Positively Presidential

Kentucky’s 40-34 victory over Missouri was resoundingly memorable—but probably not in the way you’re thinking. Sure, Stephen Johnson was solid as usual, passing for 298 yards and 2 touchdowns. Benny Snell Jr. was also decent, rushing for 117 yards and two scores, including a career-long 71-yard jaunt in the second quarter. Unfortunately, the Wildcat secondary went MIA all evening, allowing the Tigers a whopping 568 total yards on several humongous passing plays. Despite all the drama, the Cats go to 5-1 on the year heading into their bye week, with a colossal matchup against Mississippi State in Starkville looming on the imminent horizon.

As is so often the case, the personal significance of a particular ballgame lies not so much in the final result, but in the experiences surrounding the people attending. For this game, I was fortunate enough to witness some of the action from the presidential suite of Dr. Eli Capilouto. The UK president had invited my ninety-year-old father and his grandson as personal guests—with my brother, sister-in-law, and I drafting behind as tag-a-long visitors. You see, my dad personifies benevolence on a grand scale. His generous donations creating a series of endowed university scholarships have earned him this special invitation.

I’ve rarely been in a stadium suite, much less the presidential luxury suite. I generally don’t get to mingle with rich people and I’m never comfortable hobnobbing with the academic and political elite, but seeing my dad and his grandson in the presence of royalty–enjoying a Kentucky football homecoming win amongst such lavish surroundings–brought a tear or two even to these calloused eyes. Because even though he’s essentially giving away my inheritance through his altruism, I don’t really care. Seeing him honored in such a personal way, evoked a sense of internal pride I never knew existed.

My father, “Pete” Huang, is a first-generation Chinese immigrant embodying the American dream. In 1967, this amazing man moved his family to Lexington, joined the Civil Engineering faculty, and started a life-long love affair with the University of Kentucky that extends to this day. In addition to instilling in me the importance of a solid education, he also introduced me to a passion for sports—specifically UK basketball and football. Although we never had regular access to tickets, we rarely missed any games—faithfully listening to Cawood’s radio broadcasts while sitting at the kitchen table balancing algebraic equations and factoring polynomials.

Not only did all three of the Huang children obtain UK undergraduate degrees, we all received graduate diplomas and professional doctorates from Big Blue U. You might say we’re entirely inbred. As a result, the UK Colleges of Pharmacy, Dentistry, and Medicine churned out three die-hard Wildcat fans that will forever bleed blue. If you added up the number of years that Pete and his children were affiliated with UK as students and faculty, the cumulative total comes out to an amazing 81 years.

Having already poured out his heart and soul in a lifetime of service to the University, Pete wanted to continue giving in a tangible way. Through these Huang Family Endowed Scholarships, he’s hoping that future deserving students will continue to benefit from some of the same educational opportunities that he provided for us. John Wesley, the Christian theologian credited with leading the Methodist movement, once said, “Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” My dad, in his lifetime, has certainly taken those simple and direct words to heart.

Early in the game, as Stephen Johnson connected with Blake Bone for a touchdown that put the Cats up 7-0, I glanced surreptitiously over at my dad. He seemed as though he was lost in his thoughts, perhaps reliving the life events that brought him to the incongruity of this particular moment. I found myself doing the same—wondering how first-generation father-and-son immigrants, born of such modest means a world away, could somehow end up in the Presidential Suite together, cheering so passionately for the Blue and White.

In this day and age, when arguments abound of whether student athletes should be paid, it’s validating to see that many still deem the establishment of university scholarships as worthy endeavors. Two of the biggest influences in my lifetime have been my parents and the University of Kentucky. When the two team up in such a magnanimous way, the results become positively presidential.

John Huang is a retired orthodontist and a columnist for Nolan Group Media. If you enjoy his writing, you can read more at Huangswhinings.com or follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.

