America’s Secrets: The History of the Kentucky Derby

America’s Secrets: The History of the Kentucky Derby

Every year, thousands congregate, participate, and millions view the Kentucky Derby. But the question on everyone’s mind is the same- how did this happen? For nearly a century and a half, the Commonwealth’s signature event has been one of America’s great pastimes. Though the race only lasts a few minutes, the tension could fill a Safdie Brothers movie. There have been changes to the race, and there are plenty of mysteries surrounding it, and I am here to uncover it all for you on this sacred Saturday in May. Come along. I might just teach you something.

Continue reading “America’s Secrets: The History of the Kentucky Derby”

Baseball, Art out of Time: Under the Circumstances

Baseball, Art out of Time: Under the Circumstances

There’s a warm static over the ballpark on Chicago’s south side. Typically by this time in late July, the weather is overbearing. Today, however, is unlike most days before it. An unseasonably cool stretch had this game begin in weather echoing late spring, and the giddiness that annually comes with that was palpable as well. Through eight innings, the Tampa Bay Rays have brought twenty-four men to the plate. None have reached base. Mark Buehrle, the White Sox’ quick-working ace is inching closer to one of the rarest feats in professional sports- the perfect game. Manager Ozzie Guillen, a White Sox folk hero in his own right, has made a defensive substitution to start the final frame. He is pulling Carlos Quentin from left field, sliding centerfielder Scott Podsednik into his place, and bringing DeWayne Wise into the game to play center. The move is to shore up the defense for two-thirds of his outfield ahead of three consecutive right-handed hitters to end the game. The first of these, Gabe Kapler, fouls a few pitches away, takes a ball high out of the zone, and stays alive. The next pitch will be remembered forever in the Windy City.

Continue reading “Baseball, Art out of Time: Under the Circumstances”

Baseball, Art out of Time: High Into The Night

Baseball, Art out of Time: High Into The Night

It’s October, something unfamiliar to the Detroit Tigers. The last time they won a playoff series was the 1984 World Series, twenty-two years in the rear view mirror. They’ve already won one this year taking three straight games over the dreaded Yankees after dropping the first. Tonight, they could sweep the perennial postseason participant Athletics. The game is tied at three as it turns to the bottom of the ninth. The first two Tiger batters went down quickly, Marcus Thames on a flyball to center and Curtis Granderson, in his first full season, on a liner to right. Craig Monroe singles. Placido Polanco follows suit. The pennant-clinching runner is in scoring position. In steps Magglio Ordoñez, the ten-year veteran from Venezuela. His opponent is the 2005 Rookie of the Year, Huston Street. They had only met twice before, the first time back on July 4th of the current year, when Street got Ordoñez to strike out swinging on four pitches. The second, three days earlier that ended in a groundout. But every at bat is another chance to undo a previous mistake. Comerica Field is shaking in anticipation of a World Series berth. Magglio steps into the batter’s box, grinds his front cleat against the dirt to get a strong foothold. Street gets the sign, winds and delivers.

Continue reading “Baseball, Art out of Time: High Into The Night”

From Then Til Now, Don’t Ask Me How

From Then Til Now, Don’t Ask Me How

It’s 11:35pm on a cool Thursday night in April, 2015. Hustle Bankroll, the opening act for the night has just completed his second set, having been asked to fill time. The headliner, nearly three hours late, is Earl Simmons, the now late DMX. The Vogue theater on the north side neighborhood of Broad Ripple is packed full of people. Near the sound booth is a contingent from a sorority, a pack of AKA women dressed in their unmistakable pink and green. By the bar, a group of twenty-something men in tieless dress shirts and jackets. On stage, a man in an oversized Pelle Pelle jacket starts to make an announcement and is stopped by a tall man in a long Ruff Ryders t-shirt. “What?!” He exclaims, pulling the mic away. He’s shocked. Both men rush off stage. Despite reassurance from promoters that he’s coming, DMX is nowhere to be seen. A man two rows from the stage says to his friend, “how much you wanna bet his ass got arrested?”

Continue reading “From Then Til Now, Don’t Ask Me How”

Baseball, Art out of Time: The King’s Gambit

Baseball, Art out of Time: The King’s Gambit

It’s a clear, cool night in Anaheim. The season is not yet a week old, and trends from the prior year linger like cirrocumulus clouds dotting the sky just west of the ballpark. The Seattle Mariners have lost four of their first five games. They’ll lose this one too, despite beginning the game with a pair of runs off of Angels’ pitcher Ricky Nolasco. It’s April 8th, 2017. The Mariners’ starter is Felix Hernandez, King Felix to the Seattle faithful. He’s in the twilight of a career that included a Cy Young award, a perfect game, and not a single start in the postseason. Hernandez gets Angel hitters Yunel Escobar and Kole Calhoun to ground out to start the bottom half of the first inning. Into the box steps the best player on Earth. His name is Michael Nelson Trout, Mike for short, and he’s the reason many people are watching this game.

