Monday, June 27, 2011

NBA Draft Diary 2011

We spent Thursday night in the Thunderdome dungeon, intently watching the NBA Draft, and trying our hardest to compile a NBA Draft Diary worthy of your reading.  This is the third installment of our draft coverage and all have been met with positive reviews, so we figured why not try with basketball.  For all of you keeping track at home all three of our beloved local teams have done a nice job in all the respective drafts (Ravens don't count and they never will, you need multiple championships for this party).  98.6 % of this was written on Thursday night when emotions were raw and we were very distracted by the sudden resignation of Jim Riggleman.  (You should all know how we feel about that debacle, but if not why not give a gander.)  Therefore some of this may come off as crass, irrational, and borderline drastic but I assure you it is 100% truth.

Having said that, it's important to understand that this is without question the worst draft class in a decade, with a real chance at being worse than this unholy abomination, if you took the time to check, which we're hoping you did, you'll notice that 1 of the first 4 picks in that draft is still in the  This is a two horse race between Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams for the number one pick.  With the Cavaliers (which I believe should be the Clippers pick, HA, suck it Donald Sterling, Kyrie Irving and Blake Griffin on the same team, doesn't seem fair, but we'll never know.)  Either way Cleveland has 2 of the first 4 picks of the night; the first 10 picks are as follows:

1. Cleveland
2. Minnesota
3. Utah 
4. Cleveland
5. Toronto
6. Washington
7. Sacramento
8. Detroit
9. Charlotte
10. Milwaukee

For the lack of talent in the draft there are tons of good stories with the lockout guillotine looming.  First is, we know pretty much what Cleveland is doing with number 1.  Odds are Irving goes to the Cavs at number 1.  (First wrinkle of the evening, if Derrick Williams goes first, where does Minnesota go?  In past Drafts, the Timberwolves led by their incompetent GM David Kahn have taken three, YES THREE POINT GUARDS in the first 18 picks.  Quick tangent, in the 2009 Draft, let’s say they take Ty Lawson at number 5, who they ended up taking at 18 (and traded to Denver), then with number 6 they take Demar Derozan (who is stuck in the frosty basketball hell known as Toronto).  Pair those two with Kevin Love and you could have something....tangent over, back to what matters.  If Williams goes to Cleveland, Kahn will be looking at the two best players on the board in Irving and Brandon Knight who are point guards. Will he give in to his point guard fetish or will he reach and go with the Turkish wonder Enes Kanter?  The most important question on the DMV’s mind is can Ernie Grunfeld resist drafting another European whose name he can't pronounce? Since its Monday, we already know the answer here, but let’s pretend this is your 14th birthday all over again that was supposed to be a surprise.  But, Johnny was talking to Katie about the party, which was over heard by Robbie (who wasn’t invited) who then asked you about the party and asked if he could come.  You had no idea about the party so you went to Johnny and asked what the heck was going on. He said “yea dude we are having a party for you, it was supposed to be a surprise, so just act surprised ok?” Remember that? Yea, us too, so just play along when it comes to the 6th pick. Ya dig?

7:28 PM---2 minutes until the draft and we've already touched on the coming lockout, which is so ugly only 8 teams are making money out of 30.  I repeat, 8 teams of 30 are making money.  The incompetence of NBA owners makes the arrogance of NFL owners that much worse.

7:29 PM--- Fran Fraschilla says about Jan Vesely (guy the Wizards are most rumored to take)“this guy will win a Slam Dunk Contest before his career is out.”  Oh good Fran.  We already had this year’s Slam Dunk Contest Runner up in Javale McGee, so why not draft a champion?  If that’s what the Wizards are concerning themselves with then great, grand, wonderful!  

7:30 PM--- What is the deal with the old school theme of the draft tonight????  They’ve got clips of the players in speak easies wearing fedoras.   Let’s hope Nucky Johnson doesn’t storm in asking for his collections.

7:31 PM--- Tonight’s theme song is “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele. Great, as if this song hasn’t already been beaten to death. 

7:35 PM--- A graphic shows that Clippers had they not traded it away would have received the number 1 pick.  I say again, Irving and Griffin on the same team.  Really Donald Sterling, you couldn't hold on to Baron Davis for 3 more months in the season?

