So far, This Season Gets a Bronze

I guess it’s time to address the elephant in the room. I’ve been trying to avoid it because of all the reasons everyone avoids elephants in the room; thinking about it fills me with anxiety and makes my butt-cheeks clench.

Let’s talk American Idol.

Look, I think we can all agree that last season was gonna be tough to beat; there was just so much talent. Matt Girard came in 5th place last year, and he could’ve beaten this year’s field with that hideous mole on his forehead tied behind his back. Yes, Google the Monster was terrible. But that’s a post for a different day. What I’m  trying to say is, this year is about as exciting as watching Apolo Ohno win a bunch of bronze medals. It’s better than no medals, but barely.

OK. Soooo, trying to put last year aside and simply focus on this group, here are my rankings of the remaining eleven contestants:

11. Tim Urban. Good gravy. How did this kid get into the top 12?? Let us forget for a moment his terrible haircut, the look on his face like he’s constantly about to burst into tears, his simpering smile and just discuss his voice.

Moving on.

10. Paige something-or-other. Sorry, I don’t know her last name. What I do know is she has a fondness for wearing shorts with tights and I find her eyes scary, like one of those blue people from that one movie. This week she was dressed like an Australian zookeeper. She sang like one, too.

9. Katie Stevens. UGH. I know it’s not really OK to pick on someone who is so young, but she has this attitude that she’s the bomb, and she isn’t.

8. That tall goof with the hair. The one who can’t sing very well.

7. The love-child of David Archuleta and Clay Aiken. He seems like a nice kid, he’s all sweet and aw-shucksy, which I admit, I fall for just like everyone else. But he’s not a great singer. 

6. Fat Danny Gokey, otherwise known as Latino Danny Gokey.  He’s fine. I like him, he seems cool and he has that hard-scrabble background which is always compelling, but he’s getting dull.

5. Michael Lynche. Everyone loves him. What am I missing?  He’s so cartoonish-looking, he’s like watching a bloated parade float dance. How will he keep his physique gigantic without his ‘roids, though? Every week, expect his arms to get smaller and his voice to join them. I’m just saying what everyone else is thinking. 

5.(tie) Siobahn Magnus. Yep, she’s quirky! Everyone loves her, too. I think she  sounds like she’s singing right through her nose. The screams are cool, I dig, it’s the rest I can do without.

3. Didi something. I actually think she improves every week. She’s also super pretty, which as Kris Allen can tell you, counts for a lot.

2. Lee something-spelled-crazily-that-I don’t-feel-like googling. Sometimes he sounds awful, but sometimes he sounds really great. He sang a Hinder song a few weeks ago, the worst song ever recorded in the history of the world, and that bugged me. I do like how shifty he always looks,  like he just stole something backstage.

1. Crystal-meth-teeth Bowersox. By far the best. I loved her dad this week, too. Very sweet.

0. Ellen. What a bust she’s turning out to be. She has so far said exactly no funny things. 

-1. The fact that Kara and Simon are obviously doing it. Hey Kara and Simon, you are making everyone uncomfortable! Stop with the eye-you-know-whating.

Published in: on March 18, 2010 at 2:18 pm  Comments (3)  

This Post is Not About Hockey

By Katie

So I get my new Newsweek yesterday, and the cover story is all about Michelle Obama’s big crusade to eradicate childhood obesity. Now, the cause itself I like;  it’s a perfect “first lady” cause; something really obvious that everyone agrees on because first ladies are supposed to be beloved by all. 

Down with fat kids! Hells yes.  Fat kids turn into fat adults, and next thing you know that fat adult is sitting next to me on an airplane, hogging up the armrest and sweating all over my peanuts. And my snack (rimshot). Unless I’m on Southwest, but they never fly anywhere I want to go.* But I don’t really want to talk about that, I just want to know why the first couple keeps writing articles for Newsweek. 

I’m serious. A few weeks ago, the Pres himself penned the cover story. 

This disturbs me.

Dear President Obama and the Mrs.,

Why the moonlighting? Does the presidency not pay enough, you need the buck or two a word from Newsweek to cover the cigarettes? Don’t get me wrong,  I know the tax on smokes is out of control, but I actually think Michelle in particular could do better selling Silpada or something. I mean if I got an invite to a Silpada party from Michelle Obama, I’d probably go and probably even buy something. Does Southwest fly to D.C.?

