LeBron’s Return to Cleveland 10/30/14



As of 2014, LeBron James is the best basketball player of all time. He’s probably never going to be as good as he was 2 or 3 years ago, but even LeBron at 90% of his former self is better than anyone else – including Michael Jordan. And keep in mind, this is the opinion of a man who fell in love with basketball growing up in the middle of the Jordan era. If anything, I should be completely biased to be a crotchety old man who hates on all these young whipper snappers. But the obvious truth remains, LeBron is a specimen who excels in every facet of the game.

However, despite my respect for LeBron’s talent, I have not always rooted for him to win. After The Decision, I found it really hard not to hate Miami. I am a fan of great basketball, so at times it was fun to watch. But, man did he come across as a massive douchelord. So, when LeBron decided to return to Cleveland, and try to win a title for his hometown, I got excited to get back on the L-train again.

The WWF has less hype during their intros

Monday Night Raw has more subdued intros

The hype for this game was uniquely massive, especially considering we are talking about a regular season home opener for the Cleveland Cavaliers. If any city ever needed a moral boost, Cleveland would be at the top of the list. America loves great stories of redemption, and the narrative of a superhero coming back to his hometown to simultaneously resurrect both his legacy and the Peoples’ spirits, is undeniably appealing.

Following Terrell Owens’ advice to get my popcorn ready, I did the next best thing and prepared a protein/banana/maca/cacao smoothie to kick back and enjoy during the game. LeBron was playing at home against the Knicks, who just got their asses handed to them, losing by 24 in their home opener to the Bulls the night before this game. So, things looked pretty good for the Cavs, with Vegas reflecting this sentiment to the tune of -12.5 point favorites. There were only two problems no one priced in. First, this was the first time I ever recall seeing LeBron James nervous for anything. He looked tense right from the first possession. He finished the first half 1-9 shooting with 4 turnovers. I wouldn’t say LeBron has a problem with pressure. Lord knows the man has had pressure and intense scrutiny surrounding everything in his life. I mean, if the guy tries to take a piss, the flow characteristics and pressure dynamics of his urine stream are dissected the next morning by AM sports radio. But, I think LeBron thrived in his role as the “bad guy”. In other words, some guys play better angry. LeBron turns into a fucking BEAST when he is showered with boos, and enraged by the shit-talking DeShawn Stevensons of the world. I did not see anything even close to that LeBron tonight.

What I saw was a man who wanted desperately to win, but was attempting to do it as more of a cheerleader or a fan, instead of as a blood-thirsty warrior possessed. He got a bit more involved in the second half, but it was too late. The other factor Vegas forgot about was Mr. Carmelo Anthony a.k.a. “Mr. Malignant”. I call him this because he is the ultimate team cancer. He makes everyone around him worse. If LeBron is Ansel Adams, Carmelo is a duck-face selfie. He is the opposite of what I think basketball should be about. He is shoot first, me first, fuck my teammates, fuck my coach, gimme the money, win or lose – it’s all about my contract/endorsements.

The classic 'Melo triple threat position : ill-advised shot, turnover, or really whatever you do DON'T PASS under any circumstance.

The classic ‘Melo triple threat position : ill-advised shot, turnover, or whatever you do for the love of baby jesus – DON’T PASS under any circumstance.

While LeBron is pass first, Championships are everything, team is everything, give back to your community, and well, errr… I guess they are the same when it comes to money and marketing. Carmelo is one of the least fun players to watch I can think of.  Which is why it makes perfect sense that the only incentive this guy would ever feel to try hard and play well, would stem from the jealousy and hate he feels for LeBron. And what better way to lash out, than to play the spoiler for LeBron’s homecoming. Keep in mind, Melo has been in James’ shadow ever since he came into the league in the same draft where LeBron went 1st. I imagine Carmelo Anthony’s bedroom has a very Ray Finkle from Ace Ventura sorta vibe going on.

Think I’m way off? Think these two are besties from playing together at the Olympics? I submit to you this evidence : In Melo’s home opener he shot 38% and scored 14 points with 3 assists and 3 turnovers. Tonight, on a back-to-backer away game he shot 53% and scored 25 points with 6 assists and 2 turnovers. Hmmmmm, where did that fire come from?? “LACES OUT!”, perhaps?

A peak inside Carmelo Anthony's plush Manhattan penthouse

A peak inside Carmelo Anthony’s plush Manhattan penthouse (swap Marino for BronBron)

As the buzzer sounded, the Cavs trodded back to their locker room while a hushed crowd filtered out, and the game ended up being kind of a bummer. Although, on an optimistic note, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love looked great and I’m sure this will be an exciting team to watch. So congrats to Carmelo and the Knicks for scraping out one of the 14 total wins they will probably end up with this season. Pretty sure I’ll be following the Cavs all season as they head toward their inevitable showdown with the Clippers in the Finals. Should be a drama filled NBA season ahead.

–  JA

Foo Fighters : Sonic Highways

Foo 4 Eva

Foo 4 Eva

On Oct 17th, 1994 Dave Grohl went into Robert Lang studios in Seattle, WA and recorded the first self-titled Foo Fighters record in about six days, pretty much by himself. It was released the following year in 1995, when I was a freshman in college. I had just started writing music and playing guitar in a few different bands, and the first two Foo records became a massive inspiration and influence for those endeavors. I spent the next ten years of my life writing music and being in a band. I had very few people I looked up to in life, and Dave Grohl was the closest thing to an idol that I had.

