Led Zeppelin: Live in Joe’s Mind

Here’s the challenge: Shortly before John Bonham died in 1980, Led Zeppelin got some much needed rest.  Now, they’re geared up for a monstrous new tour that will rock as hard as any tour they’d ever done.  You have gone back in time and time-napped them and brought them to present day.

Rather than being perturbed by this rather strange event, the four victims of your multi-time-jurisdictional felony are extremely grateful for getting to bypass the 80s, and want to thank you by putting on a show.  Their entire catalogue is fair game.  The show, including encore, is composed of exactly 20 songs, no more or less.

Flash-forward to the end of the show.  It was better than you could have imagined.  The question is, what was the set list?

Here’s mine:

Good Times, Bad Times

Celebration Day

Sick Again

Black Dog

Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You

Fool in the Rain

Dazed and Confused

You Shook Me

In My Time of Dying

Hey, Hey What Can I Do? (acoustic)

Gallows Pole (acoustic)

Battle of Evermore (acoustic)

Nobody’s Fault But Mine (acoustic)

No Quarter


Over the Hills and Far Away

Rock and Roll

When the Levee Breaks


Whole Lotta Love**


OK, my reasoning/notes:

– I did not treat this like a 20-song Led Zeppelin greatest hits.  A good concert set list is something different than that.  It needs some surprises.

– I treated the set like a three-act play.  The first act goes through “Dazed and Confused,” the second through “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” and the third through the end including the encore.

– The four-song acoustic set in the middle was inspired by their similar set on the Led Zeppelin DVD.  Page & Plant pulled off a killer acoustic version of “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” on their No Quarter album.

– No Stairway??  Denied!  I had to sacrifice it because I couldn’t think of a spot for it.  It’d be hard to put anything after Stairway, leaving the last song as the only logical spot.  But I prefer my concerts end with a rocker.  So, it had to go.


(Image source: http://www.last.fm/music/Led+Zeppelin/+images/59770575)


Jennifer Lopez to Receive Participation Award at Billboard Music Awards

Los Angeles, CA – Billboard Publications announced this morning that Jennifer Lopez will be the inaugural recipient of the “Lifetime Participation Award” at this year’s Billboard Music Awards.  The award honors the recipient’s outstanding achievements in continuously releasing music that nobody buys.

“Our parent company’s CEO is desperately trying to boink J.Lo, so he demanded that we give her an award, any award, during the show’s broadcast,” said Billboard Magazine’s editorial director Bill Wrigley in an interview with Entertainment Tonight.  “That put us in an awkward spot, because the Billboard Music Awards honor record sales, and her albums haven’t sold worth shit for at least a decade now.”

Indeed, J.Lo’s album sales have been tremendously shitty of late.  Each of her last three albums failed to achieve Gold status, and she has not had a Platinum album since 2002.  Coming up with an award for Ms. Lopez while somehow retaining the show’s credibility proved to be a daunting task for the Billboard team, and forced them to seek inspiration from unconventional sources.

“I got the idea for the ‘Lifetime Participation Award’ from my daughter’s youth soccer league’s awards banquet,” said Mr. Wrigley.  “They gave out the ‘Champions’ trophy, the ‘Best Team Leader’ trophy, the ‘Most-Improved Player’ trophy, and then all the other little losers who could barely kick the ball each got ‘Participation Award’ trophies.  I was like, ‘Bingo!’”

In response to Billboard’s announcement, Ms. Lopez’s agent released a short statement: “Jennifer is thrilled and honored to be the first recipient of the ‘Lifetime Participation Award.’  She hopes that her receiving this award will inspire young, talentless singers throughout the world and show them that if you keep pretending that you’re a big star, sometimes the world will just pretend right along with you.”

While the award was created just as a means to help a rich man sink the sub with Ms. Lopez, Mr. Wrigley states that Billboard is planning on making it a regular honor at the annual event.  “When I brought the idea to our editorial board, somebody asked, ‘Shouldn’t Jessica Simpson get that award?’ And boom, we’ve got our winner for next year’s show already lined up.”

