El Rushbo Vs. The Rams (El Rambo?)

October 15, 2009

I try to avoid Rush Limbaugh like the plague.  Certainly, from time to time, I’ll catch a few minutes of his show while heading out to lunch or feeling a little masochistic, but for the most part I try to keep my distance.  It’s no secret that I dislike his viewpoints (despite having been his biggest cheerleader when I went through my “rebellious conservative” phase in middle school), but it goes deeper than just disagreement… I find him generally irritating.  With that in mind, you can imagine how pleasant the last week of football talk has been around my house.  It’s bad enough to be forced to accept the fact that it’s impossible to make it through a week without hearing some loony quote attributed to the man on The Daily Show or even the “real” news, but now the blowhard has done the unthinkable.  Rush Limbaugh has invaded ESPN. Read the rest of this entry »

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Today is a Day for Goodbyes

July 7, 2009

Today I did something rather unexpected, something that I haven’t necessarily done before and something that I would have initially thought to be a little strange. Today, I shed very real tears over the death of a celebrity… a man who I never once met, exchanged a word with or embraced personally. Yet, for some reason I found myself overcome with emotions.

As a child, I was (like nearly every other child of my generation) infatuated with Michael Jackson. Frankly, it was impossible not to be charmed by a performer electric enough to captivate the world in the way that he did on such a constant basis. I clearly recall hearing Thriller for the first time, injuring myself on two separate occasions imitating dance moves (the roller skate-collar-lift in Bad and of course the lean in Smooth Criminal), and at one point so thoroughly exhausting my cassette of Bad that I began listening to the Weird Al version just to get some semblance of a fix. However, while all of those events still remain fresh in my mind, none of them seemed significant enough to have such an effect on me today, as a rather cynical 29 year-old.

Then came this afternoon, when things began to become more clear. Like over one billion other residents of this turbulent, warring world, I paused my life for two hours to pay tribute to a man who stood taller and larger than any entertainer before him. A man whose contribution to society was so much greater than himself that his passing was met with governments in silence, with mourning in every imaginable language and tears from the eyes of every race on earth. A man whose societal impact warranted sympathies from presidents and kings, from world leaders and common people, a great equalizer that left the same sense of sorrow and loss in the heart of Nelson Mandella that it did someone like myself. While I spent the morning questioning exactly why I felt so moved by this day, the afternoon and the ceremony that followed seemed to put things in perspective.

When I was in the sixth grade, Black or White was simulcast on four different networks (earning Fox its highest ratings share in network history). This move was clearly unprecedented in the history of music video, and as a result, Black or White was the talk of the entire nation on the following Monday morning. Like offices and construction yards worldwide, sixth grade classrooms were certainly not oblivious to discussion of the video, the event, and the surrounding controversy. The next day, during a break in Ms. Whisman’s class, a conversation began in my small corner of the room. I can’t recall the exact group in question, but I do know that one of the involved parties was a young man named Jeffrey, a good friend of mine and somewhat surprisingly (to anyone reading this outside of rural Eastern Kentucky) the only African-American friend I had ever encountered. Jeffrey and I were fast friends upon being thrown into the same classroom in middle school, but throughout my elementary school years I had never actually encountered anyone of a different race.

As the conversation swirled over the video, many of my fellow sixth-graders began to chime in with the standard sixth-grade responses. Michael Jackson was “a queer,” Michael Jackson was “weird,” but even at that age I could understand that there seemed to be something more being said. Finally, as I tried in vain to explain (in the best way that a sixth-grader can) that Michael Jackson was awesome, Jeffrey finally burst into conversation. All of these years later I can still see his face yelling, “You just don’t understand Michael Jackson! When Diana Ross found him he was eating out of a dumpster in Gary, Indiana! If you wonder why he might want to look more like her it’s because she saved his life! You just CAN’T understand Michael Jackson!” At that moment I realized that I clearly didn’t understand that part of Michael Jackson, and as my classmates dismissed the outburst I began to feel something that I couldn’t quite describe. While I was too young to understand it at the time, looking back on the occasion I now realize that I was experiencing my first incident of soft-racism and racial tension on display.

Years later I found myself in a rather tumultuous relationship with what would become my first “real” girlfriend. She was a few years younger than me, and I had gone on to high school and longed for a career as a DJ. My first (and only) actual party gig came in the form of a middle school dance, which I eagerly embraced not only as an actual “gig,” but as a chance to spend some time with a girl I was certain that I loved, but whose parents were rather determined to keep me at a distance. As the dance wound down, and slow dances became a necessity, I decided to play what was then a rather unknown hit from HIStory, the future single You Are Not Alone. As the evening closed, realizing  that she had grown tired of sitting next to me at a table (and not dancing), I threw a bit of caution to the wind and took her hand to dance (remember, this was my first and LAST gig as a DJ). As we danced one of the very few dances we would ever dance as a couple, a feeling of genuine happiness came across both of our faces… and for one moment in time we were perfectly happy. Not just happy, mind you, but that special kind of happy that can only come between the ages of 14-16, and only then if you’re truly lucky.

