SPORTS: Rebuilding the Big 12

Wow, it’s been over a month since I’ve updated this thing. I guess being busy decreases my blogging output by a month or so.

As you all probably know by now, there has been a lot going down in the realm of conference realignment.

Well, to save you all another long explanation, I’ll make this brief. Earlier this week, Oklahoma’s hopes and dreams of leaving the Big 12, which would have ultimately been the end of the conference as we know it, went for naught as the Pac-12, the desired destination of the Sooners, announced it would not expand to 16 teams.

As a result, OU President David Boren was forced to swallow his pride and recommit the university to the Big 12 Conference, despite all the fault it had with it when then-commissioner Dan Beebe played favorites with Texas by granting it its own television network, which can be seen as the root of all of the drama and controversy that could have ended the Big 12 as we know it.

Iowa State lived to see another day. Baylor did too. And so did Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri.

The only problem: Texas A&M’s ship has already sailed en route to the SEC. That leaves the Big 12 with nine teams, an unfavorable number for a BCS automatic qualifier.

Rumors have been swirling about what the Big 12 will do to fill the void of Texas A&M. Will it expand to 10 teams and maintain the current structure it has after the departures of Nebraska and Colorado? Will it expand to 12 teams and re-establish the conference championship structure that it had before the departures of Nebraska and Colorado?

Here, I’m going to break down five candidates for the Big 12 to add to its conference.


Nickname: Fighting Falcons

Location: Colorado Springs, Colo.

Enrollment: 4,417 (Military Academy)

Current Conference: Mountain West

Air Force has given people mixed reactions as to what it would bring to the conference.

One of the major pros to adding Air Force would be the re-establishment of the market in Colorado, which was lost when the Golden Buffaloes left for the Pac-12 after 2010. One of the major cons is the addition of the Fighting Falcons in general. If Air Force joins the Big 12, it would be a perennial occupant of the bottom of the conference standings for a lot of sports, which wouldn’t make it any easier for it to become competitive when having to face Oklahoma and Texas every year.

Air Force does have a fan base across the country as a military institute, so that would certainly be a plus for the Big 12. Falcon Stadium is also a respectable venue with a capacity of 52,480, which is larger than the football stadiums of Baylor, Kansas and Kansas State.

If Air Force is not initially selected as the 10th member of the Big 12, I would definitely expect the Fighting Falcons to be either the 11th or 12th additions to the conference because, as you’ll soon see, there isn’t too much else to choose from.


Nickname: Cougars

Location: Provo, Utah

Enrollment: 34,130 (Private)

Current Conference: Independent (formerly Mountain West, WAC)

Say what you want about Mormons, but BYU is a sexy pick for Texas A&M’s replacement in the Big 12.

The main force behind BYU’s impressive campaign is its storied history in athletics — a 1984 national title and Heisman-winning quarterback in Ty Detmer and future NFL greats Steve Young and Jim McMahon in football and 26 NCAA tournament appearances in men’s basketball.

BYU would establish a market for the Big 12 in Utah as well as in the Mormon community, which it has yet to do. The school also has venues that exceed capacities of 22,000 in basketball and 64,000 in football, a definite plus for marketability.

One of the major negatives and probably the only thing that would keep BYU from actually joining the Big 12 is its current independent status. BYU, or “Mormon Notre Dame” as I like to call it, just recently made the move to becoming an independent after 12 seasons in the Mountain West Conference. Its television network, BYUtv, was one of the main reasons it became an independent in the first place. And even though proponents will say it can still keep its TV deal in the Big 12, there’s always a shred of doubt as to how accepted it will be with the likes of Texas and its brainchild, the Longhorn Network.

The other negative that only matters to some is the factor of geography. Provo, Utah, is almost 1,000 miles from the closest Big 12 school (Kansas State) and it 1,000+ miles away from all of the others. This is essentially the equivalent to South Florida being in the Big East, but the more we stray away from logically geographic conference structures, the harder it will be for families to travel and see their players play every year for conference games.

Still, BYU is the favorite to join the Big 12. Competitive athletics, an untapped market and Mormon street cred. What’s not to love?


Nickname: Cougars

Location: Houston, Texas

Enrollment: 38,752 (Public)

Current Conference: Conference USA

Here we go. Now we begin the portion of the discussion that makes sense but doesn’t make sense at the same time. Will adding a team from Texas benefit or hurt the Big 12?

The few proponents of adding a team like Houston or TCU to the Big 12, such as myself, will tell you that it would re-establish the old rivalries of the Southwestern Conference between those displaced schools with Texas, Baylor and Texas Tech. Houston has been very competitive since the demise of the Southwestern Conference, so why not add it back into the mix?

Well, one of the things that could possibly prevent any Texas team from being added to the Big 12 is the fact that adding another Texas team would dilute the recruiting pool in the state for Big 12 teams, which all rely heavily on their recruiting bases in the Lone Star State. Another damper on Houston’s possibly relocation is the fact that even thought Texas A&M’s departure would open up the market in Houston for the Big 12, Baylor still has a share in it. This, to me, isn’t a very compelling reason to not add Houston to the Big 12, but opponents to adding another Big 12 school to the conference are certainly using it.

Overall, I think Houston will be added at some point. If Air Force isn’t added, which there’s a good possibility it won’t, then look for Houston or TCU to call the Big 12 as their new home along with BYU, which is as of right now already practically in the Big 12 barring something catastrophic from happening.


Nickname: Horned Frogs

Location: Fort Worth, Texas

Enrollment: 9,142 (Private)

Current Conference: Mountain West

This is a bit of a longshot in some respects, considering the fact that TCU is already slated to join the Big East after this season. However, that decision was made in haste at the time that it was because of the Big 12’s announced initiative to stay at 10 teams after the departures of Nebraska and Colorado in 2010. There’s no denying that if the Big 12 would have been exploring expansion that TCU would already be in the conference at least this year or next.

Now that the Big 12 is exploring expansion, TCU is getting cold feet and is contemplating moving to the Big 12 or staying in the Mountain West if it doesn’t make it to the Big 12.

Of course, TCU would be a huge addition for football, but a substandard addition in the big picture. The three other Texas schools are cringing at the thought of adding another Texas school to the Big 12, but again, it would re-establish past Southwestern Conference rivalries.