Check out his most recent UK Sports coverage at http://www.themanchesterenterprise.com/category/uk-live-breathe-blue/

Check out his most recent Cincinnati Bengals coverage at http://www.bluegrasssportsnation.com/category/writers/john-huang/

 

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Why I Like Mark Stoops

Football is a rigorous and carnal sport, so I like my head football coaches fiery and passionate. When the chips are down, I want a leader who’s pacing the sideline, red-faced and emotional, motivating players, yelling at assistants, and arguing with refs. Show me someone calm and collected, reticent and reserved, tight lipped and poker faced, and I’ll show you a coach who looks as if he doesn’t give a damn. Give me Woody Hayes over Jim Tressel any day of the week. I’ll take an animated Pete Carroll over a stoic Bill Belichick just for the difference in energy level alone. Marvin Lewis in this day and age? No thanks! Enthusiasm, spirit, and zeal are what counts in my book.

For this reason, I like Mark Stoops. The fifth-year UK head football coach has always worn his emotions on his sleeve while pacing the sidelines of both Commonwealth Stadium and Kroger Field. He’s been known to give the officials an earful when he thinks his team’s been shafted. I’ve seen him toss a few headphones as the clock winds down and his team fails to execute. In the closing seconds of the Georgia loss last year, I thought seriously that he’d blow a gasket. When he stormed onto the field, shouting at the opposing sidelines during the bowl game against Georgia Tech, I fully expected fisticuffs to follow.

The fraternity of recent Wildcat football coaches hasn’t really been rife with outwardly demonstrative characters. Joker Phillips often appeared comatose on the sidelines and unfortunately his team usually reflected his demeanor. I don’t remember Guy Morriss being much more animated either. Bill Curry was just one notch above the walking dead while Hal Mumme was more flakey than exuberant. Rich Brooks and Jerry Claiborne would occasionally let loose, but in a grandfatherly kind of way. Fran Curci reminded me of a mafia don—too cool to mess with on the field of play.

One of the biggest knocks against the current UK head coach is his lack of sideline management during urgent situations. Immediately after the heart-wrenching defeat against Florida last week, Stoops took a boatload of criticism for the eye-popping mistakes that cost his team the game. Even for someone like me, who has never coached a game outside of my Fantasy football league, those boo-boos were inexcusable. Give the guy credit, though, he owned up to them immediately. “There’s things that we all can do better, starting with myself,” Stoops said during his weekly press conference Monday. “That (loss) hurt (and) that we have to take responsibility for, that we have to do better (and) it starts with me.”

The interesting thing is that as temperamental as Stoops appears on the sidelines, he’s completely different when he’s away from the football field. I’ve seen him at charity events and social functions and he’s as relaxed as my newly permed hair. You won’t see him stomping around the neighborhood kicking yard signs and scaring toddlers. When he’s around friends and family, he appears to be just another normal dude. Heck, I’ve even seen him shooting hoops with his sons and cuddling his puppy.

So when it came time for me to ask him directly about how his emotions play into his coaching style, here’s what he said. “It’s an emotional game,” he acknowledged. “That’s for sure. But there’s also a lot of poise that it takes to execute in this game. Our players are the same way. I want them to have great emotion, but they have to play with discipline. As a coach there’s always that fine line that you have to go with your gut instincts on what those players need at that moment. That’s the way I’ve always been and probably how I’ll always be. But, certainly, you have to have the poise and the execution. That’s what’s most important.”

Take some poise, execution, and discipline, and mix in a heaping helping of passion, emotion, and fire—and you’ve got the ingredients for a winning football coach. Now toss in a generous serving of humility and a big dose of accountability just for good measure. That’s Mark Stoops, and that’s why I like him.

John Huang is a columnist for Nolan Group Media. If you enjoy his writing, you can read more at www.huangswhinings.com or follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.

Check out his most recent UK Sports coverage at http://www.themanchesterenterprise.com/category/uk-live-breathe-blue/

Check out his most recent Cincinnati Bengals coverage at http://www.bluegrasssportsnation.com/category/writers/john-huang/

Cock Shuttle Blues

The word fan is short for fanatic. With that being said, most fans know there are still both acceptable and unacceptable methods of expressing your fanaticism for your particular team. It’s OK to prioritize never missing a UK basketball game for nineteen straight years ala the late “super fan” Bob Wiggins. It’s also fully justifiable to get a championship 40-0 tattoo even before your team wins the championship as did Rock Wright in 2015. What isn’t acceptable, however, are egregious acts such as an Alabama fan poisoning the oak trees on Toomer’s Corner in retaliation for perceived affronts by rival Auburn fans. Kentucky fans allegedly making death threats against referee John Higgins for disputed calls he made in the North Carolina game also cross the proverbial line of decency.

