’t have some things I would like to see win awards at the Oscars - I would love for Little Miss Sunshine to win Best Picture, but it won’t (that will be Babel), and I would love to see A Scanner Darkly win Best Animated Feature, The Last King Of Scotland win Best Adapted Screenplay, and Shut Up And Sing win Best Documentary, except - oh yes, none of those movies were nominated in those categories. Ah well...

Thursday, February 08, 2007

女性および紳士...Hillary Brooks

So this', I am speechless. I am without speech. (Again, it would seem.)

My previous post, to do with the intangible benefits of having a professional football team in your hometown, generated a few comments. One of them was from Hillary, who not only broke the subject wide open - she atom bombed it. At least for me. Probably no one else will care, but it turns out that her neighbor's dad once knew my dad, at least a little bit.

Sweet action!

She wanted to know if there was not also a Japanese league that played American-style football. (Yes, there are in fact three, according to Wikipedia.) Seems she has a neighbor who has a father who used to be the head football coach at Indiana University, and who now coaches for a team in Japan in his retirement. Her comment ends with, "A guy by the name of Pont?" I will admit that my knowledge of IU football coaches goes back only as far as Bill Mallory; and yet even having said that, I feel a slight tug of shame in my heart that I did not know at least this little bit about IU football history.

John Pont was the head football coach at Indiana University between 1965 and 1972, and he led the team to the Rose Bowl in 1968. Back before the BCS, the Rose Bowl used to mean something. It was the Holy Grail for football players in the Pac-10 and Big Ten conferences - the champions of each conference would play in the nation's greatest bowl game, known as "The Granddaddy of Them All." It was a New Year's Day tradition. Actually, it's still a New Year's Day tradition, but it doesn't mean what it used to, now that it has been sullied by its association with the BCS.

Indiana University, a Big Ten school, has played in exactly one Rose Bowl in its history. Head coach John Pont took them there. And...had he not quit the team (or perhaps been asked to leave, I don't quite recall) because he did not much care to go to practice quite as often as the coaches would have liked, a young third-string quarterback named Bill Peddie would have been on that Rose Bowl championship team. Seven years later he and his wife - whom he met at Indiana University and married later in 1968, after that Rose Bowl game he did not play in - would give birth to a healthy baby boy, who would eventually be known as, (Actually, I just presume I was a healthy baby boy, but who knows? Look how I turned out!)

Anyway...I could have just put all of that back into a comment, but look at how wordy it got. Even my brief comments are absurdly verbose. Plus, I had to give Hillary props and much Blog-O-Rama love. What a nugget of information to turn up! It's one of those small world moments. Another good one was back in college - when I was going to Indiana University - and I met a chap called Mike Austin, of the hamlet of Rochester, New York. He was among a circle of friends to whom I was introduced by a guy called Greg Cochran, with whom I had gone to high school but never really gotten to know all that well. As I got to know these people, I discovered that Mike had a cousin, called Scott. Turns out that Scott was the very same one I had become friends with in high school - and am best friends with to this day.

There is a song by - surprise! - Rush that fits here, I think, and I shall close with a couple of lines of it:

"More things than are dreamed about
Unseen and unexplained
We suspend our disbelief
And we are entertained...mystic rhythms"

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Intangible Benefits

So what was your day like today? Good? Bad? Indifferent? Did anybody out there watch the television news at either noon, five, six, ten, or eleven - and catch, perhaps, some coverage of the Super Bowl champion Colts? How did it make you feel, to see the city in full-on celebration mode, with so many people smiling and laughing and having a good time? Good? Bad? Indifferent?

I’m curious, actually, for a specific reason - one that affects all of us in Indianapolis, sports fans and non-sports fans alike. I’m talking about the new stadium being built down there on the south side of downtown - the place that will be called Lucas Oil Stadium and will be the new home for the Indianapolis Colts come the 2008 season.

The building of the stadium has come under fire because its construction uses taxpayer dollars that might otherwise have been spent on schools, infrastructure, property tax relief, the police force - you name it, and the money being used to build the new stadium probably could have been used for it instead, less to the consternation of the taxpayers than for what those dollars are going for, which is to build a place for upwards of 70,000 mostly wealthy people to gather in order to watch a small number of much wealtheir people play a professional football game eight Sundays a year for the next twenty-odd years.

