Anthony Davis joins the Lakers

Just two days after the Toronto Raptors defeated the dynastic Golden State Warriors to win the NBA Finals, the first–and biggest–trade of the young NBA offseason has happened. The New Orleans Pelicans sent star Anthony Davis to the Lakers for quite a haul.

The trade is fascinating both teams. LeBron James will turn 35 during the 2019-20 NBA season and AD will be the best player LeBron has ever played with. The price the Lakers paid seems insane at face value, but it really seems like both teams made out in this deal. The Lakers now have two legit superstars; the Pelicans now have the No. 1 and No. 4 picks in Thursday night’s draft, several young players, plus draft picks to help in add to the team in the coming years.

If you’re wondering if Lonzo’s dad is mad, the answer is yes.

The Lakers are in win-now mode

It’s impossible to look at this without considering LeBron’s age. If the Lakers don’t get another star player, was getting LeBron even worth it? Clearly LeBron playing with younger, undeveloped talents didn’t work out so well for the Lakers last season. LeBron probably only has a few good years left, so the Lakers can’t afford to draft and develop players over several years. Davis makes the team instantly better and automatically a contender in the Western Conference.

Davis will re-sign with the Lakers in 2020

It’s already being reported that Davis will sign with the Lakers when he becomes a free agent next summer. The Brow is only 26, and could be the next superstar big man for the Lakers, as well as a guy they can build around whenever LeBron decides to hang it up. It’s hard to imagine the Lakers giving away so much for a one-year rental and it’s no secret that Davis has wanted to go to L.A. for some time now. Unless he and LeBron have a monumental falling out over the next year, he’ll be a Laker for years to come.

Now’s the time to strike in the Western Conference

The dynamics of the Western Conference have shifted dramatically in the last five days, beginning with Kevin Durant tearing his Achilles tendon in Game 5 of the Finals and Klay Thompson tearing his ACL in Game 6. Durant was expected to be the biggest name in free agency. There’s been endless speculation about where he would sign. Now it’s possible he’ll miss all of the 2019-20 NBA season and Achilles’ injuries are notoriously difficult to recover from.

There’s now uncertainty as to whether Durant will become a free agent at all–he has a $31.5 million player option with the Warriors for 2019-20. Durant could choose to forego free agency now and spend the next year rehabbing on the Warriors’ dime.

Thompson is also a free agent this offseason, though there was little doubt that he’d re-sign with Golden State. His father confirmed that Klay will be back.

The injuries have made the Warriors’ future murky and bring up a ton of questions regarding the salary cap and luxury tax.

The Warriors dynasty may not be totally over, but it’s hard to see them going very far next season based on their current situation. Thompson will miss time recovering from his ACL tear. KD might get paid to not play for the Warriors next year. DeMarcus Cousins is a free agent. Steph Curry may be the greatest shooter in NBA history, but he can’t win the Western Conference singlehandedly.

Future first-round picks may not be as valuable

If the Lakers can do anything in the next few years, the future first-round picks will automatically be less valuable. It’ll be interesting to see where the team is in a year’s time and where its first-round pick will be; if they can manage a playoff run, that pick will be in somewhere in the 20s. Some people are acting as though those first-round picks are too valuable to part with, but they aren’t for a team like the Lakers. It’s rare for draft picks to be a sure thing while Anthony Davis is already a proven talent.

The Lakers aren’t done

Simply put, the Lakers aren’t done making a splash this offseason. Free agency is just two weeks away and L.A. is now a premier landing spot for impending free agents. It’s anyone’s guess who they’ll sign; there’s been speculation involving the Lakers and everyone from Kemba Walker to Jimmy Butler to Kyrie Irving.

From LeBron’s Instagram from early 2018, but it’s easy to imagine him grinning from ear-to-ear right now.

The Pelicans just got so much more interesting

The Pelicans already had the No. 1 pick in the draft, and they’re certain to take Zion Williamson, the 6’7″, 285 lb. freak athlete/forward from Duke. Williamson is the most hyped prospect since LeBron in 2003. New Orleans now also has a the No. 4 overall pick, which could be used as a trade chip or to land another highly regarded prospect. It’s easy to wonder if they could dangle the No. 4 pick and a player to the Knicks to move up a spot to take Williamson’s Duke teammate R.J. Barrett with the No. 3 pick.

