Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Knights

I certainly can’t allow the hometown team’s awesome Memorial Cup victory to go by without mention!  Growing up with the London Knights, my generation remembers the low point in Knights (and perhaps hockey) history in the mid-90’s.  They played in the ‘Ice House,’ a dilapidated arena in the back of a shopping mall on the outskirts of town near the highway.  One season they won, literally, just three games and lost 60.  (With three ties!  Remember when hockey had ties!)  They were an absolute joke of the franchise until they were purchased by the Hunter brothers.  I can only presume Pierre Turgeon was preparing to make a bid until Dale cross-checked him from behind at the boardroom conference table.

Over the last 15 years or so, the Knights morphed into laughingstock to the class of junior hockey.  The team is always competitive, always pumping out top NHL prospects, always selling out the Budweiser Gardens*, and putting London firmly on the hockey map.  The Knights won squat until the Hunters took over, and now they’ve won four OHL titles in the last 11 seasons and two Memorial Cups.

* = say what you will about the folly of cities funding private sports stadia, but in London’s case, it actually worked.  The London downtown was deader than dead for decades until the Gardens revitalized the area.

In a way, this Memorial Cup was even more impressive than the first title in 2005.  The CHL awards the Memorial Cup to a host city every year and, to ensure local interest, automatically gives the host city a spot in the four-team tournament.  Now, while the CHL picks a strong team for hosting duties so it’s not a total competitive farce, I’ve always seen this as pretty weird.  How can the hosting team be expected to keep up the intensity over an entire season when they know for a fact that their whole year will come down to 3+ games in six months’ time? 

Regardless, I wasn’t complaining when London hosted the Cup in 2005 and the Knights won it.  Still, this time around, the Knights properly won the OHL playoffs and advanced to Red Deer, where they utterly stomped their way through the round-robin matches with a 3-0 record and a 20-5 edge in goals.  The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies gave them a big scare in the final, yet the Knights pulled through with an overtime victory. 

•_•)  I guess you could say the Knights….
( •_•)>⌐■-■
(⌐■_■) ….ruined Noranda.

So here the Knights are, CHL champs once more.  If that wasn’t enough, the Knights’ best player is Mitch Marner, a Maple Leafs draft pick who ran roughshod over the league this year and is poised to eventually be making his way up to the big club.  Can Marner take some of the Knights magic to Toronto to revive the Leafs?  I think we can all agree that Nazem Kadri tried and failed, so it’s time for another Knight to ride into the kingdom.

This is easily the most exciting thing to happen in London since the Thames River became five percent less toxic.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Other People's Writing

Holy smokes, Other People’s Writing is back!  With fanfare!

* Blog readers know how I'm often championing 'The Americans' as both perhaps the best show on TV and absolutely the most underrated given how it's inexplicably ignored by both audiences and awards shows.  Little did I know that the show was in part based on a real-life situation involving Russian sleeper agents raising a family in the United States, as chronicled by The Guardian's Shaun Walker.  Tell you what, to avoid spoilers, watch all three-plus seasons and THEN come back to read the article.  I'll wait.

* Joe Posnanski openly admits ranking the top 100 Summer Olympics athletes of all time is a fruitless endeavour, so I can't complain too much over nonsense like his ranking most of the Dream Team into 11 slots.  Then again, he leaves off Christian Laettner, which is patently hilarious.

* Animaniacs was watched by pretty much everyone in my generation so we didn’t need to “get it,” though it’s certainly one of those shows that you really needed to see to understand (or believe).  The Toast’s Abbey Fenbert sums up the show as well as possible, and I'll also mention that Tiny Toon Adventures was an important and necessary forerunner in the "incredibly postmodern WB cartoons" canon.  Sixteen-year-old Mark watching Citizen Kane for the first time was pretty blown away to realize that he'd already seen the entire film spoofed via Tiny Toons' "Citizen Max" episode (plus several gags on the Simpsons).

