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  INCOMING! APRIL 26, 2004.  


Pat Tillman was a favorite son among Arizona fans from his first day of training camp with the Arizona Cardinals. He had graduated from Arizona State, the university with which the Cardinals share their


stadium. He won over people with his hustle, his fire and his stoicism; he was undersized but compact, a cannonball. He was the type of guy who made coaches gush and made fans nudge each other and say, "You gotta check this out." Not that it was difficult, considering the team's perpetual futility, but he instantly became the most popular player on the team. It wasn't just fans who noticed either; in early 2001, Sports Illustrated's Paul Zimmerman, in his yearly (and awesome) Pro-Bowl column, noticed Tillman's talent before most


scouts did: "he was knocking down anything with a heartbeat."

That was eight months before September 11, and 16 before Tillman, in response to the attacks, left the team to join the Army. Tillman, in typical fashion, did this with no fanfare -- he just apologized to the team, said "this is what I've gotta do," and then he was gone. With his brother, doing what he felt was right.

There have already been countless words wasted on empty platitudes about Tillman, particularly from sports columnists trying to justify what, ultimately, is a pretty empty journalistic life they've chosen. We shall waste no more. Simply a salute to Mr. Tillman, a prayer for his family and a hope for safety for all the young men and women out there this morning.



Casey Kasem turns 71 on Tuesday, and a very strong case could be made that his voice has been more prevalent in our lives than any other. First, you had "America's Top 40," which was fun for several



1. Kasem never seemed to have the slightest idea what any of the songs were. (He once called Van Halen "Von Hoolend.")

2. Occasionally, back when America's Top 40 actually played the top 40 songs in the country rather than the top 40 bland Celine Dion dentist office hits, Casey would say things like, "Coming in at No. 27 this week, it's 'Mo Money (dramatic


pause) Mo Problems." He also once, when "Smells Like Teen Spirit" hit the top 40, called Kurt Cobain a "blond-haired prophet of rage."

3. The Long-Distance Dedications. Nothing beat these. These broke down into four basic categories:

a. Song from woman to dead mother/aunt/grandmother/sister.

b. Song from woman to boyfriend/husband currently serving in the military.

c. Song from woman to teacher who made a difference in her life.

d. Song from woman to friend/associate with debilitating -- but not fatal -- disease, preferably one that would make the audience shake their head and sigh in sympathy (Down's syndrome, blindness, quadriplegia, scurvy)

No matter what the dedication was for or to whom it was directed, the song was always -- always -- Bette Midler's "Wind Beneath My Wings." It is likely Kasem had this in his contract.

But that's not all Kasem did. He also is, of course, the voice of Shaggy on the popular THC-coated cartoon program "Scooby-Doo." (Trivia question: What was Shaggy's real name? Norville Rogers. No kidding.)

And lest we forget, Kasem also had a voice in "Transformers: The Movie," which automatically makes him cool. (By the transitive property, this means he once worked with Orson Welles.) Kasem's 71 now, but he's still trucking, even still married to now-decrepit bombshell Jean Kasem. Here's a long-distance dedication to Casey, on his birthday: "Did you ever know that you're my hero..."



Speaking of chubby women blaring insipid ballads at the top of their lungs to a small, mostly drunk audience … it's National Karaoke Week! Yes, they really do have a week for everybody's favorite


"well, jeez, there's nothing else to do" late-night activity. (It's not just for the Japanese anymore!)

In the spirit of baseball season, it's worth coming up with a karaoke All-Star team. These particular "artists" are pretty cheesy, but when it comes to karaoke, they hit the ball out of the park, every time. The Black Table swears it has rocked out to each of these guys at least once … and in the case of the second baseman and the catcher, many, many times.

C Meat Loaf
1B Billy Joel
2B REO Speedwagon
SS Bon Jovi
3B Michael Jackson
LF Madonna
CF Don McLean
RF Young M.C.

SP Kenny Loggins
SP Elton John
SP Cher
SP Olivia Newton John
SP Jim Croce

CL Joan Jett





According to a report in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune this week -- and they'd of course definitely know -- pop harlot Christina Aguilera has begun dating Denver Nuggets star rookie Carmelo Anthony.


(Seriously. It's true. It was in a Minnesota newspaper. Who knows gossip better than a Minnesota newspaper? You should hear the hot scoop they had on Thor and Edgar Thaaargonsen last month; who knew Thor was so strong?)

Anyway, Christina Aguilera has been on the pop cultural landscape for, jeez, like five years now, which is far more staying power that we ever imagined she'd have. Her exploits -- particularly those with her expanding and contrasting waistlines -- have been well-documented, but there has to be some underlying reason, some subtle behind-the-scenes maneuvering that has allowed her to remain in the public eye despite doing absolutely nothing with any lasting merit and quality.

On April 29, 1893, a man named Whitcomb L. Judson patented an invention he'd come up with to help a friend of his who had a bad back. His friend would howl in agony every time he would bend over and go through the laborious process of tying


his shoes. Judson, presumably a caring sort, came up with what he called a "hookless fastener." It allowed his friend to simply pull on a little metal handle, and his shoes would unfasten themselves. His invention became all the rage, and eventually it developed the non de plume of "zipper." Suddenly, clothes -- specifically, pants -- could be removed with the greatest of ease.

Christina Aguilera and her "career" salute Whitcomb L. Judson, the man who allowed her career to take off and sustain itself. Where would she be without him?



What is Arbor Day? No, seriously. What is it? Arbor Day is one of those holidays that you suspect they made a much bigger deal out of 50 years ago than they do now. (Along with Flag Day, and May Day,


particularly when our country was infested with the Communist Menace.)

Supposedly, Arbor Day is a day to plant a tree. That's it, we guess. It was started by J. Sterling Morton (what's with people from the 19th century insisting on initials in their name? Pretentious jerks), a journalist who was the editor of Nebraska's first newspaper. Morton looked around the barren dead plains of Nebraska, grew depressed because firemen complained about having nothing to save cats from and started exhorting his readers to plant trees. After pounding this theme relentlessly in his column for years,


the general populous, presumably just so he'd start writing about something else, gave in to his calls for a statewide "holiday for the planting of trees." In the interest of brevity, they called it "Arbor Day." They all planted trees, and had a parade, and Morton gave a speech, and Arbor Day was born. (Somehow, it caught on.) And it was all because some guy had nothing else better to write about in his column that "We should all plant trees."

It is worth nothing that the last time The Black Table planted a tree, it was for a biology project his senior year of high school. Six years later, we visited our old school, where we'd done the "project," and found a ratty, dying tree shooting out of the ground at a 45-degree angle, dangerously close to growing straight through the cafeteria window. That's definitely the one we planted.

Anyway, go plant a tree Friday to support another pointless holiday. You should give it a name; Frank, maybe.


INCOMING! will run every Monday on The Black Table, starting, well, now. Writers will be rotated, and if you're interested in contributing one, email Will Leitch at