7:36 PM--- And here is the master of ceremonies, David Stern.  A little more charisma than Bud Selig, but a little less than a polished piece of poop.

7:40 PM--- Irving goes number 1.  Great pick for the Cavs, bad pick for Kyrie, because in Cleveland bodies of water spontaneously combust. Quick sidebar: Cleveland is one of the worst cities in the country people.  We have a story that will explain our deep hatred for this city, but that is for another time…and trust us when we say you will not want to miss it! What NBA scouts are telling us is 11 games at Duke is better than an incredible career at UCONN, interesting.  Will he be a top 5 NBA point guard?  That’s hard to say because he'll have to compete with John Wall, Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Chris Paul and Deron Williams, hmm good luck Kyrie.

7:41 PM--- Ok so Irving is off the board, and David Kahn and the T-Wolves are on the clock.  This is where it gets interesting, because we all know what Kahn is capable of.  If you don’t know, just read any article about the NBA written by the Lord of the Blog, Bill Simmons.

7:46 PM--- Kahn disappoints.  He makes a savvy basketball decision when we were all counting on him to make a decision on par with this disaster.  They take Derrick Williams, but where will he fit in on this roster? The Wolves have two players who play very similarly to Williams in Michael Beasley and Anthony Randolph.  Kahn also drafted Wes Johnson last year who plays the same spot as well.  Maybe slide Kevin Love to the 5 (he’s undersized and slow) and let Williams attempt to help define the new hybrid power forward position a la Blake Griffen.  Nice job there though Kahn, you've absolutely crushed any value Wes Johnson could have had on the trade market.  But hey you’ve got Rubio…

7:51 PM--- The Jazz tear our hearts out, and take Enes Kanter.  We now sit in a deflated room and quickly realize this sucks balls.  The Wizards should've been in the top 4 where the only real “studs” in this draft were and yet we slid to the 6th pick.   If the Wiz didn't have bad luck they'd have no luck at all.

7:57 PM--- The Fightin Gilbert’s throw the first curveball of the night and take Tristan Thompson out of Texas. Bit of a reach here; is Irving and Thompson a better pairing than Brandon Knight and Derrick Williams? Probably not.  We thought the Cavs would go with one of the big Euros, Jonas whatever his last name is or Jan Vesely.  Oh and by the way that sound your hearing is everybody in the front office in Sacramento punching themselves in the testicles repeatedly.  They missed pretty terribly on this one, if the Raptors don't take Brandon Knight he would've been there at 7, Knight, Cousins and Tyreke, it'd be the Kentucky/Calipari connection.  One more pick down, and Jan Vesely is still available (remember act surprised).

8:03 PM--- Jonas Valanciunas goes to the frozen basketball hell in Toronto.  Fun factoid Jonas Valanciunas' idol growing up was Arvedis Sabonis.  This is the most painful interview we have ever seen.  Jonas' 8th language is English and it definitely shows.   Ohh Jonas takes a nice, but subtle potshot at Chris Bosh. He will fit in very nicely in America with that swipe at Bosh.   Here is a new rule: we cannot have any nationally televised NBA function without making fun of the Heat.  

8:05 PM--- The Wiz are on the clock.  Only 2 more minutes until we draft Jan Vesely and the DMV collectively calls for Ernie Grunfeld’s head. 

8:07 PM--- It’s official.  The Wizards have taken Vasely (SURPRISE!!!) and he lays a big smackeroo on his girlfriend.  Sidebar: She is almost eye level with Jan and he is 6’11”.  She is without a doubt the epitome of a breeder. 

8:07.02 PM--- Jan Vesely has been a Wizard for 2 seconds and we hate him.  The John to Jan connection has begun in DC.  Give it two weeks before Ovechkin and Vesley are running through chicks in D.C, I can't say I'm excited about any of the above scenarios.  However, at 6'11" and the way he runs he could be a nice athletic complement to McGee and Wall.  Also Vasely just called Blake Griffin the” American Jan Vesely”......we could be sold.   It will also be hilarious when Blake Griffen teabags Vesely the first time the Clippers play the Wizards next season (if there is a season). However, with every Euro the Wizards draft it reminds us of the nightmare that was, Oleksiy Pecherov.  He was probably the 7th Euro at the time to fit into the Dirk Nowitzki type player, yea, how'd that work out?

