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APPETITE FOR DISCUSSION
Welcome to Appetite for Discussion -- a Guns N' Roses fan forum!

Please feel free to look around the forum as a guest, I hope you will find something of interest. If you want to join the discussions or contribute in other ways then you need to become a member. We especially welcome anyone who wants to share documents for our archive or would be interested in translating or transcribing articles and interviews.

Registering is free and easy.

Cheers!
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2011.MM.DD - ESPN - The Life (Duff's sports column)

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Post by Blackstar Sun Dec 26, 2021 1:01 am

Why is that guy writing for ESPN?

Jan 4, 2011

My name is Duff McKagan, and I play rock and roll music. The beer on "The Simpsons" show was named after me, and not the other way around. (I suppose it is a testament to how much alcohol I used to drink. Yeah, not too sexy really.) A couple of years ago, I was offered a weekly column for Playboy.com and Seattle Weekly after goofing around in several other publications with an article "here" and an article "there"; it is now supposed that I am a writer to some degree.

I have two bands at the moment: Velvet Revolver and Loaded. Some of you may remember me from Guns N' Roses. I wish I remembered more from then …. Ha!

I have played my music in most of our major league sports' venues (football stadiums, basketball and hockey arenas). As a result, I was able to get all of the "behind the scenes" vistas of these venues that most of us only wonder about. Pretty kick-ass. A whole lot of sports teams use my old band's song "Welcome To The Jungle" as their war cry. This fact alone could have probably sated some of you sports fans' "Why him?" inquiry. Honestly though, I am a huge sports fan myself, and am glad and honored to be given a bit of a pulpit here to voice some of my opinions and insights.

Let me just fill you all in on some other "Duff facts":

No. 1: I, like perhaps many of you readers, played little league sports. I was that three-sport guy; football, basketball and baseball. I had dreams then, of going all of the way as a major league pitcher.

No. 2: I never made it as a pitcher.

No. 3: I made it as a bass player in a rock band.

No. 4: Team sports helped me in all of my later dealings within a rock "group."

No. 5: I went to college finally after my stint in GNR. My dreams of being a pitcher again were suddenly reborn. My ill-informed daydreams told me that I could make it onto the Seattle University Red Hawk squad as a cagey 33-year-old rookie. Here's the deal, though: I hadn't really pitched in anger since I was 16 or so. My college baseball career floundered even before it began … to the snickers and jeers of all of my "rock friend" peers.

No. 6: I don't want Brett Favre to retire because that old man makes this old man think I could still make a pro team somewhere. Yep, I'm a real moron.

No. 7: I am a Seattle native and a real homer when it comes to my favorite sports teams. The jokes can start now …

No. 8: I have soured to the NBA ever since my team was stolen from me. The NBA is now dead to me. Unless, of course, we steal someone else's team; then it is game on. (I shall write about this soon.)

No. 9: I don't like large-market sports teams that can acquire any player that they want (see No. 7). I will write on this too.

No. 10: I have two daughters -- aged 10 and 13. I love nothing more than the fact that I am the father of girls, but watching sports on TV and listening to "The Jim Rome Show" on the radio are moments that I must do alone. (With my trusty dog Buckley. He had his testicles removed, and I was the one who took him to get this procedure done. I will eternally feel guilty for this. Even after all of that, he will still watch baseball with me.)

No. 11: My wife may very well be hotter than yours (see No. 3).

No. 12: I cannot use most swear words in this column, as ESPN is owned by Disney. I will have to therefore use some of my book-learnin' to find apt non-swear words where I would usually use the F-word or some similar phrase of discontent.

P.S. I wrote this column last week. Being a Seahawks fan, as stated above, you would have maybe thought that I might have said something about the team playing for a playoff berth against the St. Louis Rams. Truthfully? It didn't even cross my mind to write about this, as we Seattleites didn't even think they stood a chance against Sam Bradford.

But something happened on Sunday night; our defense held and quarterback Charlie Whitehurst showed up to play some football. My 7-9 Seahawks have home-field advantage now against Drew Brees and the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints. What the …?

Whatever. I have found myself today, suddenly wearing my dusty Seahawks jersey … a shirt I have not worn for a few years now. Yeah, I am that guy. The hopeless sports fan -- wearing the fan gear, thinking now, that against all odds, my team might now have a chance. Whitehurst to Williams? It kinda has a ring to it … like Zorn to Largent … except different.

Musician Duff McKagan, who writes for Seattle Weekly, has written for Playboy.com and is finishing his autobiography, will write a weekly sports column for ESPN.com.

https://web.archive.org/web/20110108174803/http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/thelife/music/news/story?id=5988617


Last edited by Blackstar on Sun Dec 26, 2021 2:14 am; edited 3 times in total
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Post by Blackstar Sun Dec 26, 2021 1:03 am

How can't you love the Seahawks now?

Jan 10, 2011

I am from Seattle. Born and raised. My career took me away from home when I was barely out of my teens, and to this day my career keeps me from home way more than I like. The one constant I have that keeps me in touch with Seattle and "home," though, are my sports teams. I've always been a huge, loyal fan of all sports Northwest. Sports, for me, are not then a thing about stats or fantasy "insider" takes. My teams mean more about a sense of being from somewhere.

I do know that this ESPN gig is a national thing -- and I also know that some of you mused out loud about me having too much of a Seattle slant from week to week. Well, I'm not sure about next week … but for this one, yes, my column will definitely be about a Seattle team. At least someone will be writing about the The Hawks.

I get it. We are not a big market and we are tucked all of the way up here in the Pacific Northwest, where we are perceived to be still chopping down trees and living in tepees or igloos or whatever … and we are all hippies playing hacky sack, listening to Phish or some such jam-band. Or we still listen purely just to grunge music and/or Heart.

But this medium-market team just took down the defending Super Bowl champions, and now suddenly … this fish-throwing, coffee-drinking town has got a new face and attitude, perhaps best personified by Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch's forearm-shiver delivered to the Saints defense on Saturday. I guess the Hawks just had nothing to lose; they certainly played like it.

Almost nobody in the media gave the Seahawks much of a chance before Saturday and the aftermath of the upset must have left many of them as stunned as the Saints defenders whom Lynch ran over. One of my favorite Sunday morning NFL shows didn't even get to Seattle's upset until late in the program, after the requisite Sunday game previews, New York Jets victory coverage and other feature stories.

Being 7-9 and winning the NFC West championship isn't the ultimate way to reach the playoffs … I get that; but the story itself is still worthy of a bit more coverage, no? And were the New Orleans Saints not just winners of the Super Bowl. Ah, yes … right! They too are not a major-market team, and therefore not perhaps worthy of the national coverage that other teams would have surely gotten if the same circumstances befell them. I am, for sure, used to it by now.

You see, I am not a journalist or a sportswriter, so my news judgment likely does not match those of my new colleagues. No, I am just simply a fan who perhaps speaks the mind of a lot of us. Those Milwaukee Bucks fans who think their team gets no national respect … or those fans in Denver … or Cleveland … or Orlando … or Portland … or San Diego, and so on. I get you.

If you like your freedom, your Internets, espresso and good rock and roll, well then you should also be a Seahawks fan. Here is why: During World War II, Seattle's own Boeing airplane plant pumped out all of those B-24s, B-25s, and B-29s that helped to win that war. In the 1940s, Jimi Hendrix was born in this great city; his vanguard lead guitar playing eventually influenced so many great rock bands that it is almost impossible to register it all. Lead guitar solos may have very well been set back many years without his genius. In the '70s, Starbucks opened a little shop in the Pike Place Market that eventually informed our whole nation that coffee is dark black and not almost clear -- not to mention, from a can, weak or brownish. In the 1970s, Bill Gates and Paul Allen started Microsoft; without which, a home computer would still be the size of, well, a home. The globalization of modern ideas and instantaneous sharing of information could have been a thing that we might still be waiting for. Just think, no ESPN.com or NFL.com … or, God forbid, no Twitter!

Yes, being a Seahawks fan should also be thought of as being a plain, old good American. Even if the Hawks don't get as much national attention as I think they deserve, we are nation-builders (what?). I digress.

Saturday's game really didn't start off much different than most if you are a Seahawks fan; quarterback Matt Hasselbeck threw an interception on the first possession, and they were down 10-0 before anyone could blink their eyes from pure boredom. Yeah, the same ol', same ol' that we SeaChicken fans have seen for these past few seasons. The day before the game, a friend of mine offered to bet $100 that my Seattle team couldn't win. I am a loyal fan, but not a fool -- I didn't take the bet. Three seasons before this one, I would have taken the bet … and any season before that, too. Of course I feel like a damn fool now for not taking my friend's offer.

I read a story this week that Seattle's "12th man" may have actually caused a small earthquake when Marshawn Lynch shook off eight New Orleans defenders in the fourth quarter to seal the win. Apparently, the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network recorded a small tremor around Qwest Field at about the same time as Lynch's 67-yard touchdown run.

A few readers chastised me pretty good for a comment I made about "suddenly wearing my dusty Seahawks jersey" last week after we made it into the playoffs. The truth is though -- I am such a sports fan that if I am bummed out about how the coaching staff or players or front office people are running things -- I will not just sit idly by and root for my team and wear the colors for the true-fan-ness of it all. I have done it in the past and have felt like a moron as, say, my favorite player gets traded or backroom dealings are being done to create space for next season … again!

Have you ever been a fan of a rock band that had a killer first and second record, and then somehow lost you after that? Did you still wear the Styx concert T-shirt after they went into the whole "Mr. Roboto" thing? You may still love the band somewhere deep down inside, but you reserve the right to be pissed-off about what is currently happening. Are you any less of a fan then?

But back to my Seahawks -- if nothing else comes of this game other than the fact that our beloved quarterback, Hasselbeck, finally got his groove back -- well then that is enough for me right now. Sports definitely is about winning, and not how one loses; but Matt has given our city one hell of a ride and gotten us to a place that we can perhaps build a winning team again. The 12th Man is alive and well again (not that it was ever in question), and really, I could give a rat's ass about how much national coverage we get. I am so used to it. Go HAWKS!

P.S.: In being the true Seattleite that I am, I drank an entire pot of very strong coffee before I set upon writing this column. The clues may be evident everywhere. There is much too much bad stuff going on outside in our world. Time to have a little fun.

https://www.espn.com/espn/thelife/music/news/story?id=6006322

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Post by Blackstar Sun Dec 26, 2021 1:04 am

Confidence can be an infectious riff

Jan 19, 2011

The word "confidence" may very well get bandied around too much when it comes to everyday life. It's not something that I think should be taken lightly if you think about the larger impact of what confidence will help bring you in life. If you take just one guy, things such as playing NFL football, writing songs or creating a relationship with your workmates all stand better when a good dose of confidence is parlayed into something better for all.

With any rock band that I have been with, it has been my experience that a good dose of confidence in one guy can and will in fact make the whole group better. If one guy starts to excel on his particular instrument, everyone wins. When Guns N' Roses started, Slash was already a particularly gifted shredder on guitar. Where his gift may have seemingly only benefited him, it actually made Izzy Stradlin and me much more adept at our given crafts. Where Slash's initial confidence in his instrument was great, it parlayed into all of us one day feeling completely in sync and bullet-proof [no pun intended].

At the beginning of this football season, it just didn't appear that Jay Cutler had much of anything going for him. Cutler was a guy who threw more picks than Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen [that is a dumb rock reference joke]. When your offensive line cannot protect you, all sorts of things can and will go wrong. A quarterback's sense of well-being can get turned upside-down; a team's season can very well follow in quick succession.

But somewhere around Week 8, after having a bye week to dwell on Cutler's four interceptions to Washington Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall, the Bears' offensive line started to protect their headstrong and strong-armed quarterback. Cutler was given the chance to perform without as much fear as before. By Week 10, the dude had so much going for him that he was suddenly charging headlong into the opposing team's defense. That is impactful confidence.

The Bears' defense seemed to somehow pick up on Cutler's confidence, and turned it in its favor on the other side of the ball with unbridled aggression. I guess that when you are satisfied as a defense that the whole game doesn't rest on your shoulders, you can just plain ol' go out and hurt people. The Bears did that Sunday [much to my dismay; as I am a Seahawks guy through and through]. I can appreciate a good team, though, and the Bears seem now to have a ton going for them on both sides of the ball.

Confidence, too, has come to the Los Angeles Clippers as of late. They have suddenly become a very dangerous team and are no longer one that the others look forward to playing for an easy "W." Rookie Blake Griffin has a silent and upward mobility to his style of play that has instilled a new fight to what was the joke of the NBA. With Baron Davis bringing cageyness, I suddenly like this team. Hey, anyone who beats the Lakers is good for me [old Sonics rival … that is another story to which I will get to one of these weeks].

Confidence is something that is earned, whereas simple bravado can be done without one iota of worksmanship. The New York Jets had a ton of bravado this season, without the backup of a dominant season. A win like the one the other day against the New England Patriots, however, will instill in a team a sense of confidence that actually wins games when it matters most.

Don't get me wrong, I like a good bit of braggadacio when it is meant to get a laugh as well -- and I do like the Jets -- but "smack" talk without backup gets a bit trying in my opinion. The Jets now have some tonnage to go along with the bluster. Like a steel-toed, well-heeled and polished boot. [Sorry, Rex, I couldn't help myself. Patriots receiver Wes Welker actually gets the "props" for best interview last week.]

By writing about only the Bears and Jets this week, do I mean to pick either of them to win the Super Bowl? I like the Pittsburgh Steelers' sense of weight I suppose. [Don't get me wrong, Hawks fans, I won't be getting a Terrible Towel anytime soon.] And sitting there quietly are the Green Bay Packers and their confident quarterback Aaron Rodgers … probably liking their own chances.

What's your pick for the Super Bowl? If your team is already out, do you have a "default" team? For me, I hate the fact I usually don't have "skin in the game" at this juncture in the season, and so I find something to like about another city's team. Steelers? No … they beat my Hawks in the brutal "ref-game" Super Bowl a few years back. Green Bay? Maybe … a little boring though. Bears? No, they just beat up on my team. The Jets? Hmmm … maybe. I love that city when I visit.

Let's see how this sits with me for a day or two.

https://www.espn.com/espn/thelife/music/news/story?id=6034696

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Post by Blackstar Sun Dec 26, 2021 1:06 am

From the couch, it's easy to knock Cutler

Jan 26, 2011

I didn't have "skin" in either game Sunday, as I am a Seattle Seahawks fan. But I am also an NFL fan, and in saying that I always look forward to the NFC and AFC championship games as the culmination of a whole lot of games watched from my couch or wherever else; I wouldn't miss these games.

I'm in Los Angeles at the moment, and being down here and being a football fan is kind of like what you see in those DirecTV commercials: Fans of different teams, congregating in one house to watch football. I was invited to a friend's house for the second game. He is a lifetime New York Jets fan. Two other friends (a San Diego Chargers fan and a Dallas Cowboys fan) and I were meeting at my house to ride our Harleys out for the game.

Oftentimes, these games are much better to watch and more hotly contested affairs than the actual Super Bowl. These games are the last actual test of blood and guts. The rule of "any given Sunday" sort of gives way to these last four teams being the best of the best. There are fewer moments of chance because every player is giving everything they have. This was the weekend to go big or go the hell home.

It is cold, in Southern California terms, right now. When I ride my motorcycle in Seattle in wintertime, I just simply have the right warm clothes on hand. … At a moment's notice, I can leave my house and have the right attire. Down here in L.A., though, it would be overdoing it to have winter gloves, thermal underwear, balaclavas and huge coats at the ready. Luckily for me, though, I have been climbing high and snowy mountains down here and have all of that stuff. The point is, during the Bears-Packers game, I was sort of going from one room to another putting my motorcycle riding attire together; checking in on the game every time I passed through the TV room (which was a bunch of times, about every 30 seconds or so).

I guess it was because of all of this to and fro that I didn't notice until a little ways into the third quarter that Jay Cutler wasn't behind center for the Chicago Bears. I then sat and watched, wanting to get the story of why the Bears quarterback wasn't playing. The commentators never really filled me in. It was a mystery to me. To say I was shocked would be overstating it -- but I was mystified. I thought I must have missed something.