The Pelicans also now have a pair of recent No. 2 overall picks in Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, who were integral to the deal. New Orleans also still has Jrue Holiday, who posted a career-best 21.2 points per game in the 2018-19 season. The Pelicans could be a contender much more quickly than anticipated and it’s hard to see David Griffin as anything but a damn genius; his team won the draft lottery/Zion sweepstakes and he used the Pelicans’ biggest asset to net a fantastic return. Davis didn’t want to be in New Orleans any longer and was going to walk next year anyway. Now Griffin can use that return to build around a generational talent.

The NBA offseason has only just begun…

…and it’s already freaking insane. The draft is a mere five days away. Free agency begins at 6 p.m. on June 30th. The KD and Klay situations have already been discussed, but there are plenty of other big name players who will hit free agency in two weeks. Reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler, DeMarcus Cousins, and Khris Middleton will all be free agents, among others. This is looking to be one of the most fascinating offseasons in recent NBA history and it could reshape the league for years to come.

Song of the Day–4.1.19: Baseball Edition

In honor of the Pirates’ Home Opener today, I’m going to fill this post with a few songs about baseball.

First up, a song from 70 years ago honoring one of the greatest legends and most important figures in baseball history: “Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?” written by Buddy Johnson then recorded by Count Basie & his orchestra in 1949.

Let’s fast forward 36 years to a very different kind of song. I couldn’t write a post about baseball songs without including a classic like “Centerfield.” I can hear you all groan from here.

This last song really has nothing to do with baseball, but I will forever associate “Runaround Sue” with baseball because of this “Little Big League” montage. It is a completely inexplicable montage, even by kids’ baseball movie standards (and yes, that is a pre-“Gilmore Girls” Scott Patterson aka Luke Danes at 1:35 of the video).

Happy Home Opener, Bucco fans!

NL East Preview

The National League East only had one representative in the playoffs last season, but plenty has changed since then. It’s not unrealistic to think this division could send three teams to the postseason in 2019.

Atlanta Braves

2018 National League Rookie of the Year Ronald Acuña, Jr. of the Braves

2018 Record: 90-72; 1st NL East

Postseason: Lost in the NLDS to the Dodgers, 3-1

Say hello to: Josh Donaldson, 3B; Brian McCann, C

So long to: Anibal Sanchez, P; Kurt Suzuki, C

2019 Forecast:Reigning NL Rookie of the Year Ronald Acuña, Jr. will see if he can continue the magic of his 2018 season, which he finished with a .917 OPS and 26 homeruns in just 111 games. Acuña has hit cleanup for much of spring training and is expected to hit there permanently this sason. With Acuña now at cleanup, centerfielder Ender Inciarte has moved into the leadoff role. Veteran third baseman Josh Donaldson looks to hit in the 2-spot. Donaldson was plagued by injuries last season, but seemed back to his old stuff when he was finally healthy in September and playing for the Indians. Hitting third will be Freddie Freeman, who remains one of the best first basemen in the league. Nick Markakis re-signed with the Braves in free agency following a solid 2018 season. Those guys make for a formidable 1-5 in the Braves lineup. If Acuña can come close to replicating his rookie season, the Braves will be in contention again.

Look out for: It’ll be interesting to see how Acuna handles the cleanup role and how that changes the complexion of the lineup. Inciarte is a good choice to lead off—he had a career-high 28 stolen bases last season.

Miami Marlins

Brian Anderson of the Miami Marlins (photo by Keith Allison/license)

2018 record: 63-98; 5th NL East

Postseason: Did not qualify

Say hello to: Jorge Alfaro, C; Neil Walker, 2B/1B; Curtis Granderson, OF; Sergio Romo, RP;

So long to: J.T. Realmuto, C; Justin Bour, 1B; Derek Dietrich, LF

2019 Forecast: *Insert scream emoji* It seems the tear down and rebuild plan of Derek Jeter’s is finally complete. Following the Marlins fire sale in the 2017 offseason, which saw them move 2017 NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton, 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, and Dee Gordon, they used the 2018 offseason to trade one of the best catchers in the league to a division opponent. Any fans that stick around after that deserve a gift basket of autographed Jeter swag. As for those who still remain on the team, Brian Anderson had a surprisingly strong rookie campaign for the Marlins in 2018 and proved he was strong defensively at both third base and in right field. Centerfielder Lewis Brinson has raw talent, but has been unable to put it all together at the major league level. Both Anderson and Brinson have played well in spring training and time will tell if that carries over into the regular season. The Marlins got catcher Jorge Alfaro in the Realmuto trade. Alfaro is a great defensive catcher and still young, but he strikes out an awful lot. The Marlins acquired veterans Neil Walker and Curtis Granderson in the offseason. No word yet on whether or not Walker believes he got justice. The Marlins still have a long way to go to be competitive, especially in a division with three pretty good teams at the top. At least they have new uniforms.

