The Stone Has Been Cast

Posted: March 6, 2017 in Random Sports

Little did I know then what I would come to know as the week went along. It hasn’t stopped yet.

Through the magic of television I have been a casual-at-best, distant viewer of the sport of curling. I hadn’t heard the year-old news until this past fall that the U.S. Curling Nationals were being held in Everett for their 2017 rendition. I knew I had to go check it out. My dad was interested to see it in person, too, so on day two of the event we went to the noon Men’s draw. We didn’t know where we should get our seats and debated it for a few seconds. He and I ultimately decided that we should sit front row. As a couple of first timers we might as well get close to the action.

Walking into that arena and seeing ice is nothing new to me. I’ve witnessed hundreds of hockey games in there and have even played on the rink myself. However, to walk in and set my eyes on five separate sheets of freshly painted, perfectly prepared curling rinks was nothing short of awesome. That only helped to amp up my excitement that was already pressing the boundaries of the roof.

Dad and I took our seats along side Sheet A, just above the house of the odd ends. There were just a couple of minutes remaining in practice, which would lead into the team introductions. Little did I know then what I would come to know as the week went along.

I was about to witness my first live curling draw and it would be Team Fenson versus Team Shuster. Again, I have always been merely a casual, uninformed, television-only observer of the sport, and I could not be anymore bummed looking back now on that match-up. Even the simplest of self-education would have properly prepared me for this contest.

To me, these were just a couple of curling teams playing their professional sport. While that is true, the actual truth of the matter runs much deeper than that. I was watching a pair of skips who use to be teammates as John Shuster in the earlier parts of his career played the role of Lead for Pete Fenson. They won, by my rough calculations, no fewer than three times together at this very same competition. They competed in multiple international competitions together. Oh, and they may or may not have made some history in 2006 when they played as Team USA in the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. Well, you probably guessed that, yes, they did make history by becoming the first American team to ever medal in the Olympics when they were able to wear bronze medals around their necks for the trip home. But, wait – there’s more: another part of those teams was Joe Polo who is now a member of Team Shuster.

Got all of that? Don’t worry. I’m not so sure I follow it completely, either. I’ve pored over a couple of hours of research into all of this and I’m still finding all of the connections to the dots; pieces to the puzzles. Such as when tuned into the online streaming of the World Junior Championships from South Korea the week following the nationals and seeing Graem Fenson representing the red, white, and blue as a member of Team USA. He is, of course, following in his father’s footsteps, but, not so obviously, following in the footsteps of his older brother Alex who helps create the father-son tandem making up one-half of the squad bearing the family name.

Honestly, I don’t recall how the game in front of me played out. I only remember Team Shuster picking up the win for the second time on a week that would see them go an undefeated 11-0 to win another national title. With four other matches going on simultaneously there was no shortage of action to try and follow. Some games were close up until the final end, and others were conceded just past the midway point. It was an unbelievably cool two-and-a-half hours.

As Dad and I walked out of the arena I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it back for any more of the excitement. Thankfully, things worked out and we were back for a Men’s semi-final draw later in the week. Brady Clark’s team came into the competition as defending champion and had some hometown leverage behind them. Members Philip Tilker and Colin Hufman are from Seattle, and the team’s Skip makes his residence in Lynnwood. It made for a great atmosphere inside of the building with a heavy crowd favorite, but it was not to be for the local hopefuls who would back up their 2016 championship with a third place finish.

I didn’t get to catch any of the Women’s matches all week, and wasn’t able to make it out for the two finals on Saturday. I wish I could have witnessed the Men’s finish as Shuster pulled off an incredible shot with the final stone of the final end to take the victory. There couldn’t have been a better way to cap off a great week of competition.

Though I wasn’t there physically for a majority of it, I would have the broadcast streaming on my computer at work so I could at least listen to it when I wasn’t able to be looking. I even pulled it up on my phone one day so I could listen while driving. Little did I know.

For a sport I have never tried, even I find it somewhat difficult to understand how engrossed I have become with it. Then again, maybe it’s not so difficult to understand. You only have to observe the facets of the sport to be left in awe. The immense physical ability required to simply deliver a stone properly pales in comparison to the even more incredible physical ability required to successfully sweep. Then, you have to account for the mental abilities involved with the chess game that plays out once the stones get beyond the hog line. It makes for a fascinating, exciting sport. One that I certainly hope to try.

