Tag Archives: Reign Man

Hot Routes: Divisional Edition

11 Jan

 

NFL Playoffs: Divisional Week

Well, the accuracy rate of the Swanky Bowl Game picks from the end of 2012 were downright embarrassing.  Things were looking good throughout the regular season, but the combination of Rumpleminz and White Elephant parties proved to be too distracting for your Swanky correspondents.  Crucial research was overlooked, important intangible factors were ignored, and by the time everything was said and done, our credibility had disappeared along with Notre Dame’s self-respect.

To make up for any hard-feelings, and in an attempt to maybe get back some of that fickle street cred, we decided to heat the Routes back up and ride it through the rest of the NFL postseason.  There’s more than enough great music out there to last through February.

 

AFC Divisional:  Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos

The Pick:  Ravens (+10)

The Song:  Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It by Stars

Stars use synthesizers and other electronic effects to flesh out their live-band dynamic, and what often results are earnest, propulsive songs that strike universal chords of life and love.  “Hold On When You Get Love” lets its intentions be known from the get-go by laying down a simple kick-drum stomp familiar to other anthemic slow-burners – it’s inevitable that things are going to gain momentum from there, and they’re probably going to crest in full-throated sing-a-longs.

As the momentum picks up, the vocals make sure that listeners have a stake by setting up evocative and instantly relatable scenes of getting too drunk, leaving parties at the right times, showing up bastards everywhere, and putting all of your love out there for someone else.  By the time synthesizers and guitars are combining to rattle every visible edge of the song, the listener is right there with the band, running at breakneck speed and proclaiming their love to the empty nighttime streets.

 

NFC Divisional: Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers

The Pick:  Packers (+3)

The Song:  Minor Cause by Emancipator

Emancipator has a lot in common with Bonobo – they both use instrumental touches more common to jazz and classical music to create hypnotic, mysterious, and moody songs that hit deep, undeniable stretches of groove bliss where movement is almost impossible to resist.  When these artists get going, and they pretty much always do, it is hard to tear yourself away.  They find the common ground between jazz and electronic music, and they dance all over it.

“Minor Cause” is the latest track from Emancipator, and it offers much of the same sounds we’ve come to expect from the artist.  Mournful violin strings float over a nodding beat accented by pounding piano keys, and a swirling, mystical world of sound is summoned up out of nowhere.  Can’t ask for much more.

 

NFC Divisional: Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons

The Pick:  Seahawks (+2.5)

The Song:  Clair De Lune by Flight Facilities

As a lifelong Seattle sports fan, there’s no way I’m going to pick against the Seahawks as they continue this playoff run.  But with this game against the Falcons, I like the Hawks’ chances even after putting the hometown bias aside.  Atlanta’s biggest weapons on offense is their pair of stud wide receivers, and Seattle has been excellent against the pass all season behind their towering and athletic corners.  On the other side of the ball, the combination of Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch has been overpowering lately, and there hasn’t been much from the Falcons D to inspire much confidence that they’ll be able to shut those two down.

Not all of the good feelings behind this Seahawks team is confined to on-paper matchups.  There’s a confident and playful edge to this team that makes them incredibly fun to root for.  From Pete Carroll on down, you can see the enjoyment that the entire team finds in playing with each other, and you can see how hard they are competing on every play of every game.  It’s hard to watch a team like this for very long without getting sucked into their energy and competitive fire; after a recent trip back to Seattle, I can safely say that the city hasn’t been this fired up about a sports team since the glory days of Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp ran into the heyday of Ken Griffey, Jr.  So no matter what happens this week, the future is bright for the Seachickens.

 

AFC Divisional: Houston Texans at New England Patriots

The Pick:  Patriots (-9.5)

The Song:  Say That by Toro Y Moi

Toro Y Moi is getting set to release his new album Anything In Return on January 22, and based on the sound of some initial track releases, it’s going to be an exciting next step for the artist.  Over his last couple of releases as Toro, Chaz Bundick has put out some deeply laid-back funk that doesn’t hesitate to explore any sonic tangents that may present themselves.  The result has been some very solid records that succeed in creating a very pleasant listening experience, but ones that were not without down-key moments in which the musical meandering felt more self-indulgent than purposeful.  That looks to be changing with Anything.

With tracks like “Say That,” it appears that Toro Y Moi are beginning to beef up their sound – adding an edge to the synth hits, and making the low end hit a little bit harder, amongst other things – while also bringing a focus and relative structure to the songs.  These tracks are strong when standing alone by themselves, and they have the feel of an artist becoming more confident and self-assured as he matures with his craft.  The album has the potential to break Toro to a whole new audience, and that’s a great thing to see.

 

 

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Playa Hater’s Ball

27 Apr

We typically like to keep things positive here at Dan Swanky’s.  Everyone’s having more fun when the Schlitz is flowing, we’re having some chuckles, and we’re all celebrating the things we love.  But the way we celebrate and enjoy one thing we love – NBA basketball – was abruptly altered in 2008.

