Proud Rooster Indeed


Note: today’s post is about college baseball, but also partially about history. If you have an interest in either of those things, stick around. Otherwise, this might be a little boring today. Just fair warning.

On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday this week, the finals of the College World Series were scheduled to take place in Omaha, Nebraska. Here’s how we got there.

The NCAA baseball tournament starts with 64 teams playing in 16 four-team regional brackets. These brackets are played as a double elimination tournament, with the winners of each of the 16 regional brackets moving on to the super regionals round. This round consists of eight best-of-three series between two of the 16 regional winners. The eight winners of the super regionals then move on to the College World Series. The CWS repeats the process of the earlier rounds, with two four-team double elimination brackets and the winners playing one another in a best-of-three series to determine the national champion. This year’s finals series had the Arizona Wildcats, the 2012 national champion, facing off against the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers in their first College World Series appearance.

Now, earlier, I said that the finals were scheduled to take place on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. The Wednesday game was necessary, since Arizona won 3-0 on Monday night and Coastal won 5-4 on Tuesday night, forcing a deciding game three. However, the weather in Omaha wasn’t cooperative on Wednesday night and after a lengthy rain delay, it was decided that game three would be postponed until Thursday, time to be determined.

Before we head into game three, let’s look back a little bit, to my own personal history.

I am a North Carolina native, and while Coastal Carolina University is located in Conway, South Carolina, just outside Myrtle Beach, the fact that it was a Carolinas-based team versus Arizona in the finals made my decision of who to root for an easy one. Never mind this being the Chanticleers’ first College World Series appearance – this was as close to a hometown team as I was going to get in the series, so my allegiance was to Coastal.

Having said that, I was eager to follow the game through online updates while I was doing my radio show. It would give me some added emotion that I could bring to the airwaves while I was spinning the tunes and I was looking forward to it.

After I got my show all prepped and was setting things up for me to track the scoreboard, I noticed something in my sports website’s sidebar. I noticed a photo of a suspiciously large looking trophy being lifted by a bunch of guys wearing teal and black.

Remember that part earlier where I said that game three was moved to Thursday, time to be determined? Well, I never got the memo that the game time had been moved up to an afternoon start, and not an evening one, so by the time I got around to tracking the score, it was already all over.

Game three’s final score was 5-4. And just like that, the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers are the 2016 NCAA baseball national champions. It’s their first national championship in any sport. A win for the under–

What’s that, you say? “What’s a Chanticleer? How is it even pronounced?” Well, glad you asked, because this is where the history part of things come in. Before we get to that, though, let’s answer the second question first – the word is correctly pronounced SHON-ti-clear. It’s often shortened to Shonts. Now for the first question.

Before Coastal Carolina became a full-fledged university, it was known as the University of South Carolina-Coastal Carolina College, and was part of the University of South Carolina system of universities and colleges. USC’s athletic mascot is the Gamecocks (yes, it’s a rooster, and yes, they chant “GO COCKS” at games) and so Coastal Carolina thought a mascot change of their own was in order, to play alongside the theme of the flagship university in the system. And so they arrived at the Chanticleers.

At this point, it’s probably best to let Coastal’s athletics website take over the narrative.

Chanticleer comes from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. More specifically, he comes from the Nun’s Priest Tale, a story within Canterbury Tales. The Chanticleer is a proud and fierce rooster who dominates the barnyard. For the best description of Chanticleer, we turn to Chaucer’s words. “For crowing there was not his equal in all the land. His voice was merrier than the merry organ that plays in church, and his crowing from his resting place was more trustworthy than a clock. His comb was redder than fine coral and turreted like a castle wall, his bill was black and shone like a jet, and his legs and toes were like azure. His nails were whiter than the lily and his feathers were like burnished gold.” With all of his splendor and great looks, Chanticleer is also greatly feared and mightily respected by all.

And there you go. They dove into history to come up with a unique name that fit their rooster criteria. Straight out of the Canterbury Tales. Coastal Carolina became independent of the University of South Carolina system when they became a full-fledged university in their own right, but after some discussion about changing the mascot again, i was decided to let it ride, and so Coastal’s athletic programs are known as the Chanticleers to this day.

