The 2009 Year In Review

It’s that time again, when we take a trip down memory lane and remember all the highs and lows of the past 365 days. As always, while we pause to look back we also look forward, embracing each new day with renewed optimism. Each breath is a gift from God, and whether we are perfectly satisfied with the status quo or desire some semblance of change in our lives, it is up to us…not the government nor any other entity…to make the proper decisions that will facilitate our happiness.

 

Personally 2009 was a case of a few steps forward, a step or two backward…change but not necessarily progress. Transformation is slow, but I see the hand of God working within my life. I just need to get out of the way, something that I am not as good at doing as I’d prefer. The great new job I got near the end of 2008 lasted less than 6 months, as I was fired from Verizon in March. It turns out that they don’t necessarily give a damn about their customers, only the bottom line. If that means tricking folks into buying bells and whistles that they neither want, understand, or even realize they are receiving then that’s just dandy because it’ll be 6 months before most customers actually examine their phone bill closely enough to recognize they are being screwed and call in to cancel those services. If I seem like just another bitter former employee that is unfortunate because I simply speak the truth. I am not a salesman, and I am certainly not abjectly amoral. The day those wretched souls lowered the boom on me I could not stop smiling. Do I miss the $20/hour paychecks?? Of course. But I sleep at night and I can look at myself in the mirror. Anyway, after a couple months of down time I got a new job at a 24/7 abuse and neglect hotline where I am not paid nearly as well but I am much much happier and feel like I am actually doing something positive. So all’s well that ends well, as ol’ Will Shakespeare might say. This fall I traded in Big Red, my 13 year old Buick Skylark, on a truck (still unnamed at the moment). I bought an IPhone. Those events have pretty much been the highlights and lowlights of my year. I am not all that exciting…I work, I play with my puppy, I am active in church and with Literacy Volunteers, and I watch way too much TV and waste far too many precious hours on The Internet. That’s pretty much it. I am very aware of my shortcomings and as always look at a new year as an opportunity for positive transformation.

 

We started out 2009 by swearing in a new President, and the results thus far have been inarguably subpar. Anyone who disagrees has their head stuck so far…well, somewhere…that the jaws of life may not be sufficient to set them free.

 

Speaking of our socialist leader, he was awarded The Nobel Peace Prize. No one seems to have a good explanation as to why.

 

The biggest story in 2009 continued to be the economy. I can’t add anything substantially new to the conversation, but suffice to say that I do not believe more government is the answer. The massive New Deal-esque bailout package has thus far been a flop with no signs of that changing. And no matter how much the “mainstream” media tries to twist itself into knots to paint a positive picture, the fact that there is no job growth is a sure sign that there is no economic recovery.

 

Many Americans were brought to their knees by something called Swine Flu, or if you prefer the PC term, H1N1. I’m undecided as to whether it is a genuine semi-pandemic or just unnecessary mass hysteria. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle…it is a legit disease with some rather nasty effects that affected millions, but I don’t think it really warrants comparisons with the bubonic plague.

 

Former comedian Al Franken was elected to the Senate from Minnesota. These are the same people who elected former pro wrestler Jessie Ventura Governor a few years back. Maybe we should consider selling Minnesota to Canada.

 

My Pittsburgh Steelers won their record 6th Super Bowl in extremely exciting fashion. I just wish the success had carried over into the following season. The Penguins brought yet another title to Pittsburgh by winning the Stanley Cup. Wherefore art thou Pittsburgh Pirates??

 

The war in Iraq and Afghanistan continues. No one seems to give a damn anymore.

 

Uber-successful TV drama ER ended its 15 year run. Having spent far too much of my life in hospitals and around doctors I never really made an effort to get into the show, but the few times I watched it over the years it seemed well written and acted.

 

Companies that went under in 2009 – General Motors, Lehman Brothers, Chrysler, Eddie Bauer, The Rocky Mountain News, Goody’s Clothing, and over 140 banks nationwide. I’m quite sure I am forgetting several notables.

 

The New York Yankees bought…ummm, I mean won…the World Series…again.

 

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevic became a national joke after being thrown out of office for attempting to sell the available Senate seat of now President Obama. On the bright side he finished 3rd in the Grant Goodeve Lookalike Contest.

 

King of Pop Michael Jackson died. Parents of small children everywhere are breathing easier.

 

Sonia Sotomayor was voted onto The Supreme Court, a breakthrough for Latinas. The fact that Justice Sotomayor’s qualifications were quite suspect didn’t seem to matter. It’s all about being inclusive and multicultural these days.

 

A really cool video of a Minnesota couple’s…shall we say “nontraditional”…wedding entrance became a YouTube sensation. Redemption for Minnesota?? Maybe.

 

General Motors became Government Motors and Chrysler was forced to merge with Italy’s Fiat. Ford stands alone as the only remaining free market American car company. The Obama Administration has already begun using its takeover of GM as a way to further a radical global warming (or is it climate change??) agenda.

 

I’m not sure what the top grossing movies of 2009 were or what made the critics all tingly, but I went to the theater three times. I saw The Hangover, Star Trek, and A Christmas Carol. I quite enjoyed all three.

 

A Muslim extremist masquerading as a psychiatrist infiltrated the United States Army and killed 13 people at Fort Hood in Texas. This should scare the living hell out of everyone.

 

Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and Jessica Simpson all had a rather quiet 2009 by their standards, but the pop culture machine found new twits to waste valuable time on in Jon & Kate, The OctoMom, the Kardashian clan, and some guy who made the world think his 6 year old kid was in a runaway balloon when he was in the attic all along. Edward R. Murrow and Chet Huntley, wherever their souls reside these days, must cry a little every time they see Access Hollywood, Extra, and The Insider.

 

59 year old Tom Watson darn near won the British Open.

 

Pilot Sully Sullenberger became a national hero after saving the lives of 155 people on board a commercial airliner. The engines on the plane died and somehow the pilot maneuvered it so that it landed on top of the water in the Hudson River, not sinking until all the passengers had been safely rescued.

 

Conan O’Brien took over The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon took over Late Night, Jay Leno got his own show at 10pm, and David Letterman became a bitter old man who cheats on his girlfriend with members of his staff. America suddenly decided we needed more sleep and started turning off the TV earlier.

 

Tiger Woods was discovered to have been putting his balls into more than 18 holes. Idiot.

 

Microsoft, having realized that Windows Vista was a colossal flop, came out with Windows 7. I myself am still using Windows XP cause that’s how I roll.

 

Politically correct, racially sensitive types got their panties in a bunch when a white cop in Massachusetts arrested a somewhat well-known black Harvard professor who was being a jackass and deserved to be arrested. President Obama angered policemen everywhere by saying that the white cop had “acted stupidly”. Obama smoothed the whole thing over by inviting the two men involved to the White House for a Beer Summit. If only legitimately important issues were as easy to solve.

 

Paula Abdul left American Idol. Oh my God, how will I ever find the strength to go on??

 

Millions of horny teenage boys (okay okay okay…and grown men) got the opportunity to see ESPN sportsbabe Erin Andrews au naturel. Unfortunately the circumstances were so creepy that it had a negative impact on one’s enjoyment of the show. Not that big of an impact, but nevertheless an impact.

 

Speaking of creepy…Congressional ne’er-do-wells Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid got really close to ramming a universal health care measure through, even though 60% of the American people are against it. This was made clear over the summer in a series of contentious town hall meetings in which many Congressmen were confronted by angry constituents that they theoretically represent but in reality could not possibly care less about. Senators Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana proved themselves to be filthy whores whose votes can be bought. I suppose that shouldn’t shock anyone, but the blatant disregard for morality and the will of the people never ceases to amaze.

 

Michael Vick made an uneventful return to the NFL. Good for him.

 

Not even the combined magnetism of Obrahbama was enough to snag the 2016 Olympics for the city of Chicago. I blame Steve Bartman.

