While I often like to focus on the more recent work that I’ve done writing product descriptions and copy, I have also worked as a freelance writer for a few different publications. Primarily, I have written feature articles on bands and filed album reviews as well. That being said, I’ve tackled a wide variety of other topics from street fairs to art openings and everything else in between. What follows below is just a few links to other things that I’ve done in the past.
As one of two Canadian expansion franchises that joined the league in ’95, the Grizzlies started at the bottom of the Western Conference.
Professional basketball took over Beale Street in the fall of 2001, when the Memphis Grizzlies arrived after having spent six seasons up north in Vancouver, British Columbia. The franchise tweaked its color scheme to indicate a fresh start in the Mid-South, and soon, fans were descending in droves to support the resilient, hard-working club that prided itself on Grit and Grind.
As one of two Canadian expansion franchises that joined the league in ‘95 (along with the Toronto Raptors), the Grizzlies started at the bottom of the Western Conference. They won just 15 games in their inaugural year and failed to post more than 23 victories during any of the following five campaigns in the Great White North. However, if there was a plus side to the club’s struggles, it was the steady string of lottery picks. At the ‘01 NBA Draft, the franchise acquired European prospect Pau Gasol, and soon, the Spanish forward emerged as a premier attraction. Gasol earned league Rookie of the Year honors during the ‘01-02 season on the strength of 17.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, and in ‘05-06, became the franchise’s first-ever All-Star.
While Memphis would qualify for the playoffs three years in a row starting in ‘04, the franchise was never able to advance beyond the first round. During the ‘07-08 campaign, Gasol finally had enough and demanded a trade. The Grizzlies complied, dealing him to the Los Angeles Lakers. Among the players that Memphis received in the transaction was Pau’s brother, Marc. The arrival of the younger Gasol, along with free agent Zach Randolph the following summer, would change the course of the franchise. In ‘10-11, the Grizzlies not only made the postseason, but they also earned the first seven playoff victories in club history. Fans around the league took notice, too, as the Grizz upset the San Antonio Spurs in the first round and then battled the Oklahoma City Thunder in a seven-game series. During the title run, Randolph made tremendous noise, averaging 22.2 points and 10.8 rebounds per contest. “Z-Bo” and Memphis were just getting started: the crew would return to the postseason in ‘12, ’13, ‘14 and ‘15.
As the Grizzlies climbed their way toward the top of the Western Conference, fans in Memphis responded accordingly. The team’s home arena, FedExForum, soon became known as “The Grindhouse,” as supporters rallied around the club’s hard-nosed approach to the game. The atmosphere in the Mid-South is wholly unique, and the team’s in-game soundtrack is one of the most diverse and distinctive in the entire NBA. Diehards wave their Growl Towels while rocking out to lesser-known tracks such as The Gap Band’s “You Dropped A Bomb on Me” and the intense rallying cry “We Don’t Bluff.”
It took a few years to get going, but the “Beale Street Blues” are a thing of the past, and folks in Memphis couldn’t be more thrilled about what the future may bring.
Spreading school spirit like wildfire
Unlike their cross-state rivals who rub a rock before battle, the South Carolina Gamecocks have an entrance ritual straight from the 21st century. The opening bars of 2001: A Space Odyssey ring throughout Williams-Brice Stadium as the players make their way to the field, and Cocky, the school mascot, roars from within his cage. As kickoff approaches, the electronic dance number “Sandstorm” is played, spreading school spirit like wildfire. It’s hardly a debate, but face it; the Garnet and Black own one of the coolest intros in all of college football.
The first USC gridiron squad entered the realm of competitive play in 1892, and while they were able to handle their game-day foes, university trustees were another matter entirely. The sport was prohibited for the 1906 season, but ultimately, the moratorium didn’t stick and football was back to full-fledged varsity status the following year. It was also around this time that the school’s athletics program started going by the fierce moniker used today. The nickname is meant to serve as an homage to General Thomas Sumter, a Revolutionary War general who was known as “The Carolina Gamecock.”
On January 1, 1946, the club tussled with Wake Forest on the Gator Bowl stage to mark the gridiron crew’s first-ever postseason appearance. Nearly 25 years later, the Gamecocks would post their second bowl game showing. Subsequent trips would take place in ‘75, ‘79 and ‘80, with the latter campaign being especially memorable: running back George Rogers was awarded the Heisman Trophy. Finally in ‘84, the incremental success came to a head when coach Joe Morrison guided the team to a record of 10-2 and a date at the Gator Bowl. Morrison received the Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award for his efforts, while the rest of the country took notice that USC was emerging as a perennial force.
