A Pig and a Horse and a Prince

jerome15While looking at land for sale in central Rensselaer County this past weekend, Marcia and I saw an amorous pig vigorously making love to the rear leg of a bored-looking draft horse.

“Mauve,” said the horse, as we passed. “I think I will paint the barn mauve.”

But that’s not really what I wanted to write about today. What I really wanted to write about is what we might build if we did indeed buy some land out there beyond Passionate Pig Pastures.

Were it up to me and me alone, I would build a stone tower. I would be very happy to sit in my tower dropping rocks on unsuspecting passersby and generally making a community nuisance of myself.

It would look something like the picture at left, with me on top. This has been an image that I’ve carried deeply and resonantly since early childhood. I got it from a book called Jerome, by Philip Ressner.

Jerome is a prince who does princely deeds. You can see him standing at the base of the tower, if you look closely. He would be the frog.

The character at the top of the tower is a wizard. I think I liked him as a child because he had “yellow eyes and mean ears.” My eyes are actually green, but the ears fit, and I wear them. Meanly.

I sincerely, without a shred of hyperbole, believe this to be the greatest children’s picture story book ever written. Or drawn. The lessons it taught me about problem-solving and self-identity and sly humor and the joys of childhood are very central to my adult philosophies and worldview.

If you’d like to read and see and marvel at the rest of Jerome, you can find a complete scan of it over at the bottom of this page (Note: link broken, alas! So you need to go find a hard copy of the book at Ebay or Amazon. They are out there) along with another appreciative remembrance of it. The colors, language, and overall design are incredibly delicious, and I smile every time I look at it.

We actually found a potentially viable 13-acre lot with a great creek running through it after we passed by Horny Ham Acres, so if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get to work looking for some tower designs. Watch your head.

The Beatles Never Broke Up

You need to check this out, and do it quick, before the Estates and Attorneys That Be pull this most magical of mystery mashups off of the internets. This may well be the most inspired piece of audio terrorism and collagery ever crafted. Seriously wonderfully sublime. Especially for a passionate Wings fan.

My Ten Most Memorable Concerts

I’ve been digging through a lot of my old Metroland era concert reviews to support some ethnographic research I’m doing for school. It has been fun to be reminded of so many shows that I’d forgotten I had actually attended, and I’m grateful to have an archive of fairly detailed thoughts about them to paw through, 15 years later. But as these forgotten shows were being restored to my memory banks, it got me pondering which of the thousand-plus concerts I’ve attended since the mid-70s sat at the opposite end of the spectrum, in the most memorable, least forgettable pile. I jotted down some notes over the past couple of weeks as memorable things flitted across my mind, and did a little web research in parallel to confirm some dates, and have come up with this list of My Ten Most Memorable Concerts, in chronological order from oldest to newest.

Jethro Tull, UK
October 1979, Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, New York
I saw Tull a couple of times before this show, which was in support of their Stormwatch album, and was the last tour to feature stalwart members John Evan, Barriemore Barlow and David (now Dee) Palmer. A couple of nights before, Ian Anderson had been hit in the eye by a rose thrown from the crowd, and he performed in sunglasses, and took the stage only after an announcement warning the audience that the show would be immediately terminated if anyone threw anything. I was surprised to learn from my concert program that David Pegg had assumed the bass position, replacing John Glascock, who was ill. A month later, I heard on WLIR that Glascock had died, tragically young. Openers UK featured prog-rock paragons John Wetton and Eddie Jobson, as well as ex-Zappa and future-Missing Persons drummer Terry Bozzio. I liked them a lot, because I knew who they were, though most of the crowd apparently didn’t, and those that did were probably disappointed that Bozzio had replaced Bill Bruford and Alan Holdsworth had gone missing since the last time UK had toured. I remember this Tull show more than any of the others, because of the bittersweet transitions that took place around it. And because they were playing harder and better than at any other time in their history, with the possible exception of the Anderson-Barre-Cornick-Bunker-Evan era, which occurred before I was old enough to be a concert-goer. Darn it.

