Random thoughts from a random mind…

Posts tagged “Michigan

There’s “Bandwagon” and Then There’s “Confusing”

Some of my collection: ASU hat, Tigers hat, Red Wings hat, D-Backs hat from Opening Day 1998, 2001 World Series "Official Ball," ASU flag and Suns throw.

Have you ever sat back and really thought about how big a role sports plays in our lives?  I mean think about it, we complain about the millions and millions of dollars these guys make in a year, but we pay millions to see them play.  Cities (and you) pay millions to billions to be able to build the next, state of the art facility for their team or teams to play in.  I remember as a kid, and even still today, when I fly into a city, I’m always looking around trying to see the arenas or stadiums from the air. It’s the only time you get the opportunity to see the whole thing other than a photo.  Sometimes you don’t realize how pivotal the placement of a sports facility can be until you’ve seen it as you descent into a city from the air.

As a guy, you often get the question: “what is your favorite team?” This can often be a tricky question to answer.  If you happen to say a team that is currently playing really well, then you quickly have to justify the answer to not be tagged as a “fair-weather” or guilty of “jumping on the bandwagon.”  There are even times that if you happen to say the wrong team, you could be looking at a fist fight due to the person asking being a die-hard fan of a rival (slightly over-exaggerated, but could happen).

This question has often bewildered many friends of mine through my answers.  I could, at times, be accused of trying to hitch a ride on a couple of wagons, but I can justify all of my answers (at least to myself, and that’s what counts).  You see, growing up in various places throughout this sports-loving nation, it is very difficult to just have one favorite, or be a fan of just one team.  Is it really a crime to be a fan of multiple teams from a few different cities?  Feel free to judge.

When it comes to college that’s an easy one, Arizona State (Go Devils!!!) – You become slightly biased when you’re an alumnus, no matter how good or bad your teams may be.  When it comes to the Devils, not too many people are jumping on your wagon (hoping that 2011 proves to the hype for the Devils in football.  Unfortunately, hype, has never bode well for the Devils in years past).  The Lady Devils just won the softball National Championship and the baseball team is still battling its way to Omaha, but being a fan of the Sun Devils has been very trying over the years (Ahh to be a Sun Devil).  I will admit though, being a member of my wife’s family has also made me a fan of the Irish (fan, not a favorite…is that ok? Oh, and living near South Bend for a few years may have helped this as well).

When it comes to professional sports, it is a much harder story to tell.  My first professional influences came from the NFL.  It all started in the mid 70’s when we lived in Powell, Wyoming, and my father was a sports announcer for the local radio station.  They just so happened to cover the Orange Crush – you may know them better as the Denver Broncos.  I had a little plastic helmet that my dad had painted to mach a Broncos helmet, they were my team….until I heard about the Cowboys.  Yes, I do live in Dallas now and wouldn’t exactly consider myself a true blue Cowboy fan, but back in the day, yes, I was a fan.  Ok, so they were in their heyday (one of them).  Can a five-year-old boy really be guilty of jumping on a bandwagon? The point is, that at the time, living in “the middle of nowhere,” Wyoming, there weren’t any teams to be a fan of.  Looking elsewhere was your only option, even for a five-year-old.

Now is when it all starts to really get messy – at the age of 6, I was relocated with my family to Arizona.  Actual years are needed here for clarity, so this would have been 1981/82.  What that means for those of you not in the know, is that there weren’t any professional sports teams in Arizona except for the Phoenix Suns (NBA), but I didn’t really learn of them until a few more years down the road.  We lived in Kingman, AZ, again, middle of nowhere.  Like most families, my family went in different directions.  I lived with my mother and sister, so there weren’t many influences on sports.  I did enjoy playing baseball, soccer and basketball though.  Finally I became more aware of the sports world that was out there.  I began to learn more about professional teams around the nation – again, none in the local area.  I learned of the Phoenix Suns, and to no surprise, they became “my team.”

