right in front of me.

Not my ticket. I was 14 and my parents wouldn’t let me ride my moped to Colorado.

A couple days ago, I needed to run to grab a thing at Ikea and some stuff at another couple places nearby. In Pittsburgh, that entails getting on the Parkway West and driving for longer than it should actually take, because Parkway West traffic, duh.

I settled into the car and called up the Dead show from the University of Colorado’s arena on Dec. 9, 1981 on my iPod and let it play while I headed toward the Fort Pitt Tunnel.

That Boulder show was the first bit of live Grateful Dead I had heard besides stuff the band had released. Steve, Mark and I were just getting into the Dead, and (I think) the older brother of a friend hooked us up with copies of the cassettes of the show, labeled “Boulder 1″ and Boulder 2”; the funny thing was that none of us knew enough about the band to notice that the tape labels were on the wrong sets, but that didn’t matter. It was a hot show, no matter what was played when.

The mislabeled Boulder 2 tape closed with what is still my favorite version of China > Rider of all time. It crushes all of the combo’s expected peaks and Garcia’s guitar is especially good. And that’s where I was in the playlist as I charged out to Robinson on the parkway: Jerry was tearing up a solo just before Weir delivered the “Sun’s gonna shine…” line, and I was feeling good.

When Jerry started on his line “I wish I was a headlight on a northbound train,” my bliss was interrupted by a car that jumped into the fast lane just ahead of mine. I was annoyed for sure, until I saw what the universe had just handed to me: the license plate on the car that cut me off began with the letters JSK.

I broke into a grin. And said, out loud, to whomever was listening, “You are that light, my friend. You are.”


In just over two weeks, we’re going to meet in Columbus to celebrate Steven’s life. And I say “we” because if you knew Steven, I hope I see you there, at the service (1:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 14 at Northwest United Methodist Church, 5200 Riverside Drive) or at the picnic after (3 p.m. at the North Shelter House in Thompson Park).

You don’t have to bring much, besides a hug for Mary and smiles, hugs and memories for everyone else. I’m getting better at smiling when I think of Steve instead of feeling sad, but his death is still — and will be for quite a while — a hard thing for me to digest; if it is for you as well, let’s help each other out on Aug. 14. See you then.

not that terrible.

Oh, look — someone from The Simpsons found a copy of Uncle Crappy’s bracket.

Folks, I have to apologize. I normally would have had this update ready by midweek at the latest, but real life got in the way in a pretty significant manner this week.

But writing about basketball — and the Fourteenth Kind Of Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Piper’s Pub*) is the kind of distraction I need — so let’s get down to bidness.

As longtime AUCNFFC players will recall, no one has any points yet — that doesn’t happen until teams actually reach the Final Four after Monday night’s games.

We can, however, begin to ascertain how things might shake out, based on the results of the first weekend. Quite a few of us picked Ohio State as our eventual champion, for example — and that’s not going to work out so well. A few others of us went all in on the Big Ten — and that’s really not going to work so well.

But most of us — well over half, in fact — were able avoid real disasters associated with early upsets, and are therefore in pretty good shape. And there two of us — just two of us — who have an intact Final Four still alive.

I have done no math associated with this so far, but in general, I’d give the advantage to those who are still working with their pick to be national champion over those who are trying to move on without. And so, we begin with the bad news and move on to the good.

One FF team alive, champ pick is out:

  • Strang
  • Trailion

One FF team/champ alive:

  • Susan

Two FF teams alive, champ is out

  • Mrs. Crappy
  • Cleveland Kelsey
  • Kewyson
  • Spoon

Three FF teams alive, champ is out

  • Uncle Crappy
  • Lianne
  • Carla
  • Pgh Rugby Ref

Three FF team/champ alive

  • Socialist Joe
  • Ex-Pat Pittsburgh Girl
  • Aunt Annoyed Angel
  • Mister G
  • Styx 4 Curl Girl
  • Chachi
  • Calipanthergrl
  • Dudders
  • North Coast Matt
  • Sports Chump
  • MFulk
  • Dish
  • JCK158
  • Scooter

