Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Tonight, the final episode of “The Late Show with David Letterman” will air on CBS. While I’ll admit that I haven’t watched Dave much in recent years, I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to acknowledge his excellence over the years – nay, DECADES.

Back in my junior high and high school days, if I arrived at school the next morning looking tired, more often than not it was because I was up watching Letterman. Between his interactions with great guests (Bill Murray, Tom Hanks, Madonna, Howard Stern, Jack Hanna, etc), his regular interactions with Rupert Jee from the Hello Deli, and Stupid Human Tricks/Stupid Pet Tricks, what wasn’t to love? Guests and skits may tend to stand out, but to me, musical performances will always stick with me the most. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed countless musical guests, from a variety of genres/styles. For many of the older performances, I’d recorded them to VHS, and then additionally dubbed them over to cassette.

So here, from the Vivid Home Office (which may or may not be located in Sioux City, Iowa), is my personal Top 10 musical performances (that I have remembered) from The Late Show with David Letterman.

10) BLUES TRAVELER – “HOOK” (11/1/1994)


8) ENYA – “ONLY IF” (12/10/1997)

7) SPIN DOCTORS – “WHAT TIME IS IT?” (9/1/1993)





2) MEGADETH – “A TOUT LE MONDE” (2/2/1995)

1) GORILLAZ – FEEL GOOD INC (7/10/2010)

Farewell, Dave. Thanks for the memories. (more…)


I’ve wanted to pen something on the whole Ferguson, Missouri situation for months. Days after the fatal shooting on August 9th, I wanted to take a point/counterpoint approach, and try to play Devil’s Advocate on/against both sides of the debate.

Alas, writer’s block is a SOB, and that piece never got written. Here we are now, three months later, and it’s been a fluid situation ever since. While the core of violence/rioting was more or less contained to the first week after the incident, protests have carried on regularly. Some civil and peaceful. Some far from. I’ve been keeping as close an eye on the landscape as possible from four hours away. The epicenter of this, after all, is less than 20 miles from my roots.

As a whole, the past three months have been a massive black eye on Ferguson, as the fallout ultimately paints the entire St. Louis area in a negative light. That hostility, anger and frustration extends far beyond Ferguson, and understandably so. The writing I wanted to do three months ago cannot be done today, even if I still wanted to take that approach. The evidence that has been presented since then simply makes it impossible. Prior to that evidence, it would’ve been easy for me to take the side of Michael Brown. With the forensic evidence found within the interior of Officer Wilson’s patrol vehicle, it removes any doubt that there was a physical struggle between him and Michael Brown.

I’ve spent enough time with and around law enforcement to know that, in the event of an altercation/struggle, you are to respond not with equal force, but with the next step above. If a tazer is available and can be used on an unarmed suspect, that would be an acceptable less-lethal response. If the officer is not equipped with a tazer, or if it were to be unaccessable, then you escalate to the next level of defense, which would most likely be the gun.

As I write this, the jury is still out regarding certain evidence, including the events that transpired between the shots fired while Michael Brown was at/in the police vehicle, and the spot of where he fell to the ground and died. One fact that is unquestionable is that, yes, Michael Brown is dead at the hands of officer Darren Wilson. Was it justified? Based on the evidence presented, if I were forced to make the call, it would be difficult to say that it wasn’t. I’m not blind to facts, nor to evidence, and the evidence revealed thus far has been pretty condemning to Michael Brown.

We now stand by and wait for the pending announcement from a grand jury, which will determine whether or not there will be an arraignment and charges filed against Darren Wilson. If I were a betting man, my life savings would be put on the wager that Wilson walks free. The negative to this, is that there are hundreds of protestors who seemingly have remained blind to evidence, and will simply not accept any sort of exoneration of officer Wilson.