With markets and recruiting aside, I say the Big 12 would be foolish not to add TCU to its conference. It would offset Baylor’s awkward presence as the only private school in the conference and would also give another representation of small-enrollment private schools in the conference as well.


Nickname: Mustangs

Location: Dallas, Texas

Enrollment: 12,000 (Private)

Current Conference: Conference USA

Here is the dark horse (pun intended) candidate to expansion. I’ll make this short because I’m getting tired of all these acronyms.

SMU received the Death Penalty in the late ’80s after scandals involving NCAA investigations that were rampant throughout the Southwestern Conference. Thus initiated the demise of the conference and the ultimate moving of Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor and Texas Tech to the Big 12.

SMU has just recently become competitive in football again, with back-to-back bowl appearances under coach June Jones. Still, adding SMU to the Big 12 holds more negatives than positives.

The only positive is the re-establishment of Southwestern Conference rivalries, which has already been re-hashed so much in this blog that typing that out really hurt my brain.

The negatives? Pretty much everything discussed in the Houston and TCU sections of this blog post, but magnified times 10.

Overall, SMU has about a five-percent chance of joining the Big 12. That must sting especially as the only school of these five that have publicly come out with expressed interest in joining the conference.


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XXVIII. Long Time Gone

AMES, Iowa — Wow, it’s been forever since I’ve last written a blog post.

Granted, I’ve been busy these past few weeks. I moved back from Carroll, spent two weeks in my hometown of Urbandale before moving back up to Ames for my third year of college.

(Seriously, I’m a junior now? Where on earth has time gone?)

Anyways, during my closing days in Urbandale, I had planned to write a blog post about Tim Tebow’s recent comments regarding his dream of being a starting quarterback in the NFL being “taken away” from him and how much of a hyperbole it is for him to think that considering position battles are a competitive part of the game.

"Hey baby, have you accepted Jesus Christ into your life as your lord and savior?" — Typically TIm Tebow pickup line. <— See how old those jokes get?

Well, I’ve decided to nix the idea of writing a blog post about Tim Tebow and his “dream” for multiple reasons.

  1. I try not to be too mean in my commentary on this blog. However, after getting about three paragraphs into my post about Tebow, I began sounding like ESPN columnist figurehead Rick Reilly. My criticisms seemed harsh and unwarranted, as if Tebow had personally broken into my house, rubbed his muddy shoes all over my carpet and violently kicked my cat around. Tebow’s not a bad guy, so why would I be out to get him so badly in a way reminiscent of Rick Reilly’s recent bashing of him?
  2. I’m trying not to limit the amount of sports commentary on this blog. This is not necessarily for concerns of ethics and whatnot, but my main goal is to become a sportswriter and while I like writing about sports, there’s so much other stuff going on that I don’t normally get to write about, so I don’t want to feel so constrained to sticking to my niche.
  3. Even though I’m not a Christian myself (or a believer in anything for that matter), I do think it’s in very poor taste to make countless jokes about his “good Christian momma’s boy” persona. Sure, he claims he’s a virgin and is very popular with people of the far right in this country — leaving just two of the many reasons I could jest at his expense — but it’s a little shameless to poke fun at someone just because they’re doing what they think is right, regardless of whether or not it actually is. Besides, the First Amendment protects our freedom of religion, and even though I’m personally not OK with Tebow pushing a pro-life agenda via a cheesy Super Bowl commercial, I really don’t have a problem with him believing what he wants to believe.

There, now that I got that out of the way and the attention can finally shift away from Tim Tebow (as much as he doesn’t want it to), I’m going to talk about what I really wanted to talk about: nothing.

That’s right, nothing.

Life's biggest dilemma.

The oddities of everyday life often go uncharted, mainly because we’re all too busy to stop and look around and notice an incredibly attractive girl going out of her way to start a conversation with you but walking away disappointed because you thought she was just merely asking you a simple question that you took two seconds to answer to then go back to rummaging through your music library on your ipod trying to figure out why Led Zeppelin isn’t there.

As much of a travesty as that may be, don’t you think Jimmy Page would have wanted you to talk to that pretty girl and maybe get her phone number?

Ahh, the dilemmas of college. Sometimes you trip and fall in front of hundreds of people, sometimes you stumble into class late because your alarm didn’t go off (which is beginning to die as a legitimate excuse, no matter how true it is) and sometimes you neglect to notice that the girl of your dreams is taking a subtle interest in you, which continues you down the path of your two-year streak of being single and being pegged as the “nice guy” who’s too nice to date.

It’s tough, trust me.

You’ve just got to keep on truckin’ until someone as awkward as you comes along and trips right on top of you.

Anyways, that’s enough of this nonsense. I’ve got “stuff” to do.

-Calhoun 8/20/2011

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XXVII. Summertime Blues

CARROLL, Iowa — I sit here in my apartment, thinking about the summer and how fast it has gone by and all that I accomplished in my time away from home.

This summer, I worked as a sports intern at the Daily Times Herald, the award-winning newspaper in the sleepy town of Carroll, Iowa. OK, “sleepy” isn’t the best way to describe Carroll. I don’t think a town of roughly 10,000 people can correctly be categorized as “sleepy,” so I think a better adjective to use would be “gentle.”

…Although “gentle” might not be the best adjective, either, considering there was a woman who went missing about a week before I got here, the criminal trial of Michael Swanson was held right across the street from the Times Herald’s office (parking was absolutely terrible that week), Michele Bachmann has reared her ugly face here and spread her hateful messages about President Obama and her hope for America to become a theocracy and earlier today I witnessed a horrific car crash where one of the cars involved left a meandering skid mark for about a block before it came in contact with the other vehicle.

But compared to Des Moines (or even Ames for that matter), it’s “gentle.” So we’ll go with that.

Anyways, before I began my mindless ramble, I’ve been thinking about my work this summer and all I’ve experienced in my two-and-a-half months in this little town in Western Iowa, but before I go into detail about that, I think it’s important to re-touch on what type of season summer has been for me in the past.

In the past, the word that, for me, is perfectly synonymous with “summer” would be “anxiety.” Since I was a wee little one at about the age of seven, summer has been a season of anxiety, disappointment, boredom and catastrophe. I’ve suffered the worst breakup of my life two summers ago, spent last summer working the worst summer job ever at McDonald’s while carrying on absolutely no social life whatsoever, suffered countless sunburns over the years after being dragged to the pool by my mom and have experienced a painful piercing of dread in the pit of my stomach anticipating the beginning of football camp (where I would get even more sunburned), so summer has never been nice to me.