(The stadium will be used for much, much more than just eight home Colts game a year - I am well aware of this; and the expanded convention center will be good for the city, too. I just want to focus on the Colts for the moment, however.)

Proponents of the building of the stadium, even at taxpayer expense, will make many arguments in favor of the construction of the stadium - they will cite the money events held at it will generate for the people who work at the stadium, the money in the form of sales and other taxes that will be generated for the city, the national prestige that comes with having a pro football team in the city, and the opportunities a bigger and better stadium will bring to the city - such as the opportunity to host the Super Bowl, which the city is already had at work on. City officials were in Miami this week to observe the goings-on during Super Bowl week and to cozy up to NFL officials with the hope of enticing the league to grant Indianapolis the privilege of hosting Super Bowl XLV, in the year 2011.

You may even have heard of what some proponents like to call the “intangible benefits” of having a pro sports team and the stadium or arena in which they play located in your hometown. When pressed to explain what those benefits are, however, many stadium proponents find it difficult to explain exactly what they mean by “intangible benefits.”

So, while it’s still relatively fresh in everyone’s heads, take a quick second to think about whether or not anything you saw or read on Monday pertaining to the Colts and their Super Bowl victory made you feel good - either about the Colts in ways you had never felt before, or about the city in general, or perhaps even about the new stadium being built.

If you work or play downtown, did you happen to run into any Colts fans dressed up for the parade and rally? Was anyone at your workplace dressed up in Colts gear today? What about your classmates, or the customers at your job?

Hell, maybe it just brightened your day a little to see or read the news lead with something other than how many people were killed in Iraq yesterday by the most recent suicide bomber.

Anybody who is not ordinarily emotionally invested in the Colts experience any kind of positive energy today that was related to the fact that the Colts won the Super Bowl? Do you know anyone who had that kind of experience?

I don’t mean to condescend to non-sport fans by bringing this up - my intent here is to point out some of the things that the die-hard Colts fans are talking about when they mention the “intangible benefits” of having the Colts and their stadium here in Indianapolis. It’s a fairly nebulous concept - but you saw proof of it today on the television news, in the newspaper, and on the faces of the fans downtown.

It may not be worth a whole lot, but it is something: if you could give a frog’s fat ass about the Colts every other day of the year, but managed to smile just a little bit as you drove down Capitol Avenue this afternoon and saw jersey-clad people pouring into the Hoosier Dome - that’s a benefit of having the team and the stadium, even if there is no dollar value attached to it, and even if it doesn’t mean that much to you.

I, personally, had a great time downtown today - even though it was dangerously cold and I wasn’t down there for very long. I got downtown a little before four and parked on Pennsylvania Street, then walked through University Park and down Meridian Street to Monument Circle, which I followed around to Meridian Street again. From there I ducked into Borders to thaw out for a bit - and because I have a Borders gift card in my wallet, a Christmas present from Amy’s parents that I haven’t figure out how to spend yet.

After I thawed out, I walked down Meridian Street and made my way over to Capitol Avenue, where I walked over to the Hoosier Dome, bought a Colts Super Bowl newspaper pack from a guy who said he was freezing his ass off, and then stood near the guard rail and just watched the people going into the Hoosier Dome. Just before that, as I crossed Maryland Street amongst a throng of folks headed for the Dome, the cars waiting for the light to change so they could continue east along Maryland started honking their horns at the encouragement of the people crossing the street - the pedestrians and the motorists fed off of one another, and off of the positive energy in the air, and you could feel how good everyone felt - even in the cold.

I did a couple more passes, ducking twice into the mall to thaw out. I stopped by the Colts Pro Shop to see if they had any Super Bowl skull caps (negative), and noted that there were no patrons in the Pacers House Arrest Gift Shop either time I walked by. Had it been warmer, or were my wife less pregnant, we might have made an evening of gallivanting about downtown. Once it became clear, however, that the promised parade would be very, very late, if it materialized at all, I sauntered back to my car and headed home.

But I had a grand time - especially considering that this was not remotely a day on which I thought I would get to have a walk about downtown. I feel absolutely certain that having the Colts here, along with their stadium, makes Indianapolis a better place to live - and I hope that every single person who reads this (I am constantly amazed that people have the patience to sit through these rambling odysseys of mine - and I thank you) felt at least a little bit of the positive - perhaps intangible - energy that was flowing through this city today.