The protests, riots, and overall violence of the initial week following Michael Brown’s death were not pretty. I realistically fear that if officer Wilson is not charged in this incident, that what we saw in that first week will pale in comparison to what may take place following the grand jury announcement. In my head, I picture a repeat of April 29, 1992. That was the date that police officers were acquitted in the videotaped beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles. The core of violence from those riots lasted nearly a week. We’re two decades beyond then, and the landscape for a similar situation is greatly advanced. There was no social media in 1992; all gathering of rioters were grass-roots. These days, it’s infinitely easier for forces to organize and strategize. The tensions are already high, including the publicized “list of demands” put towards the police force.

I love my home city. I haven’t lived there in 14 years, but it’s still home to me, and always will be. I’m embarassed at what the image of St. Louis, as a whole (as noted earlier, this is much bigger than just within Ferguson city limits), has been since early August. I wish I could say that the embarassment will fade away, but I project it getting infinitely worse before it gets better. It’s a no-win situation.

Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. And if you’re of that belief, prayers for peace might not be such a bad thing.

We’ll go ahead and preface this entire entry under the label of “humblebrag”. Over the years, as a fan of various interests (music, sports, etc), I’ve been fortunate to meet a number of people involved in those interests. Plenty of wrestlers. Many musicians. Heck, somewhere out in the interwebz is a photo of myself alongside Vern Troyer (Mini-Me from the Austin Powers movies). If you’ll excuse me for a moment, I need to pick up that name I just dropped.

Very rarely have I ever found myself starstruck at the meeting of anyone – I can easily count those occurrences on one hand. Arguably the most bizarre occurrence was meeting at-the-time-editor of Metal Edge magazine, Paul Gargano. The funny part about it is that it wasn’t even a coincidental or unexpected meeting. We were in Los Angeles for a concert, and he was the interim manager for the band I flew out there for. This was a band whose members I had effectively become friends with over time, so I knew for sure that I would end up meeting Paul. Nonetheless, a tap on the shoulder while in the lower “basement” area of the Viper Room leading to an introduction from him caught me off-guard, and for a brief moment, I didn’t know what to say. Go figure.

Another one of those moments was yesterday. The local alt-rock station here in Kansas City – 96.5 The Buzz – does an occasional event known as “Kegs & Eggs”, where a musician/band will play a short set early in the morning while fans enjoy breakfast and drinks. In this case, the performer was singer/songwriter Meg Myers, who was in town for a show the night before. I’ve been a fan for a while, very familiar with her EPs, had listened to her on a few podcasts (her laughter is contagious), but had never seen her live. Having said that, it was a no-brainer for me to take a few hours off of work to go down and fix that.

I’m not sure at what point they reached capacity at The Tank Room, but I know there was minimal room remaining when I got there, which was about 7am. Meg went on-stage around 9:30, and even with only playing five songs (the K&E performances are usually never full sets), blew the audience away. She has been compared to artists like Fiona Apple, which is not a bad thing at all. Small in stature, but deep with her words & song lyric subjects, and boasting a powerful voice to back them up (look up her song “Heart Heart Head”, and absorb her lyrical delivery almost become Siren-ish towards the end).

Twenty seven minutes and five songs later, her performance was complete, and the crowd let out a collective exhale to catch its breath. I stuck around for a short while to catch up with a few members of the radio station, and at one point, had mentioned that I loved the show but was hoping that Meg would have stuck around after the performance. I was informed that she was still in the building, and asked if I would like to go say hello (YES). As I was walked down towards the back room she was in, I was mentally preparing myself for a scenario of her being in the room, perhaps carrying on casual conversation with a handful of people. Maybe there were already a bunch of people behind the door just waiting to meet her. As it would turn out, my mind couldn’t properly prepare myself for what awaited.

As the door opened to let me into the room, I saw her. All alone. Completely lost in her emotions as she sat there playing piano. One one hand, I wanted to say hello in the worst way and compliment her on her music and the performance. On the other hand, I could have stood there and watched her play piano for hours. Finally, I got the words “Excuse me, Meg?” to leave my mouth, and had a very brief exchange. Many thanks were said – from her to me for coming out to the show and supporting her, and from me to her for being an incredible artist who is amazing at putting mood to music. Our conversation was maybe two minutes at most, but I got lost in time.

