1. Top Ten Awesome TV Sports Themes

    Do you know what’s awesome?  The #1 TV Sports Music on this list.  I had originally thought to say in a Facebook post - Do you know what’s awesome…(insert my #1 TV Sports Music here) but as I got to thinking about it, I realized there were lots of awesome TV Sports music.

    So we’re clear, these are themes and intros that show up on Sports Television in the United States.  For the most part, the themes I came up with were intros to shows, but there are a few exceptions…you’ll see what I mean.  YouTube, happily, makes this list easier and so all the music I could find can be easily played back if you’d like.

    We can all agree music is tied to memory - the music I came up with today was either catchy as hell or reminds me of a vivid memory.  Maybe it’ll do the same for you.  You’ll see very quickly that that my list is pretty heavily weighted towards one sport…can’t help it.  It’s how I roll.  Do you wanna start with The Best of theRest?  I do!  So let’s start there…

    The Best of the Rest!

    ABC’s Wide World of Sports-I admit it, the music wasn’t quite as catchy as everything else on this list, but the intro’s music and Jim McKay’s reminding us that the flip side of “The Thrill of Victory” was “The Agony of Defeat” personified by that hapless ski jumper are iconic.  The music got very ominous as said hapless ski jumper flailed about during his doomed attempt.  Any list like this would be remiss without a mention of The Wide World of Sports.

    Did you know the very first episode of ABC’s Wide World of Sports covered the Drake Relays right here in God’s favorite city (Des Moines)?  Well, it did…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fi69utdvDcA

    Comin’ to Your City (Big and Rich)My friends Ike, York, Owen, and Fratter probably hate this selection and, for the most part, I would agree that songs with actual lyrics opening up a sports show is generally a mistake (exhibit A. being the Hot Mess that is Sunday Night Football on NBC).  But Big and Rich don’t suck here.  It’s reasonably catchy and doesn’t make you want to change the channel.  I always wondered, though, why the kid that is walking down the street just before the music starts has a jersey that says “Winter Park” on it.  Oh well…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNNdruOJttM

    College Football Lives Here (ESPN) -

    I think the reason that I like this one is because I find myself lightly clicking my teeth to the drumline and it makes me feel like I can play the drums.  Which I cannot.  The music by it’s self is mostly just a drum line but when you put it to highlights and the whole “lives here” theme, it works pretty well.  And the Christmas version where they mash up “The Twelve Days of Christmas” on a glockenspeil (oh, you don’t think this guy knows how to pick a glockenspiel out of a mash up?  Check yourself, son…) sounds great too.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKTSEqyiUCA

    The Lombardi Trophy Theme – So…I’m not sure if this one belongs which is why it shows up in the Best of the Rest because I’m not sure it actually made for TV.  This is the theme they play when they present the Lombardi Trophy to the Superbowl Winner immediately following the game.

    Honestly, it’s just too damn catchy not to mention, though.  A few years ago, when the Saints won the Superbowl, a rather famous photograph was taken of Drew Brees and his 1 year-old son.  His son was wearing ear protection which was oddly cute and curiously reaching for the confetti that was falling.  In my mind, this was the music that was playing.  I don’t know why.  Here’s the  music.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Je1M-dJqGMc

     

    Let’s do this thing!

    Top 10 Awesome TV Sports Music

    #10.  The NFL Network Bells

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    This is not (I repeat NOT) the trainwreck that is Priyanka Chopra’s Song that starts NFL Thursday Night Football.  If we were making a list of TV music disasters, that ear-drum papercut might very well top it. 

    We are talking about the bells.  This piece of music sounds oddly Christmas-y, but does a nice job of making the upcoming game feel very severe, even if it’s Jacksonville vs Cleveland.  When they play this music, I feel like the weather should be colder than it is.  It’s really catchy and hopefully the NFL network quits trying to be like NBC and drops that idiotic “In My City” that was inexplicably forced on America.

    The television show “Around the Horn” sort of parodied this – they have their “Tournament of Champions” at the end of the year and Tony Reali was apparently given permission to use this music as the intro.  When you hear it, a Tournament ceases to be pronounced “ter-nament” and becomes “Tore-nament.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPaidySLdqM

    #9.  The SportsCenter Theme

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    This one grabs a spot in the Top Ten because “da da da, da da da!” has become somewhat synonomous with a sports highlight.  I don’t know about everybody else’s high school but when you were shagging fly balls at baseball practice, it was considered in poor taste not to dive for a ball even if you didn’t really need to.  The implorement “C’MON!  FULL EXTENTION!” referred to your opportunity/obligation to unnecessarily dive for a fly ball.  If you managed to come up with said fly ball, a customary “DA DA DA, DA DA DA!” yelled from across the field was in order.

    When I was a senior in high school, Joe Herring and I were given the opportunity to start a promising broadcasting career during a softball game from the Earlham High School, uhh, press box (I guess).  Kelly McCracken made a relatively easy throw to first and an enthusiastic “DA DA DA, DA DA DA!” emitted from the press box over the field speakers.  This marked the end of Joe Herring and I’s promising broadcasting career.

    The SportsCenter Theme music is almost as much apart of popular culture as SportsCenter itself and if the closing stanza of your symphony is that recognizable, it makes the list.  The link below is the most recent version and by itself, it’s a little bit underwhelming which is why it stays at #9.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrPPVXfeCQI

    #8.  The NFL Today – Old School

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    Well, this is a blast from the past.  The NFL Today holds the distinction of being if not the first NFL pregame show, being the first NFL pregame show that existed as we recognize them today.  Highlights, analysis, interviews, and (one thing that has been lost) Jimmy the Greek going over the lines (betting lines) (and, I guess, metaphorical racial ones later in his career).

    I remember when Jimmy the Greek got fired for saying something about black people.  Since I was about 7 years old at the time, I didn’t understand what he was saying or, indeed, why it was inappropriate.  I didn’t understand what a betting line was, but found Jimmy the Greek oddly transfixing - everybody else on that show seemed to want to know what Jimmy the Greek had to say, so I guess I should pay attention too.

    I have been listening to Brent Musburger’s voice all my life (he even came to Ames this week to call the Kansas/ISU game) and I really enjoy his calls.  His voice has gotten a bit lower during the 30 years I’ve listened to him and his comments, well, they’ve become more focused on coeds in the crowds (“Folks, you see that young lady there…that’s A.J. McCarron’s girlfriend…WOW”).  The first time I ever heard him talk was preceded by:

    BOM BOM!  Ba da ba da baaa ba ba baaaa…BOM BOM!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBDoaMoB5R4

    #7.  The NBA on NBC Theme

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    When you hear this, Marv Albert hasn’t been accused of anything bad yet and his signature and simplistic “Yes!” is about to denote every field goal that drops.  Larry Bird is about to continue to be ageless.  Charlotte is going to rock out those sweet unis.  Actually, so are Seattle, Denver, and Philadelphia (the ones before Iverson got there).  Shaq is about to clash with ‘Zo and Penny’s about to feed him the ball.  Hakeem the Dream and Patrick Ewing are about to fight for position and boards.

    And Michael Jordan.  Oh, Michael Jordan.  He is about to TORCH the Jazz, Suns, Lakers, Sonics, or Trailblazers.  He’s about to light up the Trailblazers for six 3’s and 35 points in the first half on my birthday and shrug his way down the court.  He’s about to cut the hearts out of Cleveland.  He’s about to shoot a free throw with his eyes closed.  He’s about to fly through the air with his tongue hanging out and drive a Chicago crowd into a frenzy and be the most amazing basketball player I ever saw. 

    That’s what happens when this music plays.   Just like that wonderful period of NBA basketball, the music couldn’t last.  In the name of TV contracts and network rights taking over, it was taken from us.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxTryUZs_XE

    #6.  NFL Primetime Highlight Themes

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    I know my friends Ike, York, Owen, and Fratter will hate this selection at #8.  This is because my friends Ike, York, Owen, and Fratter have a rather healthy distain for Chris Berman. 

    The truth is, I used to love Chris Berman.  When I was in 7th and 8th Grade and Berman didn’t always sound like he had acid reflux all the time, I thought NFL Primetime was coolest highlight show there was.  Berman would come up with clever variations of players’ last names, he’d say something funny, and then throw it to Tom Jackson who’d come up with really good play insight.  I remember they were doing highlights in 1992 of the Eagles and Giants and Vai Sikahema returned a punt for a touchdown and started punching the Giants Logo on the goalposts like a boxing heavy bag.  Berman and Jackson did a highlight package and it was perfect.

    But the highlight package didn’t just have Berman and Jackson – NFL Primetime also had some of the best backing music there was.  I think the link at the bottom was the best one they had, making you think that with each highlight, the pace of the game would get faster and the outcome even more in doubt. 

    Why they stopped this formula I have no idea.  If you follow the link, actually Primetime Themes 1-3 should take you back…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXuXBLlfxRo&list=PL8079C03236A464E3

    #5.  The Monday Night Football Theme

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    So, again, this is NOT the song.  I was really glad when Hank Williams’ “All My Rowdy Friends” got axed from the show’s beginning because, after 20 years, it was over-played, over-hyped, and generally irritating.  Monday Night Football already HAD good theme music, a theme called “Heavy Action” that has been around since it’s inception.  It sounded great in the 70’s, it sounded great in the 80’s, 90’s, 2000’s and today.  They actually used it nicely with their opening this year as they went through 40 years of Monday Night Football. 

    This music lends it’s self to voiceovers and descriptions of what was about to happen in the game you were about to watch.  This music, by itself is catchy and can go around in your head without being tremendously irritating.  This music, not Hank, is what you find yourself humming on late Monday afternoons in October when the week has just started but you have something to look forward to on your television when you get home.

    I never got to hear Cosell, Gifford, and Meredith call games together, so my MNF imprinting was Frank Gifford, Al Michaels, and Dan Deirdorf.  To this day, at halftime, I find myself wondering if I have to go to bed, because that’s when I had to go to bed when I was 7 or 8.  Occationally, when I hear this music, I get a flashbacks.  The house I used to live in when I was little, the sofa and the carpet and (oddly) Little Caesar’s Supreme Pizza.

    Yeah, I know.  That last one is weird.  But I’ll be damned if they don’t just pop up sometimes when that music starts playing…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIxeOvClzR4

    #4.  The Masters Theme

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    This could be a little low at #4 and if people think it should be higher, I could certainly see why.  The Masters Theme lets you know that it’s April and the world is about to wake up – at least, that’s what I always think of.

    Azaleas in Augusta can only mean that Iowa’s fragrant flowering crab apples are not so far behind.  The weather should be warmer than it has been and it’s probably time to open up your windows and air out the house a bit.  When I hear this music, it makes me think that the most manicured and most flawlessly kept golf course in the world is green again and that my world just needs a few more weeks.

    Jim Nantz has been the voice of the Masters for as long as I can remember and when Jim shows up on my TV on a sunny April Saturday, I know that Spring is just around the corner.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UL4fh_B-j4

    #3.  The Olympic Theme

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    Every 2 years, this one gets dusted off by NBC and we all get a chance to be fans of the same team (you know, providing you live in the same country as me).  I really like the Olympics, both summer and winter.  The US never does quite as well in the Winter Olympics but, to be honest, I kind of found those sports to be a little more intriguing even though, as Seth Meyers once pointed out, the Winter Olympics is essentially 27 different versions of sliding.

    But your plastic Target-bought sled could easily double as a luge or bobsled, could it not?  And who doesn’t love watching the men’s and women’s skiing events?  Those people are fricking crazy.  We (the Americans) do have somewhat of a stranglehold on Men’s Snowboarding (thank you Shaun) and the speed skating events are oddly hypnotic.  And there’s always ice-skating drama.  You may hate it, but it’s interesting.

    The Olympic Theme is the back drop to all of this.  That stately piece of music reminds you that the human body is capable of amazing things – did you know that it was written by John Williams?  I didn’t, until I looked it up.  Also, and this cannot be understated, it is my wife’s favorite piece of music.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWdOFgDQIn0

    #2.  The CBS College Basketball Theme

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    I know that this one is used throughout the year by CBS, but I associate it with arguably the most magical two days in American sports – the first Thursday and Friday of March Madness.

    March in Iowa sucks.  It is the only month out of the year that I don’t really like my home state.  The world is brown and dead, the skies are perpetually cloudy and grey, the temperature maddenly fixed at 37 degrees F, and dirty piles of snow that fell two months ago sneer at you as you drive by and refuse to melt.

    Then, something magical happens.  March knocks out a gorgeous day.  I don’t know why and I don’t know how but that first Thursday of March Madness always seems to be met with a gorgeous, sunny, warm, wonderfully happy March day.  The temperature moves north of 60 degrees and people dig through drawers to find those shorts that got put away back in October.  Those sneering snowpiles suddenly see their own mortality as you drive by with your windows open.

    And this is the music I think of.  I first noticed the Gorgeous Thursday phenomenon when I was a freshman at UNI.  Ben Brown had been stressing all week about an exam that might be pushed back to Friday which would ruin his plans to skip class, open his windows, drink beer, and watch college basketball all day.  Fortunately, Ben ended up taking his exam on Thursday morning and saw his plan come to fruition – and it was a glorious day.  And then it kept happening.  Year after year, the Thursday of the Tournament kept being gorgeous.

    As my bracket disintegrates faster than those sneering snowpiles, this music is the music I find myself humming.  And it makes me very happy.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4o_FZZ_Ccs 

    #1.  The CBS College Football Theme

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    This is the greatest TV Sports music of all time.  This should not be in question by anybody; if it is, I pity you and your poor, misinformed life.  By the way, I’m not sure how CBS kept knocking out all these good ones, getting 4 of the Top 10 and 3 in the Top 5, but they sure can find catchy music.

    This music IS Saturday afternoons in the Fall.  I love College Football more than just about any other sport and there are certain things that will be stuck in my head forever associated with college football…our old house used to be within hearing distance of Jack Trice Stadium and I remember the way that stadium sounded when I wasn’t in it.  I remember when Oklahoma State came calling and Barry Sanders shredded us for around 300 yards – I swear I heard the stadium collectively gasp.  There are other things too, Keith Jackson and Brent Musburger’s voices, Saturdays that are warm in the sun and cool in the shade, falling leaves, days that start to shorten when you aren’t looking, and the sound of a marching band (sadly missing from Sunday afternoons)…but most of all this music. 

    It’s what I think of when I think of Saturday Afternoons.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iXhs9x-7yk

    Wanna hear how good it is when there’s a voice over?  Here’s Musburger setting up a classic between Notre Dame and Miami (the Catholics vs Convicts game) in 1988.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eI5VCbbXM6U

    I miss you, College Football.

     

  2. Top 10 BCS Games!

    Do you know…what’s…awesome?  (It’s so hard to type, since I know what I’m about to type next)

    The BCS.

    Okay, okay, okay…I get it, everybody hated the BCS and the idea that computers choose who plays on the field is wrong.  But, in the spirit of positivity, let us think of a few reasons the BCS didn’t suck as much as everybody thought it did.  I mean, the BCS rarely got it wrong (Auburn Tiger fans in 2004 would fervently disagree, but whatever), but they didn’t get it THAT wrong.  And the BCS made the college football regular season the MOST captivating regular season of any sport, anywhere.

    It doesn’t matter anyways, because the BCS is set to expire and we will get a 4 team playoff starting in next year’s season.  It’s been 16 years, so let us take a look back over those past 16 trips around the sun to see if there were 10 BCS games that maybe, just maybe, made it worth the headache. 

    Since I know this is a tough sell, I know the haters gon’ hate, and since I live to serve you, The Haters, I’ll start with:

     
    The Best of the…Ugh  (Some games that did us no favors as fans)

    2002 Rose Bowl – Miami vs Nebraska – Final: 37-14

    There was no doubt as to who was number 1, but who was number 2?  Nebraska?  After getting throttled by a Colorado Buffaloes team, 62-36?  If only Joey “Blueskies” Harrington and the newly coutured Oregon Ducks had been given a crack at it, maybe this lousy game could have been avoided (this was right about the time Oregon started getting crazy with their unis). 

    But, all sorts of teams started dropping like flies in the last week of the season, Nebraska got the nod and subsequently got beaten like a rented mule.  This one was over in the second quarter.  Not just a little bit, a lot.  It was 34-0 before the first half ended and, thankfully for Nebraska, Larry Coker called the dogs off in a rather un-Miami-like fashion. 

    2005 Orange Bowl – USC vs Oklahoma – Final: 55-19 

    Well, this one they (the BCS) got wrong.  Knowing what we know now (that Oklahoma and Ashley Simpson would have the same level of talent during their respective performances during that game) it seems blatantly obvious that Auburn should have gone and Oklahoma shouldn’t have.  Or Utah.  Or Boise State.  Or Iowa State for that matter, because any one of those couldn’t have been less entertaining than this game.  I took a picture of the final score/carnage on the TV screen for posterity.

    Of course, it came out that USC cheated in assembling that juggernaut of team and had to vacate the title, but there was no doubt as to who was better that day.  This one was also over in the first half.

    2012 BCS National Championship – Alabama vs Notre Dame – Final: 42-14

    Oof.  Notre Dame got so badly beaten in this one that Brent Musburger had to resort to talking about Alabama QB A.J. McCarron’s girlfriend…in the first quarter.  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=seql_NefLXY).  There was no doubt about this one either and Notre Dame’s National Championship hopes evaporated faster than Manti T’eo’s girlfriend. 

    Oh.  Too soon?

    2010 Fiesta Bowl – TCU vs Boise State – Final: 17-10

    Wait, what?  That score didn’t suck.  What’s the deal Crosbie, why are you hating on this game?

    I’m hating on this game because they put the two BCS busters in the same game.  Sat them at the “kids table”.  Both those teams had proven they could play with the big boys and win and it was a bunch of shit they didn’t get a chance to do so.  This stupid game also contributed to the conference re-alignment that I hate in a round-about way because it felt like teams from the non-Power Conferences weren’t going to get a fair shot at what they may very well have deserved.

    Boo, BCS.

    The Cotton Bowl – 2010-infinity

    The Cotton Bowl wanted to be the 5th BCS Bowl.  I’m okay with that.  The Cotton Bowl argued that it’s storied history and traditional place with the old Southwestern Conference and later with the Big XII warranted such a title.  I agree.  The Cotton Bowl Stadium is a college football stadium with history going back to 1930 and some really good SEC, and SWC match ups.

    All history, all good, love it all.

    You know where you should play the Cotton Bowl?

    IN THE STADIUM CALLED THE FRICKING COTTON BOWL.  NOT.  IN.  JERRY-WORLD.

    It is this epic-fail and blatant spitting on college football history that makes me hate the Dallas Cowboys (by proxy) and their insidious, unconscionable owner even more.

    Sorry.  I’m supposed to be positive here.  I got carried away in the injustice of it all.  Oh, yeah, and (as always) no internet is allowed in forming the list, so I know I missed a few good ones - g’head and correct me in the Facebook comments.

    Let’s do this thing for real!

    Top 10 BCS Games!

    #10.  2008 Orange Bowl - Kansas vs Virginia Tech - Final 24-21

    Okay, you can call shenanigans on this selection if you want.  There’s a reason I picked it and it doesn’t actually have all to do with the game it’s self (although the game wasn’t bad).  Lots of people felt Kansas had no business being in that game and maybe they were right…I don’t like Missouri, but they probably should have been given the BCS bid.  Kansas put on a decent show though, and put the game away late.

    The reason why I put this one on my list was that Kelley and I had gotten married several days before.  We had been given as a wedding present, our very first 40 inch HD TV.  This game was the first thing we ever watched on it and the first time I had the pleasure of watching a football game all the way through, on HD, and I remember watching the crystal clear picture and thinking to myself that this technology was single greatest human achievement in recorded history.

    #9.  1999 Fiesta Bowl – Tennessee vs Florida State – Final: 23-16

    The first one – hey, this wasn’t nuthin’!  It was a decent, relatively defensive game and I can still see a pretty sweet ball thrown by Tee Martin (whatever happened to him?). The game came down to the wire and, although turnovers were what determined the game, it was entertaining and you watched it all the way through…I watched it at my friend Ryan McDonald’s apartment up in Ames.  I remember thinking after this game that the process was a little screwy, but that it certainly wasn’t a bad option for a National Championship. 

    Have 16 years really gone by since Ryan and I watched that game?  Do you know who’s still playing in the NFL from those teams?  I looked it up and the only one I could find was Sebastian Janikowski (Peyton Manning had left the year before). 

    #8.   2014 Rose Bowl - Michigan State vs Stanford - Final: 24-20

    In coming up with this list, I was trying to think of games that didn’t just have fantastic finishes (although that helps) but games that were well played and captured your attention from the start all the way to the end.  This year’s Rose Bowl, I think, fell into that category.  It was also nice that it was a throwback to an old way of playing - lots of running between the tackles but enough scoring to keep it interesting and not just 3 yards and a cloud of dust.

    I admit I would have rather seen them play a little bit longer.  A fourth down stop is cool, but it’s cooler when it happens with 10 seconds to go on the 5 yard line, rather than with a minute and a half to go on the 35 (or whereever they were - I didn’t bother to look that up).  But still, you knew that Stanford 4th down was the ball game, so I guess the fact that the conclusion of the ballgame coming a minute premature shouldn’t really take away from what was otherwise a fun ball game to watch.

    #7.  2011 Rose Bowl - TCU vs Wisconsin - Final: 21-19

    I watched this one down at Lake of the Ozarks with my parents.  Upon re-reading the scores and stats on this one, I’m surprised to find that TCU was actually favored here.  Both teams put on a good show, though Wisconsin probably could have played better.  Wisky had a crack at tying it after scoring a touchdown but Montee Ball couldn’t get it done.  TCU’s defense, lead by a guy named Tank Carder ended up choking out Wisconsin and the BCS Busting Horned Frogs ended the season undefeated.   

    It might have been that I was pulling for TCU in this one, or it might have been that I want the Rose Bowl to be good, but I just remember this game as being particularly entertaining and compelling.  Just the way your New Year’s Day should be.

    #6.  2006 Orange Bowl - Penn State vs Florida State - Final: 26-23 (3OT)

    I almost left this one off, given the Jerry Sandusky scandal.  I guess I prefer to remember the game as a great one and remember this as a game that saw two great coaches meet for the 7th and last time.  Following the Sandusky scandal, the win was vacated and officially, the game has no winner.  But the Nittany Lions scored more points that day.

    I think college football overtime is hugely entertaining and wish the pros would do it this way too, though they should probably start from the 50 rather than the 25.  In true Florida State fashion, kicking plagued them and ultimately cost them the game, as two missed field goals in over time, and a missed PAT and field goal in regulation factored in somewhat heavily.

    It would be nice to remember this one as the final meeting between two iconic coaches without a very sad post-script.  But this game, like so many others doesn’t end with a “what a great game that was!”.  It ends with “what a great game that was…but…”

    #5.  2006 Sugar Bowl - West Virginia vs Georgia - Final: 38-35

    Everybody hates the Big East (or American Athletic Conference or whatever they’re called these days).  Everybody says the Big East has no business being in major bowl games and doesn’t deserve an automatic qualification bid.  Well, you might want to slow your roll, son.

    With the exception of a Oklahoma’s thrashing of Conneticut and Florida taking Cincinnati behind the woodshed, the Big East has done pretty well for themselves.  A few years ago, West Virginia thoroughly destroyed both Clemson and my Bowl pool, winning 70-33.  Central Florida did the same to Baylor and my Bowl Pool this year. Did you know the name Teddy Bridgewater before Louisville slapped Florida around in the 2013 Sugar Bowl? Well, you do now…

    Of all the games this maligned conference had, I remember this one being arguably the most shocking.  I listened to this one old school, on AM radio in my car, somewhere in the middle of America, driving home from Ottawa, Canada, after my friends Rory and Sabreena got married there.  Georgia was supposed to have dominated this game but as it turned out, not so much. 

    There was tons of scoring and although Georgia never held a lead, they nipped at West Virginia’s heels all game.  At least that’s what it sounded like on the radio.  Rich Rodriguez demonstrated a brass set by calling a fake punt with a little over a minute to go, ahead by three, and the Mountaineers ended the game in the victory formation.

    #4.  2012 Rose Bowl - Oregon vs Wisconsin - Final: 45-38

    I remember thinking that Oregon should win this one going away and that big, slow, Wisconsin didn’t have a prayer.  As per usual, I can’t predict what will happen in football games worth a damn and, as it turns out, having an offensive line that averages over 300lbs a person is an asset.  If I recall correctly, it was an errant Russell Wilson throw that fell into the arms of an Oregon Duck that sealed the Badgers’ fate in this one.  The teams set a Rose Bowl Record for points scored and there were a fair amount of lead changes.  There were no stalling techniques employed by Beilema (unlike a National Championship game that WILL NOT be on my list, involving a certain ex-Iowa State Coach, who WILL NOT not be named either.)  Oregon got to do their thing, and Wisconsin matched it.  And it was fun to watch.

    If you also remember, the uniforms were worth talking about.  Oregon, of course, was expected to come out with something spectacular, and they did.  This was the year the Sons of Nike busted out the Darth Vader, mirror black helmets and the green, iridescent, oil-in-water-looking numbers for the first time.  Wisconsin wasn’t expected to come close but Adidas did the Badgers proud.  If you remember, the W logo on the helmets and the uniform numbers were actually done in rose petal print which sounds lame but actually looked really cool.

    It was a picture perfect setting that day in Pasedena and the game lived up to the stage that was set.

    #3.  2003 Fiesta Bowl - Ohio State vs Miami - 31-24 (OT)

    This was a hell of a football game.  I watched this one with my friends on the rugby team at our old rugby house and I can still remember the collective gasp from the room when Willis McGahee’s knee was bent at angle that a human knee isn’t supposed to bend at.