* The SNL "ten to 1" sketch to end all ten-to-1 sketches may well have been the legendarily weird potato chip sketch, the creation of which is chronicled in this oral history by Uproxx's Mike Ryan.  To this day, I cannot figure out how Will Forte, Jason Sudeikis and Blake Lively got through that thing without so much as a smirk out of character.  Forte and Sudeikis were tough nuts to crack (in fact, I'm not sure I saw Forte break character even once in all his years on the show) but for a first-timer like Lively to get through it, that takes skill.  Between this and living every day having to laugh at Ryan "Tries Too Hard" Reynolds' jokes, is Blake Lively the best actress of our generation?

* Few celebrities inspired as much mystique as Prince, who was essentially the potato chip sketch of musicians.  In the wake of his death, Vulture's David Marchese re-published an old compilation of 24 of the best eccentric Prince stories, and I can only imagine they're all true.

* It almost feels like Tiger Woods is approaching that Prince zone where almost any anecdote (no matter how odd) can be instantly believed, if this piece by Wright Thompson is any indication.  Tiger believes in ghosts?  Sure.  Tiger has no confidence around women, much to the shock of Michael Jordan and Derek Jeter?  Why not.  Tiger considered leaving golf entirely to enter Navy SEAL training?  Checks out.  I can't recommend this piece highly enough if you're a golf fan.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Gord Downie

It was a rainy Sunday afternoon, both wet and humid enough to irritate the hundreds/thousand-plus people in attendance at the 2014 Field Trip festival since there is precious little tree cover at Fort York.  As much romance as there is in the idea of musical festivals being a muddy nirvana, you never want to actually experience it.  Still, the conditions didn't matter, since the main stage featured none other than the Sadies (a pretty big name in their own right) and Gord Downie, fronting the band for a tour to promote an album collaboration. 

The cool thing about solo or side projects for members of major bands is that it usually makes them more accessible.  The Tragically Hip, of course, are probably a little too big for Field Trip; while they're a pretty old-school touring band that doesn't put on airs, their tours are more apt to take them to the ACC or Downsview whenever they're through Toronto.  (Realistically, the Hip could likely sell out a one-off Rogers Centre show if they wished.)  Downie the solo artist, however, was right there in the muck and the mire of Field Trip with all the other acts on the bill, like he was just another up-and-comer act or mid-tier career musician getting a gig in a fairly anonymous spot on the bill.

The great thing about Downie is that his casual performing style fits right into a laid-back festival atmosphere, yet it was also pretty apparent that he was a major cut above anyone else present.  Some frontmen just have "it."  His showmanship and charisma was off the charts.  Gord's main move that day seemed to be kind of mock rock star moves, like faux-Elvis hip swivels or pointing and smiling at literally everyone within his eye line.  He was both taking it easy and blowing everyone away; even 80% Downie was stealing the show.  I'm unfamiliar with the Sadies' music (both their old stuff and the album being promoted) yet maybe that's the best sign that a live act is really on fire.  It's one thing to win a crowd when it's diehards who know all your standards, yet quite another to win a crowd that's probably mostly comprised of casuals or non-fans like me.

I've never had the pleasure of seeing the Hip live when Downie is at full power, though of course, that may be in question given that Downie is fighting terminal brain cancer.  I have little doubt that Downie wouldn't be planning concerts with the Hip this summer if he didn't think he could perform at full strength, and this is unquestionably going to be an absolute emotional roller-coaster of a tour.  Like virtually every Canadian of my generation, the Hip have been a major part of my musical life.  Downie is widely cited as possibly the best frontman and lyricist in Canadian music history, though I'd go one step further and rank him against the best from any country.  If you have a chance to see the Hip in concert one more time, take that opportunity to experience the best at his best.   

