Dancing On My Own

The trending topic within the global music industry this weekend is NOT Taylor Swift dropping a new album. More on that in a moment…

The Philadelphia Phillies were 22-29 on June 3rd when they fired their Manager, Joe Girardi. From September 15 thru October 1st, their record was 4-11 as they raced to the bottom of the National League Wild Card standings. If not for the Milwaukee Brewers working even harder to miss the playoffs, and if not for the fact Major League Baseball granted two Wild Card playoff berths this season, Philadelphia doesn’t make the post-season.

As well, if not for MLB bringing the designated hitter to the NL this year, Bryce Harper wouldn’t have played much baseball in 2022. He hurt his elbow in April. He broke his thumb in late June. Aside from the job interim Manager Rob Thomson did in letting the younger players play and develop more, as well as getting the entire team to just chill out and take one game at a time, I think Harper’s tenacity to overcome his physical issues and get back into the lineup is another reason for the playoff success they are enjoying now. He set a stellar example off-the-field with his work ethic, and raised the bar higher for his teammates to aspire to.

Of course, there is Harper’s pure talent. The joke has always been Bryce dropped out of high school to turn pro because no one would pitch to him. A Sports Illustrated story at that time referred to him as baseball’s youth version of LeBron James. A rising tide lifts all boats, and the Phillies have themselves a generational talent as their centerpiece, willing the team to winning the National League pennant yesterday.

Mind you, this team is still more beer-league bashers than polished diamonds on the diamond. Their defense is beyond atrocious at times. I close my eyes sometimes when an opponent puts the ball into play. If you get to the Philadelphia bullpen on the right day, the other team might never get to three outs.

Still, here we are. We’ll read and hear a bit in the days ahead about how these Phillies should have never qualified for the post-season. Their opponent in the upcoming World Series, the Houston Astros, still have never been sufficiently punished for their technology cheating during the 2017 season, winning a World Series title they’ve never been asked to give back. I suspect we’ll read and hear about that also.

These two franchises did meet in one of the greatest playoff series I’ve ever seen, the 1980 National League Championship. It was an electric, thrilling five game series which the Phils won 3-2. Four of those games went into extra innings, and that playoff series remains the only one in the history of the game to feature that many extra-inning games. I hope for all baseball fans this World Series turns out to be as exciting as that one was.

As improbable as the Phillies being in the 2022 World Series is, they’ve brought with them a playoff anthem I didn’t see coming either.

In April of 2010, Swedish singer-songwriter Robyn released a song called “Dancing On My Own.” It only peaked at #8 on the UK Singles Chart in its time, but in 2021 Rolling Stone claimed it was the 20th greatest song of all time. Calum Scott, who was auditioning for “Britain’s Got Talent” in 2015, offered up an acoustic version of the song. Scott’s version was later remixed and released by a Dutch DJ named Tiesto.

The original Robyn version apparently became one of the top “crying-in-the-club” songs of our time. From Sam Sanders of NPR in 2019…

“Dancing On My Own starts with one of the most visceral, propelling four-to-the-floor beats of the past few decades. The tempo is perfectly situated right around 118 beats per minute, pretty close to what scientists say is the preferred walking tempo for humans. The one-five-four chord progression is immediately familiar, like it’s been around since the beginning of time. Everything about it is meant to make you smile and move and dance. It could easily be a perfect teen pop song, especially considering Robyn got her start making just that.”

“But Dancing On My Own is more than that. When the lyrics start, you realize she’s tricked you, that it’s all one big bait and switch. This is a breakup song.”

A few players on the Boston Red Sox started grooving to the Scott/Tiesto version a couple of years back with one of the players – Kevin Plawecki – even using it as walk-up music. It became a huge hit with the Red Sox on their way to the playoffs, singing it together in the locker room after wins.

Garrett Stubbs, a catcher for the Phillies and designated DJ, put that version on the team’s locker room playlist earlier this year. It has now become such a hit with the Phillies (who also sing it after games) people are playing it all over the Philadelphia region.

Yes, a breakup song is an acceptable anthem for winning baseball clubs.

But…original music aficionados are offended because the Scott/Tiesto version is being featured once more instead of their all-time classic Robyn version.

In order to make amends to the worldwide music community…and especially to Robyn (even though all versions of her tune must be getting more downloads than Swift right now in Philadelphia)…we’ll close with her version.

Go Phillies. Keep. On. Dancing.

 

Picture Courtesy Major League Baseball

Modern Love

Recently, I read a blog whose author indicated right off the bat the post to follow was more for them than for the reader. Reading that reminded me of a post rattling around in my brain which never got out into the Ether until now.