8:08 PM--- Still unable to digest the selection of the chick from the Cezh Republic named Jan.  I sure hope she learns how to shave her legs and armpits.  I mean this is America, Jan.  We like our chicks smooth. What, this guy is a dude? Wow, fooled me.  We will call him Jan (like the lady in your mom’s book club) until he proves he is worthy of being called Yon.  Congrats, Jan you’re new nickname is  J.V. not because of your initials, but because that is your skill level. 

8:09 PM--- So Ernie Grunfeld has taken yet another foreign born player.  I guess he still has not learned from his previous mistakes of Pope Peter John Ramos, Oleksiy Pecherov, and Juan Carlos Navarro.  Well at least we will be in the lottery again next year.

8:10 PM--- We are so bitter. So friggin bitter.  I know hope springs eternal, but this one hurts. The best thing any of the analysts can say is that this guy will win a slam dunk contest, and he appears to be a good kisser.  Sorry, Jan we don’t hang those banners in the rafters of the Phone Booth.

8:12 PM--- Bismack Biyombo goes to the Bobcats and he is already in the Freddy Adu class where everyone questions his age.  If Bismack is 18 years old then Pippa Middleton wants a 3way with us because she is a huge fan of the blog.  Bismack is easily 26 years old people, even Dominican baseball players think this guy is lying about his age! Fran Frascilla can't say it enough about this guy having NO OFFENSIVE game, basically you're playing 4 on 5 offensively, and you want that halfway through the lottery? Good pick if you like defense, looks to be a Ben Wallace type, doesn't really matter, Charlotte still has a very bad basketball team.

8:18 PM--- Brandon Knight goes to Detroit—still scratching our heads on how he slid this far.  This is a great pick for them, very lucky he slid to them.  He's a combo guard but he may be too undersized to be a 2, but good size to run the point and can score thanks to that wet jumper.   Has Rodney Stuckey cashed his last check in Motown, or do they roll out two combo guards to run a team?  We can’t see that working so someone must go.  Stuckey could have trade value, and may be a nice fit for the Lakers?

8:19 PM--- Here is what we’ve learned from the draft after 8 picks:  This is the most boring draft we’ve ever seen, 4 of the top 8 picks are international players, and it does not stop being funny hearing David  Stern get booed every time he steps to the podium.

8:27 PM--- Kemba goes to Charlotte who is really going to benefit greatly from his services.  This guy is a ballsy competitor and a great scorer.  He is a dedicated leader who put his team on his back and led them to a Big East Tournament Championship and the National Championship.   This guy could be huge and as our wallets learned last March…DO NOT BET AGAINST KEMBA.

8:30 PM--- The Stormin’ Mormon (Jimmer) is officially off the board!!  He's going to Sacramento where he'll pair up with Tyreke Evans and Demarcus Cousins.  Should be interesting, because those three COULD NOT be more different.  Boogie and Tyreke love pre-marital sex and Jimmer is afraid of premarital sex. Jimmer plays worse defense than a rusty gate but MY GOD he can rain threes from the parking lot!  Good for Jimmer, maybe good for Anahei....I mean Sacramento.  

8:36PM--- Klay Thompson goes to Golden State.  Jerry West really like this guy, the only dude in the draft and in the nation that could shoot with Jimmer and not embarass himself.  Monta, it's been fun, but you're gone.

8:42 PM--- Alec Burks goes to the Jazz, very interesting pick here.  Lots of upside, can create his own shot, slasher type of scorer with a good handle.  Needs to improve his shooting, but a jumper for this guy could be pretty deadly, would open up his dribble game if people had to play him more honestly.  Interesting pick, maybe a bit of a reach.....maybe.

8:47 PM--- It is at this point we are having a spirited debate in the 'dome about how we feel about where the Zards should go next.  Right now GBG is the conductor of the Jan Vesely train, Tyler could be on the train but is currently in the station trying to haggle the ticket guy down into a better deal.  (Oh and one of the tumbling Morris brothers was just taken.   Camera pans to the other brother who is in tears of joy for his brother, verrry cool moment.)  Ok so like we were saying, Tyler is haggling the guy down, Jon is happily conducting the train, which leaves Ben…bitter Ben.  Ben is the toddler in the car with his arms crossed and is pissed off at the entire situation (or he is the career sub .500 manager with two Tommy John's to his credit that didn't get his option picked up.....too soon??)  Ben just exclaimed, “I’m not bitter, I’m just a jaded DC fan”.....hmm, he's might be on to something.