But with all that aside, I can confidently say that this has been the best summer of my life having gotten to work for the Daily Times Herald and experience the ebbs and flows of community journalism.

I spent the summer living with Chris Cuellar, who is a recent graduate of Iowa State and was also my editor at the Iowa State Daily this past school year. Cuellar, who is one of the most well-read people I know (and is probably reading this right now), was also an intern at the Times Herald, covering high school sports while working on news stories as well. In the conversations I have had with him in which he was not pointing out something stupid that I had done, he has changed the way I’ve thought about things and has given me some valuable insight on what I should expect in my upcoming role as an assistant sports editor at the Daily.

Having gotten to live with him in a small apartment just south of the giant St. Anthony’s hospital and Kuemper High School and about a mile from the Daily Times Herald office for the modest cost of $180 rent a month has really been a steal as well.

This summer, I covered a lot of high school sports, with highlights ranging from South Central Calhoun winning the 2A boy’s 4×400 title at the state track meet to the Kuemper boy’s golf team’s third-straight state title to the Coon Rapids-Bayard baseball team’s near upset in the 1A semifinals of the state tournament that would have ended Martensdale-St. Mary’s 85-game winning streak (which is the longest streak in baseball history) to the Kuemper baseball team’s rise and fall through a 37-1 season that abruptly ended in an eight-inning thriller in the semifinal round of the 2A state tournament.

It’s been a fun summer, so here’s a brief rundown of some of the highlights that I’ve gotten out of it:

Photo credit: Carroll Anytime Fitness' Website

  • Of my 80 days in Carroll, 54 of them have been spent at Anytime Fitness, which lies just west of Highway 71 on the West side of town. When you live in a town where you don’t have any friends and the only thing there is to do is hit on the pretty short-haired girl working at Burger King, you find a lot of motivation to go to the gym because hey, you’ve got to do something with your free time, right?
  • Some Most people in Carroll are bad drivers, so defensive driving is a must in living in a town like this.
  • I’ve become a big believer in wrist straps, flossing and email. Sometimes the weight can just get too heavy, whether it be deadlifts or upright barbell rows, that your grip alone cannot hold up; teeth cleanings take half as long if you floss on occasion as opposed to not flossing at all; and sometimes the only way you can find something out from someone is through email if you don’t have a phone signal.
  • Speaking of phone signals, I’ve learned to be less dependent on my phone considering the entire town of Carroll has literally no reception for anyone who has AT&T. Literally, no reception. Go north to Sac County or east to Greene county and you can get reception, but Carroll county is strictly a dead zone for anyone unfortunate enough to have AT&T and expect to keep in touch with people through calling or texting.
  • I’ve developed a new appreciation for the game of baseball. After having gotten to cover it this season, I now become puzzled whenever I hear someone complain that baseball is “too boring”. If I’m not mistaken, there have only been a handful of (two or three) “boring” baseball games I’ve covered, so it certainly isn’t boring to me.
  • I’ve also learned the differences between softball and baseball: namely that pitching underhand as they do in softball is a natural motion of the body, thus requiring less rest and recovery for a pitcher in softball than a pitcher in baseball.
  • Most importantly, I’ve learned some of the major differences between the community journalism atmosphere of a town like Carroll and the collegiate journalism atmosphere of a place like the campus of Iowa State. People are much friendlier in Carroll and much less reluctant to talk to you than on a college campus, where everyone has their earbuds in and pretends to not hear you or tries not to act annoyed that you want to talk to them. It’s much more laid back working for a community newspaper than a college newspaper, but as strange as this sounds, I really miss having non-morning deadlines. But still, it was nice to come into the office at 8 a.m. and have time to get a game story done from the night before with time to work on something else.

This summer has definitely been invaluable to me as a person and a young professional. I’ve gotten to cover two talented baseball teams at the state tournament, cover MMA fights (which is not something everyone gets to do), meet a lot of interesting people and learn a lot of life lessons along the way.

I’m leaving on Monday, so I’ll be spending my last few nights reminiscing about how good this summer has been. Even though this entire town is basically living in 1985, it’s still been fun.

So here’s to you, Carroll. Thanks for showing me a good time.

We’ll meet again, don’t know where (OK, I know where), don’t know when, but I know we’ll meet again; some (hot, muggy, sticky) sunny day.

-Calhoun 7/30/2011

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SPORTS: Goodbye, Matt Hasselbeck

Matt Hasselbeck in the Seahawks' 2010 NFC Divisional Game against Chicago. Photo: Getty Images

The end of the NFL Lockout brought about a free agent-signing frenzy yesterday that was reminiscent of National Signing Day for college football, with free agent signings having been halted during the duration of the lockout.

Yesterday, the Seahawks decided to part ways with longtime quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who has led the team to multiple playoff appearances and a Super Bowl appearance in his 10 years in Seattle.

Hasselbeck, 35, is the franchise record-holder in passing yards in a game (449), passing yards in a season (3,966) and career passing yards (29,434).

He’s one of the most-celebrated players in franchise history, and his departure from the team in favor of Charlie Whitehurst and yesterday’s signee Tarvaris Jackson has been bittersweet for all of us a part of the 12th Man.

But, I have a confession: I never liked Matt Hasselbeck.

Never liked him, not even when he was good.

The Seahawks acquired Hasselbeck in a trade with Green Bay for Ahman Green, who was a perennial pro bowler with the Packers but is now playing in the Canadian Football League. In hindsight, the Seahawks got the better end of the deal, and as much as I hate to admit it, I’m really glad they did.

I’ll be the first to admit I’ve never been good at scouting talent at the quarterback position and there have been multiple instances that serve as proof: I thought Joey Harrington was going to be the savior of the Detroit Lions, I didn’t think Ben Roethlisberger would be any good (he still isn’t in my book because I absolutely cannot stand him) and I thought Matt Leinart would already have a ring by now.

Maybe my warped judgment of talent makes my disliking of Matt Hasselbeck irrational, but the two had never seemed linear until today when I first got the idea to write a blog post about it. Isn’t the mind just great?