And our best of the best, as we go through the second weekend of FKOAUCNFFC (BTYBPP*):

All FF picks/champ still alive

  • Miss C
  • Red Buppy

There is one more player I haven’t mentioned, and that’s Juan, oh he of little basketball knowledge. When I started this thing, I was concerned that I wouldn’t get enough entries to make it interesting, so I badgered the hell out of my family and close friends to get in. Most were accommodating, but Juan dug in his heels, giving me BS reasons like “I don’t like college basketball” and “Why are you torturing me?” When he finally made it clear that he was out, I decided to enter him anyway, using a variety of methods that pretty much guaranteed that he wouldn’t come close to ever winning this thing. He grumbled about it at first, but eventually came to appreciate that he would be entered in AUCNFFC with zero effort and almost zero chance of stressing about it at all. It became a standing joke, one of a looooooong list of standing jokes we had between us.

Juan — that’s not his actual name — was my friend who died this week. We’re not going to worry about his picks for the rest of FKOAUCNFFC (BTYBPP*), and if I do this again next year, I suspect the tournament will be named in his honor. Which he would find as funny as I would hope.

I hope your teams do well this weekend, and I’ll be back on Tuesday — I promise this time — with the first look at our official FKOAUCNFFC (BTYBPP*) standings.

glory days.

Fun NCAA tournament fact: The last time a 13 seed advanced to the tournament’s Sweet 16 was 2012 — when the Ohio Bobcats shocked Michigan in the first round and continued to advance.

The Bobcats’ seed this year? They’re a 13. Look out, Virginia.

Am I suggesting that you pick OU in your entry to Fourteenth Kind Of Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Piper’s Pub*)? Ah, probably not — fandom and gambling are different things, and the contest isn’t called Fourteenth Kind Of Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Sweet Sixteen Challenge (Brought To You By Piper’s Pub*), because hooboy that would be a lot of extra work for me.

I am suggesting, however, that you make sure you have your FKOAUCNFFC (BTYBPP*) picks in soon. Remember: It’s easy. Give me — via the social media messaging channel of your preference — your final four, your championship game contestants and your national champion. Remember also: It costs you zero American dollars to enter. Remember also also: The winner will get a $50 gift card from the legendary Piper’s Pub.

To recap:

  • Free.
  • Easy.
  • Deadline is noon Friday.
  • Fifty bucks at Piper’s for the winner.
  • Picking the Bobcats to win the whole thing probably wouldn’t be smart.

woooo, cross-promotion.

Thing you guys already know: I am a college football freak.

True, my freakishness is a bit myopic, in that nearly all of it is filtered through the lens of Ohio State football and what everything might mean for the Buckeyes. But that doesn’t diminish my freakdom, and it doesn’t mean I can’t sit in front of a TV for 12 hours on a fall Saturday, trying not to sprain my remote-changing thumb.

I’ve written about college football stuff here for years, and I’ve written about it elsewhere as well, mostly for the now-defunct Draft Day Suit blog. And that … led to this:

CnClogo

Let’s back up. I had been contributing to DDS for a while when we started kicking around ways to add different kinds of media to the lineup; one natural was to get together a weekly video chat where we could make NFL picks. They were fun, pretty good and the source of perhaps my greatest moment of football punditry, when early in the 2012 season I told Goon Squad Sarah that third-round pick Russell Wilson would be a better NFL quarterback than second overall pick RGIII. I will never tire of reminding pretty much everyone how right I was about that.

At some point during that season, my friend and former colleague Carla — who was not only a DDS contributor but also an actual sportswriter at the time — decided to branch out into picking college games. As I recall, the first season — and probably the subsequent two or three — were a bit erratic; we didn’t do shows every week and we didn’t really settle on a format for a long time. But there we were, posting the vids from our chats on the blog and on the socials.

As we went through subsequent seasons, we took gradual steps towards something that one could almost call “polished.” The above logo (which was all Carla’s doing). Consistent naming and format conventions. A Facebook page. And, as of 2017, an audio version — I believe the kids call it a podcast — that posted to iTunes and a whole bunch of other places. We’ve even added a correspondent — hi, AJ! — who gives us a rundown of the stupid fun Group of Five games I’m too old to stay up and watch.