Luckily, the Granite Curling Club of Seattle is close by. Unluckily, the curling season is winding down and the opportunity to attend an open house has past. Oh well, it’s something to look forward to next fall when the season kicks back up, or a good reason to try rounding up a group and getting out there that way. I can only imagine that it’s as addicting as it appears it would be. All because of one random week in February when the Granite Curling Club brought 18 of the nations best curling teams to town.

I started the week as a casual-at-best, distant viewer of the sport. Little did I know then what I would come to know as the week went along. It hasn’t stopped yet.

 

 

 

 

Gone Goo Goo

Posted: July 16, 2016 in Music

It was a night years in the making.  The band had been around for two decades, had placed well in the charts with several singles and albums, and yet I was essentially oblivious to their good deeds within the music world.  I may have been somewhat familiar with their biggest song, but I honestly can’t say definitively that I was.  How quickly things can change.

The one specific song that I can thankfully blame for it all started getting increased playtime during the holiday season of 2005.  It was a new single that I believe had been out for several weeks, but given its underlying themes and message it fit perfectly for the more current time of year.  That 3-1/2 minute package of brilliance is titled, “Better Days” and it was penned by the genius that is John Rzeznik – brilliant Goo Goo Dolls front man.

It jumped out at me the first time I heard it because the band had just recently been put onto my radar by a good friend whose life has been greatly influenced by the boys from Buffalo.  It was all over from there.  I was a fan.  It didn’t take long for their music to grow deeper within me to the point of becoming an important, invaluable part of my life.

Too many years it took for it all to finally culminate in seeing John, Robby Takac, and the rest of the band live, but I finally did so on Friday night, July 8th, 2016.  My wife and I made the trek down to Troutdale, Oregon for a night we will never forget.  Yes, my wife is a fan as well.  Like so many people, she didn’t even realize how much she enjoyed the band until hearing so much of their stuff in my car that she recognized.  They have provided the perfect soundtrack for our life together.  I went a bit cliché and had “Come To Me” playing when I proposed, but it was only fitting.  The song is an eerily relatable story of the history of our friendship through the years on up to our marriage.  It has always been the perfect theme song for us and has always been there: it randomly started playing at the jewelry store the night we bought her ring, it randomly started playing several days later when I went to pick up the ring, and in addition to the proposal it was our first dance at the wedding.  We also used “Hey Ya” for the bridal party’s procession, and had “All That You Are” playing when we were introduced at the reception.

So, for many reasons this particular rainy night in Oregon was monumental for us both.  The years of waiting were completely worth it.  The opening shows from Tribe Society and Collective Soul were great and the atmosphere went through the proverbial roof of the amazing outdoor venue when the guys hit the stage.  It was a great set that flew by all too quickly in a nearly exact hour-and-a-half.  From the old to the new, and everything in between – dancing and singing virtually non-stop to every song made for quite the evening.  That included getting to dance to our song once again – live.

The energy of the experience is something I will never forget.  John knows how to bring it as lead vocalist, lead guitarist, comedian in-between and during songs, and even when he gives up the stage to Robby when it’s his turn at the mic.  Speaking of Robby, watching that guy is almost worth the price of admission in itself.  His charisma, his excitement, his overall enjoyment and love for the fans and what he is doing – they all ooze out of his every movement, every jump and run around the stage, and every smile and goofy grin that he gives.  Well, I shouldn’t say “every” smile and grin because that implies that he stops doing those things at some point.  He doesn’t.

It’s always a moment of mixed emotions when the band that you’ve gone to see walks off of the stage for the final time at the end of the night.  You’re raging with adrenaline.  You’re raging with mystery of “I wonder what they’d play next had they kept going”.  You’re even raging with a bit of disappointment at having to come to grips with it being all over, and having done so too quickly regardless of it was an hour or three.  Mostly, however, you’re raging with the mesmerizing excitement of what you just lived through.

That night took too many years to happen.  I’m thankful for that.  Not because it gave me time to appreciate it more (I would have appreciated it equally as much had it been five years ago), but because the timing ended up being perfect.  The venue at which it happened, the night on which it happened, and the fact that I got to share it with whom I did.