In 1986, I again relocated.  This time we moved to Michigan, Trufant, Michigan to be exact.  AGAIN, middle of nowhere! (Starting to get the picture?)  By this time, I was really getting into sports.  I knew all the best players on all the best teams in all professional sports, except hockey (more on that in a moment – remember, in Michigan now).  January 1987 was the year that I got to watch “my” Sun Devils down the Michigan Wolverines in the Rose Bowl.  I knew then that I wanted to be a Sun Devil.  I was still a fan of the Broncos (NFL) – even after all of the Elway (still one of my favorite players ever) chokes in the Super Bowls, the Cowboys (NFL), and the Suns (NBA).  Raise your hand if you thought KJ was the man!  I knew all about baseball and its best players/teams, but hadn’t really thought about a favorite team yet.  Again, it was hard to have one when there wasn’t a team nearby to follow; I mean, the Tigers were all the way over in Detroit, a 4-5 hour drive from Trufant.  Many of my friends would follow the Tigers.  It didn’t take long until I began to follow suit.  I also found myself becoming a fan of the lowly Atlanta Braves as we watched them climb from the trenches to go from “worst to first” (OK, maybe this one was bandwagoning, but it was a great story and hard not to follow).  Soon, I became used to the cold Michigan winters, and began to learn of hockey.  I truly fell in love with the sport, and what better place to be than the state of Michigan, home of the Detroit Red Wings (NHL)!  This was definitely a team that was hard not to love.

Ok, just to be sure you’re keeping track: Sun Devils (NCAA), Broncos (NFL), Cowboys (NFL), Cardinals (NFL), Suns (NBA), Tigers (MLB), Braves (MLB), and Red Wings (NHL).  Confused yet? Oh, yes, I’m sure you noticed the addition of the Cardinals in there – even living in Michigan, I still felt a connection to Phoenix/Arizona.  My dad still lived there, and kept me abreast of the latest happenings.  They moved to Phoenix from St. Louis in 1988, so I slowly began to adopt them as one of “my” teams, even though they were horrible for many, many years.  So there I was, now a teenager, all confused with who was my favorite team, and then I graduated HS and made another move back to Arizona.  This time I was off to college, to be a Sun Devil.

I moved to Phoenix in the summer of 1994.  Shortly thereafter, a new team had come into my life.  This one isn’t considered a definite “favorite,” but they are still a team that I will follow.  The Winnipeg Jets had made a move to the desert and had become the Coyotes.  Yes, there was now hockey in the middle of a place that was too hot for anyone to exist let alone play on ice.  It’s hard not to be into a team when you see them grow before you.

Which brings me to the next state of confusion…the Arizona Diamondbacks.  In 1998, the D-Backs franchise joined Major League Baseball.  Again, and even more-so, it is very hard not to be a fan of a team that you get the opportunity to see start from the very beginning.  The 2001 World Series win over the Yankees might have helped a little too (I say this as I look at my “Official Ball” from the 2001 Series that is on my desk).

Now I find myself living in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Now, as you may recall, the Cowboys were “one” of my original favorite teams, but I truly don’t follow them in the same way.  In fact, I honestly find this current team to not fit into any class that earlier Cowboy’s teams have.  Romo just won’t ever be the leader that Staubach, White or Aikman were.  As for the other teams here: I don’t have any plans to ever follow the Stars for the Wings had my heart long ago; it was fun to see the Rangers go to the World Series, and I enjoy going to a game now and then, but the Tigers and D-Backs are enough for me; and lastly, yes, the Mavs are currently in the Finals, and I do honestly hope they win, but not as a fan, more as being not a fan of the Heat and the egos of Wade, Bosh and that other guy…oh yeah, the “King.”

So, would you consider my choices of “favorites” a sign of bandwagoning? I’m sure some could argue a few of them, but I feel that my mobility through life from town to town and the confusing nature of some of my locales has legitimized my choices.  When it comes down to it, I’m a fan of sport, of competition.  I am one that will watch a game, because I know it will be a good one.  Not caring who will win, just wanting to watch some good competition.  Maybe some of my “favorite” choices are because of this i.e. Atlanta in the 90’s, but that’s ok to me.

 


Origins of a DJ – Part 5 (Final Chapter?)

At the time I was working with inner-city youth in Pontiac, MI.  I began to figure out ways to reach these youth, and one way was through music.  My favorite genre has always been hip-hop/rap, and I thought maybe this would be one way I could connect with some of the kids.  I began working with some of the projects (yes, projects, as in housing projects) that were part of a United Way funded collaboration.  I met with some of the community leaders, and asked them what they had wanted for the youth.  The leaders wanted programs that would appeal to the youth, but would bring a positive outlook.  I offered a number of programs, but my favorite was one where my DJ background would come into play.  In this program the kids would learn about music history, and move up to the music of today, seeing how computers are used to create music.  I would show them the beginning steps of how to “spin,” and how to record and edit on a computer.  Thanks to Keith “Bubby” Webb, even had the opportunity to take them to a studio in Pontiac to show them the process of recording an artist.  In this, I made some very good friends in the music industry coming out of the Pontiac area.  This was my sign to get back into DJ’ing.

I got the opportunity to do some shows with a couple of the artists in Pontiac.  I did some work as the house DJ for a couple of studios.  One of the guys I worked with, Uncle-P, gave me the chance of a lifetime.  I got to do a show on the stage of St. Andrews Hall in Detroit.  If you know anything about the Detroit music scene, you know what St. Andrews Hall is.  If you’re a fan of Eminem, you should know, or at least recall the mention of St. Andrews Hall.  It was surreal.  I was on spinning on the very same stage that had seen the likes of Bob Dylan, the Chili Peppers, Iggy Pop, Nirvana, and even Eminem.  In fact, Eminem did one of his first shows here (well, his show was in the Shelter, which is in the basement, but it was the same building).  St. Andrews Hall is mentioned in many of Eminem’s songs, as well as the Shelter being mentioned in his movie, 8-mile.  If you haven’t noticed, I was pretty stoked about this opportunity.

After doing various shows at other venues in the area, my last stop was this little bar in Lake Orion.  It was like so many other places I had DJ’d at before, but again, I had some opportunities arise that I never could have dreamed of.

We would have “rap-artists” do shows there almost every week.  I say “rap-artists” because these were guys just trying to get their foot in the door.  Some of them were good, some not so good, but we gave them a stage to perform on.  Then one day I got the word that a bigger act would be coming in to perform.  Some of you may have heard of him, and some may not (I have dated myself with this one).  This was a local guy, from Flint, MI, who had had a couple of big hits in the ’90’s: “Ain’t No Future in Yo Frontin” and “Gotta Get Mine” featuring the one and only 2Pac.  I’m referring to Eric Breed, aka MC Breed.  I had the opportunity to do many shows with MC Breed.  In fact, this was my first taste of sipping Hpnotiq and Hennessy in the VIP area.

The summer of 2003, I had moved with my son to Indiana.  I would still come back though, about once a month, to do a show, usually with MC Breed.  The largest show came on September 12th, 2003 when I did a show with MC Breed and none other than Proof of D12.  To me, this was probably the biggest thing I’ve ever done as a DJ.  The last show I did in the Detroit area was a New Year’s Eve party with MC Breed on December 31st, 2004.

While living in Indiana, I again put DJ’ing off, and would only spin in my house on occasion.  Shortly after moving there though, I did begin working as a radio DJ for 103.9 the Bear, a rock station in South Bend, IN.  As I said in my first chapter, my father has been in radio all my life, and this was something I had always dreamed of doing.  There is just something about being that voice coming from radio, it is a pretty cool feeling.  I also go the chance to be a PA announcer for the Elkhart Express, a semi-pro basketball team.  Again, something that I’ve always dreamed of doing.  This, I have to say, was one of the coolest experiences ever.  I did begin spinning in Indiana eventually, but nothing major ever came of it.

People always asked me why I didn’t DJ as a “full-time” gig, and my answer was always the same: because of my son.  My priority was always to put him first, and my interests second.  Even though this interest brought extra income, it just wasn’t a lifestyle that worked while being a single dad.  I do have to thank those that helped support me while DJ’ing though.  Without all of your help, I never could have made it work, thank you!

I got to do some pretty amazing things as a DJ.  If anyone had ever asked me 13 years ago if I thought I’d get to work with even one of the amazing artists that I’ve had the pleasure of working with, I would have said “no way.”  I was blessed, and was given opportunities that I never could have dreamed possible.  In a way, I owe it all to my buddy, DJ Marcus McBride, for helping me get started with something that is so important to me.

Will I ever DJ again? I’m sure I will, I just have no idea when or to what capacity.  I just can’t let go of something that I enjoy so very much.


Origins of a DJ – Part 1

PURE ENJOYMENT OF MUSIC

My father has been in radio, well, broadcasting for all of my life.  Some of my fondest memories are visiting my dad in the station, and getting to go on the air with the DJ’s.  I’ve seen that industry change so much in my 30+ years…It’s been very interesting.  I remember when my dad was GM at a station in Kingman, AZ, and they had just gotten a new, “state-of-the-art” computer that barely fit in a 10×10 room that was able to provide music and commercials for an ENTIRE weekend! lol….some of you may not understand the joke with that, but it will make sense soon.  I remember sitting in the studio as the DJ “put the needle on the record”…yes, literally, put the tone-arm down on the latest 12” release; when commercials were run on CARTS (cartridges – very similar to an 8-track…if you remember what that is) – That’s enough of the history lesson for now…I’ll continue with why music is so important to me – but we will get back to the advancement of the radio station in another installment of this topic.

My mother was also very musical in my life.  She sang in a few choirs while I was a kid, in fact, myself and some other kids sang along with one of her groups.  We sang “Rainbow Connection,” yes, the one that Kermit the Frog sings in the Muppet Movie.  I think I was like 4.  My mom has always been a huge fan of all types of music.  She would listen to everything from AC/DC to Buddy Holly.  In high school, she would even comment on really enjoying the beats of many of my 90’s rap CD’s (yes, even the hardcore stuff lol).  My dad has very diverse taste in music as well, but I must say that I really feel I got my like of ALL different kinds of music (except most country music – which I owe my dislike of to my grandparents) from my mother.

I did and always have enjoyed ALL kinds of music.  Everything from 50’s “happy” tunes, to the 60’s “creativity” era, to the 70’s psychedelic ensemble, and yes, I was a product of the 80’s and MTV so you know that I was a fan of this fun/odd time for music.  I love hard rock, soft rock, the occasional ballad, and even some Mozart when the occasion presents itself.  But…when it is all said and done, the one that caught my attention the most was rap/hip-hop.  Maybe it was just the time.  I was influenced heavily by the hip-hop scene:  The gangs, the guns, the drugs…..COME ON! I was a scrawny white kid in farmville-USA, Michigan.  I just like the music.  Did I wear baggy jeans…yes, I did.  Course I weighed barely 100 lbs, so my 80’s parachute pants would have been baggy.

I don’t really know what it was about this genre…that hard bass drum, those beats and the poetry that entangled your brain with the perils of the streets intrigued me for years.  I was caught up in what others thought was just crude, vulgar and violent, but I studied this music with an open eye, understand that it was no different that so many other genres.  Think about it: Country for example is about the troubles of life, the cards you are dealt and how bad it can be; the Blues was a form of poetry about how hard life can be and how it gets you down, but you strive to make it through; hmmmm and then there’s rap.  In the 80’s rap was more about the beats and various rhyming schemes that were just fun.  In the 90’s, rap went through its spawning of a separate genre, Gangsta Rap, which was more of a story in poetry, telling of the hard times and the dangerous surroundings a young black man grew up in (interesting?).  Yes, there were always the “artists” that created songs of sex and what not, but again, a lot of them were only emulating what they have been used to their entire lives.

This is just a simple example of how music creates us, both as individuals and even cultures.  Each genre of music brings with it so much more than just some notes on a sheet of paper.  Name a single genre of music that didn’t include a wardrobe change, a particular hair-style, or a certain type of alcohol?  Music was this, it was and still is culture – every single genre is its own culture…YES, even the anarchist and apathetic ways of punk rock, and grunge conformed to create their own style and commercialized culture.

I really think this is just one part of music that consumes me.  To me, music isn’t just sounds, it is so full of emotions.  Music is everything we want to forget, and everything we want to have.  The memories that I have when a certain song plays is a testament to music’s power on the human soul.  Tell me you don’t occasionally have a memory of an exact moment in your life when a certain song plays?  For example: Every time I hear “Cruel Summer” by Bananarama, I see Ralph Macchio riding his bike to school in Karate Kid.  Crazy and silly I know, but that is just one association that music has instilled in my brain.

To me, and this is cliché, but music is our soundtrack.  Just like in a movie: when you’re angry, a hard-rock song may be your weapon of choice; when you’re in love, maybe a nice ballad; when you’re ready to party and go dancing, those pop songs that you hate may become your dance track.  No matter the emotion you are feeling, “there’s a beat for that.” (Yes, I just shamelessly plugged commercialism)

Without the power of music, there would not be a video montage of your favorite team winning the championship.  The action scene in your favorite movie just wouldn’t quite have the same effect if playing in the background was “Tip toe through the tulips” by Tiny Tim.  Tell me that women, and some men, would still cry during that scene in Ghost if the Righteous Brothers were replaced by Weird Al.  When it comes right down to it, some people just truly underestimate the power of music.