Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Retro Video of the Week: "Joy and Pain" by Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock

As you may have heard, '80s hip hop artist DJ E-Z Rock -- who, with Rob Base, released one of the most infectious hip hop songs of all-time, "It Takes Two" -- died Sunday at the age of 46.  While "It Takes Two" was the duo's most successful and recognizable song, the follow-up single, "Joy and Pain" is an underrated gem.  It topped out on the Billboard Hot 100 charts at #58, but made it up to #11 on the Billboard US R&B charts and the top ten of Billboard's US Dance (#9) and US Rap (#5) charts.  Since I have already used "It Takes Two" as a Retro Video of the Week, I went with "Joy and Pain."  Plus, the "pain" part seems to be appropriate, given DJ E-Z Rock's untimely demise.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tuesday Top Ten: Heavy Metal Guitar Duos

Happy Tuesday, dear readers.  I came across an article on today entitled "Dueling Axes:  Who Are Heavy Metal's 10 Greatest Two Guitar Teams?," and that seemed like a better Tuesday Top Ten topic than "ten different alcoholic drinks I consumed this weekend and their effect on my motor skills and cranial pain."

I love twin lead guitars -- or, as the article refers to them as, "guitarmonies."  That's one of the reasons I love Thin Lizzy so much, and one of the reasons that Iron Maiden is probably just as difficult to master as some classical music.  I wouldn't know, since I can play neither Iron Maiden nor classical music.  Anywho, here is VH1's list of heavy metal's greatest guitar duos (which is not necessarily limited to twin lead guitars):

10. DragonForce
9.  Children of Bodom
8.  Mastadon
7.  Slayer
6.  Metallica
5.  AC/DC
4.  Iron Maiden
3.  Thin Lizzy
2.  Megadeth
1.  Judas Priest

I can't really argue too much with this list.  I would probably put Thin Lizzy #1 and Iron Maiden #2 (or vice versa), and I would move Metallica up past AC/DC.  The obligatory shout-out to newer metal bands is nice.  I don't know much by Mastadon or Children of Bodom, but I know DragonForce is pretty solid.  My only potential addition would be Def Leppard.  To the extent you can consider them "heavy metal," whether it was Steve Clark and Pete Willis, Steve Clark and Phil Collen, or Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell, Def Leppard has always had a formidable guitar duo with two players who can trade solos/leads.

I'm not sure I would add KISS, since Paul Stanley is a serviceable guitarist, while the other guitarist in the band (whether it's Ace Frehley, Vinnie Vincent, or whoever) is usually the soloist, so I'm not sure the "duo" is good enough to be on the list.  Same thing with Aerosmith (apologies to Brad Whitford) and GNR (apologies to Izzy or anyone not named Slash).

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Requiem for a Great Neighborhood Bar

Yesterday, my neighborhood bar (and favorite bar in Chicago), Rocks, announced that it will be closing May 7 and moving to a bigger location in North Center at 4138 N. Lincoln Avenue.  When I heard the news, I was devastated.  I feel like I've just been kicked in the balls right before being dumped.  Seriously, I've haven't listened to The Band's "It Makes No Difference" this many times in one day since some bitch broke up with me in college.

I have been going to Rocks since Jester and I moved back to Chicago eight years ago.  We have been lucky enough to live within walking distance that whole time.  I've watched both Blackhawks Stanley Cup clinchers there, played trivia there probably over 100 times, sung the first karaoke song ever sung there, gone to multiple St. Patrick's Days there, taken my kids there to eat countless times, and been an ardent supporter and promoter of the bar.

Rocks was truly a great Chicago neighborhood bar.  It was tucked away from any main thoroughfares, in the middle of a residential neighborhood at the corner of Schubert and Lakewood.  They had great food (especially the burgers and wings), a great beer list, a great whiskey selection, and a friendly staff.  You can watch a game there, you can take your kids there for dinner, they had great bar trivia on Tuesday nights and karaoke on Friday nights, it wasn't douchy, and, best of all, it wasn't trying to be a Four Corners or Bar One bar.  (For you non-Chicagoans, those are two bar groups that own a bunch of usually large-sized bars in Chicago that mostly cater to the mid-to-late '20s crowd, and tend to have too much DJ music.)

Rocks' regulars can't help but feel a little pissed off and left in the lurch.  I'm obviously upset about this, and I know several of my other friends who go there regularly and live nearby are also peeved.  I was in there last night, having what will likely be my last of their excellent burgers at this location, and some other guy walked in, went straight to the bar, and said to the manager behind the bar, "Brad, WHAT THE FUCK?!"

Trying to quell its angry patrons, Rocks said that the new location will be "bigger and better" and will have the same staff, menu, and drink selections, but I think that misses the point.  What made Rocks great wasn't just that it had a great menu, drink selection, and staff.  It was that it wasn't on a main drag.  It was a neighborhood bar that had all these great things, and that's why people flocked to it and kept coming back.  It can't be a neighborhood bar, in the true Chicago sense of the term, on Lincoln Avenue, and that's too bad because Rocks will lose a big part of what made it so great.

Unfortunately, Rocks is also going to lose most of its regulars from its Lincoln Park location.  That's just a geographic fact.  It's hard to be a regular when the bar you can walk to in 5-10 minutes becomes a bar that you now have to drive to.  All of the families and neighborhood residents that regularly go to Rocks aren't going to drive/cab to North Center for dinner, bar trivia, a drink after work, or a game on a random weeknight on a regular basis.  Sure, Rocks will get new regulars in its new location, and that's great for them (both for Rocks and the new regulars), but those of us left in Lincoln Park will have a huge void that needs to be filled.

I'll try to get up there when I can, but I'm certainly not going to be able to go there as often as I do now that it's a 5-minute walk away.  I can't get home from work and say, "hey, let's go to Rocks for dinner" because by the time we get all the kids in the car, drive up there, try to find a parking spot on Lincoln, and sit down to eat, it'll be the kids' bed time.  And obviously, the frequency of my trivia, karaoke, and other visits will decrease too, due to the distance.

As you might imagine, I am anxious to see what will go into Rocks's location.  Given that it's already set up as a bar, has a kitchen, has a built-in crowd of regulars who are stinging, and, most importantly, has a liquor license, something else will undoubtedly go in there, hopefully this summer, so the patio can get used.  I'm sure I'll go there often, but it just won't be the same because it won't be Rocks, where I had eight years to get to know the bartenders, managers, and servers.

If all of this sounds like sour grapes, you're goddamn right it is.  I'm not happy about this at all.  I was counting on having a great neighborhood bar that I could go to for decades, and now I won't have that (or at least it won't be called Rocks).

Don't get me wrong.  I'm happy for the owners (who I know), and I wish them all the success in the world in North Center.  I just wish they would have been able to keep the original location too, and I'm sure they would have kept both if they could. 

