Solving a Pressing Need

Thanks to a vicious Andy Carroll tackle during Manchester United’s 3-1 victory over Reading in the FA Cup last Saturday that, somehow, escaped a booking (although the Liverpool flop and Boyzone fanatic did pick up two yellows later), Christian Eriksen will be out for most of the rest of the season.

Surely, United are screwed, right? Eriksen has been one of the club’s standout performers this year and his creativity and guile have been instrumental in the team’s uptick in form. Without him, our dreams of winning silverware are shot, right?

Maybe. But at least United were able to put a contingency plan in place.

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Putting the Cart Before the Horse

And that’s why you don’t get carried away with league title talk when you haven’t seriously challenged for one since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. I was worried Manchester United players, fans and ex-players-turned-pundits were getting way ahead of themselves after last week’s surprising and stirring victory over Manchester City. Sure enough, after blowing a late lead against Crystal Palace in midweek and then losing to league-leading Arsenal in the 90th minute, United aren’t looking like a title threat anymore.

Still, there are plenty of silver linings to take from Arsenal 3-2 Man Utd:

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Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend Me Your Players

Typically, teams preparing to be sold try to keep their expenses and liabilities low so they can attract as many bidders as possible. This also makes sense from a sporting perspective. Why should a team spend big now, knowing the next owner might have different priorities or plans?

As such, we shouldn’t be surprised that Manchester United have decided to pursue loan deals instead of permanent moves in the just-opened January transfer window.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though.

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(Legal) Career Killers: Geffen Records v. Don Henley

Welcome to (Legal) Career Killers — a series that looks at how the law, lawyers or lawsuits killed a band’s or artist’s careers. In other words: They fought the law and the law won.

Nothing can kill an artist’s career quite like a lawsuit.

After all, litigation not only taxes a party’s resources while putting them under an undue amount of mental and physical stress, it can also take time. Lots and lots of time.

And if an artist or band tries to take on their record label, time can be a real killer. After all, most labels simply put an artist on ice once the lawsuit is filed, essentially freezing their careers by refusing to release their recordings or promote them. Since most contracts have an exclusivity clause, artists often have limited-to-nonexistent options when it comes to recording on other labels or guesting on other people’s songs.

Simply put, for many musicians, time is a luxury they don’t have. All acts have a shelf life, and as Clive Davis once pointed out, if they aren’t in the public eye, they risk being forgotten about.

As such, artists end up losing years of their career that they’ll most likely never get back. For instance, George Michael was one of the biggest stars in the world when he sued Sony to try and get out of his record deal. The lawsuit dragged on for nearly two years and Michael’s career never quite recovered. Same for Prince when he challenged Warner Bros.

Same for Don Henley when he took on Geffen Records. Luckily, he had other things to fall back on…

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Welcome Betinho!

Manchester United restarted its Premier League campaign with a stirring 3-0 victory over hapless Nottingham Forest. There were plenty of talking points before and after the match, most notably:

  • Marcus Rashford’s continued run of great form and the re-emergence of his once-dangerous partnership with Anthony Martial. Rashford scored the first goal and assisted Martial on the second, giving hope that they can make up for United’s lack of an established, proven center forward.
  • Raphael Varane bravely and selflessly volunteering to play after illness sidelined the club’s only two available senior center halves, Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire. Despite being excused from the match due to his country’s run to the World Cup Final, Varane felt his team needed him and stepped up.
  • Luke Shaw volunteering to play center back to help ease said defensive selection crisis. Like Varane, Shaw played well and gave his manager something to think about moving forward.
  • Casemiro’s ongoing brilliance. The Tank dominated in his usual role after filling in at center half against Burnley in the League Cup the previous week. He also showed off his playmaking skills, turning two defensive stands into quick counter-attacks that resulted in goals. He even got a slick assist on Fred’s goal late in the match that sealed the three points.
  • Jesse Lingard’s first match at Old Trafford since leaving in the summer for Nottingham Forest. Say what you will about JLingz and the way he left, but Lingardinho scored some big goals for his boyhood club and always gave his all on the pitch. After leaving early in the second half with an injury, Lingard finally got the warm send-off he had been denied the previous spring, as Old Trafford gave him a nice ovation thanking him for everything he had done.

But the one that got the most attention was the sudden addition of a forward named “Betinho” to the club’s active roster. Was it a purported clerical error, as the club later claimed? Or did someone jump the gun before a transfer became official?

And who was this mystery man, anyway? Was it the Portuguese forward currently playing for S.C. Espinho who made one appearance with Brentford in 2014? Was it a heretofore unknown nickname for Atletico Madrid’s misfit playmaker Joao Felix? Was it a new, tongue-in-cheek identity for in-form Brentford striker Ivan Toney, who could face a long ban for allegations relating to betting on Premier League matches?

Or was it this man?

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(Legal) Career Killers: Michelle Branch and her Warner Bros. Contract

Welcome to (Legal) Career Killers — a series that looks at how the law, lawyers or lawsuits killed a band’s or artist’s careers. In other words: They fought the law and the law won.

When Michelle Branch was arrested in August for assaulting her husband, Patrick Carney of the Black Keys, it raised so many questions:

“Wait, she married the drummer from the Black Keys? When did that happen?”

“And he allegedly cheated on her? One of the hottest and biggest stars of the early 00s and someone who’s music is still widely beloved by people of a certain age?”

“Speaking of which, what happened to her anyway? Where did she go for 15 years?”