This site you are reading. My space. Am I blogging primarily for those of you who read it…or am I really, honestly creating first and foremost for myself?

Neil Gaiman, a legend in the land of comic books and who possesses the brilliant mind behind “The Sandman” , was interviewed earlier this year by the New York Times before the Sandman adaptation series debuted on Netflix. I thought he provided a very interesting take on what audiences want, and how a writer makes a decision to write for oneself, or one’s audience.

“Sandman has been huge, but it was never huge when it was coming out. Since then it has gone on to become this ridiculous steady seller because new people are always finding it when they’re 16, 18, 22 years old. They find it, and it’s their comic. It’s their story. I didn’t get to that by going, “I will please my audience.” But audiences do want more of the last thing that they liked. That’s how audiences work. They say, “Hey, I love this strawberry ice cream. Can I have more?” In response to that, I can do one of two things. I can give them more strawberry ice cream. If I do that, I am doomed to give them strawberry ice cream for as long as I do this thing, and I will hate myself. Or I can go, “Nobody is clamoring for chocolate ice cream. Nobody even knows they like chocolate ice cream. However, I want to do chocolate ice cream next. So why don’t I do chocolate ice cream and keep my own interest up?” It’s how the entirety of my writing career has gone.”

Gaiman went on…“I’ll use another analogy. Years ago, my friend Teresa Nielsen Hayden said some authors are dolphins, and some are otters. You can train a dolphin. Give a dolphin a fish if it does a trick, and it will do that trick again. Otters are untrainable. They’ll do something, and you give them a fish, and then they’ll do something else. Because, why would they do the thing they already did? I tend to be an otter.”

One of the things I hope readers like is when you see there’s a new post here you’ll wonder what I’ve written about this time around. Subjects come to my mind from multiple, unpredictable directions.  In the context of Gaiman’s observations above, I think I am very much Team Otter. My writing is true to my nature, and I am very much creating what I want. Of course, I also hope each of you thinks your time is well-spent…and you’ll enjoy what you find. That’s a cherished bonus.

However, one scenario where I lean into Team Dolphin is with regard to any sports-related posts. I believe a number of readers here have little or no interest in sports. Hell, over the years I’VE started to care less about sports which I never, ever thought I’d type out. But when I do write something about sports these days, I admittedly do try to craft those posts in such a way they will also be amusing and/or informative and/or entertaining to non-sports fans.

A new documentary on the life and times of the late music legend David Bowie is currently playing in theatres titled “Moonage Daydream,” directed by Brett Morgen. Madison Bloom from the website Pitchfork wrote about one segment of this film where Bowie reveals how he felt about the time he had his most lucrative success, following the release of his 1983 album “Let’s Dance.”

“At one point, Morgen slips in early footage of Ziggy Stardust (Bowie) singing “Rock n’ Roll Suicide.” He then splices it with ‘80’s stadium tour footage and clips from Bowie’s Pepsi commercial with Tina Turner, which turned “Modern Love” into an embarrassing jingle for the soft drink. The director is formally commenting on the gross commercial excess of the era, if not foreshadowing Bowie’s hindsight on it. “Even though it was enormously successful, there was no growth going on at all,” Bowie says later in voiceover, admitting that he was confining himself to “what I perceived people wanted.” It is the film’s most honest moment…hearing Bowie confess that he’d betrayed his artistic nature is disarming. Knowing that this resulted in his most lucrative phase is its own meta commentary on art and commerce.”

You have to appreciate the honesty. Bowie is admitting to creating work based on what he believed audiences wanted and in doing so, felt stagnant as an artist. When Bowie released that album…writing most of the songs on it including “Modern Love”…I just assumed back then he had a natural curiosity and passion to write songs and create music within a brand-new space. In reality, it sounds like he was way more invested in writing and creating what he felt others wanted him to do.

These quotes from Gaiman and Bowie made me stop and think for a moment. Do I most often create and write for myself here…or for what I think readers would best respond to…or maybe it’s usually a little of both?

As for “Modern Love,” I hope David Bowie at least got some satisfaction knowing many people enjoyed it…regardless of his motivation.

 

Picture Courtesy Pinstripe Hourglass

Crossing Pumpkins

We won’t be putting out pumpkins on the front porch this October. Two years ago, we went outside one crisp, early October morning to find our three pumpkins in various states of distress and eaten-ness. Our squirrels apparently decided there weren’t enough nuts out there in the world to nosh on, so they turned their attention to our vulnerable decorations. It was not a fair fight. It was not a pretty sight.