Then again, perhaps this is the opportunity and kick in the pants I need to open my own bar.  I do know a great open location with a built-in customer base.  That settles it.  Coming this summer to 1301 W. Schubert:  Rock and Roll All Knight -- Chicago's one and only KISS- and IU-themed neighborhood bar.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Retro Video of the Week: "Sledgehammer" by Peter Gabriel

Continuing my recent run of videos by 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, this week's Retro Video of the Week is Peter Gabriel's 1986 smash "Sledgehammer."  The song hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July 1986, coincidentally (but not ironically) displacing "Invisible Touch" by Gabriel's former band mates in Genesis.  The video is one of the most iconic videos ever made, with it's overt innuendo and revolutionary stop-motion animation.  It ended up winning nine MTV Music Video Awards in 1987 (still a record) and going on to be MTV's most-played video of all-time.  Interesting tidbit:  the famous horn riff in the song is played by none other than the Memphis Horns, the legendary house horn section for '60s soul stalwart Stax Records.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tuesday Top Ten: Favorite College Bands

It's Little 500 week down at IU.  As I write this, a large part of the student body is on its second or third night of binge drinking this week, with four more nights to go.  In case you aren't familiar with the Little 500, it's a 50-mile, 200-lap bike race that takes place every April at IU.  There are 33 teams, each comprised of four riders, and it's kind of like a relay race, although the riders can switch off as much as they want.  Teams are affiliated with dorms or Greek houses, or independent, and they train many months in advance.  Most riders don't even drink for most of second semester, which is one of the reasons being a rider never appealed to me.  Anyway, it's awesome.  I'm pretty sure it's the largest intramural event in the world, drawing about 20,000 spectators each year.  Hell, an Academy Award-winning film has been made about it (Breaking Away).

And then there is Little 5 week.  It's a shit show.  Greeks and non-Greeks alike pretty much have parties and/or go out every night of the week starting the Monday night before Little 500, although it's actually slightly tamer Friday night, out of respect for the riders -- and to gear up for Saturday, which usually starts at 8 a.m. and includes a solid 6 hours of drinking before the race.  Damn, I miss college.

But I digress.  This afternoon, I got a text from Wee Wee, a fraternity brother of mine, showing a picture of what appears to be a computer screen playing Rich Hardesty's "Never Wanna Fuckin' See You Again," followed by the comment "Little 5 week."  It was sent to several of us, which started a nice little conversation and brought back some pleasant memories (or lack thereof) of my seven years in Bloomington (calm down, I went there for grad school, too). 

I was thinking about what I'd be doing tonight if it was 1997-2000, and it would probably involve a party and a band.  That got me thinking about my favorite college bands from my time at IU, and that prompted me to make this week's Tuesday Top Ten about that topic.  These bands are true "college bands," meaning that they were never signed to anything resembling a major label (if any label), most just played covers, and most played mainly at bars and/or fraternity parties at colleges in or around Indiana, although the members of the band are not necessarily in college.  The rules aren't hard and fast, but this list does not include:  (1) O.A.R., which played at my fraternity my senior year, before they got big; (2) The Why Store, which played at IU several times when I was there, but also appeared on Letterman and toured with Mellencamp; or (3) Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise, who played at a party at ZBT on Saturday of Little 5 week my freshman year (a few years before ZBT made national news and got kicked off campus for their offensive pledge scavenger hunt), but they had a major-label contract.

I realize this probably has little relevance for those of you who (1) did not go to IU (or, for some of these bands, other Midwestern schools) in the mid 90s to early 00s or (2) were not in one of these bands.  But it was a fun list to compile and brought back some fantastic memories.  God, I miss college.

Honorable mention (i.e., any other bands I could think of):  Cervical Implosion (to the extent you can consider a band that played one improvised set on one random Tuesday night in a fraternity room to an audience of between zero and six a "college band"), Chloe's Diner, Danger Will Robinson, Epic, The Menus, Ribs and Bone, Shaffer Street.

10.  Angel's Ride
I'm pretty sure they played at my fraternity only once, either my sophomore or junior year, and I don't think I ever saw them again.  However, I will never forget that one performance because, after the first set, the lead singer got so hammered that he couldn't perform the second set.  I just remember him sitting on the side of the stage with his head in his hands, and his band mates apologizing.  I also remember everyone in the audience being totally understanding.  I mean, we've all been there at some point, right?

9.  Elysian Fields
Not to be confused with an indie rock/experimental New York band of the same name, the Elysian Fields that I knew and loved were around my freshman and sophomore year, and they were a great cover band, fronted by an extremely hot blonde.

8.  Mike & Joe/Michelangelo
Mike & Joe (if it was just the two of them) or Michelangelo (if they had a full band behind them) were a staple on the frat party/bar scene at IU and many other Midwestern college campuses in the mid-to-late '90s.  They were kind of the perfect '90s college band, covering Pearl Jam, U2, Dave Matthews Band (although I did and still do hate them), Bo Deans, Freddy Jones Band, and the like.  Unfortunately, their set list was kind of predictable, so they were one of those bands that you were super excited to see as a freshman or sophomore, but less so as a junior or senior.  That said, the ladies liked the band, so there were always plenty of women at their shows, even if you knew that "Better Man" was going to be followed by "In a Daydream."

7.  Some Led Zeppelin cover band
As I mentioned earlier, the Saturday night of Little 5 week my freshman year, ZBT had Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise playing in the main party room at their house, which was a big deal because the band was definitely a big "get" for a fraternity.  My fraternity got in on their party, as was common back then (often, two fraternities and two sororities would split costs for a party).  To demonstrate for you the size and scope of fraternity parties back in the salad days, ZBT had another band in a separate part of their house.  It was a Led Zeppelin cover band, and they were fucking awesome.  My buddies Jamie and Spawn joined me at the front of the stage, where we rocked out for several hours.  After the show, I was talking to the bassist, who told me to follow my dreams, which inspired me to buy a bass about a year later.  And to top it off, after that, my fraternity was having a late-night party from 2-6 a.m., where I made out with a girl who sat next to me in my History of Rock and Roll class.  Then she puked, and couldn't understand why I didn't want to keep making out with her.  Class that next Tuesday was especially awkward because I had given her my notebook to copy my notes the class before, so I had to get the notebook back and, therefore, could not avoid her at all costs, as I was wont to do as a 19-year-old.

6.  Dave and Rae
This male-and-female duo was a regular part of my graduate years in B-town.  They were (and presumably still are) a formidable cover band, and I can't hear "Jack and Diane" without hearing Dave saying "trill" instead of "thrill."  From their website, it appears that they still play regularly in Indy and throughout Indiana.

5.  Pfreakshow
If you were looking for a multimedia experience to go with your cover band, then Pfreakshow was for you.  Almost harkening back to the days of psychedelia, they would put on weird movies or videos in the background while they kicked ass on stage, occasionally wearing football helmets.  Their set lists tended to be a little harder rocking than other cover bands, and I particularly enjoyed their cover of Rob Zombie's "Dragula."

4.  Rich Hardesty
Rich Hardesty was a singer-songwriter who wrote often tongue-in-cheek songs, often about drinking or weed.  He played at my fraternity's big annual party called Swampwater, an outdoor bash that was before the Women's Little 500 every year.  The aforementioned "Never Wanna Fucking See You Again" is probably his most famous song, and it's fantastic.  Not only did it rightfully make my list of Top Ten "Fuck You" Songs, I don't think there's any song that makes me think of college (or green drinks or 20 tons of sand poured onto a fraternity party patio) more than that one. Here it is. Enjoy.

3.  Hairbangers Ball
This Chicago-based hair band cover band came to Bloomington my second year of grad school.  Their first show was a Monday or Tuesday night, and the fact that it was advertised as a hair band cover band was enough to get me there.  The crowd was sparse, but by about the third song, everyone was at the stage, devil horns in air, rocking out.  Word of mouth (mind you, this is before Facebook, Twitter, or even text messaging) was so powerful that, after that, every time they came to Bloomington, they played to a packed house.  That classic line-up of Vic Voxx, Polly Pantz, Jefferson Jackson, Zeke Zildjian, and Chris Crotch was as good a cover band as I've ever heard, across all genres.