The Tubes, The Plimsouls, The Outlaws
July 1983, Plantation Music Park, Trenton, North Carolina
I had to research this one to make sure it actually happened. Surely I must have been dreaming or hallucinating to think that I once saw shock-rockers the Tubes, skinny-tie new wavers The Plimsouls, and old school country-rockers The Outlaws on the same bill, at an outdoor dirt track type of venue, right? Wrong: it really happened, and it was one of the most insanely incongruous musical experiences of my entire life. I remember being packed in the crowd up front with a couple of friends from Jacksonville, in stupendously hot and humid conditions, barely dressed, wondering how in the hell Fee Waybill and company were surviving up onstage with their costumes on and light show baking them. They just don’t book shows like this anymore, and more’s the pity.

Butthole Surfers, Spot 1019
December 1987, 9:30 Club, Washington, DC
I saw the Surfers probably a dozen times in Washington, DC and Athens, GA during their hard-touring, mid-80s period, with the most memorable shows generally taking place at the original 9:30 Club at 930 F Street in Washington. This one was in the latter days of Jeff Pinkus’ stint as bassist, and after the double-drummers and naked dancers had been dispensed with. What was left was an amazing musical experience without as many distractions. Spot 1019, who I hadn’t heard of before this show, were a great, sympathetically enthusiastic opening band, and their song “Milk Bomb” remains one of my all-time favorite tunes to this day.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
November 1990, Gaston Hall, Georgetown University, Washington, DC
If I had to pick an all-time best and favorite concert, this would probably be the one I would choose. Gaston Hall is an incredible place to see a show, filled with dark wood, Gothic fixtures, and Catholic iconography. It was the perfect setting for Cave and his freshly-retooled Seeds to roll through their heart-felt, spiritual and moving new album, The Good Son. Marcia was with me for this show, as was Katelin, in utero. A couple of songs into the set, a black-clad girl rushed the stage and grabbed Cave’s hand, and he sang the remainder of the song with her clinging to him, moving from side to side as he paced the front of the stage. As she disengaged, the rest of the crowd left their seats and pressed forward, drawn by his palpable charisma. High point: Cave and Blixa Bargeld swaying, arm in arm, while singing the dark duet ballad, “The Weeping Song.” It was literally electric.

Mike Watt, Six Finger Satellite
October 1995, Bogie’s, Albany, New York
I adored the Minutemen but, alas, never got to see them live before D. Boon’s unfortunate demise. I didn’t much care for fIREHOSE, Watt’s first post-Minutemen band, so was excited to see him embark on his first solo tour in ’95, and doubly pleased to learn that he was coming to Albany. I had no idea what to expect, and this sense was doubled when amazing openers Six Finger Satellite delivered a blistering set of hard, synth-driven rock, anchored by some truly superior drumming. Watt’s band featured stellar guitarist Nels Cline (now with Wilco, or at least the last time I checked), backed by a pair of drummers. They blew the lid off the joint, capping the evening with a riveting take on Funkadelic’s seminal “Maggotbrain.” I’ve seen Watt half-a-dozen times since this show, and he’s always good, and always entertaining, but this gig was a pinnacle point for me.

Rush
October 1996, Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, New York
The first time I saw Rush was at Nassau Coliseum in the 1979 to 1980 range, when they made the tragic mistake of letting Good Rats open for them, and got well and thoroughly dusted by the home team. I wasn’t as much of a Rush fan at that point, as it was their early ’80s albums that worked best for me, and then got me to go back and listen to the back catalog again, more appreciatively. Fast forward to 1996, when, after years of dutifully dragging opening bands around the country, paying back karmic debt to the bands that dragged Rush around in the ’70s, Peart, Lee and Lifeson finally decided to undertake an “evening with” type tour, where they filled the whole evening with two, long sets. The first show of the tour was here in Albany. I interviewed Neil Peart a couple of weeks before the gig for Metroland, and he noted that the longer format was going to allow the group to do things they’d never done live before, like playing the entire 2112 suite as it was recorded for vinyl, not as it had been truncated for the concert stage over the years. I called my Rush-fanboy college room mate, Jamie, to let him know what was going on, and he cashed in some frequent flyer miles to come up to Albany to see 2112 played live in its entirety for the first time ever. It was a gloriously over-the-top show, and the sound of 16,000 people screaming “salesmen!” at the appropriate moment was giggle-inducing grand. Years later, watching the protagonists in I Love You, Man building their bromance over a shared fondness for Rush, I could totally relate. But I will punch you if you tell anyone.