The irony is those three pumpkins may have been doomed from the start anyway. They barely survived the trip home.

We have a Wegmans grocery store nearby, where we bought those three pumpkins. If you have a Wegmans in your area, you know how ginormous they are. Many people are coming and going, with a front entrance that goes on forever. After we checked out a handful of groceries and the three pumpkins, we headed out the front doors and headed for the relative safety of the crosswalk. I say relative because everyone gets a little crazy whether they are coming or going from the Wegmans, driving by or walking to and from their cars, etc. And at the crosswalk, you can clearly see many drivers glaring at you as they reluctantly stop for the foot traffic to proceed.

I went to put my sunglasses on just as we got to the crosswalk…while awaiting those not-very-compassionate drivers to stop in both directions… so we could get to the parking lot. Two hands on the sunglasses. No hands on the cart. We were on a slope at that point, and I didn’t compensate for the additional weight of the pumpkins we had with us that day.

The shopping cart started to cross the crosswalk…without…me.

My wife gasped as I executed an impromptu jog to catch up to the cart. By the grace of the Holy Great Pumpkin himself, there were no cars immediately in the vicinity of the crosswalk and I regained control of the wayward cart. Little did we know the pumpkins wouldn’t be as lucky crossing paths again with the Grim Reaper just a couple of days later.

Ah yes, October. Days are getting noticeably shorter (am I the only person who likes that?). Leaves start to fall (they usually all wind up in our yard even though we have no trees). Air feels crisper (the air where I live, at least).

The following represents a handful of entertainment items I’ve noticed are on the way in October. As always, please share your comments on these (good or bad – this is a safe space!), and most definitely let me know anything you might be looking forward to.

October 3 – The Good Doctor returns on ABC – My wife is always down for watching medical shows. I’m not a big fan of them, in part because of the great lengths shows like this now go to show as close to an actual surgery as possible. It’s very hard for me to sleep after being deep inside a chest cavity late at night.

October 4 – The First To Die At The End is released – A prequel to the best-selling They Both Die At The End, Adam Silvera writes a new tale regarding the new app named Death-Cast, which promises it can predict the date of your death. When strangers meet, their lives are forever altered when one gets the call from Death-Cast…the other doesn’t. Didn’t read the first book, but might give both a read now. The biggest complaint I have heard about the original novel was they both died at the end.

October 5 – Reginald The Vampire debuts on Syfy – My wife and I are suckers for anything Syfy puts out there, aside from the relatively-new Chucky series and reruns of their “classic” Sharknado movies. I myself have never connected with the Chucky vibe, and my wife would rather be married to Chucky than watch shark movies. Sharks are her kryptonite. It doesn’t matter if they aren’t real sharks. Trust me, it doesn’t matter.

October 6 – Walker returns on The CW – We are huge, fanatical fans of The CW’s recently-concluded Supernatural series and Jared Padalecki, who played Sam Winchester on that show, is the lead character on Walker. This show is similar to Chuck Norris’ Walker, Texas Ranger in name only. I like Padalecki, but I’m not sure yet if I like his acting choice-post Supernatural.

October 6 – Walker: Independence debuts on The CW – Even my wife agrees the last show that needed a prequel was the above-mentioned Walker. It’s only been on for two freakin’ seasons. I will say this show will feature a good leading lady in Katherine McNamara, a star on Freeform’s Shadowhunters, as well as a co-star on The CW’s Arrow when that show was winding down. I’ll watch the first episode and see what kind of world-building they do.

October 7 – Amsterdam debuts in the theatres – Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Anya Taylor-Joy, Taylor Swift, Mike Myers, Chris Rock, Robert De Niro. Yes, please. Loosely based on a true story, it follows three friends in the 1930’s who saw a murder, got framed for it, and now are the prime suspects. With this cast, I am all in.

October 7 – MLB Playoffs start…NHL Regular Season starts – I remember as a little kid coming home from school as soon as possible to watch playoff games, especially when they involved my favorite childhood team (aside from the Phillies), the Oakland Athletics. Not a bad team at all to be rooting for as a child, as they won three straight World Championships from 1972-74. The Phillies may yet find their way into the playoffs this year (courtesy of Major League Baseball adding an extra Wild Card berth). The chances for the Flyers to win a Stanley Cup this year? None. Playoffs? None. We won the Cup back in 1973-74 and 1974-75. I went into Center City for both of the massive parades honoring the team. Who knew they’d be the only parades? Sigh.