Look out for: Brinson has the talent to be really good. He’ll be given plenty of time to figure it out with the Marlins. If he has a breakout year, that could signal the Marlins are at least beginning the long road to recovery.

New York Mets

Noah Syndergaard. That look on his face is what happens when he remembers he’s a Met. (Photo by Arturo Pardavila III/license)

2018 record:  77-85; 4th NL East

Postseason:  Did not qualify

Say hello to: Robinson Cano, 2B; Wilson Ramos, C; Edwin Diaz, RP; Jed Lowrie, 3B; Justin Wilson, RP

So long to: Wilmer Flores, 3B; Jay Bruce, RF; Jose Reyes, IF

2019 forecast: Despite the team being a perennial punchline, the Mets’ rotation is among the best in the league when healthy, featuring 2018 NL Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz. The Mets signed deGrom to a 5-year, $137.5 million extension earlier this week, which is fully deserved—especially considering the Mets couldn’t get deGrom a win for nearly two months last season (and another example of why the win stat for pitchers is hot garbage). The Mets traded for Cano, who spent half of his final season with the Mariners suspended for a PED violation; however, Cano had an fWAR of 2.9 in just 80 games last year. They also added catcher Wilson Ramos. Cano, Ramos and returning right fielder Michael Conforto will be strong 3, 4, and 5 hitters, respectively. The Mets may still struggle to gain ground in a tough NL East, but they could be slightly better than last year. They wouldn’t be the Mets without some dysfunction, though. Yoenis Cespedes is still hurt. Syndergaard is annoyed with management’s decision to make the Mets go to Syracuse for one workout before heading to Washington for Opening Day. Brandon Nimmo can’t cook chicken properly. The Mets threw their insane three-GM model out the window during the offseason and hired just one man to be GM. Because they’re the Mets, they hired high-profile agent Brodie van Wagenen, who has represented deGrom, Cespedes, and minor leaguer Tim Tebow, so one can see the conflict of interest that is present in van Wagenen taking the job. Who wants to bet Tebow sees the majors this year? Perhaps last year was rock bottom for the Mets: their three GMs couldn’t get on the same page; they suffered the worst loss in franchise history; they batted out of order; and Syndergaard contracted hand, foot, and mouth disease, which most people didn’t even know was a real thing. It’s hard to predict what will go down in Queens this year; the Mets are nothing if not unpredictable.

Look out for: deGrom has been a great pitcher for quite some time, but he took it to a whole new level last year. It will be interesting to see if he can continue pitching as impressively into 2019. Conforto had a decent season last year and hit a career-high 28 homers, but his other numbers fell from the previous season. The Mets are certainly banking on the young rightfielder returning to his 2017 form.

Washington Nationals

Nationals’ Third Baseman Anthony Rendon (photo by Keith Allison/license)

2018 record: 82-80; 2nd NL East

Postseason: Did not qualify

Say hello to: Yan Gomes, C; Patrick Corbin, SP; Anibal Sanchez, SP; Brian Dozier, 2B;Trevor Rosenthal, RP

So long to: Bryce Harper, OF; Matt Wieters, C; Tanner Roark, SP

2019 Forecast: The Nationals may have lost Bryce Harper, but they should be just fine. Between their core of Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner, and Juan Soto; the additions they made in the offseason; and having one of the best right-handed pitchers in the game, the Nats shouldn’t take much of a step back, if at all. Rendon finished 2018 with the 9th highest fWAR in the majors, which was better than Harper. Soto was second in NL Rookie of the Year voting. Young outfielder Victor Robles spent much of last year on the disabled list after a hyperextended elbow, but performed well when called up in September. The Nationals made some notable acquisitions in the offseason, signing Brian Dozier in free agency and trading for catcher Yan Gomes from Cleveland. Dozier had a down season last year, but it was revealed he had played most of the season with a severe bone bruise on his knee. Gomes should be an upgrade over Wieters, particularly defensively. A rotation that already features three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg got a few additions, when the Nats signed both Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez in free agency. Corbin was a stud for the Diamondbacks last season and has one of the filthiest sliders in the game. Sanchez isn’t what he was at his peak, but he’s still decent enough to fill the four or five spot in the rotation.