I'm not here to pile on to the scrum that has built up writ large on Jay Cutler already, before and after it was revealed Monday that he had a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee. I wrote last week on my opinion that his surging confidence was affecting his Bears in a positive way -- even after he got his bell rung and butt kicked every weekend because of poor protection by his offensive line in the first seven or eight weeks.

I was watching "The Herd" on Monday morning, as Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman came on to give his thoughts regarding Cutler leaving the game early. Freeman was pretty good at sort of dodging any direct personal criticism of the Bears' QB, but did say "Heck, I'm only 22, and when I took a particularly good shot this season in the Saints game -- and my shoulder was all jacked up and swollen at halftime -- I only had to take some Tylenol and I was all good by the start of the third quarter." When you are 22 years old, he went on to add, you just recuperate very quickly.

It is possible, and seems plausible, that Cutler just got too damn beat up during the first half of this season. When faced with as formidable and hard-hitting of a defense as the Green Bay Packers', Cutler could have just gotten too rattled and shaken, and then had some bad flashbacks to earlier in the season when he had no protection. There is a reason professional sports psychology and psychiatry are thriving niche businesses.

Cutler is nearly 28 now, and unlike 22-year-old Tampa QB Josh Freeman, he has taken a ton of big shots as signal-caller for the Broncos and the Bears behind their anemic offensive lines. His recovery to this abuse probably takes a bit more than a few Tylenols. I am not Jay Cutler, so I can only assume these things.

As I watched the Jets-Steelers game later that day with all of my dude friends, the Jay Cutler saga started to unfold. All of the tweets from the Maurice Jones-Drews and Darnell Docketts began to flash across the TV screen. Of course, before we had all the information about Cutler's injury, all of us sitting on the couch puffed out our chests and talked loudly of how none of us would ever quit on our team with a banged-up knee in the NFC Championship Game. "You've got to sacrifice the body!" all of us seemed to brag. The NFL is a very public thing, and to be a player in it you must first know that your life, public and private, is no longer your own.

I have experienced a bit of this being in big rock bands. I have played gigs with a broken thumb, a broken tail bone, a torn rotator cuff, and a snapped anterior cruciate ligament in my knee. But none of these injuries came because I was getting hit by 300-pound dudes looking to break me. All of my injuries, except for the torn ACL, were received because of mostly knuckle-headed moves made outside of the "arena." I even once got knocked out cold by a flying bottle at ARCO Arena in Sacramento. That gig I couldn't finish. I was not blamed for the gig getting cut short, though, as the audience could clearly see the bottle hitting me.

No one could see "the bottle" hitting Jay Cutler on Sunday. His rather cool demeanor hasn't helped him to plead his case in the aftermath, however. Jay Cutler now seems to have a steep upward hill to climb to get back into the good graces of Chicago Bears fans, and all of the rest of us brave couch-potatoes … the ones like me who have to brave only a cool Southern California winter on a motorcycle.

That's life in the big leagues. It's not fair for sure, but it is what it is.

https://www.espn.com/espn/thelife/music/news/story?id=6058730

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Post by Blackstar Sun Dec 26, 2021 1:09 am

Split allegiance puzzles an old pal

Feb 1, 2011

Author's note: Parts of this story have been fictionalized to either protect the innocent, or create an air of humor or mystique. Please be advised to "lighten up" a small bit.

The Super Bowl for me, since childhood, has really been only an event that seemed somewhat distant and folklorish. My team, the Seattle Seahawks, since the expansion in 1976, had never even gotten anywhere close to the championship game.

But then the season of 2005 happened -- the one where everything went exactly right and in our favor. We were going to the damn Super Bowl at long last, and I was completely immersed in the fervor, of course.

My fellow Seattleite buddy living in Los Angeles that year was Alice in Chains' Jerry Cantrell. If you know anything about Jerry, then you will also know that he is a huge NFL fan, and heads an ESPN.com fantasy football league that benefits charity. During that 2005 season, Jerry and I were in tandem with our measured optimism as the season progressed. When the playoffs and ultimately Super Bowl XL became a reality early in the new year, we were probably the first guys on the phone and computer, looking for good tickets to that game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Through a connection I had through Velvet Revolver, I found four first-row seats at the 40-yard line … for only the face value of the tickets. We were in! This was going to be a kick-ass trip. My wife, Susan, was coming [hotel time away from kids with your wife is always good … but that is another story], my best friend, Eddy, from Seattle would meet us there in Detroit, and Jerry would fly out of LAX with me and Susan.

I got my Hawks jersey. I got my long-sleeved Hawks T-shirt. I even wore my dumb-looking Hawks baseball hat. Time to go to the airport; Jerry was going to meet us down there at our terminal. Right on. This is it! TIME FOR THE SHOW!

As Susan and I walk to our departing gate, I have a watchful eye out for Cantrell. I catch sight of a leather jacket with Jerry's telltale long hair protruding from a baseball hat.

"Hey, pal," I say.

As he turns, I feel good about the fact he is wearing his Seahawks hat on the flight. I didn't want to be the one nerd, alone on that flight with a football hat on. But as Jerry came closer, I noticed he had on black gloves. It is odd to ever wear gloves in L.A., so I took notice. As he got closer still, I could clearly see they were Steelers gloves.

"Yeah, that's funny, dude … ha-ha. Whatever, man. Take that s--- off though, dude … the joke's over, Jerry," I said.

I had thought, of course, that he was playing some sort of prank on me. Right? How could I really think anything else. I knew Jerry to be a Seahawks fan of the highest order, and his band even hoisted the 12th man flag at Qwest Field that season.

But it wasn't a joke. As he spoke, the dark picture of his colliding fandom started to take shape. Here is the deal.

Jerry grew up in Oklahoma, where everyone around him was a Dallas Cowboys fan. Being the dude he is, Jerry decided to pull for the Cowboys' archenemy of the '70s, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

His family then moved to Tacoma, Wash., about the same time as Seattle got its expansion NFL team. From day one, he was a Seahawks fan … as well as a Steelers fan. What I didn't know the whole past 15 or 16 years of us knowing each other was that Jerry had been secretly dreading the day if and when the Seahawks and the Steelers had to play each other in the Super Bowl. Ever since 1976, the dude had been silently gripping. So here we were.

To be honest, I was kind of pissed off. How can a guy pull for both damn teams at the Super Bowl? And, I had scored these tickets for us. With maybe a bit more seriousness than the occasion called for, Jerry explained it to me this way:

"If you love your dad, it doesn't mean you love your mom any less, right?" he said.

All right, if you put it that way.

During the game, Jerry seemed to pull for the Hawks a bit more than the Steelers. I think probably because we Seattle fans were so damn outnumbered, he felt a duty to do it. I think it was also because he was sitting with Susan, Eddy and me.

But I could see a certain pain and confusion in his demeanor, which was an all-new experience if you know Jerry and NFL football. He is usually out of his chair and screaming and carrying on like the rest of us … probably more so.

As the game came to a close, and the reality that the Seahawks would not be victorious sank in, Jerry came over to me and said that he was sorry and something about "there is always next year" … I didn't want to hear it then, and there has been no "next year" to date.

After the game, Jerry took off his hat. "The gloves won," he said.

Good luck with your "gloves" this Sunday, pal.

https://www.espn.com/espn/thelife/music/news/story?id=6080341

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Post by Blackstar Sun Dec 26, 2021 1:11 am

Life at the speed of sports

Feb 8, 2011

Jan. 8 and 9 was "Wildcard Weekend" in the NFL. The Jets beat the Colts. Packers over Eagles. Seahawks bested the Saints, etc.

On Jan. 10, Auburn beat Oregon 22-19 in the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game.

Jan. 1 marked the beginning of 2011. Do you remember where you were on New Year's Eve?

The movie "The Fighter," starring Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg, came out Dec. 19. In my opinion, the best movie of the season, and the best sports movie in a long, long time ("human sports" for all of you now shouting "But what about 'Seabiscuit'?!").

Santa Claus came to the McKagan house on Dec. 25. On Christmas Eve, we all watched "A Christmas Story."

On Dec. 19, the Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the New York Jets, 22-17.

Four days later, on Dec. 23, the Steelers turned it around on the hapless Carolina Panthers, 27-3.

On Jan. 3, most of our K thru 12th-grade kids went back to school this year.

On Dec. 27, a blizzard hit New York, Boston, and most of the Northeast United States, burying cities in knee-deep snow and stranding countless thousands at airports around the country. Where were you?

Jan. 25 saw Motorhead start yet another world tour, this time for "The World Is Yours." Their gig in Anaheim, Calif., was so loud that Angels fans shouldn't be surprised if they can still hear remnants of the song "Ace Of Spades" reverberating around Angel Stadium come the first week of April when baseball season starts.

On Jan. 16, the Los Angeles Clippers beat the L.A. Lakers. I never did like the Lakers -- who, do-or-die, will always be an arch-enemy to my Seattle SuperSonics. Oh yeah, that's right, they were stolen from us.

On Dec. 22 at the Maaco Las Vegas Bowl, No. 10 Boise St. beat No. 19 Utah 26-3.

Feb. 6 at his Super Bowl postgame news conference, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin showed us all what having fortitude and balls is by stating that his team just simply got outplayed. No excuses. No B.S.

Jan. 19 brought us the return of NBC's "The Office." Oh, yeah!

On Feb 5, Desmond Howard "tweets that Phil Simms threatened him at some Super Bowl week pre-function after a spat over Howard's criticism about Simms' son as a college QB. Now, while I find this all intriguing, whatever happened to some good ol' fisticuffs in the back alley? Ah, the "Information Age" has had its "weenie effect" on even the toughest of us all, I guess …

Feb. 7 is when we all start the "pitchers and catchers report to spring training" talk on AM sports radio.

On Dec. 18, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was at 11,491.91. To this date, the DJIA has gone up roughly 706 points, to 12,197.00.

At 11 p.m. PT, Jan. 4, my first ESPN.com column appears. In that introductory piece, I state clearly that I am not a sportswriter.

At 11:05 p.m. PT, Jan. 4, a comment appears to my column from an anonymous and obviously miffed poster, asking why I am writing for ESPN, "he is not even a sportswriter!"

On Jan. 17, Ricky Gervais serves as host for the Golden Globe Awards show. He raises quite the ruckus whilst offending pretty much everyone in the room. Here is an example: "I hired him to star in a remake of a show I starred in, which he's now leaving, killing a cash cow for both of us. Please welcome Tina Fey and the ungrateful Steve Carell!"

On Jan. 4, Apple announced that the iPhone 4 will be available through Verizon; the people go crazy!

Jan. 17, Brett Favre files retirement paperwork with the league office of the NFL.

On Dec. 31, the Rex Ryan foot-fetish scandal takes root.

Why am I bringing up all of these random dates? I am just trying to bring some scope to how bad it has been for the Cleveland Cavaliers this season. All of the above-mentioned things have happened since …

Dec. 18, 2010. The last time that the Cleveland Cavaliers won a game, beating the Knicks 109-102.

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Post by Blackstar Sun Dec 26, 2021 1:12 am

Following a hero up mountains

Feb 16, 2011

In 1997, Jon Krakauer's book "Into Thin Air" sparked a fervor that drove me to read just about everything there was to read about cold and scary-ass high places.

Living in Seattle is also to live with the daily shadow of 14,411-foot Mount Rainier almost blocking out the rest of the civilized world. As I was fast becoming the "armchair" climber in my dumb fantasy world of climbing books, it became apparent that if I wanted to experience any sort of actual high-altitude stuff myself … well, then, Mount Rainier would have to at least be an initial goal.

High-altitude mountaineering may not be the most typical subject to read about here at ESPN.com. This time of the year is tough if you're a Sonics fan like me. The NBA has become a non-healing wound; like seeing that girlfriend who left you … constantly flashed across the ESPN TV screen. But of course, that is another story … and a dark one.

I seem to look for identifiable heroes in the sports that I follow. The good ones take a piece of each one of us on their journeys.

In 2007, The Discovery Channel started its first season of "Everest: Beyond The Limit," a TV series following the real-life attempt of an 11-member team to summit Mount Everest. Being a mountain-climbing enthusiast, I naturally watched the show (I hadn't climbed anything yet).

The person I could most identify with on the show was a guy named Tim Medvetz, a Harley-riding, tattooed misfit who had been through a bit of hell before Everest was even in his plans at all.

Here is a quick list to encapsulate his adult life:

1. At 20, Tim flies to Brazil from his native New York.

2. Lives in a Rio slum.

3. Learns Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

4. Does a little time in a Brazilian jail.

5. Comes back to New York and works as a bouncer at rowdy nightclubs.

6. Comes to Los Angeles.

7. Joins the Hell's Angels.

8. Gets into a real bad motorcycle accident.

9. Wakes up in a hospital room on Sept. 11, 2001.

10. In a haze of confusion about his newly broken body, the two images he sees are his dangling right foot and the North Tower coming down on television.

11. A surgeon says Tim will lose his foot.

12. Tim says to surgeon "I lose my foot, you lose your foot" (see No. 7 again).

13. Doctor tells Tim that his lower spine and right ankle will each be permanently fused. Says Tim will basically be an invalid.

14. Tim reads "Into Thin Air" in his hospital bed.

15. Tim decides to climb Mount Everest.

16. Tim goes to Thailand to study Muay Thai kickboxing and get his fitness back. He stays in a martial arts camp and scrapes by financially.

17. Tim goes to a Tibetan monastery to live, and climbs nearby mountains.

18. Tim climbs Mount Everest.

19. Tim meets me and at a fancy Hollywood party (well, of course, right?).

20. His life has become a never-ending game of "dodge the goofball" ever since No. 19.

21. Tim sees a need for more of a safety net for disabled U.S. veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

22. Tim knows what it's like to be in a hospital bed and dealing with a life-changing prognosis.

23. Tim starts The Heroes Project, a nonprofit that aims to get wounded veterans up the highest summits on each continent.

24. He has gotten a different U.S. veteran up three so far; Denali (North America), Mount Kilimanjaro (Africa) and Mount Elbrus (Europe).

25. Bad-ass.

26. Period.

Tim has now become a member of an elite club: the few who have climbed Everest. Since then, he has climbed many more big mountains all around the world.

And yes, we really did become friends, and pretty good ones at that. Good enough friends that I felt comfortable asking Tim if I could start coming along on some of his training climbs in California (Angeles Crest, Baldy, Alta Peak). He is helping me learn the ropes up there on those slippery and steep ledges.

Tim is the tortoise and I am the hare going up those arduous inclines. Tim always says I am in too big of a rush. I tell him to hurry up … I've got places to go and people to see. Tim only trudges forward, and at his own pace.

He seems to know stuff about things I do not up there. I just want to get to the summit. Those crampons are a pain in the butt, and my pack has too much crap in it. It starts to slow me down. Tim catches up, and tells me again that I am in too much of a damn rush. He pushes my pack, and I skid back down the mountain about 150 yards. "Who's in the lead now?" he laughs. That forces me to slow down, I guess.

It was when we finally got to the summit of 11,400-foot Alta Peak that I realized the full scope of Tim's tenacious immersion in his sport and how he has translated it all into the avenue of helping our wounded vets. It's not about a trip from A to B with Tim; it is all of the stuff in between.

Tim is a high-altitude athlete of the highest order. He trains as hard -- and probably harder -- than most pro athletes out there. But for me, as a fan of sports, he is the guy I want to most emulate. His values, as far as walking it likes he talks it, are ridiculous.

While many may pay lip service to a cause like "supporting our troops," Tim has gone the extra mile and actually taken action. I'm not trying to pimp my own band here -- my editor asked me to include this part -- but Tim's story did inspire Loaded's new song "Fight On." The proceeds from the iTunes download go to the VA Puget Sound Hospital. We played the song at halftime of a Seattle Seahawks game last season on Veterans Appreciation Day. All of this because of my pal, Tim Medvetz.

If you get a second today, check out Tim's site -- theheroesproject.org.

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Post by Blackstar Sun Dec 26, 2021 1:14 am

Everyone wants their share of NFL pie

Feb 23, 2011

In an effort to stay somewhat current in sports stories that are happening right now, I thought that I'd take a shot at clarifying -- to the best of my ability -- the NFL's collective bargaining agreement.