For years thereafter, Michael Jackson was a constant background player in my life, whether I realized it or whether I didn’t. Whether it was a song on the radio, a sample in a popular song or a cover by some obscure rock band, I was always delighted to hear Michael’s music. However, like most of the rest of my generation, I became jaded and dismissive of his talents, falling under the spell of the tabloid media. I allowed myself to lose focus on the man and the music which had so shaped my life, eagerly gobbling up the latest “news” story about strange behavior. I made every joke, spewed every crass remark and rabidly participated in the machine that worked so tirelessly to destroy the life of a man who had given so much of himself to the world around me.

Then something happened.

Somewhere around 2005, I began to lose a great deal of my cynicism. I had begun a relationship with a new woman, one who I was certain was to be the absolute love of my life. Whether real or imagined, that love caused me to part ways with much of what had defined my character for the better part of a decade, and through that process I began to rekindle my love of Michael Jackson. As I would make trips to and from Lexington, I would frequently listen to my personal collection of his “greatest hits,” a mix I had dubbed C’mon, You Know You Love Mike. As those days evolved into this day, Michael Jackson once again became part of my life… years later and countless sagas after he first entered my life as a zombie (and first as a werewolf, who scared the fuck out of me as a small child).

So, today I sat quietly and observed for the final time a man who has defined my life in ways that I never really understood. As I watched more than one billion people worldwide gather together to celebrate his life and share stories of their own, I felt an incredible sense of guilt. I felt guilt deep in the pit of my stomach. I realized that, without proof or provocation, I had joined the great salivating mob. I realized that I had been an ungrateful consumer of his genius, quick to mock his inner turmoil for the sake of a cheap laugh. I realized that for many years of my life I had repaid the man who provided so much growth for me personally and so much goodwill for the world at large with scorn and disapproval. As I sat watching his oldest daughter fall to pieces, describing her wonderful father, that guilt became an incredible shame.

And at that moment, with a heart filled with memories, guilt, love and shame, I began to cry.

I shed a few tears today, not for Michael Jackson, but for what we have all become. From his birth until his death, Michael Jackson represented a type of child-like innocence. His world was void of the cynicism and heartlessness of modern society, insulating himself from what the rest of the world had become in the only ways that he could. To the rest of the world this behavior seemed so astounding, that it could only be described as “weird,” or something to be mocked as openly and frequently as the ordering of a Coke at your local restaurant. As these thoughts came over me I realized that while I’d often thought of myself as somehow superior to this “freak,” I was actually the freak in the equation. Michael Jackson was, aside from the most astounding entertainer in the history of the world, perhaps the last good soul left among us. Unfortunately, we did the only thing we seem to do well in this society… we worked triple shifts in an unstoppable effort to destroy him.

So, tonight as I lay me down to sleep, I’m making myself a promise. While I will undoubtedly fail from time to time, I am going to make a conscious effort to cast off the needless shell that surrounds so many of us. I will approach people more openly, be more tolerant, be more accepting and above all else, reserve judgment at all costs. I can’t help but feel that if Michael Jackson could leave one legacy in this world, it would be that very idea.  As I say goodbye to Michael Jackson, I say goodbye not only to his legacy but to what was left of my childhood, and hopefully to what was left of my early 20’s.

Oh, and for the record, Barbara Walters just informed the audience of 20/20 of a “little known fact: Michael Jackson was actually discovered by Diana Ross while living in Gary, Indiana.” Thanks Jeffrey, wherever you are tonight, you helped me almost scoop Barbara Walters.

An Open Letter to Jodie Meeks

June 4, 2009

Dear Jodie,

It’s hard to really determine whether it seems like yesterday or a lifetime ago since you made your first appearance on the court. In a game against Lindsey Wilson, on the day after my 27th birthday, we got our first glimpse at who you were and what you were all about… and were very pleased with the results. That year you managed to blow away all expectations, become one of the premiere freshmen in the game and lay the foundation for a true legacy in the history of Kentucky basketball.

While your sophomore season may have been a bit of a disappointment, injuries are just a part of the game. Everyone knew that your heart was in it, but when your body won’t allow you the chance to prove it on the court, there’s just nothing more that can be done. Of course, I don’t have to remind you of the ways in which you redeemed yourself last season.

