NFL Draft Jam

Yesterday, the NFL held round one of its 2019 draft on Lower Broadway in Nashville, which, predictably, meant the night’s biggest news involved a bachelorette party and a Taylor Swift song premiere.

Realistically, though, when you look back on this night a few years from now, all you’re going to remember is whether the leadership of your favorite pro football team found its generational franchise player of the future or continued to repeat the mistakes of its predecessors, only this time the Lions are unduly obsessed with tight ends instead of wide receivers. If you’re at the point where the thought of NFL roster construction makes you sick to your stomach, or maybe you’re seeing visions of Lombardi trophies, or maybe you’re somewhere in between and just thankful you were smart enough to plan your pre-wedding bar crawl for literally any time and place other than last night (a Thursday, I’ll just pause to note here) in Nashville and therefore did not appear on a now-viral piece of local news footage that may or may not send a tremble through the foundations of your anticipated marriage, this week’s Jam is for you:

And, if you just want T-Swift’s new video, I get that. Find it here.

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Taylor Swift and Phish deserve 2016 World Series rings

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Taylor Swift’s influence on this year’s historic World Series is well-recognized. First, she cleared the Chicago Cubs’ path through the National League side of the playoff draw by failing to release a new album in an even year for the first time since 2006, thereby removing the true and powerful source of the San Francisco Giants’ even-year magic. Things wobbled a bit when, on the day of game three of the NLDS (in which the Cubs held a 2-0 series lead over the Giants), Swift announced that her first concert in nearly a year would take place later that month and, some thought, hinted at a new album release that would spirit the Giants to another world championship. San Francisco avoided elimination by beating Chicago that night.

Swift performed her concert, but she ultimately declined to release a new album, thereby halting the Giants’ playoff run and allowing the Cubs to advance to the World Series.

As all baseball fans know from the parable of the angels in the outfield, though, a team’s supernatural helper– be it Christopher Lloyd or T-Swizz– only will carry the team so far. In the World Series, the Cubs faltered again. Their offensive power, which had floated them to a regular-season-best 103 wins, suddenly became scarce in the playoffs, and they quickly found themselves in a 3-1 hole against Cleveland in the final round. Backs against the wall, Chicago would have to win three straight games in order to claim the title. To do that, their first baseman, Anthony Rizzo, would have to start hitting.

At twenty-seven years old, Rizzo qualifies as a wise old veteran on this young Cubs team, and he knew a change was necessary for the Cubs to have a shot at winning the series, so he made one. All year and throughout the playoffs, Rizzo had used Swift’s “Bad Blood” as his walkup music, and it had served him well. With one game left at Wrigley Field, the first of three consecutive must-wins, Rizzo hit shuffle on the jukebox, swapping “Bad Blood” for the Rocky theme. It worked. Rizzo hit a key double and scored a run, and the Cubs won 3-2, sending the series back to Cleveland, where they would win twice more, including a dramatic game-seven victory in extra innings. And it’s all thanks to Taylor Swift.

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Almost all of it, anyway. The touring phenomenon that is the band Phish has been making music together since 1983. In the more than thirty years of their existence, they have performed in Chicago numerous times. In fact, prior to this year, they’d played in Chicago twenty-eight times (I’m counting their five appearances in Rosemont), including a 1991 gig at the famous Cubby Bear bar. (For more on that storied venue’s history with music and baseball, enjoy this brief video from 1984.)

Until 2016, though, they never had performed inside the (helping) friendly confines of Wrigley Field. In the 108th year of Chicago’s north-side championship drought, however, Vermont’s finest made their Wrigley Field debut on June 24. We joined them on night two of their two-night Wrigley run, and they were excellent. The second night’s second set, in particular, was sublime.

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I don’t recall any explicit baseball references from the band that evening, but the first set offered some clues:

  • Waiting All Night (a World Series game seven preview)
  • 46 Days (sung as a reference to the days of 1946, the year after the Cubs’ last World Series appearance)
  • I Didn’t Know (You Were That Far Gone – from a World Series championship)
  • Good Times Bad Times (acknowledging that the Cubs and their fans have had their share of both)

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Are there musicians more closely associated with the Chicago Cubs than Taylor Swift and Phish? Probably. Eddie Vedder comes to mind. Michigander and ostensible Detroit Tigers fan Jack White has had his public flirtations. It is clear from the foregoing, however, that no musicians did more to help the Cubs break their various curses and claim a World Series title for the first time in 108 years than Swift and Phish. If Manny Ramirez is getting a World Series ring this year, then so should Taylor, Trey, Jon, Mike, and Page.

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Related
World Series Game 7 in two tweets
Book review: Chicago Blues: The City & The Music

Ready to Die: Three Days of Drugs and Disintegration with The Grateful Dead (via Vice)

gd50We’re clacking and lurching on a Red Line car to the Roosevelt stop. This is the exit for Chicago’s Soldier Field, site of “Fare Thee Well,” the last three shows for the band formerly known as The Grateful Dead. Ask me why I’m here and I can only give you elliptical answers.