The “Ol’ Ball Coach,” Steve Spurrier, arrived on the Columbia campus in 2005 and brought his recipe for success with him. Between ‘05 and ‘14, South Carolina would appear in nine bowl contests, thrilling supporters and impressing outsiders by defeating traditional powerhouses such as Nebraska, Michigan and Wisconsin. In ‘12, an entire nation joined USC diehards in hollering “Clowney Coming!” every chance they got, as defensive end Jadeveon Clowney dominated the college football landscape with his uncanny mix of strength, speed and sheer determination. The consensus All-American was so good that he nearly won the Heisman (an incredibly rare feat for a defensive player); he would also be selected first overall at the 2014 NFL Draft.
Consistent excellence isn’t limited to the gridiron, as the baseball team won national championships on the diamond in ‘10 and ‘11, and Cocky has been named National Mascot of the Year three times (‘86, ‘94, ‘04.) In the school fight song, there’s a line that states, “If the going gets tough, and when it is rough, that’s when the ‘Cocks get going.” With more than 100 years of resilient play under their belt, it’s clear that Carolina won’t be throwing in the towel any time soon.
Exhilarating and awe-inspiring, and in a lot of ways, that’s what being a fan of the Tigers is all about.
With a pre-game ritual called “The Most Exciting 25 Seconds in College Football,” you’d think that the Clemson Tigers are setting the bar awfully high when it comes to tradition. However, to actually see players rub Howard’s Rock and then “Run Down the Hill” onto the field, the descriptor begins to feel much more appropriate. It’s exhilarating and awe-inspiring, and in a lot of ways, that’s what being a fan of the Tigers is all about.
The actual descent portion of this awesome practice doesn’t need much explanation, as the top of “The Hill” is basically just a really good entrance point. On the other hand, Howard’s Rock could benefit from an origin story. In the ‘60s, a Clemson alum was travelling through Death Valley, California when he came across a white flint stone. Since “Death Valley” was a nickname for the atmosphere at Clemson Memorial Stadium, the fan brought his find back to South Carolina and presented it to head coach Frank Howard. He didn’t use it right away, but eventually the rock was placed on “The Hill,” and players began touching it for good luck. Before a game against Wake Forest in ‘67, the stone’s legacy was cemented when Howard said, “If you’re going to give me 110% percent, you can rub that rock. If not, keep your filthy hands off it.”
Clemson first entered the world of college football in 1896, and one of the Orange and Purple’s first head coaches was the legendary John Heisman. The Tigers weren’t bad in their early years, but they weren’t particularly good either. That would change, though, when Frank Howard took over the program in ‘40. Under his watch, Clemson went undefeated in ‘48 and finished the season ranked in the country’s top 25 on seven different occasions. Howard would hold his post for 30 years, so topping him would be no easy feat. However, that’s exactly what Danny Ford did in ‘81 when he led the Tigers to a perfect 12-0 record and the national championship.
In the years following their NCAA crown, the Tigers remained a presence in the polls and posted eight appearances in the Top 25 between ‘82 and ‘91. While ACC foe Florida State garnered all the headlines in the ‘90s, Clemson scratched and clawed, and booked seven trips to the postseason. As the college football playoff system evolved, so did Clemson, and the university competed in BCS bowls in both 2011 and ‘13.
Keeping up with modern trends isn’t just a gridiron-related concern for the Tigers. Their rallying cry, “Tiger Rag,” has been updated countless times, and current iterations of the marching band know more than 15 different versions of “the song that shakes the Southland.” Leading up to kickoff, there are few schools that can match Clemson when it comes to tradition. Once the game begins, it’s up to fate to determine the victor, but fans certainly like their odds.
In 1970, the Bengals posted their first winning campaign en route to seizing the AFC Central division and booking a trip to the playoffs
There’s an old Klingon proverb that states, “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” When it comes to the Cincinnati Bengals, they’d prefer to serve that plate piled high with Skyline chili. What are they avenging, exactly? Well, the franchise was born in the ‘60s, after owner Paul Brown was forced out of his post with the cross-state Cleveland Browns. Since then, the club has remained dead-set on bringing as many world championships home to the Queen City as they can, just to prove all the doubters wrong.