Update: Apparently inspired by Billboard’s savvy move, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced the creation of a similar “Lifetime Participation Award” to be handed our yearly at the Oscars.  The award will honor outstanding achievements in continuously starring in films that nobody sees.  The Academy has already announced that Jennifer Aniston will be the 2013 recipient.


(Image source: http://madamenoire.com/115929/somebody-lied-to-you-people-who-swear-they-can-sing-but-really-cant/jennifer-lopez-american-idol-00/)

Hipster Critics’ Corner: Daughter’s Piano Recital a Depressing Disaster

There are some experiences that cut you straight to the core and make you question the very purpose of life.  These are the moments that you try to forget, but know that you will never be able to no matter how many counselors you see or how many PBR’s you drink.

I have experienced two of these moments.  The first was watching my grandfather die of a heart attack right in front of me when I was ten.  The second occurred yesterday afternoon, when I had the sad displeasure of attending my seven-year-old daughter Stella’s piano recital at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church on East 8th Avenue.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve been a Stella fan from the beginning, long before she started playing to poser-filled recital crowds numbering in the dozens.   I discovered her not by recital flier or church bulletin as most have, but by the simple act keeping my ear to the ground.  Literally.  My home office is on the second-floor of our house, and her piano is on the first.

When Stella first burst onto the music scene last year, her work could only be described as raw and angry.  There was real honesty and pain in her songs.  Anyone who has had the pleasure of hearing her rare “Thanksgiving Sessions” tape recorded live from my parents’ living room can attest to the pure emotional tenacity she would attack her songs with.  Her playing resembled a cross between early Yeah Yeah Yeahs and a young Frederic Chopin before he sold out.  My wife and I still get goosebumps whenever we listen to her haunting performance of “What Did Mr. Turkey Say?”

Unfortunately, yesterday’s recital, the 19th Stella show I’ve attended, was a testament to just how far this once inspiring musical trailblazer has fallen.  Stella has clearly forgotten all that made her early work so profound.  She has succumbed, like so many greats before her, to the integrity-killing trappings of recital trophies and courtesy applause.

The show began with a note-for-note rendition of Stella’s latest hit, “The Little Fox,” a paint-by-the-numbers ditty that contains mere trace elements of her early-day prowess.  Thenceforth until the show’s merciful end, the experience was akin to watching puppies slowly die before your very eyes.  Avoiding all her earlier songs like misbegotten children, Stella soullessly floundered through three more forgettable new tunes that were all clearly crafted for the mainstream.  Finally, after the last notes of “Old Joe” were struck, the sobering experience was over.  I immediately walked out of the church, tossed my “Stella 2011 Tour” hat in the trash, and swore on my MacBook Pro to never again attend a Stella show.  My soul just can’t take it.

It’s a sad fact of life, but these things do happen.  Artists strike artistic gold, earn respect from us smug-elite, catch the ear of some wannabes, and soon thereafter walk away from integrity never to return.  Stella’s older brother, Asher, still holds out hope that she will get the fire back and return to her “Mr. Turkey” glory.  I, on the other hand, have seen this sort of thing happen too many times before and have already rightfully reclassified Stella in the same category as other sellouts like Weezer and Levi, my viola-playing nephew.

Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better: 10 Best Cover Songs Ever

Once in a blue moon (as the kids today say), an artist takes another’s song and really makes it his/her/their own.  What really makes a cover great?  First of all, the original cannot be some obscure song that nobody can compare the cover to.  There’s no guts in taking a “traditional” and twisting it to your liking, knowing full well you’re only one of 0.0001% of the population that has heard the song.  Second, the cover has to present something massively new to the song.  Playing something note-for-note or just adding some new sound effect is nothing noteworthy.  The really good ones take a great song, rip it to shreds, throw other shreds into the pile, and paste together something that itself is also great.

