Top 5 Country Ballads: #4 Mindy McCready- “Maybe He’ll Notice Her Now”

My country ballads countdown rolls on. Today, I pay tribute to an all too often forgotten singer and song. When someone talks about the women of 90s country music names like Reba, Shania, and Faith quickly jump to mind. However, for a brief time, a twangy blonde haired powerhouse from Florida was on top. Then, as quickly as she arrived on scene, she was gone. I am talking about Mindy McCrready.

McCready’s 1996 debut album produced 3 top 10 hits. However, the 4th single from that album that only reached a peak of #18 is my #4 ballad. “Maybe He’ll Notice Her Now” penned by well respected Nashville songwriter the late Tim Johnson, is about a woman who writes a note to her husband before leaving him. The husband reads the note and realizes he has taken her for granted. They end up getting back together. The background vocals from Lonestar front man Richie McDonald are haunting. This is another one of those songs I feel like everyone can relate to. Whether it be with a significant other, friend, or someone else, being in a relationship with someone and not feeling valued is not uncommon. Sometimes doing something drastic to get the other person’s attention is necessary. More often than not it works out. This song is also a good reminder to let the people that matter to you know that you feel that way.

The song has a happy ending. Unfortunately, McCready’s life did not. After her debut album, she only hit top 20 on the charts 1 more time. Combine this with failed relationships, depression, addiction, and legal issues, and it all became too much. McCready tragically committed suicide in 2013 at just 37 years of age. Sadly, beautiful songs like this one are all we have left of this once promising talent, but they will live on forever. Please, give this great song a listen.

 

 

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Top 5 Country Ballads: #5 Luke Bryan-“Drink a Beer”

It is a challenging time of year to be a sports fan, unless you are in to regular season college basketball or NASCAR. I enjoy both, but I thought this time of year would be a good time to do something different. My next series of posts will be about another passion of mine, country music. I have decided to rank my top 5 country ballads. These may not be the most well-known songs ever. This is only my rankings and favorites. However, all but one of my choices were released as singles to country radio and are fairly well known Also, these are not the happiest songs in the world. However, I’ve always been drawn to sad songs. I like songs that made me think and are realistic.

 

So, let’s start the countdown off. My choice for number 5 will shock my readers who know me. I make no secret of the fact that I am not thrilled with modern-day country music. I feel it has strayed too far from its roots. It bothers me what artists like Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line have done with the genre, but this song is a major exception. That being said, my #5 choice is “Drink a Beer by Luke Bryan.

From a musical standpoint, this is fairly traditional country, which I like. More important though, it is the kind of song everyone can relate to. We have all lost someone close to us. Often times in any relationship, it is the simple memories that mean the most. The song illustrates that well. For me, this song hits home in two ways. First off, I graduated high school in 2011. We have already lost three members of my graduating class unexpectedly. Also, since I graduated high school I have lost many friends not to death, but simply to the cold hard facts of life. I graduated with 716 kids. We all went our own way after high school. While I am still close to my best friends from those days, the unfortunate reality is there are people from those days I will never see again. So, to that group of people and the three lives already lost in my graduating class. This one is for you. Hats off to songwriters Chris Stapleton and Jim Beavers for great song that hit #1 and makes me smile and cry all at the same time. Luke Bryan was the perfect guy for this song. Be sure to check back Monday for my #4 country ballad.

Early Season Tennis Grades

We are about a month into the tennis season. Since I could not post Australian Open grades due to illness, I thought now would be a good time to see how the best in the world are stacking up thus far.

Novak Djokovic- Well there really is not much to say here. The Serb is now the unquestioned dominant force in the men’s game. He really has no weakness. Two events played, two titles, including his 11th major and 6th Aussie Open title. He returns to the tour this week in Dubai. Grade: A+

Serena Williams- This is a tough one. She had no official match play going into Australia. In fact, her last match before the new year was her shocking U.S. open semifinal defeat. She showed no signs of rust racing through the field on her way to the final. However, heavy underdog German Angelique Kerber left Serena confused, frustrated, and holding the runner up trophy. A great two weeks for most folks, but when you are Serena Williams and you are trying to tie Steffi Graf’s record of 22 majors, it is a major disappointment. She has withdrawn from the ongoing Middle Eastern swing and plans to return to the tour in Indian Wells, CA March 9th. Grade: C