A cruel series of events and power players came together about four years ago to wrest away the Seattle SuperSonics from the city, and as lifelong fans of the Green & Gold, we were left with an empty place where our fandom’s passion had once been.  Without a team – and the bastardized former Sonics team that became Oklahoma City is not our team- but still harboring a love for all things NBA, we were faced with an unwanted and difficult decision.

Would we simply turn our gaze to the rest of the league and go shopping for a new team, as if we were looking for a new car?  This is easier said than done.  While there are several likeable franchises out there that would be easy to root for, the deeply felt connection we had with our hometown squad would never be duplicated for a flavor-of-the-month team from across the country.  We would simply be bandwagon fans – tourists who would be unable to remain dedicated or interested for very long.  This would just be an unsatisfying way to lie to ourselves.

So if finding a new team is out, what is the other option?  Where in the NBA landscape do we take the energy from our misplaced passion for the Sonics and the frustrated outrage from their departure?  Well, we find solace and an outlet in the process of actively rooting against other teams and players.  It’s still the only halfway-satisfying way to let our bottled-up, Sonics-less demons be exorcised when the NBA playoffs come around.  We have become sports Haters.

Being a sports Hater, as with being a Hater in other parts of life, is a lot easier if you don’t think about it.  If you just put your blinders on, take everything at face value, never give up grudges, and follow everything those radio hosts squawk, then you can quickly build up some solid irrational animosity towards most of the teams in the league.  And all of a sudden, you have an instant rooting interest against all of those teams.  You’ve got some emotional investment back into the NBA equation.

It seems like problem solved – we’re back to being full-blown NBA fans.  But it’s not that easy.  Since we’re thoughtful fellows at DS, we have to come to grips with the ugliness of our Hater status.  We need to make sure we can separate the personal and non-personal aspects of our feeling towards the game, and always be aware that we are being mostly irrational fans.  That this is just a game.  That the players we are vigorously rooting against are actual people off the court and have their own sets of lives and families.  We have to be able to shut off the the hating when the final buzzer sounds, or else we’ll just be miserable dicks at the end of the day.  So, that is what we strive to do, and our general success at this striving is what allows us to be okay with the negativity we can engender while in full-blown sports Hater mode.

How did it come to this?  Where we’re justifying being irrational sports Haters?  It all starts and ends with the painful theft of our hometown Sonics.  There was how the team left, and then more importantly, there was everything that went with them on their way out of town.

Let’s start with a quick rundown of why we got here, and why so many emotions are involved.  The first source of the anger and the fount of the sports hate comes from the way the whole Sonics move played out.  The guys behind the great documentary “Sonicsgate” do a much more detailed breakdown of the whole sordid ordeal, and we suggest you check them out here for more info.  But basically, trouble started in the form of Howard Schultz.

Schultz, the founder of Starbucks, had owned the team for six uneventful years and like any canny businessman, was looking to unload his investment at a hefty profit.  The problem for Seattle fans was that the highest offer for the team came from Oklahoma businessman Clay Bennett.  Bennett pretty clearly intended to move the team from Seattle to his home state of Oklahoma and Schultz was thus presented with a choice: sell the team to a group of local investors who would keep the Sonics in his Hometown, or go for the big profit and essentially give away the team.


Savvy Mr. Schultz heeded capitalism’s call and sold to Bennett.  And for the next year and a half, Bennett went through the motions of ‘working’ towards keeping the team in Seattle.  It was a total farce.  See, the terms of the deal said that Clay had to make a “good faith effort” to keep the team in Seattle.  So good ol’ boy Clay proceeded to make several empty public promises, and in the process engendered the hatred of pretty much every sports fan in Seattle.  And when fans thought they could turn to the reliable institution of the NBA for some help in keeping our team from the hands of these carpetbaggers, Villain No. 3 reared his jowly face.  Commissioner David Stern made some general announcements about working with Clay’s ownership group to keep the team in Seattle, but in the end that all turned out to be bullshit too.  In emails from the time period that surfaced several months later, David and Clay share glowing pledges of support to each other that literally read like two girls texting friendship affirmations to each other from separate slumber parties.

In the end, the Inevitable finally occurred and Bennett announced he was moving the team to Oklahoma City.  I had pretty much seen the writing on the wall for quite some time, but had still held out a shred of hope, desperate for this infuriating situation to just go away.  The announcement was like a heavy gut punch – not a sharp sudden pain, but one that resonated deeper and hurt for longer.  I was disgusted, angry, and deeply saddened all at the same time.

All of these deeply invested feelings and emotions for a simple sports team, that could never even come close to reciprocating?  Yes.  I don’t expect many to sympathize or understand, but this team meant more than just providing a source of entertainment and distraction.  Which leads me to the second source of the sports Hate flourishing today.  What Schultz, Bennett, Stern & Co. took away from Sonics fans when they stole the team.