To Meg: If you should happen to see this – Thank you again for putting out some of the best albums I’ve heard in quite some time, for being an even better live performer, and for giving up a couple minutes of your personal/alone time to talk with a fan who found himself lost within thoughts and almost struggling at times to convey those thoughts into words.

With Meg Myers (and the piano to the left), 7/23/2014 at The Tank Room in Kansas City MO

With Meg Myers (and the piano to the left), 7/23/2014 at The Tank Room in Kansas City MO

(the open atrium/courtyard of Metro North. To the left, at its prime. To the right, during its demise)

(the open atrium/courtyard of Metro North. To the left, at its prime. To the right, during its demise)

The closing of Kansas City’s Metro North Mall earlier this week sparked up plenty of nostalgia. After all, it was among the very first malls in this area that I became with familiar with, even before I moved out here full-time. Over the years, I had a lot of good times in Metro North. Browsing inside Shark’s Surf Shop. Enjoying the sounds coming from the games inside the Fun Factory arcade. Grabbed plenty of bites to eat there including Kelso’s Pizza, the Gold Fortune (chinese buffet), Amigo’s (mexican), a meal or two at Greaser’s Diner, and even had my very first In-A-Tub experience there. I bought my first Chiefs merchandise in that mall, stocked up on Topsy’s popcorn, and even met several WWE wrestlers over the years. I also got my hair cut by a girl who would take care of WWE’s John Cena whenever he was in town and needed a quick clean-up. I visited a touring animal sanctuary exhibit that stopped in to the mall, and got to hold and cuddle a baby tiger. I admired the open atrium/courtyard with a water layout, complete with inflated balloons that would rise up and down mimicking hot air balloons. During the holidays, a train was set up that would take children around a loop, and volunteers were set up to offer gift wrapping to shoppers. There was an older gentleman who operated an awesome tablet setup near that courtyard that had all sorts of vintage tin/metal signs and related memorabilia. So many great little details could be found within that mall.

The writing was already on the wall by the time I first set foot through its doors, though. The in-mall AMC movie theater had already shut down by my first visit, and they’d opened up the outer-mall facility (which only remained in operation for a handful of years). The long-term vision of a food court never came to fruition. Over time, businesses (including anchor tenants) started to disappear from the mall as new locations opened up east at Shoal Creek, and west at Zona Rosa. In its final years, Metro North seemed to be a better place for people to go for indoor walking/powerwalking than it did to shop. Now, 38 years after opening its doors for the first time, they’re closed for good.

(Metro North Mall's lower fountain. Behind it, on the corner, was Original Pizza. To its left, The Whig Shoppe. To its right, the Fun Factory arcade)

(Metro North Mall’s lower fountain. Behind it, on the corner, was Original Pizza. To its left, The Whig Shoppe. To its right, the Fun Factory arcade)

Metro North became the latest mall to join my memories as nothing more than that – memories. Two years ago, only a handful of miles away, Antioch Center suffered the same fate and was demolished. My only solid memories of Antioch were the standout design of their food court and seating area, and the FooKee Chinese buffet. Sorry, Antioch – I never really got to know you. (FUN FACT: The very first ShowBiz Pizza location was opened in Antioch Center on March 3, 1980, and the Rock-afire Explosion band made their debut)

Of course, many memories of mine will be tied to places from back home, such as Northwest Plaza in St. Ann MO. I’ll always remember that mall best for the time I spent in its massive lower-level arcade and entertainment facility, “Tilt!”. It’s also where I went with my best friend Adam to get myself a pager back in the day. In its later years, it went downhill quickly. Businesses bolted. Crime went up. Structural integrity was compromised. At the least, parts of it are nothing more than rubble and remnants – I’m not sure if any of it still remains, but I plan to drive by its site when I’m out that way next weekend.

Jamestown Mall in Florissant MO is likely to be the next. It’s in the middle of its own dilapidation, including shutdowns in both November and December of 2013 due to low temperatures/no heat. My best entertaining moment of my times in Jamestown Mall was going into KB Toys to buy my Nintendo N64, leaving from there to go over to Adam’s parents house, and immediately realizing that the store still had my card (it was recovered the next day).