Look out for: Victor Robles is likely the favorite to win NL Rookie of the Year in 2019. Robles would probably have even more hype had it not been for his injury and Soto becoming a star. If he performs as many experts expect him to, the Nationals outfield could very well be better without Harper.

Philadelphia Phillies

Bryce Harper and Bryce Harper’s hair left D.C. to head north to Philadelphia (photo by Arturo Pardavila III/license)

2018 Record: 80-82; 3rd NL East

Postseason: Did not qualify

Hello to: Bryce Harper, OF; Andrew McCutchen, OF; J.T. Realmuto, C; Jean Segura, SS; Jose Alvarez, RP; David Robertson, RP

So long to: Jorge Alfaro, C; Justin Bour, 1B

2019 Forecast: The Phillies went all-in during the offseason, making perhaps the biggest splash in both quantity and quality of acquisitions, both in trades and free agency. The Phils also made sure to lock down one of their best players by signing pitcher Aaron Nola to a four-year, $45 million extension following his breakout 2018 season. Yes, teams that win the offseason don’t always win in the actual season, but it’s tough to imagine the Phillies not being a much better team this year. They signed Bryce Harper to the largest free agent deal in history, and added J.T. Realmuto, Jean Segura, and Andrew McCutchen to help their lineup, which had some trouble scoring runs late last season. The Phillies also bolstered their bullpen with the acquisitions of David Robertson and Jose Alvarez. Robertson will likely be used in high-leverage situations and could be used as a part-time closer. Robertson gives manager Gabe Kapler some flexibility in late innings, so the Phillies won’t have to rely as heavily on young reliever Seranthony Dominguez. The Phillies were in contention for most of 2018 and their offseason acquisitions have them poised to make some big gains in the win column in 2019. You’ll know if the Phillies are doing well, because their fans will literally not shut up about it.

Look out for: It’s tough to put anything but Bryce Harper in this spot. His new home stadium is a hitter’s ballpark, so his slugging percentage and homerun totals should see a boost.

NL East Prediction:

I could see the Braves, Phillies, or Nationals winning this division and whichever teams don’t could be vying for the two NL Wild Card spots. My prediction for how things shake out in the NL East:

  1. Nationals
  2. Phillies
  3. Braves
  4. Mets
  5. Marlins

I like the Nationals because I think they have the best combination of pitching and hitting. I like their rotation better than the Phillies’ and I like their lineup more than the Braves’. I think all three teams will be in contention into late August or September, barring any injuries. The Mets could even shock the world and win the division. If the Marlins win it, we’re truly living in the Upside Down.

AL East Preview

Toronto Blue Jays

Blue Jays prospect Vlad Guerrero Jr. playing for their Triple-A affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons (photo by Tricia Hall/license)

2018 record: 73-89; 4th AL East

Postseason: Did not qualify

Say hello to: Freddy Galvis, SS; Clayton Richard, SP; Clay Bucholz, SP; Matt Shoemaker, SP; Bud Norris, RP

So long to: Russell Martin, C; Kendrys Morales, DH/INF; Troy Tulowitzki, SS; Aledmys Diaz, INF; Marco Estrada, SP; Tyler Clippard, RP

2019 forecast:  The Blue Jays still have a long way to go to get back to being as good as the teams that went to the ALCS in back-to-back years in 2015 and 2016. This season will probably be another losing season as they attempt to rebuild. The Blue Jays have the best prospect in baseball, Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. in Triple-A right now. The 19-year-old phenom will likely be called up to the big league club in June. He’s currently battling a strained oblique, though the Jays weren’t planning on calling him up to start the season anyway because he’s “not ready” for the big leagues yet (also known as “excuse for service time manipulation”). The Blue Jays are certainly hoping starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez has put the finger issues that sidelined him the past two seasons behind him. They need more stability in their rotation behind Marcus Stroman, particularly following their trade of J.A. Happ last year.  

Look out for:  The most exciting thing about the Blue Jays this year is the guy who will start his season 100 miles south of Rogers Centre. Vlad Jr. has dominated at every level of the minors and will single-handedly make the Jays a more entertaining team.