8:57 PM--- Marcus Morris goes to the Rockets, great pick, better story, I think the Morris brothers should switch and go to the others camp and see how long it takes to figure out who's who.  That sounds like an Olsen twins movie.  COME SEE MARY KATE AND ASHLEY AS MARCUS AND MARKIEFF IN TRAINING CAMP CAPERS: THE TWIN TOWERS.  We think it will take at least a year, because there won't be any basketball, hahahaha, GET IT!?!

9:00 PM--- Pacers take Kawhi Leonard..................................shit. This is the guy we wanted the Wizards to take, and he somehow slid all the way to 15.  (Leonard was traded to the Spurs later in the night.  The Spurs never make mistakes which only strengthens our point that the Wizards should have taken Leonard.)

9:13 PM--- Iman Shumpert goes to the Knicks...Knicks fans hate it, I love that Knicks fans hate it.  How drunk or flat out stupid is James Dolan?  He's not bringing Donnie Walsh back, but wants him to stay on as a consultant and help find his replacement!!!  Are you shitting me? Could you imagine interviewing your replacement for anything, like ever, for anything?  James Dolan, please, PLEASE stop holding the Knicks hostage.  Spike Lee's blood pressure cannot take you anymore.  

9:21 PM--- Chris Singleton goes to the Wizards at 18.  They did need to upgrade somewhere defensively; this guy is 6'9" and can guard 4 positions.  Not bad at all, if he can stand in the way of the Carmelo's, Lebron's and Amar'e's of the East, this is a good pick.  ACC defensive player of the year, has to count for something.......right?

Honestly, unfortunately, this draft was so bad it was hard to get to number 18 so we'll touch on what else the Zards did the rest of the draft, which was only one pick. In the 2nd round the Wizards took shooting guard Shelvin Mack out of Butler.   If you're a Pittsburgh fan this guy kept you up at night after the somewhat shocking loss to Butler in the NCAA tourney.  The Mack Daddy absolutely murdered Pitt and made my boy Brian literally inconsolable for days. The 'Zards  just drafted their backup PG for the next 5-7 years, gotta be happy with this pick.  With the selection of Shelvin Mack, somewhere in a Georgia high school gym Chris Whitney is smiling.   

The Wizards take a solid backup guard, a lockdown defender, and some European chick.  That is all we've got for you guys tonight, but we've got some good things coming for everyone so stay tuned!

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Rizzo Me This, Riggle Me That

