Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Weekend Leftovers

Random thoughts from this past weekend in no particular order...

1) Justin Timberlake concert Sunday at Staples Center.
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Now that he has finally put the "boy band" days behind him, JT should really be appreciated for what he is: one of the greatest all-around entertainers in the last 20 years. Yes, you read that right. He's that good. He sings with range, plays multiple instruments, and dances like a choreographer. I didn't even mention his production skills. His partnership with Timbaland (who is also extremely talented and under appreciated publicly) could become the most powerful combo in popular music, if it's not already. In fact, they may be the only people capable of saving Britney Spears from complete career disaster, or did that happen at the VMA's?

2) Kanye West's surprise appearance at The FUTURESEX/LOVESHOW.
Without question, the highlight of the Justin Timberlake concert was the guest performance by Kanye West, just hours after he appeared on the Emmy Awards across town. To say Kanye killed the crowd with his performance of "Stronger" would be an understatement. The last performance at Staples Center on par with this one was Kobe Bryant's 81-point barrage laid on the Toronto Raptors in 2006.


Kanye's ability to continue to create a new sound of hip-hop with each new album is beyond impressive. You can't help but dig his music. Not only is it innovative enough for the critics, it's also catchy enough for the popular music set. A mix that leads to platinum record sales and millions of dollars in revenue. However, what it seemingly doesn't lead to-- at least not frequently enough in the mind of Kanye West-- is awards. After feeling dissed yet again by MTV at the Video Music Awards, Kanye spent the immediate few hours after the show and the next several days bitching about his failure yet again to claim a coveted MTV Spaceman. In the words of JT, "cry me a river," Kanye. Awards don't measure your success, record sales do. Just ask your record company.

But I think I'm finally hip to Kanye's game. I believe he's somewhat like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods in the sense that despite being one of the greatest in their sports, they still needed and sought out extra motivation. That motivation usually came in the form of criticisms or perceived slights by the media and/or fellow competitors. Kanye uses disrespect to keep pushing the envelope with his music and his career, and it definitely seems to be working. However, it's worth pointing out, MJ and Tiger keep those slights to themselves for the most part, where Kanye seemingly goes out of his way to tell the world that he got dissed. Just let it go, Kanye. You can't win everything all the time. And remember you're smart enough, you're good enough, and doggonit people like you!

3) Utah throttles UCLA 44-6.
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(Courtesy: LA Times)

Wow, talk about the shock of the weekend. Even if you thought the Utes were good enough to compete with or even beat the Bruins at home, there's no way you thought the margin would have been 38 points. The question now is, how will UCLA respond? Karl Dorrell said recently that even though the loss to Utah was embarrassing, it's no time to panic. Bruins fans probably don't want to hear that, but it's true. They are still undefeated in the PAC-10, and if they want to remain that way, they need to focus on Saturday's match up with Washington. If you spend too much time looking back, you're likely to get runover by what is in front of you.

4) USC dropkicks Nebraska in Lincoln 49-31.
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I'm still not sure who would win a match up between the Trojans and LSU, but I do know this: USC has as much claim to the #1 ranking as anybody. Pete Carroll's team was a victim of its schedule the first two weeks of the season. An uninspired blowout of Idaho and a bye week gave pundits and fans plenty of time to hypothesize that the Trojans were not as good as first believed. Prompting Tommy Trojan to say Saturday night after the game, "I've got your hypothesis right here!"

USC thoroughly dominated Bill Callahan's team in every facet of the game. And don't let the score fool you, the Trojans led 49-17 before putting in the last players on the depth chart and giving up two touchdowns in the final 5:00. This game was over at halftime, something every one of the 81,000 fans at Memorial Stadium can attest to.

Here's my current top 5 teams, even if I don't have a vote in the AP or Harris Polls.

1) USC (probably not as good as Leinart & Bush's teams, but they can still win it all)
1) LSU (speed, speed and more speed.. and as we all know in football, speed kills)
3) Florida (quietly looking as dominant as anyone in the country)
4) Oklahoma (the Fiesta Bowl loss to Boise State has the Sooners booming in '07)
5) West Virginia (White & Slaton: enough said)

5) Kentucky stuns Louisville 40-34.
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(Courtesy: Lexington Herald-Leader)

Let me start by stating this fact: I am a proud graduate of the University of Kentucky. So, with that being said, I'm sure you can appreciate the joy I felt Saturday night as my Wildcats rallied to knock off the 9th-ranked Cardinals in the final minute. Not only did that victory snap a 4-game losing streak against Louisville, it also relieved some of the frustration built up through countless near misses and unbelievable defeats at Commonwealth Stadium for the UK faithful.

Two of the biggest collapses came against Florida in 1993 and LSU in 2002. Each time UK fans were ready to finally celebrate an upset of a top-ranked team, only to see the impossible become yet another reality of Kentucky football. I'm especially happy for the players and the coaching staff since they are the ones who put in the long hours of preparation for games each week. But my heart goes out to all the UK fans--myself included-- who felt as if they deserved a win such as this one as payback for decades of unrewarded faith in their team. Despite zero wins over a top-10 team and only two bowl game wins in 30 years, fans still poured into Commonwealth Stadium by the tens of thousands just hoping that this game would be the game. Thankfully, Saturday finally gave us That Game!

(Editor's note: 1993 was especially painful for me, because I had scheduled the party of all UK parties for after the game immediately across the street from the stadium--only to have the energy sucked right out of the night by Danny Wuerffel and Chris Doering. Heck, even the expected blowout would have been better than the last-second loss. We had 10 kegs waiting on ice, people!!)

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One other note from the UK/Louisville game: Andre Woodson outplayed Brian Brohm. The two state-born quarterbacks are a great story within themselves having grown up about 30 miles apart and competing against one another in both high school and college. But in the state's biggest game, it was Woodson who got the best of his more publicized counterpart. Brohm already owns a couple of wins in the Governor's Cup and he will likely still be the first QB chosen in next year's draft, but at least for one night in the commonwealth, Woodson's star shined the brightest.

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