Actually, to me as a normal everyday fan, what happens off the actual gridiron kind of bores me. I see it as none of my business, what the dollar amount a player makes or a coach is getting or how much an owner had to pay to keep up a stadium. That is their deal. I just want my teams to rock come game time.

However, I do get the fact that if my team makes smart and fiscally prudent moves, we will have extra dough to get a free agent somewhere out there who might fill some gap that will make us better on paper at least.

So, in saying all of that, I do get that it is a business, and one that is not unlike my profession.

In my careers with Guns N' Roses and Velvet Revolver, I have found that oftentimes I deal with some of the same issues as a pro athlete.

1) Your "earning years" are somewhat limited.

2) Although you may be at a venue to "play with heart," your real purpose to those who run the venues is to sell parking, beer, T-shirts, sundry concessions and otherwise put warm bodies into those varyingly priced seats.

3) No. 2 may sound a bit harsh; but the people who actually run things are the guys in suits. It's all about the bottom line.

From what I can glean, the biggest issue of this recent CBA is the fact that, with the $9 billion of revenues that the NFL has earned, the owners currently have rights to $1 billion to use for stadium upkeep/improvements. The owners now, however, would like to hike that amount to $2 billion.

The NFL Players Association seems to understand that certain expenses must be paid-out to keep the game, as a whole, relevant and pristine. But herein lies one of the rubs in the negotiation: The players want to first have the owners open up their books so the NFLPA can verify just exactly what all of those expenses are for, and where they are going.

That seems logical, right? Ah, but apparently the owners will not cough up the ledgers. This seems asinine to me. If I were a player, that point alone would be a deal-breaker.

The NFLPA, on the other hand, is willing to make some concessions but in return is asking for a fund in the area of $100 million to be used for retired players' care, for injuries and whatnot sustained during their playing days. It's for the older dudes who are now crippled because of their bodily sacrifice on the field.

We fans outside of the game may scoff at the fact that a player would ever be in need of dough. If you've played in the NFL, we think you must be set for life financially, right? I mean, a player who plays just three years probably makes more in those three years than a normal hard-working American makes in 25 years. Yeah, but check this out.

If you are a young man entering the NFL, and you are guaranteed say, $2 million to play for the next three years, does that mean that you know how to instantly handle that cash? First off, your agent takes 3-10 percent, so now you are down to $1.8 million. Oh, and then the tax man takes his 37 percent, so you are down to a little more than $1 million even without other payments, such as lawyer fees. The player at this point probably has some friends and family who he wants to take care of, and maybe he wants to buy a house and a car. Rarely do these guys think that their career is going to be short-lived, and they might even think that there is going to be a lot more cash coming when a new contract comes. I mean, these are top athletes and they are programmed to think in terms of success, not failure. More than likely, a young man programmed to think like this will just go ahead and spend what is left of this first windfall.

And then a career-ending injury happens, or some such other event that shortens or ends his career. Suddenly, all of that money is gone. In a flash. I've seen it happen to guys in the music industry, too. They just think the money train is an endless ride. It ain't.

In the case of the NFL, though, I have this sneaking suspicion that, in the end, this stuff will all get worked out before next season. It will wait until August or so -- just late enough that all of us fans start to get nervous and really jonesing for pro football. The owners will get what they want. The players will get what they want (I hope).

And us fans? Oh, you just know that we will end up paying more for our seats, our parking and our drinks, hats and jerseys.

Yeah, we love this game!

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Post by Blackstar Sun Dec 26, 2021 2:02 am

Tackling soccer and the stone casters

Mar 2, 2011

A few weeks ago someone wrote on this column's comment board, asking if I could maybe write a little bit about soccer. Not being the biggest follower of the game, I would be hard-pressed to give any sort of novel stance on soccer.

But this past weekend, I was in the United Kingdom, and thought that maybe I could ask around and see if there was some sort of angle that I was overlooking toward soccer … er, football. I have a bunch of friends over there, and they are as die-hard toward their "clubs" as I am for my Seattle teams (football, baseball, college basketball).

The rock fans in the U.K. know a lot about their bands, and my being a big sports fan is no tiny secret over there. In every city from Dublin to Glasgow, and Liverpool to London, I have been pleaded with to outwardly root for whichever city's soccer team. And they give presents, too. As a result of this combination, I have a jersey, hat, socks or a banner from about every imaginable team in the U.K. and Ireland.

So, back to this past weekend.

On Friday night, I land in London and promptly get driven the 100 or so miles north to Birmingham. My friend Tom picks me up for the ride. I tell Tom that I now write for ESPN, and that I want to know how to get introduced into soccer … er, football, so that I would be interested enough to write about it. OK. "Fair enough," he says.

"What you have to understand about football is, is that the game doesn't stop like American sport(s), when it's nil-nil and the pitch is frantic with some real top hard men" -- that's what she said, I thought quickly -- "the crowd is right crazed for a bust-up." What?

Well it turned out there was going to be a League Cup championship game that Sunday between Birmingham City and Arsenal (best sports name ever, by the way). The League Cup should not be confused with the FA Cup or the Premiership or all of the other cups and championships. They don't have the defined playoff brackets like we have in the NBA or NFL or March Madness. It seems a bit confusing, but that is not hard to fathom considering the author (me).

As it turns out, Tom and I were driving back to London from B'ham that Sunday, so we tuned in to the game on his car radio. One of the announcers was a Scotsman, and therefore, I couldn't make out one word he was saying. What I did glean from this game, though, was that Arsenal was the clear-cut favorite coming into the game. Birmingham City? A big underdog. As the game went to halftime, it was tied at 1.

Naturally, the England versus India cricket match came on at that point, and I learned from Tom all about the bowlers, the wickets, the points system, and … without seeing it on a TV or live, I had no idea what he was talking about.

As our football match resumed, Birmingham City scored another goal, and ultimately upset the almighty Arsenal. I always like when an underdog wins!

I think that, ever since the U.S. team made such an exciting showing in the World Cup in South Africa, I have been looking for an introduction into soccer. I hear Seattle has a great MLS team, and I am in the U.K. and Ireland a bunch it seems.

Unfortunately for me, I just simply couldn't understand what these two announcers were really talking about -- the accents were too thick, and the crowd roared at every near goal, drowning out the sportscasters just when I was catching an audible and discernable line of thought. It was comical for me. Maybe I just need to actually go sometime. I have heard it is a sport where being there counts for a lot.

That will probably be the most soccer reporting you will get from me during my tenure here at ESPN.com. Not very good, was it?

Now, to something completely different …

Last week, a couple of people in the comments area accused me of using "meth" and heroin (in fact, those two drugs were never my choices back when I was making those dumb decisions in the late 1980s and early '90s … but I digress). And while these obviously intelligent posters may think things like this are funny, they are indeed a sign to us all that maybe it is our turn to take some responsibility for what we say on the Internet.

I say this, not for my own sake, nor because it might have hurt my feelings (it did not). I play rock music. Inherently, when you are in a band -- from your first teenage gig on -- you get told "you suck!" by one or another faceless voice in the crowd. And that's the same thing here with online news sites. Posters post with screen names, and often offer no e-mail address or other tangible information on themselves. They can cast stones at will, they are never put under a spotlight in which to examine their own lives' dirty deeds on a public forum.

But here we are, and it is 2011, and print newspapers are either dying out completely, or getting smaller by the day. The Internet is where we get our news these days.

In print papers, you must leave a full name and return address if you want to send a letter to the editors for print in the op-ed section or what-have-you. Dating back to the first U.S. newspapers in the 1600s, the village paper would leave a blank page in the back on which the townspeople could write their comments about certain articles. They would then pass that paper on to their neighbor, and that neighbor could see what "John Smith at 65 Squabble Lane" had to say. John Smith had balls enough to say what he said, and put his name and address on it, as if to say "If you don't like it, you know where to find me." But if nothing else, this whole practice bred responsible, brave and intelligent discourse.

This brings me back now to those anonymous casters of stones that we see now in the "comments" section of so many different Internet news ports. It is time for us to take up the slack and return to responsible and intelligent co-citizenry and civility.

Have some stones. Use your name. Or at the very least, leave us your e-mail address next time you are just going to sling mud without the least bit of forethought or knowledge of your subject.

*

McKagan's Playlist

The Life asked columnist Duff McKagan to give us a glimpse into what music he has been listening to lately. Here's what he had to say:

Rock 'n' roll was having a great go at it from the 1950s into the '70s. Somewhere around 1973 or so though, things became less unpredictable and more soft and corporate. There seemed to be a formula for success, and that formula was getting dull edges.

And then came the Ramones. Without them? It can be argued that there would be no Sex Pistols and Clash … or Bauhaus, or Joy Division. In fair turn, we may not have then seen Metallica or Nirvana or Nine Inch Nails, or, well, you get my drift.

May I present to you, three of my favorite early Ramones rock anthems.

"Blitzkrieg Bop" from "Ramones" (iTunes | Amazon)-- The Ramones careened into the New York scene with nary a clue of how to play more than three or four chords. But they made those chords rip and count and "Blitzkrieg Bop" is one of the most solid rock songs ever written.

"It's A Long Way Back" from "Road To Ruin" (iTunes | Amazon) -- I remember when I first heard this song (at the ripe age of 13 no less), I thought the Ramones had gone soft. But even at that young age, it took me only a few more listens to realize that the Ramones were just plain getting better!

"Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment" from "Leave Home" (iTunes | Amazon) -- Maybe this song was the predecessor to hard-core punk rock. You could tell me I am wrong, but I wouldn't care … 'cause I know I am right!

Long live the Ramones!

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Post by Blackstar Sun Dec 26, 2021 2:03 am

Stand up for your Kings, Sacramento

March 9, 2011

You could say that I am a sore loser, but I really come to this topic as a citizen who sees the importance of local economies staying local. I am also a fan who has seen the darkness that the NBA -- and its teams' owners -- can dispense on us loyal dorks … you know, the ones who buy tickets, jerseys, beer and parking. But sometimes, that is just not enough.

Sacramento Kings fans, I know what you must be going through right now. I am a Seattleite. Our Sonics used to go to war with your team. I know how ardent and gnarly the average Kings fan is. Seattle is a great basketball city too. And we could not foresee -- or at least hid our eyes from the fact -- that once the Sonics' owner, Howard Schultz, had decided to sell the team to an outsider, Clay Bennett, our team was lost. We should have fought harder.

This economic recession has been hard enough for all of us, but to subtract an NBA team from your city, can and will wreak havoc on the arena and its surrounding area … big time. Just go visit the neighborhood around Seattle's KeyArena. It's a damn ghost town. Where there was once a vibrant and safe night life, there are closed restaurants and a seeming crush of unrestricted crack hoodlums. Maybe these thugs were there before, but without a constant police presence around for the Sonics games it now seems unchecked. (And, really, crack is so '90s.)

And what about the people directly employed by the KeyArena? I guess they were told a bunch of new events would be coming to the Key. You don't just fill up 41 whole dates with puppet shows and Miley Cyrus. Nope, the arena sits empty for most parts of the year. Dark. Empty. Depressing. Bummer.

It seems the Maloof brothers, the Kings' owners, have found a more lucrative partner in the form of the city of Anaheim, Calif. And yes, while capitalism is the best form of economics that we know of on this planet thus far, it doesn't give a fan a chance for any sort of fair competition. We fans cannot compete with billion-dollar owners and nincompoop mayors and city councils.

All of this Kings-move-to-Anaheim stuff is still just founded on shreds of rumor and hearsay. We Sonics fans went through the same stage. We thought there was no way Clay Bennett would have moved our team from our city. I mean, at first he said his ownership group didn't have the intention to move the team, claiming it was a priority to stay put. I feel naive and dumb now for trusting one of "them." If you are a Sacramento Kings fan and want your team to stay, you might want to raise a lot of hell now -- before it's too late.

I'm not sure about law when it comes to this sort of thing, but wouldn't it seem right for the collective of a fandom to have a right in these types of things. How about this: If an ownership group wants to move a franchise to a certain city, then maybe that fan base should get a majority vote in things that pertain to a move. Fans have and will, after all, invest a majority of the money into the team. Make sense?

OK, maybe a majority vote for us fans is being a little irrational and wouldn't pass muster when a team is losing money (we fans don't think straight and clear sometimes, especially when we feel rooked). But in Bennett's case, there was a promise of a "good faith effort" to keep the team in Seattle if a deal on the construction of a new arena could be reached within 12 months of the team's purchase. If not, then Bennett would explore relocation, which as we all know he did after new arena plans went nowhere.

That sucks and is just not fair in some dark way, because the move wasn't caused by fan apathy or a lack of fan support. Attendance was maybe down a tad, but people were coming back. Seattle had a proven track-record with great and stellar attendance when the team showed promise or even just the hint that ownership was making good moves for the future.

There are cities such as New Orleans that, after a cataclysmic event like Hurricane Katrina, cannot reasonably support more than one major sports franchise. In the case of the dwindling number of the Hornets fans, the NBA stepped in and bought the team. But fan attendance isn't really the issue with Sacramento. Well, the intent of the fans there is still good. To be honest, the Maloofs haven't given the Kings fans much of a team, as of late, to get excited about. The Sacramento fan is still there, and hasn't moved away because his house was swept off by floodwaters.

Anaheim would probably be a great place for a team. Attendance for Angels baseball games is stellar. But maybe it is time for the NBA to stop considering moving teams away from places. Maybe it is time for expansion. We Sonics fans will take our Kevin Durant-led team back. Oklahoma City and Anaheim can get brand-new teams. Those poor, suffering current owners get more revenue from expansion fees. Our urban centers can be restored or kept vibrant.

I know this won't happen in the case of Seattle, but Sacramento Kings fans? Keep up the good fight. And even for the non-fan there who thinks none of this stuff matters; wait until you feel the full economic brunt of an NBA team moving out of your neighborhood.

*

McKagan's Playlist

The Life asked columnist Duff McKagan to give us a glimpse into what music he has been listening to lately. Here's what he had to say:

Sometimes it is OK to go a bit "Goth." There was a time in the very late 1970s through the '80s that Goth music and its offshoots were some of the most creative causeways in rock 'n' roll. I back it. (Note: This list previously ran in McKagan's Seattle Weekly Reverb column and is used with permission.)

Sisters Of Mercy -- "This Corrosion" from "Floodland," 1987 (iTunes | Amazon): Down in L.A., there were really happening rock discos that wouldn't have been so happening if they didn't play their fair share of SOM (Scream and The Cathouse). If you are a newcomer, then welcome!

New Model Army -- "Lights Go Out" from "Ghost Of Cain," 1988 (Amazon): Kick ass and rather snappy at times, NMA took the musings of bands like Wire and Magazine, and went a bit further. Still sounds great and forward-thinking today!

The Dreaming -- "Make It Go Away" from "Etched In Blood," 2008 (iTunes | Amazon): I must admit that I was not so aware of these guys. The singer from Stabbing Westward got himself a heavier band and got real, real dark and very gothic. Cool with me!

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Post by Blackstar Sun Dec 26, 2021 2:05 am

Intensely mad about March Madness

March 16, 2011

The NCAA men's basketball season has come to that special point when just about anything can happen. A whole lot of us who may have been sleeping as fans throughout the college b-ball season are now finally, suddenly enraptured by this do-or-die tournament.

It all started last week with all of the league championships when those kids just start playing for everything: A chance at a higher seeding in regional March Madness brackets, or simply just a berth into the top 64 or now 68.

A lot of us start to pull for a long-shot underdog team. Or, maybe we visited some college when we were younger, and have always had some shadow affinity for those schools. (My wife is from Bowling Green, Ohio. I have been out there with her and actually really like that area. There's a great barbecue joint just off the university campus. And now, simply because of that visit, I always keep an eye on and pull for BG, especially during football season.)

My "shadow" team is Harvard. When I was on a Guns N' Roses tour back in 1992, I somehow got a visitation to the law school there, and was enchanted by the age and history of that campus. I decided later on to go to Seattle University and not Harvard, but I still have some sort of weird affinity with that Ivy League legend.

