Thursday, December 20, 2007

The best of '07

Here's a list of the 10 things that stuck with me this year:

1. "Once." It's not a musical, even though the characters sing -- it's a movie about music, with characters who break into song in real-life situations. It's small, intimate, and unbelievably powerful. It played only a couple of weeks in Charlotte, but it just came out on DVD. See it.

2. Stevie Wonder at Bobcats Arena. Beyond all expectations. And worth it just for the country version of "Signed, Sealed & Delivered."

3. Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt, Joe Ely and Guy Clark at Ovens Auditorium. Four guys with acoustic guitars sitting around and trading off one brilliant song after another.

4. Joe Posnanski's blog. The UNCC grad and former Observer sportswriter supplements his prizewinning work at the Kansas City Star with this blog, which is mostly about baseball but a little bit about everything. Full disclosure: He's my buddy. He's also the best sportswriter in America.

5. Elvis Costello at the Blumenthal Center. Another acoustic show -- just Elvis and keyboardist Steve Nieve. Two-and-a-half hours and I could've listened to twice as much.

6. "Stardust." Another one of those low-expectations moments -- I went in not knowing much about it and came out charmed. For all those people who still watch "The Princess Bride" at least once a year.

7. "Cross-X," Joe Miller. I was a high-school debate geek, so this book is right in my wheelhouse, but I think other people will love it, too -- it's a study of brilliant, profane, infuriating and uplifting kids trying to blossom in an inner-city high school.

8. "The Simpsons Movie." My wife had no idea she liked the Simpsons until she went to this movie. Now she's a fan. "Spider-Pig, Spider-Pig, does whatever a Spider-Pig does..."

9. "Terry's Song," Bruce Springsteen. I didn't even know the name of this song until I just now looked it up -- it's a hidden track on the "Magic" CD. (It's the one with the chorus "When they built you, brother, they broke the mold.") Apparently Springsteen wrote it for his longtime friend Terry McGovern, who died in July. It's old-school Bruce -- simple and clear and wraps both its hands around your heart.

10. Appalachian State 34, Michigan 32. I had to work that Saturday; on the way to the office, I found the game on the radio and discovered App State was ahead. I came to the office and found my boss. "Did you hear about App State and Michigan? It's 28-17!" I said. "Wow, that's great," he said. A few minutes later he walked over to my desk. "Wait," he said, "you mean they're AHEAD?"

The game wasn't on TV and we couldn't go to a sports bar. So five or six of us at the office went online and logged on to the ESPN GameCast, which shows a little cartoon field and an update after every play. It was like finding out about the World Series via Morse code. But somehow that made it all the more exciting as App State lost the lead, then got it back, then blocked a field goal at the end for the huge upset. We ran around the room high-fiving and basically acting like goobers.

Sometimes the best moments are the smallest.

What's your list of favorite things from 2007? Let's see 'em below.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Panthers -- what a deal!

I'm not technologically advanced enough to copy the whole thing into this post, but I got an e-mail from the Panthers that shows just how much they have their fingers on the pulse of the Charlotte sports fan.

The e-mail offers a "rare sports experience" for the Panthers' game against the Dallas Cowboys in two weeks. Here's what you get:

One ticket in the corner of the upper level -- basically, the worst seats in the stadium.

A pass to the hospitality tent with free food, beer and wine for two hours before the game.

Appearances by the TopCats and Sir Purr.

So how much do you think the Panthers are charging?


(nope, higher...)


This great deal can be yours for only $285.

That's right. TWO HUNDRED AND EIGHTY-FIVE DOLLARS for an upper-deck ticket, some chicken wings and a quick peek at the TopCats.

I'm not sure I'd pay $2.85.

So here's my question: What, at this point in the season, would motivate you to pay $285 for a Panthers' ticket? Somehow I think the chance to see Matt Moore throw a pass -- and Keary Colbert, possibly, catch one -- doesn't quite cut it.

Oh, I almost forgot the best part -- it's $20 extra for parking.

Friday, December 07, 2007

More on the sheriff's race

I would not classify the reaction to my column today as "overwhelmingly positive." The word "idiot" has popped up several times in my e-mail -- OK, that always happens, but today even more than usual. Jeff Taylor, in his always-interesting Meck Deck blog, has pretty much the same reaction in a more nuanced way.

So let's look at some of the criticisms of how this all played out.

It wasn't a vote of the people. Well, it wasn't a general election, but it wasn't a bunch of politicians either. The 300-some people who voted were mostly precinct captains -- their main job is keeping polling places straight on Election Day. I saw a couple of people I knew at the meeting last night, and I had no idea until that moment that they had anything to do with local politics. Believe me, by and large, they're not insiders.

Also remember this: Jim Pendergraph got this ball rolling by leaving his job with three years left on his term. This process, screwed up as it was, was already in place. If we want to change the law to require a general election to fill unexpired terms, fine. But this was a fair and clean vote under current state law.

(By the way, if the sheriff had been a Republican, the same thing would have happened on the other side -- Republican elected officials and precinct officers would have picked the new sheriff. Somehow I think they wouldn't be so upset with the process then.)

Mackey's not qualified for the job. He's clearly not as qualified as Chipp Bailey was. And if we want to start appointing the sheriff like we appoint the police chief, fine with me.

But people vote for (and against) candidates for all sorts of reasons -- party affiliation, positions on one or two key issues, unfounded rumors, good hair. For example, Pendergraph took a strong stand against illegal immigration, and Bailey promised to carry out his policies. If you're in favor of fewer restrictions on immigration, wouldn't you have to consider Mackey?

And if qualifications for office were the sole factor, how would Bush v. Gore have turned out?

Mackey's crooked. This is the part that's hardest to shake -- he clearly was in some trouble when he was a Charlotte cop. The Observer went to court (and lost) in a fight to see his personnel file. You can expect us -- as well as all the other publications, TV stations, talk-show hosts and bloggers in the area -- to be watching him like a hawk. No sheriff in this county has ever been under the microscope that Nick Mackey is about to be under.

It's all about race. I'm not sure that's true -- as I said in my column, I talked to black committee members who planned to vote for Bailey and white ones who planned to vote for Mackey. The process was so confusing that I'm not clear even today if we'll be able to parse who voted for which candidate, which would make any racial breakdowns more clear.

But let's say, for the sake of argument, that Mackey and his supporters worked the system to make sure a candidate of one race got this important job, and the candidate from the other race got shut out.

Where do you think they would have learned such a thing?

Have at it in the comments.