    That was the only point in the game my friends and I couldn’t watch the television.  The rest of the time, we were glued to the screen and even though nobody in the room were particular Ohio State or Miami fans, the room exploded with opinions as to whether or not a now-infamous pass interference should have been called.

    But it was.  And despite the argument about the PI, we all agreed it was one hell of a football game.

    #2.  2005 Rose Bowl – Texas vs USC - Final: 41-38 

    Vince Young’s finest hour takes the number 2 spot here which should make #1 fairly obvious, though I could certainly understand why people think that this one should be number one - this was an exquisite football game.  I admit thinking that Texas was gonna get thumped and was actually pulling for USC in this one because the two celebrities they pulled out to do the promos were Matthew McConaghy (Texas) and Will Ferrell (USC).  I needed to pick a side (because it makes it more fun) and because Will Ferrell has arguably been the funniest man in the 2000-2010 decade, I figured this was as good a reason as any to pick this side.  My friend A-Bomb decided to pull for Texas in retaliation. 

    Well, it wasn’t USC’s day, but if you love college football, this back-and-forth rollercoaster was an absolute treat and, at the time, probably would have taken the #1 spot. 

    Until it was unseated a few years later by…

    #1.  2007 Fiesta Bowl – Boise State vs Oklahoma – Final: 43-42 (OT)

    This remains the best college football game I have ever seen.  Boise coming out and punching Mighty Oklahoma in the mouth, Oklahoma’s furious comeback, and Boise busting out some trick plays that may as well have been drawn in the dirt in a back yard.  We all remember Boise’s Hook and Ladder that scored with 18 seconds to go and the Statue of Liberty play…do you remember the half-back pass on 4th and Goal in overtime that got the touchdown in OT in the first place?

    Cripes, Ian Johnson even proposed to his girlfriend after scoring the winning two-point conversion, setting the bar a little too high for marriage proposals.

    If you had written a movie, and put all that in the script, I’d have called it one of the dumbest football movies I ever saw.  But in real-life…it’s best game I ever saw.

    Lookitthis - the BCS had it’s problems and so will the 4 team playoff.  And, again, the BCS made the college football regular season hugely compelling.  Would this year’s Iron Bowl have been nearly as amazing if it hadn’t cost Alabama a shot at the National Title?  If there were a four team playoff this year, Alabama would probably still be in it…

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy there’s a 4 team playoff.  Alls I’m saying is that as we say farewell to the BCS era, well…

    It wasn’t all bad.

     

  3. Top 10 College Football Moments With Names

    Do you know what’s awesome?  A college football moment that lives forever.  These are made even more awesome when they are given a name that sticks and further immortalizes them.  Obviously this year’s Iron Bowl was an instant classic and inspired this list as I got to thinking about 10 of the best.  As always, no internet was allowed in forming the list but was used to clarify details.  If I could find it, thank YouTube for the clips.

    I’ll tell you right now, this list was a hell of a lot of fun to write.  Inclusions were made based on cleverness of the name and memorability of the moment. There are lots of great moments to choose from, but historical significance and effect on the National Championship were weighted very heavily here. 

    If you feel like I missed one, by all means, let me know about it and list it on the Facebook link.  But bear in mind, this list is a list of moments with names, not crazy good games or amazing finishes – Boise State’s win over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl remains the greatest game I ever saw, but it’s not on the list because there’s no name strictly associated with it. 

    My wife often shoots me exasperated looks when I tell her I want to watch college football.  “Why do we always have to watch College Football?” she asks irritatedly.  What if you missed some of these?!?  You’d regret it for the rest of your freaking life!  That said, let us start with…

    The Best of the Rest

    The Miracle in Michigan - Michigan vs. Colorado - September 24, 1994

    Everybody likes a good miracle Hail Mary at the end of a game.  Everybody except for Michigan Fans on this particular day.  Kordell Stewart chucked up a 64 yard prayer and Michael Westbrook managed to find himself on the receiving end of this famous pass play that still haunts Wolverine Fans.  Unfortunately the Miracle in Michigan finds itself trumped by a rather more famous and ostensibly more improbable miracle you’ll see in the Top 10.  But here’s the Buffaloes cutting the hearts out of Ann Arbor:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Nt6HjqtJt8

    The Irish Tie One for the Gipper - Notre Dame vs Michigan State - November 19, 1966

    Going into the contest, the game was billed as “The Game of the Century”.  For our younger readers today, this was something called a “Poll Bowl”.  This was a rather rare occurance back in the day when the #1 and #2 teams in the land would play each other, which didn’t happen that often.  Before the days of the BCS, Bowl Games at the end of the year always invited the same people - the Pac 10 and Big 10 champion always went to the Rose Bowl…if those two champions happened to be #1 and #2, that’s great.  But you didn’t get a guarenteed game at the end of the year.

    In 1966, Michigan State and Notre Dame entered this contest, as you now can likely guess, #1 and #2.  The Spartans had played, and vanquished, all 9 of their opponents that year, Notre Dame’s count was 8 wins and no losses.  Interestingly, the Irish were supposed to play the Iowa Hawkeyes, but Iowa had suddenly dropped the Irish from their schedules before the season started, leaving an open spot that Sparty fortunately snapped up. 

    The game was a hard fought defensive battle, but with 1:10 to go and the ball on their own 30 yard line, Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian elected to run the ball out, preserving a 10-10 tie.  This prompted Dan Jenkins to write that the Irish had “Tied one for the Gipper”.  (which, to be fair, sounds accurate), which enraged Notre Dame fans who burned the Sports Illustrated the article was written in, in effagy. 

    The Choke at Doak - Florida vs. Florida State - November 26, 1994

    The Choke at Doak is the incredibly well-titled comeback of the 1994 Florida State Seminoles against their hated rivals from Gainsville at Doak Campbell Stadium.  Down 31-3, it would have appeared that Florida had the game well in hand, but it isn’t over, as they say, until it’s over.  Why wouldn’t an incredibly well named, highly improbable comeback not crack the list?  Well, you’ll have to watch the YouTube video to find out…that ending isn’t how you get onto Top 10 Lists… 

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U14orBc2xws

    Bo Over the Top - Alabama vs Auburn - November 27, 1982

    When I was a little kid, Bo Jackson was the coolest man on the planet.  I confess, I forgot about how much I wanted his football cards, how good he was on Tecmo Bowl, how much I wanted his shoes, and how we all talked about him at school the next day.  ESPN did an absolutely remarkable show called “You Don’t Know Bo” and reminded me of all those things. 

    Bo Jackson caused a seismic shift in the Auburn/Alabama Iron Bowl Rivalry by going over the top.  And it altered college football still to this day - the Iron Bowl’s participants have participated in the last 5 national championships.  This kind of thing doesn’t happen if rivalries aren’t interesting.  And Rivalries aren’t interesting if one team always wins.  After Bo went over the top, that changed…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiJmItZ-jzA

    I’M HAVING SO MUCH FUN!  Let’s do this thing!

    Top 10 College Football Moments With Names!

    #10.  The Bush Push - Notre Dame vs USC - October 15, 2005

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    Reggie, Reggie.  In 2005, Reggie Bush was having one of the most outstanding seasons for an individual in College Football history.  It was assumed he’d be the number 1 pick in the NFL draft (turned out he wasn’t, but whatever), and USC was on their way to a showdown with the Texas Longhorns in what would be one of the finest football games in college football history.

    BUT.  They cheated to get there.  (don’t get me wrong, I’m kind of glad they did, that National Championship game was worth the compromise in ethics)

    Reggie Bush wasn’t really supposed to be playing for USC, and The Bush Push was against the rules.  The rule states “the runner shall not grasp a teammate; and no other player of his team shall grasp, push, lift, or charge into him to assist him in forward progress.”

    Well, that’s what happened.  Matt Leinart scored, USC remained undefeated, and we got ourselves one hell of a Rose Bowl that year.  Did Bush Push him?  You can watch yourself below:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxRK1jcCMsk

    #9.  The 5th Down – Colorado vs. Missouri - October 6, 1990

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    People love blaming the referees for losing games.  This moment is probably one of the most justified of all time.

    Colorado shares a national championship with Georgia Tech, to this day, because of this referee screw up.  Essentially, Colorado got an extra down and on their 5th down, they scored a touchdown which won the game.  It’s still hotly debated as to whether or not Charles Johnson actually scored and fans in Columbia, Missouri are still incensed about this one.  Describing what actually happened takes a while, but the gist of it is, that a down marker didn’t get flipped from second down to 3rd down and a ball spike to stop the clock which happened on what should have been 4th down, but was ruled on the field as a 3rd down play, gave Colorado a 5th down.

    Did you get all that?  Well, if you didn’t, the link below sums it up.  And you can see the play it’s self.  Personally, I very much dislike both Colorado and Missouri, so a scenario wherein Missouri loses and Colorado’s National Championship is universally recognized as tainted is just fine with me.  (hee hee hee)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuGlPG6Vie4

    #8.  “That’s one for the Gipper” – Notre Dame vs Army – November 10, 1928

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    Oh, fine.  Tragically, we can’t argue that Notre Dame doesn’t have a place in College Football History, because they do.  And just cheekily putting down Tieing one for the Gipper isn’t really doing justice to one of the most storied programs in college football history. 

    My friends Ike, York, and Fratter will hate this selection because they hate Notre Dame.  I am inclined to agree with them, especially since Notre Dame is pissing away all their football tradition by taking that idiotic ACC contract, and painting their helmets with those rediculous paint jobs.  If Oregon wants to do it, FINE.  That’s their thing, they do it, make it look good (ish) and they sort of invented it.

    (yes, I’m aware that Notre Dame would break out the Green jerseys on special occations, long before Oregon did)

    Notre Dame’s thing was a fresh coat of 24K gold paint on the helmets.  LEAVE IT THAT WAY.

    I digress.

    George Gipp played for Notre Dame a looong time ago and died in 1920 at the age of 25.  He likely died of a pneumonia brought on by strep throat (sounds weird, doesn’t it?). 

    If you are wondering where the beginnings of Notre Dame’s deservedly storied place in College Football history came from, it started against Army.  A young quarterback named Gus Dorias and a wide reciever named Knute Rockne theorized that the curious idea of the “forward pass” was under-used.  Somewhere amongst the Indiana sycamores, they put together a plan that involved this “forward pass” for their upcoming game against the powerhouse Army Black Knights.  It worked, the Fighting Irish won, and Notre Dame became relevant.

    Several years later, Rockne would find himself coaching against another Army team and Army appeared to have Notre Dame’s number.  At half time, Rockne delivered the most famous of all half-time speeches and relayed words that George Gipp had passed to Rockne on his death bed - that someday when the breaks were beating the boys, they should give it all they’ve got and win just one for the Gipper.

    The Irish came out inspired and in the 3rd quarter and Jack Chivegny scored a tying touchdown, yelling “That’s one for the Gipper!”.  Notre Dame pulled ahead in the 4th quarter, knocked of the Mighty Army team, and the story became immortal.

    It’s low at #8.  I was inclined to leave it off all together.  This is because Notre Dame is sacrificing their tradition for money and only when all the tradition is gone in college football, will they realize all the money can’t buy it back. 

    I always digress.  Sorry.

    7.  The Prayer at Jordan-Hare aka The Immaculate Deflection – Auburn vs Georgia – November 16, 2013

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    We all thought college football play of the year was this one until an incident a few weeks later in Auburn’s Jordan-Hare stadium.  On 4th and 18 on their own 25, all hope appeared to be lost for Auburn.  I sure thought it was.  I was watching the game on my living room floor, half working on my computer, half watching Auburn.  It really had been a fun game to watch up to that point but I’ll be honest, I thought the miracle required wasn’t going to granted this time.

    If you don’t know what happened, watch the video.  If you do know what happened, watch the video again and pay attention to the fans in the stands because that’s hell of a lot of fun too. 

    In terms of improbability, this one is probably number 3 or 4 on the list.  How often to you see a 4th and 18, 75 yard touchdown pass with 30 seconds to go?  What nobody really knew at the time was how much this one was going to play into the National Championship picture. As it turns out, it was kind of a big deal…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XkpDz8YyVD8

    #6.  The Ten Year War - Michigan vs Ohio State - 1969-1978

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    I’ll grant that this one isn’t exactly a moment but rather an era.  Still though, the name given is fricking cool and multiple trips to the Rose Bowl, Big 10 Titles, and even some National Championship implications hung in the balance.

    For 10 years, the Biggest of Big Ten Powerhouses, The Michigan Wolverines and THE Ohio State Buckeyes struggled furiously with each other at the behest of Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler.  Woody and Bo are forever linked and the two programs should be, and will be, forever entwined as classic arch enemies. 

    Personally, I don’t really pick a side during this game, though growing up I rather liked Michigan because I liked their helmets better.  Now, though, I just find The Game it’s self and it’s fans deliciously awesome must see TV.  I contend that Bragging Rights are the most coveted of prizes in sports; there are few rivalries where Bragging Rights are more hotly contested than with these two combantants and no period brought this wonderfully angry rivalry to forefront better.

    In 1968, the once proud Wolverines found themselves perenially embarrassed by their southern rivals.  If there was an shot fired that started the 10 Year War, it would have been fired by Woody Hayes who so despised Ann Arbor’s beloved Wolverines, he wouldn’t refer to them as Michigan, preferring to call them “That School Up North.”  Woody’s Shot Heard Around the Midwest was his legendary answer when asked why he went for a two point conversion with a 50-14 lead:

    "Because I couldn’t go for three."

    The following 10 years worth of games would cement the rivalry as one of the fiercest and most contentious in college football.  They really are fun to read about and I’d encourage you to do so.  Wikipedia has put together a nice little synopsis of these two old foes and their 5-4-1 record with each other over the 10 Year War and so here’s the link.  Enjoy! 

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ten_Year_War

    #5.  The Miracle in Missouri aka The Flea Kicker – Missouri vs Nebraska – November 8, 1997

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    I watched this one with my friend Dale Reineke my freshman year of college at UNI.  Dale was a huge Nebraska fan and when the Tigers appeared to have ended a near-20 year losing streak to the Huskers, Dale was salty as hell.  Our circle of friends was not helping his misery by taunting him mercilessly.  Scott Frost and Dale had the last laugh; Frost fired a bullet into the chest of a wide receiver which bounced off and appeared to be falling to the turf harmlessly, ending Nebraska’s national title hopes.  But just when all hope was lost, instead of hitting the turf, the ball bounced off of a foot and flew into the air again.  Matt Davidson plucked it away from the clutches of gravity and saved the season for Nebraska who would win the game in overtime. 

    Dale ran up and down the second floor of Rider Hall, screaming like a maniac and insisting it was the most amazing thing that had ever happened in history of College Football and the most amazing thing he had seen in his adult life.  He spent the rest of the evening in pure elation, and visiting back our anti-Nebraska cruelty back on us several times over. 

    That’s how I like to remember my friend Dale, happily sprinting through Rider Hall, yelling at the top of his lungs the whole time. 

    He was killed by a drunk driver in 2001. 

    Here’s the play:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvTaN1uplS4

    #4.  Wide Right I, Wide Right II, Wide Right III, Wide Ri…Left? - Miami vs Florida State - November 16, 1991; October 3, 1992; October 7, 2000; October 12, 2002

    This.  Just.  Kept.  Happening.

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    The Seminoles just can’t BUY a fricking feild goal when it counts against Miami.  Providing you’re not from Tallahassee, it’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch.  The Wide Rights and Wide Left come in at #4 because they affected the National Championship Picture so much.

    In 1991, FSU was 10-0 and Miami was 8-0 and The Hurricanes would end up winning the National Championship for a 4th time.  A year later, Miami was 3-0 and The Seminoles were 4-0 and history repeated it’s self…Miami would play Alabama for the National Championship (and get stomped).

    Not quite a decade later, the goal posts were still mercilessly un-kind to the Seminole faithful but the BCS wasn’t…despite the head-to-head win, the Seminoles, not the Hurricanes, got a crack at a resurgent Oklahoma Sooners team (FSU would lose) and Coral Gables is still bitterly disputing FSUs legitimacy in that game.  And, sure enough, in 2002, Miami’s quest for back to back national championships was bolstered by two 4th quarter touchdowns and a missed field goal - this time to the left.

    Wide Right I - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezbCtS5-0V8 

    Wide Right II - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_tXLGYKgkk (if you want to watch only the kick, it’s at 12:40, but the highlights from the game are alot of fun and, if you miss Keith Jackson’s voice, this was one of his best calls)

    Wide Right III - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZ2S6BojY3w (again, if you want to watch only the kick, it’s also at 12:40, but you could watch from the beginning and hear the best Sporting Event Music Intro EVER which is the CBS College Football Music.  FACT.)

    Wide Left - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nQtpPIbQvk 

    How does this keep happening to Florida State?

    #3.  The Kick Six aka “Kick Bama Kick!” – Auburn vs Alabama – November 30, 2013

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    This one, of course, just happened and inspired the whole list.  Full disclosure, nobody has actually called this the “Kick Six” yet, except for me and my friend Jon Froiland who gets full credit for coming up with this name which I think is catchy as hell.  I came up with “Kick Bama Kick” and I don’t think that one is half bad either.  If anybody knows somebody at ESPN, I’d like either one of them to be passed along so that we can put an indelible mark on college football history.

    There are also several incredibly clever Auburn T-Shirts that say “Hey Nick (Saban)!  Got a second?  We’d like to run something by you.”  (this alludes to the second that Nick Saban insisted be put back on the clock so he could attempt the field goal that would seal the fate of the Crimson Tide)

    I could very much entertain the argument that this one should be number 1.  Auburn managed to alter the National Championship picture, the gravity of the game was already huge, and the ending was fairly improbable. 

    I put this at #3 because I thought #s 2 and 1 were more improbable and also because it would have gone to overtime if this hadn’t happened, so it’s not like the game would have been lost if this didn’t happen.  But you won’t see this one happen again anytime soon.  Or ever. 

    I remember Vern Lunquist and Gary Danielson called this game and did a very nice job.  Sure enough, their call is adequate but since the hometown radio guys don’t have to have any objectivity, it’s more fun to listen to them (unless, of course, you’re an Alabama Fan).  So go ahead…  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtH-yp0liU4

    #2.  The Miracle in Miami – Boston College vs Miami – November 23, 1984

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    The most famous Hail Mary in College Football history takes the number 2 spot.  Jimmy Johnson had recently arrived in Coral Gables and although The Mighty Miami Hurricanes didn’t have quite the might of the previous year but nobody thought that an undersized, 5’10, scrawny kid named Doug Flutie was going to march into the Orange Bowl and beat the Hurricanes.

    But that’s what happened.  He was scrawny and scrappy but he could sling that pigskin around like nobody you ever saw and en route to a winning Heisman, Doug Flutie uncorked this 65 yard bomb that shocked Miami and the nation.  Miami didn’t knock it down like they should have and we have an image of a white jersey adorned with the odd QB number 22 jumping in the air like a little kid.  Hail Marys are attempted all the time but how often do they actually work?  Not that often and never quite this famously.

    Doug Flutie:  the architect of the Miracle in Miami.  I wish I would have seen it – just a bit too young.

    Watch it here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3ykWbu2Gl0

    #1.  The Play – Cal vs Stanford, November 20, 1982

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    The Number One spot here was earned based on the combined level of improbability, the memorability of the moment, and the general level of craziness.  It is supplemented by the call that anybody who loves college football will know:  “Oh, the BAND IS ON THE FIELD!” 

    Bring all this together and you get the moment simply known as “The Play”. 

    What a lot of people forget is that a young John Elway was the architect of a would-be come back just a several moments before and that Cal fans could have found themselves seething for 364 days.  Instead, a couple dozen laterals and one busted up trombonist later, we got The Play.  Cal Fans would likely still enjoy the slightly unnecessary battery of the Stanford Brass section, given that the mischevious Stanford Band is usually up to something naughty. 

    There’s one other nice thing about The Play – it would appear that the officials somehow got it right.  (Stanford fans, of course, hotly contest this assertation).  But after endless scrutiny and an analysis of the tape that falls just short of the Zapruder Film, it has been deemed by nearly everybody outside of Palo Alto as correctly called. 

    This is a nice replay of not only The Play, but also Elways’s efforts…it never gets old.  I wish I could have seen it live, but YouTube makes it possible to watch it whenever we want.  If you’ve never seen it, you most certainly should: 

    (If you wanna skip Elway’s drive, the kick off starts at 4:55)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGl107O5r94

    Don’t not-watch College Football.  You might miss some of this stuff!

     

  4. 10 Awesome YouTube Videos - More Awesomeness Than You Can Probably Handle

    Do you know what’s awesome?  YouTube.  Well, actually, people doing awesome things on YouTube. 

    Certainly YouTube could be a time suck…well, okay, it IS a time suck.  Today, though, don’t worry about it.  I found some YouTube videos that I think you will not find to be a waste of time. 

    YouTube has let us see people from all over the world go all over the world (and to the edge of it) and show us what the human body, the human mind, and human nerves can actually pull off.  People are lame sometimes, but sometimes not.  Be proud, Facebook Friends – you’re a member of the species that can do this stuff. 

    (note that I didn’t say *you* could do this stuff…you can’t.  So please don’t take a crack at any of this because you’ll die.  Cool?  Cool.)

    Best of the Rest – Because People are Too Awesome for Only 10 Spots…

    Taiwan Juggler – Killing it.  You could try this one if you wanted, it’s probably safe.  (ha ha)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVK0WinXBKg

    Cup Stacking – Is it a sport?  Just as much as juggling, I suppose…  By all means, try THIS one.  It is unlikely that you will die.  It is also unlikely you will be successful.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zN_2J0F6wzw

    THE Awesome Ohio State Marching Band - I really don’t actually like Ohio State, but when something is this awesome, it doesn’t matter where your college football allegiences lie.  I hope the Michigan Fans recognize that they got showed up here and not claim that this isn’t awesome, rather just try and top it.  You can try to top it too, if you want.  You will need the following:

    A Very High Level of Musical Skill

    A Very Highly Talented Marching Band

    A Very High Degree of Genetic Awesomeness

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNe0ZUD19EE

    Freerunning in What Appears to be a Yellow Tanooki Suit - Are people really that lazy?  People decided that running didn’t just have to be some Forrest Gump-style slog across the United States, and that it should be augmented by jumping over and around stuff.  Also, Also, if you ever have to chase down a criminal ala James Bond in Casino Royal, you might want to have some skills.  Do you really think that free runners will ever be eaten by Zombies or butchered by some mask-wearing, knife wielding, slow moving psycho killer in a slasher flick?  Well, they won’t…

    Right about here is where you should stop attempting to do this stuff.

    Why is free running awesome?  Because it is.  Why the yellow Mario 3 Tanooki Suit?  Hell, I dunno.  As the guy who made the video says, why not?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C37QmDjQt6w

    You know what?  Let’s do this thing!

    10 Awesome YouTube Videos Demonstrating Human Awesomeness

    10.  The Most Awesome Swing-Set You Ever Saw 

    Swinging was awesome as a kid.  Do you remember the day you got to get out of the kid swing that looked like a diaper and got to swing in the big swings like a champ?  Do you remember pretending you were a spaceship and shooting down aliens and then *omigod* you yourself were locked on by an enemy missile and had to bail out of your swing? 

    Maybe you even had playground competitions where you bailed out for both height and distance.  If you went to Kate Mitchell Elementary School in Ames, Iowa, the end swings presented a challenge…you definitely had to make it over the sand burrs that lurked close to the swing set.  If you’ve got the skills though, end swings were nooooo problem. 

    Maybe you could even hang with these guys.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4B36Lr0Unp4

    9.  Most Awesome Slip and Slide Ever

    It’s hot, it’s July and you want to go to the Waterpark.  But you can’t go to the Waterpark.  Your parents try, valiantly, to bring the Waterpark to You in the form of a Slip and Slide by Wham-o!

    If you were lucky, maybe you had that Slip-and-Slide with the inflatable pool at the end of it that you crashed into.  And so, at the end of the day, pulling the wet pieces of grass off of your skin, you enjoyed a glass of grape Kool-aid and the friendly smell of a charcoal grill meant that it was time for hotdogs or hamburgers. 

    And that was nice.  But it wasn’t this awesome…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMPMzhglGoo

    Now, as a bonus…do you remember the Turbo Jump when you were on a backyard trampouline?  You remember - you’d land in the nadir of the trampoline flex where your friend was jumping and stretch the trampoline even further and rocket yourself to heights not yet realized?

    Consider this a turbo jump to the already awesome Slip and Slide.  God I want to hang out with these people…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?annotation_id=annotation_156955&feature=iv&src_vid=4B36Lr0Unp4&v=ShFAeNdiEiA 

    8.  Awesome Big Wave Surfing

    My friend Angus Duirs once told me that something I would have to do before I died was come to New Zealand and surf with him.  He said that you’d spend all day surfing and then get fish and chips and sit in the car overlooking the beach with fish and chips and turn the heat on all the way and have a beer and eat and relax.  He called it the best day ever.

    Or you could do this and poo yourself.  Apparently it’s in Portugal and the wave is 90 ft high. 

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlrqyHIE4wc

    7.  The Jetman’s Awesomeness Cometh

    You wanted a jetpack.  Yes you did, don’t lie. 

    Although this one wasn’t filmed in HD, I think that’s because it came out before the GoPro did.  The guy who is Jetman designed the wing himself and does something that essentially fulfilled a dream that everybody who has been 6 years old has had at one time.

    Jetman = Win. 