Las weekend, the Harvard men's team got as close as it has ever been since 1946 to making the March Madness tournament, but were beaten at the buzzer by Princeton, who made it with that last-minute shot.

But my primary team is the Washington Huskies. One would perhaps think that my alma mater Seattle University Red Hawks would be my go-to team. I mean they used to dominate the NCAA in the 1950s (with Elgin Baylor reigning supreme). But ever since I was a little kid, the Washington Huskies -- good or bad or terrible or dominant -- have captured my allegiance.

I don't have any real scholastic connection to the school; neither I nor any of my family went there out of high school. But if you are from the Seattle area, or probably anywhere in Western Washington, then it is likely you may just bleed purple and gold like I do (Washington State University readers who live in this area are probably screaming at that last sentence. They sure are cute when they get mad.)

Washington guard Isaiah Thomas hit a buzzer-beater 3-pointer in overtime, to lift the Huskies over Arizona to win the Pac-10 Tournament on Saturday and secure a higher seed in the East Regionals. If any of you saw that game, it was a great glimpse into what this tournament will bring. Kids playing college basketball for perhaps their last time, leaving everything they have on the court. Perfect.

And we are all very serious about this stuff, too.

One of my brothers lives down in Los Angeles. He went to graduate school at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). When he started teaching, he met his wife, who was -- along with her parents -- a UCLA alum. My brother is a die-hard Husky. He and his wife had two kids, and we all watched and waited to see which team those kids would root for once they got old enough.

My nephew Andrew is now 15 and a hard-core sports fan. His favorite college sports team, as it turned out, is the UCLA Bruins. It gets heated over at that house around this time, and when Pac-10 football is being played. My brother Matt wears his Huskies jersey, his daughter Sarah and son Andrew wear the Bruins colors. It's funny to think, though, that none of us actually attended these schools, yet we are so damn hard-core.

When my band Velvet Revolver toured, singer Scott Weiland and I would always try to find a place to watch college football or basketball. Because Scott's dad went to Notre Dame and played football there back in the day, Scott became a massive and very ardent and passionate fan of all things Fighting Irish. If Notre Dame lost to USC during the football season, I always knew that we would have a great rock show that night because Scott would be ENRAGED. Anger makes for some good rock music.

But back to March Madness and who we root for. The Gonzaga and St. John's match-up piques my interest for some reason (two smaller schools not considered one of the college hoops powers, one of them will move up to play a "Goliath"). Kansas looked dominant against Texas last weekend, and they are going into this tournament strong. No. 1 seed Ohio State is too, of course. But what about teams such as Long Island University-Brooklyn? Although it is indeed a long-shot, what is stopping it from being the sexy underdog like Butler and Northern Iowa were a year ago? It is the little schools like this, that capture all of our imaginations during late March and early April in NCAA men's basketball. For me, I suffer the "Rocky syndrome"; I just love it when a small underdog beats a mighty giant.

This is when sports gets good. When, sure, although recruiting can be highly affected by the outcomes of March Madness, the game is still being played for the sake of the game itself. Single-elimination gives no rest for the weary, and leaves a lot of us cheering on a team that we may have had no previous allegiance. Before some of these basketball players become pro ballers, and the rest just happy graduates with a degree, hopefully, they have to play these games in March when the heart is still shown plainly on the sleeve.

I believe in jinxes, and I am the last guy to talk about his team winning anything -- I don't want to step on that line. But, if my beloved Huskies make it past Georgia in the first round, I will gain hope and creep closer to the edge of my seat. Likewise, if a team like LIU-Brooklyn or some other underdog catches some fire, I will watch more closely.

Rock music is my outlet for all of those angry things in life that I go through … and I am glad that I have that "vent." If Washington edges closer, and then falls somewhere close … I will just go down to my rehearsal space or next gig, and spit vitriol until I am even and calm. That's probably better than tipping over cars and setting fire to a campus.

*

McKagan's Playlist

The Life asked columnist Duff McKagan to give us a glimpse into what music he has been listening to lately. Here's what he had to say:

The Clash -- "Complete Control" from "The Clash" (iTunes | Amazon): This is a song that dominated the "formula" that was to become punk/pop or commercial punk or whatever you want to call it. Hey, I like Rancid and all, but listen to "Complete Control" and see if you can hear comparisons. I'm not sayin' … I'm just sayin'!

D.O.A. -- "The Prisoner" from "Something Better Change" (iTunes | Amazon): This band is, bar none, the unsung hero of North American punk. Because D.O.A. hailed from Vancouver, British Columbia, I got to see them live on many occasions as a young lad. These guys were my KISS. I love D.O.A., and you all should check them out!

Refused -- "New Noise" from "The Shape of Punk To Come" (iTunes | Amazon): Being about to go on the road myself right now, I always need to hear a song that kicks my ass and puts me in the right frame of mind to crush. "New Noise" is that song for me.

https://web.archive.org/web/20110321115302/http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/thelife/music/news/story?id=6220339


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Post by Blackstar Sun Dec 26, 2021 2:06 am

Reinstate the passion with Bad Brains

Mar 23, 2011

Last week, as all the March Madness hoo-ha was getting started, I returned once again to the SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas, to play with my band Loaded.

South by Southwest began in 1987 down in Austin as a sort of meeting place for unsigned bands to gather. The original thought process was that if numerous bands play in the same week, perhaps major record-label representatives would be attracted by the fact that all this would make their job easier (Artist & Repertoire reps from major labels are, after all, supposed to go out and scout new talent).

The Austin-based festival has grown massively in the past 24 years, and now includes film, digital music-industry heads, "what's next" think tanks, music business forums and major bands coming down to play. The Foo Fighters, The Strokes, Queens Of The Stone Age and Duran Duran all headlined different venues this year.

But one gig in any given year always seems to become the talk of SXSW. This year was no different, and the re-formation of the original lineup of D.C. hard-core legends Bad Brains was the gig. The line was so damn long and the venue so small that only a lucky few could attend. (I arrived too late that night. Either way, this is not the type of gig for which you get your management to somehow try to circumnavigate the fray for you. For the Bad Brains and their ethic -- no matter who you are -- you stand in line like the others … at least that is the way I see it.)

The next day, I had lunch with Clown from Slipknot. He had been to the Bad Brains gig the night before, and was still reeling from the power and sheer majesty (as he put it) of that show. I know that some of you reading this right now might have been around back in the early 1980s punk scene. For those of you who missed it, I will try to gig a real quick history lesson -- and "suggested listens" for this era.

Rock and roll music went through a ground-breaking sea change somewhere in the mid- to late-1970s, in a sort of reaction to what seemed to be a general dulling of the edge of new music. Bands and artists such as Supertramp, Kansas, Styx and Kenny Loggins were dominating the airwaves. And while this is not meant to be a negative statement toward those artists -- the youth were not being served aurally. The "youth" went into a revolt musically, and punk music was born.

Luckily for me, I was 13 in 1977 and just beginning to play music myself. Being the last of eight kids, I was more than excited to find something -- anything -- that I could call my own. Being one of eight didn't give a kid much space to differentiate oneself, not in a bad way at all. It was totally awesome to be from a huge family, but a kid at 13 wants a place that is his own. Punk rock was my different "space," and I dove in headfirst.

Of course, the Ramones and Sex Pistols pretty much got everything started, but offshoots of punk in different American cities started to develop, and it seemed that every region had its own sort of slant.

Los Angeles had Black Flag, the Germs and Circle Jerks, to name a few.

Minneapolis had the Replacements and Husker Du.

The Northwest had DOA, the Subhumans and The Lewd.

New York-New Jersey had the Misfits and all of the Johnny Thunders-Richard Hell influence.

Washington, D.C., had Minor Threat and Bad Brains.

The thing about a band like the Bad Brains reuniting -- and what sets this apart in my opinion from, say, Journey getting back together -- is that this is not really in any way a commercial endeavor. No, the Bad Brains will not get rich because "H.R. is back" … or some such thing. This indeed is a thing they have to do because the passion to do so is just there.

Bands such as the Bad Brains are one of those things that just realign a guy. They reinstate passion into an audience's life. They dull all of the outside noise. If you are a father and feel that you aren't as good as you can be, go see a band like the Bad Brains. If your job seems more important than your soul, go see the Bad Brains. If the sports team you follow is sucking and you feel that your life is hollow because of that fact, go see a band like the Bad Brains. They give hope and breadth and scope and grace.

As I sat talking to Clown, we spoke of the tragic loss of Slipknot bass player Paul Gray last year. I sensed that Clown had to see that Bad Brains gig. His healing point with Gray is still very raw and brutal. He spoke of the gig the night before as an experience of purging and release. Perhaps even religious. Yes, rock and roll can still do that. I will see the Bad Brains this June in France … and I am counting the days.

*

McKagan's Playlist

Duff McKagan Duff McKagan lists his top picks from Bad Brains:

"Pay To C**" from "Bad Brains" (iTunes | Amazon) -- Probably the best example ever of what hard-core punk rock is. Maybe the world's only perfect song.

"Banned in D.C." from "Bad Brains" (iTunes | Amazon) -- Ah, the Reagan years did have some good things about them. One of them was the angst that youth were experiencing.

"I Against I" from "I Against I" (iTunes | Amazon) -- Bad Brains were/are heavily influenced by reggae music and the Rastafarian culture. A risky business that is -- except if you happen to be the Bad Brains.

https://web.archive.org/web/20110326173232/http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/thelife/music/news/story?id=6247443


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Post by Blackstar Sun Dec 26, 2021 2:07 am

ESPN Music's 2011 bass-ball preview

Mar 29, 2011

By Jim Wilkie

As a journalist and sometimes headline writer it's difficult to let an opportunity for a good pun go to waste.

In the past few weeks I've spoken by phone with some heavy-hitting bassists who happen to be big baseball fans. So as Opening Day arrives, and with the help of their knowledge and passion for the game, I present ESPN Music's 2011 Bass-ball Preview:

[...]

Duff McKagan

We couldn't complete this without letting our own columnist for The Life bat cleanup. McKagan, who has played for bass for Guns N' Roses, Jane's Addiction and Velvet Revolver, is finishing his autobiography and preparing for the release of "The Taking" (Amazon) his band Loaded's third album, on April 19.

No wonder he's too busy for fantasy baseball.

Favorite team: "Seattle Mariners."

Favorite player of all time: "Edgar Martinez."

Current player who impresses you the most: "Well, Evan Longoria came out of seemingly, to me as just a common fan, came out of sort of nowhere and was a dominant player right away. I wish he was a Mariner. I would say from tip to stern, he's probably the most exciting young player."

Favorite major league ballpark: "I've been to a bunch of parks. Fenway is an amazing park just for the historic value of it. And I've played gigs right across the street. And I've been there when the Mariners have played the Red Sox. Go see four innings and then go play a gig and then afterwards have Mariners and Red Sox guys come and see your gig and hang out afterwards, pretty fun.

"Camden Yards, the new Camden. You know that's kind of the blueprint for the new 'old' park model. And it's really beautiful, but I gotta say, I've been to Dodger Stadium. I've been to Wrigley Field. I like those old historic [parks]. But, you know, Fenway and Wrigley are very uncomfortable places to watch a game. They really are. It's kind of a [hard] thing to even get into your seat at Fenway. But it's cool, and I love baseball and I love going and experiencing other teams' viewpoints.

"Jerry Cantrell and I went to a Dodger game last year when they played the Phillies. And we were guests of Karen and Jamie Moyer, and that was pretty cool for me.

"But I think Safeco is the best field. I'd say it's really the best park to see a game. It's fan-friendly, it's beautiful, they've got a roof just in case. They rarely use that thing, but it's a really great, great park. But I think other people have said that who are not Mariners fans."

How many games per year do you get out to see? "Really depends. I usually, if I'm not on tour, I'm in Seattle all summer long. And I'll go to a good dozen games. The Mariners -- it's hard to go to games … ha, you know the All-Star break comes and your team's already out of it. You want to go to a game, I'll call some buddies, 'Let's go to a game.' [They answer] 'Why?'

"I try to go to a dozen games. And when I'm on tour I'll go to games out there. So yeah, at least a dozen."

Favorite baseball memory: "I made the all-star team when I was 12 for the majors, a major Little League. I made it when I was 11 and I made it again as a pitcher. And I was really coming around because I played the majors for three years by that point because I went up early at 10 because I was a tall kid. They sent me up early, a little too early but I got all that experience and so at 12 I was really in my zone for me.

"And I pitched a shutout in a major Little League game. …"

"One of my older brothers, he was a star pitcher for Roosevelt High School. And they won the state championship the year he pitched, a left-handed pitcher and a great hitter. So he taught me how to throw like curveballs, sinkers, all kinds of s---. Nowadays kids, I don't think they're even allowed to throw that stuff, but back then they didn't know [any harm it would do]. …

"There were faster pitchers than me, but I had a bunch of crap.

"I hit a game-winning home run for my team that year. I'm not bragging, but it was just a great memory: hitting that game-winning home run."

Who will win the American League? "I'm going to go Red Sox."

Who will win the National League? "The Phillies. I like the Phillies because Jamie Moyer went there. It would be great to see Phillies-Red Sox."

Who will win the World Series? "I think the Red Sox kinda have to get another one now. They've built up. I think it's going to be the Red Sox. They're doing things that I think they're just kinda in a groove right now. Whereas a few years ago they were scrappy and wily and they were the team that would never win the World Series again for a million years and they won. And now I think they're in a groove where all the noise and hum is gone and they can just be a [expletive] great team."

Who will win the AL MVP? "Well, I hate to say it … but I hear that what's-his-[expletive] is having a good spring training. You know who I mean. [Alex Rodriguez] I can't say his name. I hear he's having a real great spring training and he's in a good headspace and whatnot. Well, you know what, I'm not going to pick him because I despise him. I can't even bring myself to do it.

"OK, here we go: Ichiro [Suzuki]."

Who will win the AL Cy Young Award? "Cy Young: King Felix. All right."

Who will win the NL MVP? "Albert Pujols. He'll play lights-out."

Who will win the NL Cy Young Award? "Tim Lincecum. The Freak, he's awesome. I like that kid, he's kinda punk rock."

What big storylines are you looking forward to this season? "Looking forward to, fictional or true: 'The Seattle Mariners surprisingly dominate the AL West.' … It could be."

Do you play fantasy baseball? "No, it's too long of a season. I'm new to the fantasy game. This is my second [year of fantasy football], next year will be third … well, we'll see. I played two seasons of fantasy football and this last year was really my year where I started to really get it and be real active in it."

https://www.espn.com/espn/thelife/music/news/story?id=6270119


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Post by Blackstar Sun Dec 26, 2021 2:14 am

M's fans navigate minus soothing voice
Baseball won't sound the same without the narration of broadcaster Dave Niehaus

March 30, 2011

Seattle is a town that has, as everyone surely knows, plenty of annual precipitation. We stay inside our homes or in our cars a lot.

Seattle is also a town where books seem to reign supreme over television. Year in and year out, Seattle is recognized by a Central Connecticut State University study as one of the most well-read cities in the United States.

As a side result of these combined factoids, there seems to be a somewhat more intellectual base of sports fan. There may be a bit more expectations when it comes to sports radio and our teams' radio announcers. Yeah, I'm actually not kidding.

I've been a guy who has split time between Seattle and Los Angeles over the past 25 years (Seattle is home. L.A. is work). I have also traveled extensively around the United States since touring with punk bands in the early 1980s and have bent an adept ear toward local sports radio stations since then. Maybe it is that I am an incurable homer, but it just seems that once you get outside of the Northwest, sports radio in general is often a bunch of screaming and one-sided mono-views.

Our sports-radio guys have always been a bit deeper, and have had a wider view of sports as a whole. Kevin Calabro, Mike Gastineau, John Clayton and Dave Mahler are all guys who make radio better and raise the bar nationally for what a sports-radio guy is supposed to be about and sound like. Less provincial. Less bluster. Fewer catchphrases. Little to no B.S.