Misfits
June 1997, Bogie’s, Albany, New York
I didn’t have particularly great expectations about seeing the post-Glenn Danzig lineup of the Misfits, featuring Michale Graves, Dr. Chud, Doyle Von Frankenstein and founding bassist Jerry Only, despite Only’s insistence when I interviewed him that this was the biggest, baddest, best version of New Jersey’s finest horror rock roadshow ever. But then I got to Bogie’s on a hot summer night, and got properly lathered up by a series of opening bands (I’m pretty sure Albany/Troy’s Stigmata was there, but don’t remember the others), and was standing front and center when the ‘fits began to work their corpse-painted magic. I can’t tell you exactly why, but it was the greatest, most intense and insane moshpit experience of my life, and I’ve been in a lot of them. The Misfits played a long, energetic set, and I never left the pit, except for when a girl near me passed out, and I helped carry her to breathing room behind the stage. How vigorous was this show? I weigh myself every morning, and over the 24-hour span when this concert took place, I lost eight pounds. Now that’s memorable.

The Clay People, Section 8
October 1997, QE2, Albany, New York
There were a couple of national bands opening and headlining this show, but they were negligible and unmemorable compared to what went down between them. I had seen the Clay People open for Biohazard a month or so before this show, as they were transitioning from an electroclash approach to a more metal attack. At the Biohazard show, they’d been a six-piece with on-stage keys from Alex Eller, but this night at QE2, it was down to a quintet of Dan Neet, Dan Walsh, Dan Dinsmore, Mike Guzzardi and Bryan McGarvey, and they were on fire from git-go to get-gone. I was up in the rafters of the venerable Q’ in my reviewing spot, a colleague who I shan’t name paralyzed next to me from what appeared to be unexpectedly powerful pot, gently moaning as the music pummeled him into jelly. The Q seemed to be far over-packed, with bodies flying everywhere, and people hanging off rails and stairways everywhere you looked. Section 8, for their part, also delivered the greatest set that I ever saw them play, and their more hardcore-inflected fare literally turned the joint into a human blender, meat dancing everywhere. This would probably be my all-time most memorable small venue gig, a show that summarizes everything I loved, and miss, about QE2, the little White Tower hamburger stand that could.

Clutch, Scissorfight
November 2002, Saratoga Winners, Cohoes, New York
Clutch is another band that I’ve seen many times in many places, and they’ve never, ever, ever disappointed me, to the point where I’ve gone on record to propose them as the second greatest live rock band ever. In 2002, they’d gotten to the point where they were outgrowing venues like QE2, so the burnt up husk formerly known as Saratoga Winners was a great step upward, since it was just as gritty and grotty as the Q, but bigger, and with fewer vampires hanging out. I’ve seen a lot of folks open for Clutch (including Clutch themselves, in their altar ego guise as The Bakerton Group), but the best of the bunch, hands-down, was New Hampshire’s Scissorfight, a scary bunch of backwoods ‘billies fronted by a bellowing, bearded monster called Ironlung. It was pure rock fury, times two.