 

England’s answer to American Idol, Britain’s Got Talent, produced an overnight sensation in 47 year old Susan Boyle. Because we human beings are shallow, belittling types the hosts of the show and the live audience immediately began to laugh at Ms. Boyle when she came onstage because she did not fit within the Barbie Doll parameters we all expect from our stars. Ms. Boyle shut the morons up rather quickly when she started singing, and it should have been a valuable lesson for all involved.

 

The Obama Administration showed early signs of stupidity back in April when it allowed Air Force One to fly low over Manhattan for a photo op…the same Manhattan that witnessed 9/11. You remember 9/11…when airplanes were flown into The World Trade Center?? Morons.

 

Alaska Governor and former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin took a huge political risk by resigning from office. Most assume that Palin will make a bid for The White House in 2012 or 2016 (or both), and it is my opinion that she may have made a serious error in resigning. I’m not sure she’s electable anyway, but quitting in the middle of her term just gave her enemies on the left unnecessary ammunition.

 

Part of the government bailout that bears particular attention is Clash for Clunkers. Though numbers can be twisted in such a way that the program looks like it was a rousing success, those numbers are rather specious at best. And again, the whole thing was a not-so-cleverly disguised attempt to further an environmentalist wacko agenda.

 

RIP – movie auteur John Hughes, actress Farrah Fawcett…Senator Edward Kennedy…actor Patrick Swayze…Congressman Jack Kemp…sidekick Ed McMahon…actor Karl Malden…Golden Girl Bea Arthur…guitar guru Les Paul…boxer Arturo Gatti…wrestling legend Captain Lou Albano…infomercial king Billy Mays…Vegas headliner Danny Gans…funnyman Dom Deluise…actor David Carradine…King of Pop Michael Jackson…Lynyrd Skynyrd keyboard player Billy Powell…radio voice Paul Harvey…actor Ricardo Montalban…politico Robert Novak…comic Soupy Sales…NFL QB Steve McNair…former host of MTV’s classic game show Remote Control Ken Ober…newsman Walter Cronkite…actor/singer Al Martino (Johnny Fontaine in The Godfather)…sportscaster Harry Kalas…former NBA coach Chuck Daly…baseball player and famous brother Dom Dimaggio…actress Brittany Murphy…jazz saxophonist and former NBA player Wayman Tisdale…Cincinnati Bengals WR and former WV Mountaineer Chris Henry…evangelist Oral Roberts…and impressionist Fred Travalena

A Look At The College Bowl Games

Much like other tasks this holiday season, I have waited until the last minute to take a gander at the muddled landscape of bowl games. We are on the eve of the first two of nearly three dozen mostly meaningless, hopefully entertaining gridiron clashes that range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Let’s take a look.

New Mexico

Fresno State                vs.        Wyoming

Fresno State is almost always fun to watch. I would place them on a tier about a half step below Boise St. as far as smaller schools with great potential in big games. Wyoming is one of those 6-6 teams that, under my benevolent dictatorship of college football, would never be rewarded for a .500 record. Fresno State wins easily.

St. Petersburg

UCF      vs.       Rutgers

This is basically a home game for Central Florida. I’ll take the Knights in a competitive contest.

New Orleans

Southern Miss                         vs.        Middle Tennessee

I don’t know enough about these teams to comment intelligently on the matchup, so I’ll go with my vibes, which are saying Southern Miss wins a game that no one will see because they’ll either be watching the Vikings/Panthers NFL game or whatever Christmas movies happen to be on TV.

Las Vegas

Oregon State               vs.        BYU

What’s not to love about this game?? It’s in Vegas, one of the coolest towns in the universe and it features two good teams who actually deserve to be in a postseason game. On paper BYU looks better, but Oregon St. is battle tested in the tough Pac 10. I think this will be a high scoring shootout, which is always great fun. In the end I’ll go with the Beavers in a squeaker.

Poinsettia

Utah    vs.        California

Another good game. I’m impressed. The loss of RB Jahvid Best to a spectacular concussion will have a deleterious effect on the Golden Bears, so the nod goes to the Utes.

Hawaii

Nevada            vs.        SMU

When I was a kid in the early 80’s SMU was a very good team featuring The Pony Express, i.e. the running back tandem of future NFL legend Eric Dickerson and Craig James. A few years later the football program was given a “death penalty” for cheating, aka paying players. The death penalty was really only a 2 year hiatus, but its effects have been long lasting. More than 2 decades later SMU has finally clawed their way back to respectability. To be honest both of these teams are already winners…they’re spending the holidays in Hawaii for pete’s sake. As far as the game, I hate to say it but I think the Mustangs much desired fairy tale ending won’t happen in paradise, as Nevada is just too good.

Little Caesars

Marshall          vs.        Ohio

Merry Christmas gentlemen…your success on the field prompted Santa to reward you with a trip to Detroit in December. Full disclosure…I am a proud alumnus of Marshall University. I was there when Chad Pennington took his very first snap, and I had the pleasure of watching both Randy Moss and Byron Leftwich play for the Herd. This game probably doesn’t interest about 95% of the football lovin’ masses, but I’ll be watching and cheering my team onto victory.

Meineke Car Care

Pitt       vs.        North Carolina

Pitt’s fan base doesn’t travel and this is basically a home game for the Tar Heels. Last year North Carolina lost a thriller to West Virginia, so they’ll be seeking retribution and I think they’ll get it.

Emerald

Boston College                        vs.       USC

Wow, what a disappointing season for Southern Cal. They aren’t used to playing in December bowl games for sure. I think this is the first time they haven’t been in the BCS mix in 8 years. Meanwhile, BC has to be licking their chops at the thought of taking on what most consider one of the top teams of the decade. The study in contrasts…motivation vs. no motivation…is stunning, and I think that’s exactly what the Eagles will do. Boston College by a touchdown.

Music City

Kentucky          vs.        Clemson

Isn’t Kentucky a basketball school??  Anyway, Clemson has outstanding RB CJ Spiller, and I think he’s the difference. Clemson should win comfortably.

Independence

Texas A&M     vs.       Georgia

Georgia had a very disappointing season. A lot of folks, including me, had them highly ranked in the preseason. But losing a star RB and QB was just too much loss for the Bulldogs. My vibes are saying the Aggies win a very close, competitive game.

EagleBank

UCLA                vs.        Temple

I’m fascinated by this game. First of all, I thought there was a financial crisis and all the banks were going belly up, so how is one affording to sponsor a bowl game?? Secondly, it’s in Washington DC. Ah, the plot thickens. And finally, making their first bowl appearance in 20 years are…the Temple Owls. I thought they’d dropped down a division or disbanded the football program. The opponents are UCLA, who make their way to DC from the other side of the country. That, I believe, will be a huge factor. Temple will be pumped and out to prove something, UCLA will be 3000 miles from home with few fans in the seats. Temple wins a close game.

Champs Sports

Miami                         vs.        Wisconsin

I sure didn’t see the revival of Hurricanes football coming, atleast not yet. Good for them. Wisconsin plays in the Big Ten so their games tend to not be very exciting or remotely interesting, but I do like the fact that they play good old fashioned smashmouth football. I think this game will be won with a big play or two, and that is more likely to be pulled off by Miami.

Humanitarian

Bowling Green            vs.        Idaho

I’m not sure why this game even exists. The only thing I can think of is that some television pinheads like the idea of a bowl game played on the unique blue turf. Or maybe it’s a conspiracy lead by Big Potato. Anyway, I couldn’t possibly care less, as this may be the least interesting bowl game in history. I’ll give the nod to the Vandals.

Holiday

Arizona            vs.        Nebraska

Now THIS is a good game, one I will set the reminder on the remote for. Those who prefer high powered offensive shootouts may disagree, because this one is likely to be a defensive struggle. I’ll take the under at 35 points total and give the edge to Nebraska.

Armed Forces

Houston           vs.       Air Force

Speaking of shootouts…here you go. The over on this one should be 70 points easily, and I’m going with Houston.