The Washington Nationals have won 11 out of 12 and after a few years of pain, suffering, and down-right grinding it out, they are now finally one game over the .500 mark at 38-37.  And yet this is not the headline surrounding this team.  The headline is the selfish decision by Jim Riggleman to step down, and resign from his position of manager.  Are you kidding me Riggs?  The report is that the Nationals did not want to sign Riggleman to an extension (right now) so he became that little kid at the field who didn’t get his way, grabs his glove and goes home.  What are your players supposed to think Jim?  This team has fought their asses off to get to point they are at now, and their manager just up and quits because the front office won’t extend him right at this moment? I agree that Riggleman is underpaid, but I’m sorry Jim can you not afford to live off the $700,000 you are making this year?  I understand that you want to protect yourself and your family financially, but you have really shown your ass here. The front office is probably trying to sign the draft class, that everyone agrees, is probably in the top three in all of the Major Leagues, basically trying to give YOU better players so you can rehab your managerial image. Trying to capitalize on a one game over .500 record, and then walking away after not getting an extension is just juvenile.  You no longer have the Nationals job, nor will you ever manage a big league team again.  No player in that locker room has any respect for left Riggleman, and no other GM can trust their team in the hands of Riggleman again...
The previous paragraph was written last night when the news first broke about Riggleman stepping down.  It was also written as we watched the Wizards draft Jan Vesely over Kawhi Leonard OR anyone else not named Jan Vesely so emotions were very raw!  The dust has settled a bit, and some more information is coming out on what went down between Riggleman and the Nationals.  So it’s only fair to allow some time for cooler heads to prevail.  Jim Riggleman was grossly underpaid by major league standards and definitely deserved to at least have his option picked up. He took over this team from Manny Acta in the middle of the 2009 season when no other manager would go near that roster.  The Nationals were a pedestrian team under the Riggler for the most part, but he really instilled a team-first attitude (isn’t that ironic? Don’t cha think Alanis?), and finally got the Nats playing winning baseball.  He had every right to be upset, and feel disrespected, but come on Jim how do you walk out on your team midseason over a contract? 
Jim Riggleman is a local guy and claimed that managing a professional baseball team in D.C. was his dream job, so there must be some underlying aspects to this situation that we don’t know about.  Had Riggleman gone to ask Rizzo multiple times for a contract extension? Does Mike Morse hit bombs that take longer to land than a MIR shuttle mission? The answer to both questions is yes.  Some of the quotes that filtered out yesterday made it easy to believe that maybe there was unrest in the locker room and Riggleman may have been losing his grasp on the team. 
From Riggleman (about his resignation) on MASN: "You know, some of 'em, it's probably the best news they could've got today..."
There could be something more to that, but we are not the ones in the locker room so that is all speculation for now.  What we do know is that Riggleman felt disrespected by Mike Rizzo and the front office because they never would commit to him for more than a year, and as many of us can relate, that is not a good working environment.  Would you feel comfortable at your job if your boss refused to commit to you for more than one year at a  time? This is where we can start to understand Riggleman’s decision, but we still do not agree with walking out on 25 people who went to war with you.
 Riggleman is a strong self-respecting guy who stuck to his guns, you’ve gotta respect a guy with balls like that. Riggs believed so strongly that he was being disrespected that he was willing to walk away from his dream job in the midst of a very promising season.  He was very proud to call the Nationals job  his dream job and maybe Rizzo and the front office took advantage of this by knowing they could continually low ball Riggs and continue to have a manager at a discount.  So in that sense we respect Riggleman for standing up to a front office who disrespected him (cough* cough* Jim Zorn) and clearly did not appreciate him. 
There are going to be a lot of blogs, articles, etc. written that rip Riggleman (like our opening paragraph!), and rightfully so because this truly was a selfish decision and there are 25 players in a locker room who were feeling really good about themselves and now they are stunned. Talk about a glass case of emotion! I really hope this isn’t a distraction for this team for too long, and they can turn the page on the whole situation and keep up this winning baseball that has been so much fun to watch. 
Many are saying Riggleman has committed career suicide and he will never work in baseball again.  This decision may have cost him another shot at being the manager, but he is a baseball lifer and has a lot…I repeat, a lot of friends still involved in pro ball and he will undoubtedly be on someone’s staff next season. 
Now on to the major problem here, Mike Rizzo.  That’s right we’re taking on the General Manager of the Washington Nationals.  If you have read any of our other articles you would have noticed that we are always taking personal shots at the Riz and with no explanation. Well now is the perfect time to reveal our reason for such venom towards the General Manager of D.C.’s baseball team.
It was a balmy summer night in 2010, and we ventured into the heart of downtown D.C. to an awesome little irish pub aptly named “Irish Times”.  Bryce Harper had been drafted a few weeks before, and Strasburg was carving up the N.L. and vibes around the Nats were very positive.  We were sipping on some beers, catching up with some college friends, when we see this group of older dudes saunter into the bar.  They were loud, raucous, and clearly a bit tuned up.  Then all of a sudden, a glare hit us right in the retinas like when the sun bounces off someone’s watch.  But it was night time so that glare was not from the sun, but a combination of an overhead light and one very bald cranium.  This cranium belonged to none other than Mike Rizzo.  We got pretty pumped and decided we would buy the Riz a beer, shake his hand, and just thank him for the hard work he was putting in with the Nationals.  I mean does anyone need a pat on the back for having the balls to select two phenoms in back to back drafts? Of course not, but we are avid D.C. sports fans and we just wanted to show our appreciation for a job well done.  We purchased the beer and were walking towards the Riz when his geriatric entourage stepped in front and stopped us.  We tried to reason with these guys and told them we were Nationals’ fans and just wanted to buy Rizzo a beer and let him know we appreciated his effort.  Rizzo looked up and just waved his hands as if to say, “Nah guys move along.” His posse relayed the message as if we did not see the direct slap in our faces and we were shell shocked.  Words were exchanged, fingers were pointed, and eventually Rizzo’s cronies told us that the Riz did not have time for us.
Doesn’t have time for a couple of fans? That’s absurd! No one in the bar, nay the town could pick Mike Rizzo out of a police lineup, yet we recognized him and thought it was so cool that he would be in the same bar as us.  From that point on no matter what Rizzo did he could never redeem himself in our eyes.  That just sends a bad message to the fan base, that the fat/bald general manager did not have 30 seconds (at the most) to spare to drink a free beer and humor a couple of fans.  His buddies began pushing us aside and Rizzo was forever a lost cause.  This is exactly what Rizzo did to Riggleman, Riggs asked to have a conversation about a new contract after the game and Rizzo stonewalled him like he did to us. We wouldn’t be surprised if Rizzo didn’t even acknowledge Riggleman, and he sent the same old fogey cronies down to Riggleman’s office. Hypothetically speaking here, If Anthony Weiner had a love child with John Edwards; Silvio Berlusconi then had a lovechild with O.J. Simpson; then these two lovechildren had a child, this kid would still not be as big of douchebag as Mike Rizzo. 
So when Mike Rizzo goes out to a bar, he ignores fans and does not have time for them.  But when Jim Riggleman goes out to a bar the same night he resigned from his dream job, well that’s a horse of a different color. 
(Photo courtesy of Eric Bickel’s twitter account @EBJunkies. Bickel is a co-host of the Sports Junkies on 106.7 the fan)

