Category Archives: Uncategorized

The best songs of the 2010s


Back when blogs still existed — including this blog — my friend Asher wrote about a musical contradiction: “If dance music should make you want to dance, it doesn’t make much sense that the best dance album of the year makes you want to do anything but move.” 

This was 2012. The album was Gossamer, Passion Pit’s second record. In 2008, Passion Pit had rocketed from dorm room novices to indie darlings because of the single “Sleepyhead.” The track is about a breakup, but that’s apparent only if you can understand the hard-to-decipher words sung in lead singer Michael Angelakos’s falsetto voice. “Sleepyhead” was part of a Manners album that, because of its emphasis on the beats and choruses, was a relatively light-hearted affair. 

Although Gossamer had a similar bounce, it was far more introspective and its lyrics far clearer. Angelakos wrote and sang about drugs, mental illness and anorexia. After a performance in spring 2012 that included songs featured on Gossamer, he told Pitchfork, “We tried as hard as we could to pretend that we were having a good time, but we were miserable.” A week before the album’s release that summer Passion Pit announced the postponement of the rest of its tour because Angelakos was seeking treatment for depression and bipolar disorder. The personal journey he undertook to create Gossamer had contributed to his illness. 

Could we dance to that music? Should we? Continue reading

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Just play Silvio De Sousa


Late on Friday afternoon — during the prime newsdump hour, a time likely chosen to prevent as many angry screeds from being written as are deserved — the NCAA ruled KU’s Silvio De Sousa ineligible for not just the last dozen-plus games of this basketball season but the entirety of the 2019-20 season. It barely needs mentioning this ban is completely insane. A guardian of De Sousa received the money, some $20,000. He was not directly paid and maintains he had no idea any money was exchanged, and the NCAA has gathered no evidence of its own to suggest otherwise. He has also already sat out more than the first half of this season. Other players, from Cam Newton to Zion Williamson, have been accused of having parents or guardians ask for or receive money and face little consequences.

Kansas coach Bill Self said in an animated statement: “In my 30-plus years of coaching college basketball, I have never witnessed such a mean-spirited and vindictive punishment against a young man who did nothing wrong,”

Here’s what I would say to Bill Self or any coach in the same situation:

Just play De Sousa. Continue reading

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Top Songs of 2018/Sincerity is Amazing


Wikimedia Commons

Most of the rave reviews of the 1975’s album A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships are missing something. It’s true A Brief Enquiry represents “15 songs that are about possibilities over conclusions”, “a reflection of the times we live in,” and, maybe,  the “millennial answer to ‘OK Computer.’”  

But I think A Brief Enquiry is one of the best albums in several years for another reason (a reason aside from me being a biased, unrepentant The 1975 fanboy): Matty Healy and The 1975 have made sincerity cool again. The 1975 has made sincerity possible again.  Continue reading

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On six months at The Athletic, the Royals, Bird Scooters, and the future

Let’s start here: On March 5, I started a new job covering the Kansas City Royals for The It was a good and exciting change for a number of reasons; the Athletic is expanding, rapidly; the site is filled with terrific editors and great writers and smart people. Yet the best part was something simple: My new employers offered a straightforward demand: Write good stories that people want to read.

OK, there was more to it than that. But that was essentially the deal. There was no need to produce filler content. There was zero focus on page views, so need to trick somebody into clicking on something mediocre. The only goal was to build an audience through stories that were meaningful and worthwhile. 

So, on Monday morning, I found myself sitting inside a coffee shop in Kansas City. It was Labor Day. Some people rode by on Bird scooters. That seems to happen a lot these days. As I sat there, I looked at my phone. I realized it had been nearly six months to the day since I wrote my first story for the Athletic.

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Kansas football, Urban Meyer and doing the right thing in college sports


For people who wonder how Urban Meyer, Mark Dantonio and many more college football coaches who have exhibited disturbing behavior continue stalking the sidelines, look no further than Kansas football. The Jayhawks, who just lost to Nicholls State Saturday night, who have won 15 games since 2010, who probably won’t win a game this season, who attract under 20,000 fans to home games, are an example — albeit an extreme example — of what can happen when a university acts according to societal morals and rids itself of a talented but problematic coach. Continue reading

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The Coaching Tree: A college newspaper story

The article in the University Daily Kansan ran on Sept. 11, 2008, just a few months before the United States elected Barack Obama to be its president, and a full semester before I graduated from college. But the story behind The Coaching Tree, the worst graphic illustration in the history of college newspapers, actually dates back another four months.

