Special Trash Talk: Frank Zappa and Opera Chorus. Really.

Pretty much everyone I know sings along with their favorite music. I started singing along with music my folk liked, and then pop stuff, Beach Boys, Beatles, the usual. In the summer of 1966, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention released their first album, Freak Out. I stumbled on it in late 1967, and soon knew all the songs, and bought Absolutely Free and learned those too. They got me through ROTC summer camp, singing a few bars of Plastic People while stupid marching for miles.

Plastic people
Oh, baby, now you’re such a drag.

Or a few bars of Call Any Vegetable.

Call any vegetable
And the chances are good
That a vegetable will respond to you.

After I got out of the Army I bought several more Zappa albums, including Cruising With Ruben and the Jets and Fillmore East — 1971. But then law school and part-time work, and dating, and my time for serious listening shrank to near zero.

And then I met my wife. She loves opera, so we saw every one produced by the excellent opera theater at Indiana University, which has a full-fledged opera venuevivace. The first opera we saw was Wagner’s Parsifal. I saw most of the first tune in each act, and zoned out for the rest. But I went back for more.

Eventually we wound up in Nashville, TN, where some of the leading supporters of the arts established an opera company in the mid-80s. We saw Madama Butterfly, and a couple of more, and then I found myself in the chorus for Il Trovatore, singing in chain mail. tights, dark make-up, and wielding a three-foot long steel broadsword. I was hooked. Not so much on operas per se, but on opera chorus singing.

It’s not like singing in Church Choirs or Symphony Chorus, which I have also done. In those settings, you listen closely to your neighbors and try to blend your voice with theirs. Good technique is a plus, but most amateur choirs are made up of, well, amateurs. In opera chorus singing, you sing with your full voice including vibrato. The blend comes from singing the exact same pitch on the exact same vowel for the exact same length of time. And you do it from muscle memory, singing near the top of your power, while moving, bending, swinging a heavy sword, riding a ten-foot tall barrel wheeled by your comrades, dancing, or, sadly, just standing and singing, which we call park and bark.

What’s the connection to Zappa? As I see it, opera treats the human voice as a primary instrument. The operatic voice is a trained instrument, capable of a wide range of timbre, power, and expression. Operas are spectacles, with sets, costumes, orchestra, and driven by over-the-top emotions. The voices are the critical part of the spectacle, carrying the emotions up. And that’s just like Zappa’s music: spectacular, relentless, and full of emotion, mostly anger, but also ribald or just fun, and the human voice is a critical part of that emotional ride.

Many of his songs feature his band singing instrumental tunes or making vocal noises. On Absolutely Free, you can here a typical bits in several pieces, both sung with words and with vocal sounds. Here’s a short example, Amnesia Vivace. On Fillmore East — 1971 the group performs what amounts to a smutty opera in the extended piece Mud Shark. Bwana Dik is a full-fledged if short aria; it’s at 14:55 here. Zappa had recruited three former members of The Turtles, and they were real singers. Here’s a very strange bit, John Lennon and Yoko Ono join Zappa and the Mothers of Invention starting at about 1:30, featuring Ono shrieking like a hungry cat while Lennon sings a mindless song backed by the Mothers, who put in their own odd vocal bits especially at about 6:50.

To illustrate the difference between chorus singing and opera singing, here are performances of perhaps the most famous operatic chorus song, Va Pensiero, from Verdi’s Nabucco. (Translation.) First is a performance by the chorus of the Teatro Al Fenice in Venice in concert. Compare it to this performance by the Metropolitan Opera Chorus. And for good measure, here’s a Zoom performance in commemoration of Italy’s losses to Covid-19.

One of the main functions of opera choruses is to provide some life to what might otherwise be static. For example, in a typical production of Wagner’s Flying Dutchman, when the baritone meets the soprano, they stand on opposite sides of the stage and sing for about 20 minutes. But the opening of Act 3 is thrilling to sing, and the chorus is asked to perform a standard role, the drunken sailor.

One of my favorites is Brindisi from Verdi’s La Traviata. The chorus is clearly part of the action, attending a fancy dress party. They sing two choruses, and then sing an instrument-like accompanying part at the end.

One more: this is from Act 1 of Puccini’s Turandot. It demonstrates the difficulty of singing opera chorus. Maintaining sound quality while moving, waving your arms, dropping to the floor and then trying to find the conductor because the orchestration is absolutely not helping is hard. Perhaps you can imagine the pleasure that comes from singing these songs with your friends.