Baltimore Orioles

Chris Davis and Mike Trout: the worst and best baseball has to offer
(photo by Keith Allison/license)

2018 record: 47-115; 5th AL East

Postseason: Did not qualify

Say hello to:  Richie Martin, SS; Jesus Sucre, C; Nate Karns, RP

So long to:  Adam Jones, CF; Tim Beckham, INF; Caleb Joseph, C

2019 forecast:  Well, it can’t be worse than 2018…can it? The 2019 O’s will likely not fare much better than last year’s team did. They are in full-on rebuild mode and have a low-ranked farm system. They simply won’t be much fun to watch this year. Chris Davis will certainly be looking to prove something after one of the worst seasons ever by a major league player. Davis struck out nearly 37% of the time and had an OPS of .539. Watching Davis attempt to hit above the Mendoza line could be entertaining? It’s tough to imagine this team finishing anywhere but last in an AL East that had three 90-game winners last season.

Look out for:  Closer Mychal Givens just might be the most exciting part of this year’s Orioles. While his numbers went down as a whole last year, he didn’t allow much hard contact and kept opponents scoreless in 18 of his last 21 appearances.

Tampa Bay Rays

Reigning AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell (photo by Keith Allison/license)

2018 record: 90-72; 3rd AL East

Postseason: Did not qualify

Say hello to: Charlie “Electric Stuff” Morton, SP; Avisaíl Garcia, OF; Yandy Díaz, INF; Mike Zunino, C

So long to:  Sergio Romo, RP; Carlos Gomez, CF

2019 forecast: The Rays had a surprisingly good 2018, which few people saw coming. They traded pitcher Chris Archer to the Pirates for pitcher Tyler Glasnow, outfielder Austin Meadows, and pitching prospect Shane Baz. Meadows will start in right field to start the year and Glasnow, who never found his groove in Pittsburgh, looks to be one of the Rays’ starters in 2019. Tampa began using openers last season, which worked to their benefit and is a great example of outside-the-box thinking that small-market, low-payroll teams must employ to stay competitive. And stay competitive they did, winning 90 games in a division that boasted the two best teams in baseball last year. They were buoyed by pitcher Blake Snell’s excellent season, which landed him the AL Cy Young Award. Unfortunately for the Rays, their 90 wins weren’t enough as the A’s won 97 and landed the second Wild Card spot. The Rays won’t have an easy go of it this year either, as the Red Sox and Yankees are still two of the best teams in baseball. The Rays will be interesting to watch, as they continue to experiment with openers, something that could have ramifications across the league.

Look out for: Austin Meadows will begin his first full season in the majors. With consistent playing time, he could develop into a solid player and become a centerpiece for the Rays over the next several years.  

Boston Red Sox

Reigning AL MVP Mookie Betts (photo by Arturo Padavilla III/license)

2018 record: 108-54; 1st AL East

Postseason: Won World Series over Los Angeles Dodgers, 4-1

Say hello to: Colten Brewer, RP

So long to: Craig Kimbrel, RP; Drew Pomeranz, SP; Ian Kinsler, 2B; Joe Kelly, RP

2019 forecast:  The reigning World Series champs somehow aren’t favorites to win the 2019 World Series, but they’re still stacked, losing very few players from last season. The most noticeable change is at the closer position, with Craig Kimbrel leaving in free agency and Matt Barnes slated to take over the position this year. They managed to re-sign a couple of their own free agents, including World Series MVP Steve Pearce and starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi. The starting outfield from last season will return, featuring AL MVP Mookie Betts, Andrew Benitendi, and Jackie Bradley, Jr. J.D. Martinez is back at DH, and Xander Bogaerts returns at shortstop. Betts led all major leaguers in fWAR last season, and Martinez and Bogaerts both finished in the top 30; Benitendi missed the top 30 by 0.1. Veteran second baseman Dustin Pedroia will start the year on the injured list, but could return before the end of April. The Red Sox recently announced a six-year extension for their ace, Chris Sale. While they may not top last year’s record, they’ll still be one of the top teams in the league. With the best leftie in the game leading their rotation, and most of the same cast returning from last year’s championship team, the Red Sox will be one of the best teams in baseball yet again.

Look out for:  Mookie Betts is the most fun player to watch in all of baseball. Mike Trout may be better overall (though he wasn’t last year), but Mookie just looks like he’s having a blast out there. It’ll be hard for him to top his excellent MVP season, but watching him try promises to be entertaining.