And Seattle has been blessed, too, since the inaugural 1977 season of the Seattle Mariners to have one special man as our baseball radio and TV announcer: Dave Niehaus. We lost him last year to heart failure. My thoughts, of course, go out to his family. I am sure that they know, though, that Mr. Niehaus created a sense of family on a grander scale with all of us Mariners fans. He was our fearless leader in times of triumph, and a sort of care-giver when the chips were down. A father figure writ large, on the AM dial.

With the Major League Baseball regular season starting this week, we Seattleites are facing a sort of yawning gap that goes along unspoken: How can Dave Niehaus be replaced?

Los Angeles Lakers fans faced this same sort of thing when the great Chick Hearn passed away in 2002. When the St. Louis Cardinals lost the great Jack Buck that same year, was the loss made any easier by his son Joe Buck filling the void? Maybe a little, but it still is a damn hard thing to find a trusted voice that is both the most loyal of friends and a comfort when other things in life may get hectic or chaotic or dark or sad.

I don't mean to come off as morose or otherwise fatalistic. As fans of sports, our lives are doubly enriched when we have a major league team and a benchmark-setting radio announcer. (Niehaus was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008. Not that this fact alone proves he was great at his job, but it does add a bit more than a modicum of merit.) All of the memories that I have of the good things that have happened to the Mariners over the years are narrated by Niehaus. Yes, I can still hear his voice clearly in my mind.

When I came back home to Seattle in 1993 after the brutal 2½-year "Use Your Illusion" tour, I remember hearing a Mariners game on the cab ride home from the airport. Even though I was then living in an abnormal fishbowl of excess and popularity for Guns N' Roses, Dave Niehaus' voice instantly brought me back to Earth.

When my wife, Susan, and I had our second child in July of 2000, I was on a pink cloud of fatherdom but my nerves were on edge from no sleep. I remember putting on the game in the car ride home. Niehaus guided me safely home.

When 9/11 happened, and baseball did finally resume, it was again Dave Niehaus who steeled me for the uncertain future while also somehow calmly easing our collective suffering. I'm not sure how guys like this do it. I guess it is just in their DNA. It is a calling, I suppose.

I'm sure maybe some of you reading now could perhaps care less about who was, or is, the Seattle Mariners radio announcer. But if you are a fan of the poetry and flow and pause and weight of a great baseball announcer like I am, then you may, too, know about what I write.

You will be missed Dave Niehaus. Now, let's play ball!

*

McKagan's Playlist

The Life asked columnist Duff McKagan to give us a glimpse into what music he has been listening to lately. Here's what he had to say:

I finally saw the movie "Where The Wild Things Are" last weekend with my family here at home. We all watched in a pile and some fell asleep that way. My youngest daughter Mae was so sad at the end that she cried for a long while. She wanted all the characters in the movie to be happy and stay together at the end. My sweet girl.

Gosling -- "Stealing Stars" from "Here Is …" (iTunes | Amazon): This post-Loudermilk band was actually Loudermilk … just a different name (long story). I love Davey Ingersoll's voice, and this song is the epitome of sweet and gentle.

Karen O and the Kids -- "Igloo" from the "WTWTA" soundtrack (iTunes | Amazon): A song from the WTWTA soundtrack. Karen O did such a great job throughout. Hard to pick one track, so I will do two!

Karen O and the Kids -- "All Is Love": See above.

https://web.archive.org/web/20110402202026/http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/thelife/music/news/story?id=6270118


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Post by Blackstar Sun Dec 26, 2021 2:41 am

It's just a game

April 6, 2011

I was driving my car in Los Angeles last Friday afternoon, idly listening to a local sports radio show. I am like everyone else on Opening Day of MLB baseball: There is all the hope in the world of my team going all of the way to the pennant … or beyond.

Things suddenly came to a screeching halt, however, when I heard the sports guys on the radio read a story about a San Francisco Giants fan getting brutally beaten on by some men wearing Los Angeles Dodgers garb. This happened the night before, just after the Dodgers' home opener against the Giants.

Apparently, there were some words exchanged in the parking lot and this man (now identified as Santa Clara County paramedic Bryan Stow) was hit on the back of the head. Mr. Stow apparently hit his head again when he fell to the ground, and the Dodgers-wearing brutes reportedly proceeded to kick him while he was unconscious. He was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital.

On Saturday, as I was driving my young daughters to a Nickelodeon kids show, I was again idly listening to the radio, this time the local NPR station. The story of the condition of Bryan Stow came on. His condition has apparently worsened, and was now in a medically induced coma. Bryan Stow has two small children. This kind of stuff really hits home when you are also a dad.

This is not meant to be a commentary on Dodgers fans in general, or Giants fans in general. If this meaningless and brutal attack happened in Denver or Tampa Bay or Seattle, I would still feel as sickened.

I know that we are passionate about our teams. We grow up feeling ownership and pride about them. It's our "turf," when our teams play at home, and we go into "enemy territory" when we go see our teams play in another city. But … it is only a game. Just sports. Folly.

ESPN.com is one of the biggest websites in the world. Sports are a huge deal. I could immediately tell when I started writing here back in January, just by some of the comments to my articles, that passion toward sports has a different, uh … twist. But online, it is all pretty harmless and more than often, anonymous. I guess that's all OK.

A baseball stadium, though, is a place that we often take our children. This is a place where they may very likely get some of their first imprints of sportsmanship between us adults. I'm sure that some kids might have witnessed this event in the Dodgers' parking lot as the game was letting out. That is really damn sad to think about.

Thugs are not a new dilemma. We have all seen on TV, or read about "soccer hooligans" in Europe or elsewhere. But I have never even heard about a fight in a parking lot after a mixed martial arts match here in The States. And there's probably more testosterone combined with alcohol at an MMA event. How empty are the lives of these violent Dodgers fans that they mindlessly lose all sense of compassion for their fellow fan or man on Opening Day of the baseball season.

When I went to Super Bowl XL in Detroit and wore my Seahawks jersey, I was sitting right smack in the middle of a sea of Steelers fans. For all of the fierceness that you hear about Steelers fans, I actually never really met a nicer bunch of people. They were courteous to us Hawks fans, and understood clearly, that this was just a game.

I've gone to many different ballparks to see the Seattle Mariners when I am on tour. I always wear my M's hat and have never had a problem. Maybe it is because I am 6-foot-3 and have a lot of tattoos. Maybe it is because I have a tiny bit of celebrity.

Hopefully this Dodgers parking lot attack is just a very isolated incident. It's just not cool … it's senseless, shameful, dumb and dark. Sinister almost.

Rivalries are healthy and vital to all sports. When it results to thugism, however, the fun and sportsmanship is lost. That goes without saying, right?

To Bryan Stow's wife and family: Here is hoping and praying that everything goes OK. You have my best wishes.

*

McKagan's Playlist

The Life asked columnist Duff McKagan to give us some music recommendations. Here's what he had to say:

D.O.A. -- "Something Better Change" (iTunes | Amazon): If you grew up in the Northwest in the late 1970s or early '80s, D.O.A. was a larger-than-life example of how brilliant a live rock band should be. It was as important as any band in history, if you ask me.

The Saints -- "I'm Stranded" (iTunes | Amazon): I remember staying up late one night in 1978 to watch the British show "The Saint" on PBS because there was a rumor that the band "The Saints" were gonna be on it. Maybe a dumb anecdote, sure, but please do yourself a favor and get this record somehow.

Zeke -- "Flat Tracker" (iTunes | Amazon): How can you not be impressed with the hard-rocking sound of Zeke? "Chiva Knievel"? Genius.

The Ruts -- "Babylon's Burning" from "The Crack/Grin And Bear It" (iTunes | Amazon): One of the bands that I truly regret never being able to see live.

999 -- Anything really … (iTunes | Amazon): I got to see these guys at Seattle's Showbox in 1979 or 1980. A band that may have been widely overlooked but may have influenced many in "the know."

The Vibrators -- "Pure Mania" (iTunes | Amazon): With songs like "Petrol," "You Broke My Heart," and "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah," "Pure Mania" was a favorite record to put on just before we wrecked a house or played "beer curling" at a punk-rock house party!

https://web.archive.org/web/20110411143018/http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/thelife/music/news/story?id=6288739
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Post by Blackstar Sun Dec 26, 2021 2:43 am

Get ahold of yourselves now, ball fans

April 13, 2011

Baseball season always seems like it takes such a darn long time to start. I'm not sure why it feels this way. In those few months that separate the seasons, all of our teams go back to 0-0 and our hopes for a bigger and mightier team arise again. Maybe that is why that short wait seems like such a long time.

In the case of the Cincinnati Reds or the Kansas City Royals, who are both off to excellent starts, the wait was worth it. If you are a Texas Rangers fan, the wait also paid off nicely, but the Rangers faithful probably expect dominant starts to a season these days. The Philadelphia Phillies are killing it, too.

Tampa Bay Rays fans must be a little bummed. Their team was the overachieving stars of last year. Not only is the Rays' start to the season a bit alarming, but so is the sudden performance-enhancing-drug-inquiry-turned-retirement of Manny Ramirez a bit bizarre. That sucks … all the way around.

On the flip-side of the Manny-PED episode was a great segment on "60 Minutes" this past Sunday on St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols. What a stud. With all of the stuff he has achieved on and off of the field, he makes me want to re-examine my priorities. My wife was a little teary at the end of the story. So were my dogs. Well, truth be told, so was I.

My Seattle Mariners team got off to a great 2-0 start, but had not won again as of this writing (Sunday). Going from 2-0 to 2-7 is a tough reminder of seasons' past and hopefully not a harbinger of the future for the M's faithful. I will watch, listen and go to games regardless of their record, but hell!

But the biggest early surprise has to be how the Boston Red Sox started winless in their first six games. I've been to Boston many times during baseball season, and on their local sports radio the Red Sox will get scorned after they win a game. I could only imagine the radio-callers this past week. It must sound like a friggin' doomsday prelude. Those fans are passionate, to be sure. Well, at least they took two of three from the Yankees.

But before any of us gets a little too far ahead of ourselves, let's just remember that we are only 10 games into the season. Before we state that the Cleveland Indians are going all of the way, or that the Red Sox are already out of it, let us remember how small of a fraction this first 10 games is to the rest of the season.

Being 0-10 in the MLB is like:

Being 0-1 in the NFL (no big deal, right?).

Starting a day with a cup of decaffeinated coffee because there was nothing else in the house. Your morning kind of sucks, but by the time you finally get that cup of real caffeine later on the drive to work, your grumpy and groggy morning is quickly forgotten.

It's like starting 0-4 in the NBA (definitely a start that a team can easily and quickly overcome).

It's like when the first hot girl you ever tried to come on to in high school rebuffed your forward progress (it seemed world-ending then, but we all moved on to the next try, right?).

The band U2 didn't start big, but look at them now (is that relative, or in context?).

A season like the one Boise State had last year in college football, has to be much worse. They were so good, for so long -- and hadn't lost a game in a long, long time -- that by the point they hit that mini-buzzsaw that was Nevada (and losing), there was really nothing that could save their season afterward. All of the other top college teams would've had to lose a game, to give Boise State any hope of a chance at the national title. Of course, a collective collapse doesn't happen there in the top tier. NCAA football is brutal that way. Lose one game, and you are effectively out.

The Major League Baseball season has so many different factors involved that we often don't really know who is going to be in the playoffs until teams in the AL and NL Wests, Centrals and Easts play their division rivals at season's end. So in context to the rest of these above factors, don't get too up or down about your MLB team yet. We have another 150 games to go!

*

McKagan's Playlist

The Life asked columnist Duff McKagan to give us some music recommendations. Here's what he had to say:

For all that is good and grand and real in rock, the Foo Fighters have always, in my view, epitomized all of the righteousness that makes music good.

Just when we needed it, then Dave Grohl and his stalwart band of genius musical henchmen grant us with a reprieve to the banal fodder that we are often force-fed on "rock" radio. You young rockers out there: Take note of "Wasting Light" (iTunes | Amazon), the newest release just "dropped" by the Foos.

"White Limo" -- A peak inside the old-school punk rock influence that surrounds Foo Fighters. The video for this song (shot on a VHS camera, and directed by Grohl) is the best thing since Black Flag's "TV Party."

"Rope" -- I saw these guys play this song on "Saturday Night Live" the other night. Great song. Ridiculous band.

"Miss the Misery" -- These guys just get better at their craft of songwriting. With every new record, they expand and go to unexpected places … instead of doing the same ol' thing.

Get this record now.

https://web.archive.org/web/20110430030814/http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/thelife/music/news/story?id=6334456
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Post by Blackstar Sun Dec 26, 2021 2:59 am

Stripping our jerseys isn't the answer

April 20, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the horrific event that befell Bryan Stow, the San Francisco Giants fan who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Stow wore his Giants gear to Dodger Stadium on Opening Day, and was put into a coma after getting brutally beaten by two knuckleheads after the game in the parking lot.

I believe that rivalry between fans, when done with respect and the honor of the game clearly planted as the place-setter, is one of the most healthy and fun things around. I may not be a New York Yankees fan (let's face it, they have kept every American League team, with a couple of exceptions, out of the World Series over the past 15 years or so), but I do definitely respect that team and its fan base. Same thing with Pittsburgh Steelers fans. Yes, they are the "enemy" if you are a Seattle Seahawks fan like me, but it's just fun and games, right?

Except of course, when something like what happened to Stow comes along.

I happened upon an article a few days ago by John Steigerwald, who has a regular Sunday sports column for the Observer-Reporter in Pennsylvania. He and some others out on the Internet question the judgment of Bryan Stow, and all of us adults who choose to wear our jerseys and team accoutrements to games. Whether at home or visiting.

For example, here's a snippet of Steigerwald's line of thought:

"Are there really 40-something men who think that wearing the jersey makes them part of the team? It was cute when a 10-year-old kid got that feeling by showing up at Three Rivers Stadium in a Pirates jersey, but when did little boys stop growing out of that?

"Here's tip for you if you actually think that wearing your team's jersey makes you a part of the team:

"It doesn't. …

"If you don't put that jersey on in the locker room with them and have your own name on your jersey, you're not one of them.

"Let's review: If you're sitting in the stands, you're a spectator, a fan. If you're down on the field, you're part of the team."


I think Steigerwald is way off of the mark here. He doesn't take into account that most of us sports fans out here are not some pathetic, drooling mouth-breathers who think we are somehow on the team just because we are wearing a darn jersey or hat. Personally, I feel pride of my city, and proud about the fact that I've stuck with my teams through all of the good, but mostly bad seasons. And as I recounted in a previous article, I do wear my Seattle Mariners hat when I go into "enemy" stadiums and have only been met with a sort of "Oh, beautiful city … are you from Seattle? I went there on business last year … blah, blah, etc. …" You know what I mean? Grown-up talk.

I sat in the middle of a huge group of Steelers fans when I went to the Seahawks-Steelers Super Bowl in Detroit a few years back. And yes, I wore a 'Hawks jersey. I did not get one iota of crap from any of those Steelers fans. They were nice folks to be sure.

Steigerwald's paper, The Observer-Reporter, is based in Washington, Pa., not far from Pittsburgh, so I was left scratching my head, when I read this next bit written by him:

"If you're one of two or three guys wearing Steelers jerseys sitting in the middle of the Dawg Pound in Cleveland, guess what? The Steelers players can't see you and even if they could, they're not really getting a lot of inspiration from you.

"If you're set upon by a bunch of drunken adults wearing dog costumes, you probably shouldn't expect any help from the guys on the field who are wearing the jerseys that look just like yours."


From my experience of being a sports fan who also travels a bunch, and therefore goes to games all over the country, I think this type of thinking might just be adding to the problem here.

I think what is probably better called for here, is for a reminder to watch out for our visiting team fans when we are at our home stadiums. Sports in this country, is a great conversation piece and also a place where we can feel just a modicum of pride and "ownership" for our home teams. Nothing less, and nothing more.

I don't believe there is a new "mob mentality" brewing, as Steigerwald went on to say. No, hopefully we just saw a very isolated incident nearly three weeks ago in that L.A. Dodgers parking lot. One, that none of us, wants to see repeated.

https://web.archive.org/web/20110424092145/http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/thelife/music/news/story?id=6386188
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Post by Blackstar Sun Dec 26, 2021 3:02 am

NFL labor woes drag down draft buzz

April 27, 2011

Right now would seemingly be a great time to write about the NFL draft. Everyone else is. But with the collective bargaining agreement edging toward a higher court -- and away from any sort of level-headed mediation -- it is difficult for an average fan such as me to think of the what-ifs of the upcoming draft.