In 2001, before the Seahawks had their string of success with five-straight playoff appearances and four-straight division titles, then-coach Mike Holmgren had a tough decision to make regarding who would start between Hasselbeck and Trent Dilfer. At the tender age of 10, I had already decided I did not like Matt Hasselbeck and that Trent Dilfer should be our guy. Dilfer, who had absolutely minimal involvement in the Baltimore Ravens’ Super Bowl XXXV victory as the starting quarterback, was already washed up and was poised to producing little-to-no success for the Seahawks, but for some reason, I had more faith in him than I did in Hasselbeck.

Matt Hasselbeck lobs a pass in the 2003 NFC Wild Card game against the Packers in Lambeau Field. After winning the coin toss, Hasselbeck arrogantly stated, "We want the ball and we're gonna score." He then preceded to throw an interception that would be returned for the game-winning touchdown for the Packers.

Much to my chagrin, Hasselbeck remained the starter and the Seahawks found success one year after their move from the AFC to the NFC following the Houston Texans’ entrance into the league, forcing the realignment into four divisions per conference, the format we have today.

Hasselbeck led the young-and-budding Seahawks to the playoffs, something I only faintly remembered in 1999 when Jon Kitna led the Seahawks to an AFC West title with a 9-7 record.

I had to watch this game from a motel a block away from my mom’s house because she had gotten in a fight with her boyfriend with whom she resided with, she had been projecting the entire argument on my sister and I who were already reluctant to even spend the day with her with the state that she was in. She was crying, which made Leah cry, but I just wanted to watch the damn football game.

I was already in a terrible mood as Hasselbeck managed to keep the Seahawks in the game and (somehow) force the game into overtime. A big second-half for the Seahawks kept them in the game, although from what I remember, the Packers had been dominating for the most part. Maybe that was a feeling I had gotten from the anxiety that came with watching my Seahawks take the heavily favored Packers to the brink of a possible upset, who knows. All I knew was I was potentially going to see something great… Until this happened.

I shouted at the top of my lungs in anger and disbelief after hearing Matt Hasselbeck say that.

“We want the ball and we’re gonna score.”

You don’t say that. Ever. I don’t care how confident you are, you just don’t say that.

Al Harris returns an interception from Matt Hasselbeck for a touchdown to defeat the Seahawks, 33-27, in the 2003 NFC Wild Card game.

Well, my fear of Hasselbeck having jinxed himself flashed before my eyes: Hasselbeck steps back to pass, throws, and launches a perfect spiral into Packers CB Al Harris’ chest. Harris, who looked like he almost expected it to be thrown at him, returned it for a touchdown, thus successfully putting an end to the Seahawks’ almost-improbable upset over the heavily favored Packers.

I sat there in disbelief. A violent snowstorm had inundated my mom, sister and I in that motel room my mom had hastily gotten for her day with us (it was not a good time in our lives), and it was only made worse by the fact that the idiot quarterback had just jinxed the entire team and gave up the interception that would seal the deal for the Packers to advance.

I wanted him dead.

My feelings toward Hasselbeck were reiterated after the Seahawks failed to defeat their hated division rival St. Louis Rams in the NFC Wild Card round the next year. The reason I was so upset about that one? The Rams were 8-8 and had no business being in the playoffs, plus I just flatout hate the Rams. Everyone has that team that they hate, and for me, it’s the Rams. I know ‘hate’ is a strong word, but I still hate the Rams. Marc Bulger was an overrated tool and Mike Martz was the old lady who talked way too loud and spit on people at bingo night. I hated the Rams.

Matt Hasselbeck reacts to another bad call by the referees in Super Bowl XL. Did the Steelers really deserve to win that game? Absolutely not.

Even through the fairytale year of 2005 that ended with me endlessly sobbing due to the terrible calls made by the referees in Super Bowl XL that favored the Pittsburgh Steelers, I cringed at the thought of Hasselbeck hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Don’t get me wrong, I wanted nothing more than the Seahawks to win Super Bowl XL to shut up the obnoxious Steeler fanbase, but the thought of Matt Hasselbeck leading us to that victory made my stomach turn. Throughout the playoffs that year I was crossing my fingers and wishing Hasselbeck would break his leg and give former Cyclone Seneca Wallace a chance to become the next Tom Brady. It never happened, but a kid could have only have hoped at that point.

Well, here we are. After years of wishing Matt Hasselbeck would pull a Vince Young and fizzle out after a few short-lived successes, he is finally parting ways with the organization.

Now that the tides of change have finally come flowing in my favor, I can honestly say it’s a little bittersweet.

Earlier today, he signed a three-year deal with the Tennessee Titans, which, to me, is incredibly insulting. During this year’s draft I was almost assured the Seahawks would take Jake Locker in the first round. Some people have doubts and Jeremiah still think he sucks, but who doesn’t want a quarterback named Jake Locker? Besides, do you really think he’s worse than Blaine Gabbert and Andy Dalton? So for the Titans to have both Locker and Hasselbeck is kind of a middle finger to all Seahawk fans.

But, I’m really hoping this year will be a casualty so the Seahawks can lock up the No. 1 pick and take Andrew Luck. It’s probably not going to happen, but you can only hope.

So here we are. Hasselbeck is gone, and all we have left is Charlie Whitehurst and Tarvaris Jackson. OH GOD, WHY DID MATT HASSELBECK HAVE TO GO?

-Calhoun 7/27/2011

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SPORTS: Texas A&M’s Potential Departure and Fallout for Big 12

Last summer, the Big 12 Conference was a decision away from ceasing to be (as John Cleese would put it) until Texas decided to decline an invitation extended to it and four other Big 12 South schools from the Pac-12. The decision ultimately prevented the dissolving of the Big 12, which would have left Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas and Kansas State without a conference and Missouri scrambling for a bid in the Big Ten, which was ultimately pilfered by Nebraska.

The conference now has 10 teams – minus Colorado and Nebraska, who both moved to the Pac-12 and Big Ten, respectfully – which has effectively eliminated the Big 12 Championship game and enforced a nine-game conference schedule for each team in football. Even though teams like Iowa State and Kansas will ultimately suffer from the nine-game conference schedule having lost the luxury of having a fourth non-conference game, it still beats having to move to the Big East or the Mid-American Conference.