Were You Watching?

I loped on over to the web site for Sports Illustrated, to see about setting up a subscription so that I could get the fancy Colts championship package they are offering to new subscribers. This is something that Sports Illustrated has been doing for years and years now, in order to get new subscribers, and to commemorate the championship season just completed. They do it for most of the major league professional sports, as well as for college football and men's college basketball. I've always wanted to sign up for Sports Illustrated to get one of those packages, but my team has never won their championship. Until now. The subscription rate is $98, which feels sort of steep. This from a guy who just dropped $75 on a Manning jersey without batting an eye. Anyway - not the point.

The point - while locating the link to the championship package subscription page, I happened upon another link - to a story about the television ratings for yesterday's Super Bowl.

It turns out that yesterday's game was the third-most-watched television program EVER - second only to the 1996 Super Bowl between Dallas and Pittsburgh and the season-finale episode of M*A*S*H. The Colts and the Bears drew an estimated 93.2 million viewers - many of whom were undoubtedly tuned in to see if Manning and company could finally get the job done and bring home the trophy.

Just one more thing to be happy about at the end of this championship season for the Colts - that so many people tuned in to see the Colts claim the championship they have coveted for so long. The excitement and energy downtown this late afternoon and early everning were good cappers to the season, but I'm going to save that for its own post.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The 2007 Super Bowl Champion Indianapolis Colts

Those first fourteen seconds were the most mind-numbingly awful seconds of my life, as it pertains to spectator sports. I was just numb. I sat there on the couch - feeling my appetite for the yummy Mexican cheese dip I was making going down the toilet in a hurry - and was just...speechless. I was without speech.

Listen: Brown one pound of ground beef, then add a jar of salsa (chunky, please!) and a box of Velveeta (cubed). Cook over low-medium heat until it all comes together. Season to taste - chili powder, habañero sauce, chopped jalapeños or poblanos, whatever. You might want to add some milk or water to thin it down. Scientific proof exists that melted Velveeta is chemically identical to outdoor-grade caulk (not true, though moderately funny). Serve with round, yellow-corn tortilla chips and plenty of ice-cold beer. Sweet action!

Also, you may want to have these links available as we go through this breakdown of the game. Click here for the box score, and here for the play-by-play, both courtesty of ESPN. And get a beer. We’re celebrating here tonight in the Blog-O-Rama.

On the very first play of the game, Devin Hester ran back Adam Vinatieri’s opening kick 82 yards for a touchdown. None of the Colts were even close, and even though it was horrible to watch as a Colts fan, credit must be given to Hester, who had run two kicks and three punts back for touchdowns in the regular season - he is this year’s Dante Hall, who ran riot for the Kansas City Chiefs a couple of years ago (I want to say it was the year the Chiefs started 9-0, but I could be wrong, and I don’t even recall what year that was, although I’m pretty sure it was 2003 or 2004) - because he made all the right movies.

And I guess you sort of had to expect it - hell, Jim Nantz had barely finished saying that the Colts had had trouble all year in special teams coverage before the ball landed in Hester’s hands and, for the Colts, as Kurt Vonnegut puts it in a book of his that I am reading now, the excrement hit the air-conditioning. Also, Hester was born in Riviera Beach, Florida, which is not all that far from Miami, which must have made the Super Bowl feel like a homecoming of sorts for Hester.

Things did not immediately improve, as the next Colts drive ended in a Chris Harris interception. That turnover, however, did not result in points for the Bears, who went three-and-out on the ensuing possession. At this point we’re still early in the first quarter, but I am feeling like all the life has been sucked out of me, like they put me on The Machine from The Princess Bride and cranked it up to eleven.

On the next Colts drive, Manning completed his only touchdown pass of the night, to Reggie Wayne, who was wide open because the safety in coverage moved away from the play. Manning was hit as he was going down, and Reggie Wayne had to turn all the way around, with his back to the end zone, to make the catch. If the safety doesn’t move, it’s probably a pick - it’s the same kind of pass that Grossman had picked by Bob Sanders later in the game, except that Manning didn’t have as much height on the pass as Grossman did on his.

