Thursday, February 24, 2011

David Archuleta: 'Life is tough, but life is good'

David Archuleta will perform at Stadium of Fire in Provo on July 2.

David Archuleta, the Season 7 runnerup on "American Idol," will be facing some pretty big changes in the months ahead. The 20-year-old singer recently separated from his record label and his management group.

He shares some of the background behind those decisions in a recent video blog.

On Thursday, Archuleta was on hand for the announcement that he will be performing with headliner Brad Paisley at this year's annual Stadium of Fire patriotic event on July 2 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo. Archuleta made some brief general remarks to those in attendance at the press conference before breaking off for smaller and more formal interviews with members of the media.

I was able to sit in with two other media members for a few questions, before getting a brief one-on-one with the one-time "American Idol" sensation. During this time, when asked if there was a message he was hoping to put out with his music, Archuleta seemed to touch on the recent big changes in his musical career while talking about his optimistic nature.

"With my music, I just hope that performing this year will make people feel good -- to get people thinking positively and looking at the future optimistically," he said. "That's just what I've been trying to focus on lately this last year. Even though we don't always know where we're going or what's going to happen next in our lives, there's always something to look forward to, and always a reason to stay optimistic. There's tough times, ups and downs, but life is good. Life is tough, but life is good. That's just the kind of thing I hope to get going, and I hope to represent Utah well to that home crowd [at Stadium of Fire]."

Archuleta said he has interacted with Paisley a couple times, most notably when presenting him an award at the American Music Awards.

"I think Brad Paisley is just one of those real people out there in the music industry," Archuleta said. "He's one of those genuine people. So it will be really great to share the stage with him that night. It will be a really fun time.

"He'd be a pretty cool person to get to perform with just because he's really talented, and also, like I said, really real. I always respect and admire when people are real and themselves, and true to who they are."

I asked Archuleta, who first performed at Stadium of Fire as a 12-year-old in 2003 when he sang the National Anthem, to discuss the additional challenges he might face taking his act to a stadium, as opposed to the more intimate venues with which he may be more familiar.

"With the bigger audiences, there's a lot more just kind of adrenaline pumping," he said. "A lot more of that ... you get a lot more anxious before you get up there on stage. You just don't know what all those people are going to think of you, if you're going to get the crowd pumping the way you should and things like that. But it's just really exciting, too. Just getting to perform for an audience that big for something like a July 4th celebration is really great. And then [singing] to a crowd from Utah, being from Utah, is really just a wonderful thing. I hope I won't let the nerves get to me too much, but I'm really excited to get to do this. I'm very honored that they would invite me back to do this, a full-out performance this time."

Carl Bacon, senior executive producer of Stadium of Fire, said he was sold on inviting Archuleta after seeing him perform one of a series of Christmas concerts in December with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Salt Lake City.

"Over a million people tried to get tickets," said Bacon. "Over a million. I went and saw one of the performances, and he got standing ovations. He did a fabulous job. I mean, of course I'm interested because we were negotiating at that time for him. I saw tremendous response on the part of the public. He did terrific. I thought he was better than I'd ever heard him. That's the interest we feel the public will have in David."

You can read the full newspaper story on Thursday's Stadium of Fire announcement here.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Jazz hit sour note with Sloan resignation

It was October, 1997, and Karl Malone was on a roll -- only it wasn’t the kind that typically came on the back half of a pick with running partner John Stockton, often resulting in a thunderous dunk or an open mid-range jumper.

The Mailman was in a full lather, all right, but it had nothing to do with the fact that he’d just finished a strenuous Utah Jazz training camp practice in Boise, Idaho.

Referee Dan Crawford T's up Jerry Sloan in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals.
Malone would occasionally work himself into a frenzy over some perceived slight, using his anger as a motivating influence to great personal advantage. On this occasion, the fall following the Jazz’s first six-game setback to the Chicago Bulls in the 1997 NBA Finals, Malone was upset with teammate Greg Ostertag – who earned Malone’s ire by showing up to camp out of shape – and Jazz owner Larry Miller, who had let slip in an interview somewhere that he thought his perennial All-NBA power forward might just have lost a step.