Well now here we are. Nebraska has since departed for the Big Ten and Colorado has since crawled its way into the cellar of the Pac-12 (apparently it has windows… The cellar of the Big 12 doesn’t have windows). Neither of them took Bill Snyder’s denture polish, Mike Gundy’s punching bag or Mack Brown’s secret manthong collection (we know); neither took the regret of never having to play Texas or Oklahoma again;  and neither of them regretted their decision to leave the unbalanced nature of the sick-and-twisted Capitalist experiment that spits on the idea of revenue sharing as a socialist plot driven by the liberal media and pretty much everyone else in college football.

Speaking of Capitalism, there has been a recent controversy regarding Texas’ new television network – the Longhorn Network – and how fair it really is that they are getting their own t.v. network and the other nine aren’t.

The team to raise a big fuss about it? Texas A&M, which has engaged in countless recruiting battles with Texas over the years.

Typically, you’d think the issue would be that, well, Texas is allowed to have its own television network, which would generate even more revenue for the school that has the biggest athletic endowment in the conference. However, A&M’s main issue with the Longhorn Network is that it plans on televising high school football games of Longhorn recruits, which violates NCAA rules.

Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe is known for spacing off and daydreaming about Texas Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds rolling around in a jacuzzi full of money. Why else would he give him his own television network?

I’m not surprised this issue has come up and that one Texas school would find fault with the Longhorns’ attempt at a monopoly in exposure and recruiting. Heaven forbid they find anything wrong with the extra revenue that the school is set to gain by having the Longhorn Network, because as Ronald Reagan would say as he rides his Bald Eagle with a pocketful of jelly beans, “it’s their right to do so.”

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that the Big 12 is pro-Reaganomics, especially in a situation in which nothing would ‘trickle down’ to the smaller revenue schools as it normally doesn’t in the American economy. The only difference? They know it won’t ‘trickle down’, but they don’t care, because it sure beats having to play in the Big East or -gasp- the Mid-American Conference.

It goes without saying that if any of the other three Big 12 schools in Texas were given their own television station that they would do the exact same thing and then call out the other schools for doing the exact same thing. It’s the way rivaling schools have operated for ages and it’s been the culture for a while now.

Well, A&M’s “concern” about Texas’ blatant attempt at stretching NCAA rules for its own sick, twisted and possibly sadistic gain has talks of the Aggies’ departure from the Big 12 to join the SEC, which would leave the conference with nine teams and potentially cause a slippery slope that again jeopardizes the Big 12’s future. Since it’s Saturday night and I don’t feel like going anywhere or doing anything, let’s take a look at a couple of options if the Aggies do say ‘adios’ to the Big 12.

1. Invite TCU to join the Big 12

It makes sense, right? Answer the departure of one Texas school with the arrival of another.

If you think about it, the only reason TCU joined the Big East for 2012 was because the Big 12 expressed no interest in expansion after the departures of Nebraska and Colorado were confirmed. In an earlier blog post, I outlined the possibility of TCU and another D-I Texas school moving to the Big 12 with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State moving to the Big 12 North. Well, this plan would be similar to that minus the presence of divisions within the conference since Texas A&M would be out of the picture.

TCU coach Gary Patterson likes the idea of joining the Big 12. He likes it very, very much.

Of course, this would be replacing a perennial power with another perennial power, thus leaving the little guys to the North with no help and little hope of a string of successful years.

Just think, is it really fair for Kansas to have trips to Fort Worth, Stillwater and Lubbock in one year and then have trips to Austin, Norman and Waco in the next? Given time, I’m sure Turner Gill will eventually find success with that program as Gary Pinkel did with Missouri, but it won’t be easy with a conference slate like that.

Besides, wouldn’t be more fair to find a team from the North to join the Big 12 to make the playing field even between the two territories? It would, the only problem is finding a team from the North that would be able to join the Big 12.

Can you think of any without plucking any schools away from the Big Ten? Because I sure as hell can’t.

Besides, the only thing TCU cares about is an automatic BCS bid. And since it didn’t have what Utah had in an invitation to a prestigious BCS conference, it had to settle for the little sister of the BCS conferences in the Big East.

With that being said, the Horned Frogs would jump at the thought of getting to join and Big 12 and rekindle its old rivalries with the three other Big 12 schools in Texas.

2. Invite Arkansas to join the Big 12

This is pretty much the same as option No. 1 in a lot of ways: it would invite a former Southwest Conference member to reunite with the likes of Texas, Texas Tech and Baylor while keeping the Big 12 at 10 teams.

It would also keep the symmetry of the SEC even at 12 teams – six in the SEC West and six in the SEC East – with the Aggies essentially taking Arkansas’ spot in the West.

Here’s the problem: Arkansas was pretty much the misfit of the SWC when it was there. The school had been aching to bolt for the SEC in the years leading up to the SWC’s collapse and once that happened, the Razorbacks were the first ones gone.

Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino wouldn't like the idea of joining the Big 12. He gets angry and starts punching things whenever he thinks about it.

So how do you think Arkansas would fit in in the Big 12? Sure, the state lies just south of Iowa and Missouri and just east of Oklahoma and Texas. But would the Razorbacks really be a good fit in the Big 12?

Arkansas would be leaving a conference that prides itself in revenue sharing for a conference that chuckles at the idea while its teams continue a sloppy battle year-after-year of who will win the conference between Oklahoma and Texas.

If you think about, Arkansas wouldn’t want to be caught dead in the Big 12. If it were to join the Big 12, it would spend about two years floundering about in a situation latent with uncomfortable road trips to Austin and Norman before it figured out it made one giant mistake by burning its bridge with the only conference that ever said “I love you” back.

The Razorbacks would rather play LSU and Alabama every year, and that’s really saying something about the Big 12.

3. Don’t invite any other teams and continue on with just nine members

This is possibly the least-sexiest option of them all, but it would make sense in a lot of ways.

I could see this as one of the most-likely possibilities considering the Big 12 expressed no interest in expansion after the departure of Nebraska and Colorado, as I’ve stated before.

It would also benefit the nine remaining teams because it would give each of them back a non-conference game without the need for a conference championship – a win-win for the teams to the North.

This honestly seems like the fairest option for everyone, but there’s no real indication as of right now as to whether the Big 12 would do this.

4. Dissolve the Big 12 and let everybody fend for themselves

This idea seems stupid to me, but I’d still have to consider it a possibility.

At this point, the crumbling of the Big 12 would have to result in the reformation of the SWC, which would pull Southern Methodist, Houston and Rice from Conference USA into a six-team conference that would probably do pretty well on its own.