New York Yankees

Yankee slugger Giancarlo Stanton (photo by Keith Allison/license)

2018 record: 100-62, 2nd AL East

Postseason: Lost ALDS to Boston Red Sox, 3-1

Say hello to: Troy Tulowitzki, SS; James Paxton, SP; Adam Ottavino, RP

So long to: David Robertson, RP; Andrew McCutchen, CF; Neil Walker, 2B; Sonny Gray, SP

2019 Forecast: The Yankees (along with the Astros) have the best odds to win the 2019 World Series. Winners of 100 games in 2018, it’s easy to see the Yankees again being one of the best teams in baseball. They have perhaps the best bullpen in the game, featuring closer Aroldis Chapman. They traded for Zack Britton last season, and signed him to a contract during the offseason. Adam Ottavino also joined the Yanks’ pen. The signing didn’t get much hype, but Ottavino was excellent with the Rockies last year, with a 12.98 K/9 rate. James Paxton came to the Bronx via a trade with the Mariners and he’ll likely fill the 2 or 3 spot in the rotation. The busy offseason also saw the Yankees re-sign some of their own free agents, including pitchers CC Sabathia and J.A. Happ, as well as veteran outfielder Brett Gardner. Injuries could be a problem early on, as the Yankees have several key players who won’t see the field on Opening Day. Their ace, Luis Severino, is working back from rotator cuff inflammation in his right shoulder and likely won’t make a major league start until May. Centerfielder Aaron Hicks is experiencing lower back tightness, but is expected to play in early April. Shortstop Didi Gregorius is still rehabbing after Tommy John surgery in October and won’t see the field until the summer months. However, the Yankees are a deep team, so they should still be in it as they await the return of the above players. The main thing the Yankees should be concerned with is not allowing the Red Sox to build an insurmountable lead in the division, as they did last year.

Look out for: It’s hard to say a 38-homerun season is a down year, but considering Giancarlo Stanton had 59 in his 2017 MVP season with the Marlins, there’s no doubt some Yankees fans were disappointed with Stanton’s freshman year in the Bronx. Stanton’s slugging percentage fell over 120 points from 2017 to 2018 (to be fair, he still slugged .509 last season). We’ll see how he fares in his second season at Yankee Stadium.

AL East Prediction:

The Red Sox and Yankees were two of the best teams last year, and will be two of the best teams this season. The Rays could be a sneaky team, and if injuries derail the Yankees early, the Rays could find themselves in second place and/or competing for a Wild Card spot. My prediction for the AL East:

  1. Red Sox
  2. Yankees
  3. Rays
  4. Blue Jays
  5. Orioles

The Red Sox are just too good to pick against. Almost all of their key players are returning this season. Repeating as World Series champions is always difficult, but repeating as AL East champs is a reasonable expectation for a team that won 108 games a year ago.

Song of the Day–3.25.19

No matter how hard I try to be just one of the guys

There’s a little something inside that won’t let me

It’s been a minute since I’ve written a Song of the Day post, so to make up for it, I’m going to post two songs today.

In honor of one my favorite rock goddesses releasing her first album in five years this past Friday, today is going to feature a double shot of Jenny Lewis.

The first song is “Wasted Youth” off of her new album, On The Line. It immediately stuck out to me when I first listened to it. This video is her performing it live on Jimmy Kimmel Live last week.

I was lucky enough to get to see to her live at Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis when she was touring for The Voyager, and was blown away by her performance. The Voyager was also one of my favorite albums of the last decade, so I had to include a song from it.

“Us” Movie Review

“The feeling that we all feel we are the good guy in our own story prevents us from facing our demons.” –Jordan Peele

The latest horror film from Jordan Peele has finally arrived in theaters, two years after his first feature film “Get Out” became a cultural sensation and introduced us to the “sunken place.”

Theories about “Us” began as soon as the official trailer dropped in late December.

“Us” is a completely different movie from “Get Out” which is something audience goers should keep in mind. It isn’t as good or as groundbreaking as “Get Out,” it’s more of a standard horror film. “Get Out” is a slow burn. While the actions of the white people at the Armitage estate are scary, creepy, and uncomfortable throughout the film, the blood and gore don’t really start until Rose (Allison Williams) says chillingly on the stairs, “You know I can’t give you the keys, right babe?” and Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) realizes he’s going to have to kill every member of this family of psychopaths if he wants to get out alive.

In “Us,” the blood and killing begin earlier in the film.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD (and some of the links contain spoilers too!)

At the beginning of the movie, we see a young girl named Adelaide (Madison Curry) wander away from her dad on the Santa Cruz boardwalk, and enter a funhouse with arrow reading “Find Yourself” pointing to the dark entrance. While she’s in there, the power goes out and she encounters a young girl that looks just like her. It’s not a reflection in the funhouse mirror; it’s her dopplegãnger. Adelaide is traumatized by this occurrence.

