ATLANTA -- One of the upsides to spending so much time in basketball arenas is that my connection to popular music remains simple, true and direct. In this atmosphere, with athletic competition on the floor and fans demanding two hours' worth of entertainment, organized payola can't find purchase. If a song comes over the P.A. system that sucks, the reaction is immediate and awkward.
Down here, there's no preset Jock Jams playlist like you'll find at the cookie-cutter "NBA Experience." In mid-major college basketball, the setlist is usually handled by an assistant SID, work-study or volunteer, and each is an individual study in what works and what doesn't for any particular crowd. Not surprisingly, most places play a lot of hip-hop during warmups, time outs and halftime. As far as the popular form goes, it's a genre that ran out of ideas years ago, and as such it's become as much benign background noise as Muzak.
In the age of iPods, some DJ's are more adventurous about getting off the script. A couple weeks at Furman, the crowd got to hear a set of straight-up Freedom Rock -- imagine getting fired up for a game with the opening licks of "Sweet Home Alabama." A few places in the Ivy League bust out some indie rock from time to time. At Quinnipiac a few years ago, before they got the new arena, halftime meant time to chill heads with some Aphex Twin and Massive Attack.
There is enough similarity around the country to build a mid-major pop chart, however, and there have been songs that have dominated seasons. The first year of the Mid-Majority (2004-05) was all about "Yeah!" by Usher
. During 2005-06, everybody was playing Chris Brown's "Run It"
(There's a man
... on the floor
...) and in the following season, "We Fly High (Ballin')"
started in the MEAC an SWAC with united crowds miming a jump shot during the money moment, and the song flowed outward into the white colleges, displacing Fall Out Boy as No. 1.
In the last few weeks, I'm getting the feeling that "Let it Rock" by Kevin Rudolf
is the song of the season. "Let It Rock" has enough infused adrenaline to be used in warmups, and is hard enough that you can see the brothers nodding their heads a little. Besides, that moment in the refrain with "I'll make you come... alive" is, without a doubt, the best multiple-entendre since the white rapper Snow ("Infor-muh") named his album 12 Inches of Snow
I've taken a lot of heat for this stance in my family, in Twittercasts and on press rows across the country, but I think "Shake It" by Metro Station
is the only other pop song from 2008 worth anything resembling a damn.
Since MTV doesn't play videos anymore and I don't have a teenage daughter, I'm blissfully ignorant of the packaging or the posing associated with it. I just know that at face value, it's a phenomenal production that always gets asses out of the seats when it's played during a timeout, whether it's played in Pennsylvania, South Carolina or Utah. And it's one of those songs that's amazingly self-aware of its own quality -- that part at the end when multiple voices join in is like passing the microphone to an audience that's been singing along for two minutes anyway. If you were to release "Shake It" at any point in the past 25 years, it would be a hit. I'm convinced of that.
But anybody who listens to terrestrial radio knows that pop music is horrible right now, which isn't really anything new because pop music is usually horrible. A big reason why is that there's no direct accountability for what the radio plays, and music charts can be just as manipulated and hype-polluted as the AP writers' poll. But over a PA system, with thousands of people in attendance, the truth comes into harsh focus. The market is always right.Conference CallMissouri Valley: It's been a constant theme of this site since its inception: casual fans and Selection Committee members want to see league races staid and predictable, but those of us with no rooting interest who follow the standings on a daily basis love it when the games are exciting and anything can happen. So this year's MVC is grotesque and wonderful at the same time, just like last year's A(ttrition)-14, but a second bid is getting harder and harder to find with each passing day. Bradley, somewhat less than impressive in compiling a 6-5 noncon record, has shot out to a 4-0 MVC start after grinding out a home win over previously undefeated Illinois State. Adding to the Valley confusion was Creighton's second straight loss to go 2-2, a three-point home drop against Northern Iowa (3-1). UNI hadn't won in Omaha for 12 years.
They Came Close
at Kansas 91, Siena 84 -- The national champions aren't what they used to be, but a strong performance at the Phog is always worthy of mention. The Saints rallied from a 20-point second-half deficit before being outlasted. The performance represented a continued return to form and featured all the things that will make Siena tough to beat in the MAAC -- great shooting, four double-figure scorers, and low enough turnover numbers (13) to overcome a steep rebounding deficit (39-25). Not the best team in the paint, but these guys find other ways to compete.
Small mistake yesterday; I gave you a contest but didn't mention the method by which to submit answers. That some used the form to ask how they could to enter means that folks found it, but I really should have said that people should use the form. Sometimes I act as if everybody's been on the ride for four years, and I forget that some are just getting on board. Sorry about that.
We're looking for the longest losing streak to start conference play -- not an overall streak that started in November -- for a campaign that ultimately resulted in an NCAA bid. Entries must be received by Friday, and in case of a (likely) tie, a random draw will be held. The winner of a real, live stuffed Bally will be announced next Tuesday.
U'useless Stat of the Day
When we mentioned David Holston's remarkable consistency last week, and how it would help him in the scoring race, we were probably putting one of those "curses" sportswriters like to go on about. Because why else would he promptly go out and wreck his average with performances of 14, 17 and 18 points, dropping him to third behind current MMBOW Lester Hudson?
The Chicago State guard is certainly trying to shoot his way out of that slump, putting up 25 shots against Kansas State on Monday. He made only seven of them, including just two of his 11 3-point attempts. It was his second 25-shot performance of the season, two of only 27 25+ shot nights nationwide in the first eight weeks of the season.A smart man once said that a team's scoring leader isn't the best player on the team per se, just the guy who the coach wants taking the shots. Sometimes, however, those two are one and the same. Stephen Curry has five games in 2008-09 with 25 or more shots taken, including a national season-high 33 against N.C. State. In regulation! The only other player to put it up more than 30 times in a game was Ben Woodside of North Dakota State, who shot 32 times in that 60-point performance against Stephen F. Austin. Keep in mind that game went into double-overtime.