While President Clinton was impeached after he obstructed justice and perjured himself during his testimony concerning a sexual relationship he had with a White House intern in the Oval Office, I was completing my final year of teaching at Alexandria Monroe High School in Alexandria, Indiana. Back when I was in high school, Alexandria was a 4-A football sized school. But after the mass exodus of General Motors from the county, Alexandria began an unfortunate death march. By the time I arrived in 1994, the school had half the student population it had just 15 years earlier. Yet, the concentration of academic and athletic students still remained exceptionally high.
As the 1997-98 school year ended, our small school became the first school in state history to win 2-A state championships in two of the three biggest sports, basketball and baseball. But, those athletic teams were not the only powerhouse teams in the building at the time. The cross country teams both finished second in the conference. The softball, volleyball and girls basketball teams were all highly successful. While most of these teams were expected to succeed that year, one team achieved something that no other did that year. The boys track & field team won the school’s only team conference championship, before or since.
In Indiana, track & field is a single-class sport, so we competed with the big schools, some of which are upwards of seven times bigger than we were. While some of these bigger schools had 120 boys on their team, we actually had a record 35 boys on that track team. Still, those guys went down to the Regional meet where nearly half of the state’s Top 20 ranked teams were competing and finished 13th behind some outstanding efforts.
If those kids only had the resources that my team at Hamilton Southeastern had in the early 2000s, my Alex kids would have been a Top 20 team themselves. However, they did win that conference championship meet by one over the second place team, two points over third, three points over fourth, six points over fifth and seventh over sixth. That finish remains the closest conference final standings in conference history.
The cool thing about coaching is after all the wins and losses, the arguments, motivational speeches, the hugs and tears, and all the other forms of life that take place during an athletic career, you end up with a group of adopted sons and daughters. I have great relationships with so many of those people, who are either in their 40s or pushing it, from all of my educational stops.
The one thing I truly remember about 1998 was hearing a song on the radio while driving to a basketball practice around Christmas time called “You Get What You Give.” At first, I thought Todd Rundgren had a new song out. Finally, upon the conclusion of the song, the on-air personality said the band’s name was New Radicals. Immediately, I went to a department store to purchase the CD. This CD became the last long playing record that I ever got emotional about.
So, while others were praising the hell out of Lauryn Hill, and my boys were bombarding the house with the sounds of Beastie Boys, DMX, Lenny Kravitz and Kid Rock, I was pushing play on New Radicals. I kept hearing all the things that I loved about Seventies music: power pop, blue-eyed soul, punk anger all filtered through a Gen X sense of cynicism.
With that said, let’s see who’s playing for #2 through 50 on my countdown for 1998.
50. Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
49. Air – Moon Safari
48. 98 Degrees – 98 Degrees and Rising
47. System of a Down – System of a Down
46. Massive Attack – Mezzanine
45. Monica – The Boy Is Mine
44. Brandy – Never Say Never
43. Faith Evans – Keep the Faith
42. Marilyn Manson – Mechanical Animals
41. Goo Goo Dolls – Dizzy Up the Girl
40. Elliott Smith – XO
39. Queens of the Stone Age – Queens of the Stone Age
38. Rufus Wainwright – Rufus Wainwright
37. Semisonic – Feeling Strangely Fine
36. Cher – Believe
35. Dru Hill – Enter the Dru
34. Sheryl Crow – The Globe Sessions
33. Rob Zombie – Hellbilly Deluxe
32. Beck – Mutations
31. Tori Amos – From the Choirgirl Hotel
30. Garbage – Version 2.0
29. Whitney Houston – My Love Is Your Love
28. Jay-Z – Hard Knock Life, Vol. 2
27. Smashing Pumpkins – Adore
26. The Offspring – Americana
25. Metallica – Garage Inc.
24. Fatboy Slim – You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby
23. The (Dixie) Chicks – Wide Open Spaces
22. DMX – Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood
21. Everlast – Whitey Ford Sings the Blues
20. Billy Bragg & Wilco – Mermaid Avenue
19. Natalie Merchant – Ophelia
18. DMX – It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot
17. Alanis Morissette – Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie
16. Bob Dylan – The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 – Live 1966: The “Royal Albert Hall” Concert
15. Pearl Jam – Yield
14. R.E.M. – Up
13. Myracle Brah – Life on Planet Eartsnop
12. Kid Rock – Devil Without a Cause
11. Barenaked Ladies – Stunt
10. Korn – Follow the Leader
9. Lenny Kravitz – 5
8. OutKast – Aquemini
7. Pulp – This Is Hardcore
6. Madonna – Ray of Light
5. Elvis Costello with Burt Bacharach – Painted from Memory
4. Beastie Boys – Hello Nasty
3. Hole – Celebrity Skin
2. Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
1. New Radicals – Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too