So what’s your favorite sing-along music? It’s Trash Talk so don’t be shy about your jonesing for Tom Jones!

The Emptywheel Fabulous Car Blog! Formula One and Car Flicks

So, we shall take a brief respite from the fabulous music blog this weekend to bring you a fabulous car blog. Off to the races!

There has been a shake up in the F1 force. And man is it palpable. By the end of the last circus, it was quite clear that management at Ferrari had come to consider young Charles Leclerc as their number one driver, over four time World Champ and presumptive number one, Sebastian Vettel. It was no secret on the paddock from the people I still talk to. Vettel knew it, Leclerc knew it, everyone knew it. It has so come to pass. The 2020 season driver stables were already set, and they will continue as such. But for the 2021 season, which is now well less than a year away, big changes are afoot.

Vettel is out at Ferrari, and Carlos Sainz is in. Sainz is very, very good, and his family has a rich history in motorsports. He is commonly viewed as a very good pilot, but one hampered by less than first order equipment, and I think that is right. Sainz will have that kind of car now. He and Leclerc will make for a great, and energized young team. That is something Ferrari is not usually known for, but this is a great move, and one for the times at hand. Sainz is leaving McLaren, who is poised to replace him for 2021 with Daniel Ricciardo. This is also a great move for McLaren, who sign up a true number one driver, with numerous F1 wins and podiums, to pair with the still quite young, but promising, Lando Norris. Take note: for 2021, McLaren starts getting Mercedes engines to pair with their already ridiculously good chassis. Don’t sleep on McLaren.

Where do the rest of the chips fall? Now there is the great unknown. Vettel is a four time champ, can he find a home at all? Sebastian can still drive, you would think so, but that is up in the air. Do Hamilton and Bottas stay as a team for 2021? My guess is yes, but that is also a question. The F1 season was supposed to kick off in March with the Australian, but the Covid thing put the kibosh on that. It is tentatively scheduled to start with Austria in seven weeks, maybe for two races, and then Siverstone with two races. They are desperate to get at least a fifteen race schedule in, if possible. And will there be fans in the stands? Initially, it looks like no, but stay tunes.

Okay, since not everybody knows F1 as well, we are tossing in car movies for this weekend. There are a litany of great ones. You know what you have seen and appreciated over the years. I am going to throw out a few of my favorites just to get the ball rolling. They are by no means exhaustive, and not necessarily in a perfectly ranked order.

Grand Prix _ John Frankenheimer’s 1966 opus is the gold standard. It is a tad long, but the characters gritty and the performances beyond fantastic across the board. The driving scenes are some of the best ever, as well as John’s innovative use of split screen, a legendary move.

Vanishing Point – From 1971, and calling it a cult classic is not giving it enough credit. Spectacular and haunting in a myriad of ways.

They Drive By Night – Directed by Raoul Walsh and starring George Raft, Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan and Ida Lupino. It is both a driving movie and film noir, both at their best. Fantastic.

Two Lane Blacktop – This movie is great. The genius is obvious. Really, you have to see it, and while James Taylor is surprisingly good, keep your eye on Warren Oates, in a legendary performance. Duel from the same year, generally considered to be Steven Spielberg’s first full movie. is very good, but Two Lane Blacktop is better.

It Happened One Night – There has to be room for at least one comedy here, and this is it. Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert are simply perfect, as is the story. Capra and Cohn at their best. Walter Connolly darn near stole the show.

Some honorable mentions in no particular order: Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, Thelma and Louise, Used Cars (Kurt Russell and Jack Warden were fantastic. A real sleeper, even if a low budget one), Baby Driver (seriously great and a must watch).

Okay folks, rip this joint with your thoughts!

The Fabulous Emptywheel Music Blog: Little Richard

Things come, and they go. And we all do sooner or later. Today, Little Richard passed. I once heard (no, I have no idea where) Keith Richards say, and I am paraphrasing only slightly, “Chuck Berry wrote all the rock and roll songs”. Paraphrasing or not, that is about right. But he should have included Little Richard.

And now Richard Wayne Penniman is gone, There have been rock performers as big, sure. But few as seminal and important as Little Richard. He was, and stands, for everything rock became in his and Chuck Berry’s forever wake.