When the story shifts to present day, it centers around the Wilson family, including adult Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and their children, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex). They’re going to vacation in their family beach house near Santa Cruz. Adelaide seems happy and relaxed, until Gabe brings up going to the Santa Cruz boardwalk. Not wanting to revisit the site of  a major childhood trauma, Adelaide at first doesn’t want to go, but she eventually relents.

The Wilsons head to the beach, and Jason wanders off, which scares Adelaide. Back at the house that night, Adelaide tells Gabe about her childhood encounter with her dopplegänger in the funhouse and says she’s always felt like the other girl would come after her.

Shortly after this conversation, the power goes out. Then a family shows up outside of the Wilson’s house. They come face-to-face with their dopplegängers, clad in red jumpsuits.

The dopplegãngers, or “Tethers”, are clones who live below the earth’s surface (the beginning of the film reminds us that there are thousands of miles of abandoned tunnels underneath the U.S., from unused subway tunnels and old mine shafts). The shadow people are “tethered” to their above ground counterparts, and must do whatever their counterparts do. As Adelaide’s counterpart, Red, points out, it doesn’t matter that she didn’t love Abraham (Gabe’s tether), she had to marry him anyway because of Adelaide’s choice.

Where “Get Out” took on racism, particularly of the white liberal variety, “Us” takes on classism. And it shows just to what lengths people are willing to go to to keep their life and status in check, even if they’re aware of the suffering of others.

The Wilsons are clearly middle to upper middle class people. After meeting up with their friends, Josh and Kitty Tyler (played by Tim Heidecker and Elisabeth Moss), Gabe complains about Josh getting a new car just to get to him.

There are plot holes in “Us” that may frustrate some viewers, though I’ve found them fascinating. I’m not sure we’re supposed to have all the answers; I think this movie is designed to make you think.

The acting is incredible across the board. Lupita Nyong’o is getting a ton of well-deserved hype for her performance. The ease with which she goes from terrified mother to a hoarse, crazy-eyed woman with an evil laugh is truly impressive. The rest of the cast deserve credit as well. Winston Duke is great as the dorky, lovable dad (complete with Dad-jokes) in the film. The actors who play the Wilson children–Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex–both turn in excellent and creepy performances. Alex’s characters–Jason Wilson and Pluto–are perhaps the most mysterious ones in the movie. Wright Joseph is perfection, seamlessly going from typical American teenager to creepy as hell on a dime. Zora’s dopplegänger, Umbrae, wears a chilling smile that could frighten anyone. Moss and Heidecker are great as the bitchy, bickering, basic white friends of the Wilson’s.

I don’t want to go into too many other details, but I will note some things to keep an eye out for and things I thought were interesting in this dopplegänger tale.

  • “Us” being used as the title works in several ways. There’s the whole “Us vs. Them” idea, and the idea that “Us” equals U.S., which is intentional, according to Peele’s comments. It’s not hard to see how relevant that is today.

“The United States and our xenophobia was the front and center idea to grapple with.” –Jordan Peele

  • The white rabbit at the beginning of the film immediately brought “Alice in Wonderland” and the idea that we were following Jordan Peele down the rabbit hole.
  • As mentioned above, the family’s last name is Wilson. Jordan Peele does nothing unintentionally, so I have no doubt that’s a nod to the Edgar Allan Poe story, “William Wilson” which is the story of a man meeting his dopplegänger. There are other similarities between the movie and the Poe story–parts of this synopsis of “William Wilson” will be familiar to anyone who has seen “Us.”
  • One of the movie posters for “Us” features a pair of hands holding gold scissors–the weapon of choice for the Tethers. Two symmetrical blades, working together, with the sole purpose to divide things.
  • The reference to Hands Across America was interesting as were the visuals of a chain of people clad in red jumpsuits stretching across the land, literally dividing the country in half. Young Adelaide sees a commercial for it in 1986, at the very beginning of the movie.
  • Some of the murders are committed by boat and by golf club–two symbols of an upper class existence.
  • The song that plays during the scene in the car, “I Got 5 on It” by Luniz, is about drugs (despite Gabe’s objection in the film). It’s about splitting the cost of a dimebag. “I Got 5 on It” means putting in $5 towards it. Peele said it was an easy choice, with the movie being set in Northern California and Luniz being from Oakland, he also said the song had a haunting quality. The original definitely does, and now it’s even creepier, thanks to “Tethered Remix” done for the movie.
  • While Peele chose “I Got 5 on It” for the reasons above, there’s also a weird twist that fits in with the movie. The man who sings the hook, Michael Marshall, is practically forgotten and hasn’t seen any money from it.
  • Speaking of “I’ve Got 5 on It,” one thing that stood out to me when I saw the trailer originally was the character of Adelaide saying ” get in the rhythm,” yet snapping her fingers on the 1 & 3 instead on 2 & 4.
  • In the same scene in the car, Jason is wearing a “Jaws” raglan. A nod to another horror classic where the danger is coming from beneath the surface.
  • I also couldn’t help but think of both “Jaws” and “Cape Fear” during the scenes on the water.
  • When the Wilsons first arrive at their house–which sits right on a body of water that isn’t the ocean–Gabe tells Adelaide he wants to go to the beach at Santa Cruz. Wanting to avoid the place where she was traumatized as a child, she says “we have a beach right here” and Gabe says something about it not being a real beach, since it’s just on the bay and he wants to go the boardwalk. This intrigued me. My husband and I visited Santa Cruz on our honeymoon, so I looked up a map to figure out in what area the Wilsons were staying. I think I found the answer–Twin Lakes, which is about two miles from the Santa Cruz boardwalk.