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSnWbBjesRQ

    6.  Grinding the Crack – Awesome Name, Awesome Stunt

    So, while the Jetman was controlled flying, I guess you could call the squirrel suit controlled falling.  Initially, it might not appear that he’s moving that fast and maybe doesn’t even appear to be all that totally death defying compared to some of the other stuff that you may have seen so far.

    Well, keep watching…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWfph3iNC-k

    5.  Sir Ravi the Juggler, Undisputedly Awesome

    It’s fun to watch people watch this video.  When they realize what Sir Ravi is up to, the realization reaction is fun.  One of my old attending physicians, Dr. Eden Murad was watching this for the first time and shrugged during the first few seconds…”I’m not impressed Crosbie,” he said dismissively.  Then, he stopped shaking his head, started giggling and said. “Well, I take it back.  The human mind is amazing.”  That always stuck with me.

    I love the way Sir Ravi throws the other juggling apparati to the ground like a boss when he completes his task.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAIPL5O9Uwk

    4.  Awesome Indian Pole Gymnastics

    When my friend Bex posted this, I knew it was going to be worth watching.  Bex doesn’t post stupid crap, so a video about pole dancing wasn’t going to be lame. 

    People say that a father’s primary goal is to keep his daughter off the pole.  One would assume that also extends to sons, unless you live in India where this is, apparently, a sport.  Why India hasn’t started a World Dominating Men’s Gymnastics team is beyond me. 

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jM6kUQXxdAI

    3.  Sharks are Awesome.  Riding a Shark = More Awesome

    Ignore that this woman is getting out of the cage with a shark.  Ignore that she’s doing this with no accessory oxygen and is free diving this whole thing.  Ignore that this is something straight out of a nightmare for everybody else on the planet.  Have you ever swam in the ocean and wondered what was sneaking up behind you?

    Maybe it’s not quite as scary when you’re the one sneaking up.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-1xU0VfJ-g

    2.  Backflip over a 72 ft Canyon, Not Dying, Being Awesome

    Riding bikes was fun.  Curb jumping was fun.  There’s a particularly good curb jump just south of the intersection of 13th Street and Ridgewood in Ames, Iowa.  You can see far enough down the road to know if there’s a car coming, which there usually wasn’t.  You could even go over to Brookside Park and tear through the woods and build up enough speed to take advantage of the ditch…go down, up, and fly out.

    Or, you could go here.  This one will inspire a visceral reaction.  You find yourself saying “Oh, God, please Bike Rider, don’t do what I think you’re about to do.” 

    Guess what.  He does.  By the way, Epic Win for GoPro here.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x76VEPXYaI0

    1.  Fearless Felix, Possessor of That Which is Awesome

    We all saw this.  Maybe people will argue that it doesn’t take much to just fall.  It doesn’t take as much skill as the Bike Rider, doesn’t take much endurance as the free runner or the pole dancer.  It’s not the intelligence of Sir Ravi, the ingenuity of the Jetman,  or the creativity of the slip and slide.  Would the 90ft wall of water nipping at your heels inspire the same fear as that view?  Was the view better grinding the crack or at the farthest reach of our earth?

    Whenever I see this, I wonder what Fearless Felix was thinking as the balloon went up, up, up.  I wonder if Felix was fearless, somewhere just before gravity loses hold and beyond the air we breathe.  I wonder what you think when you can see the curve of the world and then fall towards it.

    Oh, and he made his own sonic boom, Guile from Street Fighter style.  That’s why he’s #1 today.

    People are awesome.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHtvDA0W34I `

     

  5. Top 10 Halloween Candies!

    It’s that time of year again.  A time of giving and sharing.  A time of year when complete strangers find the kindness in their hearts to give to those who have less than them.  A time of year when the nip in the air and a child’s innocence warm the cockles of your heart.

    Of course I am referring to Halloween.  More specifically, trick-or-treating.  And, for the record, apparently “cockles of your heart” refers to the four chambers of your heart, and I guess they need warming.  Well, whatever.  Beggar’s Night is soon upon us and so, because I love you so much, I’m going to help you out…

    Do you know what’s awesome?  Halloween Candy.  The prize sought and won based on attention to trick-or-treating route, effort put into costume, and cleverness of joke told to those holding the candy.  Your Trick-or-Treating prime was ages 9 through 11, when you were young enough to be cute, but old enough to really cover some ground.  Young enough to still be able to Trick-or-Treat, but old and wise enough to really plan out your night with emphasis on housing density and known neighborhood generosity.

    It is likely, Facebook Friends, that your Trick-or-Treating days are behind you and that now you find yourself on the other side of the door.  So let us talk about how to become a Good House.  Not a Bad House.  You do this, principally, with one simple choice.   Your candy buying decision.  Do you want to hand out those funny brown and orange waxed-paper wrapped weirdo candies?  Do you want to hand out Double Bubble which was made during the Reagan administration and is now far more suited to be thrown at somebody than chewed?  Of course you don’t.  You want to be a Good House.

    Which candy should you buy?  Well this is a discussion worth having, so let us have it and start with…

    The Best of the Rest:

    Smarties

    Everybody seems to handout Smarties.  I used to love Smarties.  Then, one Halloween, I ODed on Smarties and now I don’t like them…this is why I currently hate the taste of Red Bull.  It tastes too much like liquefied Smarties.

    But they are loved…they are worth mentioning.

    Almond Joy/Mounds

    Oh boy.  This is a debate.  People either love Almond Joy/Mounds or straight up despise them.  I happen to fall into the love category, but a Halloween candy that inspires so much debate should perhaps be avoided.  It always baffled me why people didn’t think chocolate with coconut isn’t spectacular…

    M&Ms

    M&Ms show up all the time, everywhere.  I mean, ya, M&Ms are perfectly fine as a Halloween Candy but they don’t, in my humble opinion, make the Top 10.  They are an average Halloween Candy at best.

    Real Homemade Treats

    Okay.  Lets talk about Real Homemade Treats.  Don’t get me wrong – Real Homemade Treats should probably be #1 on the Top 10 List, if only because the people giving them out go out of their way to really make Halloween special.  These people should be given a World Food Prize or something. 

    Here’s the problem.  If your mom didn’t know the people giving them out, your prized Caramel Dipped Apple was confiscated as soon as you walked in the door, under the threat of hidden razor blades and strychnine, leaving you only wondering how good it was.  Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?  As it pertains to homemade chocolate topped Rice Krispie Treats the answer is probably no. 

    Maybe the Real Homemade Treats were confiscated because the Parents Themselves wanted to eat them.  If you go the route of the Real Homemade Treat, I commend you.  But it can cause heartbreak and discord at the end of the night…

    Let’s do this thing!

    Top 10 Halloween Candy of All Time!

    10.  Butterfinger

    Crispy.  Crunchy.  Peanutbuttery. 

    There’s no denying that Butterfinger is a quality candy bar and the fun size Butterfingers are a safe play when presented with an option.  I looked up Butterfinger on Wikipedia who claims, if you believe this, that Butterfingers were invented in 1923, making the Butterfinger one of the two oldest candy bars on this list.

    I think the Butterfinger probably would have gone higher, but when you ate a Butterfinger, you got all sorts of stuff stuck in your teeth, which was annoying.  It’s totally worth it though.

    9.  Milky Way/3 Musketeers

    These are two good candy bars.  I put them both in at number 9 because I found  a couple of interesting historical points about these two candy bars and needed to include them both.  So, deal with it, I guess.

    3 Musketeers was fun to eat the chocolate off all the sides and Milky Way was also an excellent candy bar – and one of the few candy bars who’s over powering sweetness makes the smaller Fun-Size version actually a bit easier to take.  Also, and this cannot be overstated, Three Musketeers is my wife’s favorite candy bar.

    So what about this history?  Along with Butterfinger, the Milky Way bar is the eldest on the list.  Apparently Milky Way wasn’t named after the galaxy as many of us probably assumed.  Milky Way was actually named by Frank Mars (the founder of Mars) after milk shakes.  Frank was inspired by a popular type of malted milkshake at the time and came up with “chocolate malted milk in a candy bar”.  It took off, a corporate empire was started, the Mars Family got rich, and we all got Candy Bars.  And Diabetes.

    The 3 Musketeers bar is slightly younger than the Milky Way bar – it came around in 1932.  It actually started out as a package of three different bars – chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry flavored, hence the name…  Apparently the sugar rationing during WWII caused the 3 Musketeers to be one Musketeer.

    I just thought that, aside from being decent candy, this seemed to be a fascinating Real Life Willy Wonka and that his idea stemming from a malted milkshake changed American Consumerism forever.

    8.  Kit Kat

    It is very tough to screw up chocolate over wafers.  Kit Kat, happily, does not.  It’s great Halloween candy, no doubt.

    The ads, however, are annoying.  Nobody’s Kit Kat has ever, in human history, made the sound that it makes in the commercials when the Kit Kat breaks apart.  I don’t know why I would expect it to, but I feel this is false advertising and that I am owed several hundred Kit Kat bars as restitution.

    7.  100 Grand

    A lot of people are going to disagree with this choice at #7.  But it is preferable to other crisped rice options – the Nestle Crunch bar that always had that sort of white coating on it that made it taste old (because it was probably old).

    But the 100 Grand was somewhat of a rarity, and the high caramel content in it, made it a candy that you’d snap up if given the opportunity.  You’d typically only see about 1 or 2 of them per Halloween, making it somewhat more of a valuable commodity when bartering with candy.   

    6.  Bonkers!

    This is going back aways.  Maybe you remember the ads – it involved some dude minding his own business until he ate a Bonkers! candy at which point a bunch of fruit fell out of the sky, on to his head, and he laughed like an idiot.  Maybe the fruit gave him a concussion.

    But it was pretty good candy.  They came in little individually wrapped Bonkers! packages and I remember grape and orange being pretty good.  Ya, Starburst are still around and I suppose there is the occational Mamba or Now or Later that showed up, but I noticed my list is extremely heavy on the chocolate and peanut butter and (in the interest of health, of course) I needed to add some fruit. 

    5.  PB Max

    You don’t remember this one either?  This was a candy bar that never should have stopped being made but for some reason they did.   It was essentially a square version of a peanutbutter Twix bar, but it had way more peanut butter and, oddly, oats on top of the peanut butter.  Turned out it was actually really, really good.

    For some reason, they stopped making it c. 1992.  Wikipedia claims that it was because the Mars family didn’t like peanut butter.  But I remember finding PB Max at Halloween one year and remember being very happy.  If they would have kept it around, I think it would have been worth a World Food Prize or something.

    4.  Snickers

    It’s a little obvious, but a fun-size Snickers is a standard go-to, that you can’t go wrong with.  The Fun Size Snickers bar was often found and always appreciated.  And, by the way, the Snickers bar is also an ancient candy bar as well – it first came out in 1930.

    The issue becomes the Snickers Snackers.  If you’re giving away Snickers Snackers at the equivalent ratio of three Snackers to one Fun Size Snickers bar, then I have no problems with this.  But don’t try and pass off one Snackers as equivalent to one Fun Size Candy Bar.  That’s hogswollop.  The size isn’t even close to comparable and this is a clear attempt to swindle young children who wait all year for Halloween so that they can demand candy from complete strangers. 

    3.  Twix 

    Twix is, in my opinion, the best candy bar out there.  A simple and understated, but wholly delicious blend of caramel, chocolate, and shortbread cookie.  Twix gets extra points for bring back peanut butter Twix after a brief hiatus.  If only fun-sized Twix came in the peanut butter version…

    (By the way, my Mom, my aunt Kathy, and my cousin Kate who are reading this right now are furious that I romanticized the Twix bar by saying it has “shortbread cookie” as opposed to “processed commercial cookie laminate”)

    Well, whatever.  I think they’re good.  Admit it – when parents come into the office the day after trick-or-treating with the candy that they purposely overbought so that they would have extra (like you don’t know what I’m talking about), you do exactly what you did when you were trick-or-treating 25 years ago…you dig around the bowl, looking for the mini-Twix bar. 

    2.  The Reese’s Cup

    Oh, I’m not talking about those little ones, roughly the diameter of a quarter, wrapped in foil.  I’m talking about the single Reese’s Cup, that’s essentially half of a full candy bar.  They didn’t come along often but when they did you snapped them up. 

    If I think the Twix is the best candy bar out there, why is it #3, and the Reese’s cup #2?  I will tell you why…because the Reece’s cup keeps better.  Your mini-Twix bars come with an Achilles Heel:  if they stay hidden in your secret candy stash that you want to try and hoard through Christmas when it gets resupplied, the caramel starts to harden and gets much less nice.

    A Reese’s Cup, on the other hand, stays a little more palatable through mid-December.  And it’s not as if a Reese’s Cup isn’t an outstanding candy bar…it’s the most recognized application of combining chocolate and peanut butter (though it would appear Butterfinger actually did it first) who’s inventors probably should have been given the World Food Prize or something. 

    So…what’s number 1?

    The Reese’s cup is, and remains, the go-to choice in the high fructose cornucopia that is the trick-or-treating bowl.  But you have noticed that it is listed at #2, not #1.  What could have usurped the Reese’s cup from the top spot?  What Halloween Candy claims the top spot of this all-encompassing, wholly comprehensive, and entirely infallible list based on research done 25 years ago?

    Has time spent in the medical field changed my opinion on the greatest Halloween Candy out there?  Does the increase of age and the now fully-realized cost of dentistry change my opinion on what is deserving of #1?  Will Yogurt covered raisins claim the hallowed ground and coveted highest position in the Halloween Candy Power Rankings?

    Hell no.

    1.  Full Candy Bars

    The full size, full on, big Lebowski.  That one mythical unicorn of Halloween candy you heard about on the playground and may or may not have found.  Oh, you always HEARD about it on the playground…

    You always heard those kids at school talk about it the next day, with their thinly veiled smugness and waft of arrogance (later in life these same people will tell anybody who is stationary for more than 15 seconds about their fantasy football triumphs).   OF COURSE your parents knew the people who’d be giving out full candy bars because your mom is good friends with the people who live there.  OF COURSE those people said your costume was so incredible that warranted a full candy bar.  OF COURSE your trick-or-treating skills are the envy of the whole school, Brian Good, and you got to come to school the day after Halloween in the Nike Bo Jacksons that I want more than anything, and the year after that in the Nike Air Jordan V’s that I want even more than the Bo Jacksons.

    WELL GUESS WHAT BRIAN?  YOUR DAD’S A DENTIST AND YOU CAN’T EAT ALL YOUR CANDY ALL AT ONCE BECAUSE HE WON’T LET YOU SO SUCK IT!

    Wait.  Forgive me.  I got a little carried away in the tragedy and innocence of youth.  And I got the re-release of the Bo Jacksons at the sad age of 34, so WHO’S THE LOSER NOW?  Ha HA!

    What were we talking about?  Oh, right.  Halloween candy.  There was that mythical house that gave away full candy bars.  And if you found it, you had found your October 31st Holy Grail – the full size candy bar.  A prize that justified playground bragging.

    Full Candy Bars are, and remain, the best Halloween Candy of All-Time and if you give them out, you win.  What do you win?  Well I don’t know but I think you should be recognized for being unquestionable awesome.  Like… given a World Food Prize or something.

     

  6. Top 10 Cosby Show Moments!

    Do you know what’s awesome?  The Cosby Show.  For quite some time, NBC held an absolute stranglehold on Thursday Night Television with comedy shows that included “Cheers”, “Scrubs”, “30 Rock”, and “The Office”.  People will remember when “Friends” and “ER” combined into a Thursday Night Line up that seemed unbeatable…until CBS introduced “CSI”.

    But dynasties start somewhere and NBC’s run of Thursday Night Domination that lasted over 2 decades started somewhere too.  It started in 1984 with “The Cosby Show” and the “The Cosby Show” is one of only three shows in history that enjoyed a #1 rating in the Neilson Ratings for 5 consecutive seasons (the other two were “American Idol” and, ironically, “All in the Family”).

    "The Cosby Show" was clean and wholesome.  That’s not to say that shows that aren’t clean and wholesome are wrong - believe this - I love me some "Breaking Bad".  Rarely, though, does a show last as long as "The Cosby Show" did without some dirty jokes…Cosby never did it and that’s a good thing - it’s important to remember that funny doesn’t necessarily mean dirty.

    I dunno why I started writing this list but it sure was a lot of fun doing it.  Take the time and watch the clips because they’ll make you laugh.  As dated as the show could be ($400 a month for an apartment in Manhattan?  LP Records?  Who has a land line?), the jokes are still funny after almost 30 years. 

    Since I love you so much, and because YouTube has made such a thing possible, I included all the clips of the show on here.  Some of the clips were nicely pared down, but some are full episodes.  If you watched all of the clips in their entirety, you’d be watching YouTube all night so, because I love you so much, I have marked down where you can start watching the full episodes to save you some time.

    Let us start this walk down memory lane with a few of the…

    Best of the Rest!

    Theo’s Ear Peircing

    Theo goes out and attempts to impress a girl by peircing his ear and then engages in a subterfuge that every child has tried with his or her parents in one way or another - the hope that they won’t see what you did.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtJpafsDAr8

    Cliff Breaks Clair’s Mug

    Cliff has done something bad.  He has broken Clair’s mug and needs a patsy.

    This moment was not, interestingly, the focus of this episode.  Stevie Wonder dropped by in the Episode and ran into Denise and Theo with his limo.  Well, whatever.  That wasn’t the funniest part of the episode.  This was, at time 6:15:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDU_8b47W88&list=PL405DE20A176E89AD

    "Let’s Get it On"

    Cliff has mad skills.  No doubt.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9o96hAJlO0

    Vanessa’s Big Fun

    Claire puts on a clinic here as to how to yell at a child.  The otherwise loving and kind TV mom, goes off on an epic rear-end chewing that has yet to be topped by any other TV parent.  Tempestt Bledsoe (Vanessa) actually does of a wonderful job of looking appropriately terrified, though I’m not sure she was acting at that point.  Because Clair’s blistering…scathing…eviscerating tirade was…terrifying.  Clair didn’t hit, nor did she curse - she just laid down the law.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-wBeZHHmOc 

    Theo & Cockroach & Cliff & Snowballs

    Theo and Cockroach are ambushed on the way home; Cliff defends Huxtable honor, retrives a Macbeth record, waxes eloquently about how young men think, finds new applications for trash can lids.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFCPb3t6HRM

    The Changing of the Sofa

    In this episode, Clair decides that the yellow sofa must go and the blue sofa will replace it.  Cliff has to say goodbye and you can you can watch Cliff’s farewell to his beloved yellow sofa at 18:30 in the clip below. 

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xwCD6ATZlc

    So, this isn’t actually a particularly funny moment, but I have a theory.  The decline of the Cosby show started with the changing of the sofa.  If you watch an episode with the yellow sofa, you can expect a very funny episode of the Cosby Show, start to finish, but when they changed the sofa, for some reason the magic just didn’t seem to be there like it was before. 

    Sure enough, there were some flashes of brilliance in the blue sofa era – certainly there are moments below from the Blue Sofa Era – but it wasn’t like the first five seasons.  When the sofa changed, grunge and gangsta rap were on the horizon and the era of the cheerful 1980’s sitcom was about to give way to shows like “Roseanne”, “My So-Called Life”, and movies like “Reality Bites”. 

    Maybe it was our fault the jokes weren’t quite as funny – maybe we didn’t believe in the idea of the Huxtables anymore.  Or maybe it’s just hard to maintain magic in a television show for longer than 5 or 6 seasons. 

    No matter.  Let us stay in the world of the Cheerful Sitcom for 10 Cosby Show moments and laugh at comedy that was clean, appropriate, and very funny.  Nothing lasts forever, but the Cosby Show did last a while and Cliff and Clair Huxtable were, and remain, the best TV parenting duo that ever existed. 

    Now that’s out of the way…Let’s do this thing!

    Top 10 Cosby Show Moments!

    10.  Cliff’s Hypothetical Death

    The Episode: Season 1 - Episode 21 - “The Younger Woman”

    The Setup: Cliff’s Friend has started dating a woman many years his younger and this leads to the discussion no man should ever engage his spouse:  “Would you remarry I die”.

    Cliff attempts to flip the script by setting up a hypothetical situation wherein he dies.  His family, with the exception of one loyal member, proves to less-than-loyal.  Its an unwinnable conversation for any husband - check it out at 16:54 in the link below.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xcdQMweLaE

    9.  Theo/Denise’s Shirt Crisis

    The Episode:  Season 1 - Episode 5 - “A Shirt Story”

    The Setup:  Theo has decided he needs a shirt “Gordon Gartrell” and when the shirt costs $95, Theo enlists the help of his sister Denise to make it for him.  Hijinx ensues.  The whole episode is pretty funny but if you want the good parts:

    1:52 - Theo’s Shirt Reveal (#1)

    12:35 - Theo’s Shirt Reveal (#2)

    15:13 - Theo’s Shirt Reveal (#’s 3 and 4) (to Cliff and, subsequently, Christine)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FelfuMHcxE4

    8.  Cliff and Theo Buy a Car

    The Episode: Season 3 - Episode 15 - “Say Hello to a Good Buy”

    The Setup: Cliff needs a car and goes out to find one.  Theo tags along to find out how to negotiate.

    Of all the Cosby Show episodes, apparently this was the highest rated episode of all time, which is saying something.  Cliff runs into a tough salesman and patient who ruins his plans to pretend that he doesn’t have money.  You’ll recognize the salesman and the patient as younger versions of people you know…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0tdbHwt-aE

    7.  The Anniversary Performance

    The Episode:  Season 2 – Episode 3 - “Happy Anniversary”

    The Setup:  Cliff’s Parents were celebrating an anniversary and the Huxtable Kids and their parents decided to put together a musical rendition for the Eldest Huxtables.

    The cast and writers tended to do this sort of stuff – the lip syncing numbers with all the cast.  It was pretty funny but this one, of course, was the one that everybody remembers.  The part that probably everybody remember most is Rudy lip syncing “Baby!” and the 4 year old Keisha Knight Pulliam did a great job. 

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8nV81QWd4M

    6.  Cliff’s Pinochle Triumph

    The Episode:  Season 2 – Episode 23 - “The Card Game”

    The Setup:  Cliff’s Pinochle partner gets sick and so his old college professor fills in to take on Cliff’s Dad and his friend, Homer.

    This was, start to finish, a very funny episode.  Cliff’s initial failure to remember the poem that Dr. Foster had him study in college eventually ended with Claire showing up Cliff to the delight of Dr. Foster.  Theo was focused on a ring he’d bought for his Girlfriend Tonya made out of Diamonoids ($19.95!) and Rudy was focused on ruining Theo’s game.

    But the focus of the episode was Cliff’s eventual triumph over his dad in Pinochle and the “rubbing of the head”.  Bill Cosby did what he does best…funny faces, funny voices, just generally funny.  Truth be told you should probably watch the whole episode so here’s the link.  If you want to watch just the Pinochle part, it starts at 14:32 with a few interludes of Theo trying to make time with his girlfriend.  If you want to skip Theo’s attempts to be smooth, the card game starts up again at 18:39.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_YWYkDw4nc

    5.  Clair’s Menopausal Deceit

    The Episode:  Season 7 – Episode 12 - “Clair’s Liberation”

    The Setup:  Clair tells her kids she’s going through menopause and after finding out what that means and the associated symptoms, the Cosby Kids immediately walk on estrogen-fueled eggshells.

    Clair Huxtable  was incredibly underrated as a character and as a TV parent, through no fault of her own.  Phylicia Rashad was very much unappreciated by people who handed out awards, having never won an Emmy during the time of the Cosby Show’s run.  Looking back, this is inconceivable as the show would not have been remotely as good if it hadn’t been for Clair Huxtable.   Maybe she was overlooked and unappreciated because of Bill Cosby’s comedic skill and it would have been difficult to out shine that.

    There are lots of great Clair Huxtable scenes - Clair’s broken toe, Clair’s beat down of Elvin, Clair’s reeling back Cliff on multiple occations - but I chose this one.  Phylicia Rashad would have been funny regardless of who was in the room with her – Bill Cosby is not needed and barely noticed, making this scene – I think – the best one Ms Rashad did.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJUEbd-Sr8c

    4.  Lamont Goldfish’s Funeral

    The Episode:  Season 1 – Episode 2 - “Goodbye Mr. Fish”

    The Setup:  Lamont Goldfish, tragically, has died.  We must mourn properly.

    It’s no wonder why this TV show caught on and caught hold as well as it did.  This episode followed the very funny Pilot Episode and didn’t disappoint.  Rudy is appropriately cute, Vanessa is trying to take it seriously, Cliff is over the top and Claire plays the role of the straight man, as it were.

    This is just good, clean, quality comedy.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bz9MfnwjsMo

    3.  Cliff Uses Romance to Outsmart Claire

    The Episode:  Season 6 – Episode 20 - “Isn’t it Romantic?”

    The Setup:  Theo has made the assertation that marriage leads to the death of romance (Theo’s man card should have been revoked during the episode, to be honest).  Cliff, Elvin, and Martin (you remember him, he’s Denise’s husband) all disagree as to who is the most romantic and a competition is devised.

    The bet, if you don’t recall, was that each man had to come up with a gift, spending no more than $25, that would make his wife swoon.  (Future Disney Star Raven Symone will tell us this in the clip)  The ladies, of course, find out about the bet prior and devise their own plan so as to mock and redicule their would-be suiters. 

    Cliff Huxtable, however, isn’t just the finest TV dad that has ever existed…he also knows what the ladies like.  This is the full episode but you can catch the funniest parts starting at 14:12. 