Honorable Mentions: House of the Rising Sun – The Animals, Ring of Fire – Social Distortion, Higher Ground – Red Hot Chili Peppers, Quinn the Eskimo (Mighty Quinn) – Manfred Mann, Nothing Compares 2 You – Sinead O’Connor, Mad World – Gary Jules, No Quarter – Tool,

10. Faith – Limp Bizkit

Don’t laugh.  Don’t laugh because you loved it.  If only for a moment, you thought it was great.  And truth be told, it was!  Mind you, this was back before we all (including the rest of the band) realized what a massive choad Fred Durst was.  This was back before every new rock band had a terrible, terrible rapper serving up white-hot angry rhymes (emphasis on the white).  This was back before every band had to have an ironic cover of an 80s pop tune (at least it was supposed to be ironic).  For the moment, however short it was, this was extremely clever.  And whether you care to admit it or not, it still rocks the crap out of that 19-year-old still trapped inside of you.

9. I Heard It Through the Grapevine – Creedence Clearwater Revival

What?  Better than the Marvin Gaye cover?  I’m going to say yes, but for one reason and one reason only.  Gaye’s song is a classic for sure.  It’s so good that you don’t want it to end.  Well, CCR’s version practically doesn’t end, therefore it gets the nod.

8. Hey Joe – Patti Smith

While it’s true that Hendrix did not pen the song, he brought it to the masses and in doing so made it a very, very MAN song.  Come on, a song about wasting your girl because you caught her cheating?  Not exactly something one would expect any woman to connect with.  Then along comes Patti Smith and sings it with such beautiful and haunting timidity that you could almost hear it coming from the quivering lips of the song’s targeted woman as she awaits the wrath of her murderous cuckold.  Simply stunning.

7. With A Little Help From My Friends – Joe Cocker

Paul McCartney had a vision: A concept album written and performed by a fictitious band and its equally fictitious opening act.  What came of it was an intro song introducing the show, the opening song by the opening act (Billy Shears), a reprise of the intro song, and ten songs that had nothing to do with the concept.  The original version of this song was Billy Shears’s only tune, done with ho-hum playfulness that only Ringo Starr could pull off.

A year later, noted howler and faux-Parkinson’s sufferer Joe Cocker screamed this ode to friendship like he was walking through a hallway full of mousetraps.  And thanks to the Wonder Years, we’ll never be able to think of the original first.  The cover is so memorable that the Beatles-inspired musical film “Across the Universe” splits the original version with Cocker’s version, the only song in the film that isn’t 100% pure Beatles.

6. Little Wing – Stevie Ray Vaughan

With his original recording, Hendrix gave the blues-rock world a beautiful seed.  Other greats took that seed and cultivated it into something greater and more profound than Hendrix had envisioned himself.  I just as well could have gone with the soul-aching, rafter-raising Derek and the Dominos version, but I’m giving the edge to SRV’s epic instrumental cover which plays as an ode not only to the original, but to guitar itself.

5. Respect – Aretha Franklin

I hear the chorus of detractors now: “Why in the flying hell is this not #1??!!”  First of all, I recognize how important this song is.  It’s the biggest song from perhaps the greatest female artist of the 20th Century.  That said, I didn’t put it on top because when you think about it, and I mean really think about it, doesn’t the song make just a tinsy bit more sense when it’s sung by a man?  Not saying that makes Otis Redding’s version better, but come on.  A man works hard on the job all day to bring home the bacon to his wife.  At that meeting point when he gets home, who’s in a better position to demand respect?  That’s all.  You may complain now.

4. All Along the Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix

Close your eyes and picture the 60s.  Picture the people, the protests, the clothes, the images on the televisions.  How long did it take before this song was playing in the background of your vision?  My guess is not long.  It’s arguably the greatest studio accomplishment of Hendrix’s career.  It’s so good that Bob Dylan ultimately eschewed his strummy original version and opted to play Hendrix’s version live after Hendrix died.