Times change, and so does everything that exists within time, although memories remain. My earliest mall memories are split between two places, one of which I know still exists, and the other I can’t confirm, but am fairly certain is long gone. The first of those two is Chesterfield Mall, which was my first real mall experience (well before Mid Rivers Mall ever existed), and I remember the ramped walkways, the fountains highlighted by multi-colored lighting, and the food court that I’d enjoyed places like Burger Chef, and my very first Chick-Fil-A. It’s been a while since I’ve spent time inside Chesterfield Mall (my most recent visit there was to the attached Cheeburger Cheeburger restaurant), but it’s still thriving to this day. For that matter, upon Northwest Plaza’s closing, it became the largest indoor mall in the St. Louis area. Upon Metro North Mall’s closing two days ago, Chesterfield Mall took over as the largest indoor mall in all of Missouri.

The other of those two oldest memory banks was Cottonwood Station, in Glen Carbon IL. It wasn’t the biggest by any means – 2 floors, essentially a ground floor and basement from what I remember – and I don’t think I ever recall it being at more than maybe 40% capacity. My parents and I would go out there periodically to do lunch with my grandparents (it was located close to halfway between where we lived and where they lived), and we’d always go to this good-sized restaurant and buffet, and then go wander the mall area afterwards. I know we’d go and visit several different stores in there, but the only two that I really remember were a pet store, and a small arcade by the stairwell. I also remember my father always looking for a parking spot underneath one of the large trees on the edge of the lot so that the car would be in as little sunlight as possible.

It feels like the only time that my mind isn’t red-lining with thought is when I’m asleep, and even then it’s not guaranteed. It seems to specialize in holding on to memories of what may seem like the most trivial of things. If it’s details of trips to shopping malls, so be it.


(I will be touching on a bit of a touchy topic here. I only ask that you please don’t let it overshadow, or take away from,  the whole of this writing)

Last night, the world became a darker, and less entertaining, place. We received word out of Wichita KS, where he had been hospitalized since before Christmas, that our friend Dan had finally passed away. I’ll touch on the source of his issues later. We’d learned earlier in the day that things had taken a further turn for the worse, but surely weren’t prepared to lose him as quickly as we did. One moment, Amy and I were holding each other and wiping away tears trying to cope with the loss. A few moments later, we were sharing fits of giggles recalling various antics and memories of our times with him. We went back and forth between those for a while last night. That’s a definitive statement of the kind of guy Dan was.

As soon as the news began to get out of his passing just after 8pm last night, my Facebook feed almost immediately began flooding with posts dedicated to him, and sharing memories of various times people had with him. I hope he knows how widespread of an impact he made during his all-too-short time with us. To have known him was a pleasure – either during his work at car dealerships, in the insurance or mortgage businesses, or just as a friend. He was affectionately known as “Dan the yes man” because he always went out of his way whenever he could to help people out, and rarely ever did you hear him refuse or decline.

My first time meeting Dan was several years ago at the indoor dodge ball court of Perceptive Software, for their annual “Dodge For A Cause” charity dodge ball tournament. He and I clicked instantly, as did he and Amy. We’ve had so many great memories with him since then, including some unforgettable karaoke and a line dance to the Cupid Shuffle shortly before Jennah was born.

Dan had been having his mix of good days and bad days, physically speaking. On some days, he was up and ready to dance, and would be going out for a run. On others, he admitted it was a struggle for him to even get up out of bed. The last time we saw Dan was a couple of months ago. He came over to our place to visit for a little while along with our friend Jean (who is due to give birth to her son, and Dan’s godson, any time now – sadly, Dan wasn’t able to hang on long enough to meet him), and it was on one of his physically not-so-good days. He walked with a cane, and was slow-going. If you just listened to him talk, and paid no attention to his movements, you wouldn’t know the pain and discomfort he was dealing with. At that time, I still wouldn’t have believed that he’d no longer be with us just a matter of months later.