I know it won’t take me as long to see them the next time.  At least, I can only hope there’s the opportunity for a next time.  If and when there is, my wife and I will be there.  You should, too.

In your home, in your car, or best yet live – Goo Goo Dolls certainly makes for better days.

 

 

NASCAR and Rock & Roll

Posted: December 19, 2014 in Music, Racing

With Speedway Motorsports, Inc. removing nearly 60,000 seats between two tracks, you can’t help but wonder what led to once normally sold out tracks being resorted to such demolitions.  Charlotte Motor Speedway will be losing 41,000 seats while Atlanta Motor Speedway will get a reduction of 17,000.  Fans have obviously stopped going to not just these, but a large number of tracks around the NASCAR series as is very evident with even just a quick glance at the television coverage.  Why this big of a drop in attendance figures?

Is the television product becoming so advanced and well accepted that folks feel it is a better experience to stay home?  Why not?  It beats the hours of travel, hundreds or even thousands of dollars of expenses, the horrible traffic most tracks are guilty of, and being crammed next to sweaty, smelly strangers in 100 degree heat for roughly four or five hours.  Yet, no TV presentation can substitute the sounds, smells of the cars, and first person sights of actually being there.

Or, let’s be honest and face the possible truth – has the interest begun to dwindle?  Think back to when Brian France took over control of the organization in October of 2003.  That’s when I and a lot of other traditional lovers of the sport began to take a step back.  I will stand by the thought that Brian ruined the sport by essentially selling out and grossly exploiting the exposure that came from the still mind-rattling death of Dale Earnhardt nearly three years prior.  Yes, more sponsors coming in was great, but at what cost?  The sport began being marketed toward a younger crowd; a non-traditional crowd in hopes of growing the fan base.

More celebrities began showing up.  Figures from other sports started to appear.  It made one wonder if the footage from the garage area was a race track, or the red carpet at the Oscars or ESPYs.  Then the gimmicks came.  There were big changes to the cars (for better or for worse) as well as the move that officially ended my tenure as a NASCAR fan – the introduction of the new post-season playoff format for the championship.  Well, what if all of those things have run their courses?

Yes, NASCAR is still extremely popular throughout all three of its elite series, but to what extent?  The big NASCAR fans will spend as much time (if not more) in front of their TV on Saturdays on Sundays during the spring and summer as what football fans do during the fall and winter.  Those are the big NASCAR fans, however.  You will hear or see smatterings of casual followers tuning in for the big Cup races on Sundays, but overall TV ratings are declining as a whole.  So, did that younger, non-traditional new crowd realize there was a reason they hadn’t been a fan of the sport before?  Did the star athletes and the celebrities enjoy their invite for a free trip to a new experience and just chalk it up as a one-off perk of their career choice?

A lot of people have been quick to back-up SMI’s claim that the seat removal is to erase seats that weren’t being used anyway and increase space for higher quality hospitality options.  Which basically means, “we will have better experiences with which to treat the guests of sponsors (a lot of whom are there for free), and we can give up on trying to entice new, paying fans”.  But, what does SMI care?  Fewer seats means they can jack-up the prices for all of their other seats because of that whole “supply-and-demand” thing.  Well, they can at least try because there obviously isn’t the same demand.

Better TV?  The newer fans are beginning to walk away?  Those celebrities couldn’t be converted into ambassadors?  However you look at it, you have to question the popularity of NASCAR 11-years into Brian France’s involvement.

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The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced its 2015 induction class and they induce some serious head scratching.  This seems to be rather normal from the 700-plus member voting panel.  The most glaring inclusion is Green Day getting in on their very first ballot.  Yes, they have been around for 25 years, but when you factor in bands still outside-looking-in like Deep Purple, Bon Jovi, Yes, Def Leppard, and many others it seems a bit atrocious that Green Day can just waltz on in with only one turn on the ballot.

On the other hand, a couple of positives are that talent such as Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, as well as, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts have been voted in.  Both are extremely deserving as Joan Jett is in the Top-5 for a large number of the population when you ask them for their favorite female artists, or just ask them to name off female singers.  Factor in what the Blackhearts can and continue to do.  Factor in that they’re still out touring (albeit it casinos and state fairs).  That’s an act that deserves to be in.