Rockets and Blue Lights
October 2003, Chapel + Cultural Center at Rensselaer, Troy, New York
I booked about 220 concerts, exhibitions, speakers and other events during my five years with the Rensselaer Newman Foundation, running the Chapel + Cultural Center at Rensselaer. Of all the things I brought in there, this show stands out as the best, as a very young group of four players, who I had never seen before, and have never seen since, dragged their gear into the middle of the small back room, faced each other as the audience surrounded them, and let rip one of the grandest noises I’ve ever heard come out of big black boxes. I loved booking shows in this room because it was so intimate, regardless of who was playing, but on this night, something magical happened, and the barriers between audience and performer were completely stripped away, as we all rode the music to wherever the Rockets deigned to take us. As their set wound down, I distinctly remember thinking: “Now, this is what it’s all about!” And it was.

So what were your most memorable gigs? And why?

The Moon Is Made of (Wet) Cheese

Great news from the LCROSS mission today: there is water on the moon! There is so much cool planetary exploration going on these days that some of these findings tend to disappear behind splashier photo ops from the great beyond, but this is very exciting news. To space geeks, anyway. Like me.

A Lifetime Of Good Eats

I love diners. Love, love, love them. With a deeply-rooted, hands-on passion that leads me to eat, on average, at least half-a-dozen diner meals each week, happily nestled in my familiar, well-worn booths, reading my newspaper(s). I’m generally a creature of habit when diner dining, with a clearly identified “the usual” in each location, for each meal that I eat there: often breakfasts, occasionally lunches, rarely dinners.

I usually eat my breakfasts and lunches alone as part of my work-day routine, enjoying the quiet opportunity to read the sports page or check out the stocks while noshing a grilled cheese, crunching a crispy sausage, or slurping a bowl of chowder. Mmm mmm good. As often as I eat alone, I have come to believe that waitstaff seem trained to offend solo diners, as the phraseology of the greeting while I stand alone at the door is most often “[sniff of disdain] Just one today, hmm?” while the host looks over my shoulder to see if someone is emerging from the parking lot behind me. But, nope, it’s just sad, lonely old pathetic me. Just me. Just one. Just the way I like it.

Even as a proud, ex-pat Southerner who truly values the native cuisine of the Carolinas, I’m prepared to acknowledge that the diners of the Northeast offer a culinary niche that simply can’t, and shouldn’t, be effectively provided down South. Oh, sure, you could buy a shiny diner building and plop it down in, say, Salisbury, North Carolina or Orangeburg, South Carolina, but it wouldn’t be right there, just as Cheerwine wouldn’t be right if placed in the cooler cabinets of one of Upstate Yankonia’s many Stewart’s Shops. Some dining concepts are simply regional, and should stay that way.

Look at what happened when some bright bulb decided to bring a Krispy Kreme to Latham, New York, smack in the middle of Dunkin’ Donuts and Bruegger’s country. As the kids say today: Epic fail. Same thing would happen to a real diner down South. Folks might be awed by the chrome at first (we’re big on shiny stuff down South), but once the novelty wore off, folks would drift back to Duke’s, or Blue Mist, or Waffle House, or Whispering Pines, or whatever other traditional Southern restaurant they favored before the shiny diner showed up. And if a shiny diner did manage to succeed in the Deep South, it would just demonstrate that too many Northerners had already settled in those parts, disrupting the natural ebbs and flows of community, and forcing said parts to renounce their claims to Deep Southdom, instead being properly reclassified as exclaves of Florida.

All of this is not to say that my Southern upbringing didn’t uniquely prepare me for the diners of my adulthood. I come from a family that loves to eat, and loves its comfort food. My father spent much of his life in search of the perfect chili dog (I believe, in the end, it came down to a duel between Wiley’s in Woodbridge, Virginia circa 1974 and Tex Barry’s in Newport, Rhode Island, circa 1980), and I’m pretty sure that my grandfather on the other side was killed by Hungry Man Biscuits. While I have grown to have eclectic tastes in food, am a good cook with fresh and healthy ingredients, and appreciate high-end cuisine from many regions, around the world, I’m equally content eating a Stouffer’s Macaroni and Cheese straight from its aluminum pan, sitting on the kitchen floor. In fact, that’s exactly what my sister and I did after my Dad’s funeral, fighting over who would get the crunchy burnt bits around the edges.