2.  The Dynamics
The Dynamics were unique among college bands because, while they played at bars and occasional frat parties in Bloomington, they were mostly in their 40s and 50s.  Not that anyone cared.  They were (and still are) a soul/funk/R&B cover band, complete with a horn section, so you know I loved them.  One of my favorite collegiate memories must have been sometime in grad school.  A few of us were at Kilroy's Sports, waiting to see The Dynamics and sitting at a table near the stage.  We ordered a round of Jager shots.  As people often do, we all clinked our shot glasses together to cheers before we took the shot, then took our shots in unison, and all put the shot glasses on the table in unison.  Literally at the exact instant the glasses touched the table, the horn section of The Dynamics burst into their first song.  Hollywood couldn't have written a better shot.

1.  King Konga
When I think of the perfect college party, it would be Saturday night of Little 5 week in my fraternity's basement with King Konga playing a show.  Hailing from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, some of my fraternity brothers discovered these guys in Panama City while on spring break one year, and asked them to come to Bloomington to play at our house.  They agreed, and soon they were a regular at Bloomington bars and fraternities.  I'm not sure how to describe their sound -- perhaps pop rock, with some Latin influences, blue-eyed soul vocals, and phenomenal percussion.  But I tell you this:  their live show was second to none.  If you saw King Konga, you immediately became a fan.  Unfortunately, they parted ways in the early 2000s, after it looked like they were on their way to busting out of the college circuit.  Here's a compilation video with some clips of performances (the audio is good on some and not so good on others), I think posted by their old manager:

I'm sure I'm forgetting some bands, as college was often a blur (especially 14-18 years later), so let me know of any other college bands you can think of from IU from the late '90s.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Easter Bunny? More Like Creepster Bunny

Easter is this coming Sunday, and if you grew up before the '90s or so, then you probably remember that the Easter Bunny, like Santa Claus, would come to the local mall, where you could go get pictures taken with it.  Maybe this still happens, but I haven't noticed it in quite some time.  Even now that I have kids who firmly believe the Eastern Bunny is coming on Sunday to deliver them "presents and chocolate coins" -- not sure where they got either of those –- I haven't seen any advertisements for, or heard anything about, any giant Easter Bunnies or photo ops with said giant Easter Bunnies.  There may be a good reason for that.  

Check out this fantastic gallery of "19 Vintage Easter Bunny Photos That Will Make Your Skin Crawl."  (Thanks to Adam for the link.)  Perhaps the reason there are fewer Easter Bunnies nowadays is because it's impossible to make a human dressed as giant bunny look anything but psychotic, especially after Donnie Darko.  
#5 has to be the creepiest.
#7 is apparently what passed for a bunny in the Depression.
#8 is pretty solid, given the look on both kids' faces.  
#11 looks like one of Rust's drawings from True Detective.  The Yellow King has been at it for longer than we thought.
#18 is every child's nightmare -- who you believe to be a benevolent holiday mascot is actually a kidnapper.  
#19 is simply demonic.  Dear God, those eyes.  And is that blood on its right hand?  Children's blood?

New Book: Any Questions?: The Complete Art Brut 2003-2013 by Eddie Argos

I finished reading Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin over a month ago, but with paternity leave, the NCAA Tournament, my lack of new books to read, and general laziness, I haven't started reading a new book until today.  The Springsteen biography was great, and it sounded like the author had a lot of access to Springsteen himself and his friends, family, band mates, and others.  It's a must-read for any Springsteen fan, and the book makes you appreciate how huge he is now, knowing his relatively poor upbringing, hard work in the music business before making it big, and general unwavering commitment to being awesome.

Today, I started reading Any Questions?: The Complete Art Brut 2003-2013 by Eddie Argos, which is a crowd-funded book by Art Brut lead singer and songwriter Eddie Argos.  If you don't know Art Brut, they are a fantastic punkish indie band from England with bitingly clever lyrics.  I discovered them when they opened for The Hold Steady 7 or 8 years ago, and I have seen them multiple times on their own since then (and suggest you do the same if you have the chance).  The book is a complete volume of Art Brut's lyrics, with commentary from Argos.  I don't think it's even possible to get the book anymore, now that the crowd-funding campaign is over, but who knows, there may be subsequent editions released.

This looks like it will be a quick read, so if you have any book recommendations, let me know.

Books read in 2014:
Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Retro Video of the Week: "Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid" by Hall and Oates

I didn't really have any particular video in mind for this week's Retro Video of the Week, so I left it to chance, vowing to myself that I would make the Retro Video of the Week the next song that came across my iPod (which is always on shuffle) from the MTV era (assuming the song had a video).  As luck would have it, Hall and Oates's 1985 Top 20 hit "Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid" was the first one to satisfy my criteria, making this the third week in a row that the Retro Video of the Week will feature a 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee.

Admittedly, this isn't one of my favorite Hall and Oates songs, but rules are rules.  I was actually surprised to see that this song made it as high as #18 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1985, but then again, that was the worst-charting song for Hall and Oates in about three years.  Check this stat:  between 1981 and 1985, Hall and Oates released 16 singles in the U.S.  All 16 made the Top 40, 14 made the Top 20, 12 made the Top 10, and 5 hit #1.  By only making it as high as #18, "Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid" did worse than all but three other Hall and Oates singles in that span.  That is pretty remarkable, and I'm glad to see they finally got inducted into the Rock Hall.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday Top Ten: A-List Cameos

A few weeks ago, my good friend and confidante Tradd sent me a link to an Esquire blog post called "The 25 Best A-List Movie Cameos."  Due to circumstances well within my control, I have not looked at it until today.  Here is the list (in the same order in the post, which doesn't appear to be ranked in any way):

1.  Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross
2.  Bill Murray in Zombieland
3.  Martin Sheen in Hot Shots! Part Deux
4.  Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder
5.  Buster Keaton in Sunset Boulevard
6.  Tom Cruise, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito, and Steven Spielberg in Austin Powers in Goldmember
7.  The Three Stooges in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
8.  Bruce Willis and Julia Roberts in The Player
9.  Gene Hackman in Young Frankenstein
10. Christopher Walken in Pulp Fiction
11. Neil Patrick Harris in Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle
12. John Hurt in Spaceballs
13. Martin Scorsese in Taxi Driver
14. Johnny Depp in 21 Jump Street
15. Will Ferrell in Wedding Crashers
16. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
17. Orson Welles in The Muppet Movie
18. Tim Robbins, Ben Stiller, and Luke Wilson in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
19. Cate Blanchett in Hot Fuzz
20. Charlton Heston in Wayne's World 2
21. Hulk Hogan in Gremlins 2: The New Batch
22. Chuck Norris in Dodgeball
23. Sean Connery in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
24. Michael Cera in This Is The End
25. Alfred Hitchcock in pretty much every movie he made

It's a pretty solid list, and the article has clips of each cameo, which is a great way to waste an hour.  The terms "A-List" and "cameo" are kind of amorphous, but here are a couple I would add to the list:
-Lance Armstrong in Dodgeball
-Bob Barker in Happy Gilmore
-Jason Bonham, Nick Catanese, Blas Elias, Stephen Jenkins, Myles Kennedy, Jeff Pilson, Ralph Saenz (aka Michael Starr of Steel Panther), Brian Vander Ark, and Zakk Wylde as various musicians in Rock Star
-Roger Clemens in Kingpin
-Alice Cooper in Wayne's World
-Flea and Aimee Mann in The Big Lebowski
-Matt Damon in Euro Trip (per Ryan, who declared that the list "loses all credibility" as a result of this omission)
-Philip Seymour Hoffman in Almost Famous
-Stan Lee in Mallrats
-Alanis Morissette in Dogma
-Cam Neely in Dumb and Dumber

Any others?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

KISS Story

Tonight, KISS will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Of course, they won't be performing because Gene and Paul wanted everyone who has ever been in KISS to be inducted, but only the original four members are being inducted, and Ace and Peter rightly refused to perform with the current lineup (which was the only way Gene and Paul would agree to perform).  Anyway, Gregerson sent me a link to an excellent Grantland article about the history of KISS, written by one of my favorite authors, Chuck Klosterman.  As with most Grantland articles, it will take you about six hours to read, but it's worth it.