SRV goes without saying that he and his band are no-doubt hall of famers.  The only troublesome thought is that it took this long for it to happen, and that it came as result of a “popular vote” from the public.  Yes, the public had to demand it.  Not sure where the members of the voting panel have been for the past four decades.  His talent and success cannot be questioned, and even if that wasn’t enough to get him in, his legacy and continued popularity since that night in August of 1990 should have been more than sufficient grounds for this honor years ago.

Overall, congrats to everyone who is going into the hall this upcoming spring.  It makes us eager to see what next winter’s selections will bring.  Also, probably a bit hesitant.

Memories on Ice

Posted: April 29, 2014 in Hockey

It was just over seven months ago that I was walking into Olympic View Arena for one of the evaluation skates prior to the 2013-14 Greater Seattle Hockey League season.  I had only been skating in hockey gear for nine months and this was going to be the first time I had ever been on ice other than that of the public rink in Everett.  I had never felt adrenaline quite like what was going through me on that night.

A week-and-a-half later, I was getting the email from Dean Willard that I – along with my good friend Dave Sheehan – had been drafted into Night Owls Hockey.  Simply based on reading that initial contact I knew I was a lucky guy.  I’ve worked within top-notch organizations (Brownfield Promotions and the Silvertips) and knew that this was going to be an extremely well run, respectful, professionally approached situation I suddenly found myself in.  It was awesome enough knowing I was going to start playing hockey, but by the time I was done with that email I couldn’t wrap my mind around all of the excitement I immediately had.

It was a long wait for those few weeks until our first game rolled around on Monday night, October 7th.  I began the day in Spokane and finished it celebrating a 9-1 victory.  I will never forget being on the first defensive pairing; on the ice for the opening face-off and ending the shift with my first ever assist.  From that night on it would be one hell of a ride.

There were many ups and downs both personally and as a team for those first couple of months, but once we got back to it after the long holiday break we took off.  Winning isn’t the only thing in beer league hockey, but it certainly is awesome when it happens.  I could easily go back through and relive every game, but I will spare you and save that for a later time.

The season wound down with us finishing atop our division and carrying all kinds of momentum into the playoffs.  We started off beyond strongly in that opening game on the main ice in Everett and followed it up with a solid, heated win over our most hated rivals: the Rebels.  We knew then that we were into the championship, but had no idea who the opponent was going to be.  Of course, it would be our nemesis.

There is almost literally no way to describe what transpired over this past week.  We only had to win one game to take the title.  They had to beat us twice and accomplished what they had to in the first game when we came out flat and got straight-up beat.  We headed into the second game with everything on the line and staring down the reality of having our shortest, most depleted bench of the season.  Thankfully, Chris Landman and Ryan Reece-Beltrand were able to fight through their injuries and helped us salvage a nearly full bench.

Now, it’s easy to say the game that transpired was awesome since we ended up winning the championship.  But, seriously, that will probably be the most incredible game I am ever going to play in my life, and I intend to play for many years to come.  The pure guts and determination from everyone on the team led to majority of us playing our greatest games of the season if not our lives.  The energy used up, the last little bit of strength that everyone had left being exerted with guys diving all over the place to block passes and shots as we faced the extra attacker for the final two minutes pinned in our own zone.  There truly is no way to put it into words.

The post-game huddle as we mobbed around our goalie Mark Van Der Lee, the traditional championship team photo, the handshake line knowing we just bested our foes in the intense rivalry – those are great moments and memories, but getting the mugs in our hands was when the accomplishment really set in.  They are a physical, tangible piece to remind us from now until the end of our lives of what we have all accomplished.   They make everything taste better and there is absolutely no way you can take a drink from one without getting a smile on your face.

It has been a brilliant ride.  I can’t thank Jason Goscinski enough for being an awesome leader as our team’s Captain.  I learned a lot starting the season back on defense alongside Jesse Komenski.  It was an absolute thrill finally getting paired up on a line for the second half of the season with Dave and Katie Markeson.  We all got some pretty brutal songs stuck in our heads before games thanks to Derek Moore.  Overall, I’m beyond thankful for the lifelong memories I’ll carry with me out of this season of sharing the ice with Gideon Burt, Mike Morasch, Zach and Zane Vakerics, Steve Weiss, Eric Visser, and Thomas Sommers.  I also will never overlook those who played key roles by helping us out as part of the roster throughout the season including Rob Dillon, Tom Mollison, Vern Francissen, Dani Miller and Mark Green.