I experienced my own mini version of “fandom run amok” after UK’s big victory over USC this past weekend. As a member of the media, I opted to take advantage of a post-game stadium-to-parking lot media shuttle the University of South Carolina was providing for all working members.

I knew something was a bit amiss when the golf cart shuttle driver drove right past me with a distinctly unwelcome scowl on his face. Regretfully, I never noted his name, so from here on I’ll just refer to him as Mr. Scowly-face. I caught up with Mr. Scowly-face as he stopped to pick up a couple of other media types. I asked him if he were going to the media lot, to which he abruptly replied, “Yes, but not for you.” After a brief moment of confusion, I realized he was staring directly at the UK logo plastered on my blue UK shirt. This guy was a die-hard Gamecock fan and he was mad as heck that we had just crushed his team.

I’m not a mind reader so I can’t say with absolute certainty I knew exactly what he was thinking. Maybe he was just tired, or perhaps he was having a terrible day, or maybe he just had a very warped sense of humor, but I doubt it. Mr. Scowly-face seemed dead serious about NOT giving me a lift. I promise you I didn’t do anything to provoke him. My immediate post-game smugness had long since dissipated. I was no longer fist pumping or chest thumping. There were no “Go Big Blue” or “How ‘bout them Cats” chants coming from my mouth. I was just one exhausted dude looking for the quickest way home. My only indiscretion was foregoing my customary suit and tie and wearing my casual team colors into hostile enemy territory.

As I headed on foot toward the parking lot, Mr. Scowly-face apparently changes his mind, tells me to hop on, and blasts out of the shuttle stop like Apollo 13 on liftoff. I remember immediately feeling an impending sense of doom as to how fast we were traveling—almost as if Mr. Scowly-face was on some sort of Kamikaze mission to dispose of an enemy journalist. Right before impact, I hear a “WATCH OUT” from one of my fellow riders at which time we crash head-on into another unsuspecting golf cart.

I’m immediately jolted out of my Twitter-induced reverie by the suddenness of the impact. My left knee took a bit of a hit, but otherwise all fingers and toes are accounted for. Fortunately, no one else appears seriously hurt either as Mr. Scowly-face inspects his golf cart for any potential damage. Forgive me for being a bit melodramatic, as one of my best friend’s mom was killed when her golf cart flipped over– but I’m praising God that we managed to somehow stay upright. Miraculously, his cart remains functional and Mr. Scowly-face proceeds on to our intended destination. “Well now you’ll have something exciting to write about,” are his parting words to me. Be careful what you ask for.

King Solomon once said, “Better a patient person than a warrior, a person who controls his temper than one who takes a city.” Solomon could have been talking to Mr. Scowly-face or to all sports fans in general. When the Cats lose, I’m often ready to blow a gasket. Ironically, that’s also why sports are so great. We can be passionate. We can be intense and emotional. We can get mad and vent because at the end of the day, it’s all just fun and games for us fans. It’s only when we take a crushing defeat on the field or court and confuse it with the important events in our real lives, that we end up doing stupid and hurtful things that violate the rules of common sense and decency.

I’m not mad at Mr. Scowly-face. In fact, I feel kind of sorry for him. But bad choices come with consequences. The reality is that if one of those carts did flip over, this commentary would have taken on a completely different tone. I’ve been told that the University of South Carolina is investigating this incident. Ray Tanner, the director of athletics has been informed and the department promises that it will be appropriately addressed. In the meantime, for my next shuttle ride in enemy territory, I’m going back to my neutral-colored suit and tie.

If you enjoy my writing, please visit me again at Huangswhinings.com or follow me on Twitter @KYHuangs.