Now, back to my “win for the underdog” comment. True, this is the first time in 60 years that a team in their first College World Series appearance has won it. And true, it would stand to reason that the budget for Arizona’s baseball team is larger than Coastal’s, because Arizona’s a much larger school in a Power Five conference. (The Chanticleers represent the Big South Conference for the last time this year before moving to the Sun Belt Conference for 2016-2017.) But Coastal’s 55 wins this season led all teams nationwide, and Arizona’s coach said in a post-game interview that Coastal was the best team they’d faced all year. Not sure how “underdog” they really were in the finals.

So there you have it, my post about general sports geekiness. I’ll sum it up with the fact that I love sports, although I rarely feel an urge to watch. It’s fine enough for me to track the progress and outcomes on the Internet. I’m a stats junkie, after all. I once had the results of the NCAA Division III rowing championships texted to me, and my wife will never let me live down that I’m that much of a stats junkie.

We’ll be back to the usual mental health struggles tomorrow, most likely. But for now, I just wanted to, um … crow about the Chanticleers and their well-earned national championship.

NaBloPoMo Day 5: 365 Days of Movies


Remember, remember!
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!

To the English, these words are a reminder of their history, the first words of the folk verse entitled “The Fifth of November,” which was written around 1870 about the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, where English Catholic Robert Catesby and his co-conspirators planned an elaborate plot to kill King James I of England and invest his nine-year-old daughter Princess Elizabeth on the throne as a Catholic monarch. The primary act of this plot was to blow up Parliament during the State Opening on November 5, during which the King, his nearest relatives, members of the Privy Council, and both Houses of Parliament, which included the senior judges of the English legal system, most of the Protestant aristocracy, and the bishops of the Church of England as members of the House of Lords, would be present. One of the conspirators, Guy Fawkes, was arrested beneath the House of Lords guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder. Fawkes was tried, convicted, and executed along with seven of his fellow conspirators (Catesby himself was shot and killed while making a stand against the pursuing Sheriff of Worcester and his men). Today it is Fawkes, not Catesby, who is immortalized in remembrance of these events, as November 5th is now alternately known as Bonfire Night, Fireworks Night, or Guy Fawkes Day.

To many Americans, however, these words are better known as the opening words of V for Vendetta, the movie based on the Alan Moore/David Lloyd graphic novel starring Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman. The Gunpowder Plot is the starting point and inspiration of the events of the movie, set in the London of the near-future.

It’s tradition in our house to watch V for Vendetta every November 5th, as the date is pivotal to the plot of the movie, just as it’s tradition every October 31st to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas. Some dates are integral to some of the movies we watch, like the ones above; some dates are incidental details in others, like May 25th (the date of the climactic battle scene in The Last Samurai), but it’s my belief that most of the dates on the calendar can be represented by at least one movie.

I’ve long had the idea of researching this to see how well it would pan out, curious to see if an entire year’s worth of movies can be found. I’ve uncovered a few, but I know there are a lot of obvious ones out there that deal with historical events that can be added to a cinematic calendar (for instance, Pearl Harbor for December 7th). I might spend the next year or two trying to do research and then write a book about my findings if I can successfully complete the calendar.

As for tonight, however, I’ll be curled up on the couch with my wife, enjoying V for Vendetta, and keeping our tradition alive.

Incidentally, for the curious, I’ve included the remainder of the poem that started this post below. Many of us, for whatever reason, know that part. I would wager few of us know the whole thing.

Guy Fawkes and his companions
Did the scheme contrive,
To blow the King and Parliament
All up alive.
Threescore barrels, laid below,
To prove old England’s overthrow.
But, by God’s providence, him they catch,
With a dark lantern, lighting a match!
A stick and a stake
For King James’s sake!
If you won’t give me one,
I’ll take two,
The better for me,
And the worse for you.
A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope,
A penn’orth of cheese to choke him,
A pint of beer to wash it down,
And a jolly good fire to burn him.
Holloa, boys! holloa, boys! make the bells ring!
Holloa, boys! holloa boys! God save the King!
Hip, hip, hooor-r-r-ray!