That would leave Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri all on their own to snag conference bids of their own.

Kansas would probably find itself joining the Big East because of its strong basketball tradition along with the fact that the Big East hasn’t been too strong in football for a while now with a few exceptions. But still, being in the cellar of Big East football is worth being one of the best teams in Big East men’s basketball for Kansas.

KSU coach Bill Snyder never has any idea what's going on. He thinks the Mountain West Conference was the meeting they had to decide what they should do with the new territory they found during the Oregon Trail expedition.

Kansas State would probably land in the Mountain West with its somewhat-close proximity to schools like Colorado State and New Mexico. I couldn’t see them going to the Western Athletic Conference since it’s already teetering on the edge of non-existence with the recent departures of Nevada and Fresno State.

That leaves Missouri and Iowa State. The Tigers would somehow find a way to get into the Big Ten considering they were originally going to be the team from the Big 12 that would leave for the Big Ten. The Big Ten probably would not be too open to the idea of only admitting one team in to tip the scales at 13 in the conference, so it would probably try to coax a Big East team like Pittsburgh or Cincinnati to join since Notre Dame now has a restraining order against the Big Ten.

Iowa State? For football, it would sort of make sense for it to join the Big East. The proximity to the other schools isn’t quite there, but it would work from a competition standpoint. But of course, competition levels fluctuate year-by-year so it would be foolish to base your decision to join a conference just by that.

The other option for Iowa State would be to join the Mid-American Conference, which would be the most insulting thing for the school to do.

However, Southern Methodist and Rice had to go to the WAC and then Conference USA after they were left stranded by the dismantling of the SWC and Houston has called Conference USA home since then as well.

So it may not be the most glamorous situation for the Cyclones, but it may be the only option.

But hey, this is only looking at the long-term ramifications of a possible destruction of the Big 12. They still have to figure out which Texas school is more full of shit first.

-Calhoun 7/23/2011


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XXVI. Dazed and Confused

Even when she whiffs, Megan Rapinoe is still attractive. I would gladly make her a sandwich. Photo credit: Frank Augstein/AP

As a child, I was always taught the virtues of losing with grace; and after four years of high school football going 10-26, I learned how to lose gracefully, too.

I already expressed my feelings about the fair-weather nature of Americans when it comes to sports that are only popular when our national team finds success on an international level. That being said, the reaction from some of my fellow Americans to the U.S. Women’s Soccer team’s loss to Japan in the World Cup Finals earlier today was troubling to say the least.

After the loss, I saw many people I follow on twitter say derogatory things about the people of Japan and discrediting their victory over the United States in one way or another. The fact that the words “Japs” or “Pearl Harbor” were trending here in the United States is absolutely despicable and those who openly use those terms without regard for their connotations are simply ignorant.

This is especially disheartening when you take into account that Japan is a culture that stresses the values of politeness and hospitality. Having taken Japanese for four years in high school, I learned a lot about the culture of Japan and I can say with all the confidence in the world that most people in Japan would not have acted in such a deplorable way as some of my fellow Americans did.

And after the earthquakes and tsunamis that killed more than 25,000 people in Japan earlier this year, what their team did was nothing short of incredible. The disaster killed their coach and made their practice field an evacuation center, so for them to win the Women’s World Cup for the first time in the country’s history is a wonderful story. However, that was all cheapened by some Americans who expressed disgust in a hateful manner toward the Japanese people and the society that has already suffered through so much.

Folks, you all know I love my country and all of its faults, but as an American I can only hang my head in shame to the disrespectful attitude toward the Japanese by some of my fellow Americans in the wake of the game’s ending.

The Japanese Women's Soccer Team celebrates its 3-1 shootout victory over the United States in the Women's World Cup Final. Photo credit: Christof Stache/Getty Images

Besides, this is America: a country where a majority of the people spit on the sport of soccer as being “too boring” or “not watchable enough” compared to more popular sports like football and baseball. So, why are there so many people who are outraged at Japan’s victory in a sport we only pretend to care about for three weeks every four years?

I’m sorry, but being racist toward another country and its culture is never justified for being upset about losing in a sport that is debated by some to not even be a sport at all.

We still have clowns like Jay Mariotti bashing the sport and its players, so why do we need to add any more negativity to the equation?

Seeing people make sexist remarks toward the U.S. Women’s team is intolerable, too. Earlier, someone I followed on twitter tried to be funny with a tweet telling the U.S. Women’s team to make him a sandwich.

Sure, I’ll be the first to admit I’ve enjoyed a good “woman making a sandwich” joke in the past, but are you really going to say that about the women who represented you and your country to billions of people?

Carli Lloyd hangs her head after missing a penalty shot in Team USA's 3-1 shootout loss to Japan in the Women's World Cup Final. Photo credit: Martin Meissner/AP

I know I’ve had my immature moments on social networking sites in the past, but does a loss like this in a sport most people don’t care about or feign interest in really warrant racism, anger and sexism?

I’d like to think the people of my country would know better than to say such terrible things about another culture and nation of people. But then again, there are people in this country who don’t believe our president was born in America, so this doesn’t fall far from the tree of stupid remarks or ideas.

Bill Maher once said it best: America is stupid. I love my country, but I totally agree. We are stupid. And we’ll continue to be considered stupid until we learn to stop making racist and offensive remarks and instead congratulate someone else when they win something for once.

Grow up, America.

-Calhoun 7/17/2011

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XXV. Comfortably Numb

Words cannot describe the impact Pink Floyd has made in my life, but I’m going to do the best I can in trying to do so.

A couple weeks ago, my roommate introduced me to this piece by Grantland’s Chuck Klosterman, a step-by-step examination of Led Zeppelin’s last show together in August 1979 at Knebworth. It was one of the more interesting reads I’ve ever come across and it gave me the idea to try writing something like it.

Well, yesterday as I was waiting for my laundry to be done, I went onto YouTube and found Pink Floyd’s reunion show at Live 8 in 2005 in its entirety, and it immediately took me back to July 2, 2005. It was two days before my Grandfather had passed away from an aneurism on the Fourth of July, and I was visiting him and my Grandmother along with almost everyone else from my father’s side of the family for the holiday weekend. I had waited anxiously all day for the Pink Floyd performance, for it was the first time Roger Waters had performed with David Gilmour, Rick Wright and Nick Mason since the early 1980s and the first time Waters and Gilmour had been on the same stage since his departure from the band in the mid-’80s. All of the other performances paled in comparison to the Floyd reunion performance, so here is my examination and input on the event that was deemed as likely to happen as soon as pigs had mastered flight.