Sun

Oklahoma       vs.        Stanford

Oh what might have been. Oklahoma certainly had higher hopes for this season, but a knee injury to QB Sam Bradford ended those dreams early. Meanwhile, Stanford burst onto the scene with record setting RB Toby Gerhardt, a battering ram reminiscent of Jerome Bettis or Earl Campbell. Word on the street is that Stanford’s talented freshman QB Andrew Luck is injured and may not play in this game, which would be a difference maker. If Luck plays Stanford wins, if he does not then the pick is Oklahoma.

Texas

Navy                vs.        Missouri

I know Texas is special (my best friend lives there and tells me how awesome it is), but why does it deserve its own bowl game?? Playing in The Big 12 makes Missouri a bit more battle tested than Navy, so I’ll go with the Tigers.

Insight

Minnesota       vs.        Iowa State

If you are curious, this game is named after an information technology company in Arizona, it does not mean that the winners of the game will suddenly gain a heretofore unknown level of self awareness or perception. The game matches two 6-6 teams, which itself is an atrocity. They should rename it the Mediocre Bowl. As a matter of fact, because of the level of mundaneness involved, it doesn’t deserve the honor of me picking a winner.

Chick-fil-A

Virginia Tech   vs.        Tennessee

This used to be called The Peach Bowl. At one time it was even played on New Year’s Day. I love Chick-fil-A as much as the next guy, but the former name needs to return ASAP. In the meantime, a completely overrated Hokie squad takes on a Volunteers team lead by new coach Lane Kiffin, who’s spent months trying to act like a new version of Steve Spurrier and pulled it off quite nicely. I’m picking Tennessee in an upset.

Outback

Northwestern             vs.        Auburn

Northwestern is playing in a New Year’s Day bowl game?? Really?? If the Wildcats win this one and the New England Patriots miss the playoffs ESPN’s Mike Greenberg might just keel over from the ensuing apoplectic pleasure. Fortunately I think Greeny’s health, if not his everlasting happiness, is safe because Auburn will win this game.

Capital One

Penn State       vs.       LSU

No bowl game should ever…EVER…be named after a credit card company. That’s just cruel. On the field will be two teams who probably had visions of something a little grander at the start of the season, but both fell short of expectations. No one wants to see Joe Paterno exit in the politely forced way Bobby Bowden is leaving Florida State, so I think his players will be ready to rock n’ roll. This may be the sleeper game of the entire bowl season, a back and forth contest decided in the final minute. A flip of the coin gives the nod to Penn State.

Gator

West Virginia              vs.       Florida State

Florida State is undoubtedly a popular sentimental choice among the masses given that this is Coach Bowden’s final game. If he were playing most any other team I might roll with it, but I am a lifelong Mountaineer fan who lives less than an hour from the school. But above and beyond all that, the only reason anyone would pick Florida State is because of the romantic, nostalgic aspect. If most pundits who are following their hearts were truly honest with themselves they’d know deep down that West Virginia is the logical pick. I say the Mountaineers win it going away, with Bowden having that sad “it’s over” look on his face the entire 4th quarter, although if I were to write a script I think it’d be fun to have the Seminoles in it to the end when they line up for a last second game winning field goal only to see it sail wide right. But really…thanks for the memories Bobby.

Rose

Ohio State       vs.        Oregon

Ohio State is another overrated team. They won 10 games, but among those wins were victories over Illinois, Indiana, New Mexico State, Toledo, and Michigan…five teams with 20 wins among them. Meanwhile, Oregon battled through the Pac 10 with big wins over Utah, California, Arizona, and USC. Oregon wins The Granddaddy in grand fashion.

Sugar

Cincinnati        vs.        Florida

Cincinnati is a Big East team who just lost their coach to Notre Dame, so no one expects anything out of them. Meanwhile, the sports media should be tested for both VD and arthritis as much time as they spend on their knees fellatiating Florida and QB Tim Tebow (who apparently will be the only disciple Jesus will need upon His return). If Brian Kelly would have stuck around in Cincinnati I would have picked the upset for sure, but the coaching situation makes me hesitant. There is a precedent though. In the 2008 Fiesta Bowl n-o-o-n-e picked West Virginia over Oklahoma. The Mountaineers had just suffered a shocking loss to an abysmal Pitt team that cost them an opportunity to play for the national title and then watched their evil, despicable, dirtbag coach lie through his teeth en route to a new gig at Michigan (how’s that working out Fraudriguez??). The situation served as motivation for West Virginia. Will somewhat similar circumstances provide the impetus for Cincinnati to defeat the Gators?? I’m leaning toward “no”, as much as that sucks. Florida’s defense is just too tough.

International

South Florida               vs.        Northern Illinois

Why in the blue hell are there eight games being played AFTER New Year’s Day?? And why is one of them in Canada?? I’m picking Northern Illinois in an upset.

Papajohns.com

South Carolina             vs.        UConn

I’m a big fan of pizza, really I am. But naming two bowl games after pizza joints is ridiculous. The sentimental choice is UConn, a team whose season has been eventful and not in a good way. But when the coach on the opposing sideline is Steve Spurrier the task becomes quite difficult. This may be another sleeper game that comes down to the end. Connecticut has the experience edge in those sorts of games…the experience of seeing them slip from their grasp. I’ll take the Gamecocks in a squeaker.

Cotton

Oklahoma State          vs.       Ole Miss

The season can be called a success for both teams, no matter what happens in this game. Oklahoma Ste went downhill a bit after the suspension of star WR Dez Bryant, and his absence will prove harmful here as well. I’m going with the Rebels in a competitive game.

Liberty

Arkansas          vs.       East Carolina

Once upon a time the Liberty Bowl was a middle-of-the-road December bowl game. Now All the sudden it’s a post-New Year’s contest. Odd. This looks to be a high scoring affair with no time for such trifles as defense. Arkansas has the QB everyone’s talking about, but East Carolina has the better overall team and has something to prove. Look for the Pirates to steal this one.

Alamo

Michigan State            vs.        Texas Tech

Michigan State suspended 8 players for this game after they got into a physical tete-a-tete with some frat boys. That’ll kill their chances, along with any chance this had of being a watchable game. Texas Tech wins in a blowout.

Fiesta

Boise State      vs.        TCU

The powers-that-be are pretty slick. They couldn’t take the chance that two schools from non-BCS conferences would score two huge wins against traditional power conference schools, so they pitted the two intruders against one another. Outrageous, but savvy. Both of these teams are undefeated but never had a snowball’s chance to play for the championship, all the evidence anyone should need to see that the BCS system is poppycock. One of them will remain unbeaten after this game and have a legitimate gripe. The game itself should be highly entertaining and deserving of its Monday night January 4th time slot, all alone on the football landscape, the center of the sports world with all eyes focused on it. Boise has experience on this kind of big stage, TCU does not. That’s the difference and why I’m picking Boise State to win.

Orange

Iowa                vs.        Georgia Tech

This game might get overlooked. It’s on January 5, which is right around the time some may be reaching a football hangover and have that “let’s just get it over already” attitude. There are way too many of these games and they are stretched out too far, even for die hard pigskin fans like me. And if Boise/TCU is as exciting as it has the potential to be folks may still be talking about it. Also, let’s be honest…these aren’t the two most exciting teams in the universe and they don’t play in the two sexiest conferences. Big 10 football is plodding and prosaic, the ACC is increasingly irrelevant. But let’s be fair. These are two very good teams who should have a good game. I think Iowa’s line will wear out Georgia Tech in the 4th quarter and seize control, giving the Hawkeyes the victory.