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IoBXDLtl-QA

    2.  Rudy Watches “I Have a Dream”

    The Episode:  Season 2 - Episode 14 - “Vanessa’s Bad Grade”

    The Setup:  The Huxtable Family has been focused on Vanessa’s bad grade (a D, in red ink, the worst kind!) and Vanessa and Denise’s fight over a purple sweater.  Issues have generally resolved and Rudy is quietly watching TV by herself.

    For many people, at least people at Kate Mitchell Elementary School, it was not noticed that the Huxtables were black.  I would have to assume, however, that it was noticed by other people not in Mrs. Spencer’s 2nd Grade Class. 

    The Huxtables were quite obviously black but it was not a focus of the show.  The focus of the show was an upper-middle class family living in New York and skin color rarely played a major role in the plot or the writing.  While racial issues certainly could have found their way into the script, I don’t recall that they ever did. 

    I think that in removing race from the plot, it became a part of a very positive social commentary that the show made.  At age 7, I never paid much mind to the Huxtables’ skin color and at age 34, I recognize now that was quite significant.  This scene reminded us that the Huxtables were black but, more importantly, that it really didn’t matter.  It reminded us that people, even people in a TV show, should be judged not by the color of their skin, but the content their character.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJkeN3e8ty4

     1.  Cliff and Theo Discuss “Regular People”

    The Episode:  Season 1 - Episode 1 -The Pilot

    The Setup:  The setup was that the whole damn episode was funny.  (I can say “damn”…Cliff does, so that makes it okay).  Theo has gotten yet another D and decides it doesn’t matter because he doesn’t need good grades to be “regular people”.

    This is, hands down, the best on screen parenting that’s ever been done in my humble opinion.  Cliff’s “Regular People” economics lesson is at 8:46, but you may want to start watching at 5:40 because that’s when it really starts to get funny.  Or, you may just go ahead, do yourself a favor, take twenty-some minutes and watch the whole episode and laugh. 

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtZ9JSQsbe4

     

  7. Top 10 Press Conference Rants!

    Do you know what’s awesome?  A really great press conference rant.  One that lives on forever with a soundbyte and shows up on SportsCenter or various Top Ten lists like this one.  I love a good post game rant.  Here’s 10 of my favorites, inspired by Our Fearless Leader of the Mighty Iowa State Cyclones, Mr. Paul Rhodes.

    Hey, most of these are obvious and you’ve probably seen them all, but what the hell.  The YouTube clips are there so you can see them again or for the first time if you haven’t had the pleasure yet.  Iowa State got screwed and I need a reason to smile, and these always make me laugh…

    Best of the Rest – I guess…

    No, Herm Edwards, you don’t get on the list.  Obviously you play to win the game.  I think that one is overplayed and stupid. 

    No, Ryan Leaf, you don’t get on the list for being a jerk (“KNOCK IT OFF!”).  If you’re going to be a jerk, you need to be more full-on crazy, or much more clever.

    No, Mike Ditka, you don’t get to be on the list.  That year with the Saints gave you that rant and then, subsequently, a heart attack and if you had died that would have sucked. 

    No, Michigan Women’s Basketball Coach, you don’t get to be on the list.  Because I have no idea what your name is and your rant is the only reason people know you and that makes it lame.

    And NO, Charlie Weiss, you don’t get to be on the list for trying to crib your old boss Bill Parcell’s material.  Your press conferences were crap.

    Alright, people who rocked out awesome press conferences…Let’s do this thing!

    Top 10 Best Post-Game Press Conference Rants

    #10.  “Diddily-Poo” by Jim Mora

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    So you know this isn’t the only time Jim Mora is gonna show up on this list.  Everybody knows his other famous soundbyte (don’t worry, it’s coming), but this one sort of gets lost.  When he was asked about this one even he admits that you shouldn’t say “Diddily-Poo” when trying to make a succinct point about football. 

    I think what makes this one even funnier is the fact that he kept saying “We got our ass kicked” and then tried to clean it up with “Diddily-Poo” a few minutes later.  Great rant.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tie0tz7jGDI

    #9.  “Crowning” by Dennis Green

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    I remember this one vividly.  This was a Monday night game, I was in med school, and Rex Grossman did everything humanly possible to lose the game for my Chicago Bears.  It was only through the efforts of the Chicago Bear defense, Devin Hester, and Neil Rackers missing a field goal that we had the pleasure of Dennis Green philosophically telling us that a team is who he thought they were.

    This, happily, allowed us to expound on the question and ponder if a team is what we thought they weren’t or could be not what we thought they had been or were what we didn’t think they weren’t.  Saying a team “are who we thought they were” lends it’s self to double and triple negative variations of the statement just for the sake of confusion.

    Honestly, I’d have been irritated too.  The Bears had no business winning that game.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWmQbk5h86w

    #8.  “Still Proud” by Paul Rhoads

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     I might very well be a blatant Iowa State Homer (it’s true), to put The Fearless Rhoads’ rant up here at 8.  Time will tell if “YOU DON’T JUST PUT YOUR ARM AROUND A GUY AND TELL HIM IT’S OKAY” will live on in the pantheon of Post-Game Rant history, but it made me happy he was our coach. 

    I think Rhoads was holding back here, to be honest, because he didn’t want to get fined.  My Iowa State friends might disagree, but it can’t go any higher than 8 here because there wasn’t that one, wholly memorable soundbyte like “Diddily-Poo” or “The Bears are who we THOUGHT THEY WERE!” that just sticks in your head and makes you remember this one. 

    But, I think it’s a little more heartfelt and passionate than #9 and #10.  And maybe it is blatantly Homer-ish to put it on here.  Whatever.  It’s my list.

    http://www.kcci.com/angry-paul-rhoads-addresses-media-after-isu-loss/-/9357770/22270388/-/40ucxez/-/index.html

    #7.  “Stupid Questions” by Hal McCrae

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    For full-on crazyness, this one’s hard to top.  Hal seems to go absolutely outside of his mind in this expletive-laden rant that nobody really seemed to see coming.   Now, you can’t really judge him for saying all these nasty things because he was managing the Royals at the time, but the sheer melt-down factor of this rant obligates this one to be on every list like this.

    My two favorite parts:  Hal’s whirling dervish spin-throw of the phone and his parting shot…”Now put that in your f$*&ing pipe and smoke it.”  If you’re gonna go out, you might as well go out like this.  Hal ended up getting fired soon after if I remember right.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kamDqL-AGzI

    #6.  “Crystal Glass” by Bobby Knight

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    Bobby Knight’s press conference work, taken as a whole, is probably the finest body of work by a coach there is.  His application of the whip, demonstration of game faces, and general abuse of the press was legendary but I think this one was his funniest effort.  Maybe this isn’t a “rant” per se, but it was funny.

    I would also have to make mention of the onions on the reporter who asked his follow-up question to The General about whether or not the player in question would be a playmaker the next year.  That actually took a brass set I probably wouldn’t have produced and Knight, to his credit, berated the reporter in such a way that nicely extended the joke.

    I just hope the reporter was in on the joke…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50LsvwmgJ7I

    #5.  “Back to the Game” by Bobby Knight

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    Yeah, he’s on here twice.  Deal with it.  So’s Mora.

    This is The General’s best, angriest rant.  He wasn’t actually going off on a member of the press here, rather, he was going off on an NCAA official who was supposed to be setting up the press conference.  He was condescending and dismissive and rude and I loved it.  Coach Knight was smart and funny and whether you loved him or hated him, he made college basketball more interesting.  The discrepancy between him and his most famous coaching disciple, Coach K (I’m not trying to spell his last name) is markedly considerable. 

    What fun this one was…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rv9JUSkh6c

    #4.  “Chris Everett” by Jim Everett

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    This one doesn’t exactly count as a press conference rant but since it involves the press and you always wanted to watch Jim Rome get his ass kicked, this list is just a great excuse to do that.

    That is all.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjgpo3_SF7M

    #3.  “Playoffs” by Jim Mora

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    You just can’t hear the word “Playoffs” without at least subconsciously repeating it in the Jim Mora voice after he went on this rant.  It’s not the most violent rant, nor is it the most colorful, but it is one of the most memorable.

    It’s kind of a shame, really.  Jim Mora was a pretty good coach – he coached up what was arguably the best group of linebackers that ever played when he coached at the Saints.  Swilling, Mills, Jackson, and Johnson were the “Dome Patrol” and all 4 of them went to the pro-bowl in the same year which was the only time that’s ever happened. 

    These guys and Jim Mora were responsible for the first time the Saints ever made the playoffs.  PLAYOFFS?  PLAYOFFS?  (see, I can’t even get past my own attempt at cementing Jim Mora’s legacy with something other than…PLAYOFFS!)  (oh well…)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7fjDS0jKiE

    #2.  “Practice” by Allen Iverson

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    It makes me laugh every time I watch it.  I love the fact that he seems to think the rest of the press core is on board with him.  I love his irritated response to the question “Allen, don’t you think it would help your team if you were at practice?”

    I don’t know why, but each time he says “We talkin’ about practice…not a game…” it just gets funnier and funnier to me.  It’s a close one here, but I think “Practice” is my 2nd all time press conference rant.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGDBR2L5kzI

    #1.  “I’m 40!” by Mike Gundy

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    This one has everything necessary to be the all-time greatest press-conference rant.  It has props (the newspaper), it has emotion (the whole time) and it has the one quote that everybody remembers (“COME AFTER ME!  I’M A MAN!  I’M FORTY!”).

    So it’s got all the clichéd things that a great rant needs.  Here’s what else it has:  Justification.  Mike Gundy’s volcanic explosion was completely justified.  It was a little contradictory (“3/4ths of this is garbage and the editor is garbage…I don’t read the newspaper!”) but it was appropriately critical of the press.  Gundy stared down that writer the whole time and made you feel like he loved his players. 

    I think it’s the greatest press conference rant of all time. 

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoMmbUmKN0E

     

  8. Top 10 Bars! (According to Jon)

    Do you know what’s awesome?  Bars.  A place dedicated to serve you drinks.  And you know what’s even more awesome?  Your favorite bar.  Lots of people have a favorite bar for various reasons so I thought I’d throw together a quick list of my favorites.

    This, obviously, is a list that applies to me but likely not to you.  But you should throw up your favorites because it might give some people some ideas of where to go their next night out.  I have to tell you – my friends on this list are discerning bar connesseuirs so you probably ought not to say that your favorite bar is an Applebee’s or a Buffalo Wild Wings.  A great bar shouldn’t have to (or be able to) afford advertising on a National Stage. 

    Prolly ought to start by throwing up a…

    Best of the Rest!

    Club Shagnasty’s - Cedar Falls, Iowa (currently no longer in existence) –

    Shags (yes that’s it’s real name) gave me a job as an MC for a semester in college.  They paid me $5.35 an hour and, to be honest, I probably should have spent that semester waiting tables because $5.35 an hour didn’t really pay for much.  But, Dime Draw Wednesday’s were a hell of a lot of fun and some of my friends (who will remain, mercifully, nameless) won the Gentlemen’s Wet Boxer Shorts contest.

    Shags = all class.  #sarcasm

    The Stein – Cedar Falls, Iowa (currently a shell of it’s former self) –

    For one semester during my freshman year, the Stein was the place to go.  They had this thing called Flip Night where you’d attempt to pay for your drink with a coin.  See, you’d hand a nickel to the bartender and he’d flip it.  If you called it right, your drink was a nickel.  If you didn’t, it was regular price.  Obviously, if you knew the bartender, this was a bonus.  As a college freshman, I knew no bartenders so that sucked.

    The Stein lost its liquor license for serving alcohol to underaged Freshman and fell into obscurity after my freshman year.  But Flip Night…that was fun.  And, bonus, the Stein pizza was effing stellar.

    Poor Richard’s (Pour Dicks) – Cedar Falls, Iowa

    My UNI friends will know…32 oz Coors Light for $1.50 on Thursday  nights and Free Beer Nuggets, which were essentially fried cheese balls.  That…I miss.

    Cy’s Roost – Ames, Iowa

    Cy’s Roost triumphantly re-opened when I went to school at Iowa State and was a good place to go.  My dad went there when he was at Iowa State and I always enjoyed going to Cy’s when I was there too. 

    Unfortunately, Cy’s Roost saw one of the more somber moments of my time at Iowa State – The Death of the Milk Monster.  One of my friends(who shall remain, mercifully, nameless) used to do this thing where he’d pour milk all over himself and go streaking up and down Welch Avenue.  Make no mistake, it’s HILARIOUS.  Well, our friend did the Milk Monster through Cy’s Roost one night and no effort was made to see if Ames’ finest were outside, which they were. 

    After discussion with my friend’s then girlfriend, now wife, the Milk Monster was officially retired that night but I still grin, seeing my friend happily bound through Cy’s, one last time, naked as the day he was born, covered in 2% milk. 

    The Claddaugh – Rennes, France

    The Claddaugh was this little hole-in-the-wall Irish place just down the road from where most of us lived in France.  The Claddaugh’s main draw was Dan the Appropriately Salty Irish Bartender.  Dan threatened to hit you with a hurling stick if you didn’t pay your tab.  Dan actually threatened to hit you a lot, for no good reason.  Dan let you have your Guinness on Credit if he liked you.  Dan threatened to hit you if he liked you.

    The Claddaugh also had a sign hanging in it that has inspired a line in almost every wedding poem I have written:  “Don’t question your wife’s judgment.  Look who she married.”

    Let’s do this thing!

    Jon’s Top 10 Favorite Bars!

    #10.  Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop – New Orleans, Louisiana

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    This is, hands down, the coolest bar I’ve ever been to.  I’ve only been there once and it’s not in any of my college towns, so where do I get off putting this one on my list?

    It’s off the beaten path, it serves one of the best hurricanes we had in NOLA, and (and this can’t overstated) It’s haunted by pirates.  HAUNTED.  BY.  FRICKING.   PIRATES.  Jean Lafitte, the famous 18th century pirate owned the place and planned his dastardly deeds in the very rooms you can sit in and plan out your Bourbon Street plan of attack.  It’s appropriately dark, dank, and did I mention it was haunted by pirates. 

    If you go to NOLA and you don’t go here you would be doing yourself a massive disservice. 

    #9.  Thumbs – Ames, Iowa

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    I don’t like to dance at bars.  This is because I can’t dance well.  Loud music at bars is irritating because if you’re just sitting at a bar, listening to loud music and unable to talk with anybody, that’s stupid.  This is why I like dive bars and, as dive bars go, you can’t do any better than Thumbs. 

    I need to go on a quick rant here.  When you went to a bar with a group of friends in college, let’s be honest, you knew what was going to happen.  One of your socially awkward friends is going to rely on you to strike up a conversation with members of the opposite sex, which was pointless for you because you already have a significant other as a result of not being socially awkward.  Once you successfully struck up this conversation, invariably you’d go back talking with the same group of friends as you were talking with back at home (the group of friends not obsessed with getting laid) and the only difference is that now the drinks are more expensive.

    This is why I liked Thumbs.  Gin and Tonic was 75 cents on Thursdays so, economically, it was a wash.  It was a nice place to go.

    #8.  La Banque – Rennes, France

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    La Banque was a bar we frequented when I lived in France for a year.  The reason I loved this bar was that it used to be an old 17th Century French Jail and I still haven’t found a bar that had a cooler way to get in.  You had to go up this old, dank, stone spiral staircase and walk through old wrought iron doors to get into the place. 

    You could also look down on the old prison courtyard from the balcony and think of a time when this place was much more sinister and much less happy.  It puts things into perspective but, other than the aforementioned Lafitte’s, it was the coolest location for a bar I ever saw.  It only ranks ahead of Lafitte’s because I went to La Banque many, many more times.

    #7.  Tony’s Lounge – Cedar Falls, Iowa

    Lemme clarify – not Tony’s.  Tony’s sat opposite Sharkey’s and was the place you went when you were underaged.  Those who attended college in 1997 at UNI will get the above reference.  There was a shooting at Tony’s in the spring of ‘97 and a friend of mine (who shall remain, mercifully nameless) who was a big fan of Tupac and Biggie thought that it was cool and that made us “thug life” in Cedar Falls Iowa. 

    Incredibly, I can’t find a picture of Tony’s Lounge on the internet, hence the above Meme in it’s place.  The bar Tony opened used to be a Norwest Bank on College Hill where I opened my first checking account.  This bar was supposed to be classy and it was, for the Hill.  This was the first time it occurred to me to order a drink that wasn’t either a beer or a shot.  You could, in theory, sit at a table and have a conversation instead of participating in a dimly lit and much less attractive version of The Grind on MTV. 

    I always liked Tony’s.  Plus, they employed Jake Dolash and Ana Hanisch and Jake was responsible for making me laugh.  A lot. 

    #6/5.  The Hessian Haus/The Royal Mile – Des Moines, Iowa

    imageimage

    For various reasons I always associate these two bars and couldn’t really pick a favorite between the two.  My friends and I have frequented them both and their proximity and European themes lend themselves to each other.

    Some people will tell you that sharing a boot during flu season is stupid.  Well, so is drinking beer out of a glass boot and the associated and completely inflexible rules.  Stupid isn’t the point.  Fun is the point.  And sharing a boot and following it’s completely inflexible rules is fun.

    The Hessian Haus has decent food and really, really good beer.  It falls with it’s forthcoming English Counterpart because I couldn’t decide which, taken over the course of the year, has better beer.  It’s Oktoberfest season and so the Hessian Haus is the place to be here in Des Moines (obvi) so right now, you’d probably put HH at 5 and The Mile at 6.

    The Royal Mile is the British Equivalent to the Hessian Haus.  While it doesn’t have The Boot like it’s aforementioned German Cousin, it does have (per last night’s getawesome post), a great beer selection, a really great scotch collection, proximity to Fong’s (as Jake Dolash has said) but what I like best is the food - the Best Fish and Chips in America.  The rest of the food is good too – good Shepherd’s Pie, good Shepherd’s Pie Balls, good curry, good everything.  The atmosphere is really good and so are the drinks.

    When you eat the Fish and Chips, the Royal Mile jumps to 5 and pushes the Haus back to 6.  I can’t decide.  I’ll actually entertain arguments as to which should fall ahead of the other if you’d care to make them…

    Or you could just go to both and be done with it. 

    #4.  The Other Place (College Hill) – Cedar Falls, Iowa

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    Jake and Ana are going to be so pissed at me for ranking the OP above Tony’s Lounge. 

    I spent more time at the OP at UNI than any other bar, enjoyed more conversations at the OP, laughed more, bought more 21st Birthday Prairie Fire Shots (sorry Petey and Patterson), and had more fun at the OP than any other place on College Hill or, for that matter, in Cedar Falls.  The OP also had good pizza (it wasn’t as good as The Stein’s, but who’s was?) and was just down the road from where we all lived. 

    I don’t ever recall a fight breaking out or an out-of-control bar tab, all sorts of different friends invariably showed up and I just remember the OP being a lock for a good time week in and week out. 

    #3.  The Try Zone – Ames, Iowa

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    You’ve never heard of the Try Zone?  Guess you weren’t cool enough to get in.  Don’t even know where it is?  Begging to find out?  You’ve heard and might have even been to most of these other places and now you’re saying to yourself “Self…how can I find The Try Zone because everything that Crosbie writes is art and he’s never led me astray before.”

    Sorry, son.  You can’t find it.  The Try Zone no longer exists.

    There was a time when The Try Zone was the hottest bar in Ames.  That time was approximately 9:00-11:45 pm on January 24th, 2003.  That was when the Iowa State Rugby Club hosted a party that everybody in Ames, including the police, showed up to.  Ames and University authorities strongly insisted that The Try Zone no longer serve drinks.

    (Did you know bootlegging is still a punishable offense?  Well, it is.)

    There was a time, several years earlier where The Try Zone, at a different house mind you, hosted one of the most epic parties Iowa State Rugby ever held…the Superhero Party.  Ames’ Finest were forced to contain and contend with superheroes that included, but were not limited to, The Hulk, The Flash, Captain America, A Giant Baby, and Ace and Gary, the Ambigously Gay Duo.

    The Try Zone exists, now, only in our memories but The Try Zone fortunately doesn’t find itself  constrained by physical location.  Keep your eyes open and your ears to the ground and maybe, just maybe, you’ll be lucky enough to find your way The Try Zone.

    Before the Police come and shut it down again.

    #2.  The High Life Lounge – Des Moines, Iowa

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    Oh.  Yes.  The High Life.

    The High Life was the signature watering hole of my bachelor party, was the initial site of bacon-fest, and remains one of the coolest bars in existence.  It’s thing, if you don’t know, is a late 60’s/early 70’s rec room/middle class theme and you can’t buy beer there that was made after 1970.  So, if you want a fancy pants microbrew, you’re in the wrong place. 

    If you want High Life, PBR, Grainbelt, or Schlitz, babydoll you’re in the right one.  I haven’t, tragically, seen Stroh’s on the menu and I fear it went the way of Crystal Pepsi.  Speaking of soda, you can get Fastco or Shasta here. The High Life also touts one of the more diabolical shots out there – The Tangermeister which is Jagermeister and Tang.  It’s not good.  It is also made with slightly more Tang than you’d like, turning a shot into a two-gulp proposition. 

    It’s got shag carpet (that’s right, in a bar) and old bowling trophies and photos on the walls.  It used to have this monstrosity of a big screen TV that they unfortunately got rid of but the little black and white picture tube still sits happily above the bar.  You can get a cheese burger basket for $3 and it is one of the last places in America wherein your bar tab can be smaller than the taxi ride home. 

    And it’s awesome.

    #1.  O’Connell’s Pub – Rennes, France

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    The most fun I ever had at a bar was here, during one of the most fun years of my whole life.  O’Connell’s was/is an Irish bar in Rennes and we frequented this place all the time.  It was the site of laughter, tears, Guinness, and some of the best memories I ever had.  It was even the site of Panky-Stock, which was something that my friend Angus and I did – the bar let us just sit there and play music all night long.  There were special guest appearances by Rory who can spin a wicked air-turntable and Marta who can sing.  We handed out T-shirts.  Everybody sang and drank and cried at the end because we all had to say goodbye two days later.

    It was, and remains, my favorite bar in the entire world.

     

  9. Ten Awesome Dog Breeds (and a few extras)

    Do you know what’s awesome?  Variety.  Especially Dog Variety.  Dogs are awesome and variety is awesome, so Dog Variety is especially awesome.  Dogs aren’t just our best friends, they’ve helped us with our jobs, saved lives, and are capable of some amazing things.  Here’s a list of Ten Awesome Dog Breeds with some photos, plus a few extras, in no particular order (though I might have saved my favorite for last). 

    If you’re wondering, I left off pictures of puppies on purpose.  OF COURSE the puppies are cute.  Then they grow up and while they grow up, they destroy most of what you own.  And then they are dumped for doing what puppies do and end up in dog rescues and that’s where I hope you look for a dog  (“Don’t shop, adopt!”).

    What prompted an entrance on this list?  Dog breeds that have a little history, can do some cool things, and have a place in Kelley and I’s heart. 

    If your dog isn’t on this list, don’t be mad.  Comment and say why your favorite dog is awesome.

    Let’s start with…

    A Few Others Because 10 is Too Few…

    The Bloodhound

    Did you know that the Bloodhound has been tracking people since the Middle Ages?  It’s true…the Bloodhound is so good at tracking people that it’s trailing results are admissible in a court of law, making the Bloodhound just as useful as a lawyer and far more likable (apologies to my attorney friends out there – couldn’t help it). 

    The Bloodhound has been described as a nose with a dog attached; we humans are estimated to have somewhere around 6 million olefactory (scent) cells that help us distinguish smells but a Bloodhound is estimated to have 230 million.  It allows the dog to create a “scent image” that lets the dog to follow a trail, sometimes up to 130 miles. 

    The dog part of the Bloodhound works too – it’s built to track low to the ground and the Bloodhound is, well, dogged it it’s pursuit of a scent, unwilling to be dissuaded until it’s found what it’s looking for.  There was a Bloodhound in Kentucky named Nick Carter who tracked and led to the capture of over 600 criminals.  How awesome is that?

    The Saluki

    Did you know that the Saluki is one of the oldest dog breeds in existence?  It’s true…there are drawings and descriptions of the Saluki going all the way back to ancient Egypt, almost 2000 years before the birth of Christ (there’s more on the origin of dogs coming up…).  They have been used as sight hounds in Iran longer than the country has been in existence and are also known as Persian Greyhounds or the Royal Dog of Egypt.

    While Greyhounds (who are also awesome) are the Usain Bolt of the Dog World, being the fastest dogs when the distance is 800 meters or less, the Saluki is the Steve Prefontaine of the dog world.  The Saluki can run as fast as 42 miles an hour and can maintain that speed over longer distances.  Think about that for a second…the Saluki wouldn’t just get a speeding ticket in a residencial area, it would lose it’s license (if you could catch him).

    The Jack Russell Terrier

    So, technically, the Jack Russell terrier isn’t a breed, at least not according to the American Kennel Club (The AKC) but what do they know about it. 

    Jacks are apparently named after a man named John Russell who needed a dog to go fox hunting with.  Why are Jacks awesome?  Well, for a few reasons:  they show up in movies and TV all the time, my Mom had one, and - in theory - this is the most humane of all the terriers. 

    See, John Russell needed a dog that was tenacious enough to go after a fox, had the stamina to pursue tirelessly, but the restraint to not cause harm to the fox as this was (believe it or not), considered un-sporting.  John Russell bragged that his dogs had never tasted blood.  It’s unlikely that any Jacks today came from John Russell’s line, but the tenacity still exists.  It’s an interesting story, anyways, and those who have had one know that a Jack is a Big Dog in a Small Dog’s body.