3. I Fought the Law – The Clash

This song was originally written and recorded by the Crickets post-Buddy Holly.  It became somewhat of a riff-raff’s blues, but the angst behind the lyrics wasn’t fully unleashed until the Clash gloriously paired them with their gloriously distorted power-chords.  It’s a cover from another era and another part of the world, but yet somehow it just seemed to fit so perfectly with the hardships of 1970s England, especially when spit by the great Joe Strummer.

2. Twist and Shout – The Beatles

“Please Please Me” kick-started their career in England.  “I Want to Hold Your Hand” did the trick in America.  But when you think about early Beatles, is there any song that stands out more than this Isley Brothers classic?  And doesn’t everybody still fantasize about dancing on a float in a parade while lip-synching this song, ala Ferris Bueller?  Fun fact: John Lennon’s scream-sing style, arguably what made the song a classic, was one of those unplanned and brilliant accidents.  The whole of the Beatles’ first album was recorded in a single day (save for the two singles previously recorded).  At the end of the day, John couldn’t sing worth a lick.  He screamed his way through “Twist and Shout,” the last song they recorded, because that was all he could do at that point!

1. Proud Mary –Tina Turner

When you think of the qualities of an impressive cover song, which quality is this version of CCR’s classic lacking?  Not a thing.  I’m a big CCR fan, but I will readily admit that they were only stewards to this song’s throne until Ms. Turner was ready to claim her rightful place as its true owner.  And own it she did.  Nobody made an already good song blossom into a classic-for-the-ages like Tina did with this song. (Note: I realize that the actual artist for this version is “Ike & Tina Turner,” but you know, f*** that guy.)

How Dare You!: Top 10 Worst Cover Songs Ever

Almost by definition, cover songs are crap.  It is rare when a cover song stands up as well or better than the original.  And that’s the key, because if a song isn’t up to par with the original, why record it again?  What’s the point?

Most bad cover songs either cause you to roll your eyes (Limp Bizkit covering the Who) or giggle (Celine Dion covering AC/DC).  But there are some that go ten steps beyond that.  There are some covers that make you think “What were they thinking?” at best and “HOW DARE YOU!” at worst.  These are the worst of the worst.

10. Hurt – Johnny Cash

What??!!  He’s ripping on Johnny Cash??!!  Murder him!!!

Settle down.  There’s something to be said here.  First of all, I loved the video.  It was a hauntingly beautiful tribute to the man’s incredible career, and Trent Reznor’s music was a good soundtrack to it.  But look at the song by itself.  What is it?  It’s the sound of an old man dying.  That style works in some tunes like “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” and “Ain’t No Grave,” but here it only injects a good song with a dose of old man smell.

9 . Eleanor Rigby – Aretha Franklin

I’m Eleanor Rigby”?  This song did not need a first-person perspective, and it certainly didn’t need to be “souled up a bit.”  I don’t think this song can be done in any way that isn’t dark and morose, and this is proof that one shouldn’t try to change that.

8. I Love Rock ‘n Roll – Britney Spears

When I was in my late-teens and early-20s, I had this belief that pop artists of that era and their fans really just did not understand music, and they didn’t give a shit that they didn’t.  There was no real appreciation for quality song craftmanship and no reverence for artists who treated music like the powerful art form that it is.  I saw evidence in Usher calling Bob Dylan “Bill” and Avril Lavigne pronouncing David Bowie’s surname in a manner that made it rhyme with a child’s “owwie!”

Britney Spears provided the ultimate “I don’t give a shit about music” moment with this song.  It’s not that the Joan Jett version is a music masterpiece, and it’s not that Brit did anything to it that one wouldn’t have expected.  What makes this one especially bad is the revelation that Brit didn’t even know whose song she was covering.  How’s that for “knowing where you came from”?

7. What’s Going On – Artists Against AIDS Worldwide

Wherever children are suffering, Bono is there.  To add insult to injury of those inflicted with AIDS in Africa, Bono united every attention-hungry artist of 2001 to create “We Are the World Part 2” in the form of a cover of Marvin Gaye’s anti-Vietnamm classic.  The result: nobody bought the song, and thousands more died of AIDS.  Seriously, did anybody ever believe that the Backstreet Boys gave a shit about AIDS in Africa?  How about Britney Spears?  Puff Daddy?  Jennifer Lopez?  Nelly?  Christina Aguillara?  In total, 23 “artists” placed their hands on the hatchet that murdered this song all in the name of “Hey, look at me!”

