Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Jo(k)e Pa

On Saturday night ABC bookended their broadcast of the Penn State-Ohio State game with an eye-rolling tribute to coaching legend Joe Paterno. I didn't find it particularly off-putting because Ohio State lost the game. I found it distasteful because I'm sick of everyone giving credit to Joe Pa for his team's resurgence as a national power (they're currently 9-0 and ranked No. 2 in the country).

It should be clear to anyone who's watched Paterno pace the sidelines in the past few years that he's little more than a figurehead. Without a headset, or offering any specific football criticism, or not joining his team in the locker room during halftime Saturday night, it's obvious that anyone but Joe Pa has been running the show.

But never mind the men behind the curtain, or the fact that Paterno's recent sideline incidents (particularly his 2006 bout with the runs) have relegated him as little more than a sideshow act, much to the amusement of ABC and ESPN. Because none of this is to say that the beloved Joe Pa is a bad coach. He's a legend, and his statistics speak for themselves:
  • The most victories by a Division I coach: 381 wins, 125 losses, and 3 ties
  • The most bowl wins and undefeated seasons than any other coach in history
Yet what I find the most interesting about it all is looking into the mind of the man himself. Because like Florida State's Bobby Bowden, Paterno will never leave his home. His record 43 seasons at one school have not only cemented his legacy at this institution, but institutionalized him in the process. There's only one way that Paterno will ever leave Happy Valley.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Return

Last weekend I visited Nashville for the first time since moving away almost a year ago. Even though I spent more than five years there, it almost feels like a past life when comparing it to the much shorter time I've spent in New York.

It's strange when returning to your old stomping grounds. Whether it's your hometown or college campus, there's always a surreal sense of familiarity and nostalgia. Since I hadn't really been away from Music City for that long, it seemed like I'd never left. And by the end of the weekend, I felt like I still lived there. Especially when I realized that I know my way around much better than where I currently reside.

But as great as it was to be back and see my friends, it wasn't long before I was reminded of why I left in the first place. For all the wonderful experiences I had there, and for the special place that Nashville holds in my heart, there was that lingering feeling of not completely fitting in; a reaffirmation that the city couldn't offer what I needed in the next phase of my life.

Even so, it all made me more frustrated with the natural bonds that time and space imposes on us. I kept thinking about the movie Jumper, and how incredible it would be to teleport anywhere in the world in a heartbeat. Because even though it's much easier to stay in touch these days, leaving people behind is one of the hardest things. Life goes on, but it's never the same.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

One for the Ages

Last Saturday I saw Ray LaMontagne in concert for the second time. Onstage, LaMontagne is a shy folk artist. But judging by the audience, you'd think we were at a Kid Rock concert. What I mean is: Women love him.

When I saw LaMontagne the first time in Nashville a few years ago, I was really surprised by the audience's reception. Given the softer nature of his music, I naturally assumed that we'd be a part of a quiet and respectful crowd. Just the opposite, though. Throughout the concert, and particularly between songs, there was no shortage of cheers and "I love you's" from the slightly inebriated concertgoers. Even the guys couldn't help but reaching out to Ray with various requests and absurdities. I also think people felt inclined to compensate for LaMontagne's lack of audience interaction.

It was no different on Saturday night at Radio City Music Hall—except, of course, my expectation. The first time I was a bit off-put by the crassness of it; this time I just sat back and smiled. All part of the experience.

But it got me thinking again—what exactly is it about a reticent, soft-spoken, Jesus-looking figure like LaMontagne that drives women crazy? At first I thought it was simply the fact that he's super romantic in his writing and impassioned in his singing. But as a few of my female friends explained, it goes beyond that.

It's not just that Ray pours out his soul onstage. It's that it's all coming from a real place. Real life, real people, real heartbreak. Ray is real.

While his raspy baritone sounds great on CD, hearing LaMontagne live is a different experience. Similar to what I experienced with Sigur Rós, it was the second time this year that I felt privileged to hear the sound of a true artist with my own ears. With his smoky, often rapturous delivery, LaMontagne has a treasure of a singing voice that's from another time and place.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Number Se7en

File this one under Stupid Things That Don't Matter But Bother Me Anyway.

At work I've noticed that many people write the number seven the European way, with the horizontal slash through it. I find this really irritating. I understand that there's a practical purpose for writing a 7 that way, which is to differentiate between an old-school 1 numeral. But since very few people in America write a 1 the way a typewriter does, I find the European 7 to be completely unnecessary (and dare I say, unpatriotic?). At the same time, I recognize that it's also completely harmless, and I know this is a ridiculous thing to be writing about. But I feel compelled nonetheless.

I think what bothers me is the feeling that most people are writing the European 7 to be trendy, although they've most certainly had no level of conscious thought about it like I have. But, if that's truly the way you were taught to write a 7, maybe I can forgive you.