Making an album? Just Grohl-it-yourself

Making an album? Just Grohl-it-yourself.

I realize that a lot of times meeting a rock star hero in person has the potential to be a massive letdown. But as it turns out, it can sometimes pan out even better than you imagined, when your idol happens to be one of the most genuinely nice people on the planet.

We were way better than our band name

We were way better than our band name

On Nov 16th, 2000, thanks to an amazing gift from my sister Sally, I went to my first Foo Fighters show at the Black Cat in Washington D.C., and actually got to hang out and talk to him. This was one of the best nights of my life. The show was a Foo fan’s dream come true. They had just finished a stadium tour with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and this was their last show for a while. So here was a stadium band, at the height of their success, playing a tiny club, packed with about 350 people. They proceeded to pour out everything they had in them with a ridiculous 30-song set list. They played pretty much every piece of music they’d ever written, and even threw in some obscure covers pulled spontaneously out of their asses. The show was so intimate, that after the first few songs, when Dave was taking a sip of water, I got to dictate the set list. I screamed out : “Floaty!” and … presto – my wish was magically granted. It’s hard to duplicate a feeling of pure bliss like that one.

Sweatin' to the oldies

Sweatin’ to the oldies

Right after they were finished playing, I did my usual move of acting like I belong backstage, and marched right down into the bowels of the basement of the club. There was no real security, but my confidence and movement with sheer purpose allowed me to get access to a crowded little room of about forty people consisting of the band, their close friends and family and, little ol’ me. I used to work at Pop-Up video back in the day, and I knew a friend of Nate Mendel’s, so I told him so-and-so says “Hello”, and that led to me striking up a conversation with Dave. He had no idea who I was, but we spent about ten minutes talking about Tenacious D and the possible trajectories of rock music going into the next decade. It was at about the eight minute mark that I stopped relaxing and having a blast, and started getting a bit starstruck and feeling the surrealness of the moment. I told him I was in a band, and he asked me to give him a CD. I panicked and realized I didn’t have one on me, so I told him I’d run back to my sister’s place to get one and be right back. I didn’t really think he’d still be there, or remember the conversation when I got back to the club 30 minutes later. But, he certainly did, and he zipped it up in his backpack and couldn’t have been nicer.

Somehow, Dave looks more like the excited fan in this pic.

Somehow, Dave looks more like the excited fan in this pic.

Twenty years later, I still remember this night like it was yesterday, and am forever giddy reminiscing about it. I have recorded a ton a music I am quite proud of, and had a blast playing shows of all shapes and sizes. While I am not in a band anymore,  Dave is recording his 8th album with the band(Sonic Highways), and documenting the whole process in a weekly series on HBO. Each episode of the show is dedicated to a city that had a great influence on Dave. The show/album is about how music, places, and people have these vast, intertwined connections and stories. Which, is kind of funny since the show’s executive producer is Jim Rota, who happened to work at Pop-Up Video with me during my brief time there. Which also happened to be the job that allowed me access into that room to meet Dave. Jim also happens to be the lead singer/guitarist of Fireball Ministry, the band who I happened to see and meet up with in Chicago a few years ago. Which also happens to be the first city that was featured on Sonic Highways this week, because Dave was first birthed into the punk rock scene there. Which also happens to also be where I was physically born, married, and the second time I got to see a Foo show. Needless to say, it would be hard for Sonic Highways to be more relevant or fascinating to me as an individual.


Rota livin’ the dream

I’m not sure how much the general public will enjoy this show. It’s so hard for me to separate myself from my own personal interest and connection, and be objective about how other data points will react to this entertainment. I’m not sure if my Mother could get through the whole episode without falling asleep. But, I barely blinked and had to rewind a few times. The pacing and content was really well-balanced. The interviews were fascinating, and the behind the scenes stuff was such a joy participate in. I feel like a good barometer for whether you will enjoy this show or not is : If you liked Grohl’s 2013 documentary Sound City, then you will LOVE Sonic Highways. This is a more slickly packaged, less technical version of that.

The band is on top of the world right now, and I could not be happier for them. This show is a testament to how enormous the Dave Grohl brand has become. I think this show will push it even further. Most bands never get to an 8th album, and if they do, the last thing they want to do is get in a van together and spend a bunch of time together. Unless you all actually love and respect each other, and your leader personifies that warmth and friendship. The show is produced, directed by, starring, and written about and by Dave. But, it comes across with such a grateful, humble tone where it feels in no way self-congratulatory or blow-hardy. This is the charming awesomeness that is Dave Grohl.

Commander in chief

RS was making tour suggestions 6 years in advance

I will say that the batting average for the average Foo song has dropped with each album. They used to bat about .955, and now they are hitting about .221. But, this is a phenomenon that no artist is impervious to. As time goes on, you simply can’t keep up that same good wood. I struggle to name one band that didn’t get worse and worse with each successive album. To quote from the Foo’s “A Matter of Time”  –  “The heart is a clock, just like a bomb that keeps on ticking away” – hard to argue with that logic. The song from the first episode, “Something From Nothing” wasn’t really close to the caliber of “Everlong” or “Hey Johnny Park!”, but it was decent enough. And I’m not really watching the show for the new songs anyway. I’m watching because the show is so relevant to my life experience. You should watch because it’s a revealing look into the fascinating history of great American cities through the lens of some uniquely talented musicians.

Overall Rating :   9.5/10

– JA