This, of course, was delightful to see, but the botched extra point attempt got me nervous all over again. As it turned out, I would not calm down for most of the game - although I did turn the volume down on the TV late in the fourth quarter once it looked like the Colts had the game in hand, because I wanted to hear Bob Lamey call it as the game ended. But more on that later.

On the ensuing kickoff return, Gabe Reid fumbled, which sparked what can only be described as a turnover outbreak, not unlike the horrific tornado outbreak that occurred in central Florida a couple of nights ago. Five - count ‘em, five - fumbles, three by Chicago, two by Indianapolis, ALL recovered by the other team. This lasted from about six minutes left in the first quarter all the way to halftime, and the scoring in between the turnover marathon was 10-7 in favor of the Colts, with the result being that the Colts went into halftime with a two-point lead and a ton of momentum, even though Adam Vinatieri missed a field goal at the end of the second quarter.

Turnovers are a key in any game, and the most important part about turnovers is how well a team regains its composure once it turns the ball over. This, for my money, was the deciding factor in this game - the Colts gave the ball up three times, all in the first half; the Bears gave it up five times, with two of those coming in the second half. The first turnover in the second half was the Kelvin Hayden interception which he ran back for a touchdown. The play was challeneged, because it looked like Hayden might have stepped out of bounds not just once, but twice, during the return. The replays showed, however, that he did not. It was one of the closest things I have ever seen in football. The first time he almost stepped out, he would have stepped out if he had put his heel down - but he did not. The second time was further down the field, but wasn’t as close. The play was upheld and the touchdown stood - and that was the point at which the Colts, leading 29-17, really looked like they had the game in hand.

Near the end of this turnover festival, however, something happened that was quintessential Colts football. On 2nd and 13 from their own 29, Manning dropped into the shotgun and tossed a short pass to Marvin Harrison, who caught the ball and fell out of bounds while dragging his feet. The Bears challenged the play on the grounds that Harrison did not have both feet inbounds.

Here’s what happened, in order: Harrison started to fall (really it was more of a lean, because he meant to do it) out of bounds with his right foot planted firmly on the ground; then he caught the ball (there was no question of possession - this is Marvin Harrison we’re talking about after all); then he dragged his left foot along the ground as his right came up into the air; and then he fell out of bounds. The call was reversed, which was the correct call; and it’s the kind of football that only the Colts can give you.

No other receiver in the league is going to make that kind of catch - and no other quarterback in the league is going to put the ball right where it was, which was a place where only Marvin Harrison can catch it. Harrison doesn’t make that catch if Manning isn’t the one putting the ball where he puts it; and Manning can’t reasonably expect another receiver to catch that kind of pass - because it’s the kind of thing that Manning and Harrison work on together, the kind of thing they have been getting better and better at over the years. It’s one of the reasons why they are the most prolific quarterback/receiver combination in the history of the National Football League.

And that’s why I think that any meaningful discussion of Manning as the best quarterback of all time - for the record, I don’t think he is there yet, but probably will be one day - MUST also include discussion of Marvin Harrison as the best receiver of all time. Neither Colt has the numbers or the Super Bowl rings of Joe Montana and Jerry Rice; and though the numbers will probably come, I don’t know about the rings. It’s late in the game for these two to start winning Super Bowls.

But Montana got started before Rice, and Rice kept playing long after Montana retired. I don’t want to take anything away from Montana and Rice, but their careers happened to overlap at the right time, and for a long right time. Manning and Harrison have been dazzling us like this for the entirety of their careers, except for the two years Harrison was in the league before Manning was drafted. It seems virtually assured now that both will finish their remarkable careers in Indianapolis - and there is nothing to say that their days of winning Super Bowls are over. They might not get the three rings together that Montana and Rice got (yes, both Montana and Rice have four rings, but Montana got his first before Rice entered the league, and Rice got his last after Montana left San Francisco) - but if two little Super Bowl rings are the only things separating Manning/Harrison (who already have the numbers together over Montana and Rice) from being discussed in the same breath as Montana/Rice...then by all means, let the discussions begin.

After the Colts scored the last points of the game, Thomas Jones rushed for an additional 16 yards for the Bears, and this was maybe the saddest moment of the game for me (overall, once you obliterate all that in-game nervouseness with the balm of the fact that the Colts won). By rushing for those 16 yards, he put the Bears over 100 yards rushing for the game, which was the only time in four playoff games this year that the Colts gave up more than 100 yards rushing. It would have been a lovely thing for the rush defense to be able to say that they had held all of their playoff opponents under 100 yards - after having given up 100 yards to EVERY opponent in the regular season. But that’s picking at nits - the much-malgined rush defense (and I did much of the maligning) was a HUGE part of why the Colts are the Super Bowl champions.