6.  Anarchy in the UK – Motley Crue

The Sex Pistols and Motley Crue both have four members.  They both play instruments.  They are both all-male bands.  Those are the similarities.  The list of differences would break the internet.  The original was a primal scream on behalf of the working-class Brits who were fed up with their given lot in 70s England.  Sounds like a great tune for a bunch of strip-club frequenting, “we’re bad boys because we say we are” cross-dressers from the cocaine cesspool that was LA in the 80s.

5.  Sweet Child o’ Mine – Sheryl Crow

What Sheryl Crow did to this song is the equivalent of giving Clint Eastwood a sex change operation.  The original was a power ballad that actually had some power (with just a hint of cheese).  To boot, it had what I consider to be the best guitar riff ever.  And this former school teacher listened to all that power and decided it needed to be fitted for a pair of Birkenstocks.  What makes it worse?  The Grammys.

4.  Turn the Page – Metallica

The original is slow, but it makes your soul cry tears of blood.  The cover is just plain boring.  They just take the original and add some distortion to it.  I didn’t ask for distortion in this song.  Did you ask for distortion in this song?  I didn’t think so.

3. American Pie – Madonna

When word got out that Madonna was covering “American Pie,” it was kind of like watching a man walk slowly towards an active buzzsaw.  One would think, “Well, he’s obviously not going to keep walking.  He has to stop, I mean . . . it’s a buzzsaw.  Why would he . . . oh, he’s not stopping.  Why isn’t he stopping?  His eyes are open.  He can see it.  Why won’t he stop . . . oh, he didn’t stop . . . ewwwww.”

Who was asking for this?  Seriously, who told this @$$hole that this was a good idea?  She should have gone to prison for this.

2. My Generation – Hillary Duff

Pardon me, “Hope I don’t die before I get old”???  Did you really just do that?  Do you have ANY idea what that song is supposed to represent?  Any at all?  You might as well have re-written the Declaration of Independence to read as a pledge of perpetual allegiance to the British crown.  Seriously, how dare you.

1. Tutti Frutti – Pat Boone

Sometimes songs represent something bigger.  This recording represents a dark and shameful period of our nation’s history.  It’s a black eye on every ideal our nation is supposed to stand for.  Forget about the massive de-balling of this Rock ‘n Roll founding father (and there is plenty of that going on here).  What’s infinitely worse is the fact that the only reason this recording exists is so white people didn’t have to listen to a black man sing to them.  The original was and is to this day a massive powerhouse that should be a uniter; something that gets everyone to jump around like happy idiots on the dance floor.  Unfortunately, they didn’t want everybody on the same dance floors back then.  So we get this ode to whiteness for your finger-snapping pleasure.  “How dare you” doesn’t say enough.

Bad Basketball


We hated Duke.  My dad and I, we absolutely hated them. 

I was only eleven at the time, but I remember wanting terrible things to happen to Christian Laettner.  Major injury.  Bus accident.  Sickness.  I hoped he wouldn’t get drafted.  I wanted him to be miserable.

The problem with Duke was, and I hate to admit this now, they just always won!  They’d get down and you’d think they’d lose, but they’d always come back.  They were the seemingly unbeatable team, and that’s why we always wanted them to lose so bad! 

I remember watching that game against Kentucky with my dad.  Kentucky went up with two seconds to go and we thought it had finally happened.  The dragon had finally been slayed!  Duke was done!  My dad and I were high-fiving and laughing.  And then Laettner hit that damn shot . . .

*                      *                      *                      *                      *

1992 was a good year for the sport of basketball.  It was actually a good year in a string of good years.  I probably wasn’t the best year ever, maybe not even in my lifetime, but it was good.  Pretty damn good.