And if you want something a little shorter, I suggest reading this article and watching the related video of a guy playing guitar while breaking flaming pieces of concrete with his hands and head.  (Thanks to Hess for the link.)  

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Retro Video of the Week: "Lithium" by Nirvana

This past Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's suicide.  It's kind of weird -- and makes me feel extremely old -- knowing that he has been dead for more of my life than he was alive.  

Even now, I have mixed feelings about Kurt Cobain and Nirvana.  There is no doubt that they revolutionized music, ushered in grunge, and essentially killed hair metal and happy-go-lucky hard rock for a few years there, for better or worse.  I like Nirvana, and I like their music.  And, of course, if there is a silver lining to Cobain's death, it's that it indirectly gave birth to the Foo Fighters, who I think are one of the best rock bands of the last 20 years (if not the best).

On the other hand, I have a hard time lionizing Cobain.  I understand that he was troubled and had a rough upbringing, but it's hard for me to get past the fact that he was a heroin addict who refused help and shot himself in the head.  Unlike the other famous members of the 27 Club (Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin), who died of accidentally (overdoses in the case of Morrison and Joplin, and choking on his own vomit in his sleep in the case of Hendrix), Cobain killed himself.  Sure, there are mental health concerns and addiction at play, but he still had a choice (and a wife and a daughter).  I also think his death most certainly helped his legacy, more than just about any other rock star who died prematurely.  I'm not sure he would have the accolades and place in rock royalty he has now if he was still alive.  Or maybe he would.  Who knows.

Anyway, here's the video for one of my favorite Nirvana songs, "Lithium," which seems fitting, since lithium is a mood stabilizer used to treat depression.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Tuesday Top Ten: NCAA Championship Game Edition

Yes, I realize it's Monday, not Tuesday, but if I wait until tomorrow to post this, it won't make much sense.

This weekend's Final Four games were not good to me.  Florida lost to UConn, ending any hope I had in any of my "pick-a-team" pools.  Kentucky beat Wisconsin on yet another last-second three-pointer from Aaron Harrison.  I don't like that guy.  At least the games were on TBS, so most of Kentucky's fan base couldn't watch at home.

So, tonight's national championship game pits 7-seed UConn vs. 8-seed Kentucky.  the game tips off at 9:10 PM Eastern on CBS.

Here are some thoughts and stats about the game:

10.  UConn is the first 7-seed to ever reach the championship game, and Kentucky is the third 8-seed to make it to the championship game (UCLA in 1980, Villanova in 1985, and Butler in 2011).  No team with a seed higher than 8 has ever advanced to the title game.  If Kentucky wins, it will tie Villanova for the highest-seeded team to ever win the title, and if UConn wins, it will be the second-highest-seeded team to win a title.  No matter who wins, it will become the 10th national champ since seeding began in 1979 that is not a 1- or 2-seed, and only the 4th national champion whose seed line meant that the team should have been eliminated in the Round of 32 (i.e., seeded 5 or higher) (bolded below). Here are the teams seeded 3 or higher that have won the championship:

1981:  Indiana (3)
1983:  NC State (6)
1985:  Villanova (8)
1988:  Kansas (6)
1989:  Michigan (3)
1997:  Arizona (4)
2003:  Syracuse (3)
2006:  Florida (3)
2011:  UConn (3)

9.  The average seed for the final is 7.5, which is by far the highest for a championship game since seeding began 1979.  In fact, this is on the 7th time the average seed in the final is 3.5 or more (bolded below), and only the 3rd time the average seed is 5 or more.  Here are the average title game seeds since 1979:

2014: 7.5
2013: 2.5
2012: 1.5
2011: 5.5
2010: 3
2009: 1.5
2008: 1
2007: 1
2006: 2.5
2005: 1
2004: 2.5
2003: 2.5
2002: 3
2001: 1.5
2000: 3
1999: 1
1998: 2.5
1997: 2.5
1996: 2.5
1995: 1.5
1994: 1.5
1993: 1
1992: 3.5
1991: 2.5
1990: 2
1989: 3
1988: 3.5
1987: 1.5
1986: 1.5
1985: 4.5
1984: 1.5
1983: 3.5
1982: 1
1981: 2.5
1980: 5
1979: 1.5

8.  With Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, UConn has one of the most talented backcourts in the country.  Everyone talks about how important guard play is to winning an NCAA title, which is why UConn was a relatively popular pick to pull some upsets, although not too many people had the Huskies going this far.  Napier is projected to be a late 1st round or early 2nd round pick in the NBA draft.  On the other side, Kentucky has twin freshmen Andrew and Aaron Harrison, who are also projected to be late 1st round or early 2nd round picks if they were to enter the draft.

Here are the guards who either started or played significant roles on NCAA title teams who were drafted in the first or second round of the NBA draft since 1989 (when the NBA draft went down to two rounds).  All but four of the last 25 NCAA title teams have had at least one guard drafted.  Some of these players were hybrid shooting guard/small forwards, but I included them if I felt they played enough on the "guard" side to be included.

2013 (Louisville):  Peyton Siva (2nd round 2013)
2012 (Kentucky):   Marquis Teague (1st round 2012), Doron Lamb (2nd round 2012)
2011 (UConn):  Kemba Walker (1st round 2011), Jeremy Lamb (1st round 2012)
2010 (Duke):  Nolan Smith (1st round 2011)
2009 (North Carolina):  Ty Lawson (1st round 2009), Wayne Ellington (1st round 2009)
2008 (Kansas):  Brandon Rush (1st round 2008), Mario Chalmers (2nd round 2008)
2006-2007 (Florida):  Taurean Green (2nd round 2007)
2005 (North Carolina):  Raymond Felton (1st round 2005), Rashad McCants (1st round 2005)
2004 (UConn):  Ben Gordon (1st round 2004)
2003 (Syracuse):  none
2002 (Maryland):  Juan Dixon (1st round 2002), Steve Blake (2nd round 2003)
2001 (Duke):  Jay Williams (1st round 2002), Chris Duhon (2nd round 2004)
2000 (Michigan State):  Jason Richardson (1st round 2001), Mateen Cleaves (1st round 2001), Morris Peterson (1st round 2001)
1999 (UConn):  Khalid El-Amin (2nd round 2000)
1998 (Kentucky): none
1997 (Arizona):  Mike Bibby (1st round 1998), Miles Simon (2nd round 1998), Jason Terry (1st round 1999)
1996 (Kentucky):  Tony Delk (1st round 1996)
1995 (UCLA):  Tyus Edney (2nd round 1995), Toby Bailey (2nd round 1998)
1994 (Arkansas):  none
1993 (North Carolina):  none
1991-1992 (Duke):  Brian Davis (2nd round 1992), Bobby Hurley (1st round 1993), Thomas Hill (2nd round 1993)
1990 (UNLV):  Greg Anthony (1st round 1991)
1989 (Michigan):  Glen Rice (1st round 1989), Rumeal Robinson (1st round 1990)