October 9 – Full Moon – Called the Full Hunter’s or Harvest Moon. I always pause to check out the Full Moon. The Moon has always fascinated me, and it’s hard to believe we landed on it in 1969 and still no one lives there. Then again, it’s even harder to believe we’re now going to spend a gazillion dollars to start going there again. I think my fascination with the Moon goes back to when I was a kid and somehow the Moon wound up representing Heaven to me. At least I got the direction right.

October 11 – The Winchesters debuts on The CW – You’ll recall I mentioned the TV series Supernatural earlier. That show ran for 327 episodes…a whopping 15 seasons. Now THIS is a show you can have a prequel for. It will tell the early stories of John & Mary Winchester, the parents of Sam & Dean, who Supernatural was all about. Jensen Ackles, who played Dean is – along with his wife – an executive producer of this new series. Jensen will also be narrating this show. His time invested behind the scenes and his active participation on the show has we fans of Supernatural very hopeful the spirit of the original series will be honored and extended within this prequel.

October 14 – Halloween Ends debuts in the theatres and on Peacock – The 1978 original film for me is a cinematic classic. The director, John Carpenter, is one of my all-time favorites. In 2018, a reboot of the Halloween franchise (for the umpteenth time) provided the first film of a promised trilogy. I thought that movie modestly captured the spirit which made the first film successful, and I was ok with it being made. It was good enough I thought they should just forget the idea of making the next two movies and just call it a day. Unfortunately, the second film released last year was a complete and utter failure for me. I think it is an embarrassment to the franchise. I do hope that – as this new release is named – Halloween Ends.

October 18 – The Last Chairlift is released – John Irving’s first novel in seven years deals with a skier who becomes pregnant after competing in the National Championships in Aspen. She returns to New England and becomes a ski instructor, raising her son Adam in an unusual manner. As an adult, Adam travels to Aspen looking for answers in the hotel he was conceived within. The main themes here are sexual politics, a love story…and a ghost story.

October 19 – NBA Regular Season starts – Our 76ers will most definitely make the playoffs again this season, but it is hard to see them winning the Eastern Conference and getting to the Finals. That being said, I don’t have an opinion yet who will be the last teams standing at season’s end. Do however keep an eye on those Cleveland Cavaliers. No, they did not get Lebron back again. They’re going to be just fine without him. My sleeper team in the NBA this season.

October 21 – Black Adam debuts in the theatres – Dwayne Johnson is as big (literally) a movie star there is, but will he be believable and welcomed as a DC Comics mega-superhero? We shall see. I like Dwayne a lot and am hoping he and this film do great things. The Peacemaker series with John Cena recently turned out well for DC. Maybe the Black Adam movie will do the same.

October 21 – Taylor Swift’s Midnights drops – I am not a Swiftie (even though she’s from nearby Reading PA), but I will take note if any notes on this new release resonate with me. I will tell you her ten minute song and short film All Too Well is one of the very best musical concoctions I have heard and seen in the past year. She performed it on Saturday Night Live last Fall and just crushed it.

October 21 – Hallmark Christmas 2022 Readers here may recall my admitted weakness for having Hallmark Christmas movies on as we begin Christmas prep. I’ll be honest, I more often steer towards their older films made before the Hallmark “formula” became a standard for all their movies…which some folks legitimately can find repetitive. Some of the earlier entries took a much bigger creative swing and were a bit less predictable. Hey, Hallmark storylines and families aren’t anything like I’ve ever experienced, but I guess that’s the appeal.

October 22 – World Cup Alpine Skiing begins – This sport may have to rethink its locations as snow continues to disappear around the globe and man-made snow becomes ever more challenging to maintain. I never learned how to ski, but I always wanted to (still do, but the wife just shakes her head). As a kid I loved taking in skiing during the Winter Olympics, and have been hooked on watching it ever since.

October 30 – The White Lotus returns on HBO and HBO Max – The first season of this series had a super-great cast, but to me came across as slow and plodding. And then the finale came and it was – wait for it – slow and plodding. This show has garnered wide critical acclaim, but to me Season 1 was just a slow burn of a show that never got hot, and its finale left me ice cold.

October 31 – Halloween – Loved this holiday as a kid, and I do appreciate it even more as an adult. It’s great to see what characters come up to the front door for their treats. In addition, my wife does not enforce the cut-off number Mom did on candy consumption Halloween Night.

Happy October!

 

Pictures Courtesy City of Salisbury MD/The CW

Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young

You can’t write a post about James Richard Steinman without mentioning Meat Loaf…so now that we’ve done that…let’s get back to Jim.

