Archive for December, 2011

Time to watch The Tapes one last time in 2011. We hardly knew ye … Here’s to an even better 2012. We hope your top resolution is to read TVFury every single weekday:

* Some upstart outlet called The New York Times this week chronicled the great divide in wealth that’s going on in suddenly oil rich western North Dakota. It’s hardly the first or last story on the topic. Based on what I’ve heard and/or read, that side of my boring home state is rife with overcrowding, crime, prostitution and money. To that I say, what the crap?
When I was growing up, it was almost a void – nothing noteworthy really ever happened beyond Bismarck. And now it’s turned into this dirty yet glamorous version of the old west … or Montana’s renegade cousin. The whole thing blows my mind.
If any of the people I know who are working there, likely making six figures, please chime in. Unless, of course, you’re too busy firing guns into the air, smoking $100 bills and whoring.

* You know by now that I’m a sucker for city lists, especially when they incorporate places that I live or used to live. Come to think of it, that just might be the reason for the lists. Hmmm.
Anyway, we’ve got another one to discuss: America’s drunkest cities. Boston tops the list and Sioux Falls comes in at No. 17, not far behind Las Vegas. Really?
Well, for starters, the numbers are skewed by the fact that the study lists SuFu as having 482,254 residents over the age of 21. That’s wrong … by a lot. We have less than half of that when counting people of all ages. Of course, that could mean we’re even more drunk than we appear.
Potential mistakes aside, this surprises me in large part because I consider Sioux Falls to be a town built around young families. Yes, there are plenty of professionals with disposable income, and they like to go out to eat and drink – it’s probably the top form of entertainment. However, I would have figured many Midwest college towns could drink us under the table. Right, Fargo?
For the record, my part in this consists of drinking roughly 1-2 beers per month. And I just realized the other day that I don’t believe I’ve been legally drunk in Sioux Falls city limits since moving here in 2006.

* Fury here. Remember that whole thing where a TV producer blackmailed David Letterman because he knew his old girlfriend had slept with Letterman, and then Letterman confessed the affair on his show, stunning an audience that was there to laugh – and actually did chuckle during the segment, even though Letterman was telling them it was serious – and then Letterman himself participated in the bust of the dude? Well, that guy just got hired by Paula Zahn’s TV show. Joe Halderman will work as…a producer on the crime-show documentary. Guess blackmailing one of the most powerful men in TV does not land one on the blacklist.

* The possible feud – or whatever is happening – between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook has people bringing up Stephon Marbury’s departure from Minnesota more than a decade ago. In this example, Westbrook is Marbury, Durant is Kevin Garnett, the real superstar, left behind. Here’s an old SI piece when Marbury and Garnett were still together and Minnesota had hope. The story dek: “The Timberwolves twin wunderkinds, Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury, have built what Minnesota hopes is a lasting bond.” Oh well.

* Gawker presents the 46 best viral videos of the year, all in a 2-minute span. With links to the full videos. Cats, videos, creepy men, crying women, cute babies, ugly babies, deep-voiced homeless men, all there.

By Dan Frasier
Guest blogger

Tens years ago this bowl season, my Nebraska Cornhuskers rolled into the Rose Bowl ranked fourth in the country. That year, they’d beaten a good Notre Dame team and a No. 2-ranked Oklahoma to be ranked as high as second themselves. However, they were coming off of a blowout loss at the hands of Colorado in Boulder and had fallen to No. 4. Still, a good win over the top-ranked Hurricanes and they would seal up a fourth national title in eight years. Sadly, they hit a buzz-saw.

I remember a few things from that game, but one of that stands out the most is some of the names on the back of the Canes jerseys that year. Names like Portis, Johnson and Taylor. I have heard some vague references to the strength of the Canes team as time has passed, but I couldn’t really get my mind around the enormity of it. So I started digging. The following stats are totally complete and comprehensive. I know this because I personally typed the names into Wikipedia and included both touchdowns AND tackles as categories. OK, so an encyclopedia it is not, but it is all of the players that were on the Canes roster in 2001 that I could find pro stats for and a few of those stats. (more…)

No, this isn’t a crappy repeat – it’s a cliched list of the best and worst moments in sports in 2011.

Yes, TV and Fury felt obligated to yap about the things that caught their attention in the outgoing year. Actually, they were under the impression that a weak awards show was a requirement for keeping their site running.

But, seriously, thanks for listening or reading or not entirely ignoring TVFury. We hope you’re having as much fun as we are.

Happy New Year. Here’s the link.

The Timberwolves game Monday night at Target Center looked pretty much like every other game played in the arena the past four seasons. Some good offense, frustrating performances by young guys, bricks from outside, and a close defeat against a superior foe.

But if it looked a lot like so many games in recent team history, it certainly didn’t feel the same.


Gracious. There’s your one-word review from the second night of Soulcrate’s 10th anniversary show at the Orpheum. Yes, it was also lively and sharp and fun. But that’s not unique in a way befitting three dudes from Sioux Falls managing to hang around in the rap game.

The concert told the story of their journey (so far) without being pretentious or self-congratulatory. Details of how the trio went from playing for 30 friends and family members at a coffee shop to selling out a 700-seat theater on consecutive nights were casually sprinkled between old songs and new. For example, front man Wes Eisenhauer spoke of becoming a father for the first time earlier this month and bypassing opportunities to move to larger markets.

That, is seems, is how they met opener, Prof. The Minneapolis rapper, decked out in a red Christmas sweater, proved charismatic and energetic to the point of being twitchy. (You might think he was all jacked up on Red Bull if he hadn’t made it abundantly clear that his drink of choice is whiskey.) He’s also got some sing-song goofball to him – like a skinny, white version of Biz Markie.

Prof’s performance made me want to inspect his music more closely, after the fact. And I did. That was abundantly easy because he was giving away his latest CD afterward, just handing it out to anyone and everyone. It seemed to validate the theory that touring is more important than record sales in the digital music era.

Even then, advance tickets to the show were only $12. By comparison, beers were $4.50. To be fair, it wasn’t just any beer – I went with a 16 oz. Grainbelt can dubbed, “The Big Friendly.” I couldn’t help but wonder what sort of cut the venue was getting and if the support staff – the handing out tickets and checking IDs – were hired by the acts.

On that note, the Orpheum enhanced the experience. Located in downtown Sioux Falls, it’s 99 years old, has Michelangelo-style paintings on the ceiling and walls (I’d be more specific if I’d have taken an art class in college) and is split into two levels. In this case, the floor was reserved for the youngsters, the balcony better for the stand-and-watch crowd. (Guess which one this 33-year-old square who hasn’t been to a rap concert in 10 years was in?)

I won’t bore you with set-list details, mostly because I wasn’t really keeping track … with one exception. The finale was, “All Day, Every Day,” a song built around the hook “Soulcrate, sucka,” and had been stuck in my head much of the day. (Maybe I’m psychic.) But, again, what struck me was how appreciative the group was of the crowd, thanking them over and over and over for making this night – however unremarkable by stereotypical rap standards – and the last 10 years possible. (They even encouraged fans to stick around after the show so that they could hand out a bunch of high fives, and then made good on that.) It felt like this – having 700 people in their hometown sing along to their songs and just generally have a good time – was pretty much all they ever wanted.

They went so far during one break as to encourage people to do what they love, to chase their dreams no matter where they’re from. Remember when people used to take that to heart instead of classifying it as simple or cheesy? Me, too. And I miss that. Everyone should be open to inspiration, to having heroes big and small. (Full disclosure: one of mine is former MLB standout Darin Erstad. We’re from the same hometown in the middle of North Dakota. Mock me if you will.)

Soulcrate has musical chops; I already knew that coming in. But the humility and heart and community pride that it put on display during its anniversary celebration was equally as impressive and endearing. And even if I’m reading way too much into it, there’s no denying it was a good time.

Merry Christmas from TVFury, Mr. T and ... Nancy Reagan?

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Tapes. If you are still in need of a last-minute present for a loved one, think about getting them a subscription to TVFury. Tough to beat the price. Onward.

* On Christmas Day, the Lakers face the Bulls in the first game of the Mike Brown era, which follows the Phil Jackson reign. The Lakers will run an offense that includes a bunch of dribbling, some isolation, a wounded Kobe coming off screens, Pau Gasol shooting jumpers and Andrew Bynum getting injured. But it won’t include the triangle. Chuck Klosterman wrote a great piece for Grantland on the triangle offense and why, with Phil’s departure, it’s all but dead in the NBA.

* King Jong-il was a dictator, a madman possibly bent on nuclear destruction and an all-around strange guy. Yet reading about his sporting exploits is amusing, such as his famous round of golf when he shot 38 under par. The New York Times details the Dear Leader’s athletic achievements.

* Slate’s always-entertaining Explainer section offers readers a chance to vote on the unanswered question they’d like to see answered. Some of the choices: Are the blind sleepy all the time? Why do so many of our states end with the letter a?

* I remain an unapologetic Tom Cruise movie fan, even though Louise has refused to see any of his movies in the theater for about six seasons, or, for your Cruiseologists, around the time he jumped on the couch. I’ll be seeing the new Mission: Impossible this weekend, and New York Magazine wrote about whether the movie shows Cruise is back at the top of the action genre.

* Got any plans tonight? TV does. He’ll be heading to the second of two 10th-anniversary shows for Soulcrate Music, probably the best South Dakota rap crew, well, ever. (There are a few tickets left, allegedly, although the Thursday show sold out.) Expect a review next week. It’s likely to focus on how TV wishes he could be invisible when he attends concerts.

* And, now, a question: Am I the only educated man in America that doesn’t have time to read? Every week, this site – and many others – make me feel either stupid or lazy for not being able to dig into some excellent writing and weighty issues. I’m tempted to blame my kids except that I’m hardly the only person who has procreated. I feel like this is putting me at a disadvantage in terms of writing and life in general. Dammit.

Happy holidays to you all, just the same.

I’m no scientist and I don’t have any retail experience, but it sure seems like there is some sort of karmic black hole forming in the universe, triggered by the rise of the ugly holiday sweater.

Because I have very few friends and even less free time, I’ve never actually been to even one of the growing number of ugly holiday sweater parties. But my wife is having one at work this week so we packed the kids into the minivan and set out to find her gag garb.

This was fare more complicated than we had anticipated. (more…)

A young Shawn Fury shows decent form. This shot went in - I believe.

Tuesday afternoon, a package arrived from Minnesota, laden with chocolates and cookies and bars and fudge and wrapped gifts. We took out all the food, separated it into piles – one that will stay in the apartment, another that will go off to work – and then pulled out all the presents, which we’ll save for Christmas Eve.

It’s the annual Christmas package from Minnesota and it’s a highlight of every holiday in New York – Santa in a box, sent by the folks who did his work under the old man’s name back when I was a kid.

The presents? A quirky ornament signifying our marriage, a yearly staple. Clothes, I’m sure. Certainly books. But no gift inside the 2011 box will equal the greatness of the present I received in 1979, when an adjustable hoop with a Nerf basketball landed safely under the tree, tucked away in a big box. I was only 4 but already in love with basketball.


I just flew back from Seattle and, boy, are my arms tired. Actually, my heels are sore, not my arms. That’s what I get for hoofing it around the Capitol Hill neighborhood in Seattle in a pair of high-top leather boots.

But what else was I supposed to wear? I mean, you can’t cruise around in Jimi Hendrix’s old haunts in your grandpa’s wide, all white New Balance sneakers.

This was the crux of my second visit to Seattle … (more…)

It’s time for the latest edition of The Fury Files, WordPress’s third-most popular Q&A, even though I still can’t quite decide if I should capitalize “The” before Fury Files. Check out previous interviews with Tom Linnemann, John Millea, David Brauer, Joe Posnanski and Pat Coleman.

This week’s guest is Kevin Van Valkenburg, who is, according to his Twitter profile, a “Scribbler by trade. Montanan by birth. Baltimorian by marriage. Baltimore Sun feature writer at the moment.” He’s also one of the best writers in the business.

Van Valkenburg arrived in Baltimore shortly after graduating from the University of Montana in 2000. A Missoula, Mont., native, Van Valkenburg’s writing has earned him numerous awards, including four honors from the Associated Press Sports Editors. A 2004 story he wrote  – “Rayna’s Second Season” – was honored in the 2005 edition of The Best American Sportswriting (Here’s Part 1. And Part 2.). The profile told the story of former Virginia Tech basketball player Rayna DuBose, who suffered devastating injuries after being afflicted with meningococcal meningitis.

The man can tell a story. But he's even better at writing them.

Van Valkenburg can write in any style – short or long, in print or online. He dissects Ravens games for the Sun with the skill of a seasoned football analyst. He’s a funny blogger who can write about Project Runway but also pen poignant pieces on everything from playing golf with his dad, to taking a memorable road trip with former Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen. But he’s at his best when writing long features, where his reporting and writing skills truly shine. Van Valkenburg also isn’t limited to the pages of the Baltimore Sun. Earlier this year, he wrote a piece for a blog run by Esquire writer Chris Jones, where Van Valkenburg looked back on a memorable night at Elaine’s, the once-legendary, now-closed New York restaurant that was always home to actors, artists, editors and writers.

He’s also a bit of a dreamer, a romantic when it comes to the art of writing, whether you’re talking novels or nonfiction, newspapers or magazines. I could listen to him talk about writing for hours. Here, he writes about writing for thousands of words and I couldn’t be happier.

Van Valkenburg played football at the University of Montana, where his mom, Carol, a former reporter herself, served as a distinguished journalism professor. His dad, Fred, is the Missoula County Attorney. Read below to find out why Kevin became a writer and not a lawyer.

Perhaps most importantly, Van Valkenburg is a Lakers fan.

Here, Kevin talks about growing up with an editor mom, life as a college football player, literary heroes, leaving Montana and living in Baltimore, his story that made it into the Best American Sportswriting book, The Wire, David Stern’s ego, the writing life and much more. Thanks a lot for your time, Kevin.