Santa Cruz Twin Lakes Us Jordan Peele

  • When young Adelaide is in Santa Cruz with her parents in 1986, her mother says to her father, “they’re shooting a movie here, you should see if they need any extras.” The 1987 classic “The Lost Boys” was set in the fictional town of Santa Carla, but was filmed in Santa Cruz, with its boardwalk being used for many scenes in the film. Of course Peele designed it that way.
  • Jeremiah 11:11: “Therefore, thus says the LORD, Behold, I am bringing disaster upon them that they cannot escape. Though they cry to me, I will not listen to them.”
  • Kitty and Josh have twin teenage daughters, and there’s definitely a nod to “The Shining” in this movie. (Side note: The actresses who play the twins, Cali Sheldon and Noelle Sheldon, played Emma on “Friends”–as in, Ross and Rachel’s daughter. Man, do I feel old.)

I’m sure I’ve left out other “aha” moments and missed a bunch of Easter eggs, but these are the biggest ones to me. The bottom line: “Us” is great but it’s not “Get Out” great. The two will obviously be compared to one another, but “Us” is good on its own merits. I couldn’t wait to look up wild fan theories online after I got home. Here’s hoping we get a video of Peele discussing fan theories like he did for “Get Out.”

One way “Us” does remind me of “Get Out”–I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I left the theater.

Song of the Day–3.11.19

Today’s song choice is easily one of my top ten favorite songs of all-time. So much so that I played at it my wedding, even though it’s definitely not a song one would expect to hear at a wedding.

Found on one of the greatest albums of all-time, London Calling, “Rudie Can’t Fail” is an underrated masterpiece. A duet of Joe Strummer and Mick Jones backed with horns with a heavy reggae influence is truly something to behold.

I first heard this song in the movie Grosse Pointe Blank, which has a killer soundtrack and a score composed by Strummer himself. The horns really caught my attention, and I made sure I got the soundtrack as one of those seven CDs for a penny deal that was always being ran back in the ’90s. (The soundtrack also features Faith No More, the Violent Femmes, and a Guns ‘n Roses cover of “Live and Let Die,” but “Rudie Can’t Fail” stood out to me more than any of the other songs in the movie.

Antonio Brown is a Raider

Late Saturday night, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Steelers and Raiders have a verbal deal in place that would send Antonio Brown to Oakland and third and fifth-round draft picks to the Steelers.

Many fans are unhappy with the return, but it’s hard to imagine the Steelers doing better. AB’s antics in recent weeks and months made him a tough guy to trade and the rest of the league knew it. A few months ago, t would’ve been hard to fathom the Steelers not coming away with at least a first round pick for the best wide receiver in the league, but here we are.

AB will also reportedly get a raise and a lot of guaranteed money in Oakland, but he’ll also be catching passes from Derek Carr.

The Steelers are a worse team than they were this morning, but they have some draft picks to work with. Maybe they’ll use some of their picks to trade up in the first round for a good defensive player, though they haven’t done so since 2003 in order to draft Troy Polamalu.

One could think it may be time to turn the page on this generation of the Steelers. Perhaps allow Ben Roethlisberger to play out the final year of his contract and begin preparing for the post-Ben era. There are no indications that the Steelers will do so, as they’ve stated their desire to extend Ben repeatedly and GM Kevin Colbert has basically said Ben only answers to ownership. Ben turned 37 last week and led the NFL in interceptions last year.

Plenty of updates to follow!