On most Sundays, the Grateful Dead are my favorite rock band of all-time, but this seems destined for pure farce—a Necrophiliac spectacle where the hallucinogenic ashes of Saint Jerry spike the Fourth of July fireworks. During intermission, the field will split open and he’ll ascend in a floating mausoleum, wax mannequin covered in tie-die, exhumation costs covered by the largesse of Ben and Jerry. A Jerry hologram was planned, but couldn’t be properly brought to fake life in real time. The Jerry impersonator from Half Baked was waylaid with prior Independence Day plans. One of these is true.

Somehow, four old guys, Bruce Hornsby, and Trey from Phish sold 65 percent more tickets per show than Taylor Swift—more than every summer festival except Coachella. And there may be more floral garlands here. The Golden Road to Devotion now costs a couple mortgage payments. No free press passes either. Entrance meant that you won the lottery, sold spare appendages on the black market, or finessed the Patchouli circuit plug. Maybe you’re one of the hundreds outside with a cardboard sign that reads: “Hoping for a Miracle.” … Read More

(via Vice)

Bay of Cigs: History and Revision

Earlier today, the Detroit Free Press tipped the new Sports Illustrated cover, pictured above, reporting that “it’s . . . thought to be the first time a pair of Tigers have been on the cover of SI since Al Kaline and Denny McLain made it in September 1968.” (Such thorough and confident reporting by the Freep is in line with their recent work on even more important issues.) For anyone who collected baseball cards in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the headline is immediately evocative of an earlier pair of mashers. The caption dubs Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder “Baseball’s 21st-Century Version of Mantle and Maris,” explaining to the Free Press in greater detail:

Ruth and Gehrig. Mays and McCovey. Ortiz and Ramirez. To the list of great hitting duos in baseball history we can now add one more: Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers. Both were established stars long before coming to Detroit but since joining forces prior to last season, Fielder and Cabrera have become baseball’s best 1-2 punch, which makes it only fitting that the sluggers appear together on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated.

Wait, what? I thought…. Hang on. Continue reading

Gender Politics in a Cheerleader Jam….Maybe?

During last weekend’s Pop Music Symposium at SUNY Clinton, I heard for the first time Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” and late Wednesday night, reader Cactus William sent a/the music video, which will serve as this week’s Jam.

There’s a lot at play here. First, the song itself: I’ve only listened to it twice, and for different reasons, neither listen was a careful one, but it seems to be comprised of two fairly devastating pop hooks cycled as many times as three minutes and change will allow, and one less interesting bridge-ish segment with lyrics confusing in light of the purported plot. As for the singer herself, I’ve never heard of Jepsen before, and I can only assume that she comes from the Rebecca Black School of Corporate Music Manchurian Candidates, a vehicle to deliver said hooks and smile as her creators reel in the money.

Still, the financial circumstances of a song’s conception need not dictate its real value, and here I think we may have something of broader importance. I wrote earlier that Brad Paisley’s channeling of Arthur Conley with “Old Alabama” signaled country music’s arrival as America’s popular music genre, and I think something very roughly analogous is happening with “Call Me Maybe” vis-a-vis dynamics in popular gender politics. The thesis is that this song stands for a tipping point in male-female relations that sees a woman asserting herself, though just barely, as the first mover in the courtship context, contrary to traditional expectations. This thesis doesn’t ignore strong, demanding women of the past (Janis, “Tell Mama”) or even aggressive women of the present (e.g., Carrie Underwood, “Before He Cheats”), but it is operable to the extent it can bracket such apparent counterexamples as being either out of the mainstream or persistently reactionary despite their aggressiveness and focus its comparative backdrop on the likes of Taylor Swift, ALDLAND’s favorite anthro-feminine alien. On the other hand, this paragraph may have set back gender relations by a few decades or at least demonstrated my ignorance of contemporary popular music. Moving right along.

Next is the video, which stars members of the Miami Dolphins cheerleading squad. The first question here is, what motivated this? Was this just a sunny day romp around South Beach after cheer camp let out? Or, in Bring It On/Mean Girls fashion, was this a response to the leaked photo shoot of Lauren Tannehill, wife of Miami’s rookie quarterback and number eight overall draft pick Ryan Tannehill (who, if he didn’t outkick his coverage with his bride, certainly did with his draft position), in varying amounts of Dolphins-colored gear? To the extent this is knowable, determining the answer would initially involve comparing the dates of the leaking of the photos and the posting of the video, something I’m not going to do. Precision like that likely becomes less important when you’re striving for attention and HBO’s cameras are rolling.

To the extent that there’s any sports angle here, this video eventually will make you remember that, whether it’s the Hard Knocks curse, the implications of merely having cheerleaders, or the fact that Miami actually drafted Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins are not going to be good this year, so enjoy this while you can, which is forever, because the internet is forever, unlike Dan Marino: