Friday, August 29, 2014

Top 5 Running Backs

I wish I could be as edgy with running back as I was with quarterbacks, but the reality is that running backs are so often products of their systems that the guys you know are, in general, the best guys. That doesn't mean the list isn't as correct; it's absolutely 100% correct. It's just more predictable.

5. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
Charles is a fantastic fantasy running back, but I'm not 100% on him as a premier "winning" running back. He's a slasher with breakaway speed and good hands out of the backfield, but when you must have four yards up the gut, can he deliver? He's the only guy in my five who's listed at under 200 pounds, and that gives me pause enough to push him to #5. Still a really, really good option, just not the best.

4. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears
I owned Forte in my big time keeper fantasy football league from his first day until the league folded two years ago. I'm completely familiar with how prolific he is as a pass-catching running back. What's impressed me the most about him is the fact that he's responded positively to varying workloads. After exceeding 300 carries his rookie season, his carries declined for three consecutive seasons. Then last year, he posted the highest total carries + targets of his career, and he remained productive in both aspects. That speaks to his innate football skill, as well as his ability to adjust to whatever circumstances present themselves.

3. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
I honestly though that Lynch was on his way out of the league when he got traded from Buffalo to Seattle in 2010. But it turns out, that was just the change of scenery he needed. In a result that's typical of Buffalo sports, Lynch discovered himself after leaving, and he's been an absolute monster for the past two seasons. He's a marginal receiver out of the backfield, but he's the kind of guy you can count on for three hard yards any time you need them. That's pretty important in the playoffs, when sometimes you absolutely must have those three yards.

2. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
Peterson is probably past his prime, but there's no denying that he's still everything in Minnesota, and he's the only reason they win any games at all. Christian Ponder isn't an NFL quarterback, Matt Cassel is an excellent backup, and Teddy Bridgewater isn't ready. The Vikings will probably win 5 games this year, and in all 5 I would expect that Peterson will account for 200+ total yards. The fact that I'm expecting 1,000 yards in just five games of Peterson should tell you all you need to know about what I think he can do.

1. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
Remember when I said I wished I could be more edgy? Well, yeah. McCoy is the consensus best running back in football (with apologies to Jamaal Charles), and deservedly so. He offers a great balance between running threat and receiving option that makes him hard to game plan for. The running backs who seem to do best in the playoffs are the guys who can factor into every play, like Marshall Faulk or Edgerrin James or other former Indianapolis Colts. Warrick Dunn if you like. McCoy is as talented as any of those guys. He can bring it home (though, please, dear god, don't let the Eagles win the Super Bowl).

Receivers is coming next, and I honestly don't know what to expect out of it. Except Calvin Johnson at #1, obviously.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Top 5 Quarterbacks

This isn't a fantasy football article, nor is it an article about which five quarterbacks have had the best careers to date. This article is solely about, if I had one shot, one season, this year, to try to win the Super Bowl, who would I pick? I'll do the same for running backs and wide receivers in the next week or so.

5. Tom Brady, New England PatriotsI'm sure many people will disagree with Brady being this low on the list, but at this point in his career, Brady is just a very good quarterback. He's no longer the guy who hits everyone in stride, who makes Deion Branch look like Jerry Rice, or who gets the full potential out of a guy like Randy Moss. I'll admit, Brady has been way better than I thought he would be early in his career, but it's twilight time.

4. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
For all the guff that Romo gets for "not being clutch" or "making mistakes at the worst times," he's been a very, very good quarterback on a team that's not very good. Jerry Jones used to do an okay job putting together a roster, but when the Cowboys have had success recently, it's been in spite of the "GM." I think on a reasonably constructed team with balanced skill levels across the board, Romo wouldn't feel so compelled to make poor decisions, and his talent would bear out.

3. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
I still found myself starting to type Indianapolis Colts when I wrote Manning's name just now. Anyways, Manning has obviously shown himself to be an amazing talent at quarterback, even at his advanced age. He's still one of the best at reading defenses and adjusting to coverages. But, honestly, his Super Bowl performances have me worried. He's been to three Super Bowls, but hasn't thrown more than one touchdown in any of them. For teams that clearly rely on his ability to push the offense, that's a concern. Still, 90% of winning the Super Bowl is getting there.

2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints


Brees is a guy who I found intriguing coming out of college. I remember when the Chargers missed out on Michael Vick but snagged LaDainian Tomlinson #5 overall, and were able to swipe Brees in the second round, I thought they had maybe the best draft ever. Turns out, 20-year-old me knew a thing or two. Brees is a guy who can just pass the hell out of the ball. He takes new receivers every year and makes them fantasy relevant (anybody remember Devery Henderson?). And when everything's on his shoulders, he doesn't back down. It was super close for me between Brees and my top guy.


So, all that's left is my number one. Who could it be? Aaron Rodgers? No, he's always good, but doesn't have the overt competitive fire I'm looking for. Crazy homer pick with Robert Griffin or Joe Flacco? Nope. Griffin has shown me nothing, and I think Flacco stinks. Two-time champion Eli Manning? You mean the guy who's led the NFL in interceptions three different times? Probably not. Everybody's sexy fantasy pick this year, Matthew Stafford? Get serious, a Lion? Colin Kaepernick? Cam Newton? No?

So who is it then?

Wait for it.

Wait...
 
1. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
Surprised? If you know me, you probably shouldn't be. Rivers has been one of my favorite quarterbacks for a long time, even when he had a couple of down-ish years. He's been amazingly prolific despite a lack of a single top-end wide receiver for years now, ever since Vincent Jackson left town. He's had his ups and downs in the playoffs, but he's always up to the challenge. He's physical and intense, kind of reminds me of Brett Favre. The statistics will tell you that Rivers isn't deserving of this spot, but it's my list. He's the guy I'd want to start.

You disagree? Make your own goddamn list then.

Seriously, below in the comments. Make your list.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Is Kurt Warner a Hall of Famer?

I've had this conversation a few times with a few different people, and it's always been a tough nut to crack. Kurt Warner's career has had so many ebbs and flows that it's hard to think of it as one single entity. There's his time in St. Louis, when he won a Super Bowl with The Greatest Show On Turf. Then his forgettable stint with the New York Giants. Then his revitalization in Arizona.

But rather than try to pull the answer out of thin air, I'm going to try to pull it all together, compare the career in its entirety to other HOFers and non-HOFers, and see what comes out. My previous instincts have always been that he isn't a Hall of Famer, but I'll try to approach this with an open mind and come to a founded conclusion.

The Argument Against

I think a good starting point for the conversation is to look at how Warner's career stats stack up against other players. So here goes.

Warner rates 33rd in all-time passing yards with 32,344 (HOFers with asterisks, active players bolded):

30. Troy Aikman**
31. Ken Anderson
32. Philip Rivers
33. Kurt Warner
34. Sonny Jurgensen**
35. Mark Brunell

Obviously Rivers is still active, but the rest are an interesting bunch. Aikman is one of the winningest quarterbacks in NFL history, while Jurgensen had exactly one postseason game in his career. Sonny and Ken Anderson, however, were prolific in a different era. Mark Brunell was a fine quarterback with a couple of exceptional seasons, but had a mostly forgettable career, and obviously isn't a Hall of Famer.

Statistically, the player whose career is most similar to Warner's from this group is Brunell, simply because of its inconsistency. Brunell led the NFL in passing in 1999 (the year Warner exploded onto the scene with St. Louis), and had a couple of high-win seasons. But Brunell's offenses (outside of his record-breaking season) were mostly driven by a strong running game, featuring mostly Fred Taylor as well as a few other flashes. Warner was almost always the focal point of his teams' offensive strategies. So Warner was able to post his stats in 35 fewer starts. Warner also recorded more passing touchdowns than Brunell.

Dancing around the list a little bit, we find some other, more appropriate comparisons. Drew Bledsoe ranks tenth all-time in passing yards, with a similar level of fluctuation from year to year. He was a bit more healthy and entrenched as a starter than Warner, but they shared the same proclivity for interceptions. Rich Gannon is down at 46th, but had a similar career arc to Warner's. He was a solid starter for Minnesota, wallowed in Kansas City for a few years, then exploded in Oakland towards the end of his career. But he never won a Super Bowl, which Warner did, in addition to losing two others. Bledsoe and Gannon are not in the Hall of Fame.

One of the best comparisons I've found is Phil Simms. Simms rates 27th all time in passing yards, and won the Super Bowl in 1987 (he might've won another in 1991 if he hadn't gotten hurt; nobody can convince me that Jeff Hostetler did things Simms couldn't have). Simms never had the performance peaks that Warner did, but as far as overall stats and success in the postseason, they're similar.

Phil Simms isn't in the Hall of Fame. Now, that's not saying Simms will never be in the Hall of Fame. He's got enough of a name and presence, and the NFL process is enough of a mystery that you can never be sure. But he didn't get in before John Elway or Troy Aikman or Steve Young or Warren Moon, guys who played well after Simms hung up his spikes.

The Argument For

So does that mean that Warner, with similar general statistics, won't get in either? Well, no player can be summed up in just a few statistics or generalizations. But if you wanted to sum up Warner in a few statistics that made him seem like a likely Hall of Famer, you could probably do it. Let's try.

Warner is second all-time in total passing yards in the Super Bowl. He's ahead of Aikman and Peyton Manning who also played in three Super Bowls (so far), Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, and Jim Kelly, who each played in 4 Super Bowls, and ahead of Elway who played in five. He was clearly not phased by the bright lights of the big stage. Additionally, his lowest yardage total for a Super Bowl is the third-highest total of all time. For those of you who have trouble doing math, that means that his Super Bowl performances rank first, second, and third in terms of passing yardage. Not bad.

He also had higher "highs" than most of the non-HOF players I mentioned above. Three times he eclipsed 4,300 passing yards, and twice led the NFL in touchdown passes. He also led the NFL in completion percentage each of his first three years as a full-time starter, with the aforementioned "Greatest Show On Turf." He brought two fairly disappointing franchises out of the doldrums and into the Super Bowl, and that makes him noteworthy.

The Journeyman Aspect, and Injuries Abound

Towards the end of his time in St. Louis, Warner suffered a few injuries, and Marc Bulger took over the offense. And he was...pretty good. He threw a lot of picks, but he stacked yardage on top of yardage, and Warner became expendable. So he went to the Giants.

Warner's year in the Big Apple was a disaster. Every memory I have of him that year is of getting sacked, losing a fumble, or his eventual departure due to concussion (and the team's obvious intention to force Eli Manning down our throats).

He then left for the Arizona Cardinals, and it all just felt like him hanging on to a career that was as good as over. He couldn't stay in the lineup, whether because of injury, or because the team wanted to get a look at Josh McCown/Matt Leinart/anybody else but Kurt Warner. So when Warner entered 2008 as the starter, nobody expected it to stay that way. But you know the rest; they won a feeble NFC West, and clawed their way to the Super Bowl, where they were edged by the goddamn Steelers (sorry, momentary lapse of journalistic integrity).

Warner obviously earned another year, and went 10-5 as a starter in 2009 (Leinart earned a loss to the Titans in week 11 when Warner couldn't go). After one of the most excitingly terrible playoff games I've ever seen in which the Cards edged the Packers in overtime by scoring one million points, Warner called it a career.

In the end, he averaged just ten games a season, sometimes due to ineffectiveness, but most often due to injury. In his best six seasons (three each with the Rams and Cardinals), he totaled 24,365 yards, 181 passing TDs, and 98 interceptions, averaging out to 4,060/30/16. If, theoretically, he'd been able to stay healthy and put up a pace of at least 90% of that (which would even be low theoretically, since injuries took most of his age 31-35 seasons), he'd have unquestionable Hall of Fame credentials. Do we penalize him for injuries taking away some of the best years of his career?

The answer is, yes, we do.

Terrell Davis is the best running back I've ever seen. Better than Emmitt Smith, better than Barry Sanders, better than Adrian Peterson. But after a gruesome injury in 1999 ended his season, he was never the same. He was done as a full-time running back, and pretty much done altogether, never recapturing that magic from his early career. He was a Hall of Fame semifinalist a number of times, including this past season, but he remains a ways off from getting in. He likely never will.

I'm sure there are a dozen similar stories about great players whose careers were marred or ended by injuries. Warner's story has to remain with them, in my opinion. He had a few fantastic seasons, and a few magical playoff runs. He might've been an all-time great at quarterback if he'd been able to stay healthy. But as is, he remains just another very good player. There's nothing wrong with that, of course. Boomer Esiason was a very good player. So was Ahman Green. They just don't belong in Canton.

Verdict: Not a Hall of Famer

PS: By the way, there's one thing I didn't mention: Warner's best years coincided with the years when he had the most prolific offensive weapons around him. Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, Anquan Boldin, and Larry Fitzgerald were all fantastic when Warner played with them. The reason I didn't include them is that the skill level of your teammates doesn't seem to matter for the NFL Hall of Fame. Great players who played with other great players, if anything, are more likely to make the Hall, because they're more likely to have been on championship teams. So the caliber of Warner's teammates isn't really relevant to the discussion.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Full Mega Man Magic Set Gallery (Finally!)

Alright gentlemen, after a long delay, I've finally gotten the full Mega Man Magic set posted for you to view in all its glory. I'm also going to make the source file available here, in case you want to sort the cards by color, cost, rarities, etc. The album is below. Thanks for all the help along the way bros!




Monday, August 18, 2014

The Baseball Story of...Freddy Sanchez

This is a new series I'm going to try to run with for a little while. I'm not sure how it's going to play out, but it seemed like an interesting idea, so I figured I'd give it a shot. If it goes well, I'll do more. If not, this'll probably be the last one you see.

The rules of "The Baseball Story of..." will be as follows:
  1. The player can't be a Hall of Famer. They can be players who were good for a stretch, but if a player looks like he has any chance at making the Hall of Fame, he's ineligible for this series.
  2. The player has to have won something. Whether it's a Cy Young, a home run title, or a World Series MVP, the guy has to have been noteworthy at some point. I'll bold the mention of it in the article, so you can see it at a glance.

A friend and I were reminiscing about old trades in our fantasy baseball league, and he reminded me of a trade that centered around Freddy Sanchez for Hanley Ramirez. While Hanley's career has been up and down, he's still very relevant in fantasy circles. But Freddy Sanchez, I had completely forgotten about. So, I did a little research, and with that completed, here and now, I give you:

The Baseball Story of Freddy Sanchez.

Boston Red Sox

Sanchez began his career in the Red Sox organization. He was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 30th round out of high school, but elected not to sign. After a college career at three different schools (culminating at Oklahoma State), he was again drafted in the 11th round by the BoSox.

If there's one thing you can say for sure about Freddy Sanchez, it's that he was too good for minor league baseball. He hit .288 in low A ball in 2000, and then never dipped below .300 again before making the majors. Sanchez didn't have it quite so easy in the big leagues though. In two brief stints with the Red Sox, he hit just .220 with only a pair of doubles and zero homers in 52 plate appearances. Luckily that wasn't the end of his story, because the Steel City saw something they liked.

Pittsburgh Pirates

In the summer of 2003, the Red Sox were chasing the Yankees, and they wanted to beef up their rotation. They acquired Jeff Suppan from the Pirates, who was having the best season of his career to-date. He boasted averages of 3.73/1.26, going 10-7 for another bad Pirates team. They sent Sanchez along with Mike Gonzalez to Pittsburgh for Suppan, Brandon Lyon, and Anastacio Martinez. Lyon and Martinez had marginal careers, Martinez's being far more marginal. Suppan was pretty bad for the Red Sox, his ERA jumping nearly two runs after the move to the junior circuit, and he went unused during the 2003 postseason.

Meanwhile in Pittsburgh, Sanchez spent most of 2003 and 2004 on the disabled list due to an ankle injury. The following season, however, was a coming out party of sorts. Sanchez got into 132 games, playing second, third, and short. He finished third on the team in hits, doubles, and triples, and second on the team in batting average.

Sanchez became a national story in 2006. He won the NL batting title at .344, and tied with Grady Sizemore to lead the majors with 53 doubles. He managed to make the All-Star team that year as a reserve. He also received 5 vote points in the NL MVP race, putting him just 383 points behind winner Ryan Howard (come on, you had to expect me to troll a little).

Sanchez continued a similar level of production for the next few years. He made two more All-Star teams with Pittsburgh, in 2007 and 2009. Later in 2009, the Giants were hurting at second base. They'd tried Emmanuel Burriss, Matt Downs, and Kevin Frandsen, but they batted a combined .210 that season. They just needed someone who wasn't a drag on their offense. So...

San Francisco Giants

...they traded minor leaguer Tim Alderson to the Pirates for Sanchez. Some Giants fans hated this trade apparently, though the content of that blog post makes me think it was irrational (a guy who has trouble striking out batters in the minors doesn't project to be a particularly good major leaguer). Alderson was a first round pick in 2007, but he'd yet to blow people away in the minors, and as I mentioned above, the Giants were a dead zone at second base.

Sanchez hit .284 the rest of the way with San Francisco, though he failed to display much pop; he had only two extra-base hits in his 25 games with the Giants in 2009. The next year was more of the same for Sanchez, though he was able to crank a few more doubles, more along his career pace. He was by no means vital, but he was an everyday player for a team that would eventually go on to win the World Series, putting a bow on a solid career so far.

Unfortunately for Sanchez, that title did somewhat put a bow on his career. He suffered a serious shoulder injury in 2011 diving for a ground ball. After attempting to rehab it for about 8 weeks, he eventually decided to get season-ending surgery. Sanchez was hitting .289 at the time.

Freddy started 2012 still on the disabled list, and just before the All-Star break, Sanchez underwent back surgery, which again ended his season, and eventually his career. He was granted free agency at the end of the season, and hasn't played since.

The most recent news on him was in January of this year, when he stated that he hadn't officially retired from baseball yet, and was still open to the possibility of coming back. While I wouldn't hold out much hope for that, and despite the fact that Sanchez played mostly for two teams I don't really care for, I hold no ill will towards Freddy, and wish him the best.

Final (?) Statistics
Career batting average: .297
Career runs: 434
Career hits: 1,012
Career doubles: 215
Career home runs: 48
Career earnings: $32,117,000


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams Remembered

I didn't have the same universally glorious opinion of Robin Williams' acting career as other people. Sometimes I found his animated and erratic humor to be over the top. But when he was right, he was so right. Here are my top five roles by Robin Williams.

5. Mork, from Mork & Mindy
I don't have many specific recollections from when I was very young, but I do remember watching Mork & Mindy. I can't imagine I understood much of the humor, or many of the words at all, but I remember seeing it on television. While I don't have any adult memories of the show, the fact that it was around so long ago, and yet I have that pinch of a memory, is enough to put it on my list.

4. The Genie, Aladdin
Ahh, Disney. I know some friends of mine are purely cynical and hate anything that was created without "artistic depth" to make money off of children, but those friends need to grow up. You can't be an angsty teenager your entire life. The Genie was exactly Robin Williams, but it was done perfectly. All of the kookyness and goofiness that Williams' humor could have was captured in a perfectly framed character. And truthfully, I'd wager that Williams' performance as the voice of The Genie inspired an entire generation of youths to take up acting. Good for them, and good for him.

3. Peter Banning/Peter Pan, Hook
Hook was freaking great.

2. Armand Goldman, The Birdcage
The Birdcage was a movie that I reviled on principle when I was a young homophobe. What an ignorant little twit I was. The Birdcage is absolutely hilarious, done perfectly across the board. It's got that Three's Company "secret dealings in the kitchen" vibe, but also the witty, awkward conversations in the sitting room. Robin Williams plays the perfect (no pun intended) straight man to Nathan Lane's wild card. I can't say enough good things about the film and Williams' performance, and if it weren't for one movie, it'd be #1 (as is the case with most things ranked second).

1. Daniel Hillard/Euphegenia Doubtfire, Mrs. Doubtfire
Talk about perfect. It's a sweet story with a ton of laughs, and a multitude of heartfelt moments. Like Aladdin, it once again sets up a few situations for Williams' wide variety of impressions, and the whole Mrs. Doubtfire role is one big impression. I've watched Mrs. Doubtfire probably a hundred times, and I enjoy it every time. It ends perfectly too, with the new TV Mrs. Doubtfire answering a letter from a viewer whose parents are getting a divorce. Gives me the sniffles every time.

Bangarang, Genie. Rest in peace.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Better Long-Term Gamble: Puig vs. Harper

Two years ago, Bryce Harper was the biggest news in baseball, a straight-out-of-high-school slugger who couldn't miss. Last year, the sport was abuzz with talk about Yasiel Puig, both his baseball skills and colorful character. Now that we've seen both of them play some baseball, it's a fair question to ask, which of these phenoms is more likely to evolve into an all-time great?

I was going to split the post into two sections, one about fantasy baseball and the other about real life baseball, but the results should be pretty much the same, really. So it's just one big discussion, split up into the various facets of their respective games.

Demographics
Bryce Harper is 2 years younger than Yasiel Puig, which is important to keep in mind. While Puig may not have spent that time facing major league pitching, he has had two more years to grow into his body and ply his trade. It's often stated (and sometimes overstated) that many hitters don't hit their power prime until about 26-27, so both players could offer even more power in the future. Which brings us to our first non-actuarial skill...
Advantage: Harper

Power
Today's baseball world is power-starved. We've had a couple of big seasons in recent years (Jose Bautista's 54 in 2010, Chris Davis' 53 last season), but it might surprise you to know that those are the only two times a player has hit 45 or more home runs since 2010. It's not likely that anyone will break that mark this season either. The baseball world needs more mashers. Initially, I expected Harper to win this category easily, but it turns out, the numbers had something else in mind.

Harper has averaged 28.7 plate appearances per home run, while Puig has averaged 28.0 per dinger. Part of that has to do with Harper's mostly disappointing 2014 so far at the plate, but consider this: Harper's highest slugging percentage in a given season is .486. Puig's lowest season (of 1+ so far) would be .528. Harper has more total home runs (46 to 32), but he's also played 100 more games. Again, Harper's got two fewer years of growth under his belt, but based strictly on the data we've got, Puig's got more pop.
Advantage: Puig

Hitting/Plate Approach
I don't think there's any fantasy baseball player out there who couldn't tell you that Puig is a beast when it comes to batting average. He hit .319 last year, and is rolling along at .311 this season. Harper averaged .272 over his first two seasons, and is down to .254 in his injury-riddled 2014. I don't hold too much of that against Harper, but Puig beats him easily either way.

Plate approach is a somewhat different story. He gains 78 points between his BA and OBP, to Puig's...78 points. They both strike out in about 21 percent of their at-bats, which is a little high, but is definitely something that can be refined with age and experience.
Advantage: Puig

Base-Stealing/Baserunning
Get ready for another surprise: Bryce Harper is a considerably better base-stealer than Yasiel Puig. Harper has stolen 30 bases to Puig's 18, which I had to re-check because I really thought Puig was more prolific than that. But there's more. Puig has been caught stealing 15 times. His base-stealing rate is a non-profit, because the Dodgers are losing runners half the time he decides to run. Harper meanwhile has been caught stealing only 12 times.

As far as baserunning, the two players both perform fairly well. Harper and Puig take extra bases on 56% and 57% of opportunities, respectively. Puig's been thrown out at home three times to Harper's one, but you can judge that to be favorable towards either player, whether you put more value on aggressive baserunning or responsible baserunning. Overall, though, there's no doubt that Harper's got a better track record on the basepaths.
Advantage: Harper

Fielding
I still have a hard time judging individual fielding statistics, so I'll rely on the most basic: defensive WAR. According to baseball-reference.com (obviously), Harper's career dWAR is 1.1, while Puig's is -0.1. I'll give a slight edge to Harper, and we'll move on.
Advantage: Harper

Final Analysis and Forecast
This will be the more subjective portion of this post, because a lot of it comes down to the types of things that Billy Beane hates: gut feelings, eyeball tests, etc. There's no question Puig and Harper are both impressive physical specimens, and they'd probably succeed at whatever sport they chose to focus on. I still believe that Harper's power potential is exceptional, and the fact that he has as solid an approach at his age as he does is mind-boggling.

While both players' futures look immensely bright, my selection is going to be for Harper. I think his body will catch up with what is already a considerable head and knack for baseball, and he'll leave a considerable impact on the sport. I wasn't one of the earlier people to adopt a positive outlook for Harper, but at this point, I'm a believer.

Final Verdict: Harper
 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Best. Concert. Ever.

I'm sure you read the title for this post and thought it'd be a report of some fantastic concert I went to this week. Bzzzt! Wrong! I was thinking about concerts and bands and everything, and I posed a question to myself, a question I now ask any of you who choose to read this blog:

What concert would you want to see, if you could see any band/performer from all-time in their prime?

There are a number of valid options of course. I think it'd have been great to see both the Jackson 5 and Michael Jackson at their apexes. I've heard that the tour that Elton John and Billy Joel did together was phenomenal. And I probably should've gone to see Dream Theater at some point while they had my lineup of preference. But choosing one band above all others took some thinking. In the end, though, there was only one answer.


Queen was really, really good. Plus, with Freddie Mercury having passed away, there's no chance for me to catch them in the original form. Here are the other reasons I'd choose them, and specifically why I'd choose them over a couple other bands.

Attention to Detail
I remember a conversation with my late uncle Paul about concerts, and he said that a lot of really good bands were "shit" live. His citation was Led Zeppelin, who seemed to devolve into jam sessions with relative indifference towards their audiences. There's also Van Halen, who have had their lead guitarist (the titular Eddie) show up drunk out of his mind for concerts. My counter was Dave Matthews Band, who I believe matched their studio quality in live performances. But Queen notably rose to the task in live shows. Freddie Mercury had a true flair for the dramatic. Which brings me to my next point...

Showmanship
There are plenty of good bands out there that don't offer anything extra from a live show. A friend told me he loved a Tom Petty concert because "everything sounds exactly like it does on the album." Well, that's fine, but if you just wanted to listen to the album, you could sit at home with Spotify and a six-pack. You want a little something extra from a live show. DMB added extensive instrumental parts and special guests. Queen, to my knowledge, gave each show a dramatic flair, and Mercury was an entertainer at heart.

Song Catalog
There are plenty of bands that I think a lot of that I wouldn't put on this list, simply because I don't know enough of what they've put together. The aforementioned Dream Theater would undoubtedly play mostly songs I'd never heard before. I went to a Bruce Hornsby concert and I didn't know 90% of the music. It was good music and a fun time, but familiarity is nice. Queen has a robust song catalog, and I'm familiar with a good deal of it. I would expect to know most songs they played.

Atmosphere
There's something to be said for atmosphere. It's the reason that some people enjoy bands like Grateful Dead, Phish, and DMB. While you could argue most of that is a result of narcotic influence, there's no doubt the performers have an impact as well. I think I'd enjoy listening to Tool or Megadeth live, but I'd have concerns about my fellow concert-goers in those circumstances. Not that they're bad people, they're just harsher bands. Queen is mostly light-hearted, friendly music. I have to think it'd be a really pleasant time to see that show.

Undoubtedly you have your own foolish ideas. Post your thoughts in the comments so I can razz you...or grudgingly accept your opinions as valid.

Top 500 Songs - Dave Matthews Band

This was always going to be the hardest of my band lists, because I like so many of DMB's songs, and have liked them so differently over...