Angelique Kerber- Speaking of Kerber, she was down match point in the first round of the Aussie Open, and won the whole ball of wax. That had never happened before. She is just a grinder who never beats herself. The gritty lefty returns to the tour this week in Doha with her first major under her belt and a career high ranking of number two in the world. Grade A+

Roger Federer- At 34 years old, Roger Federer remains a real threat to win each and every event he enters. With the physical nature of the game today, that may be his greatest accomplishment of all. That is saying something. A semi at the Open and a final at the tune up event in Brisbane is not bad at all. However, with Djokovic so far ahead of the pack right now, it will only get harder for him to win titles. Federer is taking a few weeks off to rest a bum knee. He is slated to return at Indian Wells. Grade: B-

Maria Sharapova- Always a tough player for me to access because she is my favorite, it is really tough when things are not going well, and they are not. A quarterfinal appearance at the Open does not sound all that bad, but she has struggled to stay healthy since the summer, playing just three events. Most concerning was a withdraw from Brisbane to start the year. She was the defending champion. No one really knows what is going on with Sharapova. The only things we know are that she has been dealing with leg and forearm injuries since July. Frankly, I am not so sure the injuries are that serious. Maria is a tough gal who has played through injuries before. Many people have written her off more than once after multiple shoulder injuries, but never me… until now. It is not the current batch of injuries that concerns me. She just does not seem to have that look in her eye anymore or that trademark grit that has made her who she is. She has had a great career and seems satisfied. She has withdrawn from Doha this week. She will return at Indian Wells… hopefully. Prove me wrong Maria. Until then, if you still want it, get to work. Grade: D+

Rafa Nadal- What has happened to this once great champion? He seemed to find a sliver of his former self, reaching the final of his first event of the year. However, he was bounced in round one in Australia. Then, lost in the semis of two smaller clay court event he took wildcards into, unheard of for the “King of Clay.” He is spending way too much getting pushed around the back of the court. The 14 time major winner still seems fully committed and is hitting the ball better than he was late last year, but this is a results based business, and those have not come back yet. We will see what kind of form he brings to Indian Wells. Grade: C-

Simona Halep- The Romanian world number four hired Aussie Darren Cahill as her full time coach this year. I think he is the best coach in the world. Despite that, Halep’s results this year are as follows. Sydney: QF, Aussie Open: 1r, Dubai: 2r (first round bye), Doha: 2r (this week, first round bye). Her lack of energy on court this year has been odd. I hope she sticks with Cahill, he will help her in time. Right now though, the results speak for themselves. Grade: D-

Andy Murray- Only one event this year for the Brit, and it was a run to the finals at the Aussie Open. A major final is always a great result, but he was thrashed by Djokovic when he got there. They play similar styles, but Djokovic just does it better. Murray will be back on the tour in Indian Wells after playing the British national team this weekend. Like the rest of his peers, Murray will have to find a way past Djokovic… Good luck to him. Grade: B

Milos Raonic- In an era where you have all-time greats like Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, and Murray playing, it is getting increasingly tough for guys to breakthrough, but Raonic is getting real close. A title in Brisbane highlighted by beating Federer in the final and a semifinal run at the Aussie Open where he had Murray on the ropes, pretty darn good. It is becoming a matter of “when” not “if” the Canadian missile will win a major. He will be back at Indian Wells. Grade: A-

Agnieszka Radwanska- The Polish ninja has had a very solid start in 2016. A win in China to start the year and a run to the semis of the Aussie Open. Her problem is as brilliant as she is, she lacks any kind of real power, she gets by with it against most players, but not Serena, as proven yet again in Australia. That being said, with Sharapova in disarray, Radwanska will be in prime positon to win her first major this year, should Serena stumble. Radwanska is amongst the favorites this week in Doha. Grade: B+

Johanna Konta- The pleasant surprise of the year award goes to this Brit… at least so far. No one really knew much about her prior to the Aussie Open, Unseeded, she upset a fading Venus Williams in the first round and backed it up, reaching the semis. She has all the goods and a new career high ranking of 26, but how will she handle the new found pressure that comes with a Cinderella run? We will start finding out this week at the Mexican Open in Acapulco. Grade: A-

Victoria Azarenka- Just when you think the Belarussian two time major winner is back at her best, she loses a match when she has no business doing so. This time it was in the Aussie Open QFs to eventual champion Angelique Kerber. When you consider that she had never lost to Kerber before and that she dismantled her to win Brisbane a week and a half earlier, it has to sting all the more. However, she is healthy and her ranking is rising. She has wisely decided to play the Mexican Open this week before heading stateside for the big events in Indian Wells and Miami. Grade: B

 

 

Me and the Broncos

After a lengthy illness that dates back to the week leading up to the Super Bowl, I am back, and my Broncos are Super Bowl champions. I do my best to remain objective on this blog, but for this post, I am a fan. I will spend a very short time on the game itself and the rest of the post is going to be about what the win means to me and how deep my fandom runs. It will be an interesting read for those who know me and those that do not.