The Dream Team won the gold medal, winning every game by an average of 44 points  Apparently their opponents were too busy asking for autographs to play defense.*

(*Fun fact: In the 14 games the Dream Team played, Coach Chuck Daily never called a single time out.  Historians debate whether or not he bothered to stay awake for any of the games.)

Jordan’s Bulls defeated Clyde Drexler’s Portland Trailblazers in the NBA Finals 4-2.  It was their second in a row on their way to six in eight years.  The last game of the series had a 15-point fourth quarter comeback by the Bulls.  I remember Jordan icing it by rattling in a free throw and pumping both fists in the air.  Great moment.  The series also had this moment.

And Duke crushed Michigan’s Fab Five in the NCAA finals.  They let them hang around until about six minutes left in the game, then the promptly put on their shit-kickers and proceeded to kick some shit.  The game featured six All-Americans and five future NBA all-stars.  And a little over a week prior to that game, this happened.

It’s twenty years later (excuse me while I weep slightly over that fact).  We don’t know yet if the American Olympic team will take the gold.  We don’t know yet who will win the NBA Championship.  But we did just witness the NCAA tournament.  And it sucked.

Don’t get me wrong, that Kentucky team was a great team.  I’ve heard they’ll have six first-round picks this year from that team.  I’m not sure they ever felt seriously threatened in a game.  They played unselfish, high-quality basketball and were pretty fun to watch.  At least they were fun during the 30-40 minutes I actually saw them play.

The tournament overall, though, was garbage.  It was just bad basketball.  Almost every game featured bad basketball.  You could see it from the opening tipoff.  So many teams relied on fast-breaks and swinging the ball around the perimeter for open threes to get points.  Never any inside-outside game.  Never any pick-and-roll to the basket for a layup.  Never any post-up play.  Just team after team making useless perimeter pass after useless perimeter pass until the dwindling shot clock made them panic and force up a bad shot.

And what was the result of this style of offense?  In the 67 tournament games, only twice did a team’s score top 90 points, and that was the same game (Kentucky beating Indiana in the Sweet 16, 102-90).  The average final score for a tournament game: 71-62.  The one and two-seeds, the supposed top teams in the tournament, won their opening round games by an average of only about 11 points (with two #2s losing).

Compare that with twenty years ago.  During the 63 games of the 1992 tournament, the 90-point barrier was topped 12 times, 100-point barrier topped seven times.   Average final score: 81-69.  the ones and twos won their opening round games by an average of about 28 points.

And what about the end-of-game possessions?  There were 13 games this year that were decided by three points or less or went to overtime.  Not one of those games contained a successful game-winning/tying shot in the last ten seconds of the game.  Anyone who saw the last 30 seconds NC State/Georgetown, Creighton/Alabama, or Syracuse/Wisconsin knows well that there is only one thing this year’s tournament teams were good at when the game was on the line.  Panic.  There was no this.   Nor was there any of this or this.  And there certainly wasn’t any of this.

So why are scoring, clutch-play, and overall quality of basketball down?  Better, more-athletic defense?  Lack of team discipline?  Poor coaching strategies?

How about just flat out lack of talent, both at the individual and team level.  That’s my theory.

Where’d all the ringers go?

In the first round of the 1992 NBA Draft, 23 out of the 27 first-round picks (85%) were seniors.  The other four were juniors.  The lowest non-senior was drafted at #18, because back then you stayed in college unless you thought you had a good chance at a lottery pick.  Not one sophomore, freshman, high school player, or foreigner.  That draft featured Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning, Christian Laettner, Robert Horry, Latrell Sprewell, and Doug Christie.  Of those players, all but Shaq (thee #1 pick in the draft) was a senior.  Here’s the big stat: of the 108 possible total years of college eligibility by the first-round picks, 104 (96%) were used

This draft was not an aberration by any means.  Consider the following two drafts’ first rounds.

1993:  Nineteen of the 27 (70%) picks were seniors, to go with six juniors, one sophomore (the #1 pick), one freshman (the #2) pick, and zero high school and foreign players.  Only two non-seniors were drafted outside of the lottery, the lowest going at #21.  Total eligibility years: 97 our of 108 (90%).