    The Akita

    So, this isn’t a dog breed for everybody.  They are quite aloof, very dominant, and take an experienced owner but they are exceptionally striking dogs.  Helen Keller had Akitas and described them as Angels in Fur.  I knew one Akita and she was a gorgeous grey dog named Lily that belonged to a man named Tim Bevins.  The only thing that Lily did more than love Tim was hate porcupines.  I mean she HATED porcupines to the point that Tim had to carry a pistol so he could shoot porcupines before Lily got after them.  If this seems mean to you, you never saw what happened when Lily went after a porcupine. 

    Lily was an exceptional ambassador for her breed…Akitas aren’t for everybody but when trained right, by the right person, they are awesome.

    The St. Bernard/Bulldog/Mastiff/Shetland Sheepdog/Great Dane

    Most.  Awesome.  Painting.  Ever.

    image

    Hey, this is fun!  Lets do this thing!

    Ten Awesome Dog Breeds (in no particular order)

    The Newfoundland

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    Anytime your dog looks like a bear, that’s awesome.

    The Newfoundland is one of the largest dogs we know of and it’s also one of the gentlest (good thing).  But did you know the Newfie is the rescue swimmer of all the dogs?  It’s true!  Newfies have waterproof coats and webbed feet and have shown a propensity to rescue people who have gone over board.  There’s a report of one Newfoundland who rescued 63 people who had gone over board.  Sixty three!  One dog!

    Newfies also helped explore America.  You thought it was just Lewis and Clark and some hapless guides who died of cholera and never made it into the history books?  Wrong, son.  It was Lewis, Clark, hapless cholera-guides, and Seaman, the Newfoundland dog that came on the expedition.  God knows how many times he saved Lewis and Clark.  (I played ”the Oregon Trail” on an Apple IIGS in First Grade.  I know how perilous that journey is.) 

    The largest Newfie reported weighed 260 pounds which is awesome and that picture up there…that’s the hair that got brushed out of the Newfie.  That’s…uhh…awesome? 

    The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

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    Did you know that the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog (GSMD) was once considered the “Poor Man’s Horse?”  It’s true…these dogs can easily pull carts loaded with up to 3,000 lbs.  The GSMD (sometimes referred to as a “Swissy”) is considered to be the oldest of the Swiss Mountain Breeds (The Sennenhund) which include some of the more familiar breeds that include the Bernese and the St. Bernard.  The GSMD was originally a draft and herding dog (hence the pulling statistic above) and was well suited for driving cattle.

    The breed nearly died out with the invent of mechanized farming and rail transportation for cattle and existed, for a time, in remote Swiss Valleys.  GSMD enthusiasts know that a Professor named Albert Heim attended a dog show in 1908 and noted, with interest, four “Short Haired Bernese” entries.  A little more research was done and the breed was not only determined to be the oldest of the Sennenhund but was given it’s own standard.  The Rottweiler and GSMD are related as well and the Rott was considered, at one time to be the successor of the GSMD breed.  The similarities are obvious; occationally white spots will show up on a Rottweiler’s chest.

    The GSMD is healther than most other dogs it’s size.  It has fewer problems with Hip Dysplasia and other bone and joint problems that often aflict our largest friends.  They have surprising agility, again belied by their size.  If you are looking for a hiking companion, you can do no better, though they are affected by the heat (this is a dog that grew up in the Swiss Alps, remember…)

    We have a GSMD/Rottweiler cross (spoiler alert, the Rottweiler is on this list as well) named Eli, who is calm, assured, and loves people.  He is incredibly laid back; before we adopted him, Eli spent time at a Vet College where he patiently let the Veternarians-to-be trim his nails and draw his blood for practice, with nary a snarl or whimper.

    The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a particularly beautiful and friendly dog who would make a great addition to your home.

    The Border Collie

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    Did you know that, apparently, Border Collies have the highest vocabulary of any other dog?  It’s true (maybe)…in 2011, a Border Collie was reported to have learned 1,022 different English words and acted or obeyed at the direction of those words.  That’s more than a 3 year old child so, when you are bragging about your kids mastery of the word “ball”, remember that the Border Collie had that one, and 1,021 other words already locked up.  Border Collies are considered to be the most intelligent of all the Dog Breeds which is, of course, a point of contention sharted by the owner of every other dog breed in existance. 

    The name of the Border Collie didn’t come by accident.  The “border” part of it refers to the Anglo-Scottish border where the breed is thought to have originated from and the “collie” part of it may refer to the Celtic word “useful”.

    Unlike some other dogs, the Border Collie can trace it’s linage back to a single Grandfather, a dog named Old Hemp.  Old Hemp (I have no idea who the hell named him) was a dog who showed remarkable aptitude at herding and learning and, consequently, was a stud dog many times over.  All pure Border Collies can be traced back to him.

    Interestingly, the Border Collie is a breed still very much prized for it’s working abilities, unlike some other dogs who’ve had their jobs outsourced to machines.  This is so much so that the showing of Border Collies has been criticized because it aims the dogs breeding towards appearance rather than working intelligence.

    If you think having the smartest dog in the world is awesome, you’d better insure that you’re smarter than your dog.  It is well known these dogs can be particularly destructive when bored…

    The German Shepherd

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    The German Shepherd Dog (GSD) is one of the most recognized on this list.  It’s well known that these dogs possess a set of skills that make them one of the most versatile and helpful dog breeds around.  The GSD is renowned for it’s intelligence, awareness, and abilities as a protector.

    It is well known that GSDs are police dogs, drug and bomb sniffing dogs, and have served with honor in the military.  I don’t like drugs or bombs, don’t want to get caught by the police and am too scared to join the military, so I shall focus on something else that GSDs have done well - acting.

    Dogs always seem to add quality to movies, so where did it all start?  Arguably the first dog actor that we had on the silver screen was a GSD named Strongheart (ya, that’s him up in the picture) who was followed very closely by Rin Tin Tin.  Since then, there have been a bevy of canines in cinema but these guys were the OGs of Doggie Actors and so that’s pretty awesome. 

    Another good reason to adopt:  you might find a magical dog.  Berry, who you probably recognize as Padfoot from the Harry Potter Movies showed up at a shelter after his owner could no longer take care of him.  So, yeah, you could spend a ton of money on a GSD from a crazy expensive breeder, but you could find an Animagus at an Animal Shelter…

    My mom’s family had a beloved GSD named Pokey.  Pokey was a fixture of their family when they lived out in the country but when they moved to town, Pokey was miserable.  Don’t dispair - this story has a happy ending…Grandma and Grandpa made some calls and Pokey, proving that old dogs can learn new tricks, lived the rest of her days as a seeing eye dog Columbus, Ohio. 

    The Gun Dogs

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    Yeah, okay, I copped out and dropped a whole category of dog breeds into one because I wanted to include them all and was running out of space.  Deal with it because it’s my list.  My dad has had gun dogs for a great portion of his adult life and these have included German Shorthairs and Brittany Spaniels.

    Dogs have been helping people find food for a really long time and have adapted their own skills to ours.  While you might be familiar with the modern pointer and what they do (“points” towards where birds are, showing the hunters where to walk to) before the invention of shotguns, people had to be a bit more resourceful and this grew out a bunch of breeds - The Pointers and Setters, Spaniels, Waterdogs and Poodles, and Retrievers.

    Pointers and Setters get their names from the stance they adopt when they’ve picked up a scent.  They hunt by scent, by the way, rather than sight unlike the aforementioned Saluki.  Watching these dogs work is a fun thing to do - the dogs will start on the edges of where the hunters are moving, methodically moving in a pattern until game is located.  They work together too; we’ll never know how the dogs communicate with each other, but if you’ve ever seen dogs working a field, you know they do.  The dogs freeze when they pick up a scent, rather than give chase.  The Pointers, as you’ve probably seen, raise one paw up and “point” with their nose, and the Setters sort of crouch (a “set”).

    Sometimes the dogs will flush, rather than point, when the birds that are being hunted like to run at ground level.  The dog will flush them out, get them to fly rather than run and the shotgun does what a shotgun does.  Before guns, though, sometimes nets were used to catch the birds.  Sometimes a falconer would use a bird of prey to kill the flushed game.

    Finally, the dog retrieves.  Some dogs make this their single purpose, hence the name Labrador Retriever or Golden Retriever.  This was the poodle’s original job too - that’s right, the uppity looking, fancy hair-do poodle orginally dove into ice cold water to retrieve your next meal.  The neat thing about that is that really good dogs will mark the bird’s flight and remember where it went down.  Maybe dogs have their own form of trigonometry?

    For those people who don’t hunt, perhaps this seems inhumane.  For those who do, all this is nothing new.  The thing, though, that always amazed me about watching the Gun Dogs was that they never ate the birds.  They just retrieve the quarry, happily trot back to the hunter and drop the bird at their feet, wagging their tails and ready to do it all over again.  These hunting instincts that had to have had roots in finding their own food have taken an odd left turn - now they just want to help us find food. 

    I like to eat, so that’s pretty awesome.

    The Bichon Frise

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    Did you know the Bichon Frise was a favorite dog of European Royal Nobility?  The Italian Royal Court and French Royal Court considered these dogs favorites back when the French had a Royal Court.  The Bichon was also a circus dog, the dog that accompanied street performers and organ grinders, and has a long history of entertaining people.  That makes the Bichon pretty awesome.

    Since some people like small dogs, this is the smallest dog on my list and the Bichon is far from an annoying, yappy, ankle biter.  They’ve got heaps of personality and if you’ve ever seen a Bichon Buzz, it’s pretty funny.  A Bichon Buzz is when the Bichon will excitedly streak through all rooms in the house, spurred on by you cheering.  Bichons are easily trainable and are eager to please.  They don’t have to look like the puff balls that you often see in pictures – but one thing that isn’t quite as awesome is the groomer bill which is expensive.

    The other thing that’s awesome about Bichons is that they’re great for people with allergies.  They don’t shed and have very little dander so if there’s somebody in your family with bad allergies and that somebody really wants a dog, the Bichon is an excellent choice.

    Finally, and this cannot be overstated, a very cool little Bichon named Max was my wife’s first dog.

    The Husky

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    Did you know that Husky was originally derided for being too small?  It’s true – when they first arrived to do races in the Lower 48, they were pejoratively called “Siberian Rats” and nobody thought they’d be worth anything during the first dog sledding races that they ran.  It turned out that they were pretty good at pulling sleds over snow after all which is something the Alaskans knew all along.

    In 1925, Siberian Huskies completed a dog sled run that has become legendary – the Serum Run otherwise known as the Great Race of Mercy.  In 1925, Diptheria broke out in Nome, Alaska, and they needed an anti-toxin serum that was the only treatment at the time.  It was particularly bad on the Native population that had no immunity.  A relay was organized to get the anti-toxin to Nome and so twenty mushers and 150 sled dogs carried the serum 674 in 127 and a half hours.  The wind chill was estimated to be -100F at it’s worst and the wind blew at hurricane force speeds.  The Iditarod Dog Sled Race commemorates this relay every year.

    Two dogs, Togo and Balto, were made famous by this relay, along with a third named Blackie.  Togo was a female Husky who was the lead dog during the most dangerous part of the relay; Balto was a male who actually got to Nome.  Balto has a statue in New York in his honor and both dogs were preserved and are found at the Iditarod Museum in Wasilla (Togo) and The Cleveland Museum of Natural History (Balto).  This is actually a really neat story – you should read it.

    Aside from doing amazing things, Huskies look cool.  With their piercing blue eyes and wolfy features, they are some of the most striking dogs we call friends. 

    The Pit Bull

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    Yes, that’s right.  The Pit Bull.  Omigod…not a Pit Bull!  Not that vicious killer canine that can’t be trusted to do anything less than tear someone limb from limb!  Who knows what these dogs are capable of.

    I will grant you that Pit Bull the musician should be put down but if you think Pits are vicious killers, then you are blaming the wrong end of the leash.  Pit Bulls that are vicious have been made that way by bad people wanting to do bad things or irresponsible people that don’t understand the dog’s capabilities.

    Did you know that the Pit Bull was originally bred to kill rats in the middle ages to prevent the spread of bubonic plague?  It’s true…they were even called Nanny Dogs because they were so good around little kids.

    The irony is that Pit Bulls weren’t supposed to be aggressive towards people at all.  In the 19th and early 20th century when dog fighting was considered a normal part of society, the dogs weren’t actually supposed to kill each other.  If one dog got to laying into the other, the fight was stopped by the handler in the ring and the dogs weren’t supposed to show any aggression towards that person at all. 

    Pit Bulls have been bred for “gameness”, meaning that if there is a dog fight, they won’t quit.  Like, ever.  Once a Pit Bull clamps down, you’d better hope that it didn’t clamp onto something you really needed and this gameness in the breed must command the utmost respect.  It is true that Pit Bulls have a high prey drive and show aggressiveness towards other dogs – but this doesn’t make them a bad family dog.  In fact, they are quite suited to little kids (it goes without saying that this must always happen under supervision, but this is true with all dog breeds).

    I read that there hasn’t been one documented fatality involving a single spayed/neutered household Pit Bull and that 70% of the dog attack cases involve an un-neutered Pit Bull.  1 in 4 fatalites involve a dog that was chained at the time.

    Don’t hate.  Pit Bulls are awesome.  Did you know that four of Michael Vick’s Pit Bulls got turned into therapy dogs?  Think about that – a dog that was made to fight for all of it’s life to that point turned into a gentle dog that loved sick people all day, every day.  And yes, that Pit up there is one of Michael Vick’s rehabilitated dogs.

    That’s what Pit Bulls are capable of.

    The Mutt

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    Do you know why the Mutt is awesome?  Because the Mutt was really our original best friend and was technically the source of this whole list.  By the way, that dog up there is Smokey, an adoptable dog in Des Moines.

    Where do dogs really come from and how did all of our four-legged friends come to be as we know them?  There are currently three ancestors that scientists think our friends came from:  A smaller version of the Grey Wolf in Eurasia, the Woolly Wolf from Tibet and India, and the Desert Wolf in the Middle East.  Thanks to the wonders of Watson and Crick’s little project on genetics, we know that the modern domestic dog comes from one or a combination of these three species. 

    Fossil records from roughly 4,500 years ago lead us to believe that that common ancestor essentially grew five basic breeds which are the 5 oldest breeds and the source of our variety:  Greyhounds, Mastiffs, Pointers, Sheepdogs, and Wolf-type dogs.  The dogs on this list all stemmed from crossbreeding within those dogs in one form or another so, really, they’re all mutts. 

    Mutts are also awesome because, in general, they’re healthier than purebred dogs.  Studies have shown (apparently somebody studies this stuff) that Mutt dogs with litters produce more milk and have healthier puppies than purebred dogs.  The only thing that isn’t awesome about dogs is that they have to make their way to the Rainbow Bridge before we’re ready for them to.  Mutts tend to make that trip later than their purebred counterparts. My step-mom Rowena’s family had a mutt named King who lived to the ripe old age of 19 and was quite healthy the whole time (granted, King often times got T-bone steaks that had been forgotten in the Wilson Family Deep-Freezer for a year…)

      Mutts need your love too and there’s plenty of awesome to go with them.  And, really, these guys are all mutts…

    The Rottweiler

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    Did you know the Rottweiler was named after roofing shingles?  It’s true…when the Romans were marching through southern German many years ago, they built villas that used Red Tiles for the roofing.  They were also accompanied, by the way, with the Rottweilers distant Mastiff relatives.  After the Roman Empire was nothing more than shadows and dust, German farmers were excavating land and found those red tiles and decided to name the town that surrounded what they found:  “das rote wil” (the red tiles).  “Rote wil” turned into Rottweil and this town gave us the Rottweiler.

    The Rottweiler is also known as the Butcher’s Dog.  Rottweilers helped humans herd the cattle for butchering and then after the animals were sold, the money was placed in purses that were carried around the Rottweiler’s neck.  Since then, the Rottweiler has served as a police dog, with honor in the Military, and (of course) as a guard dog.  This unassailably awesome dog breed’s talents are not limited to it’s stereo-type, though.

    Rottweilers also serve as companion animals, seeing eye dogs, and therapy dogs.  There is a Rottweiler who tours Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa as a therapy dog for the sick kids who spend time there.  I’ve watched her work and watched her placidly lick the two and three year old hands and fingers that were just moments ago pulling her ears and tail.

    We have one Rottweiler named Newman and a Rottweiler/Greater Swiss Mountain Dog named Eli.  Both are members of the family and are our best friends.  They aren’t ferocious killing hounds from Hell, despite the best efforts of the movie, the Omen.

    They are a powerful and physically remarkable dog breed that have strength equal to their loyalty, and hearts as big as their imposing jaws.  There is some debate as to which domestic dog breed has the strongest bite…some say it’s the Mastiff, some say it’s the Dobermann…National Geographic says it’s the Rottweiler, but everybody agrees the Rott is in the Top 3.  It should go without saying that this capability must always be respected;  Newman and Eli can go through pork bones like butter.

    But they also have cold, wet, black noses that snuffle around in your blanket on lazy Saturday Mornings when they deem it’s time to get up and play.  They have soft ears that need to be scratched and they have dark brown eyes that show a lot of love. 

    A Rottweiler makes a pretty awesome best friend.  This, I am sure of.

     

  10. Top 10 Transcendent Sports Moments

    Do you know what’s awesome?  Sports.  Yes they are, but I get why people think they aren’t sometimes.  Sports often times bring out the worst in us…and we’ve probably seen too much of that recently.

    Here’s the thing - sporting events have caused more great conversations and brought more friends together than maybe people realize.  I find myself dating certain events in my life based on the sporting event that was going on at that time and I know that getting together with friends and family is made easier when you say “hey, come over and watch (insert sporting event here)”.

    By the way, I should point out that my list today will having some massively glaring omissions on it so I should explain it quickly…I banned the use of the internet to help me come up with the events/moments, but did use the internet to make sure the facts about the stories were correct.  So because I wasn’t allowed to use the internet to remember the events, I know I missed a bunch.  The Olympics themselves could have a Top 10 list on this subject so, believe me, I know this isn’t all encompassing.

    I also limited my list to moments that I actually remember – remembered where I was and what I was doing and how I felt.  When I first started writing this, the “Best of the Rest” segment was initially supposed to be moments that I wasn’t alive for and I quickly realized that this was going to be a 250,000 word document and so I didn’t do a “Best of the Rest” today.

     I get it…the fascination and obsession with winning causes our sports stars and subsequent heroes to do things they shouldn’t.  It also causes us as fans to ignore our favorite sports players’ misdeeds and transgressions; maybe we want to win or maybe we just want to believe that heroes are infallible when, of course, they are not.

    I get it…there are Penn State Scandals and Tour de France Scandals and steroid scandals and innumerable Baby-Daddys not paying child support, and even murder scandals.  But even with these terrible things happening, there are moments in sports that remind us that sports are worth having, not just because we love to win but because of something more: 

    Sometimes sports don’t just remind us of what we can be…they show us what we should be.

    Each one of these moments is important in it’s own way, important to the country and important to me, so…let’s do this thing!

    Jon’s Top 10 Transcendent Sports Moments

    #10.  Overcoming Obstacles - Jim Abbott Throws a No-Hitter

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    The first thing that you might notice about Jim Abbott is that his glove is held somewhat oddly in the photo.  This is because he has one hand.

    Jim Abbott was born with one hand, went on to play baseball at The University of Michigan and in 1993, Jim Abbott pitched a no-hitter for the New York Yankees at the major league level against the Cleveland Indians.  The Indians roster included Albert Belle, Sandy Alomar Jr., Jim Thome and Kenny Lofton, so this wasn’t an insignificant team Abbott was throwing against.  I assume people know what a no-hitter is but, just in case, a no hitter is when a statistical hit is not recorded in a game.  A hit that is ruled an error would still result in an official no-hitter.  If, by the way, nobody ever reaches base (no hits, no walks, etc.) it is referred to as a perfect game.

    A no-hitter is certainly a hard thing to do; since 1875 there have only been 279 of them thrown in the Major Leagues.  The New York Mets finally got around to throwing one for the first time in 2011, after 50 years in existence.  Abbott is certainly the only one to do it with one hand.  What is particularly interesting about Abbott is the way in which he fielded balls.  After throwing the pitch, he would quickly slip his left hand into his glove and could field pretty much anything.  Teams would try to bunt to take advantage of his hand, but it didn’t work. 

    If you are wondering how he did at bat, he spent the majority of his career in the American League, and as such, the designated hitter would hit for him.  But, I did do a little internet research to see if he ever hit professionally, and he officially recorded a triple in a spring game.  The greatest closer of all-time Mariano Rivera (sorry, that one isn’t open to debate any more) claims to have witnessed him hitting home runs in practice.  How that works, I have no idea and I’m afraid I couldn’t find a clip of it, but if Rivera says it, I believe him.

    There are many athletes who overcome physical handicaps to excel at their sports.  There are one and no-legged wrestlers (Anthony Robles winning the NCAA championships immediately springs to mind), certainly there are para-olympic athletes who would wipe the floor with all of us.  When I thought about overcoming an obstacle, this was the first one I thought of and when I thought of one moment, it was his last out of that game.

    Here’s the clip – it’s only 36 seconds long, so you should probably watch it.

    http://wapc.mlb.com/play/?content_id=2685734

    #9.  Parenting - Derek Redmond’s Dad Helps His Son Across the Finish Line

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    Derek Redmond was a sprinter for Great Britain during the late 80’s and early 90’s.  He ran 400’s and ran them well, beating a much favored American 4x400 team in the 1991 World Championships.  Unfortunately, though, his career in sports was constantly plagued with injuries and by the time the Summer Olympics in Barcelona had rolled around in 1992, he had gone through 8 different operations on his body (and I have to think that operations then weren’t nearly as sophisticated or noninvasive as they are now, as laparoscopy was still in its infancy).

    But he made it to the Olympics and was slated to represent his country in the 400m and the 4x400m relay.  He was expected to win a medal that year but during his individual 400m semifinal, at about 100 or 150 meters, he dropped to the track like he’d been shot in the leg.

    It turned out that Derek Redmond had torn his hamstring and had effectively ended his career as a professional athlete in that moment.  As athletes painfully do sometimes, of course he refused to accept it and got up and, in his own words, try and run down the other competitors.  But this is not why the moment is remembered…

    Derek Redmond’s dad came down from the stands and helped his son finish the last quarter of the race, resulting in the iconic image above.  Interestingly, his dad went down to the track to try and stop his son from hurting himself further, but the younger Redmond defiantly refused to be carried off the track, so they finished the race together.  As the story is told by Derek, the Olympic track officials tried to get the pair off the track and the Elder Redmond’s defiance appeared to match his son’s as Derek described the exchange between his dad and the track officials as, well, less-than-cordial:  “I’d never heard my dad using four-letter words,” Derek said.  “I learned a few new ones.”

    When asked about his ordeal later, Derek Redmond said this:  “Everthing I had worked for was finished.  I hated everybody.  I hated the world.  I hated hamstrings.  I hated it all.  I felt so bitter that I was injured again.  I told myself I had to finish.  I kept hopping round.  Then, with 100 meters to go, I felt a hand on my shoulder.  It was my old man.”

    Here is the clip:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LacNKW8EXzA

    #8.  Awareness – Magic Johnson Announces He is HIV Positive.

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    I remember this press conference quite vividly.  I came home from school one November afternoon in 1991 (I’m pretty sure it was November…I didn’t research this one) and turned on ESPN.  Magic Johnson was on TV and told the whole world he was HIV positive.

    This moment was transcendent because up to that point, HIV was a gay disease or a disease of hemophiliacs like Ryan White who wasn’t allowed to go to Elementary School because he had AIDS.  I remember that too, and remember asking my Mom what AIDS was.  To be honest, looking back, there was so much misinformation, it seemed like nobody really knew.

    But then Magic Johnson made his announcement and we (by we, I mean my elementary school class), had to reevaluate what AIDS was.  Now it wasn’t just a gay disease, and it wasn’t just something that happened to people you’d never heard of.  Everybody loved basketball and everybody loved watching Magic Johnson.  I treasured his basketball cards and even saved my paper route money to buy a Magic Johnson jersey (which I still have) (which doesn’t fit) at Sports Live in North Grand Mall.

    I suspect this reevaluation was done by more people than just Roosevelt Elementary’s 6th Grade Elementary School class.  I think that when a straight sports hero told the world he had HIV, the country as a whole reevaluated their own chances of getting HIV, and reevaluated whether or not they could accept a person with HIV in their own lives.  I think this ultimately would have happened, but I think it happened much more quickly and much more easily because Magic Johnson held that press conference. 

    And that is transcendent.

    What’s interesting, I think, is that upon re-watching this, it turned out that Magic Johnson turned out to be much more prophetic than anybody imagined he would be back in 1991.  He was supposed to be a dead man because back then, HIV was a death sentence.  Nobody really believed at the time that he was going to actually live to see any of the stuff he talked about.  Nobody thought he’d come back to the league, become a basketball announcer, own part of the Dodgers, or see his 35th birthday.

    But he did.  Here is the clip:

    http://abcnews.go.com/Health/video/magic-johnsons-hiv-announcement-nov-7-1991-17622512

    #7.  Comebacks – Steve Gleason Blocks a Punt

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    We all remember Hurricane Katrina.  We remember what it did to the city of New Orleans.  What I remember, most vividly is Steve Gleason’s blocked punt.

    After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, there was real question if the Saints would stay in New Orleans.  They had spent the remainder of 2005 playing at LSU’s Tiger stadium, the Superdome was in severe disrepair, and the owner was considering cutting his losses and moving the team to San Antonio (where the Saints had played some other games). 

    But, they stayed.  And the Superdome reopened.  And people tried to forget the horrible things that happened in the Superdome during Katrina, tried to forget that the entire lower 9th Ward neighborhood was gone, and tried to forget that all these things had happened.  So, on a warm September night the Superdome reopened, the Saints found themselves back at home, and the Atlanta Falcons came calling.

