Hello everyone, I hope your Tuesday is going swimmingly. With the news that Nippert Stadium is expanding and renovating, that has to be a feather in your cap. To take your mood from great to greater, I humbly bring you the next installment of the questions. There will be a second helping on Friday if you can't get enough.
Today's guests for the questions are a couple of people who write a little bit about the Cincinnati Bearcats. First we have Matt Opper of Down the Drive fame. The second person who is joining me is Stuart Gilchrist, who writes about recruiting on Bearcats Blog. That's a link to his last offering.
I asked Matt and Stuart about various topics such as LeBron James and narrative, the best UC games they attended, Kanye West and HBO. Things went pretty random this week. Before we get into the questions, a huge thanks to Matt and Stuart for taking the time to answer. Big ups. I'm making that a phrase again.
Matt will be labeled as MO. Stuart as SG. Questions are in bold.
The NBA finals just finished a few days ago. Before the confetti even fell in Miami, we were subjected to a lot of narrative and legacy talk. LeBron James isn't even 30 and the comparisons for his career won't stop for another decade. Is this just how media is now, where everything has to be spun and processed instantly?
MO: That is certainly how the NBA is covered for the average fan now, particularly in the finals. ESPN, as ever, is at the forefront of the problem, but its deeper than that. We as a society don't seem to be unwilling or unable to take the time to process events properly. I have seen this phenomenon called a lot of different things, but perhaps the best label for it could be the twitterization of journalism. Getting it right has been replaced with getting it first, but getting a story or a take done first doesn't make it good.
A perfect example of the problem comes from music. Last July Frank Ocean dropped Channel Orange, his first major label release. It was a dense, sprawling and deeply personal album. I spent a great deal of time with that album, it has never been off my phone and in a pretty stable rotation, but I could not make sense of it in a larger sense until very recently. But on the day it was released digitally there was a rush on social media to summarize 62 minutes of deeply anguished introspection in 160 characters or less.
The same thing happens in sports around these sort of major events. The finals, the super bowl, world cups are always followed by a rush to judgment on the careers of the participants. Whoever wins is immediately processed on a historical scale, often with the accomplishments diminished and the failures amplified. Never mind that for most of the players involved their career is far from over. The final script is not written, but there is this compulsion to measure any and every player on a historical scale.
LeBron is the nexus for this process. From the day he came in the NBA he has been judged on the Jordan scale. It was too easy to work on that scale, he wore number 23, he had a revolutionary Nike shoe deal, he played for a central division team. Combine that with the media's never ending fascination with anointing the next Jordan (see: Rider, Isaiah; Minor, Harold; and Stackhouse; Jerry) and LeBron was always going to be compared to MJ, and then this happened, and everyone expected that to be the new norm, and everyone thought that LeBron was the new Jordan, but he's not. No one is. Michael Jordan is the only Michael Jordan, he is the best player that ever played the game, he is a homicidal competitor who wants to win at all costs, above friendships, relationships anything.
LeBron is still measured on the Jordan scale, but only because that is the scale on which greatness is measured, and despite the protests from the haters, the man is unquestionably great. But the constant checking of his CV next to Michael Jordan's diminishes what LeBron really is, and that is a one of a kind titan. 10 years in I feel very comfortable in saying there will never be another LeBron James. We will never see another player with his collection of gifts. But no one seems to be able to take a step back and appreciate that. He will be in the Hall of Fame as soon as he is eligible, and he is already one of the 10 best players ever. He will never be better than Jordan, but he is as singular a talent as Jordan ever was, but that fact is glossed over by most, and held against him by the Skip Bayless's of the world.
SG: Sadly this is how the media is nowadays. Everyone has to report everything first without even making sure it is correct. Just look at a few months ago with the Boston Marathon bombings when many media reports initially targeted the wrong individuals as suspects. The same also applies to sports. In the NBA Finals, in a period of about a week, the San Antonio Spurs went from looking experienced in Game 1, to old and tired in Game 2; somehow they were experienced again in Game 3 and old in Game 4. Pretty much if the Spurs won they were experienced and if they lost they were old and fatigued. The same applies to LeBron James. Every bad game he has (albeit not many) he and his legacy are instantly criticized or acclaimed and compared to Michael Jordan. Of course there wasn’t Twitter or anything like that when Jordan was around so people don’t remember MJ scoring only 22 points on 5 of 19 shooting in the 1996 NBA finals; they only remember his blowout performances. That’s not a shot at MJ it’s just reality.
What's the best Bearcats game that you've ever attended?