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Survivor Ratings: Michele

Survivor Kaoh Rong taught me a few things.  Firstly, it proved once again that absolutely nobody can look attractive doing a chicken dance.  Secondly, it proved once again that Survivor has no respect for my first name — the only ‘Mark’ figures involved in the game were the impossibly arrogant doctor in Gabon, the early-vote old guy in South Pacific (who even went by ‘Papa Bear’ and not his own flawless name) and an actual chicken.  Sheesh.  Thirdly, it proved once again that the easiest path to a Survivor victory is simply to be a nice person who gets along with everyone.  That’s it.  This elaborate game is really just a glorified popularity contest.  Hell, you don’t even need to be popular writ large, you just need to be more popular than the people sitting next to you at the final tribal council.

So Michele Fitzgerald, to this extent, seemingly had this one in the bag.  She succeeded at the most basic level of any Survivor, which is that nobody seemed to have anything bad to say about her and everyone respected her game.  (Well, everyone except Neal, though as it appropriately turned out for a man in the dairy business, his opinion was a moo point.)  Her only challenge would be in getting to the end, and thanks to a couple of well-timed immunity victories and perhaps an even better-timed medical evacuation, she cracked the final three and got her name on the cheque.

With this all being said, let’s explore why I can’t put her in anything above the lower tier (say, bottom half) of Survivor winners, which is either a failing of either Michele herself or of the show’s editors.

How She Won: Interestingly, she essentially played the same game as Tai and Cydney did, except she called much less attention to herself — Tai couldn’t help but be a focal point given how he’d won the extra vote, the hidden immunity idol and his ‘super-idol’ potential, and as Jason pointed out in his jury speech, Tai didn’t really take advantage of any of those, uh, advantages.  Cydney essentially made her flip too early and instantly ticked off Jason and Scot, though I would’ve been curious to see how she would’ve fared in the F3 had she beaten Aubry in the fire duel.  Maybe Cydney then also wins the ‘eliminate a juror’ challenge* and takes out a surefire Michele vote (probably Julia) and then it’s anyone’s guess as to who Aubry/Neal/Joe all vote for on the jury.

* = while I enjoyed the uniqueness of this F3 twist, I’m probably okay with not seeing it again.  The whole point of the game is to win over the majority of your vanquished players, so I’m not keen on a twist that gives you a virtual cheat code past one of those jury obstacles.  Needless to say, I would’ve vastly preferred just a classic final two.  Let me reiterate again that Survivor should bust out a F2 every few years just to keep players on their toes, even if the show insists on having a F3 as the primary format for the final tribal council.

When it came to actual strategizing and voting people out, Michele did seem like more of an ‘extra vote’ rather than a key decision-maker due to her attempts at trying to play the middle at all times between the competing Brawn and Brains alliances.  Here’s where I defend Michele’s play a bit because there’s no rule in Survivor that insists you need to have a game built around BACKSTABZ! and BLINDSIDEZ! like you’re a crazed Russell Hantz or something.  Playing the middle is actually quite a smart strategy to deploy if you can pull it off, so kudos to Michele in that sense.

On the other hand, it seemed she less ‘pulled it off’ than ‘was kind of a leftover.’  It could be argued that if you’re playing in the middle, you’re less a member of two alliances than you are without an alliance, and Michele was able to avoid attention since there were bigger threats attracting attention.  I really question, in hindsight, the decision to vote for Jason instead of Michele at F6 — I think the group was more worried about having the loathsome Jason go on a challenge run to the FTC and leaving one of them out than they were about the possibility of Michele getting to the FTC and actually winning.  Obviously Michele was far more popular with the group at large than Jason, who seemingly would’ve garnered Scot’s vote and that would’ve been it.  Tai had the right idea in trying to swing the vote Michele’s way, though he had no power at the moment since everyone was afraid of his hidden idol.

It could be argued that Michele was a “lucky” winner since she won such a weird season, with three players getting medi’vaced with injuries (including poor Joe at the F5).  Joe’s departure was perhaps the only one that clearly benefited Michele since it seemed like the stars were aligning against her in that vote if she didn’t win the immunity challenge.  But really, every Survivor victory involves some luck — Michele is far from the only winner to perhaps get a boost from someone getting injured, or to benefit from a fortunate tribal swap.  Fun Survivor trivia note: Michele only had to actually cast *six* Tribal Council votes in the entire game thanks to all the injuries and her original tribe’s immunity wins.  She and Nick didn’t even attend their first tribal council until Day 22, for pete’s sake.  Simplest concept in the game: avoid tribal, you’re safe.