The nearest thing to a diner that I can recall from my early childhood was Central Lunch in Albemarle, North Carolina, the town where my father grew up. You couldn’t help but feel part of a community while dining in Central Lunch, as there wasn’t enough space for you to feel in any way, shape or form removed from the cooks or other customers. It was cozy, if not sparklingly clean, featuring a long counter, and a grill, like most New England diners, but with food that was resolutely grounded in the South, where noodles are noodles, and red stuff made of tomatoes is ketchup, and the pickled eggs, pig’s feet, and cans of brains in milk are there for eating, not ambience. Cheerwine was, of course, the beverage of preference.

There was no multi-culti experience associated with eating at Central Lunch or virtually any other restaurant I can remember from my early childhood. The only distinctions I generally recall are whether a restaurant’s menu focused on fish (battered and fried), meat (battered and fried), or meat (smoked). I’m focusing on diners here, but there’s probably a whole ‘nother epic blog post to be writ about the undeniable superiority of Carolina B-B-Q, most especially from the Piedmont Region of North Cackalacky. Albemarle’s Whispering Pines opened in 1945, and it was the staple B-B-Q of my childhood, the standard against which all others were judged, and found wanting. It’s still around, and I still go it whenever I am in that part of the world, and it’s still the best. No argument. Nope. Stop. Shut your mouth. End of discussion.

The other diner-like precursor restaurant that I remember most vividly from my early days was The Plantation  in Ridgeland, South Carolina. (Yeah . . . I know, certainly not the most politically correct name, by a long shot, but those were different times, I guess). My grandmother and my aunt worked at The Plantation, and we’d often go eat there when I was living in Ridgeland while my father was overseas with the Marines, and during later visits to see the family after we moved away. Like Central Lunch, the Plantation offered simple, straightforward, stick-to-the-ribs fare, with lots of starches, lots of salt, lots of sugar in the tea, and pretty much any of the common creatures of God’s good earth available for eating, wrapped comfortably in breadcrumbs and eggs and fried to hide the rancid flavor that the stewy climate quickly bestowed upon meat in those parts. Add in the pungent smell of the highly-sulfurous water with which the ice-cubes were made, and you had a uniquely Low Country culinary experience, visceral and satisfying to all the senses.

Our family began to creep up the East Coast as my father’s Marine Corps career advanced, and we felt like real bohemians as we found ourselves eating at Manny’s Moon Pizza’rant (which we all incorrectly referred to as “Manny Moon’s”) and The Parthenon in Woodbridge, Virginia, getting way out there in our dietary habits with the exotic (to us) foreign food served there. Chef Boy-ar-dee Pizza and canned Old El Paso Tamales began to show up on the table at the home front even, as we marveled at the glorious and ever-widening bounty of richness and variety that was available to us in the commissaries of the bases near or on which we usually lived.

A quick one-year blip out to Kansas also introduced us to A&W Drive-Ins, which served as acceptable substitutes to the venerable What-A-Burger in Albemarle, another beloved childhood treat. Note well: these were not the same Whataburgers that are mainly based in Texas and are popular out west. The North Carolina What-A-Burgers were a small-in-number chain of drive-ins, but huge in the hearts of the locals. And not only were they small-in-number, but they were actually numbered themselves: our Albemarle one was What-A-Burger #9.

And then, my children, my friends, the scales fell from our eyes indeed, when in the ’70s we moved to Mitchel Field, in the township of Hempstead, in the county of Nassau, on the Island of Long, in New York, the holy land for diners and those who hold them dear. We were country fish out of water, at first, sure, as we gamely experienced our first Friendly’s and went to Borelli’s Italian Restaurant, which was comfortably similar to Manny Moon’s, providing continuity as we ordered our spaghetti and wondered what this “pasta” stuff was that people kept talking about. We soon discovered bagels and hash browns at Thomas’ Ham-and-Eggery in Carle Place, softening the sense of loss we felt as we left grits and cornbread behind us.