"Yea, I was at Caddie's solving the world's problems." -Jim Riggleman on the Sports Junkies this morning

In summation, Riggleman wanted at least to have his $600,000 option picked up for next year and maybe discuss a contract discussion, and Rizzo continually rebuffed and refused to discuss the extension with Riggleman.  The writing was on the wall for Riggleman so he stood up for himself put all his chips on the table and went all in. 
 And Mike Rizzo is a colossal d-bag, who stiffs his fans, and disrespected his manager by never removing the interim tag on a guy who did in fact deserve an extension.  All in all just another day in D.C. sports where nothing ever surprises us anymore. 
This article was written with more emotional mood swings than a pregnant chick, but thank you for sticking with us throughout!
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Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Tribute to the Big Man: Clarence Clemons

by Ben

“When the change was made uptown
And the Big Man joined the band
From the coastline to the city
All the little pretties raise their hands
I'm gonna sit back right easy and laugh
When Scooter and the Big Man bust this city in half
With the Tenth Avenue freeze-out”
-Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out By Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

There is a dark cloud hanging over the music world today.  Fans of rock music everywhere are mourning the loss of one of the most unique sounds in the industry.  Clarence Clemons, a.k.a. “The Big Man” from Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band has passed away due to complications from a stroke at the age of 69.  His loss is immeasurable for his family, the band, and the millions of adoring fans who erupted every time the Big Man filled the sold out stadiums with the sounds of his saxophone.  