Looking to the Future to Find the Past


Regular readers of this blog know that I participate in the SCA, a historical re-enactment society that focuses primarily on pre-17th century European culture. I’m also a pretty big fan of science fiction, and one of my favorite dystopian stories is a graphic novel called Transmetropolitan, by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson. Set in a distant future America, the story’s protagonist, Spider Jerusalem, is a chain-smoking (it’s okay, though, he has the anti-cancer trait and it won’t hurt his health), booze-swilling, drug-using journalist whose political writing has made him a celebrity, something he desperately doesn’t want. After a five-year sabbatical, his book contracts pull him back into the City, a sprawling megatropolis located somewhere in the United States (the story never says where in the country this place is located or what its inspiration is supposed to be). While there, he gets a job writing a weekly column for the Word, one of the major transmetropolitan newspapers, and quickly regains his celebrity status. Eventually the storyline delves into the corruption of the political machine of the day, and pits Spider against the President in a thrilling search for the Truth. Put Hunter S. Thompson in the city from Blade Runner and give him the plot to All the President’s Men, and you’ve got an idea. The story is alternately dramatic, darkly hilarious, bizarre, poignant, and thought provoking, and always profanity laced. This is not a child’s comic book. This is one for the adults.

Now, the reason that I prefaced that paragraph with my historical interest is because one of the side stories in this work, originally published as a 66-issue comic book series, deals with the various Reservations that exist within the City. In these Reservations, various cultures are preserved completely intact. Those wishing to dedicate their lives to living in a Reservation are given suppressants that permanently dial their immune system back to what was biologically appropriate for the culture, given a language pack that automatically makes them fluent in the culture’s language, and their memories of ever living in the City are blocked for the rest of their lives. When they enter the Reservation, there is no turning back; they will live the rest of their considerably shortened lives (humans in the City very commonly live to be well over 100 years old) in their chosen culture and die there, oftentimes horribly from diseases that are appropriate to the culture or the violence that the culture supports. They literally give their lives to keep history alive.

Which is very true, because the Reservations are all open for visitors, who have to be given similar immunosuppressants and immunizations and language packs, as well as a way to communicate with the Reservation’s coordinators that you’re ready to leave. The residents’ memories of you being there will be suppressed; once you leave, they will have no recollection of you ever being there. The subplot here is that history is being preserved by a select community of individuals within the City, and no one is taking advantage of the educational opportunity this presents. Spider gets a 24 hour pass to visit as many Reservations as he can to cover the story.

I was watching The Last Samurai last night with my wife and afterward reviewed the bonus features on the Blu-ray. A couple of them noted how the crew behind the scenes took special care to keep the details of the movie historically accurate. I noted the irony of this in a story that essentially glamorizes the life of the Samurai, who historically were as honor-bound as the price that could afford their services. We both noted how peaceful it would be to live in a self-sufficient village off the grid, and she mentioned that it would have to have wi-fi, and I responded with something along the lines of “well, then it wouldn’t be off the grid, would it?” That got me thinking about the Reservations from Transmetropolitan and how effectively off the grid they are.

Then I realized that my historical re-enactment group is the beginning of what may one day become something akin to the Reservations. Where we dabble in the combat and dress and vocational skills of the time periods and civilizations we cover, the future re-enactors may one day literally live their entire life as an Elizabethan haberdasher, or a Norse Viking, or a Burgundian warrior.

My ten year old self has gone from playing an ASCII game on my therapist’s TRS-80 into a future that he could only dream of. Hoverboards are a reality. (Thanks for the head’s up on that, Marty McFly.) Virtual reality goggles and environments are available, if not yet common, and physical locations are being built to provide a three dimensional interactive experience that multiple applications can utilize and customize for their own purposes within the goggles. More common are artificial joints and lab-grown organs and prosthetics custom designed and created from a printer. Billions of computers are connected in a vast, incalculable network of information and distraction.

Who knows what our future selves are still in store for? Who can accurately imagine our distant future anymore? And who’s to say that the technology won’t one day be there to allow people to live their entire lives in the past of their own making?

Only time will tell.

I have no wish to become immortal. I never have. I want to live a good, long, fruitful life and die peacefully in my sleep of old age and not some debilitating disease. But there is a part of me that would really like to see just how incredible our future will be, and whether we’re going to remember our past within it.