As Rolling Stone said:

“In 2004 Little Richard wrote a profile of himself for our Immortals issue. He explained why he was so dangerous at the time — because was the first black artist whose records the white kids were starting to buy”

Yes, along with Chuck, that is exactly right. So, a little bit of Tutti Fruity for the weekend.

On another sad note, I was lazy and did not put up a thing last weekend. But our Roving Reporter Rosalind wanted to acknowledge a friend. And we shall do so now. The Covid deaths are real, and they hit home to one and all. So, a few words from Rosalind:

“While we are surrounded by sadness at the growing number of people losing their lives to Covid-19, we mourn also the everyday deaths that take away friends and family. Today I honor my longtime neighbor, Sam Lloyd, the hilarious character actor best known as the lawyer “Ted” on Scrubs. We had side-by-side parking spots at our Hollywood apartment building and caught up with each other regularly heading in and out. Beyond being one of the nicest and funniest human beings, he possessed a gorgeous singing voice, featured regularly with his four-part harmony group “The Blanks” on Scrubs. The tributes to Sam on twitter from all around the world show how far his comedic and musical powers reached. We are so fortunate to have a world of re-runs to keep us smiling, and his memory alive.

For me, I will always remember standing in line at the grocery check-out stand when Sam suddenly rushed up and asked if he could cut in line. He was headed to a show with The Blanks and realized his Commando Action Figure’s batteries were dead (those lucky to see The Blanks show in person know the Commando Action Figure is a highlight of their set). I of course let him in, and he threw down the cash and ran out batteries and Commando Action Figure in hand. Rest in peace, Sam.

Such is where we are at today. The world is going crazy and you wonder if anybody gives a damn anymore. Here, we do. Thank you for doing so along with us. There will, of course, be others. But Little Richard was special. RIP.

The Fabulous Emptywheel Music Blog: Setting The Scene

Okay, alright, enough of that live music stuff. This weekend, off another suggestion by Emptywheel Roving Reporter Rosalind, let’s do music documentaries! These are her remarks:

Music Documentaries (NOT films of live concerts). In 2019 there were several docs I watched that hit the music EW demographic sweet spot, including:

Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice
David Crosby: Remember My Name
Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind
Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool
Boy Howdy: The CREEM Magazine Story
Mr. Jimmy – story of a Japanese guitar player who takes his Jimmy Page hero-worship to a whole nother level
Echo In The Canyon – Laurel Canyon music scene, 1/2 OK interviews w/various musicians, 1/2 self-indulgent concert featuring Jakob Dylan performing boring versions of the originals.

The Gordon Lightfoot and Miles Davis docs are ones I would never have thought to seek out and sparked a whole new level of appreciation for the two. The footage of their early musical lives is really something.

Rock on.

The Linda Ronstadt one is truly fabulous. I’ll have to look for the Gordon Lightfoot one, but have always loved him. Heard Carefree Highway long ago, and that sits awfully special to people here that actually drive on the Carefree Highway (yes, it really exists).

I’d like to add one music documentary to Rosalind’s list: Super Duper Alice Cooper. It is truly fantastic. You may think “eh, I dunno, that’s crazy”, but it is really good and, I think, available streaming online. And, yes all crazy, but those were the times back then, it “was” crazy.

Also, because this will invariably morph into the greatest music documentaries ever, let me throw in a couple of Scorsese classics: The Last Waltz and Shine The Light.

So have at it, whether music, the NFL draft or whatever. This weekend’s scene setting music is…..You Set The Scene by the incomparable Arthur Lee and Love.

Arrrr Matey, There Be A New Bucco In The Bay

Marcy is penning all kinds of smart posts today, go read them. But as this is now a sports and music blog, I have an incredibly important update.

The Gronk is back! And he is going to join Tom Brady in Tampa Bay.

The Patriots have agreed to trade Rob Gronkowski to the Buccaneers, pending a physical, in a deal that reunites the retired tight end with Tom Brady in Tampa Bay.

Gronkowski’s agent Drew Rosenhaus confirmed Tuesday to ESPN’s Adam Schefter that his client was traded to the Buccaneers.

“Pending the physical, Rob has agreed to play for Tampa this season,” Rosenhaus told Schefter. “He will honor his current contract at this time.”‬

Gronkowski, who turns 31 next month, has one year and $9 million remaining on his current deal with the Patriots. New England will receive a fourth-round draft pick while the Buccaneers also receive a seventh-round pick in the trade, a source told Schefter.