1994: Eighteen of the 27 (67%) picks were seniors, to go with seven juniors, two sophomores, zero freshman, high schoolers, and foreigners.  Only two non-seniors outside the lottery, the lowest going at #15.  Total eligibility years: 97 out of 109 again (90%).

And then something happened in 1995.  Kevin Garnett decided to skip college when he realized that he couldn’t spell S.A.T. and became the first player in 20 years to enter the draft right out of high school.  It was a risky move, but Kevin McHale (Timberwolves GM that year) lost the game of prisoner’s dilemma (or won?) and picked Garnett at #5.  The rationale according to McHale: Garnett would be a lottery pick in two years anyway, so might as well get him now.  (It’s similar to the philosophy R. Kelly has when it comes to choosing women: she’ll be a hottie of legal age in two years, so . . .).

Flood gates, open!

Flash forward sixteen years to last year’s (2011) draft.  Of the 30 first-round picks, only seven (23%) were seniors (the highest of which was drafted at #10), to go with eight juniors, four sophomores, six freshman, and five foreigners.  Total eligibility years (discounting foreign players):  66 out of 100 (66% . . . duh).  Lottery picks eligibility years: 24 out of 44 (55%).

The lowest non-senior drafted was taken with the last pick of the second-round (#60).  In fact, ten second-round picks still had college eligibility left.  So much for holding out for the lottery.

All of that talent that would have stuck around and made for some incredible tournament action twenty years ago is now bolting to the NBA if there’s the slightest chance of getting drafted at all.   A dynamic freshman in the early 90s would likely have stayed for three if not all four years in college, turning into a superstar upperclassman and leading his team against other superstars in the tournament.  Now, he might stick around for another year, but may very well declare for the draft right away and go in the second-round (where no contracts are guaranteed).  A second-rounder has a very good chance of ending up in the NBDL (where he’ll play in front of hundreds of sleepy fans in Boise) or in a foreign league.  I’m sure those possibilities are what those players were dreaming about as kids.

What the hell are they thinking?

And they’re leaving for what?  I’ve heard time and time again that many of these players are from poor backgrounds and they need the money.  I’m sorry, but was poverty invented sometime in the last twenty years?

And if money is the only motivator, then you would have expected many more underclassmen in the draft twenty years ago, because rookies actually got much bigger contracts twenty years ago than they do now!  Shaquille O’Neal’s rookie contract was for $40 million (over $60 million in today’s money when adjusted for inflation).  Kyrie Irving, 2011’s #1 pick, signed for $21.9 million (or about $21.9 million in today’s money).

So aside from getting (comparative) chump change contracts, what is on these players’ minds when they forego the remainder of their eligibility?  Isn’t tournament glory and god-like status on campus worth putting off these unmoving contracts for another year or two?

It’s easy for me to say, because all of my basketball idols growing up had their college glory before tearing it up in the NBA.  If I weren’t destined to be a 5’9 slow white dude who could barely touch the rim in my prime (that would be when I was 16) and could actually ball growing up, I would have wanted to follow in the footsteps of my heroes and made some magical moments in college before turning pro.  Michael Jordan, Isaiah Thomas, and Magic Johnson all won NCAA championships before turning pro.   Nobody, and I mean nobody, that I admired in the pros spent less than two years in college first.  Most of the time it was three or all four years.

Compare that with the players the youngins are worshipping now.  Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, and Dwight Howard skipped college altogether.  Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, and Carmello Anthony stuck around for only one year (although Carmello did get a championship in that one year).  There’s no more glory in playing in college.  The glory is all in getting to the pros, regardless of what path you take to get there.