I could spend the next few minutes rattling off stats and telling you that your draft stock could only improve after a season under John Calipari. I could explain to you that the next season could be the thing that turns you from a “very good” NBA prospect to an “elite” NBA prospect. I could easily try to fill your head with such things, but you’ve heard them all before. In fact, as far as basketball goes, there is absolutely nothing that I can offer up in an attempt to keep you in Kentucky blue for one more season.

However, there is one voice that you may not have had the chance to hear as clearly, the voice of the fans.

I realize that asking you to forego a shot at the NBA is quite a request, especially considering the rather rocky run you’ve had here in Lexington. Asking you to return would put you in a very unique situation, having played at that point for three different head coaches while wearing a Kentucky uniform. No one in the modern era has any idea how that feels, and no one could expect it to be the kind of thing for which you signed on. Tubby Smith brought you here, and you were left helpless to watch the ne’er do wells of the state happily escort him to the airport. The athletic department replaced him with an arrogant, condescending prick, who quite understandably sucked the joy out of the sport not only for you, but for your teammates. In short, Jodie, the University of Kentucky and the UK fans haven’t lived up to your expectations.

Things can change. Things will change.

In John Calipari, the University of Kentucky and the fan base spread across the world seems to have found their soul-mate. In John Calipari, you may have found the mentor to lead you to the next level. I don’ want to sugar-coat anything, as I have too much respect for you to do so. It’s possible that you don’t click with Coach Calipari’s new offense (although I find that highly unlikely), it’s possible that you sustain a career-ending injury in the next season, it’s also possible that a tornado could fling a LexTran bus into your body while walking to the arena. Life is full of uncertainty, and while any number of bad things could happen, the positives seem far more likely.

Another year in Lexington may be good for you, but for those of us who have been in your corner since day one it would be heaven. Your presence and your leadership could elevate the 2009-10 Kentucky Wildcats to a level that we could never have imagined just a few short months ago. For all that you have endured, for all of the dedication you have shown to this program, the idea of watching you cut down the nets in Indianapolis would rank among the most spectacular basketball moments I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing. The thunderous applause during Senior Night, honoring your contribution to Wildcat history, would be unlike anything we’ve heard in years… echoing from one corner of the state to another.

Whether you decide to stay or decide to go, just know that you will eternally be regarded as one of the truly special players in Kentucky history, not just to me but to all of the Big Blue Nation. Your determination and will to win in the face of such adversity has made your career as a Wildcat the stuff of legend even now, and with one more season and one true shot at total redemption, it could become Kentucky’s greatest moment. Whether I next see you on the court at Rupp Arena or under the house lights of some glitzy NBA franchise, just know that you will always be among the truly great representatives of the Kentucky tradition. Not just in my lifetime, but in anyone’s.

Sincerely,

Cory Graham, Jodie Meeks Fan

One Whining Moment

May 29, 2009

Today, a few hours removed from the brou-ha-ha that has become the Memphis basketball scandal, the clouds are beginning to part.  While the initial headlines grabbed attention and attempted to convict John Calipari of everything from kidnapping the Lindbergh baby to starting the Chicago fire, the reality of the situation is far less damning than the media would currently have us believe.

For what currently seems like an eternity, I’ve listened to ESPN broadcasts and various news sources prattle on about this “eighteen-page letter” sent to the Memphis Athletic Department featuring “major allegations” against the Memphis basketball team.  We’ve re-hashed a collection of flimsy-at-best charges against John Calipari, raining on the parade of blissful Kentucky fans and perhaps worst of all, we’ve had to endure Pat Forde skulking around the greater Lexington area in what I can only imagine is a trench coat and a fedora, carrying a magnifying glass.  I’m sorry Mr. Forde, but I’ll take a pass on the ethics lessons from a writer who may or may not have served a two-month suspension from the Courier-Journal for trying to submarine the UofL basketball program just to further his own career. Read the rest of this entry »

Cory’s Annual NFL Mock Draft

April 24, 2009

Each year, my mock draft grows a little larger and a little more ridiculous.  It began four years ago with speculation about potential rookie talent.  The following season the mock evolved into a top ten, before morphing into a top ten with additional “sleeper” picks.  This season I have gone completely mad, creating an entire mock draft of the first round.

I’ll warn you in advance, this draft was created before Philly traded picks to Buffalo, before the Jay Cutler saga played out and before any draft-day madness that could otherwise trade picks around in a frantic attempt for half of the league to pursue Mark Sanchez.