The E Street Band has one of the largest and most loyal followings in all of rock and roll and it stems from all ages.  I come from the younger generation of the E Street Hooligans and I did not really appreciate The Boss and his band until I was in high school.  Growing up I always heard “Born in the U.S.A.” on the radio on July 4th, but never thought anything of it other than there is that loud dancing guy sweating buckets again.   This all changed when I was at an Orioles game in the summer before my junior year of high school.  This was the year (2004) Lee Mazzilli was managing the team so there aren’t many fond memories for Orioles’ fans, but one of our lone bright spots was Brian Roberts and his ability to smack doubles and steal bases.  I was at the game with my dad and B-Rob stole second base and “Born to Run” started flowing from the sound system, and my head instinctively started bobbing, and my foot started tapping.  I turned to my dad and asked “who sings this again?” I said “again” because I knew I should know who sings it, but I had no clue and didn’t want to make it seem like I didn’t know. Then Dad gave me the “I’m-not-mad-I’m-just-disappointed” face and said “Ben, this is The Boss.” And he slowly turned back to the game with this look of disgust on his face.  Well you better believe when we got home that night, I looked up Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s greatest hits on Amazon.  I printed out the track listings, loaded up LimeWire, downloaded the whole dang thing and burned myself a copy.  That same summer I was playing for a travel baseball team and all of our games were at least 45 minutes away.  We played 4-5 games a week and I played that CD on my way back and forth for every game.  I went from being a casual fan who knew a couple of songs, to someone driving with the window down, the Boss blaring, and my hand smacking my car door to the beat while I bellowed all of the lyrics at the top of my lungs.  It should come as no surprise to those who know the Power of the Boss, but I had one of the best stretches of my baseball career.  No one could get me out that summer, I mean I was raking.  Some contributed this success to all the extra swings I was taking in the cage or the time I was putting in the weight room.  I firmly believe it was the 18 songs I would listen to before and after the games that just put me in the right mind set, one of relaxation, happiness, and contentment.  Baseball players are very superstitious, so every summer after that, and every long bus trip in college I made sure I had my collection of E Street Band songs on my iPod to get me relaxed and ready for gameday.   

There are so many stories like this all over the E Street fan base and it is a tribute to a band that gives everything to their fans night in and night out.  Up until my college graduation I had really only heard the band’s songs from their albums.  Sure I had a couple of their live songs on my iPod, and always thought man these guys sound badass live, but never thought anything more of it.  It was the afternoon of the day before graduation and I was hanging out on my buddy OD’s balcony and a couple of us were slapping a bag of wine like it had talked back to us in public.  OD leans over to me, and goes “Dude wanna go see The Boss with me on Monday night?”  I did not hesitate, I did not ask how much the tickets were, and I did not ask who else was going, I just flat out said yes! I then chugged merlot out of a plastic bag and slapped it with excitement.  I probably should have asked OD these aforementioned questions because the tickets were not cheap, especially for someone one day out of college, and I ended up being the 5th wheel on a double date for OD and his girlfriend, and her sister and her husband.  Would this information have changed my decision to go to the concert? HELL NO!  I was just too stoked to finally get to see the E Street Band live.
Let me tell you the concert was amazing.  They went for 3 ½ hours straight, with no breaks, and a 30 minute encore.  They opened with Badlands and the place went bananas.  The energy never stopped from the stage to the rest of the crowd; the Verizon Center was buzzing for the whole night.  Bruce was Bruce, the epitome of a show man, dripping with sweat and just bouncing all over the stage.  Stevie Van Zandt was shredding all night and doing his best sidekick impression, and Max Weinberg provided the percussion like none other.  Niles Lofgren, Patti Scalfa, Roy Bittan, and Gary Tallent all did their part too. But The Big Man was the fan favorite.  Anyone who has ever seen the E Street Band perform live knows how much Clarence meant to the band and to the fans.  During Tenth AvenueFreeze-Out (go to 3:27) Bruce introduces every band member to the audience and no one…I mean no one gets as big an ovation as Clarence. The Big Man steals the show whether it’s a goosebump-inducing saxophone solo in Jungleland or Tenth-Avenue Freeze Out, his backbone of the band sax sounds in Badlands or Thunder Road, or his deep baritone background singing Out in the Streets (5:20).  There is just something special about an E Street Band concert, but even more Clarence really brought something special even when the ever mounting health issues forced him to sit on a stool or sometimes even a wheelchair during the concert.  He knew the songs were simply not the same without him, and he knew he was needed every night.  I do not know if the E Street band will tour again (I sure hope they do!) but I do know it will not be the same.   

Clarence was a gentle giant on the stage and the fans adored him. The friendship between Clarence and the Boss was obvious and awesome.  They were two best buds doing what they loved and they got to share it with millions.  They sang together, they would dance together on stage, and they looked like two guys who knew they had the best jobs in the world and did not take any of it for granted.  

Clarence, thank you for the music. Thank you for the art.  Thank you for the performances that only you could give.  Thank you for the goosebumps that I always get when I hear the start of “Livin in the Future”.

We all have our personal memories of the Big Man, and even though he is gone he will forever live on in the music he helped create.