Gronkowski already has taken his physical in Boston with a neutral physician, a source told Schefter, and is awaiting the official results. One source added to Schefter that he believes Gronkowski passed “with flying colors.”

Most Receiving TDs From Tom Brady

The 78 touchdowns Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski connected on were the most in the NFL from 2010 to 2018. They are also twice as many as Brady has thrown to any other player.

PLAYER TDS
Rob Gronkowski 78
Randy Moss 39
Julian Edelman 36
Wes Welker 34

Tampa Bay was the only place that Gronkowski was willing to play, a league source told Schefter. The Boston Herald first reported Tuesday that Gronkowski asked the Patriots to trade him to the Bucs.

This is exciting. At a time when there is no live sports news, this is huge. It would be huge even if there were not a lockdown on live sports. And, please keep in mind that the coach of the Bucs is Bruce Arians. Few here short of Scribe probably know exactly what that means. I do, because Arians was the gruff and engaging coach of the Cardinals for several years before his short lived retirement.

Arians lives by the motto of “No Risk It, No Biscuit”. In short, he believes in taking the top off and opening up the entire field. Neither Brady nor Gronk have ever had that, and they are made for it. TB12 will have a few more interceptions, and he and Gronk will have a hell of a lot of fun. The Buc’s wideouts, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, were already seriously fantastic. Tampa did not even have to give up tight end OJ Howard (though, with Gronk on board, they likely will for even more help. Watch for it).

This is an absolute steal. Bill Bel needed the salary cap room desperately, but, still, this is a steal. A fourth rounder for as good of a tight end as ever played? And the Bucs get a seventh rounder thrown in too? Jeebus.

We have no idea if, when or how the NFL will return to play. But when they do, Tampa Bay is going to be seriously fun to watch.

Coming Attractions: Emptywheel Live Music Trash Talk

Hi there. I mentioned it previously, but without live sports, and the trash talk we often do and it is hard to see any of that anytime soon, Emptywheel Music Trash Talk is an idea long discussed, but the time may have come. Listen, this would be a kind of dead period anyway. The Boys Of Summer would still be in spring. The NBA and NHL seasons that seem to go on forever, would not have even been close to their playoffs. And don’t start about football, at best that would be over four months away.

So, I started a thing about maybe having some trash talk about music. It was an afterthought that caught more steam than I anticipated, even though I had considered it for many years in one form or the other. Probably would have happened this weekend, but for some unfortunate dental experience that left me a bit daff. But, additionally, I have to figure how to do this, as people will want to post a lot of You Tubes in comments, and that is a bigger concern than you may think.

Assuming my dentist gets me off of the painkillers, maybe this can go off Thursday or Friday where everybody can lob in over several days. In the meantime, Pink Floyd Live At Pompeii will always make the cut of the best. The 2016 Gilmour version, even not as iconic as the original band, but back at the ancient grounds…likely will not, but it is beyond freaking fantastic. Get ready to get live, get ready to rip up this juke joint.

Until we meet again…..

Super Bowl LIV: Who Will Party With The Lombardi

Super Bowl Sunday this year is a special day? How so you ask?

How’s this for a calendrical trifecta: Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday. And it’s Groundhog Day. And it’s a rare eight-digit palindrome when written as 02/02/2020 — the only one of its kind this century.

A palindrome, as you might know, is a sequence that reads the same forward as it does backward.

Apparently the only palindrome in recent memory. But also Groundhog Day too (when will that inanity give way)? If you want to add some other calendar stuff on, 2020 is also a leap year.

We will get to the last NFL game of the season in a minute, but first a couple of quick things.

First, in the middle of the night last night, there was a stunning Women’s Final in the Australian Open. Barely 21 year old American Sophia Kenin, who slayed media darling Coco Gauff in the fourth round, and then world number one Ash Barty in the semi-finals, in straight sets, was also victorious over two time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza. And she did it with quite a bit of aplomb. Lost the first set, and then took over. Kenin may be around a while, get used to the name. And, if you can catch a replay of the match, do it. The announcers universally thought a star was being born, and they might well be right. It was something.

While Kenin was a breath of fresh air early this morning (the Aussies are in a far different time zone), last night was the first Lakers game after the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gigi, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli and Alyssa Altobelli, Christina Mauser, Sarah Chester and Payton Chester and pilot Ara Zobayan. The Staples Center was purple and blue, and, given the obvious emotional difficulty, it was all beautiful. LA and the Lakers got it right. The videos are out there, take a look. The tributes, music, and sometimes combination (the cello guy during the video tribute was spectacular).