Steinman passed away in April 2021 at the age of 73. In his legendary musical career, among other things he was a composer, arranger, lyricist, producer, and performer.

While in school at Amherst College, Jim created a musical which got the attention of one Joseph Papp, he of the New York Shakespeare Festival. After Steinman graduated, Papp hired him to help compose a musical called “More Than You Deserve.” And that is where Jim Steinman met one Marvin Lee Aday aka Meat Loaf, who was in the musical’s cast. It was the beginning of a relationship which lasted over four decades.

Jim wrote big, bombastic, theatric, over-the-top orchestrations which aligned perfectly with Meat Loaf’s desire to not just be a singer on stage, but an actor as well. Steinman wrote mini-operas, not just songs. In an era of disco and punk, no major recording companies wanted any part of the Steinman-Meat Loaf collaboration which eventually became “Bat Out Of Hell,” one of the biggest selling albums in history. The opening, title track is almost ten minutes long. Seven songs in all…all heavily influenced by opera, one of Jim’s boyhood passions. Just a few years ago, Steinman’s vision of “Bat Out Of Hell” becoming a stage musical was finally realized, and remains on tour to this day.

When I met my wife, I learned she was a fan of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” movie which Meat Loaf co-starred in. She also introduced me to “Bat Out Of Hell,” and that’s how I became a fan of both Meat and Jim. We wound up seeing Meat Loaf in concert on multiple occasions before he passed away in January of this year at the age of 74. My wife and I even got to meet Meat once. The best thing about his performances was you could easily see he was giving everything he had each time out.

We unfortunately never got to meet Jim Steinman. His career has certainly always been tied to Meat Loaf’s, but below is a sampling of Jim’s better-known works, some of which he also performed himself:

“Bat Out Of Hell” (Meat Loaf)

“Dead Ringer” (Meat Loaf with Cher)

“Heaven Can Wait” (Karla DeVito, Ellen Foley, Meat Loaf)

“Holding Out For A Hero” (Bonnie Tyler)

“I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” (Meat Loaf)

“It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” (Celine Dion, Meat Loaf with Marion Raven)

“Left In The Dark” (Barbra Streisand, Meat Loaf)

“Making Love Out Of Nothing At All” (Air Supply, Bonnie Tyler with Matt Petrin)

“More Than You Deserve” (Meat Loaf)

“Paradise By The Dashboard Light” (Meat Loaf with Ellen Foley)

“Read ‘Em & Weep” (Barry Manilow, Meat Loaf)

“Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through” (Meat Loaf)

“Total Eclipse Of The Heart” (Bonnie Tyler, Nicki French, Tori Amos)

“Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad” (Bonnie Tyler, Todd Rundgren, Olivia Newton-John, Meat Loaf)

“You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth” (Meat Loaf)

Yet, when I thought of Jim Steinman recently it was in reference to two songs in a largely ignored 1984 Walter Hill film, “Streets Of Fire.” The songs were performed under the name Fire Inc. even though such a band never actually existed. The two songs, “Nowhere Fast” and “Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young” respectively open and close the film.

“Streets Of Fire” stars include Diane Lane, Willem Dafoe, Amy Madigan, Bill Paxton, and Rick Moranis. The tagline for the movie is “A Rock and Roll Fable.” It’s a story of an unlikely group of heroes who set out to rescue pop star Ellen Aim (Lane) from the Bombers biker gang led by Raven (Dafoe).

“Nowhere Fast” sets the pace, while “Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young” brings down the curtain. There’s an interesting story behind the latter. Originally, the movie was to close with Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets Of Fire” but negotiations for the rights took too long and the movie had to make its release date, so the producers of the film asked Steinman to write a song to finish the film with.

In just two days, Jim turned in “Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young.” The producers were so blown away by his song they commissioned a million-dollar reshoot of the final concert scene so the performers could be seen singing it. I believe that reshoot resulted in one of the better film finales you will ever see. “Streets Of Fire” is certainly not for everyone. It is different. Yet, no matter what one’s overall takeaway of the film is, I am confident most who have seen it find the end scene satisfying.

Tres Dean of Vulture best describes the film and its ending:

“Streets Of Fire is very much a cult film, which is to say that it will not work for everyone. But if you are one of the people it was made for, those seven minutes will break your heart and, moments later, stitch it back together.”