I don’t know, maybe it’s just a sign of the times. Everyone I know has two jobs right now, why should the first family be any different? Or maybe it’s Newsweek’s desperate attempt at a “get”; it’s no secret they’re hemorrhaging  money. They changed their whole format a while ago, hoping to cull their readership to a select few of wealthy intellectuals willing to pay more for (supposedly) better content. Joke’s on them, they got me instead. Joke’s on me, I keep getting cover stories from people I thought already had pretty good jobs.

Dear Newsweek,

You should think about getting Snooki next time. I’d pay extra for that.** 

Best, 

Your One Reader

P.S. I miss the “My Turn” page. 

* you are horrible! Southwest airlines flies to lots of neat places you’d probably love to go!

**you are horrible! Saying you’d pay extra to read something written by Snooki only shows you and people like you are part of the problem! True obesity is on the inside,  and you. are. fat.

Published in: on March 18, 2010 at 3:10 am  Comments (3)  

Hockey Nirvana!!

by Woody

Its Tourny Time!!! Growing up, that meant only one thing in our house, it was the High School Hockey Tournament. The Holy Grail of high school sports in Minnesota. If your team made it to the tourny, skipping school to watch was not only ok, it was required. Now truthfully, there is more basketball played in Minnesota than hockey, but the passion for hockey in this state is unmatched, its a religion, like football in Pennsylvania, and basketball in Indiana. Sports Illustrated has done pieces on it, ESPN has done stories on it, and just recently it was on ESPN’s Top Ten list.

In our house it was no different. The first hockey tournament I can remember was years ago. A buddy’s older brother was playing on the high school team, they had made the tourny, and it was on TV. My brothers and friends and I all watched at the warming house at Lake Harriet on a little black and white TV and it was the coolest thing I had ever seen! Our school, Southwest High School, or as the TV always said, Minneapolis Southwest, was becoming a hockey power. As a grade schooler, this was so cool, like being in the presence of greatness. Being around Paulie’s older brother, that original neighborhood kid who made the team, was like being around a movie star.

The next year was the year the tourny went into the stratosphere. Big rich city school Edina playing little tiny Warroad. Even though Edina was our neighbors right across France Ave, they were the hated “cake eaters”, and we were all pulling for Warroad and their leader Henry Boucha. After what we all thought was a cheap shot on Boucha (really wasn’t, but hey, we hated Edina so it had to be a cheap shot!), Edina would go on to win the title and forever be hated by everyone in the state.

The next year was nirvana.  Southwest and Edina had both gone undefeated (Southwest with two ties, Edina with one) and YES, they would play each other in the championship game. On TV, and in color, it was captivating like nothing I have ever seen (until the Miracle on Ice). Scoreless after 3 periods, Southwest finally dethrones the champs in OT and I remember jumping around with my brothers like it was the greatest thing of all time.  And it was.

The opening game of the next season was Edina vs Southwest at Braemar arena. My dad (who thought all his boys were crazy for playing hockey, he was a basketball guy) took my brother and I to the game. It was standing room only, and one of the greatest games I have ever seen. Edina finally prevailed 2-1, but it was a great game and a harbinger of things to come. Both Edina and SW would make to the tourny that year and for many years after that. SW made it every year save 1, my junior year for the next 17 years. The galling thing about the year they didn’t make it, that was probably the best team they ever had.  SW made it back the next year only to be crushed in the title game by Grand Rapids (1980 Olympian Bill Baker, and current Gopher coach Don Lucia were on that team).

After my college days, moving to California, having a family, moving back to Minnesota, hockey wasn’t such a strong passion for me. I loved the sport, but I hadn’t been on skates in 10 years. Then my son was old enough to skate and we signed him up for hockey. He hated it. Ugh, no fun. I told him he had to finish the season, then next year if he didn’t want to play that was fine. When the season ended I figured that was it, no more hockey for us.

Then the Tourny came on, and my son and I watched. Bloomington Jefferson was in the tourny and their best player was a guy named Chris Tucker. My son was awed by what he watched during that tournament, he decided he wanted to be like Chris Tucker. And another lifelong love affair with hockey was born. He played for the next 12 years and he still loves the game.

