Thursday, February 16, 2017

Hero Worship

Otis Squared

In honor of #ThrowbackThursday, here are a couple of my Kansas City sports heroes from way back in 1977, the year I became a widower and began my teaching career...

Back when the pros wore gym shorts

Otis Birdsong was chosen by my once-beloved Kansas City Kings with the second overall pick in the 1977 NBA Draft.

A consensus All-American at the University of Houston, Birdsong starred for the Kings, making three NBA All-Star teams and being chosen for the All-NBA squad his last year with the team. The loss of Birdsong in free agency after the 1980-81 season was a crushing blow for Kings fans. The team only made a single playoff appearance after his departure and left Kansas City for Sacramento after the 1984-85 season.

In the heyday of polyester pullover uniforms
Some fans of my beloved Kansas City Royals consider the 1977 team which went 102-60 (still the franchise record for wins) to be the best Royals team ever, even though they lost in the playoffs in heartbreaking fashion to the New York Yankees for the second year in a row.

Oddly, CF Amos Otis had a down year that season. He had finished 7th in the MVP voting in 1976, and would finish 4th in 1978, but in 1977 he hit more than 25 points below his career average and had only 20 doubles, half of his league-leading total from 1976. Amos hit just .125 in the playoff series against the Yankees.

He was still my favorite Royal, though...

"Wow. Those powder blue road uniforms were..."

I don't want to talk about it...

Going Deep

On February 16, 1960 the radar picket boat USS Triton, at the time the largest and most powerful nuclear submarine ever built
(and the only Western submarine powered by two nuclear reactors), left New London, Connecticut on what news reports were saying was merely a normal shakedown cruise.

What wasn't reported at the time was that Triton was in fact embarking on the secret Operation Sandblast, the first entirely submerged circumnavigation of the Earth, which mission it successfully completed on April 25.

When that news was announced, lots of boys around my age were thrilled. Fascination with submarines was pretty common among my friends, and I even built a model kit
or two myself...

"You really were a dork when you were a kid, you know that?"

Not at all...model-building was very mainstream for kids in those days...once upon
a time, I would rather have gone to the hobby store to look at model kits than go to any toy store...

Get Over It, Kid

From the droll comic strip Zits, by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman, which you should read every day, as I do.

Until Next Time...

On February 16, 1958 Tracy Lauren Marrow was born in Newark, New Jersey.
After losing both of his parents by the time he was 12 years old, Tracy's life took some remarkable twists and turns before he finally established himself as an entertainer.

Marrow began his recording career in 1983, using his high school nickname Ice-T as his professional name. His first three albums all cracked the Billboard 200, with his first and third efforts receiving RIAA gold records and his second album, Power, being certified platinum and peaking at No. 36 on the album charts.

I had become interested in his music because I coached some debaters who were big fans of his while I was still teaching in Wyoming. I didn't become a serious fan myself until 1991, however. By that time I was back in Kansas City, and I was impressed by Ice-T's acting performances in the films Ricochet and New Jack City.

On May 14, 1991 he also released O.G. Original Gangster, his fourth album, which featured the radio hit (and Grammy-nominated) song "New Jack Hustler (Nino's Theme)" from New Jack City.

When I bought the album I thought it was a major step forward from Ice's earlier efforts, and cuts from that record still get regular play in various of my iTunes playlists.
Ice-T is the only rap artist to whom I listen regularly.

My opinion was shared by the record-buying public, as the album hit No. 15 on the Billboard 200, and is widely regarded as Ice-T's best work. The album was included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, in no small part because of Ice's lyrical style and unflinching honesty, both of which I find rare among rap artists.

My favorite song on the album is "Mic Contract," in which Ice compares himself to
a hit man, except that his "gun" is a microphone and his "bullets" are words. If you don't mind the harsh language (and I don't), it is a highly entertaining boast of his exploits
in competitive freestyle rap battles on the club circuit.

Today's send-off is the original album track, from Ice's YouTube channel. Enjoy...

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