     Maybe, for the city of New Orleans, memories of the Superdome were still horrible, but that night it looked like everybody was loving life.  The stadium was alive with Black and Gold and Jazz, people were dancing in the stands and it appeared that sports was doing exactly what it should – giving people a break from real-life.  The stands were raucous enough and, if I remember right , Michael Vick and the Atlanta offense took the ball first, sputtered early and went 3 and out and lined up for a punt. 

    And then Steve Gleason blocked it and I have never heard a stadium on TV sound like the Superdome did in that moment. 

    I can’t even imagine what it sounded like in real-life.  The crowd was deafening and didn’t let up all game but when Gleason blocked that punt, I’ve never heard a crowd at any sporting event before or since sound like that.  I don’t know how loud a hurricane is but it could not have POSSIBLY been louder than the Saints crowd was after that punt-block.  When you watch the clip below, you can actually hear where ESPN had to dampen the sound from the crowd about 15 seconds after Gleason blocked the kick.  The announcers of the game had the good sense to shut up and take it all in while the cameras panned across deliriously, deliciously berserk group of Saints fans. 

    The Saints won, of course, and even made it all the way to the NFC championship game that year.  A year later, they would win the Super Bowl and complete one of the most improbable comebacks in sports.  Instead of the Saints providing a break from real-life, it almost seemed like the Saints were real-life.  Gleason’s punt block would become a symbol for the Crescent City and he would become a local (and even a national hero).

    Unfortunately, this story doesn’t have the happiest ending.  Steve Gleason was tragically diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in 2010, and he continues to battle it today.  But I’ll remember that play and the way that stadium sounded, forever.

    Here is the clip:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIGgBhNtOP4

    #6.  Forgiveness – Ed Thomas’ Family Forgives.

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    For those who don’t know, Ed Thomas was a football coach at a small Iowa High School called Aplington-Parkersburg (AP).  About a year prior, Parkersburg was devastated by an F5 tornado that ripped through the town, killed 4 people, wounded hundreds, and affected everybody.  The town came together (as small towns do) and healed it’s self…the healing was aided by Ed Thomas and Fighting AP Falcons.  Ed Thomas managed to coach up five people who would find themselves playing in the NFL, which is pretty amazing, given that AP is a 1A Iowa High School.

    One July morning, a mentally disturbed man named Mark Becker who was a former player of Ed Thomas walked into the weight room where Thomas was conducting a weight training session and shot him.  Ed Thomas died that day and tore open a new wound in a town that was still trying to heal.  Disbelief and sadness quickly turned into anger and I remember the Facebook world quickly lighting up with posts about what should happen to Mark Becker.

    But then something happened that was not expected.   I didn’t expect it anyways, but it was demonstrative of people who actually live up to what they preach.  Ed Thomas’ family very publically and very genuinely forgave the Becker Family.  I suppose, looking back, it shouldn’t have been that surprising, given the closeness of the community.  Mark Becker’s younger brother Scott was actually a senior on the football team that year.  The transcendent sports moment, to me, was when Aplington-Parkersburg played Dike-New Hartford on a very pleasant August evening, surrounded by corn and soybean fields in Parkersburg, Iowa, on the playing field that had been dubbed “The Sacred Acre”. 

    ESPN even showed up to cover the game that looked like any small town in Iowa.  I remember Chris SpeiIman called that game, who must have been battling his own sense of tragedy at the time; he would lose his wife to breast cancer three months after the broadcast.  That night, though, Speilman really got into it.  As small towns in Iowa often do, AP ran a version of a single wing/wishbone offense and I remember Speilman being particuarly excited to break it down and talk about it on air.  I remember the camera focused on them in the crowd, cheering for the game as if nothing had ever happened and that it was another Friday night in small town Iowa.

    There wasn’t animosity between the two families and there wasn’t call for more violence towards Mark Becker, at least not from the family of the man who died.  There was nothing but grace, humility, and class.  Ed Thomas’ Family and Mark Becker’s family sat and cheered together and showed all of us what it is to forgive.  One can only hope that some people paid attention.

    I don’t have a clip of the game, but maybe that’s okay.  It’s in my head good enough.  Here is a story that ESPN ran on this and, although it’s kind of long (about 14 minutes) it’s worth a look.

    http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=5205716

    #5.  Heroes – Jack Hoffman Scores a Touchdown

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    This is the most recent of my transcendent sports moments and, as such, it likely doesn’t need a whole lot of explanation.  The advent of YouTube manages to tell the story for me, and if you haven’t seen this video yet, you need to.  If this doesn’t make you like what sports can do for people, then you are beyond saving.

    A few editorial comments about The Cornhuskers and Jack Hoffman’s execution of the play…

    #1.  Taylor Martinez (the Nebraska quarterback) does a masterful job of using a hard count here to try and draw the defense offsides.  Jack does not flinch, which would have resulted in a 5 yard penalty.

    #2.  Good play by play from the announcers.  Well called, good breakdown of the game’s action and analysis of the play’s strategy.

    #3.  Good burst of speed by Jack in the open field.  After the play (clearly designed as a counter-trap as evidenced by Jack’s use of misdirection to fool the defense) begins to develop, Jack’s patience and use of his lead blocker leads to open field for Jack around the thirty yard line, and from there, instinct takes over.

    It is interesting because the Cornhuskers are Jack’s heroes and Jack is the Cornhusker Hero.  And awesome.

    Here is the clip, if you happen to be one of the 3 people in America who didn’t see it J:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Jmisv1Spck

    #4.  Straight Up Guts – The Magnificent Seven Win the All-Around Gold

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    I realized, as I was making this list, there’s a lot of dudes on here.  Like, kind of all dudes.   And I KNOW there are some transcendent sports moments provided by women in sports and really didn’t want to miss any. 

    The Magnificent Seven’s efforts in the 1996 Olympic Games is the one that sticks in my head and remains there for several reasons.  But first…a little background.

    In 1996, the US Women’s Gymnastics Team won the All-Around Gold medal in Team Gymnastics.  This was the first time this had ever happened  for our girls and the first time since 1952 that a team not from the USSR (remember them?) or Romania had done it (I counted 1992’s Unified Team – remember that? – as essentially the USSR, as the team’s make up and coaching was essentially USSR, even if the politics were not).

    The Magnificent Seven were:  Shannon Miller, Dominique Dawes, Dominique Moceanu, Jaycie Phillips, Amy Chow, Amanda Borden, and Kerri Strug.  Shannon Miller was the highest scoring member of that team, and Amy Chow did the hardest routines.  Amanda Borden was the captain, and Dominique Dawes (and this is often forgotten) was the first black woman to win a medal in women’s gymnastics.  Sixteen years later, Gabby Douglas would become the first black woman to win an individual gold.  Other than Kerri Strug’s vault, the thing I remember most is Dominique Moceanu straight up working the crowd when she did her floor routine to “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”.  The Atlanta crowd got so into it that it drew criticism from the other gymnasts who were trying to concentrate while Moceanu was essentially getting the loudest cheers anybody has ever gotten on a floor routine.

    What everybody will remember from this Olympics, though, is Kerri Strug’s Vault.  Mostly because it is (pardon the expression), ballsy as hell.  Everybody reading this has sprained an ankle at one time or another and knows how much it hurts, but likely nobody has sprained it as badly as Kerri Strug did and I KNOW nobody sprained one, and then sprinted towards a vault as fast as they could, jumped on a vault, flipped over a pommel horse about 8 times, and then landed without face-planting, falling, or otherwise collapsing in a pool of tears on ONE FRIGGING FOOT.  Never mind that she did it under tremendous mental pressure, because Moceanu had fallen on the previous two vaults and that the hopes of an all-around team gold now  rest squarely on her shoulders and extremely damaged ankle.

    We’ve all seen athletes play hurt, but we never saw an athlete do quite this.  At least I never did.   And as it turns out, if you didn’t know, gymnasts have some of the most horrific injuries, more volume of injuries, and generally have to play hurt more than just about any other sport, rugby, football, and wrestling included.  It’s maybe only surpassed by bullriding (seriously).

    Looking back, I think this moment had more to do with the advancement of women’s sports than maybe people realized at the time, because nobody realized it.  What people did recognize is that our girls, who captured the attention and hearts of the country, weren’t just America’s Sweethearts, they were also a bunch of badasses. 

    Women and men play the same sports and, generally, men’s sports garner more attention.  Not in gymnastics, not after this.  Did we even have a men’s gymnastics team that year?  Probably.  Whatever.  Who cares, because the women’s team was on.  People shut off baseball to watch our girls.  People talked about our girls around the water cooler at work.  If social media had existed at the time, our girls would have lit it up.  The Magnificent Seven (at least the way I remembered it) became the highlight of the 1996 Olympics, regardless of Gender.  In fact, Kerri Strug’s vault turned into an Olympic Moment that outshines nearly all other Olympic performances, regardless of gender. 

    This clip is transcendent because everybody recognized that it’s gutsy-ass performance and gender was an afterthought, if even thought of at all.  There’s a little extra commentary in there – I think Bela Karyoli is funny, so I chose this clip, even though it’s a little stylized.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZRYiOa5lM8

     

    #3.  Inspiration – Rick and Dick Hoyt Decide to Run One More

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    If you don’t know who Rick and Dick Hoyt are, you probably should.  This is a great story.

    In 1962, Dick and Judy Hoyt had a baby named Rick.  Unfortunately, oxygen deprivation lead to cerebal palsy in Rick and he would grow up a quadrapeligic.  I didn’t know certain aspects of this story until I looked it up for this list and it’s pretty cool.  Dick and Judy observed that their son was more astute than people gave him credit for and fought for an education, given to other kids without a second thought. 

    In 1972 a group of engineers at Tuft’s University put together a computer for Rick that allowed him to communicate using a cursor prompted by head nods.  Rick’s first “spoken” words were “Go, Bruins”, which gives one pause, because if Rick liked all Boston teams as much as his Bruins, he’d be in for several decades of disappointment (although, from 2000 and on, all four major Boston sports teams, the Celtics, Patriots, Bruins, and Red Sox have won a league championship, so Rick’s loyalty paid off).

    Anyways…back to Rick and Dick.

    In 1977, Rick told his dad that he wanted to participate in a 5 mile benefit run for a lacrosse player who had gotten paralyzed and Dick agreed to push him.  As Rick purportedly told his dad after the run, “Dad, when I run, I feel like I’m not handicapped”.

    My internet research didn’t quite pan this out, but I thought I remembered seeing an interview wherein Dick said that he was in pretty bad physical condition at the time of their first race and Rick’s request to run in more races saved his life too by promoting his own physical fitness.

    Since that 5 mile benefit run, Rick and Dick Hoyt have participated in over one thousand races, some of which were even IronMan Triathalons (Dick pulls Rick in a little boat as he swims).  They serve as an inspiration to just about everybody who hears their story.

    Being from Boston, they are no strangers to the Boston Marathon having run it 31 times.  Rick, by the way, is now 51 years old and his father is 73 meaning that a 73 year old man is routinely running marathons while pushing his son, and begs the question “what did you do for your health today?”  They had originally planned on Boston’s 2013 Marathon to be their last race as a team.  They didn’t finish to 2013 Boston Marathon, because they were pulled off the course with 1 mile to go.  I’m sure you can remember why.

    Rick and Dick decided that their last race as a team would not be defined by the events of Boston, 2013.  They decided to take one more crack at it in 2014 as a 74 year old and a 52 year old.   Because people still need inspiration and demonstration that all the bad in the world can be outshined by all the good.  

    Here is a brief snippet of their story:

    http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=9487179

     

    #2.  Determination – Jim Valvano’s 1993 ESPY Speech.

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    Many people know the Jim Valvano story.  For those who don’t, Jim Valvano was a very well-liked college basketball coach at North Carolina State in the early 80’s.  In 1983, his over-matched and under-dogged NC State Wolfpack met the mighty Houston Cougars in the 1983 NCAA National Championship game.  The Cougars boasted future NBA Hall of Famers Clide Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwan and were known affectionately as “Phi Slama Jama.”  Incidentally, the Cougars were quite important to college basketball in their own right, and their run in the ’83 Tournament and subsequent championship game with NC State established March Madness as must-see-TV.

    I’m sure you can guess what happened.  The heavily favored Phi Slama Jama Cougars were ousted by the NC State Wolfpack, and certainly the iconic image from that game is Jim Valvano running across the court, wildly looking for somebody to hug.

    But ten years later, Jim Valvano was diagnosed with cancer at age 46.  The cancer had metastasized to his spine and ribs and everywhere and, by the time Jim Valvano gave his famous ESPY speech, he was living on borrowed time.

    The ESPYs were conceived as ESPNs answer to the Oscars, I suppose.  It’s an awards show for people who have been chasing trophies their whole lives, but whatever.  It’s fun to watch and makes you remember the great sports moments.  But in April of 1993 (I was a freshman in High School), at the inaugural ESPY awards, a magical thing happened:  Jim Valvano gave a speech about never giving up.

    During his speech, Valvano’s fire, passion, and good humor belied how much pain he was actually in.  ESPN executive John Lack recalled the following: 

    We flew up up to New York—he was living in North Carolina at the time—and he calls me from the hotel. He says, “I can’t make it on the air. I’m too sick. I’m throwing up.” I said, “I’ll come and get you.” He said, No. Johnny, I can’t do it. You’ve got to fill in for me.” I said, “Jimmy, I ain’t filling in for you, baby. I’m coming to get you.” When I got to the room, he was still saying he couldn’t do it, but I just wouldn’t listen. He said he couldn’t even tie his tie, so I tied it. Then I told him we were going. We wound up carrying him into the cab. When we got to Radio City, he saw the crowd and he began to gain his strength.

    I remember this speech vividly.  I remember thinking prior to the speech that people could come back from cancer but remember Mr. Van Slyke telling us at the end of 8th Grade that Jim Valvano would not (at that point, the only person I ever knew who’d had cancer was a kid in my class who had a childhood leukemia and had recovered from it quite nicely).  Since 1993, I’ve learned quite a bit about cancer but learned that night that a sense of humor was one of the most important things you can never lose. 

    Jim Valvano would die 10 weeks after giving his speech but in giving it, provided a moment for people to rally behind and a cause to help people.  In his speech, which was supposed to be 3 minutes, but lasted 10, he got the biggest laugh of the night when he said:

    “And that screen is flashing up there, 30 seconds, like I care about that screen right now, huh?  I’ve got tumors all over my body and I’m worried about some guy in the back going ’30 seconds’…You got a lot, hey va fa napoli, buddy. You got a lot.”

    Va fa napoli means, in Italian, “Go to Naples” which is supposed to be a slightly more polite way of saying “Go to Hell.”  I can only assume that “You got a lot” is probably short for “you got a lot of balls to try and get me off stage” (of course I’m paraphrasing…)

    He also announced the start of The V Foundation for Cancer Research.  To date, they have raised and given away more than $100,000,000 (that would be eight zeros and no decimal points that you’re looking at) for cancer research.  We donate to the V Foundation every year and, if you want to know something fun to do, next year during March Madness, get your office pool to throw in half the pot to the Jimmy V Foundation.  It’s a good thing.

    Here’s the clip of the speech – this is the ESPN clip which I chose instead of the YouTube Clip because the quality is better, you see some other sports figures dealing with cancer, and maybe you’ll remember the number to donate at the bottom of the screen.

    http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=8684465

     

    #1.  Peace – The Ivory Coast Elephants Help Stop a War

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    This part of the story of the Ivory Coast and it’s a complicated one with a relatively simple solution - just lay down your guns and have fun.

    In 2002, the Ivory Coast went to war with its self.  The reasons for this war, as they are with most wars, were complicated, historical, and ultimately not justification for killing people.  The tension involved the Burkinabe ethnic group in the northern regions of the country and the government and Ivory Coast nationals in the southern part of the country.  (I’m very badly simplifying this).

    Fighting and violence continued to run rampant in the country until The Elephants (The Ivory Coasts’ national soccer team) narrowly edged out Cameroon through a victory over another embattled country – the Sudan – to qualify for the 2006 World Cup of Football (Soccer).  Following this victory for the country, the Elephants’ premier striker, Didier Drogba made the following empassioned plea that you can see in the clip that follows at the bottom.

    Peace talks followed and although the war did not officially end, people stopped shooting each other and listened.  Drogba’s speech became a fulcrum that the peace process would use to tip the balance away from war.  In 2007, Drogba convinced the president of the nation to hold a qualification match for the African Nations Cup in the Rebel controlled northern part of the country.  The two warring sides did not fight in the stands, instead opting to sing the Ivory Coast National Anthem together.  Following that game, more peace talks followed along with disarmament and abandoning of military outposts.   And peace pushed forward, faster than it would have without the national team’s inspiration.

    The story is not without its disappointment.  If peace was a tapestry, ethnic tension seems to be the most difficult stain to remove.  In 2010, the same tensions that Drogba and the rest of the Ivory Coast Elephants worked to ease, flared back up and a second civil war ensued.  Since then, the violence has calmed back down with the help of international groups and international aid, but it would be ignorant to say that the Elephants did not play a part in this.

    Forgive the quality – this was the only clip I could find of Drogba’s initial effort.  Since that, he has continued the push for peace, using his status as a national hero and sports star to do so.  Since the 2010 violence, Drogba was appointed to a peace commission in the Ivory Coast to further halt the violence.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kb_sSVYQPXA

    Sports can bring out the worst in us, but it can bring out the very best too.  The spectrum of capacity that humanity holds always amazes me, from the good people can possess to the evil we seem incessantly capable of.  I am not sure how to process a lot of what my species does to itself, but I believe that if people stop killing each other, even if only to watch a game, then it is a good thing. 

    And that, along with all these others, are some of the reasons I love sports.

     

  11. Top 10 Funniest Movie Scenes!

    Do you know what’s awesome?  Laughing so hard your face hurts.  Movies help us accomplish this humor-induced bliss, have for a very long time, and so it is time for a Top 10 List of the Funniest Movie Scenes of All-Time.

    But what makes a great movie scene?  Don’t get me wrong, there are potentially funnier moments in movies out there, and this isn’t the list of the funniest movies of all time (you’ll notice that Anchor Man, Animal House, Blazing Saddles, and Airplane are notably and tragically absent from the list), but what’s needed to make this list is a scene with very few cuts from the action. 

    The scene needs to be a notably memorable part of the movie and the movie it’s self must be a very funny movie.  The scene has to encapsulate the tenor of the movie and has to have made me laugh out loud at the time, and still must make me giggle today.  I had kicked around the idea of imbedding the clip in the post, but felt that if you really want to see it, you should go watch the entire movie.  You’ll be happy they did because these are all very funny and should improve your day.  So, as always, lets start with…

    The Best of the Rest!

    Frank the Tank Gets Tranqed – “Old School” (Will Ferrell, Sean William Scott)

    This scene damn near made the Top 10 list.  Stiffler with a Mullet (remember) and his interaction with the petting zoo donkey makes you laugh and Frank shooting himself in the neck with a tranquilizer dart makes you laugh harder.  Nice Cameo by Stiffler, but this one just missed the list in favor of another “Old School Moment” below…

    Fletch Inspects the Airplane  – “Fletch” (Chevy Chase)

    Many people not named Chad Baumler and Jason Burky might not remember this one.  This was a scene in a very funny movie that we watched over and over and over again our freshman year in college.  Fletch was a movie about an investigative reporter played by Chevy Chase and the height of his comedic powers and was probably his best role. 

    In the scene (and pretty much the whole movie), Fletch BSes his way through everything and gets the information he needs.  Tell people you need 30 weight ball bearings and some gauze pads and act condescendingly to them and you’ll likely get away with whatever you were trying to do…ultimately, though, the scene wasn’t memorable enough to earn a spot on my list.

    I’m Funny How?  Like a Clown? – “Goodfellas”  (Joe Pesci, Ray Liotta)

    This one is a very funny scene in an unfunny movie which is why it missed the Top Ten list but is definitely worth mentioning in the Best of the Rest because it’s so often quoted and you know exactly what somebody is about to follow up with when they stare at you angrily and ask “I’m funny how?”

    Interestingly, this scene was entirely improvised by Pesci and Liotta and the rest of the actors watching the scene didn’t know what was coming per Martin Scorsese’s direction.  Because the scene was funny (funny how?) and because it was a masterful bit of directing in a very quality flick, it needs mention and recognition.

    John Beckwith and Chaz Reinhold Discuss Meatloaf – “Wedding Crashers” (Will Ferrell, Owen Wilson)

    I feel this was Will Ferrell’s best Cameo of all-time.  Great entrance (walking down the stairs in his bathrobe, face obscured by the lighting) and great signature lines.  You didn’t know Will Farrell was coming because they didn’t ruin his cameo in the previews and Will Farrell just did his thing fabulously.  The whole movie was really funny and actually the most recent of any that have come out. 

    Incidentally, I tried to come up with one seminal scene from “The Hangover” or “Bridesmaids” in the interest of including relatively recent movies…if you all come up with one, please leave a comment.

    Every Other Monty Python Scene – “Monty Python” (John Cleese, Eric Idle, Graham Chapman, et al.)

    Realistically, we should do a Top 10 Monty Python Scenes because those movies, collectively, made me laugh harder than any other set of movies ever.  The boys of Monty Python deserve extra credit because the movies themselves required no special effects (catapulting a giant wooden badger aside), or horsing around with cutting clips, relying only on hilarious writing and even better delivery. 

    “Bring Out Your Dead”, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”, “The Holy Grail Wedding”,  and I could go on for a while all deserved a place on this list and Monty Python and the Holy Grail is probably the funniest movie, start to finish, that I’ve ever seen.

    It probably sounds like an odd comparison, but Monty Python reminds me of when musical artists had to put out an entire album, rather than just one song on iTunes.  They relied on what is principally funny, using cleverness and silliness and with just a touch of shock comedy at exactly the right times to make you laugh so hard your sides hurt.  It wasn’t always raunchy or scatological, but they weren’t above some of that either…but it was just genuinely, consistently funny stuff.

    But we needed some other stuff on the list, so Monty Python only got one spot below.  However, it needs to be mentioned that Monty Python was and remains a comedy standard for all time.

    Let’s do this thing!

    Top 10 Funniest Movie Scenes of All Time

    #10.  Akeem and Semmi Attend a Fundraiser – “Coming To America” (Arsenio Hall, Eddie Murphy)

    I thought long and hard about which scene to include – either this one or the barbershop scene (look close and you’ll see a very young Cuba Gooding Jr. show up there) and eventually decided on this one because Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall play more characters, though I think the dialogue is probably funnier in the barbershop scene.

    But the Barbershop Scene doesn’t have Jackson Height’s own Mr Randy Watson!  Randy Watson! paired with his band “Sexual Chocolate”, nor does it have Reverend Brown, the overacting and thoroughly hilarious Baptist Reverend played by Arsenio Hall.  Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall play a total of 6 characters in that scene (Akeem, Clarence the Barber, Randy Watson; Semmi, Morris the Barbershop Patron, Reverend Brown) and this is the kind of thing that just isn’t done well any more.  The only one that’s missing is Eddie Murphy as Saul, the old Jewish Barbershop Patron, but oh well.

    The movie came out in 1988, and remains funny 25 years later, so you should go see it if you haven’t.  You’ll see a young Samuel L. Jackson show up, a young Eriq LaSalle (later made more famous by the TV show ER) and James Earl Jones killing it as King Jaffe Joffer.  Too funny.

    #9.  Brody Goes on Truth or Date – “Mallrats” (Jeremy London, Jason Lee, Michael Rooker)

    Kevin Smith movies are funny.  This is the funniest scene, in totality of any Kevin Smith Movie.  It has it all.  It has Michael Rooker as Mr. Svenning, suffering the effects of the Stink Palmed Chocolate Pretzels.  It has Jay and Silent Bob, finally seeing their superhero-inspired plan come to fruition, aided by the Force and inability to see the Magic Eye Poster.  It has a very young Ben Affleck get arrested.

    And it has Jason Lee as Brody, wielding sarcasm as Thor wielded his Hammer…as King Arthur wielded Excalibur…as Roy Hobbs wielded Wonderboy.  It is Jason Lee playing the role he was born to play and delivering lines with perfect timing and inflection.  Great writing, great directing, great comedy. 

    Win for Kevin Smith.  I feel, worthy of this list.

    #8.  Frank the Tank Goes Streaking – “Old School” (Will Ferrell, Snoop Dogg, Warren G)

    If you must take issue with this one, please do so on a technicality.   There’s an awful lot of cutting to call this a proper “scene” but I couldn’t leave it off.  My perception of this scene essentially starts out with Frank detailing his “pretty big Saturday” that included Home Depot and maybe even Bed Bath and Beyond if there was enough time, and finishes with his wife picks him up on the road.   Again, I can certainly entertain the criticism that this isn’t a true “scene” because there’s an awful lot of cutting buuuut…just couldn’t leave it off.

    The Penultimate Moment of the Movie is his implorement that everybody go streaking which I can only hope increased the level of streaking on College Campuses all across the country because that’s very funny when that happens.  Aside from a streaking route that took Frank through the Quad and into the Gymnasium, it also included the oft quoted “It’s so good when it hits your lips” and invitation to Snoop a Loop and Warren G to bring his green hat. 

    The scene finishes with Will Ferrell backing his bare ass into his wife’s sport crossover vehicle and inquiring as to whether or not KFC is still open which, for some reason, was a deliciously hilarious closer to the scene.  Frank the Tank turned into a household name (if your household was on a college campus) and “Old School” turned into one of the funniest movies of all-time.