Dan’s final couple of months saw him deal with an ongoing double case of pneumonia, and over time he ended up with one lung completely full of fluid. Early yesterday, we were told that his kidneys were in the process of shutting down, and they were exploring the options of dialysis. That was shortly before 5pm. Less than four hours later, he was gone. His immune system simply couldn’t keep up the battle. My heart aches at the thought of no longer having any great times spent together with him. However, I smile knowing that he’s finally 100% at peace. No more pain. No more suffering. The fight is over. This is definitely a reminder that nothing, and nobody, can be taken for granted in life. Life is short – sometimes entirely too short – and tomorrow is never guaranteed.


My first eye-opener to AIDS was season 3 of MTV’s “The Real World” (San Francisco), back when the show was actually… real. It debuted on MTV on June 30th, 1994 – I was 15, and while I was familiar with the concept of AIDS, this would be the first time something would really get me to pay attention. Pedro Zamora was one of the seven individuals selected to enter the house on Lombard and share their lives, and he had a story to tell. Pedro was very active in the HIV/AIDS and LGBT communities, previously traveling around the country and giving speeches – mostly in schools – emphasizing safe sex and offering education on the disease. Through the five months of the show’s airing, Pedro’s story was both eye-opening, and heart-breaking. His condition turned for the worse very quickly, but his spirit never faltered. He finally lost his fight on November 11th, 1994 – mere hours after the season’s finale aired on MTV. His appearance on the show shared his story and spread his message far more than his previous touring ever could have.

While I was educated by Pedro Zamora’s life and story, I only knew him from tv and media. Dan was the first person who I got to know, firsthand, in-person, who was living with AIDS. It didn’t matter to me that he had AIDS. It didn’t matter to me that he was gay. He was my friend, close enough to us to be considered family within our home, and that’s all that mattered. However, for as much as kept up on his various health issues and later battles, it’s hard for me to not feel a bit of guilt or regret that I didn’t discuss it with him more than I did. It was his story to tell, and I easily could have inquired more often. Not only to further educate myself, but to consistently be a shoulder to lean on and an ear to speak to anytime he needed it for something serious. Instead, our conversations and our times together were overshadowed by smiles and laughter, shenanigans and innappropriate comments in just the right places and times. Not that that’s a bad thing, because that’s how many of us will forever remember Dan, but I do wish that I would have talked with him more about the disease itself, and the complications resulting from it. That “what if” will always linger in my mind, wondering how much different, longer, and easier his life would have been if he’d never had contracted the virus/disease, or had to deal with any complications as a result of it.

Sleep peacefully, my friend. Rest assured that anytime I think of you, I’ll do so with a smile (and quite possibly a good chuckle as well), and you’ll continue to inspire me to be a better person. I love you, and I’ll see you later.


I believe this to be the only photo I have with Dan: 10/9/2010 with Amy & Jennah at the wedding of our friends Mike & Kerstin, along with Dan (next to me) and Curtis & Jennifer Smith

With 2013 coming to a (very quick, to me) end, it’s time to sit back and reflect on what the last 365 days have brought me. Some good, some bad, some elation, some heartbreak. Lots of lessons learned, and lots of new friends and acquaintances made. Here are a handful of the year’s highlights…

I don’t go out to concerts nearly as much these days as I did during my single/non-family days, but I did get the opportunity to catch two shows this year that were both monumental to me. In April Amy and I took in a performance by the living legend of St. Louis, Chuck Berry, at the legendary Blueberry Hill. Even at age 86 (87 now), the man still handles his business, and sounds as good as ever. That was a bucket list item for me. The opener for that show was the Andy Timmons Band (Timmons, formerly of Danger Danger, has done a multitude of studio sessions with great musicians, and his solo work is stellar).

The other concert for me this year was, also at Blueberry Hill, the 25th anniversary tour of the “Vivid” album from Living Colour. I’ve been a fan for years, and that album in particular is one that I hold in high regard within the category of “No-skips”.  I can let it play from the opening second of track 1 to the closing seconds of track 11, and not feel the need to skip over anything inbetween. An added plus was the opening act, the Steve Ewing Band (side project of the lead singer from The Urge).