GMAC

Central Michigan        vs.        Troy

One more game whose existence seems unexplainable. Alabama already has the Liberty Bowl…does it really need another postseason game?? Anyway, the people in charge of this thing were hoping Notre Dame and its 6-6 record would participate, but the arrogant bastards in South Bend decided they’d rather stay home then play in a “lesser” bowl game. Sure they used the fact that they’d just fired their coach as an excuse, but that’s a load of Barbara Streisand. As a matter of fact, Central Michigan is going to be lead by an interim coach because theirs, Butch Jones, is leaving for Cincinnati. Why?? Because Cincinnati’s coach, Brian Kelly, is leaving for…Notre Dame. What a tangled web those catholic boys weave, huh?? On the field Central Michigan is clearly the superior team. I don’t think the coaching carousel will affect them too much, and I think they’ll roll to victory.

National Championship Game

Texas vs. Alabama

I can’t add much to the discussion that hasn’t or won’t be said by a multitude of talking heads in the coming weeks. We’ve known for many weeks that this would be the matchup to decide the title, the only mystery being whether it’d be Alabama or Florida. It was a three team race nearly all season. Whether or not that is fair to teams like Cincinnati, TCU, and Boise State is a debate for another time, but all things considered this looks to be a fairly tantalizing matchup. Texas looked pretty shaky in its last two games against Texas A&M and Nebraska. They won the Big 12 Championship over Nebraska on a last second field goal that may or may not have been aided by a friendly clock operator. Meanwhile, Alabama legitimized its ranking by destroying Florida and Saint Tebow in the SEC Championship. The end result of those two title games was that some of the luster of this game was off before it ever started. Most are assuming the Tide will roll and claim the not-as-mythical-as-it-used-to-be national championship, and I concur. Alabama just looks to be the more complete team. Will it be a blowout?? No. But will it be a game the average fan will easily recall a few years from now?? Probably not.

A Fair Review of My College Football Prognostications

Late this past summer I took my annual swing at looking into the crystal pigskin to see what this year’s college football season may have in store. The only thing left of the season is the painfully corporate yet mostly fun to watch bowl season followed by the crowning of a not-as-mythic-as-it-used-to-be national champion. I will go through the bowls in yet another prognostication effort, but first let’s take a look at how I did with The Top 25.

The Good

All the other polls did it, but not me. I even had a much appreciated reader of The Manofesto call me out on it, but I stood my ground. Specifically I am referring to the annual fawning over of that glory hound of yesteryear, that has been of has beens…Notre Dame. They were ranked by most as pre-season Top 10, but I knew something was amiss in South Bend so they appeared nowhere near my Top 25. The Irish rewarded my lack of faith with a 6-6 season and canning their head coach. Yay me.

My poll had Alabama at #2, Texas at #3. They finished #1 & #2.  I specifically said “my vibes are telling me this is the year for The Tide to roll”. And roll they did.

TCU was ranked 11th by me, but I told you they’d be in the BCS hunt. They finished an impressive 3rd and have a date in the Fiesta Bowl against Boise St., who I said would finish 15th but instead finished 6th. The non-traditional powers are getting more respect and that’s good for the game.

I told you I sensed an off year for Southern California, and I was right. I was way too generous in still predicting them to finish 9th when in fact they finished at 8-4 and unranked…but I’m still calling this vibe a good vibe.

15 of my Top 25 teams did indeed finish in the Top 25. That’s 60%, a batting average any of those idiots on ESPN Gameday would give their left…pinky…for.

I predicted Georgia Tech 10th, they finished 9th…I had Nebraska at 17, they finished #20…Ohio St. 5th, they finished 8th…BYU at 19, they finished 15th .

It wasn’t a prediction (afterall I did predict the “Top” 25), but let me take this opportunity to say how much the Michigan Wolverines a-b-s-o-l-u-t-e-l-y SUCK and how full of TOTAL JOY that fills my heart. I hate you Rich Fraudriguez…I hate your ^%*@!#^ guts.

The Bad

I said I didn’t buy into the Florida hype…but maybe I should have. They lived up to it nearly the entire season until running into the buzzsaw that was Alabama. I did correctly pick them to lose, but I thought it’d be before the SEC Championship to LSU or Georgia, a prediction that was off to say the least.

Last year I predicted that either Joe Paterno or Bobby Bowden would be coaching their last game. This year I somehow foresaw Penn St. at #1 and “a renaissance in Tallahassee, or atleast a one year return to respectability” that would have had Florida St. finish at #8. Oops. Looks like my vibes were exactly one year off. While Penn St. still finished a very respectable #11, Bobby Bowden did indeed coach his last game in Tallahassee after leading the Seminoles to a 6-6 record. The powers-that-be are throwing him a bone by allowing him a nice sendoff in the Gator Bowl against his former team, my WV Mountaineers.

I predicted Oregon to finish 25th…they finished 7th. Kudos to the Ducks. Charlie Simms would be proud.

I had Cincinnati in my Top 25…at #24. Instead the Bearcats finished undefeated and within a whisker of the title game.

I gave Oklahoma a final ranking of 12. They went 7-5 and finished unranked. In my defense (and theirs) unforeseen injuries to key players (most notably QB Sam Bradford) had a deleterious effect on the Sooners’ season.

The Ugly

I had Georgia finishing at #4 and beating Florida. Instead the Bulldogs finished 7-5 and far from the rankings. They had to replace their starting QB and RB. I should have known better than to pick them that high.

My preseason #1 team was Penn State. Unfortunately the Nittany Lions came up short against Iowa and Ohio State. Ohio State wasn’t shocking, but Iowa’s success was a surprise. I would love to see Paterno bow out gracefully, unlike the not-so-gentle shove out the door Bowden is being given after a subpar finish to a legendary career.

10 of my Top 25 teams finished unranked. Wherefore art thou Georgia, Florida St., USC, Oklahoma, Kansas, Ole Miss, Rutgers, UCLA, Boston College, and Maryland?? Rutgers and Maryland?? Wow, what was I smoking?? The Terrapins finished 2-10. Rutgers did go 8-4, but still…Rutgers?? I had Rutgers as a Top 25 team??

A State of The Manofesto Address

Back in April I took the step of moving The Manofesto from its birthplace on MySpace to this new home. It is sort of like when a child goes from their crib to a “big bed” or when a young adult moves out of their parents’ home into their first bachelor pad. In 9 months I’ve posted over 60 little pieces of me, things that I feel and think and believe. So I’m averaging about 6.5 posts per month or 1.5 posts per week. Not bad I suppose. But it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. I’d like to thank each and every person who has stopped by and checked things out. I have some very strong opinions, I like what I Iike and dislike what I dislike, my faith is strong, and I am not the least bit politically correct. I am fully aware that some may not see eye to eye with everything I say, but that’s fine. It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable. Several of my best friends and closest family members are people with whom I have had the most fervent debates on religion, politics, sports, social issues, and pop culture. So please continue coming back, and tell your friends and family. And do not hesitate to leave feedback. I am always interested to get the pulse of The Manoverse.

Looking ahead to 2010, many things will remain the same here, but I do have some fresh ideas. The Top 100 Movies series will conclude. Originally I thought I would be finished with it by the end of this year, but that just hasn’t happened. My series on The Fruits of the Spirit will resume, and I have other Bible based examinations in the pipeline too, including pieces on The Sermon on the Mount and The Full Armor of God. The Bookshelf will be getting some much needed attention. I know I’ve said that before, but I sincerely mean it this time. I read, I really do…I just need to write more on the books I’ve read. I am going to be taking a page out of Letterman’s book and doing some Top 10’s. Will it be daily?? Heck no. Weekly?? I don’t know. As I stated when I began this adventure, I’m not going to tie myself in knots with schedules and structure. I know I have made it clear I am no longer a big fan of Letterman, but I am also not above “borrowing” a good concept. I will also be reaching back into the not-so-distant past to revive one of my own inspirations, the Person of the Month (culminating in the Person of the Year). It was something I did in 2008 at the old site but didn’t do here this year.

My work schedule should…hopefully, possibly, maybe…be changing in such a way that will allow me more hours to dedicate toward writing, something I very much desire. I am not getting paid a dime to do this, and I have no idea if any significant amount of people read the things I write, but it is something I thoroughly enjoy and have a great deal of passion for.