    #7.   Clark Grizwold Turns on the Christmas Lights – “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quaid)

    “Christmas Vacation” was Chevy Chase’s last truly hilarious movie and it gets played at our house every Christmas.  There are many scenes that could be on this list and I thought about Clark’s Rants but this one pretty much had it all and encapsulated Clark’s trials and tribulations.  Of course the lights wouldn’t go on, but when they finally did, Todd and Margo fell down the stairs, Clark’s father-in-law was appropriately wet-blanket-ish (“The little lights aren’t twinkling Clark.” “I know Art and thanks for noticing.”) and who would show up to end the scene? 

    None other than Cousin Eddie and Katheryn, Rrrrrocky (“He’s got a lip-fungus that ain’t been identified yet”) and Ruby Sue who’s eyes weren’t crossed any more.  Oh, and their pride and joy, Snots the Rottweiler (“You ain’t never seen a set on a dog like this one, Clark”).

    By the time the scene ends, Margo (played by a pre-Seinfeld Julia Louise Dryfuss) is sobbing about her carpet and Clark is left outside with Snots, with a house covered in 50,000 Italian Twinkle Lights, setting the standard for exterior illumination and completing the finest scene Chevy Chase ever performed.

    #6.  Chunk’s Hand Almost Goes Into a Blender – “The Goonies” (Jeff Cohen, Anne Ramsey, and a very young Robert Davi and Joe Pantoliano)

    This is not only a Top 10 Funny scene, but it is *unarguably* the greatest child acting performance of All-Time.  Chunk (Jeff Cohen) straight up kills it here when he spills “everything”, culminating in the time he mixed up a bunch of fake puke and…and…made a noise like…huhhhgh…huggggghhh…huuuuuuugggggh.

    Don’t forget that he stole his uncle Morris’ toupee so he could glue it to his face to play Moses in the Hebrew Pageant and that he pushed his sister Aidee down the stairs and he blamed it on the dog.  What’s really interesting about this scene is that the Fratelli’s are easily the most accomplished actors and they really don’t do a damn thing here.  It’s all Cohen, absolutely slaying me each damn time I see the damn scene.

    By the way, Cohen was hysterical throughout the whole movie.  When he accidentally spills his milkshake all over himself during the police chase and ruefully yells, “Aw Shit!”, at 6 years old, I wasn’t sure if kids were allowed to say that, but it got exponentially funnier as I got older.

    For many people my age, “The Goonies” was one of the first movies we saw, that we still love and still make us laugh out loud today.  In the pantheon of great movies that Children of the 70’s and 80’s remember, the Goonies certainly isn’t overlooked, but it might not be the first one you think of.  Oddly, when I was putting together this list, Chunk’s hand in the blender was the last scene I came up with – I’m not sure how in the world I missed it before. 

    God that was funny.

    #5.  Frank Drebin Sings the National Anthem – “The Naked Gun” (Leslie Neilson)

    This movie came out in 1988 and was generally hilarious.  For those who don’t remember, it starred Leslie Neilson as Frank Drebin, a police cop who’s general sense of loyalty caused him to investigate the attempted murder of his partner Nordberg played by O.J. Simpson before he became a punchline for all the wrong reasons. 

    In the scene, Frank Drebin takes over as Enrico Pellatzio and butchers the National Anthem, after which he goes undercover as an umpire and saves the Queen of England by tackling Reggie Jackson.  All in all, it’s a hell of a scene.  Personally, I think the funniest part is when Frank realizes the cops are coming for him (he’s not supposed to be there) and distractedly sings “Gave proof…through the night…that we…still…had…a…flag.”

    Now that people actually butcher the National Anthem on a regular basis (I’m looking at you, Canadian Chick during the NHL playoffs…), I’m not sure if this makes it less funny or more funny.  But what is certain is that movie as a whole is funny as hell.

    #4.  Rabbit and Ramethorn Pull Over Stoners – “Super Troopers” (Jay Chandrasekhar, Erik Stolhanske)

    The boys from Broken Lizard had a couple of fine efforts, but none ever matched the hilarity of their first effort of Super Troopers.  The opening scene is a masterpiece, combine quotability (say it with me now… “Littering and…littering and…littering and…”) and just funny-ass jokes.  Every so often, one of your unassailably cool friends will do something impressive, look at you and say “Call Guinness!” and you will grin because you just remembered the scene. 

    Of particular value in this scene isn’t the obvious Schnozz-Berry Kid or Rabbit and Ramethorne doing their thing, but the smartass punk in the front seat saying how he was going to bust out his nine and other general douchey behavior.  I think he also gleefully suggested there was a double homicide when Rabbit and Ramethorne drove off the first time.  Anyways, he totally added quality to that scene.

    Of course you know the rest of the movie, and why it’s awesome.  You should go buy it because it’s, like, $5 on Amazon.

    #3.  Tommy Callahan Sells Brake Pads – “Tommy Boy” (Chris Farley, David Spade)

    When two people can play off each other, one completely out of control and the other playing the straight man, if it’s done right, it’s gold.  It’s platinum when both manage to be out-of-their-minds funny like David Spade and Chris Farley were. 

    “Tommy Boy” may have type casted them, and it might have been a little obvious, but who cares.  It was sidesplittingly funny.

    I actually debated for a while which scene in this movie to put in – Tommy and Richard Become Flight Attendants or Tommy Sells Brake Pads.  To this day, I can’t watch a stewardess do the preflight safety routine without thinking about Chris Farley’s hand gestures and I always giggle. 

    Ultimately it came down to which scene made me cry when I watched it the first time.  This would be the Brake Pad Scene.  When he lights the car on fire and sputters out sentence fragments (thank you David Spade for being who you are), I wondered if I’d ever be able to draw breath again.  I’m not even sure if I saw the Meat Wagon pull up because I was laughing so hard the first time I saw it.

    This is a movie that is quotable, front to back, and I could entertain anybody suggesting that there are better scenes within this movie, because they were all pretty good.  Tommy Selling Brake Pads, however, was the one I decided on.

    #2.  The Black Knight – “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (John Cleese, Eric Idle, Graham Chapman, et al.)

    I think Monty Python is hysterical.  If you disagree, you probably disagreed with most of this list.  I have a theory on Monty Python – For some reason, everybody seems to get exposed to Monty Python around 7th Grade and your reaction to seeing Monty Python and whether or not you quote it incessantly is really determinate of your future appreciation of comedy.  If you like Monty Python, you think lots of things are funny.  If you think Monty Python is stupid you find yourself, someday, wondering why everybody is chortling at something you find incredibly inane. 

    Monty Python also is the last truly consistently great scene work in movies.  If you watch Monty Python, most of it really could be converted to Stage without too much effort.  Ultimately, there are so many scenes from Monty Python that could (should) have made this list.  Really, there’s a separateTop 10 List here.

    But I had to choose one.  So I asked myself, “Self, what is the one Monty Python scene that everybody seems to remember”?  What is the one scene that everybody seems to pick out and quote and the one scene that always seems to live on, in infamy for some, and hilarity for others.

    I landed on The Black Knight.  G’head, debate if you want.  To be honest, I actually think “Bring out your Dead” is funnier, but in the interest of recognizing Comedy That Never Dies (see the brilliant parallel in my writing here), today, it is the Black Knight.

    #1.  Ace Delivers a Package – “Ace Ventura, Pet Detective” (Jim Carrey)

    I have straight up, never laughed as hard at a movie – ever – as I did during this scene.  Before Jim Carrey got all…weird…like, the kind of weird that wasn’t funny, he put together this scene and I watched it and wondered if I’d be able to draw breath before I passed out.

    I really wished elevators would crash a package like that in real life.  I wish that I could point at nothing in the air, smile at a cardboard box, and menacingly say “We’re goin’ downtown” and then kick it as hard as I could on a regular basis.  The scene even has Jim Carrey’s catch phrase, “Allrightythen” in it.  I wish that I could laugh like I did when I first saw this, every day of my life.

    (I also wish that “The Number 23” and “The Truman Show” didn’t happen…oh well)

    Don’t get me wrong, Jim Carrey had some good ones after this scene – “The Mask” was funny and “Dumb and Dumber” was also hysterical.  The Tuxedo Scene almost made the best of the rest.  Jim Carrey made the (completely forgivable) mistake of setting his own bar far too high.

    Jim Carrey’s finest cinematic work was the first minutes that a major audience ever him on The Silver Screen and was, in my opinion, the funniest movie scene I have ever seen.

     

  12. Top 10 Beers!

    Do you know what’s awesome?  Beer.  Beer is AWESOME. 

    Yes, I have recently been given a boat and a title.  I am now referred to as Captain Obvious. I am also told by the internets (so I can put my whole trust into this) that Benjamin Franklin once said “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

    This list has both actually good beer on it and also beer that, in reality, doesn’t taste that good.  But it’s good.  Beer finds it’s self in one of those interesting categories where bad drills past bad and ends up somewhere past “why not?” into the realm of “I feel one of those nights coming on”.

    This list is an ever-changing, fluid situation.  Certain beers may be added or removed…these are the ones that stuck out today.  You may be wondering how I came up with these…it wasn’t just taste that made my list, it was also the memories tied to said beer.  And for the vaunted #1 slot, well, a lot factored into that one.

    Sometimes beer leads to bad things, but I have noticed that beer has brought with it many more funny stories, great conversations, and good memories.   Perhaps you have heard that smell is most closely tied to memory and to that end, so is taste.   There’s a reason for this:  a long time ago, you had to know what you were eating wasn’t rotten.  You can’t trust your eyes, but you surely can trust your nose.  If food smelled off, you wouldn’t eat it.  If it tasted off, you really wouldn’t eat it.  And you had to vividly remember what smelled or tasted right or wrong, because you’ll live longer if you do.  That’s why smells and tastes bring you back to places and people faster than any of your other senses – because they have to.

    It might sound a bit disturbing to put so much sentiment into an alcoholic beverage…but…well, it’s beer.  And it’s awesome.  So let us start with the…

    Best of the Rest:

    Ciders –

    Sooo…it’s not beer.  But it tastes good.  When done right, it’s not too sweet, and it’s definitely not bitter.  (hint: Strongbow does it right).  If you were going to drink something by a bonfire on a cool October evening, it would be this.  It’s a bottled beverage that everybody likes that couldn’t be considered girly (it’s named Strongbow for God’s sake).  For one glorious summer, the HyVee in West Ames had Hornsby’s Hard Cider on sale for $3.99/six pack.  I still yearn for this unrivaled value.

    It looks vaguely like beer,  it’s slightly carbonated like beer, if you go to the right bars, it comes out of a tap like beer.  So it’s worth mentioning…but it’s not beer, so it finds it’s self in the Best of the Rest Category.

    Busch Light –

    Okay, lemme explain.  If there was a beer that made me think of undergrad at UNI, it would be this one.  It was cheap and it was watery.  It wasn’t that good.  But waaaay to many good memories up in Cedar Falls happened over a few of these.   It makes me want to play Goldeneye right now.

    But it’s an American Macrobrew and only one of those made my list.  Not this one.

    Traquair House Ale –

    I wouldn’t have known about this if Stuart Kennedy hadn’t ordered one when somebody else was buying.  And it is delicious.  But I would recommend ordering one when somebody else is buying or finding one packaged with five other friends because you can expect to pay around $9 per in a restaurant. 

    Trappistes Rochefort #8

    Not Dissimilar to the aforementioned Traquair, it’s expensive and it’s worth mentioning because it’s delicious and you can generally find it nationally.  No specific memories tied to this beer, but you probably ought to have one because it’s exquisite. 

    (In other words, I add it to my list to bring much needed credibility to my self-proclaimed “Beer Connoisseur” Title, after I added Busch Light to the “Best of the Rest” Category)

    Let’s do this thing!

    Jon’s Top 10 Favorite Beers!

    #10.  Corona with a Lime - Corona

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    Perfect for:  Hot summer afternoons, sneaking on to golf courses, après-ski

    Pairs well with:  Chips/Salsa, humidity, sea air

    Commentary:  Okay, okay, okay.  I get it.  You’re not supposed to a citrus fruit in the beer.  But it protects against scurvy.  Also, if you’re on a porch and it’s July and about 90 degrees outside, a thick heavy stout just isn’t going to do the job right.  You need something light and something with citric acidity to make it refreshing.  And when you need that refreshment and you have chips and fresh guacamole and it’s too much of a pain in the ass to fire up a blender for a margarita, you need a Corona with a lime.

    Oddly, Corona with a Lime is also quite well suited for ski-trips.  You’ve just been plummeting down a mountain all day which is no small workout, but you have also wrecked more than several times and now need a beer.  So you need something that tastes vaguely like lemon-lime Gatorade, is available in all Ski-Bars, and will help take away your pain.  You know what to do here.

    Special Shoutout:  Definitely there on my 21st Birthday; Can of Corona gave My Boy Blue the strength to stand tall in “Old School” KY wrestling match.  You’re my boy Blue.  You’re my boy.

    #9.  Brown Shugga’ – Lagunitas Brewing Company, California

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    Perfect for:  Dessert, wintertime, hypoglycemia

    Pairs well with:  A meal that didn’t previously fill you up

    Commentary:  DO NOT drink this on a full stomach.  You will wish that you had not.  Having said that,  I had this beer only once and it was delectable and I am very sad that we don’t have it in God’s Country (Iowa).  I know they have it in Chicago, which is very distressing to me because the brewery is in California and Iowa is on the way to Chicago.  Oh well.

    According to the website this was a barley wine recipe that had gone horribly wrong, but instead of throwing it out, they dumped a whole bunch of brown sugar into it to try and salvage the batch.  Now we are blessed with Brown Shugga’.  This is a thick, heavy, 9.99% alcohol beer that I can imagine would do particularly well in front of a fire, in a chalet, on a bear skin rug, after skiing, in a place like Vail.  Since I cannot afford that, I settled for John Isaac’s apartment, in front of TV, in Chicago, with a bunch of friends.  That worked out well.

    Special Shoutout:  Website description is awesome:  “We believe this Special Ale is Something Unique.  Feeding Brown Cane Sugar to otherwise Cultured Brewery Yeast is akin to feeding Raw Shark to your Gerbil.  It is unlikely to ever occur in nature without Human Intervention.  And it looks weird besides.  But it has happened and now it’s too late.”

    #8.  Templeton Rye Barrel Aged Imperial Stout – Madhouse Brewing, Iowa.

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    Perfect for:  Watching Goodfellas,  silently judging those drinking Bud Light, inciting a reenactment of Joe Pesci’s “I’m Funny How” scene

    Pairs well with:  Cigars, scotch, Christmas Cookies

    Commentary:  This an Iowan Beer.  From God’s Country (Iowa).  Recall that Iowa is pretty much the America of States and this is especially true with this beer.  Because what is America?  It’s a melting pot.  A melting of flavors and cultures into awesomeness.

    Likewise, age some ale in a barrel that previously had Rye Whiskey in it and you get a melting pot of flavors and a high alcohol content.  Not unlike the aforementioned Brown Shugga’, this is probably not best enjoyed on a hot summer day, but rather enjoyed on a cold winter evening.   It’s heavy, though in my opinion, not as heavy as #9 up there, which you would likely not expect, given the comparison of the color of the two.  You should put either one of these out for Santa and hope that blows off the rest of his route that evening and hangs out at your place.  


    Special Shoutout:  Templeton Rye was what Al Capone called “The Good Stuff”.  He would drive out to Templeton, Iowa, and have this Rye Whiskey distilled and take it back to Chicago during prohibition.  I’m not making this up.  You can enjoy the Whiskey and it’s Ale Offspring, but only if you enjoy inconspicuously.

    #7.  Kronenbourg/Kanterbrau

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    Perfect for:  Studying abroad, acting irresponsibly

    Pairs Well With:  Quatro Fromage Paninis, Street Kebabs, Idiocy

    Commentary:  This is “the water of life” and I suspect the two beers might be competitors, sort of the French equivalents to Budweiser and Miller, but I’m not really sure.  I know that both were readily available when I lived in France and that the ESC Rennes Crew knows all about these two beauties. 

    #7’s responsibility twins were responsible for the hardest I have ever physically laughed.  My friend Angus was attempting to put on a sober face when engaging my roommate’s very cultured English mother in conversation.  Angus had, at the time, all the physical coordination of 2 year old toddler and roughly the same level of conversational skill.  Sheer hilarity ensued and upon the retelling of Angus’ epic and furtive attempt at courtesy, the three of us found ourselves prostrated on Rue Dinan (Dinan Road), completely helpless and rolling around like victims of a nerve gas experiment, literally screaming we were laughing so hard.

    Thank you Kronenbourg/Kanterbrau.

    Special Shoutout:  When the dollar was stronger, this was cheaper than most bottled water.  And safer than the tap water.  Baby, that’s an easy choice…

    #6.  Firesale Beer at The Keg Shop in Ames, Iowa

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    Perfect for:  A depleted checking account, those financially tenuous weeks before a student loan disbursement, summer evenings with nothing to do in Ames

    Pairs Well With:  Dollar Sandwiches, Gas Station Burritos

    Okay, this is sort of a copout because I am dropping an entire class of beer into one spot.  Well whatever.  It’s my list and I can do what I want.

    Firesale Beer was whatever The Keg Shop wanted to get rid of.  It generally consisted of very obscure small American Breweries and vaunted titles such as Lacrosse Light, and Schmidt.  Not Schlitz…Schmidt.  Occationally Rolling Rock would show up.  Once there was even Sam Adams Oktoberfest, about a year after they got it, so it wasn’t exactly fresh.  Incredibly, that 20 pack of bottles managed to stay un-violated in the Rugby House fridge for almost 2 weeks, which was unheard of (the lack of freshness violated our refined palates).

    But it was fun to walk down to the Keg Shop, see what was on Firesale, pay for it with the quarters you had reserved for laundry, and spend the rest of the evening sitting on the porch watching the world go by and laughing with friends.

    Special Shoutout:  When there’s a beer called Schmidt, and you are of the generation that remembers the old SNL sketch with Adam Sandler and Chris Farley, “Schmidt’s Gay Beer” you are compelled to say that you’ll be picking up some Schmidt’s Gay.  Always.

    Also, if you are nymphing duck blinds, you’ll need Lacrosse Light.  Right O?

    #5.  Duvel Golden Belgian Ale

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    Perfect for:  Celebrating something, a company expense account

    Pairs well with:  Medium-rare Filet Mignon, grilled prosciutto wrapped asparagus

    This would be the antithesis of Firesale Beer.  It ranks higher because it tastes better, though I didn’t have nearly the wonderful memories over Duvel that I did with Firesale Beer, mostly because one cannot afford to drink Duvel on a regular basis for very long.

    Duvel is a higher alcohol content golden Belgian Ale that I found very complex in terms of flavor, but that somehow avoided being heavy and filling, with a good head, full body, and floral notes on the finish.  (that would be my attempt at an esoteric beer review)

    Really, it tastes delicious and can be enjoyed any time of the year.  Try it.  You’ll like it.

    Special Shoutout:  It better be good.  A 4-pack is $16.99 in Iowa.  Bentley’s and Benjamins can only be just around the corner…

    #4.  Bitch Creek ESB – Grand Teton Brewing Company

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    Perfect for:  Fly Fishing, Campfires

    Pairs well with:  Freshly caught and campfire grilled Trout, the smell of Wyoming pine trees, sage brush, and fresh mountain streams (if you’ve been, you know what I’m talking about)

    I admit, I bought this beer mostly because of the name.  Turns out it’s actually pretty good.  But this beer and the taste of this beer remind me of fishing trips to Wyoming.  I found this on my first trip back to Wyoming after a 10 year hiatus.  My dad and I went out when I was a younger lad (much too young for beer) and I picked up this.  I was thrilled to see that you can get it down at the Lake of the Ozarks, though I admit, it is a bit heavy for a hot Missouri July afternoon.

    Special shout out:  Who doesn’t want to go here?

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    #3.  High Life

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    Perfect for:  Rugby Tournaments, River Floats, Shag Carpeting

    Pairs Well With:  $3 Cheese Burger Baskets, Tangermeisters

    Oh High Life.  Firstly, you must know that there is a bar in Des Moines, Iowa, called “The High Life Lounge”.  It prides it’s self on not having any beer there made after 1979.  So, if you want Schlitz, PBR, Hamms, or High Life, you’re in fantastic luck.  If you want Duvel, you are not.  If you are wondering, by the way, what a Tangermeister is, it’s a staple of The High Life Lounge, and Jagermeister mixed with Tang.  Yes, the NASA-inspired orange drink.  It’s not good and made slightly more diabolical because the bartender making it generally pours enough Tang in the glass to turn the shot into a 2 or 3 swallow proposition.

    High Life Beer has been present at a staggering array of Iowa State Rugby events.  It is our ever present companion at All Iowa, which is a rugby tournament in Iowa Falls and is almost as fun as Christmas Morning.  It is a staple on ISRFC (Iowa State Rugby Football Club) river floats, which, if you’ve never done a river float, it requires getting an old tire tube for you, one for the cooler, then just floating down a river. 

    High Life is not good beer but it doesn’t matter.  It was a prominent member of my Bachelor Party and in an interesting and somewhat fitting coincidence, High Life also the first beer I can ever remember seeing.  For some reason, I vividly remember when I was 5 or 6 Mom brought a High Life out to Petersen Pit, just north of Ames.  I can still the see the clear bottle and the label.

    The High Life Lounge refers to the small, 8oz bottles of High Life as “grenades”.  The Iowa State Rugby Team refers to the small, 8oz bottles as “The Quiet Ones” and if you are wondering why we call the small, 8oz bottles “The Quiet Ones”, it is because they sneak up on you.

    Special Shoutout:  At my Bachelor Party, we ran the High Life Lounge in Des Moines, Iowa, out of 8oz High Life Quiet Ones that evening, in a truly epic display of manly prowess.

    #2.  Guinness

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    Perfect for:  St. Patrick’s Day,  Swearing, Breakfast

    Pairs well with:  Fish and Chips, Shepherd’s Pie, Cabbage based dishes

    Guinness is especially good for you.  It’s a dark beer with almost as high of an anti-oxidant as red wine and there’s only 125 calories in 12 ounces.   Guinness actually substitutes really well in dishes that you have to use wine for cooking. 

    Guinness makes me especially happy for four reasons:

    #1.  Because before we were married, Kelley once brought me back Guinness all the way from Ireland, and I thought that was very nice of her.

     #2.  Because it reminds me of O’Connell’s Pub in Rennes, France, where me and my friends had a blatently good time on many cold, rainy nights in Bretagne. 

    #3.  Because we drank it all night on St. Patrick’s Day, in Dublin, on one of the most fun nights I ever had (on the list of Top 10 Best Nights) and… 

     #4.   Because I once wrote a fan letter to my favorite writer, Dave Barry.  I had found out that Guinness had a high level of antioxidants, so I wrote up Dave Barry and printed – in big letters on the envelope – “Good News for Dave, Beer is Good for You!” in the hopes he would actually read my letter.  A few weeks later, I got a post card back that said “Thanks (burp) for the good (burp) news (burp).  Dave (burp) Barry.  (Burp).”

    I still have my postcard from Dave Barry.

    Special Shoutout:  Arthur Guinness apparently has leased out the property for the brewery for the next 3000 years.  Also, best potential name for a Rottweiler ever. (provided said Rottweiler isn’t already named Newman).

    #1.  Fat Tire – New Belgium Brewing Company

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    Perfect for:  Anytime, any season, any event

    Pairs well with:  Any appetizer, any entrée, any dessert

    My Favorite Beer.  You can drink it in Winter.  You can drink it in Summer.  It comes in cans and it comes in Bottles.  It has a full flavor, but isn’t too heavy.  It’s been present at more fun evenings with my wife than any of the others.  It’s been present for trips with me and my dad.  It’s a go-to beer that everybody seems to like, and if you bring it to any gathering, nobody is irritated or questions your choice of beer.

    So what is your favorite beer?  What is my favorite beer?  What is “the best beer ever”?  That’s a question that can’t REALLY be answered fully because beer is so varied and the topic so expansive it’s like saying “what’s your favorite movie” when one night you might be in the mood for a comedy but the next night you might be in the mood for a drama.

    But we must present an answer anyways.  And to do so, I will ask another question to end this list, so that you may contemplate your favorite beer as well as, in the process of answering the question, present the argument as to why I picked Fat Tire for mine…

    If you could only drink one beer for the rest of your life, what would it be?

     

     

  13. Top 10 Video Games!

    Do you know what’s awesome?  Video Games.  Yes they are so don’t argue.  Don’t give me any lip about “wasting my time” or “robbing me of my ambition” or “contributing to my own childhood obesity”. 

    (okay, maybe that last one was a bit out of line – actually, that is a problem and I shouldn’t make fun)

    But Video Games ARE fun.  They were fun to play when I was a kid and they’re fun to play now.  In fact, they’re fun to play the old games now because I just found out that a company makes a retro gaming system that plugs right into my entertainment center (don’t have to worry about those old RF cables!) and plays Regular Nintendo, Genesis, AND Super Nintendo!  All for only $60!  Oh Em Effing Gee.  When I was a kid, I saved up my paper route for 5 months to buy half of a Super Nintendo and it wasn’t $60 either.

    I have a month off in July in between the finish of residency and start of my real job and thought I’d run into to check out this retro system.  I ran into some skinny little bastard behind the counter named Nathan who made the following observation:

    “Games from your generation are probably best played on this retro system.”

    Hold up.  My generation?  I felt the need to beat the shit out of him until it occurred to me that he had a point.  You’ll notice this is fairly heavily weighted on only 2 systems.  You’ll also notice that it’s also heavily weighted from 1990-1999. 