Time is unrelenting in its passage and things change. I’ve lived in Edina now for over 20 years and both my kids graduated from Edina. Southwest is still there, but no longer a hockey power, in fact it doesn’t even field a team anymore. Edina has won 9 titles, more than anyone else in the state. Cake Eaters they may be, but they can play!

I’ve been watching the tourny now for 42 years, and yes, all the sappy things you read about, hear about, are true. March Madness for sure, there is nothing like the Minnesota State Hockey Tournament.

Published in: on March 13, 2010 at 6:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

There Is a Place… Like No Place On Earth

The following appears in the most recent edition of  “Minnesota Score” magazine

by Bill

“We’re all mad here” — The Cheshire Cat

Well why wouldn’t we be, it’s March in Minnesota.  The snow won’t stop falling, it’s turned from Christmas-white to get-me-somwhere-warm grey.  That teasing day of bright sunshine and near 50 degree temps is scoffed at by the following day’s 8 more inches of white.

March Madness is a term coined 70 years ago by a man covering the Illinois state basketball tournament.  It’s now obviously most connected to the NCAA basketball tournament– but nowhere does the phrase make any more sense than here in Minnesota, where the wheather and the high school sports scene all reach an insane level of madness.

Conference champions have been crowned– giving way to the do or die “sectional” playoffs.  Win or go home.  In gyms or rinks or mats or pools or slopes– winning moves moving on and getting one step closer, while losing means you turn all the equipment back in on Monday afternoon and wonder what might have been.

“I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night?  Let me think.  Was I the same when Igot up this morning?  I almost think I can remember feeling a little different.  But if I’m not the same, the next questinon is, who in the world am I?”– Alice

Every high-school sports year, from the first dull thud of a football being punted in mid-August to the last ping of an aluminum bat in early June, is jammed full of wonderful stories of grit, determination and success.  Success doesn’t always mean raising state championship trophy over one’s head– win or lose, if you’ve given it all you’ve got, you’ll look back in the coming years and be proud.

In this past year, no Minnesota high-school sports story has been as compelling as that of Sasha Doran, the junior quarterback for the Wayzata Trojans.  Plucked off the streets at age 7 by police in St. Petersburg, Russia, Doran was living in an orphanage with his two older sisters when his rabbit-hole came gaping open in the form of loving parents thousands of miles away in a Minneapolis suburb.  The image of a runaway, 6-year old boy sleeping in train stations is harsh enough to make the kindest of souls scream at his physically abusive birth-father and a mother who fled:

“Off with their heads!”– The Queen

For Sasha and his sisters, Elena and Nadya, the other-side of the looking glass became, literally, the other-side of the world– Wayzata, Minnesota and the home of John and Mary Ellen Doran.  Unable to have children of their own, it took but one look at a picture shown to her by her husband of 10 year-old Sasha, 12 year-old Nadya and 16 year-old Elena for Mary Ellen to want to bring her new family together.  John Doran brought a present along on the 17-hour flight to Russia to pick up his new children: a football.  Sasha immediately took to his new ball, but couldn’t help wondering why it was shaped so odd.

Eight years later a new language has been learned, a new culture embraced, a new family has grown.  And a new football star has been born.

In Sasha’s words from a long story done on him by ESPN, “I came here with nothing and am doing what I truly want to do and that’s play football.  That’s what the American dream is,  the opportunity to do something you really want– and that’s what I’m doing right now.”

Doran and the Wayzata football team’s dream made it all the way to the Dome last fall, losing to Eden Prairie in the state quarter-finals.

Try to come up with fiction any more uplifting than that: young orphan boy living on the bitter streets of Russia to star quarterback leading his team all the way to the state quarter-finals.

You can find no better example to show that you don’t have to win it all to be a success.  His life-story proves without a sliver of a doubt that it truly is the journey that matters.

To Sasha Doran and all the other high school athletes who’ve competed and given their all this past school year– especially those competing in State Tournaments this March: Welcome to Wonderland.

Published in: on March 12, 2010 at 8:00 pm  Comments (1)