As far as the game, Denver kept doing what everyone said they could not keep doing all year. The defense kept forcing turnovers and negative yardage plays, the kicking game was rock solid, and the Peyton Manning led offense did just enough. Carolina was simply banking on no defense being able to contain and frustrate MVP Cam Newton, but Denver was more than able. Once he was neutralized, the rest of Carolina’s offense was remarkably average. Denver is a team that all anyone wanted to talk about all year was what they were unable to do. They are now champions. What the Broncos will look like next year is another conversation for another day. Hats off to Gary Kubiak and his entire staff as well as all 53 players. It really did take every one of them to pull this off.

Now, from my perspective, the Broncos winning the Super Bowl is as big as it gets outside of births and deaths in my family. How does a kid born and raised in Cincinnati grow up to live and die with the Broncos? Well, like so many folks my age I watched the Bengals do nothing but lose in the 90s, but I knew from an early age I loved football. I wanted to root for a team that was competitive. Thus, I was fascinated by John Elway’s pursuit of a championship in the twilight of his career. Before I knew it I had his jersey and at five years old I was all in on the Broncos. Well, Elway got two titles at the tail end of his career following the ’97 and ’98 seasons, making me a very happy boy. Most of you probably knew that, what you do not know is that when I had hamstring surgery related to my Cerebral Palsy late in the ’98 season, my casts from the waist down were orange with blue stripes (Bronco colors). I had another surgery during the 2008 season, same casts colors. It was my only request to my parents before going under. I remember watching Denver lose a Monday night game to Miami in the hospital in ‘98. The nurse thought I was in extreme pain. My parents explained that the main issue was simply the Broncos losing.

That is just one small example how seriously I take sports in general, but particularly Broncos football. My parents took me to Indianapolis for a game in 2004. I had a 102 fever, but still went. My parents knew better than to talk me out of it. The heavy underdog Broncos beat the Colts to clinch a playoff spot. By the time the game ended, my fever was gone. Make what you will of that. When longtime head coach Mike Shanahan was fired after a late season collapse in 2008, my mom did not to tell me when I got home from school, and when she did I thought she was joking and got mad at her. Also, any former teacher of mine will tell you I was much more difficult to deal with on a Monday following a Broncos loss. Some may think this is crazy, but I love living and dying with the Broncos and managing each battle they engage in. I call my own plays during games. It is my escape. During Bronco games, I have no Cerebral Palsy, mobility issues, and feel no pain (except that of losing), I am just a passionate fan. I do not know how I would stay sane without sports.

So, this Super Bowl win is everything to me. When Denver won back to back Super Bowls in the 90s, I was too young to understand how hard it was to win in the NFL. I had just become a fan. I just figured Denver would be in the Super Bowl every year. Obviously, it does not work that way. When Elway retired after the ’98 season, it took Denver awhile to be competitive again. They did not win another playoff game until the 2005 season. That was followed by another six year playoff drought. I am not trying to say I have suffered as much as Bengal fans in my hometown. That just is not true. They have not seen a playoff win since 1990. However, the low moments make you appreciate the good times more as a fan. The Broncos are on a really good run right now. Five straight division titles, two trips to the Super Bowl, and one Lombardi trophy in the last half decade. The Super Bowl win tastes so much sweeter now than it did in the ‘90s. I now understand how hard it is to get to the top of the NFL.

Like all sports, the NFL is cyclical. Meaning every up tick a franchise goes through, there will eventually be a down tick. Trust me, nothing will change from my perspective. I will still live and die with the Broncos just the same. I have suffered through QBs like Bubby Brister and Brian Griese. How much worse can it get? Oh well, in the meantime I am going to enjoy my time at the top while it lasts. It is the closest I will ever get to being called a champion of anything, which is why it means so much to me.