Skillset: As noted, Michele was a pretty good challenge player (particularly when it came to puzzles and balancing) and most of all, she simply just seemed to be well-liked.  This presents Survivor’s editors with a bit of a problem, since the unfortunate lesson the show seems to have learned in the post-Russell era is that the “ideal” way to win Survivor is with big moves and TV-friendly blindsides.  I’ve made this observation before and I’ll say it again, it’s a lot easier to promote a crazy vote or an idol play than it is promote “tune in at 8pm on CBS to watch people treat each other decently!”

Even after 32 seasons, the show seems to have difficulty with players who win via low-key social games.  I feel like Michele will join the likes of Vecepia, Danni, Natalie White and even two-time champ Sandra Diaz-Twine in the ranks of winners whose victories will be underrated or even undermined by many Survivor fans.  Hell, I myself have guilty of this in my old rankings of Survivor winners, as since I’m largely limited to what I’m seeing on screen*, I’m forced to give rather a shorter shrift to winners whose path to victory is so under-edited by the show.  It’s quite possibly not a coincidence that all of these “underrated” winners are women, since Survivor as a whole tends to struggle when presenting its female players beyond simple archetypes.  And to be fair to the show, men are also often slotted into the same boxes again and again, though at least when a man wins largely on the strength of his social game (i.e. Ethan), we’re inundated with scenes showing how the male winner is the nicest guy in the world.

* = I perhaps should’ve waited a few days to write this post in order to read some of the post-show scuttlebutt.  For instance, were Aubry and Tai also well-liked but Michele was just that much more popular (a JT over Fishbach scenario), or was there perhaps some ill sentiment towards one or the both of them on the jury?  After Jeremy’s win last season, for instance, lots of information emerged about how widely disliked Spencer and Tasha were amongst the jury.  Woo was a beloved fan favourite to the casual viewer, but to the S28 cast he was seen as untrustworthy due to an alleged incident where he hid out in a production tent and snuck some food.  (This wasn’t included on the show since Survivor avoids fourth-wall breaks whenever possible.)  Tai getting no votes at all surprised me, though for all I know, perhaps he was a new Rupert or Sugar, a “fan favourite” who’s actually hated within his own cast.

Could She Do It Again: Like I wrote about Vecepia, Danni and Natalie in my winner rankings, I immediately want to see Michele play again simply so I can see more of her game.  Though perhaps I’m making the wrong comparison here, and Michele is actually a properly-edited Jenna Morasca.  Jenna’s blowout win in S6 was Survivor’s first WTF result among fans, who were gobsmacked that the woman presented as a do-nothing mean girl so handily whupped challenge beast and slight weirdo Matt “Greg The Alien” von Ertfelda.  As it turned out, Jenna was actually quite pleasant and popular within the tribe, yet the editors lumped her in with Heidi as part of the “mean girl alliance” since it better fit their narrative.  Jenna, as you might recall, won a couple of big challenges late in the game to clinch her victory…sound familiar?

As least with Michele’s win, the show actually acknowledged on-air that she was popular and a social threat, so it didn’t come out of the clear blue sky.  And since popularity is ultimately the name of the game on Survivor, it wouldn’t shock me if she won another title in a return visit.  “Girl who didn’t do anything” is a great way to fly under the radar, just ask Sandra.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Good Commercial/Bad Commercial

GOOD: What I like about this commercial is that the parents aren’t particularly happy about their Tide.  This isn’t a case where a miracle product suddenly turns everything into sunshine and rainbows.  The parents simply take their good fortune with a grim nod and carry on, relieved to get even a minor victory in the never-ending war that is being a parent.  I won’t bother linking to this ad since you’ve undoubtedly already seen it as an automatic YouTube ad on VIRTUALLY EVERY VIDEO FOR THE LAST SIX MONTHS.