Continue reading “Baseball, Art out of Time: The King’s Gambit”

Back Home Again: Your Guide to Picking a Team in the All-Indiana NCAA Tournament

Back Home Again: Your Guide to Picking a Team in the All-Indiana NCAA Tournament

When I say that I love basketball, I say it with all of the conviction that Senator Sheev Palpatine claims to love democracy. Basketball, most basketball played, is just a means to an end. That end being the NBA, where the game is played at its highest level. Still, there is an undeniable charm and magic to the amateur game, especially here in Indiana. For the better part of the 20th Century, Indiana held a massive, all-inclusive high school tournament called Hoosier Hysteria. It meant that teams from around Indianapolis, Terre Haute, and Chicago burbs (aka The Region) could play against teams from towns with populations smaller than the aforementioned schools’ graduation classes. It was something special, but for the last quarter-century it has been absent, reformed as tournaments for each separate class of schools. This year, all 67 games of the NCAA’s signature event will be played in the state of Indiana. In some way, for at least one year, the Hysteria has returned.

Continue reading “Back Home Again: Your Guide to Picking a Team in the All-Indiana NCAA Tournament”

And All That Jazz: the Style and Grace of Andre Drummond

And All That Jazz: the Style and Grace of Andre Drummond

If you’re not super-familiar with the NBA or basketball in general, or maybe you’re just a casual fan, you may be inclined to think that professional players should be great at most aspects of the game. Then you really watch a game and notice that some players are just not suited for some specific jobs on the court. Take for instance the job of the Center. He’s basically there to grab rebounds, win tipoffs, and get high percentage shots like dunks and put-backs after misses. So when a play collapses and the Center is out there on an island, what is he to do? Andre Drummond, two-time all star of the Cleveland Cavaliers, answered for us. What transpired was a thing of beauty.

Continue reading “And All That Jazz: the Style and Grace of Andre Drummond”

Farewell to The Office on Netflix: the Union that Changed The Way We Watch TV

Farewell to The Office on Netflix: the Union that Changed The Way We Watch TV

When Netflix began, it was a novel concept. You request DVDs, you watch them, you mail them back, and then the next movie in your queue gets mailed to you. Kelly Kapoor actually explains this in an episode of The Office in which the employees of Dunder Mifflin gamble on various prop bets in the office. Netflix gets name-dropped a few times on the show, all during its primarily mail-only era. Once the service moved to streaming, it was super weird. For a time, there was softcore porn and DIY home repair videos. It was a brave, new, strange world. The only way I could watch at that time was through an app on my Nintendo Wii. The pickup of The Office, among many other 2000s sitcoms was, surprisingly, the best thing that the service could have done for itself. In doing so, it changed the trajectory of careers, made the show a second-hand success, and jumpstarted the endless, mindless binge. On January 1st, The Office leaves Netflix for NBC’s own streaming service, ending one of the most important unions in TV history.

Continue reading “Farewell to The Office on Netflix: the Union that Changed The Way We Watch TV”

Ranking the Songs of ‘The Muppets Christmas Carol’

Ranking the Songs of ‘The Muppets Christmas Carol’

Today is Christmas Eve, just one more sleep ’til Christmas as Kermit sings in The Muppets Christmas Carol. There are many, perhaps too many, film versions of Charles Dickens’ classic holiday novella. In my opinion, the only opinion that matters in this column, the Brian Henson-directed, Sir Michael Caine-starring, Muppet-filled musical version from 1992 is the only one that stands the test of time. It combines childhood nostalgia with legitimate humor and tender tugs at heartstrings with legitimate terror. It’s a tradition in my family to watch it while putting up the Christmas tree, so I have decades of experience in annually singing along. I insist on you watching the movie before reading, but if you want to do the reverse, how could I possibly stop you? So here is the definitive, objective ranking of the songs in The Muppets Christmas Carol.

Continue reading “Ranking the Songs of ‘The Muppets Christmas Carol’”

2021 NBA Preview: 30 Guys To Watch

2021 NBA Preview: 30 Guys To Watch

Imagine being a Bulls fan in your 30s. The glory days came and went long before Hi-Def TV, DVR, and handheld-miracle supercomputers. The name Derrick Rose probably elicits more trauma than fondness, and that’s it. That’s all you know since childhood. Pain. But what if you could appreciate the league from a different perspective? Instead of basketball being a causeway between football pain and baseball pain, why not enjoy the beauty of the game through the players that make any night something special? I’m here to help. This isn’t going to be a list of stars. You know who LeBron James and Kevin Durant are. You know they’re worth watching. This is a list of 30 players, one per team, that deserve some attention this season.

Continue reading “2021 NBA Preview: 30 Guys To Watch”