Finally, though, we ventured through the portals of the Empress Diner in East Meadow, and encountered a world unlike any to which we’d been exposed before, as a massive 20-page menu in its own folder (!) allowed us seemingly to order every kind of food from every country in the world, and to have exceptional onion rings as side orders for all of it, and to have it all on your table mere minutes after ordering it, as if they’d known what we wanted before we did ourselves. It was life-changing, as my horizons expanded to ponder an entire planet’s worth of provenance, all packed into a shiny silver box (oo! shiny!), with our own private jukeboxes at each table, and some meats even available without breading and frying! And the water didn’t stink! Bliss!

Thirty plus years later, I still love my diners, and still love the potentiality of all the goodness to be found therein, although I rarely partake of much of it anymore, instead settling for a waffle (on work mornings), or a grilled cheese sandwich on rye with a side of sausage (on weekend mornings) or a grilled cheese sandwich on rye with a cup of the soup of the day (if it’s lunch time). My main diner haunt in these parts is the Circle Diner in Latham (Seafood! Steaks! Chops! Bakery! Wow!), which opened soon after we moved here in 1993, though I occasionally stray to Latham 76 or the Metro 20, depending on where I am when the need to nosh arises. I have probably eaten at Circle Diner more than any other restaurant in my entire life (since this is the longest I’ve ever lived in one place, being a peripatetic type in my early years), and I am still happy to go there, day in, day out, to have “the usual,” to read my newspaper, to know that this, truly, is the just reward of a lifetime spent pursuing good eats at good value, even if they don’t batter and fry everything for me.

The Plantation of my childhood.

The Plantation now.

What-A-Burger #9 has also seen better days.

While Whispering Pines lives on and on, hallelujah!

You Can’t Spell Notre Dame without a “NO”

For only the second time in my entire life, Navy beat Notre Dame on the gridiron today, smacking the Fighting Irish on their own turf, winning by the rarest and narrowest of margins: a fourth quarter safety! Few sporting events have made me happier than watching the Midshipman beat the Irish twice in the past three years, as Notre Dame easily, handily tops the list of teams that I actively, vociferously root against. Every time the Fighting Irish take the field or the court, I’m rooting for the other guys or girls, whoever they might be. Go teams! Fight back against those Irish!

You might think that Army would top my list of teams that create the strongest sense of aversion for me, seeing as how I’m a Navy alum and all that. But the beauty of the Army (and to a lesser extent, Air Force) rivalry with Navy is that I actually pull for them to win every game they play, except the ones that find them pitted against Navy. I have the highest regard for Army’s teams, knowing what they go through on top of their sports commitments, and knowing the sacrifices that they make in exchange for their college educations. They’re my brothers and sisters. Except for when they play Navy.

After basking in Notre Dame’s shellacking at the hands of the Midshipmen for a few hours this afternoon, I got to pondering the other teams that cause me to automatically pull for the opposition. So here’s a quick list of teams that immediately pop to mind . . .

1. Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Any sport, any opposition, I am rooting against you, and the sense of entitlement that you carry just because you won one for the Gipper 7,000 years ago. Watching network television falling all over itself to try to get you into the BCS picture with a 9-4 record makes my stomach turn.

2. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. My dad was a North Carolina State alum, so I grew up surrounded by Wolfpack memorabilia and have deep-seated, emotional memories of watching State win the NCAA basketball championships with David Thompson in the ’70s and Lorenzo Charles in the ’80s. And being a State fan is mutually exclusive with being a Tarheel fan. Plus, during my college years, my girlfriend went to Chapel Hill, and I spent a lot of time there. I adored her, but I detested most of the smug, Izod shirt wearing tools she went to school with.

3. Miami Dolphins. I also have strong memories of watching the Dolphins beat the Redskins (my dad’s favorite team) in the Super Bowl to cap their perfect season back in ’72-73. That was galling enough, but watching the members of that team cracking bottles of champagne every year when the last undefeated team falls is so tacky that I can’t help but wish that someone, somewhere would knock that record off so I don’t have to hear about you anymore. Although I am glad that it wasn’t the New England Belichick’s that did it.