GOOD: Cookie Monster should be in every commercial, really.  Remember that brief period about a decade ago when Cookie Monster was promoting healthy eating and saying things like “cookies are only a sometimes snack”?  That was B.S.

BAD?:  Not really bad, just kind of a confusing campaign here from the Wyndham Hotels empire.  “Hey, Game of Thrones is huge right now, let’s hire one of their actors to be our new spokesperson.”  “Great idea!  Who’d you have in mind?  The heroic Jon Snow?  The beloved Arya Stark?  The hilarious Tyrion Lannister?”  “Nah, how about the half-crazed wildling warrior who looks like a bearded madman even out of character?”  “Sold!"

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Binaural Concert

Eddie Vedder’s first bit of patter during Tuesday’s concert referred to the band’s very first Toronto show back in 1991, when they played just seven songs.  Then he joked “tonight we’ll play nine…or 11 or 13….or maybe 15, 16, 17…” and eventually went up to thirty.  We all laughed and cheered, not thinking he was serious.


Three hours later, Pearl Jam had cranked out a whopping 33 songs in an epic concert.  Not to sound like Stefon, but this one had everything — covers, forgotten lyrics, an ENTIRE ALBUM.  It was pretty mind-blowing.  I guess since the band found themselves with an unexpected day to recover (the planned Wednesday show was pushed to Thursday due to Raptors playoff basketball), they decided to let it all hang out tonight.

Tonight’s cast of characters…the stalwart concertgoer known as my buddy Trev, seeing his whopping sixth Pearl Jam show!  Katie, seeing her fourth Pearl Jam show!  Amanda, seeing “only” her second Pearl Jam show (geez, pick up the pace Amanda)! 

Pearl Jam is more or less just touring for the hell of it since they don’t have a new album out, and thus without any need to play newer songs, it gives them quite a bit of freedom with the setlists.  (Not that they necessarily need it, since PJ has always been apt to play anything on any given night.)  I checked out some of their other setlists from this tour and it’s a very wide array of stuff, from both their own catalogue and random cover songs.  What I’m about to write will break Trevor’s heart, but in PJ’s show in Ottawa a few days ago, Eddie briefly sang U2’s “All I Want Is You.”  As longtime blog readers know, this is Trevor’s favourite U2 song, and he has yet to hear it performed live despite attending four different U2 shows in his life.  Now he can’t even hear it from Pearl Jam.  Give the man a break, life!

I’ve never been at a concert where a band plays a whole record from start to finish.  These types of shows are becoming more popular these days, sometimes with ‘legacy’ artists exploring an old work (i.e. Bruce Springsteen’s current River Tour) or bands who essentially have just one popular album so they might as well openly advertise playing it from start to finish (i.e. Weezer).  The decision to play “Binaural,” however, was really out of nowhere.  Of all the records to play from start to finish, they go with one that didn’t really have any big hits and featured a back half that was kinda obscure even by hardcore Pearl Jam fan standards.  Katie kept asking “what song is this, again?” and at one point even busted out the dreaded “how many more songs are in this album?”  She had the record, you see, but hadn’t listened to it in many moons.  She also thought it was titled Bi-Lateral, so yeah, this one wasn’t exactly on her list of deserted island albums.

Still, it was fun hearing some of those songs live for the first time.  Imagine some diehard Pearl Jam fan whose favourite song was on that record and whose mind was absolutely blown to hear it live for the first time.  Or, even if Binaural isn’t one of your favourites, the band proceeded to play literally an entire concert afterwards, so it was hard to be too angry.  I guess I’m just pleased I didn’t pay to see the “Riot Act” setlist, or perhaps even the “Vitalogy” setlist given how that is one of the classic-or-garbage track listings of all time. 