Okay, on to the Super Bowl we go. There are, as always, a lot of weird “proposition bets”. I don’t really get into that, but here are a bunch of, um, interesting ones. The current overall Vegas line is vacillating between 1 – 1.5 points, with that historically slim line in favor of Kansas City.

So, what’s the deal? Lol, I dunno. But, in the long run, balance and defense wins. KC has the more explosive offense, but that is partially because they have had to rely on it, and Mahomes, so often to climb out of holes. On the other hand, they have been able to do so, and especially impressively so in the playoffs. The 49ers are different though. The SF defense starts with that they basically only rush the front four to create the havoc they do. Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead are relentless and really good. and with Richard Sherman and Mosely patrolling the secondary, the Niners are extremely solid.

The Chefs, however, while having a winning defense are nowhere near as consistently solid as SF. Frank Clark is not a beloved character in the NFL, but he is extremely good as a pressure point. Chris Jones and Tyrann Mathieu are first team all pro worthy types in the secondary. Honeybadger was here in Arizona his first few years and, when healthy, which he is now, he is a big play game changer of special talent. And as good of a player as he really is, he has grown up to be an even better person. This is a great piece in the WaPo on Tyrann:

For all the new plans and pieces, Kansas City’s defensive transformation began with the player teammates still love to call the Honey Badger. Mathieu is a storm of calculated mayhem, a worker bee who wakes up at 5:45 each morning and a heat-seeking missile who can line up or strike from anywhere on the field. He has changed the Chiefs in elemental ways with his all-pro performance and his mere presence.

“He’s a special person,” Chiefs General Manager Brett Veach said. “It’s really hard to explain the power someone like that has unless you’re actually in the building. . . . You have to get talent. You have to build a deep roster. You need corners, and you need rushers. Until you get a catalyst, it’s hard. You need that one guy that will make everything go. He’s certainly that guy. To have him on our team has meant everything to us.”

Again, what do I think? First off, what I think is beyond irrelevant anywhere but here. Secondly, I am a dope. So, given those caveats, here we go. Honeybadger can sit and snipe on Jimmy G enough, or the Niners O-Line gives Jimmy G the time that San Francisco’s D-Line does not afford Mahomes. I have no real idea, but with betting no real money, I think….think….The balance on the Niners is better and wins. No, I do not feel good ab out that pick.

As a parting note, today’s music is Heart playing Stairway To Heaven at the Kennedy Center for the remaining members of Zep, assorted dignitaries and President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama. To say it is stunning is a gigantic understatement. I had never seen it before last night, when I stumbled on it by accident. WOW. Shared it with numerous friends and the universal reaction was still WOW. It is that good, especially when the choir/chorale kicks in. It is soooo good. Check it out. I was almost lifetime tired of Stairway to Heaven before I saw this, and was immediately mesmerized. Yeah, it is that incredible. And if you want full screen, just click to embiggen it.

Rock and roll, and enjoy the Super Bowl!

Championship Sunday Trash Talk

Last Sunday of football before the Super Bowl, so only two games today. We’ll get to those in a minute, but since there are only two, I thought I’d throw a couple of other topics out for discussion too.

You’d think the Trump impeachment would be the biggest news for the weekend, but it got a serious run for its money from the Royal split-up. Harry and Meghan are out, and not out in some kind of hybrid duty arrangement, but just out. They will still be the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, but no longer possess any “Royal Highness designations (seems kind of like a distinction without difference, but the Brits seem to take it seriously), and will do no more official work at all for the queen. They will no longer get money from the Royal Trust or whatever, but that was very little of their funding anyway and will still get from whatever personal trust Prince Charles doles out, which is apparently a lot. And will earn some of their own too, how is unclear. And they will maintain possession of their UK home Frogmoor Cottage (apparently one hell of a “cottage” but will have to repay some money that went to renovation of it recently. And, maybe most notable, they intend to spend a lot of time in North America, sounds like British Columbia is the likely place for that, which also puts them in easy reach of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. I don’t really have too much interest in all this, but a stunning amount of people do it turns out.