This experience ultimately culminated in the way we all hoped it would; the way we all busted our asses for.  I have found it is true that just because you wear the same sweater doesn’t make you a team.  You become one by playing for one another and laying everything on the line for the betterment of the team.  I didn’t play any sports growing up as I was saving myself for racing (and we can see how well that turned out for me).  On second thought, maybe it did work out.  As a result, I have never felt anything like this before and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I have never felt adrenaline quite like what’s going through me on this night.

A Quick Thank-You

Posted: November 3, 2013 in Racing

With the 2013 racing season coming to a close, I would like to congratulate Justyn Cox on a great year and to thank him for allowing JRD Endeavors to tag along for the ride.  From a great set of races in Arizona through a trio of wins in Petaluma, Marysville and at the historic Belleville Highbanks; from starting on the pole of an A-main at Knoxville through not quite finishing with the results the team deserved: Justyn raced his butt off every night he hit the track in Harley Van Dyke’s 5H.  Which, on a personal note, it was awesome to see the JRD Endeavors sticker on the side of a car I grew up watching; owned by a man who was such a heavy supporter of Fred’s and the Northern Sprint Tour.  The three man team of Harley, Justyn and Fez should be extremely proud of everything they accomplished though I know there is a number of other people behind the scenes that also deserve some credit.

I don’t know in which direction this adventure of JRD Endeavors will head or where it will ultimately end up, but I’m proud to be associated with a class act such as Justyn.  Several years ago when I dabbled into this business idea with other athletes – Kelsy, Eric, Tamara and Shaina – it was a lot of fun but I had no idea what I was really doing. I’ve come to realize that I still don’t, but it doesn’t change how much fun I have doing it.

Congrats again, Justyn.  You put up a fight every night and wrote another great chapter in your career.  I can’t wait to be a part of the next one when you hit the track in 2014.

Wow, where to begin.  I guess I really let things slip being that I haven’t written in three months.  I always thought I’d have to die before that happened…again.  Seriously though, I don’t know how to get started so I guess I’ll just blow through some key points on my mind and see where things end up going.

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  • The biggest news on an overall scale is the return of the NHL for the 2013 season.  Yes, I said 2013 because I cannot stand anyone who still references it as 2012-13.  How can you include the ’12 when there was no existence of any play during that half of the season?  Anyway, as I had said all along I will not give a damn about how things play out because the season is one big, tainted joke.  That’s not to say that I won’t somewhat pay attention.  Out of all the games that have been played, I’ve watched parts of four and listened on radio to parts of three others.  One of those TV games and all three radio games have gone to shootouts but that’s a rant that deserves its own time and space.

Some of you probably are accusing me of being hypocritical  for even tuning in, but I genuinely don’t care.  Who has the best record in the league?  Couldn’t tell you.  Who has the worst? Again, couldn’t tell you.  Who is leading in goals scored or points?  You know my answer.  Where’s my NHL gear that I own?  Still in the closet where showing support for the owners belongs.  When this 48-game regular season comes to an end, I will pay slightly more attention.  My belief is that the top teams heading into the playoffs at the end of 48-games would be the same teams as if it were a full 82-game season.  Yes, seeding might be different and the bottom couple of teams might have changed, but as a whole it will still be the best teams playing for the Stanley Cup.