We’re now in our eighth season. And I bring up the show here because we’re actually having a pretty good season so far. The format is solid, we have some fun little things we do each week and — somewhat oddly — we’ve actually been pretty good with our picks. And while I don’t want to speak for Carla, it feels like a lot of fun this time around, even after we spent the month of August boggling at the notion that we’d been doing this for eight years.

Look. This is a little show. I’m sure it’s mostly friends and family who are listening. And hey — that’s you guys. If you’re of a like mind as far as college football goes, give us a listen.

good times roll.

In the late 70s, my musical world view was informed pretty much exclusively by Q-FM-96 in Columbus, and was therefore a bit limited. Rock ‘n’ roll — and the harder the better — was what I wanted to hear; anything else (but especially disco) sucked. I clung to those opinions into the early 80s, when a couple things happened.

First, I found the Grateful Dead, which eventually opened a ton of musical doors for me. And second — I heard, and loved, The Cars. They were a bit poppy, sure, but there was enough new wave edginess to keep me from dismissing them as Top 40 crap. And eventually they served as my stepping stone to Talking Heads, REM, The Pretenders and a bunch more.

Ric Ocasek was found dead today, in his apartment in NYC. And when I consider context — what he and his band meant to me at 15ish years old — this is a pretty big deal. I said previously that the Dead opened doors for me, to roots music and psychedelia; Ocasek and The Cars did the same, but for the stuff that was new and interesting right then … and for that, I couldn’t be more grateful.

another lifetime ago.

derrick 1 2

I thought I had already said goodbye to Derrick.

When I found out last week that he had died, I realized I was wrong. And this was harder than I thought it would be.

derrick 1 1

I hadn’t seen Derrick since … my wedding, maybe, almost 17 years ago? I have a more definite memory of my last contact with him, although I don’t recall the date. It was a message on AOL, and he asked about a mutual friend; immediately after I answered, he was gone. After a couple more attempts to get him to respond — and a few more passing weeks — I understood that I wouldn’t hear from him again.

derrick 1 4

I was mostly OK with that. That Derrick wasn’t the Derrick I worked with at The Post, or the one who had been one of my best friends when I returned to Athens. I was largely insulated from that Derrick, although I know that wasn’t the case for everyone.

derrick me

And in that respect, I’m lucky: the memories I have of the real Derrick — the one I knew in Athens, the one in these pics — I get to keep for the rest of my life. I remember meeting him, in R.J.’s office, not long after I returned to school following my Army-sponsored field trip to Germany; I think we were both a bit dubious of each other, but it was quickly clear to me that Derrick, who was editor of The Post that year, was the real deal: smart, talented and driven. I figured out something else a little later on: Derrick’s prickly exterior wasn’t as prickly as it appeared to be. If you were willing to weather a bit of abuse — and maybe give a little back — you were in.

derrick me tight

And I was. For the three years I was in Athens following my return from the Army, Derrick was one of the best friends I had. And like everyone else, I learned a lot from him too, even though I was the old guy coming back to Athens and The Post when I finished with the Army. He was so smart about journalism and about running a staff of kids who were just figuring out how to make a newspaper work. He could be intimidating — even to me, a little bit — but without fail, he’d stop and help anyone on staff figure out a writing question, a difficult source, a bit of political juggling. He wanted to be better, and he wanted that for everyone who worked for him.

derrick 1 3

We are the sum of our experiences and the people we share them with. I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t had that time with Derrick. I owe him. For all the time at The Post. For all the pitchers of Lowenbrau Dark at The Union. In the pink house. Above Campus Sundry. All over Court Street. For Ren and Stimpy:

For Ween:

And for that goddamned awful song he insisted we play at every single staff party so we could pogo around someone’s living room (and if anyone remembers what song that was, let me know?).

derrick 1 6

This is the Derrick I knew. This is the Derrick I’ll remember when we attend his memorial service in Mentor-On-The-Lake this afternoon.

This time it’s for real. Goodbye, my friend.