Fleshing this out a little more, here are the lists of NBA players selected to the respective All-Star games of 1992 (my boys) and 2012 (their boys):



Isaiah Thomas – 2 years (Indiana)Michael Jordan – 3 years (North Carolina)

Larry Bird – 3 years (Indiana State)

Charles Barkley – 3 years (Auburn)

Patrick Ewing – 4 years (Georgetown)

Brad Daugherty – 4 years (North Carolina)

Joe Dumars – 4 years (McNeese State)

Reggie Lewis – 4 years (Northeastern)

Scottie Pippen – 4 years (Central Arkansas)

Mark Price – 4 years (Georgia Tech)

Dennis Rodman – 3 years (SE Oklahoma St.)

Dominique Wilkins – 3 years (Georgia)

Magic Johnson – 2 years (Michigan State)

Clyde Drexler – 3 years (Houston)

Chris Mullin – 4 years (St. John’s)

Karl Malone – 3 years (Louisiana Tech)

David Robinson – 4 years (Navy)

Tim Hardaway – 4 years (UTEP)

Jeff Hornacek – 4 years (Iowa State)

Dan Majerle – 4 years (Central Michigan)

Dikembe Mutombo – 3 years (Georgetown)

Hakeem Olajuwan – 3 years (Houston)

John Stockton – 4 years (Gonzaga)

Otis Thorpe – 4 years (Providence)

James Worthy – 3 years (North Carolina)

Carmello Anthony – 1 year (Syracuse)Lebron James – Skipped college

Derrick Rose – 1 year (Memphis)

Dwyane Wade – 3 years (Marquette)

Dwight Howard – Skipped college

Chris Bosh – 1 year (Georgia Tech)

Luol Deng – 1 year (Duke)

Roy Hibbert – 4 years (Georgetown)

Andre Iguodala- 2 years (Arizona)

Joe Johnson – 2 years (Arkansas)

Paul Pierce – 3 years (Kansas)

Rajon Rondo – 2 years (Kentucky)

Deron Williams – 3 years (Illinois)

Kevin Durant – 1 year (Texas)

Blake Griffin – 2 years (Oklahoma)

Kobe Bryant – Skipped college

Chris Paul – 2 years (Wake Forest)

Andrew Bynum – Skipped college

LaMarcus Aldridge – 2 years (Texas)

Marc Gasol – Dirty foreigner

Kevin Love – 1 year (UCLA)

Steve Nash – 4 years (Santa Clara)

Dirk Nowinski – Dirty foreigner

Tony Parker – Dirty foreigner

Russell Westbrook – 2 years (UCLA)

Average College: 3.58

1 year or no college: 0/24

Average College: 1.54

1 year or no college: 13/24

Of the 24 All-Stars in 1992, all but two played at least three years in college.  Thirteen played all four years in college before turning pro.  And every one of them could have gone pro after one year or even without going to college at all.  But that would have been unheard of!  These were the players I grew up worshipping.

But of the 24 All-Stars in 2012, thirteen played one year of college ball or didn’t play American college ball at all.  A whopping two out of the 24 played four years in college.  These are the players modern basketball fans worship.  These are the players they will model their careers after.

So this is how it’s going to be from now until the foreseeable future.  The really great players, the ones that made past NCAA basketball seasons so fun to watch, will impress for a year before bolting to the NBA.  All of their potential will be realized in the pros, with only a glimpse of it available to fans of college ball.  Thus, college ball will continue to be unimpressive and dull.

Is there a fix for this?  I’ve heard of a couple ideas, but the only thing that would really work is if the NBA actually stops wanting these unproven players and instead only want those that have developed for multiple years in college before considering entering the draft.

How can we do that?  Simple, somebody finally invent a time machine and go back and assassinate Kevin McHale sometime before the 1995 NBA draft.  Other than that, I’m stumped.

I’m On Drugs


I haven’t had anything to write this week, mainly because I recently had a wisdom tooth yanked out of me and I’ve been in a Vicodin-induced haze since.

This is my first experience with Vicodin.  I had heard of people using it recreationally, but now that I’ve experienced it I have no idea why.  It does nothing to me except make me sleepy!  If I wanted that recreationally, I wouldn’t pay for a drug and risk going to jail for possessing a prescription drug without a prescription.  I would just stay up later!