    I need to point out one other thing - I haven’t played any games on an Xbox 360 or a Playstation 3 and this is a huge omission when coming up with a list like this.  I get it…there’s games that have come out that probably would be considered better.  But these are my favorites.  My games. 

    My generation.  Oh well… Let us start with…

    The Best of the Rest

    Castlevania   Konami/Nintendo

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    So it had really good music and a really good storyline, because who doesn’t want to fight Dracula.  Simon Belmont’s jumping left a great deal to be desired and nothing was more frustrating that hitting something in midair and falling to your untimely death via chasm (note the 3rd screen shot above).  Frankenstein and Igor were also particularly diabolical and I am ashamed to admit I never actually made it past the Grim Reaper.  What isn’t it on the top 10?  Because the franchise seems like it oddly fizzled, unlike some of the others like Mario or Zelda.  And because Simon Belmont was more crippled by gravity than any other videogame character in history and it still pisses me off.  

    Wolfenstein 3D – ID Software/PC

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    Was it really 3D?  No.  No it wasn’t.  But it was the first 1st Person Shooter I ever saw and a lot of the gamers think it’s the Godfather of 1st Person Shooter Games.  I know Doom had better graphics and different guns and more aliens, I guess I kind of liked this one better.  Fear the pixelated SS.  Apparently that third screen shot is supposed to be Adolph Hitler in a robotic suit with four chain guns.

    Pole Position – Atari/CoinOp

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    Obviously if you could drive the Pole Position Car on the video game with the gears realistically marked “Low” and “High”, then you could drive a car in real life.  Obviously.

    Legend of Zelda – Ocarina of Time

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    All the really serious gamers out there will find this ranking far too low, as Ocarina of Time is widely considered by the gaming community to be one of the greatest video games of all time.  I liked it, but I liked others better.  Unlike the previous Zelda’s this was the first not to use a top down view of Link.  To be honest, I found it a little more cumbersome than the old way, but the puzzles were really great in the game and it very much put in jeopardy my academic life the second semester of my sophomore year in college.

    It wasn’t really a social game, though, at a time when there were gamesthat kept dorm floors together and thoroughly entertained.  Not like some others below.  But…

    Undoubtedly a game that was just blatently fun to play.  Believe you me, when I come across an N64, this is one of 3 I’ll buy. 

    Let’s do this thing!


    Jon’s Top 10 Video Games of All Time

    #10.  MegaMan 2 – Capcom/Nintendo

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    I loved the MegaMan franchise.   But Megaman 1 was really fricking hard (Gutsman?  That chasm with disappearing and reappearing blocks?  Why?) and when Megaman 3 came out, the Super Nintendo soon followed and took away from it.  Megaman 2 was the most fun to play anyways. 

    Like all the Megaman games, when you beat a boss, you got the boss’s weapon and there still has not been a more generally effective weapon anybody has ever received in a video game than the Metal Blade that you got from Metal Man.  If you beat the bosses in a certain order, the game was way easier.  If you didn’t, it was pretty damn hard.  You could rely on Nintendo Power to figure out the order, or you could rely on the much more economical, though sometimes slightly less accurate method of talking to friends at recess. 

    It was also, by the way, very satisfying to actually explode one of the bosses.  They’d blow up with the same signature sound and animation effect as you did and you could toss your controller to the living room floor, content in the knowledge that you just rid the world of yet another computer game boss.

    (if I remember correctly…start with Airman, then Bubbleman, Metalman, Woodman, Crashman, Flashman, Quickman, and finish with Heatman. You’re welcome.)

    #9.  Street Fighter II – Turbo

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    The two landmark fighting games were Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat and I remember they came out at roughly the same time.  While Mortal Kombat certainly had the gore and the fatalities and the uppercut, Street Fighter II owned MK in terms of variety.  The animated characters moved and looked better than the filmed characters that MK used and there were more of them with different fighting moves.  Guile’s aerial back-breaker and suplex, Zangief’s spinning pile driver, and – of course – all the projectile moves were fun to figure out.  Even if you didn’t have the magic button combos you could still accidentally come up with cool moves by being a random button pusher (“Holy Crap!  How’d I do THAT?!?”)  You could play this one for HOURS with friends and my theory is that the bragging rights earned here would turn into actual competitions when fancy platforms like Xbox and Playstation came out. 

    By the way, I will own you as Ken or Guile. 

    #8.  Final Fantasy II – SNES

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    This Game shouldn’t have been as good as it was.  The graphics were really fairly pedestrian, given what the SNES had already done but that didn’t seem to matter.  Final Fantasy II actually came with a story line that you interacted with as you played and the world that was created inside the game cartridge was more expansive than any other game that had come before it.  It seemed like you could play this one forever. 

    Whenever you got a new weapon or skill or anything in any game it was always fun to see what it did.  Final Fantasy II (and the series, I would imagine) was particularly good at tapping in to this.  You would “learn” new spells or find new weapons and it was hugely exciting to see what would happen when you did them (hence the 5th screen shot up there). 

    Really, the story line was the fun part here.  If you played it, you remember the tragedy of the 6th screen shot up there.  If you didn’t play it, you should.

    #7.  Diablo 2 - Blizzard Entertainment - PC

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    Some people will find this one incredibly dark and other people will point out that I’m an incredible nerd for putting a lot of role-playing games on this list.  So…here’s the explanation:

    For the time (2000), the graphics were fantastic.  As far as dungeon-players go, this one really set the standard and the expansion packs, the five different playable characters, and the endless stuff you could collect made this one fun to play once, twice, as many times as you cared to play it.  It also really set the first platform for online gaming that really (really) took off hard.

    So it’s got gaming history significance.  It has Jon-significance because I bought it before I went to France for the year.  The characters on this game spoke English, not French.  After you’ve been thoroughly confused all day, looking at signs you can’t read, and struggling to communicate nearly everything, it was nice to not have to think when somebody said something to you.  Even if it was on video game.


    #6.  NCAA Football 2003 - Playstation 2

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    I struggled with this one.  What’s my favorite sports game?  Tecmo Bowl, dominated by Bo Jackson and Kevin Mack, the first sports game that really let you be the players you loved?  What about NHL Hockey 93, where you could start fights on the ice?  There’s the entire Madden Franchise and NBA Jam and the trademark Boomshakalaka.

    Ultimately, I picked one that I never played.  I never had a Playstation and I never picked up a controller for this one.  I picked NCAA ’03 because watching my friend Ike go absolutely apoplectic when he lost to Jason York was more fun than playing the damn game.  Also because Joey Blue Skies Harrington graced the cover. 

    The guys decided that you weren’t allowed to play as a “good” team so they each picked teams that were otherwise fairly irrelevant in the college football landscape at the time.  If I remember right, Jim played as TCU, York played as Air Force and Ike, for reasons still unknown to me, referred to himself as “The Duke”.  So he played as Duke.  I have asked Ike many times over beers why he calls himself the Duke.  He has yet to give me a succinct reason as to why this is but what is certain is that to this day, if I see that Duke has won, I text Ike and congratulate him.  And then we talk about football for a while.  And that’s why this one makes the list over the others.

    #5.  Halo 2 – Xbox

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    Halo 2 was not academically helpful.  I remember that it came out in late November, 2004.  Thanks, Bungie, for timing that right when I was trying to get into medical school.  I blame Halo for me not getting into Dartmouth because it feels better than the reality which was that I’m not smart enough

    Halo 2 was the first game that I can remember (certainly the most forefront in popular culture) where you switched back and forth from being a protagonist to playing as what was perceived to be the antagonist, playing as the Arbiter.  I also remember it as being one of the first console games that really brought forth online gaming (I know, PC games did it before), but this one was the first time it felt like that people really got into it. 

    You got to double wield weapons.  You got a great plot.  You got new guns to shoot and new vehicles to drive.  People complained about the cliffhanger ending…so what?  Of course there’s a cliff-hanger ending!  That’s how Microsoft had to sell Halo 3 which, by the way, you had to buy the brand new Xbox 360 to play.  That’s just good marketing.

    And a good reason to not get into Dartmouth.

    #4.  Super Mario World - SNES

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    My life effectively changed when I got my Super Nintendo. 

    For one thing, it was the first time I ever actually had to budget and save for something I wanted.  It wasn’t very much fun so I didn’t do it again until I got married.  For another, the Super Nintendo had “16 bits”.  Like 16 whole “bits”.  That was double the “8 bit” regular Nintendo.  Now, at 11 years old, I did not know what a “bit” was.  Point of fact…I still don’t know what a “bit” is.  But I did understand math and I knew with all the fiber of my being that I needed to double my “bits”

    It turns out I was right.  16 “bits” was mind bendingly awesome. Even Mom, who hated video games admitted that the graphics were amazing and that the whole thing wasn’t completely stupid.  For people my age (my “generation” as Nathan would say), it was the first time there was an improvement of this level in video games for all of the same franchises

    So what about the Mario franchise which, I would argue, is the most famous one in all of video games?  Well, this was my favorite Mario Game of them all.  Mario 3 is up there, and came awfully close to cracking this list, but I never actually owned it.  I had to run down to a local video store (remember those?) and rent it.  The original Super Mario Bros is also worth mentioning, as it was the one that started it all (I know, Mario was originally in Donkey Kong, but you get my point) and the original Mario Bros has music and sound bytes that people from my “generation” know by heart.

    Oh but Super Mario World improved on all of that.  You got feathers and capes and got to ride Yoshi.  You even got different colored Yoshis or Yoshis that could do different things if you ate different turtle shells.  The gameplay was outstanding and was, at the time, unrivaled.  Sorry, but Sonic had nothing on Mario.

    The other thing that separated Super Mario World from games before it was the hidden levels you could get into that made the game fun to play even after you cleared it the first time.  You could go back and find all the special extra exits from the levels (if I remember right, those flashed red on the map screen) and then even go to the special Star World and the special world even beyond that.  It extended the playability of this game and, at the time, set the standard for that sort of thing – Donkey Kong Country, by the way, expanded on that even more and probably deserved a place on this list but I ran out of room and people like Nathan would have even more of a case that my list revolved around one “generation”.

    This game reminds me of my birthday, which I just had.  I was thinking about it and I think my Super Nintendo was the best birthday present I ever got. 

    #2/3. (Tie) Mario Kart 64/ Golden Eye – N64

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    I can’t decide which one of these I liked more so I put them both tied at number 2.  These two games remind me of my friends at the University of Northern Iowa and freshman and sophomore years there that were just two great years.  It’s worth mentioning from a video game history stand point that Goldeneye, at the time, was undisputedly the greatest 1st Person Shooter that had ever been done and MarioKart 64 was unrivaled among driving games for variety, playability, and general fun.  Both of them lended themselves to College Campuses.

    Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights in the dorms often all resembled each other and they were fun.  My friends and I would grab something to eat at Redeker Dining center and usually follow that up with a classy digestif such as Keystone Light or Popov Vodka mixed with pink Country Time lemonade that was usually piss-warm because it was the dorms and nobody had any ice.

    Then everybody played one of these two games to pass the time before we all went out the bars at 10:00 or 10:30 because by your second semester of freshman year, everybody was smart enough not to schedule a Friday class before 11:00 am. 

    We always played Golden Eye the same – First to 10, Licence to Kill, nobody plays as Odd Job, and the winner chooses the next weapon and location.  Nothing would get a friend more enraged than a hand slap that added one to the kill count because you were playing Licence to Kill.  It was even fun to watch friends play, drink your Keystone Digestif, and make smartass remarks about your friends’ skill level.

    Likewise, there were rules when playing Mario Kart, mostly specifically with regard to Wario’s Track because of the shortcut you could take advantage of if you had a mushroom boost.  This was generally considered to be a pretty cheap way to win and would result in you not getting to pick the next track.  Luigi’s Raceway was way too easy and the Rainbow Road was definitely deemed too difficult, especially after several digestifs.  There was generally an argument as to who got to be Yoshi and red shells on the last lap was cause to call your friend some bad names.

    I associate video games with something more than mindless fun…they remind me of when you didn’t really have a care in the world, other than your econ final and whether or not your buddy got three red shells on the last lap of MarioKart 64.

    And my Number One Favorite Video Game of All Time…

    #1.  The Legend of Zelda - Link to the Past (SNES)

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    I had more fun playing this video game than any other video game I can ever remember.  This was the first video game that caused me to feel sad after I cleared it because it was just so damn fun to play.

    The Zelda Franchise has just killed it for about 30 years.  It was great on Nintendo, offering the first cartridge that allowed you to save your game (which also came in a fancy gold packaging).  It was great on N64, with Ocarina of Time being widely recognized as one of the best games of All-Time.  It was great on a Wii, with Skyward Sword and Twilight Princess being well received and finally allowing you to swing Link’s sword with reckless abandon in your living room.

    But it was the best on SNES.  Link to the Past introduced and mastered the Light World/Dark World concept, the graphics were killer (and remain killer), the world was expansive, the game play was flawless, the items were WAY too much fun to use, the puzzles were just the right level of hard, and Ganon was appropriately loathsome.  Was anything more exciting to open up the big treasure chest and find out what new item you got?   

    Some of the puzzles and dungeons (that were central to the Zelda Franchise) were really hard.  Now, I suppose you can just go on the internet to find out a solution or cheat code or strategy guide, but back then you had to consult friends, Nintendo Power, or just play for hours on end until you finally figured it out.  That made this game better.  The game came with “Top Secret Messages from Sahasrahla” which even came with a warning on it not to open it unless you really and truly stumped. I remember the Ice Palace being fairly diabolical and required Sahasrahla to come help me.

    Great music, great game play, just great all around.  It was the best game I ever played.

     

  14. (So it’s been a while since I wrote something fun.  This seemed like something fun to write.)

    Do you know what’s awesome?  New shoes day when you were kid.

    I wouldn’t ever consider myself a sneakerhead which is somebody (if you don’t know) who collects various sneakers and knows about the history and picks out subtleties of design that are a little too cool for me.  I would imagine some hipsters would fancy themselves sneakerheads, but doubt that sneakerheads are anxious to include hipsters.  Anyways, the sneakerheads out there and the dollars they spend are responsible for the re-release of a bunch of old shoes that I used to love. 

    If I tagged you on the Facebook post, it just means that I thought you might enjoy the list.  Either you’ve had the sufficient amount of birthdays required to get the jokes, or you may have actually been in on the joke.  I tried to find the images on the internet for all of you and hope that the list and the old pictures make you smile.  They might even inspire you to try and find a few old sneaker friends on the internet…

    So, lets start with some

    Honorable Mentions!

    Nike Aqua Socks (1990)

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    I had the fourth pair up there – the lime colored ones.

    G’head.  Laugh it up.  When you have to do your paper route in an Iowa Summer Thunderstorm and you don’t want to wear your Air Flight Huraches because they’ll get ruined, just where in the hell are you going to be then, son?

    The Brooks Chariot (c.1986-whenever Dad stopped buying them)

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    My Dad liked to go jogging.  Yogging?  Maybe the J is silent.  Apparently you just run.  He bought pairs and pairs of these shoes.  Every day he would disappear for hours at a time and come back, all sweaty and looking like he was in pain.  What a stupid thing to do.  Why would you do that when you could be riding bikes or throwing dirt or watching cartoons or having waterfights or playing on this new thing that some kids had called a Nintendo? 

    The Asics Gel 2150 (2009-Present)

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    I have to go jogging.  This is so I stay healthy.  I bought pairs and pairs of these shoes.  I hate putting them on because every time I do, I come back all sweaty and in pain.  I could be doing other things like learning to ride a motorcycle or working on my yard or watching the Daily Show and Colbert Report or going to a bar or playing Xbox, Wii, Playstation, or on the Internet.

    What a stupid thing to do.

    The Nike Air Max 1 (1989)

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    True sneaker heads will consider this, at best, a grossly inaccurate omission to a Top 10 Sneaker List and, at worst, a complete indictment of my lack of Sneaker Appreciation worthy of capital punishment.  In fact, anybody who is an actual Sneakerhead reading this, just stopped reading it because I’ve put these in the same section as the Nike Aquasocks.

    The reason why having this on the honorable mention section is such a travesty is the story I have been told about this shoe.  Apparently Tinker Hatfield (who designed a bunch of the shoes you’ll see below) went to Paris with a problem.  He wanted to put a bigger air sole in a heel but had run out of space to do it.  So while looking at the Pompidou Centre in Paris, he got the idea to show what had been hidden the whole time.  It lead him to the idea of the visible air sole and the Air Max 1 and…that’s where the visible air sole came from.  And, really, is a story worthy of more than an “Honorable Mention”. 

    The reason this one didn’t make my list is because I just don’t have any memories tied to it.  They look awfully cool and I bought a pair as an adult.  But they didn’t make my list.  Speaking of my list…

    Jon’s Top Ten Favorite Shoes of All Time

    (It’s not the Top Ten Best Shoes of All Time – If you disagree, by all means, make your own list.  Then, post it on Facebook and tag me on it.)

    10.  Nike Air Stab (1988)

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    What’s cooler than a visible air sole?  Obviously, an air sole that has stab things through it.

    This was the first shoe I can remember that caused me to consider that shoes could be cool.  Dad was stubbornly insisting that his Brooks Chariots were better running shoes.  Something about that it stopped his foot from pronating or whatever.  You might be pronating in a pair of Nike Air Stabs but you’d have cool stab things through the visible air sole.  I would go to the Sports Page in Ames and stare at these wondrous shoes and silently wish I could have a pair.

    Apparently Nike stopped making these things because it showed up in more stabbings.  Or maybe it was an urban legend.  Or something.  At any rate, I never got them and Dad never wore a pair.

    9.  Nike Air Max Triax II (1996)

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    I have scoured Google Images and this is the only image of this shoe I can find. 

    Perhaps people will find this to be an underwhelming choice at #9, but this was arguably the most versatile shoe on my list.  These came out when I was a senior in high school and looked great with jeans, shorts, and were very much functional enough to run middle to long distance track in (which is why my parents got them for me).  Steve Stanley and (I think) Nathan Price had these and – I’m ashamed to say – I totally copied them.  Dad, by the way, was still wearing his Brooks Chariots.

    I miss these shoes.  They did well.  They make me remember senior year track meets in early April and sitting in the grass infield, before the world warmed up, wishing my track sweats were warmer.  They also remind me of senior year baseball practice and dusty, un-air-conditioned bus rides to the edges of Iowa in sweltering July heat, wishing that the school bus was cooler.

    8.  Converse Aero Jet 1 (Larry Johnsons) (1992)

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     Larry Johnson was my favorite basketball player for some reason.  I’m really not sure why but I really liked the Charlotte Hornets – truth be told, I think I thought the uniforms were cool, they were an expansion team, and I didn’t have a favorite basketball team.  The Hornets had the #2 lottery pick in 1991 AND the #2 lottery pick in 1992.  So they ended up missing out on Dikembe Mutumbo and Shaquille O’Neal.  But they ended up with Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning which was actually pretty good. 

    I got into it twice with D.J. Burgduff over Larry Johnson.  Once was whether or not Mutombo or Larry Johnson would win rookie of the year; of course I insisted it would be Larry Johnson and D.J. GUARENTEED that it would be Mutumbo. 

    Suck it Burgduff, I was right. 

    D.J. also said that my Larry Johnson shoes were stupid.  He said this while waiting for the school bus before a school day in 8th Grade.  I glared at him and said that I didn’t care because I liked them and they were my shoes.  D.J. pondered this for a second, shrugged, and we started talking about something else.  It probably sounds stupid now, but it was the first time I can remember feeling like it was okay to be a little different.

    7.  Air Penny I (1995)

    imageThis sounds stupid, but I was sort of surprised when the Air Penny ended up on my list.  I always thought they looked cool, but when I started thinking about my favorite shoes, these weren’t the first ones that sprang to mind.  The shoes that really jumped out were all from 5th-8th grade, really.

    So I started thinking about shoes when I was in high school and couldn’t really remember any that I wanted like crazy.  I didn’t play basketball in high school but then I remembered my friend Ryan McDonald (who did play) got new shoes for basketball season and he was pretty proud of these.

    These shoes (and the Air Penny II) remind me of high school basketball even though I didn’t play.  They remind of the way a small town basketball gym feels on a Friday night in middle of winter.  It might be cold and snowing outside, but the gym was warm and even a little humid from everybody in there.  The school would pull out the rolling bleachers and me and my friends would still be sitting with big winter coats cheering friends who were playing.  Then everybody would pile into a couple of big cars and go eat pizza or drive around.  If you were from Earlham, Iowa, you might even get a crack at Shoot For Cash.

    It really is a nice way to spend an evening. 

    6.  Nike Air Flight Hurache (1992)

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    So my Mom actually bought me these.  I couldn’t believe my luck.  Jalen Rose in the Fab Five had these, and I thought Jalen Rose was the coolest person in America at the time.  Of course I was convinced that the design was clearly superior in terms of support, which it turned out it wasn’t.  I was also convinced that this shoe would cause me to vault out of the B-Team in middle school basketball, which it turned out it didn’t.

    Do you know what’s a great idea?  Utilizing a completely unbreathable neoprene sleeve in a shoe that is your only pair of shoes for a year. 

    Mom introduced me to OdorEaters that year.  Actually, I think it worked out pretty well because she ended up buying me the aforementioned Converse Larry Johnsons in the same year.  I can speculate on her motivations.  I can also speculate that this was a particularly shrewd play on my part.

    5.  The Reebok Pump (1989)

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    Like The Pump wasn’t showing up on this list.  I recognize that this is two different sneaker designs here – I just wanted point out the Tennis Version.

    Clearly, I could knock out a no-look dunk just like Dee Brown if only my mom would have bought me these. The Tennis version had the fuzzy tennis ball pumper on the tongue but obviously you wanted the basketball one because who the hell plays tennis?  (but, I secretly wanted the fuzzy tennis ball pumper and, looking back, I think the colors are better on the tennis version.)

    Hey, did you hear about that kid who accidentally exploded his?  Omigod, ya it actually happened.  He pumped them up, like, over a hundred times and then jumped off a picnic table and totally blew out the air bladder.  Well that’s what I heard.  I mean, I didn’t actually see it. He goes to another school.  But it totally happened. He didn’t go to my school, obviously, but my friend knew him.  He saw it.  My friend?  You don’t know him.  He goes to another school.  But this guy’s mom was so mad.  You don’t know her.  She goes to another school.

    (a few years later, that same friend would pass along a horrifying story about somebody getting Boardwalk in McDonald’s Monopoly and throwing it away accidentally because he thought he needed Park Place.) 

    4. Air Tech Challenge 3/4 (Agassis) (1990)

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    Interestingly, this is my highest rated pair of shoes that I actually had.  For some reason I liked neon stuff and, even more inexplicably, my mom went for them.  I’m sure they were on sale and a year and a half later, who’s really going to sell a pair of size 6 men’s to anybody but a desperate 6th grader who’d been drooling over them for a year and a half.  The Air Tech Challenge II seems to be considered a better shoe among sneakerheads, but this was the one that I really, really wanted when it first came out.  If you watch “You Don’t Know Bo,” you can see that he is actually wearing a t-shirt that has the logo on the back of the shoe – I had forgotten about that until I saw the documentary and just went right back to 7th grade. 

    I really, really liked these shoes.  This was the first pair of air visible shoes I ever had.  This was my first pair of expensive shoes.   I convinced myself that by having these neon draped, visible aired things I’d be the envy of everybody who’d gotten their moms to buy them Air Flights.  And the cool kids actually complemented my shoes!  Unfortunately, people showed up in early September wearing…

    3.  Air Jordan VI (1992)

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    Speaking of Seventh Grade.  Middle school was terrifying.  It was a brand new building and a brand new group of kids.  And all the cool kids came back with these brand new Jordans (which I didn’t have).  And at lunch everybody oohed and ahhed at the new design and speculation that the Bulls were better than everybody (which they turned out to be) and that Jordan was going to win his ring (which he did) and that the prospect of making out with a girl was totally within the realm of possibility (which, of course, became the other topic of conversation at lunch).

    I went zero for two on the Air Jordan/Making Out thing.  I hated middle school. 

    2. Air Trainer SC (Bo Jacksons) 1990

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    This is the shoe that inspired my list today.  I loved/currently love these shoes.  I watched ESPN’s 30 for 30 “You Don’t Know Bo” (which is fricking AWESOME) and had forgotten what fun it was to watch Bo do his thing.  Probably you should go watch it.   I had also forgotten the ridiculously awesome marketing campaign, “Bo Knows”.  Here’s the link, because I think you should watch it.  The first ad was “Bo knows…(insert sport here)” which actually didn’t feature these shoes. 

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXVAiFBEpwA

    The second ad did and I wanted them.  A LOT. 

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekL3Nm4VD0M

    So anyways, I decided to look up these old fellows and low and behold they can be had for around $100.  That was the same price as 1990, so…umm…what the hell.  Now they are on my feet.  I finally get the Bo Jacksons I so badly wanted almost a quarter century ago (and that *REALLY* hurts to write).

     

    1.  Air Jordan V (1991)

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    Oh my God.  How much did I want these. 

    I wanted these shoes more than a fat kid wants a donut.  Since I was a fat kid, I remember how much I wanted a donut.  Not as much as these shoes.  I remember they came out when I was in 6th grade and I remember that all the cool kids had them.  Not me.  There was NO WAY my mom was dropping $130 on a pair of kicks despite the fact that they were the MOST BEST THING EVER.  Have lace locks ever been cooler in the HISTORY OF THE WORLD?

    They have not. 

    If I could find a pair of Guess jeans, a Gennera Hypercolor shirt, a retro pair of these, and Matt Corones, I’d slap the shit out of him because he’s the same size now as he was in 6th Grade and he made fun of me alot and I always wanted to experience everything that I just listed. 

    I would tight-roll my Guess Jeans while I did it.