4. The New York Yankees. Is there anything less imaginative than being a Yankees fan? Gee . . . big risk you take there, chief, what with historical statistics saying your team’s going to win the World Series one out of every four years. This year is worst than most, since the Yankees victory has resulted in me being subjected to far too many pictures of the untalented and dull Kate Hudson flashing across my computer screen, as though it was her who drove in all of those Game Six RBIs. You wrecked the Black Crowes, Kate. I look forward to you doing the same to the Yankees next year.

5. Dallas Cowboys. Again, growing up in a strongly devoted Washington Redskins household, these guys were the enemies to top all enemies. But back in the day, you at least had to offer grudging respect to Coach Tom Landry and QB Roger Staubach (the last Navy QB to beat Notre Dame until three years ago), whereas the current crop of spoiled rich idiots running the ranch evoke neither empathy nor respect from where I sit. Though at least they had the sense to dump T.O.

6. Washington Redskins. A hatred for something you once loved is always a strong and burning one. I grew up rooting for the ‘Skins, but can in no way, shape or form root for them as long as the repellent Dan Snyder owns them. And he’s about my age, so I don’t suspect that I’ll ever have a chance to root for a post-Snyder Washington football club. And, really, it’s time to  change that name. There’s no excuse for not doing so at this point. It’s offensive, plain and simple.

7. Philadelphia Flyers. While my beloved Washington Capitals get victimized more often by the cross-state Pittsburgh Penguins that the Flyers, I still hold the eastern Pennsylvania team to be the more loathsome, in large part because they once paid Eric Lindross to play for them. The sooner the Flyers fold up like tacos in the postseason, the happier I am. Which is convenient, because it usually happens pretty quickly.

8. Miami Hurricanes. I’m a lifelong Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) fan, and I think the conference went to the dogs when they let South Florida’s semi-pro teams join what had once been a nice Carolina-centric concern. When the Hurricanes joined, there was at least the sense that maybe a “rising tide lifts all ships” effect would help the ACC, but the ‘Canes have been largely mediocre and annoying for most of their time in the conference. How ’bout we give them and Boston College back to the Big East, huh? We’ll keep Virginia Tech, if you want us to. They’re at least in a town that’s culturally part of the South, unlike Miami. Then if we can get Furman and Elon to upgrade to Division I-A, that would be one helluva great sports conference.

9. Maryland Terrapins. Again, as a Carolina-based ACC fan, it never quite seemed right to me to have a school from so close to the Mason-Dixon line in our conference. My antipathy to the Terps only grew when I was at Annapolis, especially after I watched a now-famous member of their football team (whose name I shan’t repeat) talk smack about Navy’s team in an Annapolis bar, inciting a brawl, in which he got stomped. Heh heh heh.

10. Ohio State Buckeyes. I think this is probably carryover distaste from the infamous incident where abusive Buckeye coach Woody Hayes punched a Clemson player during a game. I remember how loathsome it was to watch at the time, and I find myself wanting Ohio State to pay for it, all these years later.

11. Any basketball team coached by Bobby Knight. Speaking of loathsome. And abusive. Blech.

12. Michigan Wolverines. Because they don’t beat Ohio State nearly as often as they should, and because a school this big shouldn’t be allowed to compete against normal sized colleges and universities. You’d think with such a large pool of student athletes to pull from, they’d be able to field some decent teams. Surprisingly not so, most of the time.

Dishonorable Mentions: The entire Southeastern Conference. The entire Big Twelve (most especially Kansas, whose teams break my brackets in hoops, year after year after year). The entire Big Ten (except for Minnesota), because they can’t count the number of teams they have. Likewise the Pac Ten.  The Philadelphia 76ers. The New York Rangers. The Milwaukee Brewers (because they got to jump from the AL to the NL instead of the beloved Royals).

So those are the ones that pop to mind after quick thought. So which teams do you root against? Any on my list?