God bless you and yours, God bless America, and praise to Him for all He does for me and this world.

The Sammy Claus Wish List

Being Sammy Claus is kind of like being Frank Sinatra Jr. or the Vice-President…it’s a nice name that wields no real authority. However, in hopes that the real Santa may take a break from supervising the elves and doing important flight prep by surfing The Internet and being a faithful reader of The Manofesto, I have prepared my own list. Go ahead Big Guy…check it twice, verify who has been naughty or nice. But I am pretty sure my own reconnaissance has been thorough and you’ll find everything here in order. And since it is better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35) I am not asking for anything myself…well, atleast not much. My focus here is on the needs and desires of others.

 

The Marshall Thundering Herd…..a new football coach that will lead my alma mater’s gladiators of the gridiron back to the success we had in the 1990’s. I grant you there was some good fortune back then with future NFL players Chad Pennington, Troy Brown, Randy Moss, and Byron Leftwich…and there may have even been some minor cheating. But there’s nothing that says that level of achievement cannot be attained again and more future pro caliber players can’t make a stop in Huntington.


John & Kate and Heidi & Spencer…..sterility and a complete lack of media coverage


The Economy…..tax cuts & job growth. I know it’s a long shot with a socialist President and a liberal Congress, but we’ll deal with those issues in the coming years.


Kanye West…..the most spectacular career crash and burn of all time!!


The WV Mountaineers…..a new special teams coach. I have softened my stance on canning head coach Bill Stewart, but Stew doubles as the special teams coach and it hasn’t worked. A 9-3 finish was surprisingly decent given the lack of energy, skill, and discipline shown at times this season, but a few special teams plays probably cost the Eers atleast 1, possibly 2 additional victories.


The Republican Party…..a triumphant return to conservative values and the emergence of a formidable group of candidates for the 2012 Presidential campaign. Unfortunately I am not talking about Sarah Palin, who is damaged goods and I believe unelectable.


Adam Lambert…..irrelevance. Really dude, get the hell off my TV.


Myself, The Owl, Greg, Sealey, and Slack…..a memorable and dare I say legen…wait for it…wait for it…dary trip to Vegas this summer. This is the year gentlemen. Seriously…I mean it this time!!


Ford Motor Company…..continued success as a non-government run business


Michael Jackson’s children…..a happy, healthy, normal life while enjoying the boatload of cash your freak of a father left you


Carrie Underwood…..the love of a good man…a man that is single, has his own blog, and lives in northcentral WV. Call me. Please.


Algore…..complete , irrefutable, 100% proof that global warming is poppycock


Susan Boyle…..a musical repertoire that goes beyond I Dreamed A Dream


Coach Rich Fraudriguez…..continued ineptitude and complete failure not only at Michigan but wherever you go and in whatever you do professionally and personally. You are the lowest form of excrement the human race has ever produced and not worthy of sharing the same oxygen as even the most vile and wicked piece of dung imaginable.


Universal Health Care…..complete and total defeat


Tiger Woods…..a case of condoms, a good lawyer, and a full time chauffeur


David Letterman…..cancellation


Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi…..facial movement. Seriously lady, lay off the botox.


Tim Tebow, soon-to-be former Florida Gators QB…..a case of tissues, because the crying will likely continue at the NFL Draft and on into your rookie season there when you figure out you’re really not THAT good (as if Alabama didn’t drive that point home already)


Jay Leno…..better ratings


Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, & Glen Beck…..continued success teaching the masses about conservatism


Phil Mickelson…..success in overtaking that dirtbag Tiger Woods as the worlds #1 golfer

Top 25 Christmas Carols…The Top 10

Be sure to read Part 1 to get numbers 11-25 on this list. And now…from the home office in the beautiful, snow covered hills of northcentral West Virginia…The Manofesto’s Top 10 Christmas Carols:

 

 


10 Winter Wonderland / Jingle Bells

Ok, so The Top 10 is going to have slightly more than 10 songs. Hey, if the Big 10 conference can get away with having 11 football teams then why should I be forced to stay within arbitrary boundaries?? Anyway, as we move into the upper echelon you will find that the ubiquitous quotient increases exponentially. In other words, now we’re getting to the songs that you sing while caroling and hear on the radio several times per day this time of year. That kind of repetitiveness would serve to drive many of us nuts most of the time, but personally my love for Christmas carols is such that I not only can endure hearing the same song a half dozen times a day for a few weeks, but I actually embrace it.

Jingle Bells is yet another “winter carol”, meaning it’s not actually a Christmas song. Seriously…listen to the lyrics. It never references Jesus, Santa, trees, decorations, gifts, or anything else even remotely associated with Christmas. What it does do is make schlepping around outside in bitter cold and snow sound like fun, which I suppose it would be in a horse drawn sled as opposed to a two ton motor vehicle with hundreds of bad drivers surrounding you and endangering your life. All of us, from the smallest child to the greyest head have probably sung Jingle Bells thousands of times. It’s a happy, upbeat song and that’s a good thing.

Winter Wonderland was written in a sanitarium. I bet you didn’t know that. But it’s not as bad as it sounds. In the 1930’s, when the song was written, sanitariums weren’t places for mental patients…they were simply long term care hospitals, commonly used for folks with tuberculosis. Anyway, another example of a winter song that was not specifically written in reference to Christmas, Winter Wonderland also makes looking outside and realizing that it’s cold and there’s a ton of snow on the ground seem like a positive thing. It describes snow as “glistening” and “a beautiful sight”. The words conspire, frolic, and Eskimo are utilized as well, and that’s impressive and unique. FYI, because I am here not only to entertain but to educate, Parson Brown would have been a preacher. I kind of like that term. Maybe I’ll start calling my minister Parson Rod.

 

 

9 Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer / Frosty the Snowman

I realize I am in my late 30’s heading downhill toward 40. But darn it, I am fully in touch with my inner child and proud of it. Evidence that these two songs are the top two children’s’ Christmas songs can be found on your television, where two animated specials featuring Frosty and Rudolph have been annual traditions for over 40 years. Rudolph may be the second example in history where commerce and holiday wonder converged successfully not only on the balance sheet but in the hearts of the American public (leave me a comment on what you think was the first and we’ll see if we’re on the same wavelength). “The most famous reindeer of all” was created by an ad executive for Montgomery Ward department store in 1939. The character grew from that man’s story into the song written by Johnny Marks and recorded by Gene Autry in 1949 into the famous Rankin/Bass animated special first shown on television in 1964. Frosty was likely created in an effort to ride the wave of success brought on by Rudolph, but that’s okay. If one thinks of it as a sequel atleast it’s a good sequel and not something awful like Jaws: The Revenge or Staying Alive. It’s also another game effort to make cold, snowy weather seem pleasant. The Autry version of Rudolph is still the best, but a very close second is a swingin’ cover by Dean Martin, in which he refers to the titular character as Rudy the Red-Beaked Reindeer. How cool is that?? I personally still like the Jimmy Durante version of Frosty used for the television special better than any cover I’ve ever heard.

 

 

8 Deck the Halls

Deck the Halls continues the tradition of taking a tune (in this case a Welsh song written in the 16th century) and then creating appropriate lyrics for it a few hundred years later. A few random notes must be made about the song. “Gay apparel” meant a whole different thing when the words were written and has nothing to do with cross dressing or anything else in relation to sexual preferences. Jolly and merry are both used in the song, another example of painting a picture and telling us exactly how we, ideally, should feel during the Christmas season. And finally, as anyone who has watched the perennial holiday classic A Christmas Story can verify, Deck the Halls is the opening theme music as played by an unknown (atleast to me) but quite lovely brass ensemble. I love to hear this song sung by a choir or a group of carolers, and if it’s going to be played orchestrally it should be played in an old fashioned way, not too jazzed up with modern instruments and stylizations. One should be able to hear the trumpet, the trombone, and the saxophone.

