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Saturday, July 29, 2017


This is one part open letter, one part hat tip, and perhaps a bit more fanboying that I'm typically comfortable with. But as the Solid Verbal commemorates the start of their 10th season (and did so with an origin story retrospective) I feel inclined to give them their due.

The Solid Verbal Podcast came into being right around the same time 80 Minutes of Regulation did, though I didn't know of their existence until a few years later. Hosts Dan Rubenstein and Ty Hildenbrandt are also around my age (slightly younger and older than me, respectively), so the show has always felt right in my wheelhouse. The two hosts met - only virtually for the beginning of their relationship - as both were in different facets of Sports Illustrated's college football media. From there, they created, cultivated, and grew a podcast that is a source of enjoyment, news, and humor for many of us.

I remember my exact point of entry: The guest was Mark Ennis, then of SB Nation's Big East Coast Bias. I looked up the Solid Verbal to check out Mark, a Louisville guy who was the citizen-commissioner of Big East Twitter (#weallwegot). I loaded the show up on my clickwheel iPod prior to a trip up to Ocean City to visit family. What I recall is being immediately impressed with the quality of both the audio and the hosting. I don't remember exactly where my familiarity with podcasts was at the time - they may have been my first indie podcast - but for two self-described random guys from the internet, they had it. I listened to the podcast and a few more, and despite heavy leaning on an Animal Planet show called Whale Wars I had never heard of (in their defense, it was the offseason) they became part of the rotation.

Years later, they aren't just part of the rotation, they start it. Despite subscribing to more podcasts than my weekly commute has time for, a new Solid Verbal episode gets the immediate bump to the top of the stack. Dan and Ty's knowledge is formidable, their guests are excellent, and they're just damn enjoyable to listen to. What I once considered non sequitur diversions like Whale Wars I now recognize as part of the show's charm, and there are far more hits than misses with me in terms of familiarity. They digress into and back out of pop culture seamlessly as one might when chatting with friends about football and whatever else. And while it's weird to say "I've watched them grow up" of a couple of guys my age, it's been cool to see a few key life changes - Dan's move to the East Coast and employment with SB Nation, the show taking on sponsors, distribution, and strategic partnerships, increasingly bigger guests and events, and both hosts getting married - the last of which has manifested in a "window of opportunity" report for us married folk who can't post up in front of football all Saturday, much as we would like to.

We operate in different media, and do things differently - one a helluva lot more successfully than the other - so I wouldn't first be inclined to say they inspire me or keep me going. But they definitely add a lot of enjoyment, which is to say nothing of the wealth of information they bring with a delivery method I favor over some other folks in the space. I listen to quite a few of their competitors - and to be clear, as Dan and Ty are, while other podcasts are in the same space doing the same thing, they're brothers in arms more than anything else. Their grind is absolutely admirable, at a clip of one to two shows a week for over nine years, and Dan spoke of a love for creating things no matter how many people are listening. It is from there I draw my inspiration, and it was a pleasure hearing them talk through the process of creating and sustaining what is, as far as I'm concerned, an institution. Thanks guys, stay solid.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

An Honor and a Privilege

This time last year, I was just wrapping an unsuccessful campaign to bring Scouts Honor to a theater near me. Now, a year later, I've finally seen the film.

The documentary follows the 2012 Madison Scouts through their season and focuses specifically on three members: a rookie trumpet, a returning snare, and a guard age out. The first sounded notes of the film set the tone: They are from MalagueƱa, a piece that Madison played in 2012 but has had other notable appearances in the corps' history, including their championship in 1988 and fan favorite A Drum Corps Fan's Dream Part Dos in 1996. This introduction sets the tone in more ways than one: Both musically, and by revealing that the film is, by design, as sonically true as one can be to a drum corps show without being present. While I'm certain my living room speakers didn't do it justice, I know it's something in which the directors took great pride.

For those of us already familiar with the activity, the beginning goes a bit heavy on the "what is drum corps?" which I understand is absolutely necessary for unfamiliar audiences, but feels a bit like your GPS directing you out of your own neighborhood. Still, it sets the stage for a documentary that, as the full title suggests, tells the story of the brotherhood the men in the corps share.