 

Picture Courtesy Wikipedia

Sounds Of NFL 2022

The above image is a copy of a newspaper ad for a concert I was fortunate enough to have attended back in 1978. The site of the concert, JFK Stadium, hosted many great artists over the years, including the American portion of Live Aid just seven summers after this event.

When I pulled in the image for this post, I noticed something I didn’t take note of back then. Sanford & Townsend is spelled incorrectly, instead reading as Townsand. Their big hit back then was “Smoke From A Distant Fire.” Perhaps someone was smoking “something” when they made that error. As I recall there was a LOT of smoking the day of the concert…

Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” is one of my all-time favorite songs. Every time I hear it, I’m transported back in time. Which as we all know, is one of the most magical things about music. Time travel made easy.

On to the Chessboard’s NFL 2022 Power Rankings. The self-imposed rule here was to sum up each team’s outlook in conjunction with a song title off my heavy-rotation playlist. This way you get to see my expectations for each squad, as well as a sampling of my musical leanings.

(If you have any newly-released music you have on “repeat” these days please let me know. I’m always looking to sample sound suggestions…)

Buffalo Bills (1) – “Dynamite” by Taio Cruz. QB Josh Allen’s offense and LB Von Miller’s defense should both be dynamite this season. This should be their year. With regards to their Super Bowl history, the fifth time is the charm for the Bills. Enough said.

Kansas City Chiefs (2) – “Levitating” by Dua Lipa featuring DaBaby. Even without departed WR Tyreek Hill, QB Patrick Mahomes will once again be levitating above and around opposing defenses. The defense…we’ll see. With the Chiefs, that’s always a moving target…sometimes moving in the wrong direction. They are always a rollercoaster ride.

Green Bay Packers (3) – “Feeling Good” by Sofi Tukker. – QB Aaron Rodgers recently opened up about his use of a hallucinogenic drug, which supposedly had him feeling good and playing his very best football. Whatever, Aaron. Whatever. The Packers defense is really good. They do have to replace departed WR Davante Adams, which they should be able to do with a combined effort.

Baltimore Ravens (4) – “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars. QB Lamar Jackson is indeed “smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy,” a lyric from this song. Yet, he must push his offense to score early and often to take more pressure off their D, especially the iffy secondary. The arrival of former Saints S Marcus Williams should help also. The Ravens defense just has to stay out of the trainer’s room this year.

Los Angeles Rams (5) – “Butter” by BTS. QB Matthew Stafford made the big move from Detroit as smooth as butter. WR Cooper Kupp had a season for the ages. And if the team doesn’t have a Super Bowl hangover and stays hungry, they could easily be back defending their crown. WR Allen Robinson arrived from the Bears, with LB Bobby Wagner in from the Seahawks. Two good pieces to add on to an already strong team. Their best move in the post-season…getting DT Aaron Donald to commit to two more seasons.

Los Angeles Chargers (6) – “Sooner Or Later” by The Grass Roots. Every year I think this team is going to take the next step. I often overrate them, and may be doing it again. Sooner or later I’m going to be right. The concern is a more competitive AFC West, but the Chargers defense might be able to rise to the occasion with former Bears LB Khalil Mack and Patriots CB J.C. Jackson. QB Justin Herbert should be better with another year of experience. Hopefully, HC Brandon Staley will also. His uber-aggressiveness last year was silly at times.

Cincinnati Bengals (7) – “Shoot To Thrill” by AC/DC. I always knock the Super Bowl runner-up’s down a few notches. That’s just how I shoot. However, QB Joe Burrow is a thrilling difference-maker with a lot of weapons. (When I saw he had a recent appendectomy, I admittedly started to think “Bengals Super Bowl loser curse” again). If the defense plays like last year, Cincinnati should be in good shape. Hopefully, Burrow will be also.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8) – “Raise Your Glass” by Pink. A toast is in order to QB Tom Brady as he continues his GOAT career. The Buccaneers look solid enough on both sides of the ball to keep him racking up more W’s than L’s. The defense will have to give the offense some time to recalibrate, especially if WR Chris Godwin isn’t fully recovered from last December’s torn ACL. Former Falcons WR Russell Gage is a solid add.

San Francisco 49ers (9) – “Breakout” by Swing Out Sister. QB Trey Lance will have the handcuffs removed and be handed the keys to this 49ers offense. I think his breakout stardom is not far off and if nothing else, just get the ball into WR Deebo Samuel’s hands. In Trey and Deebo I trust. The San Francisco defense looks rock-solid…except perhaps in the secondary.