Second is, of course, impeachment. The House Impeachment Managers filed their brief yesterday afternoon, and it is here. It is over 100 pages and is extremely well done, supported and argued. That is the House’s main trial brief. Team Trump made a filing yesterday as well, but it is only a six page boatload of stupid that veers into ludicrous and awful. It is here, and reads like Trump himself authored a lot of it. And it is really only an answer to the impeachment articles summons. The Trump trial brief will be much longer, and is due tomorrow, so yesterday’s filing is NOT their final word before the proceedings begin.

Okay you can also talk about anything else you want of course, but enough of the other stuff, let’s get to the football.

First up is the Titans at Chefs. The Titans are simply a better team than people think, and they caught lightning down the last half of the regular season and playoffs. Derrick Henry is just a beast, but I expect KC’s defense to try and contain him and make Ryan Tannehill beat them. Tannehill has played well enough in their first two playoff games, throwing for TD’s, but not throwing often, and not for many yards (as in 160 yards combined over this two wins). He is going to have to do a lot more today, because Pat Mahomes looks back to full speed and Jesus can he and KC’s offense put up a lot of points in a hurry. Odds started out plus 10 in favor of the Chiefs, but are down to 7 now. Sounds about right.

The second game is the rejuvenated Packers at Santa Clara to visit the 49ers. Green Bay is a lot better team than the one that got absolutely smoked 37-8 there earlier in the year. I think the Pack defense can do some things against Jimmy Garropolo and the Niners, but they better watch out for those quick hitters in the middle, and that is not the best part of the GB defense. That is a problem. Packers offense is much improved as of late, especially with Devante Adams back at full speed. But the rest of the receiving core is not exactly going to light anybody up with the possible exception of Aaron Jones out of the backfield. And that is a problem. Rookie Nick Bosa is just a freak for the Niners’ defense, he is seriously good, and Dee Ford is back from injury and a handful too. And then there is always Richard Sherman in the secondary, and he always comes to play in big games. Packers O-Line has been playing fairly well, but they are fragile as to in game injuries. They will have to be great today. Current line favors the Niners by 7.5, and that sounds about right too. If this game was at Lambeau on the Frozen Tundra, I would be very tempted to take them in an upset. But not in the Niners’ crib.

Since the Royals are all over the news, today’s music is The Royal Scam by Steely Dan. Tilt a pint or two and have some fun.

College Football Championship Monday

Monday is the fun day this extended football week. I intentionally did not put this in the Division Weekend post. Oh, and as to that, as usual, my off the cuff picks were not, shall we say, exactly right. You get what you pay for. Niners won as expected. Cool! But the Titans totally clocked the Quoth the Ravens. Did not see that coming! Chefs looked moribund and cooked, and then went on a roll like I have never seen before. Goofy, but got that right. I really thought the Squawks would upset the Pack. But Lambeau and Rodgers held on. That was my upset special, and, boy, was I wrong.

Enough of those bygones, tonight is the, at long last, college championship. LSU and Clemson. Both 14-0. Hard to see how either could be more impressive at this point. Clemson has not lost a game in two years. That would be 29 games in a row. That is stupid good. And they are not only defending champions, Clemson has won it all two of the last three years. And did so on the back of Nick Saban and the winners of the world (thanks Steely Dan!) Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide.

So, coming in undefeated, after an undefeated championship year last year, makes the Clemson Tigers the absolute favorite, right? Nope. The “other” Tigers, the ones from LSU are unquestionably the favorite. LSU’s QB, Joe Burrow, won the Heisman Trophy. And he deserved it and by the biggest margin in history, which he got. If both came out for this spring’s draft, who goes first? A year ago it would have been unconscionable to say anybody but Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. Not now, the Bengals will be taking Joe Burrow at number one.

So, what’s up tonight? Yeah, I dunno. Some of the newer people here seem to be slow learning that my picks are nominally common sense and mostly follow standard logic and odds. And that I rarely gamble with my own money. I still have a house, because I have never bet it.

Sooooo…….Tonight! The Tim McGraw song ESPN opened their coverage with was pretty damn good. As a red blooded gut, nowhere near his wife, Faith Hill’s, SNF opener. Sorry folks, that one from nearly ten years ago seriously rocked.

As to the game. The right two teams are clearly playing. LSU seems, qualitatively, the much better team. But how Ohio State ever got seeded ahead of undefeated defending champs Clemson is seriously insane. To the point of being a joke. People like to make fun of the diminished relevance of the PAC-12, but the Big-10 has been overrated bullshit since I was a kid and any random 7-3 PAC champion regularly kicked Bo and Woody’s ass in the Rose Bowl. But, wait, I digress….