I’m not going to get into the stats, because the stats don’t really say much about the game - not in a game that featured eight turnovers. That’s pretty much the only stat you can talk about anyway, and I already have done that. One thing about the postseason stats, though - it would be disinegnuous to go into work tomorrow and crow about how the Colts led the postseason in a lot of statistical categories. It stands to reason - they were the only team in the playoffs that played four games.

I want to close this with some thank you notes. First, thanks to Shane, whose rapid-fire blogging inspired me to comment to his blog and then give birth to the Blog-O-Rama, where I have had an enormous amount of fun posting about the Colts, reviewing movies, thrashing the conservative and religious right (as well as the hands-down worst President in American history), making light of the absurd, and just plain writing my ass off.

Second, thanks to the Colts - Jim Irsay, Bill Polian, Tony Dungy, Tom Moore, Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai, Dwight Freeney, Bob Sanders, Adam Vinatieri, and all the rest of the Blue Crew - for this most spectacular and amazing season. I root hard for four teams - the Chicago Cubs, the Indiana University football and men’s basketball teams, and the Indianapolis Colts. None of those teams had, until tonight, brought home a championship since the basketball Hoosiers beat Syracuse in 1987, when I was only 11 years old and could not really appreciate it.

Third, thanks to the New England Patriots, for beating San Diego. I don’t know if the Colts could have beaten the Bolts - but that they got to beat the Patriots in the Hoosier Dome to go to the Super Bowl is just right. Also, please note that no last second field goals were necessary for the Colts to win the Super Bowl. The total margin of victory in three Super Bowl wins for the Patriots is nine points - a three-point margin in each win, and three points shy of the margin for the Colts over the Bears. And three straight wins for the Colts over the Patriots. Three Super Bowl rings for the Patriots, yes - but no more monkey-on-the-back advantages, either.

Last, thanks to Bob Lamey, The Voice Of The Colts - whose passion for this team is, in a word, unrivaled. Listening to Bob Lamey makes every second of Colts football an order of magnitude more emotional than watching the game on TV or seeing it in person - and more satisfying. He is sometimes negative and angry when he calls a game, but it’s only because of the depth of emotion he feels for the Colts; and when he gets to make those calls when things are going right for the Colts, well...all I can say is that when he makes that call, all of that emotion pours out of the radio and directly into the heart of any real fan within range of hearing. He calls it as he sees it, is possessed of a wealth of knowledge about the team and the game of football, and contributes more than he is given credit for to the experience of being a Colts fan. Thanks, Bob.

So ends the 2006 season in the National Football League. With a record of 16-4, the Indianapolis Colts win the Super Bowl - and Peyton Manning wins the Super Bowl MVP. Sweet action!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Hey Shane...

I was just looking back at my first blog post ever, and re-read the comment that Shane left for me, which reads, in part, as follows:

"So, here's the one thing I'm going to hope: That on Feb. 4, 2007 - you're telling me 'Shane, I was wrong. And you were right. The Colts finally finished it.'"

Shane...I was wrong. You were right. The Colts finally finished it.

Ich Bin Ein Berliner

And it feels great. Never have I been so wrong and felt so good about it. You got words out there for me to eat, line 'em up. I have to make a quick run for coffee, but when I get back I'll be working up what will probably be the longest blog post I have yet composed.

And if the fact that I am admitting that I was wrong and offering to eat my words makes no sense to you, or makes you wonder why I would so randomly - and by way of German introduction - say such a thing, then you should know this: that earlier in this football season, I said that Tony Dungy would never win a Super Bowl. Ever.

I was wrong.

The Indianapolis Colts have just won Super Bowl XLI by positively thrashing the hapless Chicago Bears in a game that wasn't nearly as close as the final score of 29-17 might make it appear.

Stay tuned...