Indianapolis Colts (10) – “Born To Run” by Bruce Springsteen. RB Jonathan Taylor is as good as anyone at that position, and former Falcons QB Matt Ryan should be handing off quite a bit. It will be a run-first offense for the Colts as it should be. The Indianapolis defense will be more aggressive under new DC Gus Bradley. They were already pretty good to begin with.

Philadelphia Eagles (11) – “Runnin’ Down A Dream” by Tom Petty. If QB Jalen Hurts is running less and throwing accurately, the dream of him being the Eagles franchise quarterback will be realized. Former Titans WR A.J. Brown, WR DeVonta Smith, and TE Dallas Goedert are all ready to make this team pass-heavy…but they will run the ball well if Hurts struggles. Look for the Philadelphia defense to take huge strides led by former Panthers LB Haason Reddick rushing throws, with former Giants CB James Bradberry defending them.

New Orleans Saints (12) – “Starships” by Nicki Minaj. I just happen to think the Superdome looks like a UFO…I just do. Anyway…the Saints defense is the real deal. No issues there. The two offensive questions are, 1) Will RB Alvin Kamara be sidelined by his battery case?…and, 2) Will QB Jameis Winston continue the new-found momentum of throwing to his teammates rather than the other team?

Dallas Cowboys (13) – “Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd. America’s Team always has those bright, blinding lights upon them, and this year certainly is no exception. If QB Dak Prescott is going to elevate the Cowboys to a higher level, WR CeeDee Lamb will need to be a catching machine. The Dallas defense, led by LB Micah Parsons and CB Trevon Diggs, will be just fine thank you. Then again, with HC Mike McCarthy likely being a dead man walking even if they win it all…who the hell knows?

New England Patriots (14) – “When You Were Young” by The Killers. HC Bill Belichick is still chasing trophies after all these years, but he looked old indeed when Buffalo pounded the Patriots defense in last year’s playoffs. QB Mac Jones will continue to improve if he gets to throw the ball more often this season…and he might have to if Bill’s running back by committee stuff doesn’t jell. The New England defense definitely must play like Belichick teams of old.

Denver Broncos (15) – “Better Now” by Collective Soul. QB Russell Wilson is now cookin’ in the Rockies, and he has some weapons at the skill positions making Denver a better squad. He may need to run for his life to get those throws off, but opposing team QB’s will be doing the same against a strong Denver D. The Broncos secondary led by Patrick Surtain II, Ronald Darby, and Justin Simmons is rockie-solid (see what I did there?).

Las Vegas Raiders (16) – “Caught Up In You” by 38 Special. Former Packers WR Davante Adams is the big catch everyone is talking about. It remains to be seen if new HC Josh McDaniels can chart the same success like he did as a coordinator in New England. Former Cardinals DE Chandler Jones will help make opposing QB’s miserable, teaming up with DE Maxx Crosby to provide a stellar pass rush…which the Raiders will need to stay in games.

Minnesota Vikings (17) – “Hot n Cold” by Katy Perry. This team always seems to be operating either very hot or very cold. With new HC Kevin O’Connell’s arrival, his main focus will be to put QB Kirk Cousins in better position to get the ball to WR’s Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and K.J. Osborn. If the aerial attack clicks, RB Dalvin Cook might just get through a whole year in one piece. The Vikings defense needs to stay healthy this season. They will also need that offense to be hitting on all cylinders.

Detroit Lions (18) – “Year Of The Cat” by Al Stewart. HBO’s current Hard Knocks team certainly looks inspired enough by unorthodox HC Dan Campbell to play like very big cats in 2022. They should definitely score more points as long as QB Jared Goff remains steady, but they will find themselves having to score a lot if the Lions defense doesn’t improve a ton. Rookie DE Aidan Hutchinson certainly is a step in the right direction.

Tennessee Titans (19) – “Breakdown Dead Ahead” by Boz Scaggs. RB Derrick Henry is inevitably gonna breakdown completely from all his usage, and opposing defenses now have even more reason to key on him with WR’s A.J. Brown and Julio Jones gone. QB Ryan Tannehill is on shaky ground, as he always is. The Titans defense will probably keep them in a few games, as will HC Mike Vrabel.

Miami Dolphins (20) – “Rain On Me” by Lady Gaga & Ariana Grande. At some point in every game I see in Miami, it always seems to rain. QB Tua Tagovailoa is from Hawaii, so at least he’s used to the rain. He’ll be getting used to another address if he fails to impress this season with new acquisition WR Tyreek Hill on hand. This franchise had a good HC in Brian Flores but fired him nonetheless…likely because he would not throw games at the direction of shady Owner Stephen Ross, who also managed to lose the Dolphins’ first-round pick next season…so there’s that.