 

 

7 Sleigh Ride

Sleigh Ride is the Christmas carol equivalent of Boise State or TCU…one doesn’t really expect to see it highly ranked but that lack of respect doesn’t make it any less worthy. Sleigh Ride is a winter carol not especially written for Christmas and has a lot of similarities both in structure and lyrical content with Jingle Bells and Winter Wonderland. The inaugural version was recorded by The Boston Pops in 1949, and they probably still do it best, though I am torn between their purely instrumental adaptation and those with words, such as Mel Torme and Harry Connick Jr. My best advice is to learn the words…which speak of friends, wintry fairy lands, a wonderland of snow, being nice & rosy and comfy cozy, a fireplace, watching chestnuts pop, coffee & pumpkin pie, and Currier & Ives…then sing along to the Boston Pops rendition.

 

 

6 Jingle Bell Rock / Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree

The connection here is obvious…rock. Rock n’ roll swept the nation into a frenzy in the 1950’s, and these carols came along during the latter part of that decade. Both tunes are more what we would today call rockabilly or southern rock, which is probably why I like them so much. I’m a huge fan of bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Stray Cats, and ZZ Top, all of whom fall into that genre to some degree. Even Elvis Presley was really a rockabilly artist. Anyway, both of these songs are just a swingin’ good time. As Dick Clark might say, “they have a good beat, and they’re easy to dance to…I give them both a 10”. The original Bobby Helms version of Jingle Bell Rock is still the best, although The Brian Setzer Orchestra did a nice cover. The song is the opening theme for the original Lethal Weapon (one of the best action and Christmas movies of all time) played just before a girl jumps off the top of a high rise apartment building into the roof of a parked car. Brenda Lee did the best and most well known version of Rockin’, and no other cover really stands out as particularly notable. When I hear it I always think of the scene in Home Alone when the bumbling crooks come by what they think is an empty house only to see a happenin’ party going down, a party that is really only MacCaulay Culkin’s Kevin manipulating a bunch of inanimate objects (including a cardboard Michael Jordan).

 

 

5 Silent Night

Earlier I made reference to sitting in a candlelit church at midnight on Christmas Eve singing softly. This is the second tune which fits that motif. Silent Night is a German carol written in the early 19th century by two Austrians. Supposedly the church organ was broken so the two men wrote the song specifically to be played on the guitar. That seems appropriate. Minimalism is the key when it comes to Silent Night. It doesn’t need to be loud, boisterous, or modern in any way. It needs to be simple, almost meditative. I find it perfectly acceptable to sing acapella, but also with just a single instrument, be it guitar, piano, saxophone, or trumpet. The words are quite possibly the most beautiful and eloquent description of the night Jesus was born ever written. I don’t think it is humanly possible for anyone with even an ounce of faith to not have something stir within them when they hear this song. Give me 24 hours with an atheist and an endless loop of Silent Night and I just might be able to accomplish something wonderful.

 

 

4 White Christmas

Here we go again with trying to make snow sound positive!! The question I have as a person who hates snow is…why do I get sucked in EVERY time?? Written in 1940 by famed composer Irving Berlin (who also wrote God Bless America, Steppin’ Out with My Baby, There’s No Business Like Show usiness and hundreds of other songs), White Christmas was made famous by Bing Crosby, who sang it in the movie Holiday Inn. The song itself inspired another movie (though not a sequel) starring Crosby…you can guess the title. The lyrics provide a perfect mix of wistful nostalgia and old fashioned romantic charm. It’s actually a pretty simple tune, with only two different stanzas that are just repeated. It is the most popular Christmas carol in the world and some say it is the most popular song in history, Christmas or otherwise. Because money grubbing bean counters didn’t really start tracking such things until a decade or so after the song was released no one really knows for sure, but it’s a nice thought. It is certainly influential. Ask yourself this…have you ever hoped, even slightly, for a white Christmas?? Yes, you have…everybody has. The question, again, is why?? Why are we so hell bent on trekking around to various relatives’ houses on Christmas Day in bitter cold and on icy roads?? It makes no logical sense. Christmas would be much easier and more convenient if it were 60 degrees and sunny. But…it just wouldn’t be…right. I blame this song on that kind of insanity being ingrained in to us…this wonderful, beautiful, powerfully expressive song. Because of its popularity dozens…probably hundreds…of artists have covered it. Almost any singer, band, orchestra, or other assorted musical performer who has ever produced a Christmas album puts White Christmas on the playlist. But really, there is only one rendition that is worthy, and that is Crosby’s. That man could sing. Christmas simply isn’t Christmas without White Christmas, and we’re all the better for it.

 

 

3 The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On an Open Fire)

Let me get this off my chest right off the bat: I don’t really care for chestnuts. But look over the list so far…how many songs do I love that glorify snowy , cold, wintry weather all while I detest such conditions?? So who cares if I’d rather have a big ol’ hunk of chocolate cake than a bag of toasty chestnuts?? I have to admit though, Nat King Cole makes those chestnuts sound tasty. Written in 1944 during a heat wave by Mel Torme, the song began as a simple effort to “think cool”. I dig irony, and I dig descriptive. Several songs mentioned in this list paint a wonderful, cozy, fun, or nostalgic picture of the Christmas season, but none do it with the elegance and class of The Christmas Song. It talks about “yuletide carols being sung by a choir”, turkey, mistletoe, “tiny tots with their eyes all aglow”, Santa with his sleigh full of toys, and reindeer. It’s not a religious song, and it’s not a fun kids’ song…it’s sentimental without being sappy, lighthearted without being frivolous. The aforementioned Cole did the definitive version, and I tend not to stray far from it, though I do like Torme’s rendition alot. And as much as I hate to admit it, Kenny G does an exquisite instrumental on his saxophone. A piano and/or sax is essential for The Christmas Song, it’s just that kind of tune.

 

 

2 Blue Christmas

While White Christmas seems to get all the good PR, I give the nod to another color…blue. Country artist Ernest Tubb originally recorded the song in 1948, but a few years later The King (this time I mean Elvis, not Jesus) came along and the rest is history. I suppose Freud-types would love analyzing a single guy’s bromance with a Christmas carol about unrequited love, and that’s okay with me. It’s completely logical that a man in my situation would appreciate the subject matter, although there’s really no one that I am currently pining away for. Musically it’s a simple song, accompanied best on guitar. Elvis, despite his rockin’ reputation, was an exquisite singer with a sublime voice. I suppose that’s why no other cover quite lives up to his. There is one other version that I really like and it’s a bit off the beaten path. Some years ago a person calling themselves Seymour Swine did Blue Christmas as sung by Porky Pig. Folks, do yourself a favor…if you have not heard Blue Christmas by Porky Pig/Seymour Swine stop whatever you are doing and Google it right now. It is one of the funniest things I have ever heard in my life. I have never been able to find out the story behind Seymour Swine and have never heard any other songs by that artist. I think Blue Christmas may have been recorded live in a radio station or something, as one of the funniest things about it is the guys laughing in the background…it makes the song that much funnier. I don’t know of another Christmas carol that evokes such opposite emotions depending upon who is doing the singing. It’s quite the odd dichotomy.

 

 

1 O Holy Night

As bumbling burglar Marv says to his partner Harry in Home Alone 2: Lost In New York…”I’ve reached the top!”. O Holy Night completes the triumvirate of songs best enjoyed in a candlelit church on Christmas Eve. Written in the mid-19th century in France, it is an emotional account of the night Jesus was born. It refers to the “thrill of hope” as “the weary world rejoices”, a “world in sin and error pining”. It uses words like glorious, divine, beaming, and gleaming to describe that hope, the hope we have in our Savior, Jesus Christ. The song tells us exactly what Jesus is all about, that “He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger”, that “He taught us to love one another, His law is love and His gospel is peace”, and that “chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother, and in his name all oppression shall cease”. If you can’t get on fire for The Lord after reading those words there is something missing and you better get on your knees and search your soul! But…reading the words isn’t even a good substitute for hearing the song. When done right it is soft and tender before building into a powerful crescendo that fills the heart with emotion. Nat King Cole did a great cover in the 60’s, but he doesn’t have quite enough gas in the tank to pull off the climax as well as it should be done. For my money the best cover I’ve heard is probably Josh Groban’s from a few years ago. That dude has some pipes!! I am sure there are other good versions that I am not thinking of at the moment. At any rate, it’s a beautiful song that should be sung acapella or with very minimal instrumentation by a legitimately great singer, not someone who is good looking and can sing just enough to justify making a record (a description that unfortunately describes probably 75% of what you hear on the radio).

