If you’re a YHT regular, you might have spent some small portion of the last few weeks asking yourself “Hey, why hasn’t he said anything about March Madness? He loves the tournament…” You’d be right! Last year I did a two–part “Tournament Album Coverage” post, and the year before that I celebrated a VCU win by creating a crude mashup of six “Black And Yellow” remixes playing simultaneously. (It still makes me cringe, then laugh, then cringe some more. There’s treble, there’s too much treble, and then there’s my “Black And Yellow” mashup.)
It’s not that I haven’t been watching. On the contrary — I got to binge-watch on the first Friday of the tournament — aka Basketball Christmas — and like last year I listened to records the whole time, but it wasn’t quite as upbeat this time around. My billion-dollar bracket was knocked out of contention by the very first game on Thursday, then Duke was upset by 14-seed Mercer in the very first game on Friday afternoon, killing my personal rooting interest and taking my bracket out of contention in my family’s pool (I had Duke losing in the final game). Just like that, my hopes were dashed, and the weekend hadn’t even started yet. I wondered whether I’d feel like watching at all on Friday evening.
Then I came up with a plan.
Instead of letting my disappointments ruin Basketball Christmas, I decided to put my vinyl collection to good use by throwing myself the most comically depressing pity party I could muster while rooting for every favored seed — no matter how far my bracket had them going — to lose. It was way more fun than it should have been.
Here are the covers to prove it:
I figured I’d start out strong with some tear-in-your-beer country, and Willie brought his A-game. I got this record along with a few others at something that resembled an estate sale (long story), and while I knew this was Nelson’s nickname, I didn’t know there was actually an album called Red Headed Stranger. (Being a redhead and an introvert, I’ve always enjoyed this nickname.) I’m pretty sure he mentioned literally crying into your beer more than once, which was a serious bonus.
I consider Fiona Apple’s music to be some of the most overwhelmingly beautiful around — so overwhelming that I’m still not sure I can put the experience of seeing her live in D.C. last year into words. But if you’re looking to get down (not in the dance-y way but in the bummed-out way), she can bring the thunder.
When I bought the copy pictured above a few weeks ago from my musical sherpa Clay, it was still in its shrink wrap, totally new and pristine. I felt like a criminal breaking the seal, but this is an album that deserves to be played again and again. It had been a while since I listened all the way through, and I had totally forgotten about closing track “Waltz (Better Than Fine)” — a song so fitting for the evening’s theme that it was almost spooky. Here’s a sampling of its lyrics:
If you don’t have a song to sing you’re okay
You know how to get along humming
If you don’t have a date celebrate
Go out and sit on the lawn and do nothing
‘Cause it’s just what you must do
Nobody does it anymore
If there’s a better case for a good ol’ fashioned pity party, I haven’t heard it.
Sometimes you just need a little perspective. The plight of the disappointed sports fan seems pretty puny next to that of a man who shot his wife for having an affair. Then again, the plight of a man who shot his wife for having an affair is puny compared to that of his wife, so there’s some layering going on here. It’s hard to not gain a healthy appreciation for the phrase “There’s always next year” when simply being alive is a point of comparison. Ah, murder ballads.
I snagged this record from my dad’s collection a little while back, and this was my first time hearing it. I can’t remember which track employed the macabre narrative outlined above, but the song below was an instant favorite. With his refrain of “If I had my way I would tear this building down,” Reverend Gary Davis provided the perfect soundtrack for rooting for tournament chaos.
I’d planned on finishing the pity party strong with Samuel Barber’s Adagio For Strings — a piece some consider to be the most depressing collection of notes ever assembled — but I stopped the record before I got to its most famous track. I can’t remember why, but I’m guessing it had something to do with flipping the burgers I was grilling or putting something happier on, because by this point, I was healed. I’d dug a hole so deep, I’d come out clean on the other side. I know some people go straight for cheery music when they’re feeling down, but I tend to reach for the music that was made for wallowing, and I get so much enjoyment from it that the reason I was wallowing in the first place usually grows smaller. It’s like the music fills all the emotional nooks and crannies, crowding out the initial negativity and replacing it with something sweeter and infinitely more bearable.
I hope this post has given you some ideas for your own tournament disappointment pity party. Even if your team is lucky enough to be playing in the Final Four this weekend, I’ll remind you that three of the four teams are going to lose by Monday, so you might as well start prepping your pity party playlist now. If they win the championship, your playlist won’t go to waste — there’s always next year’s tournament!