Maybe it is my own personal dubiousness of the NFL owners still being unwilling to fully open their books to the players' association that has got my interest at an all-time low for the draft.

On Monday, a judge presiding over the case ruled that NFL players can go back to their team buildings (ending the "lockout" for now), but the owners have filed a notice of appeal with the court that questions the judge's jurisdiction and whatnot. Blah, blah, blah.

I asked on my Twitter page how the general interest level was for this draft. I just wanted to get a gauge for what others were thinking. It seems that most people are thinking along the lines of "tired of seeing billionaires fight millionaires over their spoils."

I get it. We, as fans, pay for everything. Almost too gladly, in fact. It seems like a slap in face, then, to maybe not have the chance to pay out hard-earned dough for overpriced beer, parking and seats next season.

I just wish I didn't feel this malaise. I'm usually a pretty positive guy and would tell all of you there just has to be a solution here, and we will all see an NFL season in the fall. But when the NFL schedule and game matchups were announced last week, was I alone in my non-excitement? No …

I am sure there will be a solution, but this offseason has been a bummer that's affected my usual plans to follow the draft.

Auburn quarterback Cam Newton seems to be making the sports news this week. People on the sports networks are saying the Heisman Trophy winner just doesn't have the intellect to run an NFL offense. I don't know about any of that, but that kid seems to have all of the talent in the world. I mean, how do you get through a top university such as Auburn and quarterback the team to an NCAA championship without knowing somewhat of what you are doing?

It's possible that Newton just may freeze up when being asked questions in front of a camera or on a radio show. People who cast stones may want to try and walk a few paces whilst under major public scrutiny.

Actually, it is quite possible that I am just feeling sorry for Newton right now; as I feel sorry for all of these young dudes just now getting ready for draft day. Imagine, this is the event that most of these hopefuls have been dreaming of since they were very young. And now this? I know, I know. This is life, and life is tough … but still.

A ton of talent is in the draft this year for sure: defensive tackle Nick Fairley, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, wide receiver A.J. Green, quarterback Jake Locker (yes, I said that), quarterback Blaine Gabbert and many more. I just hope for all of our sakes that they get a chance to play and that we get a chance to be fans this year.

*

McKagan's Playlist

The Life asked Duff McKagan to give us some music recommendations. Here's what he had to say:

I saw Foo Fighters guitar player Pat Smear last week at the Revolver Magazine-sponsored Golden Gods Awards in Los Angeles. I still kind of freak out when I talk with Pat because that dude was in The Germs, probably one of the most influential bands for my musical career anyway.

"What We Do Is Secret" from "GI" (iTunes | Amazon) -- The big guitars on this song announced to all of us young punkers back in 1979 that something was about to get all kind of loud and brutal.

"Lexicon Devil" from "GI" -- Heck, I didn't even know what "lexicon" meant back when this song came out. Singer Darby Crash was a genius of the English language. Oddly, you can't ever really make out one word he says. It was all a sort of game to him, methinks.

"No God" single, also on "M.I.A.: The Complete Germs" (iTunes | Amazon) -- Oh, how darn shocking!

https://web.archive.org/web/20110429011013/http://sports.espn.go.com:80/espn/thelife/music/news/story?id=6431634
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Post by Blackstar Sun Dec 26, 2021 3:31 am

Open letter: So sorry, L.A. Lakers fans

May 10, 2011

I never thought that I'd feel sorry for Los Angeles Lakers fans. They always have had it all -- made that way by their luxury-tax-indifferent owner, Dr. Jerry Buss. He always goes out of his way to give his city's team the best chance to win NBA championships.

I grew up a Seattle Sonics fan, so the Lakers were always (and remain) heated foes. If you are from anywhere but L.A. (and now, probably Miami), it seems almost unfair for your NBA team to compete with an owner who throws all financial caution to the wind.

But after Sunday's Western Conference semifinals loss to the Dallas Mavericks -- more notably, Andrew Bynum's and Lamar Odom's total loss of class -- I suddenly found myself feeling a bit sorry for the true fans of the L.A. Lakers. This whole deal has got to have you all scratching your heads a bit on a lot of different levels.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson is now likely gone. Was that any way to send off this legend? Apologizing to the Mavericks for his team's actions? He never had to do this even for all of Dennis Rodman's tomfoolery when he coached the Chicago Bulls.

If they so choose, could the Lakers trade Pau Gasol? Did these playoffs just make him untradable?

Also, did Bynum's actions on Sunday just make him untradable?

Rest assured, NBA coaches are today licking their chops for the chance to play any team that Bynum might end up on next season. He has been cracked. Mind games of the nastiest nature surely will follow him around from here on out. All an opposing team will have to do is frustrate him. Keep on him. Razz and torment and drive right at him. How will the Lakers make him attractive for a trade now?

If Gasol and Bynum are perhaps untradable, at least for any championship-caliber players in return, how and with whom, will the Lakers build a new team around the soon-to-be-33-year-old superstar Kobe Bryant?

Now listen, Los Angeles. You have had more NBA titles in recent years (by a l-o-o-o-ng stretch) than any other team out there. You all should feel good and not let that fact get lost. You were dominant. You were brutal. You were nearly unbeatable for 15 years.

You all didn't deserve to be let down the way the Lakers let you down. It wasn't that they were swept by the Mavericks. (We all know that every team in the NBA builds teams to match up with the Lakers. It is bound to work now and again.) No, it was the manner in which the Lakers were swept and, ultimately, how they reacted to the frustration. For all the world to see.

And as a fan of sports myself, that had to hurt Lakers fans.

*

McKagan's Playlist

Duff McKagan The Life asked our columnist Duff McKagan to give us some music recommendations. Here's what he had to say:

Adolescents: "L.A. Girl" from "Adolescents" -- Killer Orange County punk-rock from 1980, the year that L.A. punk-rock changed the world.

Black Flag: "My War" from "My War" -- This may be the song that Kobe Bryant should listen to this offseason to get him riled up. It may be after all, just him against all comers next year on the NBA courts.

Fear: "I Don't Care About You" from "The Record" -- Perhaps this song best sums up just the way that Andrew Bynum, Ron Artest, and Lamar Odom collectively feel about the L.A. fans. It must be, or they would have gone out with a bit more class & if it is me that you are asking.

https://web.archive.org/web/20110512130654/http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/thelife/music/news/story?id=6473089
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Post by Blackstar Sun Dec 26, 2021 3:34 am

Try some humor to be a good sport

May 18, 2011

Q: What do you do with an elephant with three balls?

A: Walk him, and pitch to the rhino.


The only way Kansas City pitcher Vin Mazzaro can possibly get around his ghastly performance the other night in the Royals' 19-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians is with a large dose of humor. There really is no other way to overcome the mental mind-blow of a 14-runs-in-two-innings outing on the mound. Is there?

Did ya hear the one about the guy in the bar who stood up and yelled, "ALL LAWYERS ARE PIE-HOLES!"

Another guy stood up and said, "Kind sir, I take exception to that remark!'

First guy said, "Why, are you a lawyer?"

Other guy said, "No, I'm a pie-hole."


The sports world was abuzz recently about the bare-handed catch that Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria made to save a female reporter from getting beaned in the noggin by a stray batting practice hit.

Of course, the sports world today is abuzz about it all being a staged and computer-enhanced video for a razor company ad. I dunno.

Q: Why does Tigger bounce on his tail?

A: So he doesn't step on Pooh.


My 10-year-old daughter just finished her first season with her fifth-grade volleyball team. If you are a sports-minded dad like I am, then you will understand that it takes great restraint to hold my tongue at games. It is my competitive nature.

Youth sports really is the place where our kids learn about being unselfish and being ethical and fair … and just plain all-around sportsmanlike. When a little girl maybe gets hurt by a volleyball, and you see all of the girls from both teams come over to make sure that she is all right, these are the times that remind me that sports is about good gamesmanship.

I think about all the negative stuff we hear these days, about the commercial side of sports being tainted by, well … money. And about the thuggish end of things in parking lots. And people getting too hammered in the stands … and on and on.

Last night, I turned on a Seattle Mariners game here on a TV in Los Angeles. My two pals from Seattle were down here with me, and we watched the Mariners defeat the Minnesota Twins.

It was there in that moment -- just three fellas watching a ballgame -- that I realized that these were the moments that bring me back. The camaraderie of watching sports with some friends.

The negative stuff? That's just for pie-holes.

*

McKagan's Playlist

The Life asked our columnist Duff McKagan to give us some music recommendations. Here's what he had to say:

I had the great honor of playing a little gig last week with one of the Ramones' last surviving members, Marky Ramone. A little-known fact about Marky is that he played drums for Richard Hell & the Voidoids before assuming duties for the Ramones.

"Love Comes In Spurts" from "Blank Generation" by Richard Hell & the Voidoids (iTunes | Amazon): Pure "New Yawk" pop-punk from 1977. This is as good as it gets, people.

"Blank Generation" from "Blank Generation" by Richard Hell & the Voidoids: You all know the generational descriptors such as Generation X or Generation Y or baby boomers. But if you are my age, we are somewhere in-between and have never really fit in. We are the "Blank Generation."

"I Wanna Be Sedated" from "Road To Ruin" by the Ramones (iTunes | Amazon): The first Ramones song that Marky ever played on. Not a bad way to start a career in a new band, eh?

https://web.archive.org/web/20110521041043/http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/thelife/music/news/story?id=6559496
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Post by Blackstar Sun Dec 26, 2021 3:36 am

Funnel your sports passion to help vets

May 25, 2011

Most teams in major league baseball this week, will in one way or another, be publicly showing their appreciation for our U.S. armed forces. With Memorial Day coming up this weekend, it is an important time for us to pause to remember those who have served and died in the call for this country.

From the Civil War to The Great War (World War I), World War II to Korea to Vietnam, and now Iraq and Afghanistan, tens of thousands of men and women have paid the ultimate price.

I stay away from local, national and world politics in my writing, but this column is more about "personal" politics.

While yes, Memorial Day is a poignant event in which we focus on remembering, it also can be a time for us to reach out to those living men and women who have served -- or are still serving.

I got a chance last fall to play at a Seattle Seahawks halftime show at Qwest Field that took place on "Veteran's Appreciation Day." As a result of this gig, my band, Loaded, was invited to our local Veterans Affairs hospital for a visit. It was an eye-opening experience for a few different reasons.

I was struck by a general feeling there was a lot more that we citizens could do to show our appreciation in general. Football and baseball games are a fine way to show gratitude on a larger scale, but on a personal level there is a feeling at VA clinics that those kids just plain feel forgotten.

I also discovered, thanks to new technology in body armour and such, there is a much higher survival rate among injured soldiers in combat. But this "survival rate" doesn't come without some new challenges. Men and women who may have (frankly) died in Vietnam because of fragment bombs, gunshots, etc., are now surviving through these same events of warfare. But often the after-care of these survival stories can take months, years or the rest of that particular survivor's lifetime.

These survivors are often in acute physical pain. As a result, the drug-rehabilitation wards at the VA are filled to bursting. I get that. Been there. Done that. That ward, in particular, spoke to me.

But you don't have to be able to directly sympathize with chronic drug use or the loss of a limb to be of service back to these men and women. From what I could glean from just a few visits to a few different VA facilities now around the country, all these kids want is to feel normal again. A part of the community … vibrant and wanted.

Next time you drive by a VA, maybe stop in and see if there is a way to volunteer. All of you teachers out there, perhaps have your younger students draw pictures and bring them up. Find out the names of some of those soldiers in those hospitals if you can, and write a letter. Small things go a long way, from what I discovered.

You sports fans have a lot of love and passion for your favorite teams, I have noticed. Maybe turn that energy -- if just for a day or two -- to those men and women who feel a bit left behind.

*

McKagan's Playlist

The Life asked our columnist Duff McKagan to give us some music recommendations. Here's what he had to say:

"Fight On" single by Loaded (iTunes): Written for the veterans. Proceeds from this download go to The Puget Sound VA Health Care System.

"The Boys Are Back In Town" from "Jailbreak" by Thin Lizzy (iTunes | Amazon): Apropos for this column.

"Suspect Device" from "Inflammable Material" by Stiff Little Fingers (iTunes | Amazon): The old name for IEDs.

https://web.archive.org/web/20110603195322/http://sports.espn.go.com:80/espn/thelife/music/news/story?id=6584006
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Post by Blackstar Sun Dec 26, 2021 3:40 am

More praise for rookie's broad shoulders

June 1, 2011

Some of you may have read or heard the story last week of Chicago Bears rookie J.T. Thomas and his date with a disabled girl to her eighth-grade prom. On Saturday morning, I heard an interview with Thomas on a sports-radio show hosted by former NFLer Lincoln Kennedy. I was kind of floored by this dude.

There is a lot of "noise" these days. We have cell phones and Twitter and computers and Facebook and satellite radio. Most of us, too, have to work twice as hard these days to pay the rent, keep the lights on and pay for gas. Thus, for me, it is quite a thing to just stop everything, pull my car over and listen to an interview. This kid, J.T. Thomas, and his story almost brought me to damn tears.

Thomas was drafted in the sixth round by the Bears in April and is getting ready to embark on an NFL career in the place where linebackers such as Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary became legends. The kind of stuff the rest of us armchair-athletes can only daydream about.

Thomas is still finishing his last year at West Virginia University, and hence, heard the story about a Morgantown girl who was having some trouble finding a date to her prom.

Joslyn Levell, 14, is in a wheelchair with spina bifida, a condition that prevents the spinal cord from fully developing. She had asked a few boys to the prom, but had been turned down … until J.T. Thomas came along.

Sports always has one or another negative story from week to week. The pitching coach for "this" team insulting fans and kids in the stands. Thug fans from "that" team beating up on a fan of the other team. An ex-NFL guy making Anne Frank remarks in bad form. Etc., etc.

When I heard Kennedy's voice crack a little bit during his radio interview with Thomas -- during the part of the story when Thomas' stepmom called Joslyn's parents to ask if Thomas could call and "pop the question" -- I suddenly felt a rush of humanity … at the risk of coming off too corny. Whatever. It is a great story, and professional sports need more guys like J.T. Thomas.

This story of J.T. Thomas has gotten a bit of "play" already in the sports press. That is good indeed.

Online blogs and portals are where we get our news and information nowadays, but too often -- and just to get a rise in readership (or "hits" to the site) -- we online journalists may just go for the easy smack-talk topic.

For the past three years that I have been writing at Playboy.com, Seattle Weekly.com and now ESPN.com, I have taken on a side mission of trying to raise the bar a bit when it comes to us all having positive or thoughtful comments and discourse on the different topics that I write about. I see the topics that I write about as simply conversation starters.

If you don't agree with what I or other writers are saying, stand up and be counted, and tell us why. Bellicose aggression is easy. Smart discourse, though, is enlightening, and can maybe even change some reader's day and outlook.

Stories such as Mr. Thomas' should be brought more to the fore. I am honored to write my props to guys like this -- and it beats the other topics like DUIs, domestic violence and all of that bull. Are ya with me?

I know these fellas didn't ask to be role models, but it is great to hear about when a guy, such as Thomas, rises above it all and does a very public "solid."

Thomas said that the look on those boys' faces -- the ones who rebuked Joslyn's invitation to the prom -- was a priceless moment. Thomas is a star in Morgantown, and those boys got a little lesson in how to be a stand-up guy.

Genius stuff.

*

McKagan's Playlist

The Life asked our columnist Duff McKagan to give us some music recommendations. Here's what he had to say:

Greg Dulli is, of course, known for his work with alternative pioneers The Afghan Whigs. But it is the stuff he has done since that keeps me sort of enthralled with this dude.

Check out his band with Mark Lanegan, The Gutter Twins.

And, check out his band currently on tour, The Twilight Singers. Brutally honest and deep stuff.