Pittsburgh Steelers (21) – “Out Of The Frying Pan (And Into The Fire)” by Meat Loaf. HC Mike Tomlin stayed with Big Ben Roethlisberger too long… and here we are. RB Najee Harris may be carrying the ball all four downs. LB T.J. Watt will head a Steelers defense that while good, will be under too much pressure if the offense can’t move the ball. Tomlin is a wizard, but I’m not sure he’s gonna work any magic with this team…this season.

Washington Commanders (22) – “Out Of Touch” by Daryl Hall & John Oates. Abusive Owner Dan Snyder doesn’t even deserve to still have a team, which also doesn’t deserve that nickname. This will be the last audition for QB Carson Wentz, but at least he has WR’s Terry McLaurin and rookie Jahan Dotson to throw to. Star DE Chase Young will start the season on the injured list. That’s unfortunate, but the Washington defense should still have some merit if they play like they can…not play like last year’s group.

Arizona Cardinals (23) – “Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac. QB Tyler Murray wants to prepare for games his own way, which apparently is heavy on video games and light on film study. I am totally unimpressed with HC Kliff Kingsbury. WR DeAndre Hopkins will be out for the first six games. The Cardinals defense lost its best pass rusher (DE Chandler Jones) to free agency. Oops.

Carolina Panthers (24) – “Level Of Concern” by twenty one pilots. I still think HC Matt Rhule can coach winning football, but he better have a level of concern about his future in Carolina. We’ll see if the newly-acquired Baker Mayfield can help save his job. Will RB Christian McCaffrey be able to stay on the field? I don’t know, but I drafted him #1 on one of my fantasy teams last year and I still haven’t stopped cursing. The Panthers defense looks to very much be a work-in-progress.

Cleveland Browns (25) – “God Was Never On Your Side” by Motorhead. They went out and acquired QB Deshaun Watson. Everyone deserves a second chance. I strongly believe that. Twenty-four chances? Nope. I have a friend who is a big Cleveland sports fan. He was just getting over their baseball team being renamed the Guardians…and now this. The defense should be fine if they don’t have to stay out on the field all day. We’ll see about the offense, which surely will now be a run-first squad at least for the first half of the season.

Jacksonville Jaguars (26) – “Livin’ On A Prayer” by Bon Jovi. I love new HC Doug Pederson, in no small part because he guided the Eagles to a Super Bowl win. He never should have been fired from here, and I hope he rocks out in J-Ville. That being said, he is living on a prayer down there in Year One. The prayer is QB Trevor Lawrence can become a top-notch signal caller. The Jaguars defensive outlook? Make that two prayers…

New York Jets (27) – “Used To The Darkness” by Des Rocs. This may be the most apt song title of all-time for Jets fans. Their QB is already on the injured list. Do I have to go on? Don’t make me, but I will say they are starting to get some pieces in place for…next year.

Seattle Seahawks (28) – “Long Way Down” by The Goo Goo Dolls. HC Pete Carroll should buckle his seat belt, because it is going to be a l-o-n-g way down for the Seahawks. This will be his last year, whether he wants it to be or not…and he very well may not even finish it.

New York Giants (29) – “Broken” by lovelytheband. Rookie DE Kayvon Thibodeaux already has a sprained MCL, and QB Daniel Jones just revealed he had off-season neck surgery. Um, ok. Toss in whether or not RB Saquon Barkley even makes it through a few games. The Giants appear to be already broken.

Chicago Bears (30) – “Dammit” by blink-182. I think it is safe to say the word “dammit” is in every Bears fan’s vocabulary, and is used quite often at that. QB Justin Fields will be running for his life again this season, which probably gives Chicago the best chance to win games…as long as no one catches up to him.

Houston Texans (31) – “Forget Me Too” by Machine Gun Kelly & Halsey. The Texans hosted the fiasco that became Deshaun Watson. Let’s not forget that. Newly-promoted HC Lovie Smith may have an easy first year if the marching orders are to win as few games as possible.

Atlanta Falcons (32) – “Doom And Gloom” by The Rolling Stones. When QB Matt Ryan flew off to Indianapolis I knew this song title would represent the Falcons this year. This franchise has endured one long Super Bowl runner-up’s hangover, as they have never been the same since they let the Patriots steal Super Bowl LI. That game was in Houston, and I do believe the Texans and the Falcons will be neck-and-neck this year when it comes to losing games.

 

Picture Courtesy Concert Archives