Malone, one of the last players left in the gym, was sitting down in a chair, holding court with several reporters and letting his thoughts rip. He’d been going on for about five minutes, and seemed nowhere near being done, when Jazz coach Jerry Sloan poked his head into the gym, briefly surveyed the scene, and yelled for Malone to get on the team bus.

I will never forget Malone’s reaction. Despite being interrupted in mid-rant, Malone immediately popped out of his chair and said something like, “Sorry, guys, but the boss has spoken.” Then he walked over and got on the bus.

To me, that was always the perfect example of the kind of respect Sloan carried with his players. Malone, especially, could be emotional and tempestuous, but when Sloan spoke, he, Stockton and every other Jazzman got in step.

Sloan stepped down Thursday as coach of the Jazz, ending what was the longest active coaching reign in North American pro sports. The move, coming in the middle of Sloan’s 23rd season as head coach, came following a heated halftime argument with All-Star Deron Williams, the culmination of a few other run-ins with his talented but temperamental point guard this season. The Jazz can attempt to put a nice spin on Thursday's stunning developments with Sloan simply saying it was time for him resign, but one thing I know after covering the Jazz for seven years during the 1990s and observing the team from a distance since then is that Jerry Sloan is no quitter. That he resigned not only in the middle of the season, but after a bizarre 30-minute post-game meeting with general manager Kevin O'Connor says there is more to this story than that Jazz are letting on.

In my experience, you learn more about a person following a loss than you do a win. It’s easy to cover up personality quirks and other flaws when you’re winning, but someone’s true character often reveals itself in adversity. To that end, I’m always reminded of something Sloan said in the press room at Key Arena in Seattle, right after the Jazz lost a hard-fought Game 7 to the Sonics in the 1996 Western Conference finals, denying the team its first trip to the NBA Finals. Sloan pointed out that the interesting thing to him wasn’t necessarily the winning or losing, it was seeing which players had the will to compete in adversity.

Sloan rode that will to compete all the way to becoming the third-winningest coach in NBA history – despite never claiming an NBA championship or even NBA Coach-of-the-Year honors for that matter. (By the way, it's a travesty that Sloan, a Hall of Famer, never won Coach of the Year. For laughs sometime, take a look at the list of those who won Coach of the Year during Sloan's tenure. Del Harris? Avery Johnson? Sam Mitchell?)

The Jazz have now handed former Jazzman Ty Corbin the keys to the team bus. It remains to be seen if Williams will get on it.

Note: Karl Malone subsequently commented on Sloan's departure the following day when he attended Corbin's head coaching debut. (It was a coincidence, he was previously scheduled to attend.) He made some very pointed comments -- Hey, would you expect anything different? -- regarding the move. It appears to me that he's not buying the team's portrayal of the events either. To see KUTV's report, including a few minutes of video from Malone's visit with the media, click here.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The jig is up ...

As someone who has always used music to get pumped up for athletic competition, I loved this video delving into the back story of how the Styx song "Renegade" became the theme song of the Pittsburgh Steelers. It not only talks about how that happened, thanks to an idea by then-marketing assistant Mike Marchinsky, but, of even more interest, guitarist/vocalist Tommy Shaw takes us back to 1978, when the song was conceived. It was interesting to learn that the upbeat guitar-laden anthem was first written dark and dirgy -- and on a piano, no less.

Some of the more interesting parts in the video to me, were learning that members of the Pittsburgh Steelers actually call up to the booth to request the "Renegade" video/montage during games and how the song has become such a part of Pittsburgh culture outside of football. All stemming from one guy's initial love of the song.

"It just goes to show you, when you have an idea, speak up," says Shaw near the end of the piece.


With the Steelers set to meet the Packers Sunday in Super Bowl XLV, it seems like a good time to revisit this video. It will be interesting to see if the judge, or game officials, exact "revenge today on the wanted man."