"She Was Stolen" from "Dynamite Steps" (iTunes | Amazon) by The Twilight Singers: Songs like this make me want to rise up. Period.

"On The Corner" from "Dynamite Steps": Brilliant song and song-writing. Kids, this is how it is done.

https://web.archive.org/web/20110605032252/http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/thelife/music/news/story?id=6611793
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Post by Blackstar Sun Dec 26, 2021 3:42 am

MLB updates elusive on European trip

June 8, 2011

The month of June for a touring rock band like mine usually and hopefully means going to Europe and playing a whole host of music festivals. But if you are a baseball fan like me, it can sometimes be a challenge over here to stay up-to-date. (By the way, I follow "America's team," your Seattle Mariners.)

Loaded's first stop was Tirana, Albania, a place where rock bands do not often venture. I always hope that wireless Internet is available at the venues we play but at the stadium in Tirana, signs of the Soviet era are still in place. The Internet has not been integrated yet.

Before you get any ideas that I am being hard on Albania, let me just say that the people there are some of the best rock fans and nicest human beings I have ever met. The countryside is amazing. The weather? Perfect. In spite of all of the social unrest and economic struggle that country has had to endure since glasnost and perestroika, that country will -- and mark my words -- come out on top sooner rather than later.

But back to me trying to follow the baseball. I do have "MLB Text-Alerts" on my phone. But texting over here is not always a sure-fire go-to deal. For the first few days, I didn't get one text. And then suddenly I got something like 30 texts, all at once. That's when I realized that the Mariners have been on a little bit of a tear. That kind of stuff will brighten a guy's day.

I have tried, too, to follow European soccer -- if only to have some sports to watch on TV while I am over here. I witness people at restaurants and whatever living and dying with every attempt at a goal on these public TVs, and I get sort of jealous. The thing is, I just didn't grow up with soccer, so alas, it is not part of my sports "fabric."

We played two huge German festivals last weekend, and one of them is at the infamous Nurburgring Formula One racetrack. Even though I am not the biggest car racing fan either, the weight of being at this course is still pretty damn cool. (I went out on the morning of the gig, before the public was allowed in, and ran the course. Pretty fricking cool to actually have your feet on this course, and see first-hand how the track slopes and banks.)

But back to baseball.

Are you one of those, like me, whose day is actually affected to some degree by the outcome of your team's latest win or loss? Being away from home, and getting little sleep, etc., seems to magnify these feelings in my case. Fortunately, my Mariners have been rolling as of late. Damn, I even saw on ESPN.com a video montage about the M's (and it wasn't even prompted by their resident Seattle homer -- me!).

I'm not sure who this team is, but I like them a lot. Ryan, Smoak, Olivo, Kennedy and Peguero? Not household names to be sure, but according to my MLB Alerts, these guys are killing the ball.

When I am tired and I miss my family and my feet and back are hurting from the constant travel and rocking, it is a pleasure for sure to have my team winning and taking some of the pressure off my life. I guess that is why we follow sports to some extent -- to take the pressure off.

Next three days for me? Sweden, United Kingdom and Czech Republic. C'mon, Mariners! Help me through this one.

*

McKagan's Playlist

The Life asked our columnist Duff McKagan to give us some music recommendations. Here's what he had to say:

Playing the European festivals always gives me a chance to see a lot of bands that I'd otherwise, maybe, never get a chance to see.

Alter Bridge -- Killer live rock band; Myles Kennedy rips it on the vocals for sure.

Mastadon -- If you have never listened to "Crack The Sky," now is the time.

Pete Yorn -- One of the best singer-songwriters out there.

Simple Plan -- A great pop-punk band from Montreal.

Volbeat -- Heavy-metal rockabilly from Denmark.

https://web.archive.org/web/20110613145500/http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/thelife/music/news/story?id=6636799
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Post by Blackstar Sun Dec 26, 2021 3:45 am

Danke, Dirk, from Germany

June 15, 2011

As I previously explained in my column last week, I am in Europe for this whole month of June, doing an onslaught of the rock festivals from "tip-to-stern." From Albania to Sweden, and Donnington to Milan, Loaded is covering a ton of ground.

My quandary as an American sports fan continues, though; with spotty, at-best, WiFi, it has been pretty difficult to keep up with the NBA and Stanley Cup finals.

As a side note: It is pretty apparent which U.S. teams "travel well" merchandise-wise. Boston (Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins) and the New York Yankees.

But it can be deceiving for a guy like me, who is constantly searching for sports news. I may see a guy with a Boston Bruins hockey jersey on, and approach this dude with hopes of getting news on the finals. No luck. I no sprechen sie Deutsch … and I do believe he may have been offended by my body odor. (Listen, when you are on tour -- and you have a bunch of dudes on a bus traveling together -- I'm ashamed to say that we all just kind of get used to the smell. … Oh, too much information for ESPN, perhaps. I digress.)

So, again -- because of my MLB text alerts on my BlackBerry -- I've been able to follow my Seattle Mariners, and they are playing great baseball from what I can tell. I do not know, however, how the other teams in the American League West are doing.

It is kind of cool this way, though, to be honest. It's like a weird sports version of Zen Buddhism, just keeping "your" side of the street clean. "Be the river flowing down its path, and not the rock trying to hold the river back from its path." Did I forget to inform you all, that a rock tour involves sundry sleep deprivation?

We have a two-day drive right now, from Vienna, Austria, to Eindhoven, Netherlands. Our drivers need to sleep, and so we chose Nuremburg, Germany, as our stopover place. The drivers sleep in the day, and we just sort of mill around the town.

Our driver, Herman, is a German fella from Hamburg. He has now been with us for two weeks, so he knows that I am constantly looking for the latest Amercian sports news of any kind. The good thing for me about the Dallas Mavericks being in the NBA Finals is that Dirk Nowitzki is German, and hence, is getting some coverage over here in Germany as a "proud son" type of thing.

As we were driving into Nuremburg this past Monday morning, Herman called me up to the front to listen to the radio news show that he was dialed into. And there it was, in English and everything. "The Mavs win! MAVS WIN!"

Of course, this is no new or big news to you people reading right now. But for me, a guy who had no idea what the heck was going on with the NBA Finals, this was sweet indeed (the last thing I had heard was something about a hand injury Nowitzki was inflicted with during Game 2).

Later Monday morning, I got myself to a TV that had the European business broadcast of CNBC. The broadcasters seemed pretty damn disinterested, but had to otherwise pay a few minutes of lip service to the NBA Finals. The comment that stood out to me was the fact that the U.S. viewership was huge, because a large portion of viewers were hoping for Miami Heat forward LeBron James to fail.

I don't know much about that, but it was just nice to hear about a different team (Dallas) putting the pieces together the old-fashioned way and winning it all.

It's good to hear that the Mavs took this thing. I am a big fan of the underdog. Clearly, the Dallas Mavericks were just that.

Nowitzki is from a town about 70 miles from Nuremburg, and Herman informed me that a big party was being planned. I'm sure there will be lots of steins of beer and shots of schnapps going around. And perhaps even a few of those big foam hands, with the index finger pointing skyward. Number ein uber alles, Dirk. Good job.

*

McKagan's Playlist

The Life asked our columnist Duff McKagan to give us some music recommendations. Here's what he had to say:

I will continue my music section, by again talking about some of the bands that we have been rocking with over here in Europe.

Ghost: a Swedish band that wears masks, and that no one knows the real identity of. Yeah, buddy, I love that stuff! Apparently, Ghost only do two interviews for each record they have put out. And for those they blindfold the interviewer and take him to an undisclosed location. Now that is entertainment.

Down: Pantera's Phil Anselmo put this great band together some 12 years ago, With material from an upcoming record they seem to really be building momentum and steam. Kick butt live band too.

Thin Lizzy: Even with the great Phil Lynott long gone, Thin Lizzy have toured and morphed a few times over. The current band is so damn good.

https://web.archive.org/web/20110618145859/http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/thelife/music/news/story?id=6657647
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Post by Blackstar Sun Dec 26, 2021 3:47 am

Getting Down with sports nut Anselmo

June 21, 2011

Again, I am out here reporting from "the field" (the "field" in this case is Europe). Life out here for a rock band like Loaded consists of constant travel and often playing with a different band every night. Last week, we played two gigs with the great Down, featuring my good pal and vocalist-supreme Phil Anselmo.

Phil is a sports fan. Just a little bit. Especially when it comes to the New Orleans Saints … and boxing.

When I came into his dressing room on our first gig with Down in Brussels, his first comment to me was a sort of mutter about me being a "Seattle guy," and commenced to steer my attention to his computer screen, where he has at the ready the highlights from last season's playoff game between the Saints and Seahawks (you know, the one where my 7-9 Seahawks beat the reigning Super Bowl champion Saints).

But Phil is a funny man, with a great sense of humor. Often dark, like mine. We can be super-fans of our cities' teams, but we can also take wins and losses in stride. He loves his team so much, that he has the Saints fleur-de-lis logo tattooed on the side of his calf (painful) and ensconced within every one of his T-shirt designs.

Phil was a little sore about the Seahawks running back corps. He muttered something under his breath about Justin Forsett, and I proceeded to tighten the screws a bit. I informed Phil that by this time next year, Forsett will be known on a larger scale, as "America's Running Back." That got the intended chuckle.

It is cool for me to have a few fellas out here, from whom I can get and trade sports news. This is how I got the news about the whole Stanley Cup riot deal. I had no idea that Vancouverites could be such tools. Vancouver is such a cosmopolitan city with a populace that seems incapable of such buffoonery. I guess there are a few jerks everywhere. Sports can be dumb sometimes … and I remember my first beer.

But back to Phil Anselmo. This dude is strapped with a manic intensity for what seems to be everything! He is a contributing writer for BoxingInsider.com. He has his own fledgling record label called Housecore.

On stage, the dude can be pretty damn menacing. But if you have a sense of humor at all, he will somehow sense it, and steer the intensity to a 1½-hour-long inside joke. It can be pretty good, too.

I, along with my guitar player Mike Squires, were watching Down play from side-stage in Brussels. Phil was addressing the crowd, and asked them all -- in a very intense and serious way -- if they believed in "prophecy." He then turned to Mike and me, and said "Not 'Prophecy' the 1986 movie starring Talia Shire." Someone in the audience shouted something to Phil, and he turned back to the audience and said be quiet, he was having a private conversation with Mike and me.

Pretty funny stuff. I'm not sure if by my writing of this account, though, that I can really describe how hilarious this moment was. He had quite a few more of the "private conversations" with us throughout the gig.

Down is my new most favorite band.

*

McKagan's Playlist

The Life asked our columnist Duff McKagan to give us some music recommendations. Here's what he had to say:

Ghost -- "Opus Eponymous": Yes, these guys are for real. Their music is oddly fantastic. This whole record sounds like some great analog 1970s Blue Oyster Cult, mixed with pop … and a little Lucifer worshipping … and indie rock.

Mastodon: Just finished recording a new record, and I got to hear it. For you fans of the hard and aggressive rock, get yourselves excited for this new masterpiece.

Judas Priest: Loaded was honored to hail this band by doing "Electric Eye" on the VH1 televised "Golden God Awards." This week, we are playing two gigs with them in France. Life is good indeed!

https://web.archive.org/web/20110625154135/http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/thelife/music/news/story?id=6686305
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Post by Blackstar Sun Dec 26, 2021 3:50 am

Doom, gloom for debt-ridden Dodgers

June 29, 2011

As a some-of-the-time resident of Los Angeles over the years, I have been privy to the inside banter on all things L.A. sports. The Dodgers' season this year, at least on a karmic level, has seemed doomed from the start.

Of course we all know by now about the ruffians who sent San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow to the hospital in a coma straight from the Dodgers' parking lot on Opening Day.

But even before that, Dodgers owner Frank McCourt had started his showdown with MLB commissioner Bud Selig. And McCourt seemingly knows how to maneuver his way through messy situations.

Either from the heated divorce proceedings with Jamie McCourt or from the Fox Sports TV deal Frank McCourt was trying to get, it became apparent the Dodgers' owner had not been quite forthright about the financial upkeep of his team. Whether it was reported interest-free loans to himself and/or family members or the alleged misappropriation of money raised from Dodgers charities, McCourt seems to have raised the ire of the all-powerful Selig. He doesn't seem like the guy you want to tick off.

On Monday, McCourt took his financial wranglings to a new level by having the Dodgers file for bankruptcy, thereby putting off any pressing debt that might be due and that, if not met, likely would lead to his losing his team by vote of the other major league owners.

I don't know about the businesses you readers are in, but in my business, you just cannot operate this way. I mean, I cannot just use my business as my own little private and ruleless bank, doing as I please with earnings of all types and then hoping for a TV deal to meet my employees' payroll.

You would think Selig would be rushing to take McCourt to court, but the plot thickens a bit here from what I have observed.

1) Bankruptcy cases in court can often protect the person who files (read: McCourt). If nothing else, it does leave the decision in a judge's hands, and Selig doesn't want that (much the same reason the NFL owners do not want this current lockout going to court).

2) If this case gets further investigated by an outside court, it might very well ask why Selig hasn't been this stringent on the New York Mets, who have been going through their own financial problems recently.

Either way, if you are a fan of sports and sportsmanship, you just cannot in any way get on the side of Dodgers owner Frank McCourt. He has continuously used his team, its players, and most importantly, its ticket- and concession-buying fans to furnish his extravagant lifestyle, constantly looking for the next TV deal or whatever to pay off his last and latest debt.

But Selig should not be seen as the full-on hero or good guy here. It was Selig and his cronies who allowed McCourt to take ownership of the Dodgers in the first place -- all while knowing of some of his prior antics and financial buffoonery. I think Selig is now feeling a little bit taken.

And now for something a bit more positive: I would like to congratulate Seattle sports-broadcasting legend Mike "Gas" Gastineau for reaching 20 years at his same afternoon drive-time post at Seattle's KJR 950 radio.

I have written here before about this dude. He is one of the very best in the country at what he does. He stays a "homer" with Seattle teams for sure, but he is in no way provincial in his views. Neither does he stay with just sports all of the time. His off-topic views on music have been some of the most knowledgeable I have ever heard. And I am a musician! I remember calling into his show when I flew up to see the Sonics play the Jazz for the Western Conference finals in 1995 or '96. Even though I didn't know him, he put me straight on the air. He knew enough about me to believe it was me calling in -- as opposed to some weird caller saying he was me.

I have tape-recorded some of his shows to help me get over my claustrophobia on long flights.

Congrats, Gas. Here is to 20 more years!

*

McKagan's Playlist

The Life asked our columnist Duff McKagan to give us some music recommendations. Here's what he had to say:

Minor Threat: "Sob Story" from "Out Of Step" (iTunes | Amazon) -- D.C.'s Minor Threat came out with a bang in 1979 or 1980 with the epic "Out Of Step" record. Band leader Ian MacKaye formed a band, formed a label and formed -- in a large way -- American hardcore.

Minor Threat: "Betray" from "Out Of Step" -- Kick-ass punk rock.

Minor Threat: "Out Of Step" from "Out Of Step" -- Epic stories of a disenfranchised youth.

https://web.archive.org/web/20110704192536/http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/thelife/music/news/story?id=6706553
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Post by Blackstar Sun Dec 26, 2021 4:10 am

Don't doubt the old guy, Owens

July 6, 2011

It was reported last week that Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Terrell Owens was considering retirement after he tore an ACL in his knee on the set of the reality show "Single Ladies." I don't see this happening.

Besides recent clarifications by his agent that Owens injured the knee in April and had surgery soon afterward, there are a few more angles here:

(1) Sports radio jocks are carrying on about how a 37-year-old man cannot fully recover from such an injury and surgery.

T.O. is a guy who will listen to this kind of talk, and use it as an incentive to prove everyone wrong.

(2) Men in their late 30s and early 40s have a higher tolerance to suffering. They will and can train harder because they have by this age developed an aggressive and almost self-flagellative self-discipline.

This is my opinion (and self-flagellative is my word, too) … but I know what I am talking about … 'cause I'm older than you.

(3) T.O. claims that he may just retire because Hollywood is calling.