I further submerged myself in the mix of St. Louis radio this year, in due part to several gentlemen. After a station/format rebrand, I (re) familarized myself with the group of Brian McKenna, Jeff Burton (formerly of 105.7 The Point), and John Edwards as Midday Mayhem on 590 The Man. Meanwhile, over on the internet radio broadcast side of things, a 3-man operation consisting of Ron Godier, Wade Trent, and Joe Cochran on created general shenanigans on their (scheduled) daily broadcast of WTF. In late June, they took their show on the road, for two days of broadcasts in Topeka KS at the Equality House (directly across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church). After joining them for both days, I left with a greater understanding and appreciation for everything the Equality House & Planting Peace Peace do, along with having made a number of new friends and contacts. Wade is out of radio now, having had his work as a musician really take off in the past few months, and Godier & Cochran are now on nights on 920AM along with the incomparable Brad Mulholland as The Daily Wrap.

My passion for mixed martial arts (MMA) grew by leaps and bounds this year, largely in part to the long-awaited and much-deserved UFC debut of Kansas City’s own “The” James Krause. He parlayed his success in the octagon this year into success with his business ventures, and bought into co-ownership of his gym, GrindHouse MMA, in Lee’s Summit (Jennah and I went out to visit the gym early last month; their setup is simplistic, yet phenomenal). I’ve also been able to familiarize myself with a number of other local/regional fighters, both professional and amateur.

The year brought a fair amount of success for various sports teams I follow.

– The St. Louis Blues returned to the playoffs for the 2012/2013 season, although they made a quiet and relatively uneventful exit. Prior to today’s game vs Minnesota, the Blues already have accumulated 26 wins on the 2013/2014 season – the first time in franchise history that they’d have more than 25 wins at the end of the calendar year.

– The Kansas City Chiefs rebounded from a forgettable 2012 season (both in terms of schedule/standings, and the stigma of a player murder/suicide) with a successful 2013, earning themselves a solid wild card slot, and travel to Indianapolis for playoffs this weekend.

– The New Orleans Saints will also return to the playoffs, clinching a wild card position this past weekend, and will visit Philadelphia to face the Eagles.

– The St. Louis Rams… well, they ALMOST finished with an 8-8 record.

– The St. Louis Cardinals returned to the World Series, and were two games away from being 12-time champions.

– The Kansas City Royals finished 5 games over .500 (their best season finish since 1989), and look to be in reasonably good shape going into the 2014 season.

– The Florida State Seminoles (my dad’s alma mater) returns to the national championship picture, undefeated, slated to go against Auburn next week.

The best of the best in my sports world, for 2013, was Sporting Kansas City. If you haven’t known me for a long time, this statement won’t ring as true to you as it will with those who have known me for years or grew up with me, but my passion for Sporting parallels that for the Cardinals (I can probably go three weeks without repeating a single Cardinals shirt or jersey – I’m quickly catching up with SKC gear). As the Kansas City Wizards, they came a long way from a team that nearly moved out of Kansas City a decade ago, to a team in 2010 who pulled off a huge upset victory in a friendly against EPL powerhouse Manchester United. 2011 marked the debut of the franchise rebrand, now known as Sporting Kansas City, along with their new stadium. They’ve made playoffs in all three seasons since then, culminating 2013 with winning their second MLS Cup.

2013 was not without its personal losses.  March brought the passing of my aunt Gail, who finally was overwhelmed in her battle with cancer. Although anticipated, especially with her final weeks being spent in home hospice, her death still hit me hard. I’m beyond appreciative of my daughter, for she was my rock during a very difficult time. She embraced and carried around the stuffed sheep my parents bought her to keep her occupied during the visitation, and she gave much-needed hugs and cuddles. She held my hand at the graveside service, only being momentarily distracted upon hearing a train passing by a little less than a mile away.