Well, the answers are yes (they got together shortly after Carney produced Branch’s 2017 comeback album, Hopeless Romantic), that’s what she said on Twitter (although she later deleted her Tweet and suspended divorce proceedings), and it’s complicated.

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Buying High

The World Cup can be unpredictable, but there are always a few guarantees.

Expect a worldwide drop in workplace productivity (including technological innovations designed to hide your time-wasting from your boss).

Your World Cup pool will include casual fans who will pick Brazil to win simply because they remember seeing Pele or Ronaldo play once. Or Argentina and Maradona/Messi.

Finally, there will be several players who parlay an impressive performance at the tournament into a big-money transfer to a top club.

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Ronaldo: Pressing is For Sandwiches and Suits.

UPDATE (11/22/2022): Cristiano Ronaldo has left Manchester United by mutual consent. According to reports, Ronaldo will forfeit the estimated £16 million left on his deal in order to leave the club immediately. Guess the World Cup will be even more important to him than we initially thought.

On the one hand, Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t make any major revelations in his recent interview/therapy session/bridge burning with friend and sycophant Piers Morgan.

We’ve known that the Glazers don’t care about the team and only see them as a marketing cash cow. We’ve known that United are stuck in the past (Zlatan Ibrahimovic said the same thing) and that the club’s facilities and infrastructure are in desperate need of upgrades (a process that finally started over the summer). We’ve known that he almost went to Man City last summer and that it took a last minute intervention from Sir Alex Ferguson to change his mind (although, for the record, City put out a statement a couple of days ago denying this).

What we didn’t know was just how much contempt he had for Ralf Rangnick, Erik ten Hag, and modern managers and tactics. In that vein, it’s not only clear that his homecoming was never going to work out, but that, in many ways, Ronaldo is stuck in the past every bit as much as United are.

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(Legal) Career Killers: “Alone Again” by Biz Markie

Welcome to (Legal) Career Killers — a series that looks at how the law, lawyers or lawsuits killed a band’s or artist’s careers. In other words: They fought the law and the law won.

I wrote an ABA Journal cover story in 2019 looking at songs that changed the law. The issue of sampling has become an important one when it comes to copyright law. A major reason why was because of two 1991 cases. I spotlighted the first: a lawsuit filed by members of 60s era band The Turtles against hip hop group De La Soul. I decided to take a look at the second one, which involves the recently deceased rapper Biz Markie.

When the Diabolical Biz Markie died in July 2021, many publications made sure to emphasize that he was more than just a one hit wonder. Widely known for his big personality and sense of humor, the “Clown Prince of Hip Hop” (he once recorded a song about picking his nose called “Pickin’ Boogers” – either that or “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Gotta Boogie,” is the best song ever written about nose doo-doo) was a highly influential rapper who was beloved in hip hop circles and by his fans.

But the fact remains that most people only knew him by his big hit, 1989’s “Just a Friend.” A major reason why he never had another was because of a lawsuit that helped set a precedent in the then-grey area of sampling.

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Things I Wish I Had Known About IVF

I really thought it was going to be easy.

Sure, natural conception hadn’t worked out for us, but I figured IVF would be a piece of cake. After all, lots of people have babies that way, right? All I’d have to do is show up to the fertility doctor’s office and use their porn room to produce a semen sample (Hollywood has taught me that every office has a porn room). They’d mix it with my wife’s eggs, freeze them, and then we’d show up one day and they would simply implant one or two in my wife’s uterus. Nine months later, we’d be parents.

Boy, was I naive.

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Career Killers: “Be Here Now” by Oasis

I read several articles commemorating Oasis’ mammoth 1997 album, Be Here Now, which was recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. The consensus has long been that this bloated, overproduced, self-indulgent, chemically non-enhanced album is what ended Oasis as a major commercial force and may have even killed off the Britpop phenomenon. As Rolling Stone famously put it, Be Here Now is “a concept album about how long all the songs are.”

Then I saw this review. Fatherly called Be Here Now a “perfect album” but not in terms of quality. Instead, this critic argues that the album was a perfect encapsulation of where the band was at the time and a honest reflection of everything they stood for. To me, that sounds a bit like arguing that The Room is a perfect movie because it flawlessly captures Tommy Wiseau’s delusions of grandeur and limitations as a filmmaker.

I don’t know if I buy that argument. But this album was perfect in one sense — it was a perfect disaster.

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Career Killers: The MTV Video Music Awards

The MTV Video Music Awards are this weekend. The only reason why I know that is because I’ve been wanting to write this column and looked up when the awards ceremony would be this year so I could post it beforehand.

That’s the extent of my knowledge of MTV and today’s music scene. I can’t remember the last time I actually tuned in to watch.

It’s easy to understand how someone like me could be so apathetic. MTV hasn’t played videos in years and doesn’t even stand for “Music Television” anymore, it’s fair to ask whether the Video Music Awards have outlived their usefulness.

It’s also a reminder of what the show used to mean. Edgier and hipper than the Grammys, the VMAs used to be mandatory viewing for anyone who liked music. Additionally, so many great, memorable and controversial moments happened on the show that you felt like you missed out if you didn’t experience it as it aired. Madonna writhing around on stage in a wedding dress. Prince giving us “Under the Full Moon” the sequel to Under the Cherry Moon that we didn’t know existed. Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth burying the hatchet — in each other. Kanye being Kanye. The list goes on and on.

And, of course, there have been plenty of less-than-stellar moments. Some have even managed to kill off an artist’s or band’s careers. Here are some of the biggest ones:

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