7.  Ollie can win title in first Final Four appearance, which would make him only the 25th head coach and first since Bill Self in 2008 to win the NCAA title in his first Final Four appearance.  At 41 and 101 days, he would be the youngest head coach to win the title since Billy Donovan won his first title in 2006 at age 40, and the 13th youngest coach to ever win a title.  Here are the ages of the coaches younger than Ollie who have won a title:

40:  Billy Donovan (Florida, 2006); Bob Knight (Indiana, 1981); Phil Woolpert (San Francisco, 1956); Henry Iba (Oklahoma A&M, 1945)
39:  Phil Woolpert (San Francisco, 1955)
37:  Jim Valvano (NC State, 1983)
36:  Don Haskins (Texas Western, 1966)
35:  Bob Knight (Indiana, 1976); Fred Taylor (Ohio State, 1960); Howard Hobson (Oregon, 1939)
34:  Bud Foster (Wisconsin, 1941)
31:  Branch McCracken (Indiana, 1940)

6.  If UConn wins, it would become the 9th school to win NCAA tournaments under multiple coaches (having also won 3 titles under Jim Calhoun).  Here are the others:

Kentucky:  Adolph Rupp (1948, 1949, 1951, 1958), Joe B. Hall (1978), Rick Pitino (1996), Tubby Smith (1998), Jim Calipari (2012)

Kansas:  Phog Allen (1952), Larry Brown (1988), Bill Self (2008)
North Carolina:  Frank McGuire (1957), Dean Smith (1982, 1993), Roy Williams (2005, 2009)

Indiana:  Branch McCracken (1940, 1953), Bob Knight (1976, 1981, 1987)
Louisville:  Denny Crum (1980, 1986), Rick Pitino (2013)
Michigan State:  Jud Heathcote (1979), Tom Izzo (2000)
NC State:  Norm Sloan (1974), Jim Valvano (1983)
UCLA:  John Wooden (1964, 1965, 1967-1973, 1975), Jim Harrick (1995)

5.  John Calipari has the chance to become the 15th coach to win multiple NCAA tournaments –- until they are vacated right around the time he bolts for the NBA, of course.  Here are the others:

John Wooden (UCLA):  10 (1964, 1965, 1967-1973, 1975)
Adolph Rupp (Kentucky):  4 (1948, 1949, 1951, 1958)
Mike Krzyzewski (Duke):  4 (1991, 1992, 2001, 2010)
Bob Knight (Indiana):  3 (1976, 1981, 1987)
Jim Calhoun (UConn):  3 (1999, 2004, 2011)
Branch McCracken (Indiana):  2 (1940, 1953)
Henry Iba (Oklahoma A&M):  2 (1945, 1946)
Phil Woolpert (San Francisco):  2 (1955, 1956)
Ed Jucker (Cincinnati):  2 (1961, 1962)
Denny Crum (Louisville):  2 (1980, 1986)
Dean Smith (North Carolina):  2 (1982, 1993)
Roy Williams (North Carolina):  2 (2005, 2009)
Billy Donovan (Florida):  2 (2006, 2007)
Rick Pitino (Kentucky, Louisville):  2 (1996, 2013)

4.  This is the first time since the NCAA tournament began seeding in 1979 that there is not at least one team seeded 1-6 in the championship game.

3.  This is only the third final since 1979 that doesn't feature a 1 or 2 seed.  The other two were 1989 (3-seed Michigan vs. 3-seed Seton Hall) and 2011 (3-seed UConn vs. 8-seed Butler).

2.  Between the two schools, they have 11 combined national titles (8 for Kentucky and 3 for UConn).  This is the only the sixth time the schools meeting for the national title have 10 or more titles between them (at the time of that particular game), and the only the second time that has been done without UCLA participating.
1975:  13 - UCLA (9), Kentucky (4)
1980:  10 – Louisville (0), UCLA (10)
1995:  11 - UCLA (10), Arkansas (1)
2006: 11 - Florida (0), UCLA (11)
2012:  10 - Kentucky (7), Kansas (3)
2014:  11 – Kentucky (8), UConn (3)

1.  Perhaps worst of all, Tyler Allen Black -- the UK fan who got a "2014 national champions" Kentucky tattoo before the tournament even started -- may have the last laugh at everyone (including me) who called him a moron when learning that he got the tattoo.  If this alone isn't a reason to root for UConn, I don't know what is.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Why I'm Fine with the How I Met Your Mother Series Finale

**Note:  this post will contain spoilers about the How I Met Your Mother series finale, so if you haven't seen it or don't want to know about it, you probably shouldn't read this post.**

I was (and still am) a fan of How I Met Your Mother.  I came into it a year or two after it started, but between first-runs and reruns, I think I have seen just about every episode.  As you may know, the show's series finale was this past Monday night, and from the way people are reacting, you would think Ted Mosby murdered his wife and kids.  I've seen people go so far as to say that the finale ruined the entire show for them.  That's a bit of an overreaction, and I stand before you today to explain why I am completely fine with the finale.

If you didn't see it, here's what went down.  Ted leaves Barney and Robin's wedding reception early to take the train back to Manhattan, since he was supposed to be moving to Chicago the next day.  On the train platform, he meets Tracy (who will, in fact, birth his children at a later date), the bass player from the wedding band.  Thanks to the yellow umbrella she is holding, they realize they have crossed paths many times, and they are both taken aback a little, realizing they were destined for each other.  We learn that they go on to have two kids, but didn't get married until after the first kid was born.  In 2024, she dies of an unnamed illness.

In other news, three years after their wedding, Barney and Robin announce to the group they're getting divorced, but it's amicable.  Things just didn't work out with Robin's work schedule.  Barney then goes back to his womanizing ways, completes a "perfect month" (bags 31 women in 31 days), only to find out that the 31st girl becomes pregnant, but it's all good because Barney finally falls in love the first time he ever sees his infant daughter.  Robin kind of separates herself from the group, but manages to show up for Ted and Tracy's wedding.

Marshall and Lily continue to make babies, and, as we already knew, Marshall becomes a judge and, eventually, a New York state "supreme court" justice.  As any lawyer can tell you, in the New York state court system, the Supreme Court is actually the county-level trial court, and the highest court is called the Court of Appeals, but I think we can all gloss over that for the sake of avoiding confusing the masses who are not as familiar with the terminology of the New York state court system.

After we find all of this out, Ted is finished telling his kids the story of how he met their mother.  His daughter expresses skepticism that the real purpose of the story was to tell them how he met their mother, since she was only a small part of the story.  Rather, his daughter says that she thinks the real purpose of the story was to explain that Ted still had feelings for Robin and to see if his kids would be okay if he asked Robin out.  After all, this is 2030, and it's been six years since their mom died.

In the last scene, we see Robin –- with a horrible haircut -- walking her many dogs into her apartment.  The buzzer buzzes, and she can't get her fancy security system to turn on, so she goes to a window overlooking the sidewalk.  She opens the window to see Ted below, holding the blue French horn he stole for her on their first date (in the pilot episode).