Tonight LSU is favored, and they should be. Joe Burrow is the real deal. Trevor Lawrence is too, but, wow, Burrow has been insanely good. Both can throw. Both can run too. Both defenses are really good. Dabo Swinney has the hardware. But how can you not simply lover the Ragin Cajun Ed Oregon?

I have no prediction, just hope for a game that can live up to the moment as potentially one of the best ever.

It all rolls in Nola, and let there be good times rolling. So, some gumbo music from an old friend Janiva Magness (one of the finest blues singers you have never heard of) playing zydeco with her Louisiana pal Tab Benoit (who is fucking great by the way).

NFL Divisional Playoff Weekend

The wildcards have been played, and resulted in a couple of surprises. The Vikes took out the heavily favored Saints in Nawlins, and the Titans took out the Pats in Foxborough. The latter less shocking given how well the Titans played closing out the regular season and how poorly the Pats did.

But now we head into the Divisional rounds. I found this from PFT kind of interesting:

In 1990, the NFL expanded the playoff field from 10 to 12 teams, resulting in four (not two) teams earning a bye. More often than not, the home team that has had a week off wins. But the road teams still have a chance to get lucky.

For the 29 postseasons since the change was made, the home teams have swept the divisional round eight times. That’s 27.5 percent of the years utilizing the 12-team format. So in 72.5 percent of the years since the current formula was adopted, at least one road team has won in the divisional round.

Specifically, 13 times the home teams have gone 3-1 in the divisional round. Seven times, there has been a split. Once, in 2008, the visiting teams won three of the four games.

In the 10 seasons from 2005 through 2014, the road teams had a remarkably good stretch, winning 16 of 40 games (40 percent). Over the past four postseasons, however, the home teams have gone 13-3 collectively.

All four home teams are favored to win this weekend, as they usually are. In the 30th year of the current format, chances are at least one will lose. One of these years, all four will.

Regardless, the home teams are more likely to feel the pressure. Some could be feeling a little rusty. And one lucky punch early in the contest could turn a potential blowout into a close game, and if the game stays close into the fourth quarter, anything can happen.

If there is an upset of a home team, which game or games will it be in?

The first game up today is Minnesota at San Francisco. Obviously the Niners have the top seed in addition to home field today. The Vikes looked extremely good against the Saints. Their defense is really solid, and Kirk Cousins playing very well. Dalvin Cook gives them a well balanced offense, and SF is likely to focus on Cookand make Cousins try to beat them. Can they do that? It may be easier said than done given that Minnesota’s O-Line is good. There is certainly upset potential here, and there is history from the 1988 game where the Vikings bounced the heavily favored 13-3 Niners in SF in the Divisional round. It could happen again, but not betting on it.

The second Saturday game is Tennessee at Baltimore. The Titans are on a pretty solid roll ever since they switched from Mariotta to Ryan Tannehill at QB. They are a good team, especially when Derrick Henry gets untracked. But not predicting an upset of the Ravens today.

First up Sunday is Houston at the KC Chefs. Up to six inches of snow is expected in KC today, although should be well over by tomorrow’s kickoff. Ground crew gonna be busy, and there are heating coils under the field, so they should be good to go. Frankly, I have a hard time seeing the Houston offense keep up with Pat Mahomes and the Chefs. And with Honey Badger Mathieu now on the Chiefs instead of the Texans, decent bet he has given some advice to KC as to how to defend Deshaun Watson.

The final game of the weekend is the Squawks at the Cheeser’s. The Pack is my favorite team going back to childhood, and my trusty cheesehead that Phred gave me is out and ready to roll. The Packers’ defense is sneaky good, with free agent pickups Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith really anchoring the D-Line, with the always good secondary still there. Seattle is no longer really the Legion of Boom it once was, but they are still very solid. So the outcome probably turns on who has the better offense, and who plays better, Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers. The Frozen Tundra is going to be cold as ice, and the Packers have already put out a call for people to show up at 6 am Sunday to help shoveling out the stadium. This is the kind of game Beast Mode is made for, and Russ Wilson too. As much as I hate to say it, I fear this is the real upset special of the weekend, and I think the Squawks likely do just that.

Okay, rock and roll, and have a great weekend full of great football. Speaking of rock and roll, this weekend’s music is a fantastic little piece, Slippin and Sliding, by John Lennon. People forget how good Lennon really was at rockers. Give it a listen, and crank it up.

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