Monday, June 30, 2008

Tampa is the lost city of Atlantis

Like Istanbul or St. Petersburg, Russia, the city of Tampa once went by a different name. According to author Dennis Brooks and his 30 years of research on the ancient writings of Plato, Tampa was once the lost city of Atlantis. In this YouTube clip and its accompanying book, Atlantis Was America: Tampa Was The Royal City, he explains his theory.

And in the words of the nearly-as-wise modern-age philosopher Scarface from the stirring cinematic masterpiece "Half Baked", "I believe him, yo. I don't know why, but I do."

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Requiem for the Orange Bowl, Domain of Manimal

I received this image in an email from a good friend the other day. This is what's left of the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida.

The Orange Bowl was one of those rare places that transcended sports. Although it was the home of those talented (and cocky) Hurricane teams and those ancient, way-back, long ago championship Dolphins teams, and was the location of five Super Bowls, it also hosted some the biggest names in music. According to the all-seeing and all-knowing Wikipedia, the Orange Bowl hosted performances by The Rolling Stones, U2, Madonna, and Michael Jackson (which I think was his Super Bowl performance, so that really shouldn't count).

Personally, I only went to the Orange Bowl once. No, it wasn't to see the Seminoles lose to the Hurricanes in one of the many missed field goal games ("Wide Right" even has its own Wikipedia entry).

I went to see Metallica.

Way back in their pre-St. Anger days, back when Jason Newsted was still in the band, and fresh on the heels of their Symphony & Metallica release, Metallica included a stop in Miami on their "M2K Mini-Tour". Thanks to Encyclopedia Metallica, I know now that this show occurred on December 28th, 1999. Check that out, they even have the set list and everything. Very cool. But I digress ...

Other than being the largest show I have ever attended (some 80,000 strong), and besides the fact that it was my brother's first concert, and besides the fact that I also saw Sevendust, Creed, and Kid Rock there as well, my Metallica experience at the Orange Bowl changed my life forever. It was the day I met a man - nay, a legend - named Manimal.

After spending the majority of the opening acts near the stage, my brother and I were forced to vacate our spot and venture nearly mid-field during Metallica's performance. Call us wimps, but between the constant shoving and being pressed into other sweaty male bodies we were becoming quite uncomfortable. So we decided to high-tail it to a spot where we could see the show without getting a steady diet of elbows to the ribs.

Back in the day, my brother was a big dude. Although only 16, he was, if I remember correctly, "a biscuit shy of 300 pounds". So when he said he was going to a less-crowded spot, I smartly decided to follow.

As you can imagine for a crowd that size, people were everywhere. The stage was located in the endzone and people were all over the field. Although I don't how rowdy the crowd was during Sevendust, Kid Rock, and Creed, when Metallica hit the stage the whole field turned into a warzone. Bodies running into each other, people beating the shit out of each other, and dancing crazies spinning like whirling dervishes. With size on his side, my brother cared little for this large array of oddites. With me in his wake, my "little" brother mowed through several mosh pits, throwing people out of his way on the journey to safety.

When we finally reached a relative area of calmness, where people were actually watching Metallica instead of impersonating human locomotives, we asked around to see if anyone would be moshing in the area. If so, we were ready to move.

Our answer came from a short, bald, stocky, stereotypical biker dude wearing a t-shirt that read "Fuck You, You Fuckin' Fuck". Looking deadly serious, this beast of a man said, "I'm Manimal, half-man, half-animal." He then proceeded to show us the biggest man-ring I have ever seen. It resembled a class ring, only two to three times bigger.

"You see this ring," he asked.

Of course, how could we miss it?

"Nobody is going to mosh near me. If they do, I'm going to hit them with this ring."

Sure enough, true to his word, no one moshed near Manimal. And to this day, Manimal remains one of the most intimidating people I have ever met.