I am completely fine with this ending.  How I Met Your Mother ended the only way it could:  with Ted making a romantic gesture to Robin.  Ted and Robin's feelings for each other (and how their relationship affected other relationships) was the underlying theme throughout the entire show.  Here's what I mean:
  • The show -– and, therefore, Ted's story to his kids -- starts as Ted decides he needs to meet "the one," and he then meets Robin.
  • In the beginning of the show, Ted tells Robin he loves her on their first date.
  • At the end of the first show, the kids express confusion by the fact that the first thing their dad told them is how he met Robin, and not their mother.
  • Ted breaks up with his longtime girlfriend Victoria to be with Robin.
  • One of the reasons Ted and Robin broke up initially is because Robin never wanted to have children (and it is later revealed that she cannot have kids).  Thus, going on to meet Tracy and have children fulfilled that for Ted.  Then Tracy died, and now Robin can be back in the mix.
  • Stella (Sarah Chalke) didn't want Robin at Stella and Ted's wedding because she was worried Ted and Robin might rekindle their old feelings for each other.  Stella was apparently right, since Robin essentially tried to get Ted to call the wedding off.
  • Ted tries to break up Robin and Barney when they both become fat.
  • When Robin dates her co-worker Don, Ted professes his love for her and tries to get her back.
  • It was Ted who comforted Robin (and erected an intricate display of Christmas lights in the apartment) when she found out she was unable to have kids.
  • After Robin and Kevin (Kal Penn) break up, Ted confesses his love to Robin.
  • When Ted proposes to Victoria, she says yes, only on the condition that Ted sever his relationship with Robin, because Victoria thought Robin was an impediment to their relationship.  Ted refuses, and Victoria leaves, saying she hopes he and Robin end up together one day.
  • Throughout Robin and Barney's entire engagement, Ted struggled with his feelings towards Robin.
  • Ted dug up and found the locket that Robin planted in Central Park when she was 15 (and wanted to wear as the "something old" at her wedding), and then went to great lengths to find it after he misplaced it, so that he could give it to Robin as a wedding present.
  • Ted gave the blue French horn back to the restaurant from which he stole it, and then he stole it back as a sign of affection for Robin.
  • In the second-to-last episode, Robin was freaking out and thinking about calling off the wedding, but it was a grand gesture by Ted (giving Barney Robin's locket to give to Robin) that saved the day (kind of) and got Robin thinking that she should have been marrying Ted.

You can't look at the show as a typical sitcom (i.e., an objective story told solely for the sake of telling a story).  You have to look at the show from the perspective of Ted's children being told a story by their father.  If you do that, the ending makes perfect sense.  Ted's story to his children started when it did –- right before Ted met Robin -- for a reason:  because the story was about Robin.  It came full-circle.

That might not sit well with a lot of viewers, since it seems to diminish what the objective, outside viewer thought the show was about:  Ted meeting and falling in love with Tracy.  Yes, the show was entitled "How I Met Your Mother," but it had to be named that, not only because it's clever and fit with the premise of the show (and built anticipation), but also because if the show was called How I Fell In Love With Robin, it would have been over after Ted and Robin's first date.

It may feel cheap that the story of meeting The Mother was a vehicle for Ted to work out his lingering feelings for Robin, but I don't see it as cheap.  It's still clear that Ted loved Tracy.  Tracy was essential, not only for Ted's catharsis in 2030, but also because there was genuine chemistry there, and Ted needed that love and relationship.  Sure, she died too soon after she was introduced, but that's how it had to be.  Plus, there were plenty of flash-forward scenes this season that let us see Ted and Tracy as a couple, so it's not like we just met her in this last episode right before she was offed.

I've seen a fan's reworking of the end of the finale, in which Tracy doesn't die and the credits roll after Ted and Tracy have their "umbrella" moment on the train platform.  I don't think that would have worked.  If you know Ted Mosby, there has to be more to the story than that.  Throughout the show's run, I was worried that the show would end at the moment Ted met his children's mother, with Ted (in Bob Saget's voice) saying "And that, kids, is how I met your mother."  Blackout.  I'm glad that wasn't the ending.

When you invest time and emotion into a TV show, you want the finale to have both finality and the knowledge that the characters went on to live happy lives.  That's why the ending of The Sopranos sucked.  You got neither.  With How I Met Your Mother, you got finality because Ted finally met The Mother (and because Tracy died and Ted finished his story to his kids), and you know that Ted and Robin are probably going to get together, and it will finally last.  You don't want Ted to be a miserable widower who never tries to love again, and you don't want Robin to be a miserable old maid.  It's the way it had to be.  Lawyered.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Retro Video of the Week: "I Love It Loud" by KISS

I realized today that I haven't had a KISS video as a Retro Video of the Week, which is probably a sin in some religions.  To remedy this, I decided to go with "I Love It Loud" off of KISS's 1982 album Creatures of the Night.  The song was co-written by Gene Simmons and Vinnie Vincent.  This was the last video to feature the band in make-up.  It was also the last video to feature Ace Frehley, who would quit the band, only to be replaced by Vincent (who actually played most of the lead guitar parts on Creatures of the Night, even though Frehley is credited).  The video itself is a classic early '80s video, in which a teenage boy becomes hypnotized by the music and has to get up from the dinner table to watch the video.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Tuesday Top Ten: Fun Facts About This Year's Final Four

March Madness is a bitch.  Plain and simple.  One minute, she's all, "Yeah sure, I'll totally put Florida, Michigan, San Diego State, and Michigan State in the Final Four for you because I love you, and I really want you to succeed."  Then the next minute, she's all "John Calipari just gave me a Corvette, so don't ever call me again.  Oh, and I was sleeping with Bo Ryan like the entire time you and I were dating."  As you wipe the tears from your eyes and the vomit from your mouth, couch, and cashmere sweater that you are wearing for some reason, all you can do is ask "what have I done to deserve this?"  The answer to the question isn't at the bottom of a bottle of gin, but you double check, just in case.

My biggest fears played out on a national stage this past weekend.  It started off great, as Florida beat Dayton to clinch the Gators' 5th Final Four berth (and fourth under Billy Donovan).  Then, Wisconsin beat Arizona, which was good for me, even though I didn't have Wisconsin going to the Final Four a lot of my brackets, since it knocked Arizona out of the mix.  It's Bo Ryan's first Final Four as the Badgers' head coach, and the program's 3rd overall.

Then Sunday came.  There was so much promise, followed by so much heartache.  The Big Ten seemed to have a legitimate shot at getting three Final Four teams for the first time in conference history.  Michigan State, however, was playing UConn in the Huskies' backyard, and UConn ended up winning a hard-fought game, pulling away at the end, for the Huskies' 5th Final Four berth.  No matter, I thought.  As long as Michigan beats Kentucky, I still have a chance.  I went from having a decent shot at finishing in the money in several of my pools to having all of my brackets eliminated from contention, when some highly paid Kentucky freshman hit a 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left, clinching the Wildcats' 16th Final Four berth and 3rd in the last 4 years under John Calipari (until they are vacated at a later date, of course). 

Here are the Final Four game times this Saturday (Eastern).  Both games are on TBS:
(S1) Florida vs. (E7) Connecticut – 6:09 p.m.
(W2) Wisconsin vs. (MW8) Kentucky – 8:49 p.m.

As I do this time of year, I'm going to drop some Final Four statistical knowledge on you.