 

 

 

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night. And God bless us everyone.

 

 

Top 25 Christmas Carols…Part 1

I love Christmas. Love it. I enjoy the movies, the food, the lights, the aromas, and the general overall buzz around the holiday season. Now I grant you, commercialization has become an issue, and I sometimes feel that many of us get so caught up in the hustle and bustle that it all becomes one big pressure cooker instead of the sublime delight it always should be. And in an increasingly amoral society where Christianity has become an unlikely villain the true reason for the season is not only oftentimes lost, but sometimes overtly censored. However, be that as it may, I cannot control how others’ live their lives and I won’t let them spoil my joy.


A vital component to ones’ pleasure during this time of the year is the music. Christmas carols are just splendid. Some are soft, sentimental, and full of spiritual reverence. Others are amusing and frivolous. Our modern catalog of carols run the full width and breadth of an extensive range of genres and styles, but they all have one thing in common…they are beloved by the masses. And because of their popularity and flexibility most Christmas tunes have been covered by a plethora of artists over the course of the decades. So any particular song you like has probably been performed by everyone from country superstars to crooners to rockers to full orchestras. What I am presenting here is a two part special …my Top 25 Christmas carols.


When making this list I took several factors into consideration. Some songs are just so ubiquitous that one either loves them or hates them…period. Sometimes one particular version of a song is extremely memorable and has made it a holiday staple. I’m not discriminatory when it comes to subject matter. In other words, you will see some religious songs and some fun songs. There are particular artists that I tend to gravitate toward, and certain genres I like better than others. I like jazzy, bluesy versions of songs. I like big band or orchestral arrangements. I like crooners like Sinatra, Dean Martin, Harry Connick Jr., and Michael Buble. I like people who can actually sing…so it’s unlikely that any kind of post-modern rap, alternative, or bubblegum pop will frost my cupcake. I am also very fond of simple, stripped down instrumental interpretations…lyrics can be important, but not always necessary. Most of these songs have been around for many many many years, and I’m a huge advocate of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. I suppose I’m either old fashioned or a traditionalist, depending on the spin one chooses to utilize. At any rate, this is my list…one can either agree or disagree. Enjoy.

 

 

 


25 The Chipmunk Song

The Chipmunks were created in the late 1950’s and have enjoyed an on again-off again, intermittently successful career over five decades. As a child of the 1980’s I fondly recall the Saturday morning Chipmunks cartoon. But their first success is still their best…an almost too simple tune about being anxious (as most kids are) for Christmas to arrive and wanting toy planes and a hula hoop.

 

 

24 God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

This is one of the oldest carols, having been written in the fifteenth century. Unabashedly and overtly delivering the message of the birth of Jesus and the gift of salvation to the world, it’s a tune supple enough to be energetically sung by a choir or congregation, or solemnly played by any manner of instrument.

 

 

23 It’s Beginning to Look Alot Like Christmas

Maybe this should more accurately be categorized as a pre-Christmas song, one intended to set the mood and prepare us for the onslaught. Most 21st century parents would give anything if all their kids wanted were hopalong boots or dolls that can talk as opposed to the mega-expensive video games, computers, and various other electronic toys today’s children demand, and a lesson in economics can be gleaned when pondering a “five-and-ten” in comparison with their modern counterparts, dollar stores. I dig almost anything that hearkens back to a less complicated time, even if, in reality, those times weren’t much less complicated. Perry Como and Johnny Mathis did the two best covers of the song.

 

 

22 I’ll Be Home for Christmas / Home for The Holidays / Please Come Home for Christmas

I made this a tie for one reason. These three songs have a common thread…home. However and wherever one defines “home”, it’s where we want to be for Christmas. I’ll Be Home for Christmas was written and recorded during World War II and was extremely significant to soldiers and their families. Bing Crosby was the original artist, but I’m not married to that particular version per se…countless artists have done perfectly wonderful covers. Perry Como said it best in Home for The Holidays when he sang “no matter how far away you roam, if you want to be happy in a million ways, for the holidays you can’t beat home sweet home”. Please Come Home for Christmas has a couple things going for it in my universe. It was originally a blues carol, and its best covers have been done by two of my favorite bands, The Eagles and Bon Jovi. The Eagles version is especially popular and usually in heavy rotation on your local radio station. These are melancholy songs, but that’s okay…Christmas is often a bittersweet season.

 

 

21 Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! / Meli Kalikimaka

Another tie, another reason. Both of these songs have attachments to movies. Let It Snow is played at the end of my favorite action flick, Die Hard, which I consider a Christmas movie even if no one else does. Meli Kalikimaka (Hawaiian for Merry Christmas) is prominent in Chevy Chase’s classic Christmas Vacation. Bing Crosby does the definitive version of Mele Kalikimaka, while Let It Snow is done best by original artist Vaughn Monroe but a viable alternative is the Dean Martin cover. Let It Snow is technically a winter song and makes no references to Christmas at all, but it has become so closely associated with the holiday season that it qualifies as a Christmas carol.

 

 

20 O Come All Ye Faithful/ Adeste Fideles

This isn’t a tie. It’s the same song in two different languages. Adeste Fideles was originally written…maybe…in the 13th century. No one knows for sure. It was translated into English as the more familiar O Come All Ye Faithful in the 19th century. The words of the song exhort us to celebrate the birth of Christ, to adore and behold The King. However, I have to say that the best versions of this song are audacious, grand, thunderous ensemble pieces by orchestras like The Boston Pops or the Mannheim Steamroller.

 

 

19 Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

In the opening I spoke of some songs being ubiquitous during the Christmas season. This is a perfect example. With lyrics written in the 1700’s by Charles Wesley (brother of John, the founder of Methodism) and paired with music composed by Felix Mendelssohn a hundred years later, this is just one of those songs that IS Christmas. It speaks of everything Christmas should encompass: glory to The King (Jesus Christ, not Elvis), peace, mercy, joy, triumph, and righteousness. Like other songs it speaks about the birth of Christ and what that means to the world, and since that is the whole point of Christmas it’s fine with me if the message is rehashed in as many songs as possible. Off the top of my head I cannot think of one singular cover that stands out…they’re all great since it’s a pretty difficult song to mess up. It lends itself well to orchestral or instrumental versions, but choral versions with the words are probably my favorite.

 

 

18 Santa Claus Is Coming to Town / Here Comes Santa Claus

As we grow into adulthood our thoughts about Christmas begin to evolve. Those of us whose faith is extremely important understand and revere the fact that the birth of Christ is the centerpiece of the holiday. Adults who don’t consider themselves to be particularly spiritual appreciate things like home, family, and sentimental memories. But for kids Christmas is all about The Big Guy, the Jolly Old Elf, the fat man in the red suit…Santa Claus. So it makes sense that there would be a plethora of Christmas carols dedicated to Kris Kringle. The two most pervasive of these have been covered by an endless array of artists with mixed results, but they are so wonderful because they are so descriptive. They paint such a vivid picture of the mythology of Santa that anyone who doesn’t know the story can have it re-created in their mind just from these songs. Here Comes Santa Claus was written in 1946 by cowboy Gene Autry, who also sang the definitive version. About Santa, the singer sings  “he doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, he loves you just the same…Santa knows that we’re God’s children, that makes everything right…fill your hearts with Christmas cheer cause Santa Claus comes tonight”. What a great message. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town was written in 1934 and is a sort of cautionary tale for children. It warns them that Santa knows when they are sleeping and awake, knows when they’ve been bad or good, and will be making a list and checking it twice so he can divide it into two categories: naughty and nice. Call it gentle discipline or call it mind games…but it works and has scared millions of kids into being good little boys and girls. Bruce Springsteen might have the best known cover of the tune, but I think that’s simply because it’s so odd to hear such a gruff and tough rocker singing a children’s Christmas carol.