To give a little background, Pink Floyd is my all-time favorite band. I began listening to the Floyd when I was in eighth grade – one of the most confusing and frustrating times of my life as I struggled to stay out of trouble at school as well as struggled to make friends while dealing with the awkwardness that middle school brought. Before I found Pink Floyd, I had no hope; I had no reason to look forward to the future. But the Floyd’s gracing melodies and superb, complex musical composition soothed me, giving me hope and reason to carry on, even when things got rough.

To this day, I can listen to Pink Floyd with my eyes closed and see a beautiful canvas as elaborate and ever-changing as the music itself. There’s nothing simple about their music, and even their simpler songs were just as good.

Co-founder Syd Barrett led the band through the psychedelic years until his departure during the recording of their second album, "A Saucerful of Secrets."

That’s why I always seethe at the thought of people associating Pink Floyd with psychedelic drugs. Aside from former frontman Syd Barrett’s drug habit that formed at the height of his involvement with the band’s preliminary success in the late ’60s, Waters said he and the other guys weren’t really into drugs all that much during that time period, then joking instead that they were strictly heavy drinkers.

Still, the period of experimentation that followed Barrett’s departure in 1968 didn’t help the Floyd shed its reputation as a drug-oriented band. But the positive to have come out of the period of experimentation was the development of the band’s direction heading into their 1971 release, “Meddle,” which paved the way for their groundbreaking album, “The Dark Side of the Moon” (which was originally titled “Eclipse” at that point and had even been performed in its entirety during its composition before they ever recorded it in the studio, something that bands typically don’t do).

Associating Pink Floyd with drugs is like equating a drought with rain – it simply does not associate with one another.

Pink Floyd’s influence has contributed a large part to who I am today, so this holds a very deep significance to me.

0:00 to 5:00 – Breathe/Breathe Reprise

Here it is, the moment we’ve all been waiting for. After 20-odd years of hostility toward one another, Roger Waters was finally rejoining the band that had achieved great things with him as a driving force for one show that had been broadcast on multiple channels. The sound of the heartbeat begins to echo in Hyde Park – they’re opening with “Breathe,” the opening track of “Dark Side.” It’s only fitting that they open with it, as it is one of their more-underrated pieces of music. Despite knowing their opening track, a wave of goosebumps fills my arms as my eyes well up with tears of joy when the band strikes that first note (1:10). No note has ever sent shivers down my spine as vibrantly as that first note did on July 2, 2005. I have reached total euphoria getting to see my favorite band perform live in my lifetime, as unlikely as even the idea of that was leading up to it.

Heaven. If it exists, this must be what it’s like.

David Gilmour on the steel-pedal guitar, Nick Mason on drums, Rick Wright at the keyboards, and Roger Waters on the bass, playing between Mason and Wright as he did for all those years. One interesting thing I notice is that Waters isn’t playing with a guitar pick, which is strange considering I had never seen him not use one in footage from their heyday. I always had a theory about Roger – he was a guitar player who was forced to play the bass. After Gilmour’s inclusion in the band in 1967, David soon proved to be a far superior guitar player than Syd Barrett, who was close friends with him. Waters occasionally played acoustic guitar for “Grantchester Meadows” and, later, “Wish You Were Here,” but he was always confided to the bass guitar in favor of Gilmour manning the six-string.

And just like that, Gilmour switches from the steel-pedal guitar to his signature all-black custom Fender Stratocaster, and just like that, the vocals are underway. The simple-yet-serene message of the song resounds deeply with me:

“For long you live and high you fly, the smiles you’ll give and the tears you’ll cry,
And all you touch and all you see is all your life will ever be.”

The lyrics caress the ear with a discouraging-yet-optimistic message that outlines how we, as people, will only amount to what we accomplish in life, but our impact on others may be greater than we think. It’s a message that is open for interpretation, but it has resonated with me ever since those confusing times of my teenaged youth.

Roger’s antics of mouthing the words to the song, which he doesn’t even sing, is a little irritating to see. I know he might be excited to finally performing with his former bandmates, but an eccentric pantomime of the song’s lyrics makes him look a little too happy to be there. David, on the other hand, has glimpses of not wanting to be there at all and having still not forgiven Roger for the fuss he made about the band’s likeness in the late ’80s when they wanted to carry on without him. To be fair, Gilmour won that dispute and went on to put out two crappy albums – “A Momentary Lapse of Reason” (1987) and “Division Bell” (1994) – that are essentially David’s wetdream fantasies of gliding over cliffs with feathery language and reminiscing about how beautiful the seaside during a sunset can be; and pardon my French, but those albums were fucking terrible. So I guess I’d rather have Roger’s enthusiasm over David’s stone-cold traces of reluctancy any day.

5:05 to 11:30 – Money

Probably one of their most famous songs, “Money” became the first single to reach the top 20 in the U.S. charts in 1973 – eight years following the band’s initial conception. It is one of the most famous and most recognizable songs composed in 7/4 time and combines the true grit that rock ‘n’ roll had been able to dish out before the dreadfully simplistic heavy metal years that coincided with AC/DC’s awfully simplistic and narrow-viewed, often annoying and half-assed, songs. “Money” along with its pure substance, also provided simple lyrics that were easily sung along to and easily understood. It was the first song I had ever learned on the bass guitar when I first started playing in December of 2005, and contains a bass riff that I will never be able to forget for as long as I live set in the key of B-minor.

Gilmour once recollected that the band – even including the time after Roger’s departure – had played “Money” over 800 times, making it the most-performed song they have ever composed. With that being said, you would kind of expect them to play this one judging from its popularity and timeless home in rock history.

Gilmour finally cracks a smile – maybe he actually didn’t mind performing with Roger after all. He nails the simple-yet-meaningful lyrics entailing the role money plays in our lives – a theme as timeless as the sun’s role in brightening even the cloudiest of days. Roger continues his pantomime of lyrics, though, continuing to make himself look foolish.

After the first two verses, Dick Parry emerges to perform the saxophone part before the 4/4 time switch. Parry had originally played the saxophone on the track during its recording, so to see him join in again was rewarding to see to say the least. Getting another saxophonist would not have cheapened the piece by any means, but to have Parry perform in the reunion makes it much more genuine. Parry misses a few notes, but his performance still does its part leading into the time change.