So although the Orange Bowl is now gone, I still live by a few simple rules: don't mess with people who wear masks, don't cause trouble with people with facial tattoos, and never, ever mess with a guy named Manimal.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

George Carlin (1937-2008)

He didn't pass away.

He didn't have a terminal episode.

He didn't have a negative patient care outcome.

And he damn sure didn't expire.

He fuckin' died.

On a personal note, I've been a huge Carlin fan for years. I finally got the chance to see him live in late 2006. And even though his most recent performances sound more like a bitter old man complaining (see his comments on fat people, people shopping at the mall, Americans being lazy, etc), and even though there was some drunk, annoying, loud, obnoxious boor of a woman behind me hideously laughing at every little Carlin utterance, I must admit seeing George Carlin was like seeing a master at work. He was the King of the Counter-Culture, the Rembrandt of Rhetoric, and the Leonardo of Language.

And so to quote from a Carlin re-visit to his Al Sleet "Hippy Dippy Weatherman" sketch, "When there is nothing left to conquer in your field, hey, it's time to leave."

Rest in Peace, George Carlin.

Discovering Bo Diddley

For years I was ignorant.

For years I knew nothing of Bo Diddley.

Thank goodness I came to my senses.

Although I have an extensive blues collection, not before last week had I owned any Bo Diddley albums. Following the news of his recent death however, I bought Bo Diddley's Greatest Hits. Now I am trying to figure out how Bo Diddley passed me by for so many years.

(By the way, did you know in Philadelphia, a Bo Diddley's Greatest Hits CD is worth 50 bucks? But I digress. Getting back to the story ...)

I like to think I am pretty knowledgeable about the blues and its influence on early rock and roll. I have albums (CDs, songs, etc, etc.) by Robert Johnson, Son House, and Lightnin' Hopkins. I have Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, and Howlin' Wolf. I have BB King, Albert King, Junior Wells, and my personal favorite, Buddy Guy. But I never had any Bo Diddley.

So needless to say, once I hit play and listened to some Bo, I knew I had been in the dark all these years.

Even though I had all the aforementioned blues tunes and knew my blues history, I never knew where the rock sound of early rock and roll came from. Where did the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, and later Aerosmith get their sound? Was it a British thing? Did they make it up? No, it was Bo. Bo Diddley was my missing link in the history of rock.

Unfortunately, it took his death for me to understand the importance of Bo Diddley. Rest in peace, Bo.

P.S. However criminally underrated Bo Diddley was, multiply that by 10 and that describes Willie Dixon. He not only wrote songs for Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and dozens of others, but covers of his songs helped launch the careers of The Stones, Led Zeppelin, Cream, and countless other rock and blues groups. If he was around today, Willie Dixon would be bigger than Sean (Puffy, Diddy, whatever) Combs and Timbaland combined.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Hey, Wait, I'm Blogging Sports Complaints

With Will Leitch moving on from Deadspin to bigger and better aspirations, I figured I would finally post a piece I have been working on for the better half of six months.

(Truth be told, it was only two months. For the last four, the rough draft of this post was sitting under a pile of magazines until I just found it this past weekend.)

So without further ado ...

As corporate interests continue to influence more and more of our lifestyles, all-out revolutions in popular cultural grow exceedingly less common. The Beatles in 1964, Star Wars in 1977, MTV in 1981, and Nirvana in 1991 all shocked the establishment and altered the course of popular culture. These movements all featured the right mix of contemporary status quo, corporate complacency, an established underground, and a new exciting catalyst. To anyone reading this blog, it should come as no surprise that I think the culture of sports media is facing its own revolutionary phenomenon, the emergence and acceptance of sports blogs.

One of the best ways to examine the effectiveness of a cultural revolution is to measure it to one of its previous predecessors. As Leitch is a self-professed Nirvana fan, it makes sense to compare the his Deadspin-led sports blog movement to the rise of the grunge music scene in the early 1990s.

Let’s start in the beginning ...

