Commenter Clarence Swamptown will delight you with his borderline inappropriate takes on just about anything in life. He's been doing this for almost exactly a year now, and we have to think almost everyone agrees his weekly segment has been a great addition to this blog. As always, his thoughts on sports and life in general do not necessarily reflect those of RandBall or the Star Tribune. Clarence?


* Country & Western Song of the Week:  In an effort to combine Randball’s terrific Page 2 Top 5 segment, the award-winning “Today’s Unimpeachably Great Song (TUGS)” on randballsstu’s Twitter account, and the decidedly average Clearance Clarence C & W Song of the Week, I am asking fellow Randballers to provide their Top 5 C & W songs of all time.  Last week randballsstu provided his Top 15 list. This week newbier offers his Top 5 Christmas songs.  Randballers never follow directions, but they also never disappoint.  Here we go:
Via newbier:  This past weekend has ushered in a time for holidays.  And as such, those of us Christmas music snobs have waited until now to enjoy the wonderful music it brings.  Those of you who have had WLTE on for the past 2 months are probably sick of it by now.  And we know who you are because you had your lights on since Halloween!  My apologies to Stearns County where you are actually fined if you remove the lights from your house before June.

Below is my list of Christmas songs by "Country and Western" artists that I hope you find enjoyable.

5) Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Carrie Underwood (I added this to the list, because she has a beautifully sweet voice that lends itself to Christmas time.  Also, one of the links for this song had the thumbnail of a cute little puppy in a Santa hat.  But the video started with stupid cats, so I had to find a new one.)

4) I'll Be Home for Christmas - Bryan White (I know I made a big deal about traditional C&W, and I know Bryan White does not fit that mold (nor does Carrie Underwood).  However, his music was a big part of my high school days and his version of this song runs through my head every holiday season.)*

3) Mary, Did you Know? - Kenny Rogers & Wynonna Judd (The video linked here is cheesy, but it was the best sound quality I could find in my brief search...  look, you know how to search the youtubes or the ipods, too.  Do it yourself if you want better.)

2) Unto you this Night - Garth Brooks (The single greatest non-traditional Christmas song ever to be listed on Randball.  THAT'S A FACT!  I'm only a fan of Garth's voice in a hand full of songs, this one is on top.)**

1A) O Holy Night - John Berry  (Not only does this song define Christmas, John Berry defines this song.)
1) O Holy Night - Martina McBride (Martina McBride's voice is just too amazing and powerful not to put her in the top spot.  Although I personally appreciate John Berry's version more, mainly because his is one of the rare male performances of it, from the female category Martina cannot be topped.)

Notes not otherwise indicated above-
* I could not find a video for this song, I think it is because Mr. White's old label has retained the rights to his good stuff and won't let them out.
** I couldn't find any electronic version of any of Garth Brooks' stuff.  My guess is he has it all locked down and when he retires, again***, might release them on iTunes to try and become bigger than the Beatles, but not Jesus, no one is stupid enough to proclaim that.
*** Seriously, the dude has retired more than Favre and Jordan combined.  And each time he comes back he makes another billion dollars with nothing original.
Clarence’s thoughts:  1) I’m not a big fan of Garth Brooks, but surprisingly I do enjoy his cover of KISS’ Hard Luck WomanIt doesn’t sound anything like him.  2)  The best C & W Christmas song of all time is Alan Jackson & Alison Krauss’ The Angels Cried.   3) Today’s C & W Song of the Week is Backside of Thirty by John Conley.
* Prep Bowl Thoughts: I enjoy watching Prep Bowl games on the day after Thanksgiving.  I usually spend the day in the garage sipping beers, winterizing summertime equipment and prepping the snowplow while watching the games on the garage television.  This process offers an official transition from fall to winter, and even though most of this year’s Prep Bowl games were not especially close, I always enjoy the diversion they provide while I skin my knuckles and shout impossibly dirty, dirty vulgarities at my old stupid {redacted}-{redacted}, {redacted}-{redacted} lawnmower.  I would like to specifically congratulate Wayzata on their Prep Bowl victory over Rosemount.  The Irish kept up for most of the first half, but one of Wayzata’s 28 assistant coaches must have discovered a mismatch during halftime and the proper adjustments were made. The Trojans and Mitch Underhill were simply too much to handle in the second half, and Wayzata proved to be the better team. 
It’s not always a popular sentiment, but please allow me to quickly praise the Minnesota State High School League.   For the most part, the MSHSL does a good job.  Whether it’s conference realignment, open-enrollment, or tournament reconfiguration, they are often in a difficult no-win position - and as opposed to the NCAA - I think the MSHSL tries to do what’s best for the students.  Somebody will always be upset regardless of what decision is made.  In light of Totino-Grace’s victory over Rogers in the 4A Championship (and various private schools' historic success in the state hockey tournament), the biggest controversy currently on the MSHSL’s plate is how private schools should be treated when assigning state tournament classes.  I don’t have a dog in this fight and can see both sides of the issue.  In the end, no matter what decision is made, somebody will be upset.   I think the difficult nature of this controversy proves the current effectiveness of the MSHSL.  The only controversies that remain are the truly difficult ones, and it hasn’t always been this way.  I was directly involved in one of these controversies.
Tier II Boys' Hockey Tournament (1992–1993):  In the early 1990s* there was increasing discussion about changing the Minnesota State Hockey Tournament to multiple classes.  Despite the historic big school vs. small school rivalries that the single-class tournament fostered, administrators wanted to provide more state tournament opportunities to more players.  Rather than simply adopting the enrollment-based two-class system we have today, the MSHSL created a “two-tier” approach that is almost impossible to believe actually happened, and could never be re-conceptualized by a thousand hippies in a thousand self-esteem boosting symposiums.  The concept: teams in each section were ranked from top to bottom,  the top-ranked teams in each section participated in the Tier I section tournament, and the bottom ranked teams participated in the Tier II section tournament.  In 1992 I was a remarkably cement-footed and cement-headed defenseman for Rosemount. We finished the 1992 season with a 1-20-1 record (yes, ONE {redacted} win), dead last in the Lake Red Conference. We were pretty bad, but it was a difficult conference and we were not as awful as our record indicated.  We were dumped into Tier II, won the section tournament, and made it to the only boys' state hockey tournament appearance in Rosemount history (in a microcosm of my life, I broke my kneecap during the season and did not get to play in the State Tournament. But the injury did allow me to hang out in the stands with my full leg cast and awkwardly talk to an older hockey cheerleader who was WAY out of my league.  Like an Adrian Peterson running game I eventually broke her down, and 8 years later we were married.  And 18 years later I am still not sure why she talks to me).  Anyway, we eventually lost to Greenway of Coleraine in the championship game, and I remember in the post-game handshake line that the Greenway players were, at best, “uncomfortable” with their accomplishment.  They didn’t celebrate, or even smile.  As the players later explained, they couldn’t really go back to The Range and brag to their rivals in Eveleth about a Tier II championship.  With MSHSL administrators slowly realizing that even the tournament champions were embarrassed of the tournament, the Tier II concept was abandoned after 2 seasons and the current two-class system was adopted.
Again, I think the MSHSL has a mostly thankless job and should be commended for the work they do.
*Please remember that I have suffered multiple concussions and spent a large percentage of the last 15 years in various mind-altered states.  My memory is foggy at best. You’ll just have to take my word for it. 
Please offer your own Prep Bowl thoughts, favorite C & W Christmas Songs, and/or the proper level of teasing newbier should endure for listing Bryan White in the comments below.

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