I went a different route this year, suggesting what I would do if left to run an NFL franchise.  This isn’t an actual prediction of how the draft will go, but rather a collection of decisions that I would make if I was put in charge of every NFL organization for a few hours. Read the rest of this entry »

The Clay City Combine… BEHOLD!

April 23, 2009

The dust has settled on the inaugural Clay City Combine, shattering a few dreams and creating heroes from ordinary men.  From this sprawling lawn in rural Kentucky, the National Football League, and perhaps the game itself has been forever changed.  Well, maybe not, but at least we have an idea of how bad we truly are.

Since Kevin was in charge of the general run-down of the day’s events, complete with the story of how such an awesome/asinine event could actually come to pass, the burden is on yours truly to evaluate the talent and release scouting reports for each individual gladiator.  With the actual draft nearly upon us, and time being a factor, I will simply cut to the chase. Read the rest of this entry »

Triumphant Returns

February 24, 2009

It certainly won’t come as a shock to any regular readers of this blog that I’ve been on a rather lengthy hiatus over the past few weeks and months.  While it wasn’t necessarily intentional, it was self-imposed and born out of a busy schedule, major life developments and (perhaps most importantly) general laziness.  I’d been putting off returning to blogging for a while, waiting for the moment to signal to everyone that a major change had taken place in my life and to mark that moment as my return to this site.  After a mountain of effort, that day has finally come.

At the first of the year I bid farewell to the place I called home for nearly seven years, settling into a new place and beginning a new chapter in my life.  Gone are the smoky rooms and polka-dot walls, gone are the often treacherous stairs and the strolls to McKinney’s, but most importantly, gone is the rectangular room that held more memories than any of us could ever really imagine.  For the better part of a decade, I called 55 8th Avenue my Clay City home.  I shared some of the absolute highest and lowest points of my life with many of you within those four walls, shared moments of triumph and moments of disaster, but most importantly I shared a kind of youthful camaraderie that will live on forever, if only in my head. Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrity Voters in Lexington!

November 4, 2008

It isn’t just your Regular Joes out there hitting the polls in Fayette County today!  A keen eye and a DVR later, we have photographic evidence of a real-live superstar in our midst.

matt-votes

That’s right, world-renowned master chef Matthew Combs has been spotted casting a ballot (we can only assume for the good side) via WLEX 18’s news cameras!  Way to go, Matt!  Get down with some democracy!

Cory’s Big Bag of Election Predictions!

November 3, 2008

It’s finally here…

24 hours from now we will all be glued to our televisions, watching results pour in and dozens of news anchors (including some neat hologram people if you’re watching CNN) and analysts scour the data at their fingertips. We’ll be pleasantly surprised, terribly disappointed and tense as all hell as we watch the greatest political theater in the world evolve in front of our eyes. There are no highs and no lows quite like the emotional involvement that comes with loyally following these campaigns from their birth, through the triumph and the tragedy, and then finally to their inevitable conclusion. It is the highest form of non-fiction drama, an epic saga playing out in front of our eyes with an incomprehensible budget and a cast of millions.

For me, the night before an election is far more stressful and concerning than even the night of the election itself. The cases have been made, the early votes cast and there is no more room for error… no time for damage control. If at 9:00 AM tomorrow morning a story surfaces that convinces the electorate that either candidate has fathered an illegitimate child with a space alien, there is simply no way to dispute the claim or control the spin – those ideas are going into the booth. So, to take my mind off of potential extra-terrestrial affairs, I have decided to spend some time this evening running through some scenarios and exercising my mind (and exorcising my demons) as a means to maintain some level of sanity.

First of all, let’s look at what could go wrong for the Obama campaign, complete with a “Danger Factor” to illustrate exactly how scary I consider these scenarios (on a scale of 1-10). Read the rest of this entry »

New Rules…

October 22, 2008

I’m sure that most of you are familiar with the Bill Maher segment that closes each week’s program, “New Rules.” In case you aren’t, it’s a weekly series of decrees coming straight from the mouth of Maher, informing us of the things we are no longer allowed to say or do in polite society. I’m a fan of the show, I’m a fan of the bit, and I’m a big enough fan to directly steal it on this blog entry. Remember, Mr. Maher, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery… and lawsuits aren’t fun for anyone.

So, here I present to you my new rules, born out of the 2008 Presidential Election. Things that I just simply can’t stand to hear one more time from either side, that may just cause my head to explode upon repetition. Crimes against humanity that are so vile, so unspeakable that the perpetrators deserve no less than confinement in GITMO for the rest of their lives… or one night in a Mexican Prison. Read the rest of this entry »