Like the last time I attended a Pearl Jam show at the ACC, the drunken buffoonery from people in our section was off the charts.  The meathead pair of couples next to us got up to either get beers or go to the washroom no less than 15 times during the show.  There was also one spaced-out fellow who had to be removed by security for standing in the aisle and leaning over the upper deck’s guard railing for much of the show, and also another more (shall we say) “aggressively spaced-out” fellow who almost started a fight with a seemingly innocent guy in the row in front of us.  That’s not to mention the jerk sitting next to Katie that kept elbowing her, which caused her to switch seats with Trev.  Naturally, those guys left soon after, lest they incur the wrath of Trev, a noted former rugby player who is unofficially known as the Demon Wolverhampton.

Drunken idiots aside, nothing could’ve halted my enthusiasm for the show.  Pearl Jam just keep getting better and better with age.  Here’s the setlist….

* Go
* Do The Evolution
* Mind Your Manners
….interestingly, this was the only song played from an album released after 2000.  It’s not like Pearl Jam to ignore their recent history so thoroughly, but I guess they figured that with the focus on Binaural, they were already giving the audience a fair dose of songs that weren’t hits.
* Breakerfall
* Gods’ Dice
* Evacuation
…introduced by Eddie with a shoutout to those combating the Fort McMurray fires.
* Light Years…it was around here that it dawned on Trev and I that yes, Binaural was being played start to finish.
* Nothing As It Seems
* Thin Air
* Insignificance
* Of The Girl
* Grievance
* Rival
* Sleight Of Hand
…stopped and restarted after a couple of bars since Eddie seemed to forget some lyrics or came in too soon.  See, even the band itself has issue with the back halves of their lesser-known albums!
* Soon Forget…complete with Eddie on ukulele and potshots at Donald Trump.
* Parting Ways
* Corduroy
* Once
* Reviewmirror

***encore #1***
* Imagine….yep, the John Lennon cover
* Let Me Sleep….yep, a Christmas song played in May.
* Comfortably Numb….yep, a Pink Floyd cover, complete with face-melting solo from Mike McCready.
* Even Flow….speaking of McCready, boy, this guy.  He did his usual “play the solo while holding the guitar behind his head” trick, with the added difficulty of going into the front row to do it.  Mah god!
* Down
* Better Man
….between the crowd singing along and the band’s upbeat arrangement, this was a pretty rollicking good time for a song about a woman stuck in an unhappy marriage.
* Porch
***encore #2***
* Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town
* Given To Fly
* State Of Love And Trust
* Black
* The Real Me
….yep, a Who cover
* Alive
* Rockin’ In The Free World
….yep, a Neil Young cover, though unlike the last ACC show, Neil himself didn’t appear to join in.  Instead it was Donna Grantis (from Prince’s band) joining in to shred on the guitar.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Who Are Radiohead Turning Into?

Colin: Thomas Middleditch in a 70's Springsteen cover band
Jonny: Paula Poundstone
Thom: Willie Nelson melting
Phil: Mixture of Patrick Stewart and Zack "Scut Farkus" Ward
Ed: WWE's Edge if never got into wrestling and instead just worked at a bookstore

Bonus link: Radiohead's video for "Daydreaming."  It's like Too Many Cooks, except with doors!

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Vader Time For Jordan Schlansky

If you watch Jordan's earliest appearances on Conan's show, he is seen smiling and even briefly laughing at Conan's insults.  He has developed a much stronger poker face over the years.  Then again, that's assuming this is all just a bit for television, which I REFUSE TO BELIEVE since Jordan is a comic natural on par with Karl Pilkington.

Apropos of nothing, we need to start a campaign for wrestling legend Leon "Vader" White to be in the next Star Wars movie.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Leicester City

Though I’m not a Leicester City supporter, the Foxes’ win in the 2015-16 Premiership might be my single favourite sporting result of all time.  Everyone loves an underdog, and there’s a good case to be made that LCFC’s victory is the most unlikely thing to ever happen in sports history.

Upsets happen all the time, of course, in games or series.  You even get the odd ‘lucky season’ where a team defies most statistical measurements on their way to a championship.  The Denver Broncos just won a Super Bowl a few months ago despite an offense that could charitably be described as ‘poor’ and they had an insanely lucky record in close games.

