Those of you that know me well know that I am a fan of Bill Simmons, sportswriter for ESPN.com. (For a specific example of his awesomeness, check out the "some cool links" post from a couple weeks back.) In one column (actually, probably in a few columns), Simmons explains that he thinks television (and radio) producers go about choosing broadcasting teams for sporting events the wrong way. They try to get the best color guy, the best play-by-play guy, etc. This seems to make sense, except it leaves out a key component of the formula for a successful broadcast team: chemistry. Last year, the Monday Night Football people decided to put Tony Kornheiser and Joe Theismann in the booth together because Kornheiser is funny and Theismann is (sort of) a good football guy. But Kornheiser just mocked Theismann while Theismann just made stupid, obvious, and sometimes baffling observations that were loosely related to the game. It was not a success. What would have been more successful, Simmons suggests (and I agree), would be to choose the best guy--let's say it's Kornheiser-- and tell him that he needs to pick another guy or two to work with him. Wouldn't you rather hear a few guys who are buddies and have some chemistry talking about a football game than a bunch of guys who would obviously never spend time together outside of the booth?
For those of you who are not football fans, another example: Nicole Beckford is a good friend of mine and a fellow member of the English department at Big Foot High School. She's kind of team teaching with another teacher this term, and I'm sure it's going to go fine, but it got me thinking about how much fun it could be for the two of us to team teach a class. We both know what we're doing (no one wants to listen to incompetent people, no matter how close they are), and I think everyone--ourselves and our students--would have fun and learn a lot. (I had an experience like this when Bill Schang and Russell Blake taught Growing Up in America during my freshman year at Ripon--it was a lot of fun for us, and you could tell that they were having fun too.)
And this is why Sam Baker & the Band is such a blast to see. I went to their show Saturday night at Beezle's, and the mood in that place was perfect for a smalltown bar on a Saturday night--it was relaxed and comfortable. You could see the guys joking around between songs. They did a little gag during the pause in one of the songs--"Wild Rose"?--where they pretended like it was over, then came in loud, all at once. When Bob, the bass player, realized that they didn't have a mic set up for him, he wandered over and sat awkwardly (but sort of smoothly, if that make sense) at the keyboard, which had a mic set up for Sam during the second part of the set. Later, when he shared the mic with Sam for "Do Good Then Walk Away," Sam gave him a shove and the two nearly cracked up in the middle of the song. And that's what I think most people are looking for at a concert. Sure, these guys are awesome musicians, but I can hear awesome musicians almost any time--I do have plenty of Conway Twitty CD's at home, you know. But there's a comfortability, an accessibility about these guys that makes the live performances terrific. It's the same thing that was missing from the Kornheiser/Theismann experiment, and the same thing that would exist if Nicole and I were to teach a class together. Chemistry.
Anyway, it was a great show all around. And that's why Sam is awesome.