10 (tie).  Thanks to Michigan and Michigan State pissing away their Elite 8 games, the Big Ten missed its shot to have three teams in the Final Four, which would have only been the second time a conference has had three teams in the Final Four (Big East, 1985). 

However, if Wisconsin beats Kentucky on Saturday, it will be the 6th different Big Ten school to have reached the championship game since Michigan State won the Big Ten's last title in 2000 -– the most of any conference in that span:

Big Ten:  5 (Illinois (2005), Indiana (2002), Michigan (2013), Michigan State (2009), Ohio State (2007))
ACC:  4 (Duke (2001*, 2010*), Georgia Tech (2004), Maryland (2002*), North Carolina (2005*, 2009*))
Big East:  3 (Connecticut (2004*), Louisville (2013*), Syracuse (2003*))
Pac-10/Pac-12:  2 (Arizona (2001), UCLA (2006))
SEC:  2 (Florida (2006*, 2007*), Kentucky (2012*))
Big 12:  1 (Kansas (2003, 2008*, 2012))
Conference USA:  1 (Memphis (2008)
Horizon:  1 (Butler (2010, 2011))
*Won championship

If the Badgers win it all, it will end the Big Ten's longest title drought since the 16-year span between Ohio State's 1960 title and Indiana's 1976 title.

10 (tie).  Kevin Ollie of UConn and Bo Ryan of Wisconsin are coaching in their first Final Fours as head coaches, Billy Donovan is coaching in his fourth Final Four, and John Calipari is coaching in his fifth Final Four, although only three of those are still recognized by the NCAA.

History is not on Ollie or Ryan's side, as only 24 of the 151 coaches coaching in their first Final Four have won a title, and 14 of those titles occurred when John F. Kennedy was still alive.  Here are the coaches who have won an NCAA title in their first Final Four appearance, reverse chronologically:

2008:  Bill Self (Kansas)
1999:  Jim Calhoun (Connecticut)
1998:  Tubby Smith (Kentucky)
1995:  Jim Harrick (UCLA)
1989:  Steve Fisher (Michigan)
1985:  Rollie Massimino (Villanova)
1983:  Jim Valvano (NC State)
1979:  Jud Heathcote (Michigan State)
1974:  Norm Sloan (NC State)
1966:  Don Haskins (Texas Western)
1963:  George Ireland (Loyola (IL))
1961:  Ed Jucker (Cincinnati)
1960:  Fred Taylor (Ohio State)
1959:  Pete Newell (California)
1955:  Phil Woolpert (San Francisco)
1954:  Ken Loeffler (LaSalle)
1947:  Doggie Julian (Holy Cross)
1945:  Henry Iba (Oklahoma A&M)
1944:  Vadal Peterson (Utah)
1943:  Everett Shelton (Wyoming)
1942:  Everett Dean (Stanford)
1941:  Harold Foster (Wisconsin)
1940:  Branch McCracken (Indiana)
1939:  Howard Hobson (Oregon)

An additional 41 coaches have made it to the national championship game and lost in their first Final Four appearance:

2013:  John Beilein (Michigan)
2010:  Brad Stevens (Butler)
2007:  Thad Matta (Ohio State)
2006:  Ben Howland (UCLA)
2005:  Bruce Weber (Illinois)
2004:  Paul Hewitt (Georgia Tech)
2002:  Mike Davis (Indiana)
2000:  Billy Donovan (Florida)
1998:  Rick Majerus (Utah)
1991:  Roy Williams (Kansas)
1989:  PJ Carlesimo (Seton Hall)
1988:  Billy Tubbs (Oklahoma)
1987:  Jim Boeheim (Syracuse)
1986:  Mike Krzyzewski (Duke)
1982:  John Thompson (Georgetown)
1980:  Larry Brown (UCLA)
1979:  Bill Hodges (Indiana State)
1978:  Bill Foster (Duke)
1976:  Johnny Orr (Michigan)
1975:  Joe B. Hall (Kentucky)
1974:  Al McGuire (Marquette)
1973:  Gene Bartow (Memphis State)
1972:  Hugh Durham (Florida State)
1971:  Jack Kraft (Villanova)
1970:  Joe Williams (Jacksonville)
1969:  George King (Purdue)
1967:  Don Donoher (Dayton)
1959:  Fred Schaus (West Virginia)
1958:  John Castellani (Seattle)
1957:  Dick Harp (Kansas)
1952:  Frank McGuire (St. John's)
1950:  Forddy Anderson (Bradley)
1948:  Bill Henderson (Baylor)
1946:  Ben Carnevale (North Carolina)
1945:  Howard Cann (NYU)
1944:  Earl Brown (Dartmouth)
1943:  Elmer Ripley (Georgetown)
1942:  Ozzie Cowles (Dartmouth)
1941:  Jack Friel (Washington State)
1940:  Phog Allen (Kansas)
1939:  Harold Olsen (Ohio State)

9.  This year is rare because each of the Final Four teams has already won an NCAA title.  This is only the eighth time this has happened since the NCAA tournament began in 1939.  The other years in which this occurred were 1992, 1993, 1995, 1998, 2007, 2009, and 2012.

8.  Based on past performance of national titles per Final Four appearances, here is how the teams stack up as far as percentage of national titles per Final Fours.  Pretty good:
1.  UConn:  75% (3/4)
2.  Kentucky:  53% (8/15) (I'm including the 1949 Final Four and national title, even though that should be considered vacated due to a point-shaving scandal, as well as the Final Fours in 2011 and 2012 and national championship in 2012, even though those will undoubtedly be vacated at some point, since John Calipari is incapable of taking a team to the Final Four without it later being vacated)
3 (tie).  Florida:  50% (2/4)
3 (tie).  Wisconsin:  50% (1/2)

7.  There are 9 schools with 8 or more Final Fours:  UCLA (18), North Carolina (18), Kentucky (16), Duke (15), Kansas (14), Ohio State (11), Louisville (10), Indiana (8), and Michigan State (8).  This is the 29th year in a row and the 57th year out of the last 58 that at least one of those 9 teams has been in the Final Four.  In fact, one of those teams has been in all but 8 of 75 Final Fours (1941, 1943, 1947, 1950, 1954, 1955, 1956, and 1985). 

6.  UConn is the first 7-seed to advance to the Final Four since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, and only the second 7-seed (Virginia, 1984) to ever advance to the Final Four.

5.  The 14 combined national titles (which will become 15 next Monday) is also relatively high.  If you look at every year since the tournament began and count all of the Final Four schools' national titles (whether it was won that year, prior, subsequent, or later vacated), this will be only the 21st time (out of 75) that the Final Four schools' combined national titles is 13 or greater.  Of course, everything is skewed whenever UCLA is in the Final Four, since they have 11 titles, so below is the list, with the non-UCLA Final Fours in bold.  As you can see, this is only the 6th time the Final Four schools' combined national titles is 13 or greater when UCLA was not in the Final Four.