Like several pre-Nirvana grunge bands, many early sports blogs were created as a reaction to the perceived stagnation and commercialization of the sports media establishment. Whereas the late 80s rock scene had been flooded with corporate “hair-metal” creations such as Nelson and Winger, the national sports media of the early 2000s had become fascinated with the glamorization and celebrity of sports rather than the games themselves. Sports fans across the nation quickly tired of platforms such as ESPN Hollywood and ESPN’s Page 3, the sports version of US Magazine.

In opposition to this growing fascination with “sports celebs”, small groups of Internet-savvy fans began congregating on fan-centric sites such as and national sports story sites such as Can’t Stop The Bleeding. These sites would not only tell the news of the day with short, staccato-like, near-instantaneous speed, but they would also pepper the news with their own commentary, the opinion of one fan broadcast to others. In the definitive grunge documentary Hype!, a member of the Seattle scene describes the grunge movement as bring rock music “back to its basics.” As the sports blogging underground slowly expanded, and Internet communication became easier, sports reporting was also going back to its basics.

Although these early sports blogs achieved moderate success (comparable perhaps to the early releases of Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, and Mother Love Bone), the birth of in September 2005 changed the course of sports blogging history. Like Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, crashed the barriers of acceptance, surpassed its fellow sports blogs, and dared to compete with the giants of the corporate sports media establishment.

Through the power of Internet linking and openness, became more than just an alternate sports media source. It created a community of commenters, like-minded sports fans, and lesser-known bloggers. Like the lyrics of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, Will Leitch’s posts annunciated a philosophy to sports blogging. No longer were sports to be used as a vehicle for marketing and product placement, they would again be something to be enjoyed and celebrated. Those who disagreed and either took sports too seriously or wallowed in their own sports celebrity became targets of ridicule.

Upon its inception, the mantra of Leitch and was to publish "sports news without access, favor, or discretion". This guiding principle was almost identical to the philosophy of Nirvana’s recording label, Sub Pop Records. According to Seth Mullins of Associated Content, Sub Pop's philosophy was to reject a marketing-based "cookie-cutter mentality" and to "make room for the individual again", turning "records and performances into the means of celebrating individuality". By encouraging fans to participate through their comments and individual blogs, brought back a sense of realness to sports fandom.

Deadspin’s success not only alerted the mainstream sports media of the influence of sports blogs, but also spawned countless new independent sports blogs, some of which gained significant acclaim. As Deadspin led the way and often assisted in viewership, blogs such as Awful Announcing, The Big Lead, With Leather, and Kissing Suzy Kolber acquired their own distinct niche and readership, becoming the Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Stone Temple Pilots to Deadspin’s Nirvana. Like Deadspin, these blogs all made a name for themselves in the growing sports blogosphere, eventually either breaking their own stories causing controversy through their posts. For a great number of sports fans, keeping up to date with their favorite sports blogs became a routine part of the fan experience.

Like post-Nirvana grunge, and despite its detractors, blogging is the “in” sports media trend. Nearly all mainstream sports outlets have some sort of blogging coverage. ESPN has Henry Abbott and his popular blog True Hoop, internet giant has AOL Fanhouse; there is the Sporting News blog, and the expansion of Yahoo! Sports. Sports blogs, for better or for worse, are everywhere, and a focus on the game has somewhat returned to mainstream sports media. But the heartbeat of the common fan, that fire and passion that comes only with community and shared love of sport, remains far from secure.

And so the questions ...

What will come of the sports blog revolution now that Will Leitch is leaving Deadspin? Will his torch be carried on by the next editor? Or will the counter-culture philosophy of the biggest sports blog fall by the wayside, replaced by bloggers who would forsake their views as passionate fans for corporate compensation or cheap jokes? Will these and other bloggers ride their gimmicks to the next payday? Will the mantra Leitch promoted be marginalized by the very consumerist machine that sparked its conception? And once again, will the common voice of the fan be drowned in a sea of over-hype and disillusionment?