At the end of November, my parents faced the difficult (but correct) decision of putting one of their two cats down after he suffered multiple seizures, the later of which Phenobarbital was unable to control. Of the two (Simon and Garfunkel), Garf was the shy one, but would love you unconditionally once he got to know you. The first time I visited back home after their adoption, I didn’t see Garf for the better part of the first two days. Over time, and future visits, he warmed up to me and would remember me each time I came back home to visit, and was a total softy. I/we don’t have any scheduled trips back home to St. Louis anytime soon, but I face the fact that sometime between now and that next trip, I need to find a way to somehow explain to Jennah that her play buddy won’t be around anymore.

On a lighter, but still hard-hitting note, my car died earlier in the year. Coming home from work and daycare in early February, and the engine blew while on the highway. We were fortunate enough to be on a downhill portion of the highway at the time, and not only coasted down the offramp that was about a half-mile ahead, but lucked out with no traffic at the bottom of the ramp, allowing me to coast the car onto the street and into the parking lot of a gas station/truck stop uninterrupted, bringing the car to a stop in their lot. The process of getting the ol’ Punker back up and going again was long, stressful, and not cheap, but did get a smile out of knowing that the replacement engine that is in there now came to me from a shop along Route 66 in Illinois.

It would seem fitting that the end of the year would end up being the brightest to me, personally. Jennah is now 3 years old (3 and a half in February), and while she wasn’t quite at the age to really understand everything with Christmas last year, she was all about it this year. Helping out with decorations. Making sure the tree was on every day after daycare. Looking around for Christmas lights along the drives. No help needed from momma or daddy, she handled the unwrapping of presents all on her own this year. And I know that for as much as she enjoyed it this year (and subsequently made ME enjoy Christmas that much more), it’ll only get better next year.

I now await the conclusion of this year in its final few hours, and look forward to what 2014 brings. Here’s hoping that you (yes, you) will be a part of it.

Oh, and my New Year’s resolution? 1280 x 1024. Now you know.


(credit to MMA 24/7 for lighting the fire under my backside to complete this blog today instead of waiting until UFC 167 on Saturday)

November 12th, 1993. It was on this day that the world – albeit a much smaller audience than what they draw these days – was first exposed to The Ultimate Fighting Championship. Viewers were witness an eight-man tournament with essentially no rules. If you knocked out your opponent, made them submit, forced their corner to throw in the towel, or just hurt them to the point of being able to continue, you moved on. The crowd at this event was less than 3,000, with a pay-per-view buyrate of 86,000. Compare that to UFC 100 (July 11th, 2009) with a crowd of 10,871, and a buyrate of 1.6 million. The UFC has come a long way in their 20 years, and many memorable fights have taken place in that time.

UFC 3 (September 9, 1994) was my first exposure to the Ultimate Fighting Championship. My parents had ordered cable at the beginning of that week, and whether they intended it or not, the cable company did not scramble the feed for the pay-per-view that Saturday night. My standout memory for that event was the fight with Royce Gracie submitting Kimo. The look of Kimo combined with the fight style and technique of Gracie (over the years, I would learn extensively of the Gracie legacy) stuck with me. It wasn’t until the end of 1996, over two years later, when we first bought a computer and subscribed to internet service, that I could start keeping track of UFC on my own.

Having been a fan of professional wrestling with a penchant for cheering for the bad guys, it should have been no surprise that I would end up becoming a fan of “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz. His feud with Ken Shamrock leading up to their first fight at UFC 40 had me hooked, and that fight convinced me to buy my very first DVD of a UFC event after its release. Outside of Ortiz/Shamrock, that event also had a slew of other fighters who have done well for themselves over the years (Chuck Liddell, Renato “Babalu” Sobral, Matt Hughes, Robbie Lawler, Andrei Arlovski, and others).

There are many other fights, and fighters, that have stood out to me over the years. In honor of 20 years of UFC, here are 20 fights that are memorable to me for various reasons.

– Shonie Carter vs Matt Serra at UFC 31. First time ever seeing the spinning back fist used as a fight finisher.