  • Earlier this month the Silvertips relieved second year Head Coach Mark Ferner and Assistant Coach Chris Hartsburg of their duties; General Manager Garry Davidson is carrying the “Interim Head Coach” title for the rest of the season.  I still find this a bit of a confusing move as the team was doing much better this season despite rebuilding than it was at the same point last year.  Since Davidson’s decision, you can argue that the team has been much less consistent.  Why not make the move before the season even began if you knew that the coach and GM weren’t on the same page?
  • My second-to-last posting was in regards to the idea NASCAR was floating around of holding a dirt race for their truck series.  Just a matter of days after I wrote that, the official announcement was made.  Last week in a press conference NASCAR’s front man Brian France referenced judgment and decision making errors that the organization has made in the past couple of decades.  Once the novelty of this idea wears off it will be brought up in that same light a few years down the road.
  • The IndyCar Series announced changes to their format for several races this upcoming season.  They involve combinations of various aspects including different qualifying systems, heat races, double-segmented races, standing starts and some other tweaks.  A key note is that most of these things only apply to road/street course races.  Unlike the NASCAR Truck thing, I have no problems with these format changes.  There’s one glaring reason: consistency.  All of these things will be utilized on several occasions; they won’t be a one-off anomaly that goes against everything the series has always stood for.  These different elements have been dabbled in over the past few seasons and they are things that all of the drivers are accustomed to from previous series and experience.
  • On a personal front, 2013 is starting off great from a music standpoint.  My top three favorite artists of Bon Jovi (What About Now), Goo Goo Dolls (Magnetic) and Michelle Branch (West Coast Time [a year-and-a-half delayed]) are all releasing new music throughout the first handful of months.  The Boys from Jersey have already put out the first single – “Because We Can” – though no release date on the album has been publicized.  As for Buffalo’s own, “Rebel Beat” has been released on the internet ahead of the album’s May 7th release, but we have to wait until February 12th to purchase the single.  In terms of Michelle’s next musical installment, the spring is all that has been mentioned.  However, back in late summer of 2011, “Loud Music” was the first single to hit the airwaves to promote the album that was victimized by hold-ups at the label level.

Bottom line is that ‘13 is going to be amazing and all of this new music at the start is perfect timing because it will give an incredible soundtrack to my life for it all.

——– —–

So, there you have it.  Three months of randomness condensed into a few bullet points of, well – randomness.  My prediction is that there will be even more randomness to randomly attempt putting into words for another random blog at a random time some point not too far down the line.  No, I didn’t plan all of that it just came out that way.  I guess you could say it was…everybody at once now…random.

 

— JRD

I’m going to preface this by saying one thing: I’m not trying to put down anyone’s musical beliefs. I’m a huge believer in the philosophy that no one has any right to talk down about another person’s musical preferences. That’s a chicken you-know-what thing to do and those are not my intentions.

With that said, does anyone from their early 20s down even realize that music existed before the mid-90s? Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of good music out there but people thinking the “greatest music ever” happened within the past 10-15 years? Seriously? About one in ever eight to ten songs is worth something now days (as a complete production) and if you don’t think so then just tune into a top-40 station. Music is all about the lyrics and producing and it’s sad that a huge chunk of today’s artists don’t write or create their own stuff. The weight of the words isn’t nearly as great when it’s just some pretty face with a good voice trying to get famous who’s singing them. What writing? What producing? They show up to the studio when they’re told, sing what they’re told, leave when they’re told and deposit their big checks when they receive them. They don’t care, they just want the fame.

But what do I know? I’m told my music taste sucks because it consists of such “crappy” artists like Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Elton John, John Fogerty, Eagles just to name a few. At least people come to partially agree with me on artists such as Goo Goo Dolls, Michelle Branch and Lovely Goodbye. Wow, artists who actually care about their profession. Artists who truly believe in putting their guts onto paper then letting the rest of the world know that they aren’t alone. A well known example of that these days is Taylor Swift. She gets annihilated by the haters because all of her songs are about heartbreak and talking about her exes. Um, excuse me. That’s what a large portion of music is about.

Music traditionally has been about love. Yes there are other types of songs out there covering different topics but love and losing love are the most common. Look at your own personal favorite artist and consider how many love oriented songs they have. Probably a massive portion of their catalog. So who cares if that’s what Taylor writes about? She’s in her early 20’s and don’t you dare try telling me that in your early 20’s relationships weren’t the number one issue in your life. She is a true artist. She share’s her deepest, most personal moments by writing them, she’s involved with the production and she sings them.

So, as I said at the beginning this was in no way a chance to bash on peoples’ musical preferences. I’m just saying that some out there need to either expand their music listening horizons or else change their definition of music. There’s too much focus on the ones playing the instruments and singing into the mic. Yes, a lot of them are good musicians and good singers, but try to look past the pretty faces who are just trying to get rich. Give more credit to the writing and the producing. Those are the people who actually make the song. Without them, there is no music.