And here’s the time switch (8:07) – which contains the guitar solos by Gilmour that are played in 4/4 time as opposed to the original 7/4 signature. The change sounds absolutely spectacular, but at one point, the camera pans past Rick Wright, who I notice does not have a microphone in front of him, which, now knowing he would die three years later from an undisclosed form of cancer he had been battling for some time, led me to believe he was in too ill of shape to be singing. Wright provided good backup vocals to Gilmour at best, but you would always feel a little cheated during songs in which he only sang (“Remember a Day,” “Summer ’68,” etc). Regardless, Wright’s last performance with the band is still a memorable one.

At 10:12, we come back to 7/4 time to play the song out. At this point, David is thinking to himself maybe this reunion wasn’t such a bad idea after all; maybe the 4/4 guitar solos were just what he needed to give himself some life to the idea of once-again performing with someone who he once felt a mutual hatred toward. For the moment, all of that was brushed aside as the band transitions to an admittedly emotional song, and one of David’s favorite pieces of music to play.

11:46 to 16:02 – Wish You Were Here

Perhaps the most haunting thing for the band during its successful years was the memory of former bandmate and co-founder Syd Barrett. In 1975, after the success they had achieved with “Dark Side,” they made an album aptly named as a tribute to Syd, “Wish You Were Here.”

It’s a nice gesture geared toward someone who had gotten off the train before its ride went straight to the promiseland, someone who missed out on being a multi-million-dollar rock star. But I guess it’s OK, because was still dear friends with them, despite living the rest of his days as a recluse until his death on July 7, 2006.

During the making of “Wish You Were Here,” Syd had visited them in the studio. However, the group didn’t recognize him at first because he had gained a bunch of weight and had his head shaved. When they asked what he had been up to, he replied, “I’ve been eating a lot of pork chops.”

Roger, who now has an acoustic guitar along with Gilmour, announces the sentimental meaning of this song to the band as Syd watches the performance from his obscure apartment building with a cigarette burning its way into the crevasse of his fingers. In all honesty, I don’t think Pink Floyd would have achieved the success that it did with Syd Barrett as its frontman. That is incredibly arbitrary though and could be completely false. But as with any similar anecdote of a missed opportunity, queries about Syd can only be made with “what if” at the beginning.

At 12:42, Gilmour begins the opening riff, which he plays brilliantly while in the daze of not caring how much he still somewhat disliked Roger and his egotistical ways. Again, the hard feelings had been put aside, especially for a song with as much emotion as this one.

The crowd can be heard singing along with David during the opening verse as he sings the lyrics like poetry read from the girl in class who was too afraid to talk but was much brighter than anyone else in the room. “Do you think you can tell?”

For the next verse, Roger sings. Yes, Roger sings. Roger admits his vocals are awful compared to Gilmour’s; but with an obligation to chime in and play his part, Waters takes the next verse as Gilmour can only smile at Nick as if Nick had persuaded him to let Roger sing just to stop the bellowing complaints that would have come as a result of not letting him do so. Of course this is speculation, but I doubt it’s far off from the truth.

Roger finishes singing as David begins sing-humming (I don’t know what it would be called) the notes he plays as he did so in the studio recording. It’s more recognizable that he’s sing-humming than in the studio version of the song, but then again there is a camera pointed at him.

David and Roger share the vocals for the final verse of the song before they fade out to an uproar of cheers in preparation for their final song. Oh if only I could have been there.

16:30 to 24:00 – Comfortably Numb

Here we are: the final song to ever be performed by all four members of the band on stage. It’s rather suiting that it’s “Comfortably Numb” – the literal feeling of every Pink Floyd fan from later generations who actually got to see the four perform live one last time. Of course it would be a song that was one of the main reasons for the disputes between Roger and David, whether so-and-so wrote this-and-that part of the song, who deserved credit for blah blah blah. Still, it’s one of David’s favorites and one of their most popular songs, so why not finish the bill with a strong song?

Roger’s movements continue to be oblong and irregular even when he isn’t pantomiming to lyrics, making me wonder if there’s something actually wrong with him during this performance.

At 17:22, David begins the chorus of the song – a sensation equivalent to that of descending down a steep roller coaster for the first time in your life – still holding up with a good vocal performance despite sounding exhausted after resisting his urge to strangle Roger from across the stage (Again, speculation, but probably somewhat accurate).

Still, the chorus and solo tie-in is performed beautifully and blissfully, validating any optimism that came with quesitoning whether or not they should even do a reunion show.

Then we go back to verse No. 2, where Roger’s sub-standard singing leaves you with a cheap, empty feeling of having just eaten the most delicious thing in the world immediately followed by a mouthful of maggots and lemons. Yes, Roger is one of the biggest influences in my life and his days pioneering Pink Floyd through all of the inspirational music he helped compose were that of pure gold, but he was not the best singer in the world. Still, it doesn’t hurt to hear him sing on some songs. I’ve always liked that Pink Floyd never had just one member sing, but rather they were selective in who sang what, which is something you sadly don’t see nowadays.

19:46 – the second chorus by Gilmour, and a painful feeling in the gut in every Floyd faithful that the end is soon near – for good this time. Gilmour’s last chorus with the band carries significance:

“When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse out of the corner of my eye,
I turned to look but it was gone, I cannot put my finger on,
And now the child has grown; the dream is gone.”

The dream is gone. At about this time, the annoying announcers of the event on Mtv and Vh1 and whatever other channels this was being broadcast on tuned out the final solo and began talking as they normally do: saying something nobody, at this time, cared about while forcing viewers to try to tune out their voices to hear the final echoes of the band’s performance.

I guess that was it.

Rick Wright has since passed. Gilmour has gone on tour. Waters has gone on tour. The two have performed together once or twice, but nothing to the caliber of the final four songs they performed on the eve of July 2, 2005 in Hyde Park in London.

Getting to see it as it happened, knowing where I was when it happened, knowing the significance of that show, it was all worth it. It would not have been a big deal if Pink Floyd didn’t mean so much to so many people, but the entire Live 8 festival was centered around the Pink Floyd reunion show, which delivered what it promised and left me and millions of others, quite suitingly, comfortably numb.

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