– Stephan Bonnar vs Forrest Griffin at the finale for the first season of The Ultimate Fighter. Quite possibly the best fight I’ve ever seen, and it’s unquestionable as to how much this fight kicked the doors wide open for UFC in regards to further mainstream exposure.

– Georges St-Pierre vs Jason Miller at UFC 52. Miller’s kip-up leading straight into a GSP haymaker was epic.

– Chuck Liddell vs Randy Couture at UFC 57. Liddell’s domination and Couture’s subsequent retirement announcement was a bittersweet end to that night.

– Royce Gracie vs Matt Hughes at UFC 60. It was Gracie’s return to UFC after an 11-year absence, although he didn’t fare well and was finished within the very first round.

– Matt Serra vs Georges St-Pierre at UFC 69. Serra pulled off what we at Buffalo Wild Wings all thought was an improbable “upset”, and that event also initiated the discussion of Alan Belcher’s ridiculous tattoo work.

– Gray Maynard vs Rob Emerson from the finale of the Pulver/Penn season of The Ultimate Fighter. Insane no-contest finish as Maynard knocked himself out on a takedown, all while Emerson tapped out because of a rib injury.

– Houston Alexander vs Keith Jardine at UFC 71. Alexander got my attention as being from East St. Louis IL (you don’t come from there without being tough), and fighting out of Omaha (where he trained with a pro wrestling friend of mine). In under a minute, he knocked out Jardine including landing a punch that lifted Jardine.

– Brock Lesnar vs Frank Mir at UFC 81. The much-anticipated UFC debut of Lesnar, the fight was fast-paced from the start & wrapped up in less than 2 minutes after Lesnar got caught in a kneebar submission.

– Kalib Starnes vs Nate Quarry at UFC 83. The fight I’d care to forget. Starnes entered to “Bittersweet Symphony” and proceeded to put up a stinker of a fight, suffering a foot injury early in the fight and basically ran away from Quarry for the remainder of the fight. Only time I’ve ever seen a 30-24 judge’s ruling on a 3-round fight.

– Clay Guida vs Mac Danzig at UFC Fight Night 15. I was already a fan of Danzig’s, and that fight subsequently got me hooked on the personality and energy of Guida.

– Chael Sonnen vs Anderson Silva at UFC 117. First time that Silva looked beatable, as Sonnen outworked him for 4 rounds before getting caught and submitted midway in the fifth and final round.

– Junior Dos Santos vs Cain Velasquez at UFC on Fox 1. Super-fast paced straight out of the gate, and 1:04 later it was over.

– Brock Lesnar vs Alaistair Overeem at UFC 141. The matchup of monsters saw Lesnar take a wicked kick to the ribs which crumbled him. His post-fight speech and subsequent retirement was the most humble he’d sounded while in UFC.

– Ian McCall vs Demetrious Johnson on UFC on FX 2. AMAZING flyweight fight that should have gone to an extra sudden-death round, but it was incorrectly scored.

– Johny Hendricks vs Martin Kampmann at UFC 154. Essentially over before it even started. His quick KO victory, coupled with GSP’s decision win over Carlos Condit in that card’s main event, would begin to set up the highly-anticipated main event of this Saturday’s event at UFC 167.

– George St-Pierre vs Nick Diaz at UFC 158. Having never been a fan of either of the Diaz brothers, watching Nick get worked over consistently for a full five rounds (with all three judges scoring 50-45) was a pleasure.

– James Krause vs Sam Stout at UFC 161. Krause did the improbable in his UFC debut, fighting a veteran Canadian in Canada and outworking him for 2+ rounds before submitting him with 13 seconds left in the third round, earning himself a double-bonus (Fight of the Night, Submission of the Night).

– Tim Elliott vs Louis Gaudinot at UFC 164. While not earning a fight bonus like he did in his previous fight, Elliott put on a clinic, outstriking Gaudinot by over 200 on his way to a decision in which two judges scored the fight 30-26.

– Gilbert Melendez vs Diego Sanchez at UFC 166. After looking like he could have been done after the first round, Melendez outfought and outwarred Sanchez to a unanimous decision that brought out the best in both fighters.