MO: The attended caveat limits the available choices to games between 2004 when I started and 2010 when I graduated from UC. Though I have been a UC fan since the Danny Fortson days living 3 and a half hours away had some deleterious effects on my ability to attend games. In that stretch though the best game was without question the Pitt game. I remember everything about that game. Everything about that day. I wore a pair of jeans, a long sleeve shirt and a red sweatshirt that i still wear. Where I lived at the corner of University and Euclid was basically a block party from 1 on. I had to buy a ticket because I was on academic suspension, and thus not a student, and therefor couldn't get free admission. I sat in section 211, I pissed off dozens by standing up at the start of seemingly every play. I laughed uncontrollably when the final play evoked shades of Cal-Stanford 1982. I remember walking down to the field, stomping around mute in a wall of sound. I remember going to the former Holy Grail after the game, sitting at the bar, ordering a Stella and staring at it for god knows how long. I remember drunk people setting off fireworks on the street outside my window while I went to bed. That is the pinnacle of my live sporting experiences. Unless I get rich and manage to be in the stadium on that fateful day when the United States finally lifts the world cup. If that happens UC-Pitt moves to a honorable second.
SG: This is a tough one. I would have to say at least for football it was my freshman year at UC when they beat West Virginia 24-21. I remember we were ranked #5 at that point and it was a close throughout the whole game. UC had made many mistakes and this was the first great game of the Collaros/Pead tandem with Collaros throwing 2 TDs and Pead rushing for 175 yards. A loss in that game would have ended the parade on what would be a perfect regular season and would have made the infamous Pittsburgh game that year a lot less important.
For basketball it would be the win over #16 Louisville in 2011. It was a Ring of Red game which always makes it more fun to me but to get a signature win that season make this game just above the Alabama game last year for me.
On the flip side, outside of Kenyon's injury, what is the top stomach punch moment in UC history for you?
MO: Crosstown Shootout, 1996. I was 11, this happened, I don't want to talk about it.
SG: Since I wasn’t a diehard UC fan until I came here I would say the Zach Collaros injury in the 2011 game against West Virginia. The game was close and no knock on Munchie but I believe that if Zach didn’t break his leg we would have won that game and not lost to Rutgers the next week. That would have made for an undefeated season and an outright Big East Championship. A second would be the Cashmere Wright injury from last year and how that affected his play the remainder of the season.
Between Kanye's new album getting a lot of mixed reviews and his choice of baby names, is there a way to completely not give a **** about any of this?
MO: It might be possible, but its not for me. I think that Kanye West is the most consistently interesting musician/entertainer/artist of the last decade. In this era of overly formulaic music aimed at the broad middle of the musical public Kanye is the only person who is willing and able to push the boundaries in new and interesting ways. Its not so much that he is creating a new sound, though he has done that in the past. What West does better than anyone is consume sounds, and when he hears something he likes, he makes sure that everyone hears it. That's unique, and that has a value, particularly in this age when there is no one really doing that. Outside of general pop there is a never ending collection of niches where subsets of artists are doing new and interesting things, but word of them never leaves those niches, so no one ever hears about them. For Dark Twisted Fantasy and Watch the Throne Kanye was basically running around with a flashlight trying to shine light on interesting music. Yeezus is a departure from that trend, which makes it even more interesting in my book.
I have no interest at all in his relationship with Kim Kardashian. But I do find the way he manages his persona to be fascinating. No one controls the message better than he does, and that message is usually that "Kanye West is interesting," and he's not wrong. His views come from a place of complete and total narcissism. He is simultaneously aware of his ridiculousness while taking the fact that he is ridiculous very seriously. I do find that whole aspect of the Kanye West experience to be fascinating. But that says more about me and my affinity for the outlandish than it does about him. So yes, it probably is possible to not care about Kanye West, its just not for me.
SG: Yeah there is and I’m doing that as I type this. I didn’t/won’t buy anymore of Kanye’s music because I believe he went off the deep end when his mom passed away in 2007. His music declined in my opinion and his arrogance went off the charts. Kanye now fits into the category of “If he never is in the news again or never makes any more music, I will be a happy man.”
One of the biggest news stories last week was the passing of James Ganolfini of the Sopranos. What is/was your favorite HBO show?
MO: Game of Thrones. I am always interested in attempts in popular culture to create entirely new universes, and there has never been a more complete vision of a different universe brought to life on TV than Game of Thrones. The richness of the source material (which I have never read) is a plus, but in the wrong hands that attribute can quickly become the albatross around the neck of a TV show. The producers do a spectacular job of honoring the source material while still telling the story that they want to tell. That is a very tricky balance to strike, but they have done so exceptionally well.
SG: I’ll always have a soft spot for Kenny Powers in Eastbound & Down. Sure in 10 years I’ll realize that it was an awful show and laugh but hey, at least I didn’t say Cathouse.
My favorite HBO show is/was Cathouse, so while I don't appreciate Stuart slandering it's good name, I want to thank he and Matt once again for their great answers. Be sure to support them by clicking the links up top and following them on twitter. Be nice to the people who are nice to you. Makes life easier and more satisfying.