So is this the story of three young men and the 2012 season, or of the now nearly 80 year history of the corps? Yes.

While the story is told through the then-current season, the continued theme is the longitudinal brotherhood that the corps members share not just with their brothers at that moment in time, but the generations of Scouts that came before them. It even shows the transition as the 2012 ageouts join the ranks of the alumni, and implores them to continue the support of the men they leave behind who can return to the corps. In one scene that stood out given my professional and personal interests, it is clear that within this band of brothers are brothers of another sort: A member of Lambda Chi Alpha and a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon, stand, arm in arm, bound by their Madison Scouts brotherhood. Moreover, the members of the corps - one of the young men featured in particular, learned, in the truest sense of the corps song, you'll never walk alone.

Another piece that I noticed due to my personal interests is that the film steered clear - whether by design or chance - of sports analogies. In describing the role of the center snare, for instance, a quarterback or point guard analogy may have been apropos, but it never came up. Whether intentional or not, it allowed the activity to stand on its own two feet. On another personal note, it dawned on my while watching this film that I actually didn't see Madison live during the 2012 season, so there was genuine, drum corps fan joy in watching their show come together.

I've waited quite some time to see this film, and it was worth every bit of it. I urge you to check it out as soon as you can; for Apple users, it's available for $0.99 rent of $9.99 purchase via the iTunes store.

Beer Review - Dogfish Head SeaQuench Ale

Another summer, another beer review.

Along with drum corps, beer is my favorite summer sports-adjacent, and two of the last three years have brought some form of a review. While I made the annual trip to Delmarva that spawned the other two, I picked this one up locally, despite it also calling the Peninsula home.

Two years ago, I said that 3rd Wave's Sour Lime was what Bud Light Lime wanted to be when it grew up. Well, Dogfish Head's SeaQuench Ale has a steady career with a 401k and stock options. Released in 2016 and canned this year, SeaQuench Ale is a Kolsch/Berlinerweisse/Gose blend that calls itself a session sour but, in my opinion, drinks as a gose with its varied lime elements and sea salt. It's a great summer drink that in cans travels well to the beach of even early season tailgates.

It's also gotten a few bits of critical acclaim lately - some of which I care about more than others. Men's Health names it among the best light (lite?) beers, a stat that appeals to me simply on the basis of how filling it is. Both USA Today and Food and Wine note that while some beer may be refreshing, SeaQuench Ale actually quenches your thirst. And my Baltimore-Delaware dual consciousness is particularly pleased that Dogfish Head developed this in conjunction with the National Aquarium.

While I've long been a serial trier, you can expect SeaQuench Ale to be my summer go-to for the foreseeable future.

If you care that I care about beer, find me on Untappd.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Heating Up

This summer, throw the records out the window.

Whatever you know about DCI's pecking order, it's being shaken up this summer. Earlier this month, the Boston Crusaders beat The Cadets head to head for the first time in my lifetime. Six time DCI World Champion Santa Clara Vanguard has been on the climb as well. While the corps hasn't so much as medaled since their 1999 championship, they came within a point of their Baymate Blue Devils for the first time in a decade (damning with faint praise, I realize) and currently sit in second in DCI's ("for entertainment purposes only") standings. Both the Boston Crusaders and Blue Knights also crash the party of the self-segregated Tour of Champions corps, relegating The Cadets and Phantom Regiment to seventh and ninth, respectively.

The current standings also put me in an interesting place. While I've probably shouted Crown the loudest, Santa Clara and Carolina have long been my two favorite corps, with my love for SCV lasting the longest. So now, as SCV jockeys for position, it's at the expense of Crown. Still, I'm looking forward to seeing both corps continue to climb, and I'm particularly pleased to see Vanguard's resurgence. Next weekend, I'll get to see the Tour of Champions in action across the Triad in Winston-Salem.

Buckle up, folks. It's going to be a bumpy ride.
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