2008 in review: Matt Ralph’s best/worst

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The Best

1. Honeymooning in Montreal. As unforgettable as my wedding was, spending a week in Montreal with my best friend was even more memorable. Chocolate croissants served at our door every morning, afternoon hikes, delectable meals and long walks around downtown and along the water at night. Not to mention, no computers, cell phones, work or other outside distractions for an entire week.  

2. Holding my niece for the first time. I have a really small family so the birth of my first niece/nephew and my parents’ first grandchild was a really big deal. Loudon Wainwright, Sigur Ros and Mojave 3 provided the soundtrack for this unforgettable moment in a Lexington, Ky., hospital in May.

3. Sherron Collins’ steal/three-point combo. Mario Chalmers’ shot will be remembered 100 years from now, but it was Sherron Collins’ acrobatic steal and subsequent three-pointer that gave Jayhawk fans everywhere hope, setting up Mario’s buzzer-beating, overtime-forcing shot for the ages.

4. The Wire. Access to HBO for the first time in my life during the first part of the year led to my prompt addiction to the final season of a show deserving of the endless praise lavished upon it over the last five years. I’ve since gotten my fix watching 30 additional hours of the show’s earlier episodes and read a significant chunk of The Corner before I ran out of renewals at my local library.

5. The Phillies winning it all. Mike Schmidt was still roaming the hot corner when I last considered the Philies a rooting interest (I was rooting for a Blue Jays win from the upper deck of the Vet in the ’93 series), but by the time the reality of the Cubs’ latest failure had sunk in I was excited to see the Fightins’ end that silly William Penn curse. Better the Phillies than the E-A-G-L-E-S and all of their annoying fans.

6. Finally finishing the book “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? The Carter Family and Their Legacy in American Music” by Mark Zwonitzer and Charles Hirshberg. One of the best books about music I’ve ever encountered, this meticulously researched, insightful and heartbreaking book took me a while to get through, but it was well worth the time investment.  

7. Parking the car and riding the TARC bus instead. Rising gas prices convinced me that I needed to figure out my local bus system back in April. A September wind-storm wiped out one of our cars, but we didn’t even blink at being a one-car family thanks to the monthly bus pass I managed to get my work to subsidize in place of a parking space in a nearby garage. My bus riding also helped me win $200 in a TARC contest and read a lot of books that had been collecting dust on my shelves.

8. Turning 30 and going on a surprise scavenger hunt set up by my wife where I serenaded a TGI Friday’s hostess with the song “I Believe I Can Fly,” asked a couple of bikers to hug said wife and arm wrestled a guy who kept telling me the bottle he was carrying was filled with iced tea.

9. Slumdog Millionaire. I know the movie doesn’t completely hold up to critical analysis and that parts of it resemble a music video. I know it’s probably one of the most overrated and overhyped films of the year. I know the dance during the credits is hokey and that some of the graphic design of the promotional pieces is gawdy. I don’t care. I loved every minute watching what I would consider my most enjoyable cinematic experience of 2008 (Young @ Heart takes a close second).

10. Damien Jurado’s “Caught In Trees.” It wasn’t what I’d consider the best album of 2008 and it isn’t even Damien Jurado’s best album to date, but “Caught In Trees” received more rotation on my iPod than any of the other dozens of albums I purchased, downloaded or received in the mail in 2008.

The Worst

1. The presidential campaign. Simply put, the campaign brought out the worst in almost everyone involved either directly or indirectly…on both sides of the aisle. Inane conspiracy theory, anti-Muslim rhetoric and blatant racism from the right. Vile hatred, equally as ridiculous conspiracy theory and sexism on the left.

2. Libby Dole. Her campaign released an attack aid against her Sunday School teaching opponent trying to link her to an atheist group. Fortunately, the sleazy ad, which featured an off-camera voice yelling “there is no God” in the finale, back-fired.

3. Manny Ramirez. Though I’m still not sure what is more annoying, Manny Ramirez or the endless media coverage that has elevated Manny to the Britney Spears of baseball status. Fortunately, the Phillies put an abrupt end to the inane chattering and speculation of a possible Dodgers/Red Sox match-up.

4. Philadelphia sports fans. Whether it was booing vice presidential candidates or flipping over cars celebrating the end of a long championship drought, the bad apple Philadelphia fans gave some backing to the claim that the city of brotherly love has the worst fans west of New York City.

5. Kosuke Fukodome. “America, Fuk yeah,” was the way one clever Cubs fan put it when news spread of the Japananese star signing with the Cubs. His three-run, bottom-of-the-ninth homerun to tie the game on Opening Day only added to the endearingly clever word play, but unfortunately for Cubs fans that was the highlight of an otherwise frustrating and annoying rookie season.

6. Hallelujah. Just when you thought one of the most covered songs of our time couldn’t get any more ubiquitous, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” was featured on the British reality show X-Factor. The song has topped the UK charts and propelled Cohen’s original and Jeff Buckley’s rendition into UK’s top 40.

7. Astroland closing. Another thing that made Coney Island a colorful, kitschy tourist attraction has apparently bit the dust. Astroland closed its doors supposedly for the final time in September, but fortunately landmark wood coaster The Cyclone is going to be sticking around. 

8. The New York Yankees. It wasn’t enough that they signed CC Sabathia or A.J. Burnett. Oh no. They had to go and dump a wheelbarrow full of greenbacks on Mark Texeira too.

9. AIG executives. You know who I’m talking about. The ones that took a reported $440,000 spa trip a week after the company received an $85 billion bailout from taxpayers.

10. Josef Fritzl. The Austrian sicko who, we learned back in April, had sexually abused, raped and physically assaulted his daughter for three decades, holding her captive in a small cellar.

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One Response to “2008 in review: Matt Ralph’s best/worst”

  1. Greg Says:

    Yeah, the car flipping by a few jackasses was uncalled for, but seeing thousands of people in a joyous mood after the last pitch further south on Broad St. near our house was amazing.

    Quite possibly the coolest moment I’ve ever had living in this city.

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