Growing up, I hit the impressionistic sports age right when the Sonics were the coolest team in the city.  This age is marked by kids finally being able to be competitive in their rec league sports, while also beginning to identify with those otherworldly athletes seen on TV and in magazines.  At this age, I happened to love playing basketball, and being in Seattle I was able to hear and see the heyday of Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp.  In my humble adolescent opinion, these two were the baddest motherfuckers in the sports world.

First up, there was Shawn Kemp, who despite his later troubles was a raw force of dunking power as a young player.  Play-by-play man Kevin Colabro’s gleeful shouts of “The Reign Man with another tomahawk jam!” would echo in my head as I wheeled about and abused the 6 ft. tall Nerf Hoop on the back of my bedroom door.  I definitely rocked the Shawn Kemp shoes to school every day for well over a year, delighting in the deranged zebra-striped style that were an excellent encapsulation of the Reign Man in his prime.

And who fed Shawn the rock before his monstrous dunks?  Gary ‘The Glove’ Payton, the nasty little bundle of stifling D and slick handles who could shit-talk anyone out of the building.  GP was the heart and soul of the Sonics and to this day is a revered figure in Seattle sports legend.  And just as Colabro’s exultations about Kemp still stick in my head, so too does the Key Arena announcer’s introduction of GP:  “You can’t spell Glove without Love.”  And you really couldn’t.

These two stars, along with a rotating cast of memorable supporting players, captivated Seattle sports fans for a long stretch of successful seasons in the 90s.  The team was never able to get all the way to a championship during this run – they reached the ‘96 Finals but met the unstoppable force of Jordan in his prime – yet they were good enough to captivate a budding sports fan like myself.  I can’t count how many times I spun around on the empty backyard hoop, quieting the imagined crowd before re-enacting another Gary Payton or Detlef Schrempf buzzer beater.  And interviewing myself afterwards.  They were my heroes.


Beyond being just another absurdly cool team to root for, the Sonics were also able to take on more meaning to kids like me.  Basketball games were one of the first common interests I could share with my dad growing up, and we quickly developed a routine of going to several Sonics games every year.  For the first few years, this was simply an exciting chance for a young kid to go downtown, eat junk food, catch a free T-shirt, and watch my sports heroes up close.

As the years went on though, these yearly games gained a bit more weight.  It was still great to watch the basketball, but it also became a constant between my dad and I.  Petty parent-kid fights, stresses at school or work, family issues – any life strains that came up couldn’t deter the Sonics games from happening, year after year.  The Sonics were something to be shared, and that’s why they felt like they belonged to me in a way that other sports teams never did.  My team.  And when I moved away to go to school, I could still look forward to following Sonics games and keeping the hometown pride alive from thousands of miles away.  They represented where I came from.

So when I had to watch as smiling executives toyed with and eventually took the team away, it felt like watching someone ransack my valued possessions while I sat tied up and helpless.  The frustration and vitriol that arose in me when the Sonics were moved was probably irrational in a lot of ways.  But it came from a true place.  It came from having to watch a beloved piece of my young life in the city be taken away.  It’s hard for me to fully explain my feelings about the Sonics to other non-Seattle fans without sounding like a bitter, jilted lover.  And that comparison rings true in a lot of ways.  But my fellow Sonics fans can appreciate the rough feelings, and we can still commiserate.  And we can turn the still-raw anger and pain into sports Hatin’, particularly when the NBA Playoffs roll around.

Coming into this year’s postseason, the top of our Hating List is the displaced former Sonics team, that team with an awful name from the most unfortunate state in America.  This team is a virtual representation of the whole sordid saga, and it is a uniquely unpleasant experience to watch them do well in front of an adoring home crowd.  If we’re continuing the jilted lover comparisons, then watching these games is like watching your Ex hook up with someone else, over and over again, while thousands cheer them along.  So as the Playoffs come around, we will be on pins and needles the entire time that OKC is still in contention.  If this team won the Championship, for that city and that owner, I would be legitimately bummed out for quite some time.  We here at Dan Swanky’s may need to shut the lights out and just stare at our vintage Kemp posters in silence for a few days, sighing loudly and often.  This cannot happen.

While OKC will most definitely be getting our unwell wishes, the one thing about sports Hating in the NBA is that once you do it, it’s hard to turn it off.  So we will also be rooting against the preening duo of LeBron and Wade on the Heat, the insufferable underbite scowl of Kobe on the Lakers, and the flailing, flopping histrionics of Parker and Ginobli on the Spurs, among others.

Is this negative?  Yes.  Is it totally unrealistic, unfair, and bitter?  Sure.  But we’ve still got a lot of issues to work out with the NBA, and we’re going to do it this way until we can get another team to fill the basketball-sized hole in Seattle’s heart.  And at the end of the day, having something to cheer for, even if it is for someone to lose, just makes the playoffs that more exciting.  Home team or no, there is a crazy amount of talent on the court this year, and the title race is as unpredictable as it’s ever been.  The Championship is wide-open.  Just please, basketball gods, don’t let OKC get there.  We’re not ready for that.  Just bring on an early round exit this year, so we can dust off the furs and throw another joyous Playa Hater’s Ball.