The story is one of ineptitude and laziness and a marvelous serendipity that would only take place on a college campus. It is also pretty hilarious. In nearly 12 years of working at newspapers, both in college and after, I’ve never stumbled upon a funnier story. I’ve witnessed a helpless intern compile a wire roundup (a small batch of notes) where she surmised that former NBA guard Sergio Rodriguez was going to go play soccer for Real Madrid. (Spoiler: He wasn’t; he had signed with the Real Madrid basketball team). I watched a college reporter show up to a Bill Self press conference after a victory over a non-conference team in November and inexplicably open the questioning with an inquiry into the talents of Baylor. I have seen many mistakes, both humorous and not so much, and many errors, and yet I have never seen something quite like The Coaching Tree.

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The Job.


Sometimes people ask me about my job. This conversation happens maybe once a week. Sometimes it’s more. It’s something I’m used to now, but it can still feel strange.

They usually start by asking if I fly with the team. I do not. I fly commercial. Southwest points and all. Sometimes they ask what I do during the offseason. The answer is I work, though, yes, not as much.

The truth, of course, is that everybody has these conversations. And nobody really knows what anybody does. People understand job titles. They understand the conceptual idea of what it must mean to be a lawyer or an accountant or a teacher to work in logistics or insurance or whatever. But nobody really knows what people do each day.

I assume there are emails and meetings and all of that. But does anybody really know what anybody does?

I think about this conversation a lot, because it happens a lot. Especially over the holidays. When people know you write about Major League Baseball for a living, they just want to know stuff. Sometimes people specifically want to ask about baseball. Will the Royals sign another pitcher this offseason? What exactly are they doing? Can they go back to the playoffs next year? But just as often, people are curious about the logistics of it all, like they’re still a little skeptical that somebody pays you to go to baseball games and write about sports.

I must admit: I share their skepticism. On some days, I’m as baffled as anybody. I’m not exactly sure how I ended up here.

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The top 25 songs of 2016


One reason I know this was a good year for music: My Spotify playlists. I saved dozens of new albums and made several mixes, probably at least twice as many as I have the last two years (and I make A LOT of mixes). There was so much diversity, too: As good of indie-pop as I can remember since 2013, insanely catchy rap songs by young, green artists, star power courtesy especially of Beyonce and Rihanna and, sorry not sorry to the numerous critics who hate the Chainsmokers, the Chainsmokers.

So here they are, the top 25 songs. Spotify playlist here and embedded at the bottom. Continue reading

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My friend Mark.

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My friend Mark liked Nebraska football. I remember that. He always wore this red Nebraska sweatshirt. It was hooded with white letters and a pocket in the front. I think it was a family connection or something like that, but I can’t be be sure.

My friend Mark had brown hair that he would often wear in this poofy bowl cut. I remember that, too. This was the mid 90s, of course, and most every boy at Nall Hills Elementary had a similar haircut, so I don’t think Mark would mind me bringing this up. This one year, he grew it really long, and buzzed the sides. I remember he called it an “undercut”, and I remember I wanted one, too.

I remember other things, too. I remember the way Mark would crack a smile and break into this cheesy fake laugh, just to draw a smile out of you. I remember how he would do this little funny gesture thing with his arms, like a little dance to make somebody else feel good. Mark was always laughing.

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On Jason Isbell and Sportswriter Music

Screenshot 2015-08-07 17.48.40 As a white male who writes about sports for a living, it is required by law that I listen to Jason Isbell. It’s a bizarre edict, I know, but it’s true. Look it up.

Two years ago, Isbell released Southeastern, a collection of introspective songs about the songwriter’s tangles with substance abuse, love and loss and all that other hard life shit. The result was a critically acclaimed album and a resurgent career — Isbell had written a deeply confessional work that sounded good, sold well and, yes, became a mainstay on the playlists of sportswriters across America.

At the time, Isbell was not necessarily a newcomer to this specific genre; in his early days, he was a trusted member of Drive-By Truckers, a young musical savant who wrote the song “Outfit”, a fantastic southern rock track about fathers, sons and the slow, painful emasculation of work. But Southeastern was something different, a master work on storytelling and blue-collar themes, thrusting Isbell into the space generally reserved for BRUCE!, and perhaps to a lesser extent, Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam.

Jason Isbell is Sportswriter Music.

I am not sure why white, 30-something sportswriters are so attracted to Isbell’s music, just as I’m not sure why every white, middle-aged portswriter loves BRUCE! I mean, sure, I have some theories. But it remains a curious phenomenon, in part because the answer seems obvious, in part because I think it says something about the way sportswriters see themselves.

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