As an expansion franchise in the AFL, Cincinnati arrived quietly and won just three games in their inaugural season of ‘68. They’d scratch and claw their way to four victories the following year, and were then absorbed into the National Football League. In ‘70, the Bengals posted their first winning campaign en route to seizing the AFC Central division and booking a trip to the playoffs. At the NFL Draft that spring, the organization nabbed quarterback Ken Anderson in the third round, and by ‘73, the slick passer had guided the club to a record of 10-4 and a postseason appearance.
While Anderson would orchestrate another trip to the playoffs in ‘75, he would have his finest year in a Bengals uniform during the ‘81 season. The four-time Pro Bowler threw for 3,754 yards and 29 touchdowns, and was named MVP by both the Associated Press and the Professional Football Writers Association. Most importantly, he powered the franchise to its first Super Bowl. According to folklore, the ‘81 campaign is also when the notorious “Who Dey?” rallying cry was born, no matter what New Orleans Saints fans may argue.
In ‘88, the Bengals returned to the world’s biggest stage. This time around, they were led by quarterback Boomer Esiason and running back Elbert “Ickey” Woods, whose patented “Ickey Shuffle” was one of the most popular touchdown celebrations in the entire league. However, a world championship wasn’t in the cards for Cincinnati, and the San Francisco 49ers downed the Bengals 20-16 to claim the Lombardi Trophy.
Honestly, there was very little that could be done to duplicate the excitement of ‘88, but excuses and theories were of little consolation to fans as Cincinnati failed to make the playoffs between 1991 and 2004. The franchise got to celebrate a little in ‘98, when rock-solid offensive tackle Anthony Munoz was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A member of the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team and a perennial Pro Bowler, Munoz had played on both Bengals’ Super Bowl squads, so even if it was just for one day, supporters were able to revel in just how awesome the ‘80s were.
“Who Dey” Nation came alive in ‘09 when the team captured a wild card berth, and roared with delight as subsequent playoff trips were booked in ‘11, ‘12, ‘13 and ‘14. Paul Brown Stadium, the club’s home since 2000, had become a hub for thrilling gridiron contests once again. The fans proudly showed their stripes, but they did have one request: please find a new song to introduce our beloved Bengals.
An organization that has excelled from sea to shining sea
Originally established as a National League franchise in 1883, the San Francisco Giants entered the baseball world as the New York Gothams. Two years later, after a particularly inspired victory, manager Jim Mutrie referred to the club as “his Giants,” and the name stuck. Since then, the organization has brought dominance from sea to shining sea.
The early Giants teams in New York were so powerful that the club actually passed on playing in the first-ever World Series in 1904, referring to their AL counterparts as mere minor leaguers. Regardless, the Giants decided to give the Fall Classic a whirl in 1905 and walked away with their first official world championship. Spitfire skipper John McGraw guided the team to that title, and before retiring in 1931, he would lead the Giants to titles again in 1921 and ‘22.
“King Carl” Hubbell would steer the franchise toward yet another world championship in 1933, but it was actually losing the World Series in 1951 that would give Giants the most hope. That season, a young centerfielder named Willie Mays made his debut with the club. As the team cruised to a World Series victory in 1954, “The Say Hey Kid” registered 41 homers, knocked in 118 runs, and was named league MVP. Three years later, the team announced it would be moving to San Francisco and, in doing so, embarked on a new chapter of Giants baseball.
While they wouldn’t add to their trophy case in the ‘60s or ‘70s, the team did see the emergence of two more colossal stars. With nicknames almost as colorful as “The Say Hey Kid,” Willie “Stretch” McCovey and Juan “Dominican Dandy” Marichal quickly played their way into the annals of San Francisco lore. McCovey won Rookie of the Year honors in 1959, nabbed MVP in 1969, and was named NL Comeback Player of the Year in 1977. Marichal, for his part, would win 20 or more games six times in the ‘60s. All three players would be elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame and immortalized in statue form outside AT&T Park, the home of the Giants.
As a lasting testament to his 521 career home runs, the waters of San Francisco Bay behind right field are affectionately called McCovey’s Cove. Fans hop into kayaks in an attempt to catch balls rocketing out of the park. In 2001, there may have been more supporters in canoes than in the seats as perennial All-Star Barry Bonds rewrote the history books and set a new single-season record with 73 home runs. Two years later, Bonds would become the first player in history to notch 500 career home runs and 500 stolen bases.
The “blue and windy sea,” “golden sun,” and world championships in 2010, ‘12 and ‘14 have made AT&T Park one of the most electric environments in baseball. Taking inspiration from crooner and adopted son Tony Bennett, the Giants have proven to be a formidable contender in virtually every decade. Some things just never get old.