I Drank The Kool-Aid

So I'm at the Colts Pro Shop at the Circle Centre Mall this afternoon, gazing stupidly up at the line of replica game jerseys available for purchase. I had been thinking lately that I would like to get a Colts jersey, now that they had gotten to a Super Bowl. I was previously resistent to a Colts jersey, because of the ubiquity of the damn things, especially in the prime years of Harrison, Manning, and James. Everybody had one of those jerseys, either 88, 18, or 32. You rarely saw anyone wearing one of the other numbers.

(I suspect the reason you only used to see those numbers is that, until very recently, most of the Pink Shirts who pretend to like the Colts when they think they are supposed to like the Colts didn't know who any of the other Colts were, and didn't want to look uncool around their friends even if they did happen to know that #13 belonged to Mike Vander-shank-it.)

Anyway...I've been getting more and more okay with the idea of having a Colts jersey, even though everyone else already has one; I also thought it would be a nice way to remember their first trip to the Super Bowl, whether they win the game or not; and, finally, over the last week or so (knowing that I was going to have today off because I have a great boss), I've been thinking that it would be fun to make finally buying that jersey part of Super Bowl Sunday.

And oddly, as SuperFan as all of that sounds, the more I thought about it, the more okay I was with it. Except for one thing - the number on the jersey. 88 and 18 are just too easy (no 32 to worry about anymore) - and 29 seemed too popular, too. I like 59, but since Cato June will be leaving at the end of this season (he's our best linebacker, and so must be shown the door in keeping with our pattern of defense-building over the last three years), I decided against that. I thought of 21 and 44, fiery sparkplugs from different parts of this season (when they were healthy).

But I could not think of just which of those numbers was the right one. I stood there in the Colts Pro Shop looking up at those jerseys for ten or fifteen minutes, probably - circling the shop and checking out the other merchandise, too (there was an AFC Champions skull cap that was calling my name, but I decided I would be less happy with it if they lost the Super Bowl and that there would be probably be a Super Bowl Champions cap if they won) - until I realized that my eyes kept drifting back to #44. There was no question about the color - white jerseys are not acceptable, so it has to be blue.

Now you know what had to happen next, right? I asked the sales clerk if they had an extra large, blue Dallas Clark replica jersey. She gave me one of those sympathetic "you're a retard" smiles - you know the look Haley gets on her face when she opens the case, peeks in, and sees that it's the million dollar case? Bingo!

So there was my perfect Colts jersey gameday gameplan, in freefall. I hemmed and hawed and then had an epiphany - see if the girl who had helped me before knew of any other XL blue jerseys that they were out of for sure. I tracked her down, posed my question, waited for her to think it over. Her answer was quick, yet oddly ambiguous - she didn't think so, but she wasn't sure. So I could at least narrow down my choices.

I circled the wagons (actually, the cash registers) a couple of more times, then stood before the jerseys once again. Earlier this week when I decided on this gameplan, I had decided on either 44 for Clark or 21 for Sanders, but when I got to the Colts Pro Shop today, there was also 98 for Mathis. This was an interesting option. I like Robert Mathis, he's a great player, and not many Pink Shirts are aware of him. In the end, I went with Sanders, though. I located the girl, walked over to her, and said, "How about Bob Sanders?"

Again with the sympathetic smile - like she had just peeked at the $750,000 case! She knew just like that that they didn't have an XL blue Sanders jerseys...yet when I asked her specifically which ones they did not have, just a moment earlier, she had not known. I don't bring this up as a criticism (they were very busy today, as you can well imagine), just as an interesting bit of trivia.

So, no XL blue Bob Sanders jerseys, either. "You're picking all the popular names, huh?" she says to me. "We have plenty of Manning and Wayne, though." I wanted badly to run her down in the street with some sort of vehicle with an 8-cylinder engine. Finally...I went with Manning. I hated myself very briefly. There's a good way to distinguish yourself from the crowd, John-O, get a Manning jersey. I managed to rationalize it in part because Manning is more likely to be a Colt for longer than most of those other guys.

Now I'm sitting at my computer and writing this blog post, with my Manning jersey on and my little Colts frustration football at the ready. (It's one of those soft little footballs - about the size of a mango, I guess - with a little box inside that speaks phrases when you throw the ball and it hits something. "Touchdown Colts!" "Go Horse!" That kind of thing. It's good for throwing when your team does something stupid.) It's twenty minutes to six and we're about an hour away from kickoff. I'm hoping that this will be the best football game I've ever seen.

Are you ready for some football?