Comparing Leicester’s win to any American pro sport, however, is a poor contrast due to the existence of playoffs and unbalanced schedules.  Within all four US pro leagues and even in Major League Soccer, there are simply too many teams and (perhaps more accurately) too much adherence to the current schedule structure to distribute games in as fair a manner as possible.  The NBA, for instance, could simply have everyone play everyone else in one home and one away game, though the owners and players wouldn’t dream of the revenue lost from cutting the schedule from 82 games down to 58.  So the postseason is the big leveller, and playoffs have become such a part of North American sports culture that we often overlook just what a tiny sample size they really are.  A team that is derided for “not performing in the clutch” may have lost just one game, or four games out of seven.

With the EPL, however, you have 20 teams playing each other once at home and once again for a 38-game schedule.  This is as fair as you could possibly make it, and even within this structure, you’ll obviously still have some variance — playing a team in September is different than playing them in February after they’ve loaded up on talent in the transfer window, for instance.  The point is, with no postseason, there’s no margin for luck in the Premiership.  You can’t squeak into the playoffs and then go on a Cinderella run (that’s what the FA Cup is for). 

To win the Premier League, you have to be the best over nine-plus months of football.  You’re also competing against some of the most well-funded sporting organizations in the world who can literally outspend lower-level teams by tens of millions of pounds.  Baseball may not have a firm salary cap, yet the vagaries of the sport allow for upsets to happen even over a month of play.  Over nine-plus months of soccer, however, the cream always rises to the top, and in this era of billionaires spending fortunes on transfer fees and player salaries, there was seemingly no path to EPL greatness unless your club happened to be purchased by a spendthrift tycoon.  Chelsea and Manchester City rose to EPL titles over the last decade with this method, and given all the riches involved, you could count on one hand the number of teams who had a legit chance to contend for the Premiership.  Leicester City and the rest of the minnows were 5000-to-1 longshots, hoping to just avoid relegation or have a respectable FA Cup run as their evidence of a great season.

Instead, Leicester won the entire thing.  There was no real luck involved — by all the metrics, they simply had a very good squad that, on paper, “deserved” to be at or near the top from a statistical standpoint.  The only luck involved was that the big EPL powers (Man City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal) all had down years by their standards, or in Chelsea’s case, a disastrous year.  None of these clubs may even finish second, as Tottenham currently holds a three-point lead for second place heading into the season’s final two matches.  It was a perfect storm for a new club to rise up, and yet the fact that it was little Leicester City rather than one of the more established second-tier clubs (Tottenham, West Ham, etc.) is stunning.

There will be much written about what this means for English soccer and whether or not the era of the ‘super-team’ is over.  Yet what I feel happiest about is less the hope that it gives fans of other long-suffering clubs (since this could indeed be a one-off) and more the pure joy that Leicester City fans must be feeling right now.  If you’re a fan of a lower-tier EPL club, this is literally beyond your wildest dreams.  You’re never thinking “oh, maybe next year with a bit of luck…”  You’re forced to just aim low for the odd upset win over a powerhouse or maybe, if everything breaks absolutely right, finishing top six or seven for a Europe League spot.  For some poor sod in Leicester who’d been faithfully supporting his Foxes for decades, this season is like nine months’ of Christmases. 

So ten years ago, when I more or less randomly picked Fulham to be my favourite Premiership team, I really dropped the ball.  Imagine if I’d picked a favourite club from ‘outside’ the EPL (since Leicester were third division at that point) and then watched in shock as they not only earned promotion, but won it all?  Instead I’m stuck with a lousy second-tier team.  Dammit, Fulham!

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Burn The Witch

I again tip my cap to Radiohead for promoting their upcoming album in such a unique yet simple way --- they simply deleted their entire online presence.  Their Facebook page, official website, Twitter account, everything.  All just vanished for two days.  And now, out of their digitally-created nowhere, comes a new single.  To be honest, if this is the *best* track off their new record, I'll be a little let down by the whole project but man, those strings are admittedly really pretty.  Also, I'll be having nightmares about this video tonight.