Hollywood probably won't call for much longer if T.O. isn't being T.O. somewhere. Reality show producers thrive on the drama of their subjects. In T.O.'s case, it's the drama in and around football that gets him TV gigs.

A lot of this situation reminds me of being in a rock band. With Terrell Owens thinking he can be in the movies or whatever without being on a pro football team is like a band not being on a major label or having a big booking agent such as Creative Artists Agency, International Creative Management or William Morris in your corner. Things will just not happen for you.

Terrell Owens has a bad reputation for his locker room presence, too. I've been there. Being in a band is just like being on a sports team. It takes a lot of teamwork in both. You learn to trust each other in both. You travel and eat together in both. You are shoulder-to-shoulder in both for much of the year.

My argument would be that it is much more than just in the "locker room" that a bad teammate will impact. It affects the whole deal. Every moment that the team has together is tainted by a bad seed.

In saying all of this, though, I actually pull for a guy like Terell Owens. He is kind of kick-butt in a punk-rock sort of way. He doesn't give a rat's hoot what the rest of us think -- and will do whatever he sees fit for his path at the moment.

He may believe his own hype, but more than likely that is how he attained such high marks in his career. He will show you. Whether you are an opposing defensive back or an NFL team that he was previously on, he will do his best to take it to you and prove his greatness.

INTERESTING SPORTS FACTOID: Did you know that the Seattle Metropolitans were the first pro hockey team from the United States to win the Stanley Cup? It was 1917.

It was reported last week in The Seattle Times that Chicago businessman Don Levin has been looking into a Seattle-area site for a new arena that could house potential NHL and NBA teams. Chew on that rumor, Seattle.

*

McKagan's Playlist

The Life asked our columnist Duff McKagan to give us some music recommendations. Here's what he had to say:

Check out this new music from Nashville. Bratty, smart, and definitely a summertime record for all of you about to take a road trip, going to the cabin, or just hanging in the back yard.

Those Darlins: "Be Your Bro" from "Screws Get Loose" (iTunes | Amazon)

Those Darlins: "Screws Get Loose" from "Screws Get Loose"

Those Darlins: "Fatty Needs A Fix" from "Screws Get Loose"

As opposed to me commenting on each different song; go ahead and buy this whole record and decide for yourself.

https://web.archive.org/web/20120103195418/http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/thelife/music/news/story?id=6737492
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Post by Blackstar Sun Dec 26, 2021 4:11 am

116 wins and nothing to celebrate

July 13, 2011

In my hometown of Seattle a lot is being made about the 10-year anniversary of the Mariners' American League single-season record of 116 wins. I may become unpopular after this column but, really, without a World Series championship after a season like that, what's the big deal?

Not to take anything away from that team, because it did seem like 2001 was the season that the Mariners would finally win it all. Our pitching was ferocious, from starters Freddy Garcia and Jamie Moyer, to unhittable closer Kazuhiro Sasaki. DH Edgar Martinez was running a virtual hittiing clinic for the rest of the league. John Olerud was in his second year with the team as the cagey veteran finally returning to his hometown in a heroic fashion.

We had, in the two years prior, just lost two of our bona-fide (and only) superstars -- Alex Rodriguez to the Texas Rangers and Ken Griffey Jr. to the Cincinnati Reds. It seemed as though Seattle was thrown into another one of those dreaded rebuilding periods that we baseball fans of any team, are so familiar with. Rebuilding … yeah … good times.

But the Griffey deal delivered up-and-coming outfielder Mike Cameron and free agency brought us second baseman Bret Boone. Players who would both have career-best years as fielders and at the plate in 2001. Add to that a utility guy in Mark McLemore who just didn't seem to have a bad game, no matter what position he might have played that given day.

That season started in a hurry as the Mariners went on a 17-3 winning tear in their first 20 games. The city was on fire with "Mariners fever" and games were selling out. Seemingly everyone in the Pacific Northwest was wearing an M's cap or jersey. At the All-Star break the Mariners were the dominant team in the league, and many sports experts -- even from outside the area -- were already stating how the team was uncannily built to easily win the World Series.

Sports fans in Seattle, though, are not used to winning championships of any sort. Therefore, there wasn't a shared confidence or swagger or braggadacio reverberating around town. There was excitement, sure, but did Seattle's fans actually think that they'd win it all? Well … yeah; even M's fans started to believe, especially after the "100 win" mark came and went.

It was simple, right? The Mariners had won virtually every regular-season series that year. It went with common math at that point, that they should win their series games in the postseason, too. Nope. We ran into a cagey and confident buzz saw, personified by the New York Yankees. It was the ALCS, and the M's season was suddenly over.

It was kind of embarassing then, to have that gaudy "116" in that past season's win column. It only showed that the Mariners simply could not get it done when the real pressure was on. I love that team of 2001, for sure, and have grand memories from then.

But it is hard for me to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of that season that tied the Chicago Cubs' major-league record for wins. The end-game result of going home early still leaves a bad taste. I had such high hopes. I think we all did. I guess, though, as Seattle sports fans, we were not shocked.

In saying all of this, though, looking back to events past is an often futile and frustrating venture. That 2001 team was fun to watch, and that is the thing I shall remember.

If you are an M's fan now, it is just as fun to watch this newish team with the emerging stars. I like the way the team is playing with such confidence, all the while just trying to get back to .500. I'm happy with being an underdog without the eyes of the sports nation all up in our Northwest grill.

*

McKagan's Playlist

The Life asked our columnist Duff McKagan to give us some music recommendations. Here's what he had to say:

The late 1980s and early '90s Seattle music scene spawned a whole slew of great rock bands and artists. The Screaming Trees, whilst maybe not garnering as much popularity as Nirvana and Pearl Jam, were just as genius and musically weighty. Trees singer Mark Lanegan began a solo career somewhere around 1994. With his first separate effort, "Whiskey For The Holy Ghost," Lanegan made an indelible mark that would ensure an audience of rabid fans to this day.

Mark Lanegan -- "River Rise" from "WFTHG" (iTunes | Amazon): A beautiful trance of deep resonance.

Mark Lanegan -- "Beggars Blues" from "WFTHG": The sound that a tortured existence makes.

Mark Lanegan -- "Borrachio" from "WFTHG": The theme song of a cornered man … willing to fight his way out.

https://web.archive.org/web/20111106063430/http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/thelife/music/news/story?id=6761994
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Post by Blackstar Sun Dec 26, 2021 4:14 am

Just a mixed bag of pointlessness

July 20, 2011

It is not always a sports-news-heavy-enough week for me to write an entire column on one whole concise topic. A bunch of ESPN writers have beat me to the punch on the Women's World Cup final so that would be pointless for me to add to it. The coming, and seemingly certain agreement between the NFL owners and players? I don't know enough about that except for …

The lawyers of the NFL players' union and the lawyers for the ownership group are gonna make a darn killing on this whole lockout thing. If I know anything about "lawyer-dom," it is that those lucky lot who have have been involved in this whole mess, are just loving the high-dollar per hour that they've been racking up. That, too, will somehow be passed on to us fans … somewhere, somehow.

I don't know much about soccer, really, except for …

Penalty kicks are dumb. Yes, dumb. I'm not saying that the Japan team didn't deserve to win (because it did), it's just that after playing for 120 minutes to a tie, it seems a silly way to end a game.

It's as though two MLB teams played to a tie in Game 7 of the World Series, and they had to settle it by having the starting pitchers throw a ball at a water balloon to settle the game. Throwing a baseball at a water balloon doesn't have anything to do with the game of baseball, you say? Well, neither does a penalty kick have anything to do with deciding who deserves to win a hotly contested soccer match. Just sayin'. …

I'm not sure about time keeping in soccer either, except that …

Hey, maybe they should count down to the final time, instead of up to it? At least for dummies like me -- and even some broadcasters I listened to who know much more about the sport.

I don't know much about owning an MLB team, but it seems that …

If you are a Los Angeles Dodgers fan, you've got to be mightily miffed at the McCourt matrimony mismanagement. I mean, now what? Frank McCourt is going back to the judge stating that he can't afford to pay his ex-wife the $400,000 a month anymore. And, she got the seven Los Angeles area homes? Seven homes?! All in Los Angeles? It seems like a hot mess, and perhaps -- just perhaps -- the McCourts' joint spending was a problem all the time they owned the team (not new news, by the way).

What's next for the Dodgers and L.A.? It has to get better from here, Dodgers fans. Hang in there.

I do know about hanging in there, because I am a …

Mariners fan. And yes, I went to the "116-win season, 10-year anniversary" game Saturday. I watched as Jamie Moyer, John Halama, John Olerud, Paul Abbott, Bret Boone, Norm Charlton and (Sweet) Lou Piniella all came onto the field and were celebrated before the game.

The Mariners' present day, though, was not so good and/or celebrated that night. The Texas Rangers put another beat-down on the M's, tallying up a four-game sweep. The Mariners are now on a nine-game slide heading into Tuesday's games. All the talk of picking up a hitter and whatnot to add to the team and make a push, is all suddenly and depressingly gone.

*

McKagan's Playlist

The Life asked our columnist Duff McKagan to give us some music recommendations. Here's what he had to say:

I was in France last month playing a big rock festival in Clisson, with my band Loaded. Judas Priest was on the bill, as was Ghost, Whitesnake and Red Fang.

Red Fang is a band that I had been meaning to go see for some time now. But now, for all of our listening pleasure, please welcome the second full release by Portland's (Ore.) own Red Fang, "Murder the Mountains" (iTunes | Amazon).

"Throw Up" from "Murder the Mountains" -- A Soungarden-esque rock throw down. With a good dose of man rock too. Kick ass!

"Malverde" from "Murder the Mountains" -- Drummer John Sherman is a monster.

"Hank Is Dead" from "Murder the Mountains" -- You can hear the Black Sabbath influence here for sure, but Red Fang solidly holds ownership of its own trip. And it's rare these days to hear real and good slide guitar. I back it all the way.

https://web.archive.org/web/20111120072142/http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/thelife/music/news/story?id=6784021
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Post by Blackstar Sun Dec 26, 2021 4:16 am

My friendly visit into the soccer world

July 27, 2011

When I write about soccer here at ESPN I seem to take more heat than when I focus on any other sport. In nearly 30 columns that I have written about different sports here, I received more negative comments about the sole column in which I wrote a little bit about soccer. I think that my humor is perhaps misunderstood, or that there just may be a lack of the old knee-slap reflex when it comes to the average soccer fan.

A Seattle friend of mine who is huge into European soccer and the MLS Seattle Sounders said he was fed up with the Seattle radio sports commentators who still disregard soccer in this city. His point was that, heck, the Sounders are drawing more fans in this town than the "traditional" baseball Mariners … and winning a lot more, too.

Back to the point of the soccer fans not having a sense of humor, I think I may have a clue into that area now. My Seattle friend went on to tell me that, yes, soccer fans are like that kid in school who always got teased and has grown up to have a real adverse and over-the-top reaction in a public place whenever he perceives a slight angled his way.

Last week, I received my first bona-fide writing assignment from ESPN. I was to cover the Manchester United vs. Sounders FC "friendly" in my hometown of Seattle. I received tickets for myself and my family. Pretty cool, indeed. I guess that the time has come for me to look into some soccer for real.

First off, I have a wife and two beautiful daughters. My girls love me and their mom, but it is summer and maybe the last thing they wanted to do was go to some "dumb" sporting event with the two of us. No worries, Mrs. McKagan and I were fine to have an unexpected date-night amongst 67,000 soccer fans.

Secondly, this city has gone absolutely hog wild for Major League Soccer. Sure, the Sounders have been here -- on and off -- since the 1970s in different leagues. But until they joined MLS, Seattle's soccer team played a far-removed second-fiddle to the Seahawks, Mariners, Sonics, Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks, Amazon and the rest.

I had been meaning to somehow catch myself up with the Sounders. I have never ever been into soccer at all, but felt lately that I have been missing out. It is impossible to turn a blind eye to soccer in Seattle anymore.

In addition to receiving my tickets, I was invited to meet and chat with Sounders co-owner Joe Roth, an affable Los Angeles film producer. Hearing that Mr. Roth was not a Seattle resident made me dubious from the start in a Clay Bennett steal-the-Sonics type of way. What I came to find out about him, however, was quite the opposite from what I had first assumed.

Roth has struck sports-ownership gold in Seattle. He has found a ready and willing audience here. Roth studied the local mindset and fine-tuned his approach to fit the odd sensibilities of the Pacific Northwest soccer fan.

It's about Facebook and other social-media (the Sounders page has more than 212,000 likes).

It's about finding out your season-ticket holders' likes and dislikes and professions, and modeling a ticket-buying site that will place like-minded fans with one another.

It's about control. Members of Sounders FC's Official Members Association can hire and fire the general manager every four years, if they have enough votes.

It's about being "loose." The environment in and around Century Link (formerly Qwest) Field is a sort of Wild West vibe. Sure, cops and security are around -- but it's really not in a forceful way. There is an air of "police yourself-ness" that, in the end, proves to be the best way for this fandom to keep things safe and knucklehead-free.

It's about sellouts. The Sounders home games are the most well-attended in MLS.

On to their opponent last week, Manchester United of the English Premier League. Holy franchise! When I was driving to the game through downtown Seattle, my wife and I were completely dumbstruck by how many Man U fans were everywhere. I am pretty confident that most of these fans did not travel all of the way from the UK to come to this game. (Although the Sounders are a big deal here in Seattle, they are a tiny minor league team compared to Manchester United. I'm sure most people in the city of Manchester probably had no real idea or care that their team was doing some "training" stateside … and this was only training to the Red Devils.) No, I found out at the game that Manchester United is the biggest worldwide team for sports-branding. They make the Yankees and Lakers merch sales seem like lunch money.

Now on to the game and the subject of "friendlies."

I'm not sure that I got the point of this game. Or, was there supposed to be one? The Sounders are in the middle of a season where they are fighting the mighty L.A. Galaxy for the top spot in the MLS's Western Conference. The Sounders played their starters for only the first half, putting up a pretty good fight actually. Seattle trailed 1-0 after 45 minutes, and it could have been a great way to provide a boost for the rest of the MLS season with a win or draw with Man U.

But, no, we pulled the starters after the half and Man U went on to school the hapless bench while winning 7-0. If you're not going to take it seriously by putting the most competitive lineup on the field for 90 minutes, then why play your starters in at all and risk injury to a star player in a game that makes no difference? Am I missing something here? I may be a soccer neophyte, but I know enough about sports to appreciate when a team is giving its best to win, as opposed to an egalitarian approach better suited for an under-9 soccer league.

I guess I will hear about that point from you readers, "friendly" or otherwise.

I must say, though, that the environs at this match were so much more friendly and calm than Seahawks games. Of course, I don't really seek out friendliness at an NFL game.

But MLS is different, and should be celebrated as such. There really just is no comparison to the "traditional" American sports-triumvirate of football, baseball and basketball. Just as those sports and their rules and fans are different from one another, so too is soccer here in the United States. I actually now kind of dig it.

*

McKagan's Playlist

The Life asked our columnist Duff McKagan to give us some music recommendations. Here's what he had to say:

New music is all good and fine, but it is just as important to have a little bit of knowledge of what has happened before this day in music. Sure, we all know about Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, and The Rolling Stones, but what about Sweet?

In the 1970s, England burst again upon the global rock scene with a whole new sub-genre called "Glam-Rock." T. Rex and David Bowie were the best known from this era, but Sweet were just as important in how many future bands they would influence.

In 1976, Sweet broke away from their bubble-gum past and wrote and self-produced "Give Us A Wink" (Amazon), a hard rock forebearer to bands such as Motley Crue and Kix.

"Action" from "Give Us A Wink" -- Listen to the words. The subject-matter is too R-rated for PG-rated ESPN. A great hard rock song no doubt, though.

"Yesterday's Rain" from "Give Us A Wink" -- An almost Badfinger-esque quality to songwriting. If you haven't heard Badfinger, go there next. It's a good thing.

"Healer" from "Give Us A Wink" -- It seems like this song has been ripped of in one way or another by so many bands later on. Imitation is the best form of flattery, they say.

https://web.archive.org/web/20111004131500/http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/thelife/music/news/story?id=6803759
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