1.  1975:  23 - UCLA (11), Kentucky (8), Louisville (3), Syracuse (1)
2 (tie).  2008: 19 - Kansas (3), Memphis (0), UCLA (11), North Carolina (5)
2 (tie).  1995:  19 - UCLA (11), Arkansas (1), North Carolina (5), Oklahoma State (2)
2 (tie).  1972:  19 – UCLA (11), Florida State (0), North Carolina (5), Louisville (3)
5 (tie).  1993:  17 - North Carolina (5), Michigan (1), Kentucky (8), Kansas (3)
5 (tie).  1976:  17 – Indiana (5), Michigan (1), UCLA (11), Rutgers (0)
5 (tie).  1974:  17 – NC State (2), Marquette (1), UCLA (11), Kansas (3)
5 (tie).  1968:  17 – UCLA (11), North Carolina (5), Ohio State (1), Houston (0)
9 (tie).  1973:  16 – UCLA (11), Memphis State (0), Indiana (5), Providence (0)
9 (tie).  1969:  16 – UCLA (11), Purdue (0), Drake (0), North Carolina (5)
9 (tie).  1967:  16 – UCLA (11), Dayton (0), Houston (0), North Carolina (5)
9 (tie).  1964:  16 – UCLA (11), Duke (4), Michigan (1), Kansas State (0)
13 (tie).  2012:  15 – Kentucky (8), Kansas (3), Louisville (3), Ohio State (1)
13 (tie).  2007: 15 - Florida (2), Ohio State (1), UCLA (11), Georgetown (1)
13 (tie).  1998:  15 - Kentucky (8), Utah (1), North Carolina (5), Stanford (1)
13 (tie).  1971:  15 – UCLA (11), Villanova (1), Western Kentucky (0), Kansas (3)
17 (tie).  1962:  14 – Cincinnati (2), Ohio State (1), Wake Forest (0), UCLA (11)
17 (tie).  1997:  14 - Arizona (1), Kentucky (8), Minnesota (0), North Carolina (5)
17 (tie).  1980:  14 – Louisville (3), UCLA (11), Purdue (0), Iowa (0)
20 (tie).  1991:  13 - Duke (4), Kansas (3), North Carolina (5), UNLV (1)
20 (tie).  2006: 13 - Florida (2), UCLA (11), LSU (0), George Mason (0)

4.  Moving on to another worthless statistic, if you just look at how many titles the schools had won up to that point (and not including that year's title), this year is even rarer.  Here are the top ten years for number of prior national titles for the Final Four teams (with the number of titles up to, but not including, that year):

1.  2008: 17 - Kansas (2), Memphis (0), UCLA (11), North Carolina (4)
2.  1995:  16 - UCLA (10), Arkansas (1), North Carolina (3), Oklahoma State (2)
3 (tie).  2014:  14 – Kentucky (8), Connecticut (3), Florida (2), Wisconsin (1)
3 (tie).  2007: 14 - Florida (1), Ohio State (1), UCLA (11), Georgetown (1)
5 (tie).  2012:  13 - Kentucky (7), Kansas (3), Louisville (2), Ohio State (1)
5 (tie).  1975:  13 - UCLA (9), Kentucky (4), Louisville (0), Syracuse (0)
7.  1976:  12 – Indiana (2), Michigan (0), UCLA (10), Rutgers (0)
8 (tie).  2006: 11 - Florida (0), UCLA (11), LSU (0), George Mason (0)
8 (tie).  1998:  11 - Kentucky (6), Utah (1), North Carolina (3), Stanford (1)
10 (tie).  1980:  10 – Louisville (0), UCLA (10), Purdue (0), Iowa (0)
10 (tie).  1993:  10 - North Carolina (2), Michigan (1), Kentucky (5), Kansas (2)

3.  Florida is the only #1 seed in the Final Four.  This is the fifth year in a row that one or fewer #1 seeds have advanced to the Final Four, and the 17th time since 1979 it has happened.  Based on the past results, Florida should feel pretty good about its chances, as 8 of the 14 teams who have been the lone #1 seed in the Final Four have gone onto win the title.  Here is a breakdown of how many #1 seeds have advanced to the Final Four each year since 1979.

2014: 1 (Florida)
2013: 1 (Louisville*)
2012: 1 (Kentucky*)
2011: 0
2010: 1 (Duke*)
2009: 2 (North Carolina*, Connecticut)
2008: 4 (Kansas*, Memphis**, North Carolina, UCLA)
2007: 2 (Florida*, Ohio State**)
2006: 0
2005: 2 (North Carolina*, Illinois**)
2004: 1 (Duke)
2003: 1 (Texas)
2002: 2 (Maryland*, Kansas)
2001: 2 (Duke*, Michigan State)
2000: 1 (Michigan State*)
1999: 3 (Connecticut*, Duke**, Michigan State)
1998: 1 (North Carolina)
1997: 3 (Kentucky**, North Carolina, Minnesota)
1996: 2 (Kentucky*, Massachusetts)
1995: 1 (UCLA*)
1994: 1 (Arkansas*)
1993: 3 (North Carolina*, Michigan**, Kentucky)
1992: 1 (Duke*)
1991: 2 (UNLV, North Carolina)
1990: 1 (UNLV*)
1989: 1 (Illinois)
1988: 2 (Oklahoma**, Arizona)
1987: 2 (Indiana*, UNLV)
1986: 2 (Duke**, Kansas)
1985: 2 (Georgetown**, St. John's)
1984: 2 (Georgetown*, Kentucky)
1983: 2 (Houston**, Louisville)
1982: 2 (North Carolina*, Georgetown**)
1981: 2 (LSU, Virginia)
1980: 0
1979: 1 (Indiana State**)
**Advanced to championship game

2.  The average seed for this year's Final Four is 4.5, which is only the 6th time since the tournament began seeding in 1979 that the average seed in the Final Four is more than 4 (and the third time in the last four years).

2014: 4.5
2013: 4.5
2012: 2.25
2011: 6.5
2010: 3.25
2009: 1.75
2008: 1
2007: 1.5
2006: 5
2005: 2.75
2004: 2
2003: 2.25
2002: 2.25
2001: 1.75
2000: 5.5
1999: 1.75
1998: 2.25
1997: 1.75
1996: 2.75
1995: 2.25
1994: 2
1993: 1.25
1992: 3.25
1991: 1.75
1990: 3
1989: 2.25
1988: 2.5
1987: 2.5
1986: 3.75
1985: 3
1984: 2.75
1983: 3
1982: 2.75
1981: 1.75
1980: 5.25
1979: 3.5

1.  Including UConn and Kentucky this year, 26 teams seeded 5 or higher have advanced to the Final Four since seeding began in 1979, and this is only the 5th time since 1979 that multiple teams seeded 5 or higher have advanced to the Final Four.  Of the prior 24 teams, only 3 have won it all, another 6 have been runners up, and the remaining 15 have lost in the semis.  Here are the years in which there have been any teams seeded 5 or higher in the Final Four since 1979:

2014:  2: 7-seed UConn and 8-seed Kentucky
2013:  1: 9-seed Wichita State
2011:  2: 8-seed Butler** and 11-seed VCU
2010:  2: 5-seeds Butler** and Michigan State
2006:  1: 11-seed George Mason
2005:  1: 5-seed Michigan State
2002:  1: 5-seed Indiana**
2000:  3: 5-seed Florida**, 8-seeds North Carolina and Wisconsin
1996:  1: 5-seed Mississippi State
1992:  1: 6-seed Michigan**
1988:  1: 6-seed Kansas*
1987:  1: 6-seed Providence
1986:  1: 11-seed LSU
1985:  1: 8-seed Villanova*
1984:  1: 7-seed Virginia
1983:  1: 6-seed NC State*
1982:  1: 6-seed Houston
1980:  3: 5-seed Purdue, 6-seed Iowa, 8-seed UCLA**
1979:  1: 9-seed Penn
**Advanced to championship game

In closing, fuck Kentucky!