 

 

17 Away in a Manger

One of the seminal moments of the Christmas season for me is sitting in church during midnight service with nothing but the soft glow of candles in the window to light the sanctuary as the congregation softly sings. This moment usually encompasses three songs, one of which is Away in a Manger. Published in the late 1800’s, it has been credited by some to famed 16th century theologian Martin Luther, but there seems to be a lot of disagreement on the facts. At any rate, it’s a beautiful song that takes us back to the night of Jesus’ birth, the night He was born in a stable because there was no room at the inn. The best covers of the song seem to be by country artists, possibly because the majority of them still seem to have some virtue remaining and are therefore capable of singing songs of faith with some sense of authenticity.

 

 

16 Joy to the World

Joy to the World is another song that have been adopted as a Christmas carol but wasn’t originally written as one. As a matter of fact, it’s actually about Christ’s Second Coming, not His first. Nevertheless, it is such an ingrained part of the holiday season that we won’t quibble over details. It’s a tune best performed in as loud and energetic a fashion as can possibly be mustered…afterall, the book of Psalms directs us to make a joyful noise unto the Lord. So I tend to like boisterous choral or booming orchestral versions of the song. As a matter of fact, when it comes to Joy to the World I am not sure any singer or band could be subtle and hushed, although I am sure some have tried.

 

 

15 Carol of the Bells

I’ve seen the words, and they are quite lovely and appropriate. However, the best way to enjoy this one hands down is a strictly instrumental version. Carol of the Bells is a Ukrainian carol written early in the 20th century. I’m not sure where it ranks in general popularity since even if you do know the words (and most don’t) it’s not really something you sing as you trek thru the neighborhood on your annual church singalong…the pace is rather quick and not caroling friendly. But I like the tune a lot. It’s kind of a Christmas theme song, one of those tunes that you hear in commercials, in bumper music during talk radio shows, at the mall on the loudspeakers, etc. It’s everywhere, yet not so overdone that it grows tiresome. Plus I think I may have learned to play it in high school as part of the concert band’s holiday show.

 

 

14 Angels We Have Heard On High

You know this one…the one where the singer bellows out at the top of their lungs “Glo-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-O-ri-a in Ex-cel-sis De-o!”. When sung by a great choir it’s absolutely beautiful, but even in just a commonplace group of worshipers or carolers it is usually sung with such fervent spirit that it doesn’t matter if not everyone can actually carry a tune. The aforementioned refrain is Latin for “glory to God in the highest”, which pretty much sums up what Christmas is, or atleast should be, about. I love orchestral versions of the song as well. The music lends itself well to things like French horns, cornets, and trombones. It doesn’t seem to get as much love as a lot of other carols, but I’ll take Angels over Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer or I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus any day.

 

 

13 Holly Jolly Christmas

A friend of mind in college once told me I looked like Burl Ives. I’ve always had an…ample…midsection, and at the time I was sporting a goatee.

Anyway, Burl Ives, as some may or may or may not recall, was a folk singer/actor/entertainer from the 1940’s through the 1970’s. But he is most likely best known to most, especially anyone under the age of 35, as the voice of Sam the Snowman, narrator of the perennial Christmas classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Even as an adult I cannot wait each Christmas season for that TV special. And even though Burl’s performance of the song Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer isn’t at the top of the list (more on that song later), he did contribute two other tunes…Silver & Gold and Holly Jolly Christmas. Holly Jolly Christmas could probably best be described as…catchy. It’s just got that kind of beat. And while some carols are melancholy, many show reverence to Christ, and others are plainly meant for kids, Holly Jolly Christmas is uplifting, positive, and fun without being the least bit childish. It talks about things like “the best time of the year”, “mistletoe”, “cup of cheer”, and “friends you know”. This is the kind of song that should put you instantly in a good mood no matter what’s going on in your life.

 

 

12 The Twelve Days of Christmas

First of all…yes…it’s not by accident that The Twelve Days of Christmas just so happened to end up at number 12. I’m poetic like that. Sue me. Secondly, a little refresher for those who might not know what in the world the 12 days of Christmas actually means. After all, we live in a world where we start celebrating” Christmas almost before Halloween is over and these days almost certainly before Thanksgiving has even arrived. Of course by “celebrating” I mean retail stores and anyone else who has figured out a way to make a buck off of the birth of Jesus Christ. Anyway, originally the 12 days of Christmas were December 25-January 5, followed by Epiphany on January 6 (this is the day that the Magi, aka The Three Wise Men, arrived to visit the baby Jesus…not on Christmas as so many Christmas plays portray). Encompassed within this timeframe is Boxing Day on December 26. Contrary to what some may think, Boxing Day is not the day Canadians and Englishmen come bearing gifts to Muhammed Ali, Mike Tyson, and Floyd Mayweather Jr.  January 5 was known as Twelfth Night and was the conclusion to the holiday season. The entire 12 days was a long festival of gift giving & merriment. So basically in the Middle Ages folks in England did what we do today, only they did it in 12 days instead of 2 months and they did it later. December 25 was the actual beginning of the season for them, whereas in modern times most of us are exhausted and ready for the whole ordeal to be over by the time the actual holiday arrives. What we call New Year’s Eve/Day was when they were really into the swing of things. By January 6 we’ve already moved on with our lives and those crazy cats were just winding down. Personally I’d LOVE to see our country revert back to this old fashioned way of doing things, but that and $2 will almost buy me a cup of coffee.

As far as the song, there is a modern folktale that says it was written in code to teach Catholics about their faith at a time when Catholicism was illegal. Supposedly the True Love is God, the Partridge in a Pear Tree is Jesus Christ, the Two Turtle Doves are the Old & New Testaments, the Three French Hens are The Trinity, the four colly birds are the Four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John),  the Five Golden Rings are the Pentateuch or first five books of the Old Testament, the Six Geese-a-laying are the six days of Creation, the Seven Swans-a-swimming are the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit (wisdom, understanding, counsel, courage, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord), the Eight Maids-a-milking are the Beatitudes (see Matthew 5:3-12), the Nine Ladies Dancing are the Fruits of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:19-23), the Ten Lords-a-leaping are The Ten Commandments, the Eleven Pipers Piping are the 11 faithful Apostles, and the Twelve Drummers Drumming are The Apostles’ Creed. Whether or not this story is accurate is unknown and quite honestly to me is irrelevant. Especially in an era when anything pro-God is treated dismissively the story is treated with a complete lack of respect. Even if the song wasn’t originally written for this suggested purpose I think it’s a great way to interpret it.

 

 

11 Silver Bells

How come the only time we hear bells is around Christmas?? Bells are quite charming and should be heard more often. However, the other 11 months’ loss is the Christmas season’s gain. Silver Bells was written in 1950, and unlike a lot of other Christmas carols that emphasize rustic, old-fashioned, pastoral settings this tune recognizes the hustle and bustle that overcomes a city during the holiday season. What’s funny is that a half century later even that description sounds quaint and charming. This song holds a special place in the hearts of millions of us who grew up watching the annual Bob Hope Christmas Special, which ran on NBC for over 40 years. Three traditions were a huge part of the Hope Christmas show: the introduction of the All America College Football Team, Hope closing the show with his theme song Thanks for the Memory, and a duet featuring Hope and a much younger, very attractive starlet singing Silver Bells. I didn’t realize until I was actually writing this how much of an indelible mark those specials made on me. The last one aired over 15 years ago and Bob Hope himself has been gone for about 6 years. Thanks for the memories indeed Bob.