Check out my most recent UK Sports coverage at http://www.themanchesterenterprise.com/category/uk-live-breathe-blue/

Check out my most recent Cincinnati Bengals coverage at http://www.bluegrasssportsnation.com/category/writers/john-huang/

Beach Bowl Prediction

Hattiesburg, Mississippi, lies a scant 77 miles from the serene blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Prior to covering Kentucky’s road opener, my plans were to spend a few sun-splashed days on the Biloxi beaches preparing my perilous prognostication for the upcoming Wildcat season. Perhaps some glorious sunrises, an abundance of succulent seafood, and a few well-timed luscious libations could conjure up an idyllic vision of how this UK football season will eventually materialize.

Remember, this isn’t your father’s long-suffering Kentucky football team—where dreams of a successful campaign lie in the smoldering ashes of a season opening upset loss to an inferior opponent. Sure, it’s on the road and it’ll be a thousand degrees on the field, but the Wildcats will somehow squeak out a win over Southern Miss in another Shannon Dawson revenge classic.

Kentucky returns home the following week to celebrate the baptism of Kroger Field with an easy victory over EKU. Too many X’s and O’s combined with too many Jimmys and Joes will send the Colonels back to Richmond in an awkward looking blowout.

Cosmic Karma strikes the Cats as South Carolina breaks a three-game losing streak and upsets Kentucky in a blackout thriller in Columbia. The “Jake Bentley for Heisman” campaign begins here as the Gamecock’s star quarterback goes ballistic against a beleaguered Kentucky defense.

One week later, it’s Cosmic Karma again, but this time in a good way as Kentucky finally breaks the three-decade old losing streak against the Florida Gators. After all, no one beats my alma mater 31 years in a row! It’s a signature win for Coach Mark Stoops, setting the stage for a colossal six-game winning streak as the Cats roll over the likes of Eastern Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt in the upcoming weeks. An emphatic win over the Vols will send Butch Jones’ hot seat past the proverbial boiling point as the Wildcats sizzle their way up the top 25.

A date against the powerful Georgia Bulldogs between the hedges in Sanford Stadium will cool things off a bit. Georgia prevails, knocking Kentucky out of first place in the SEC eastern division and silencing any talk by the Wildcat faithful for a return trip to Atlanta for the SEC championship game.

In a bit of a hangover from the disappointing Georgia setback, Kentucky falls the following week to their bitter in-state rivals. Louisville takes the Governor’s Cup as the Wildcats finish their regular season with two crushing defeats.

If my calculations are correct, that still means nine wins and three losses—good enough for a New Year’s Day Bowl game somewhere close to the beach. As I’m sitting here with the sun on my face and my toes in the sand, I’m definitely feeling it. Surf’s up. You heard it here first!

John Huang is a columnist for Nolan Group Media. He can be reached at www.Huangswhinings.com or follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.

Check out his most recent UK Sports coverage at http://www.themanchesterenterprise.com/category/uk-live-breathe-blue/

Check out his most recent Cincinnati Bengals coverage at http://www.bluegrasssportsnation.com/category/writers/john-huang/

 

 

Kroger University

Those of you old enough to remember the “Let’s Go Krogering” jingle know that the Cincinnati based grocery chain giant has never shied away from hokey marketing promotions. None of us should have been surprised, then, when we heard of Kroger’s latest takeover of the hallowed grounds of our beloved football venue. Out with Commonwealth Stadium and in with Kroger Field. For a mere $1.85 million per year, Kroger bought not only the naming rights, but a direct path to the mind, hearts, and wallets of the Big Blue Wildcat faithful.

As a former business owner and passionate Kentucky fan, I know a thing or two about marketing gimmicks aimed at an adoring sports-loving public. Not that they asked me, but if I were the Kroger University president, here’s what I would propose for my newly minted Kroger Field.

To begin with, I would automate, automate, and automate. Who needs real-live humans at checkout counters when you can slip in a few more robotic self-checkout scanners. I’m thinking huge, here. Let’s get rid of all the blue coated ushers and replace them with holograms of former UK football stars. Imagine Babe Parilli, Tim Couch, or Randall Cobb scanning your tickets, directing you to your seats, or escorting you to the bathrooms for a much-needed potty break.

Speaking of ticket scanning, I would eliminate that aspect altogether by uploading everything onto your Kroger Plus card. For all you forward thinkers, how about an implanted micro-chip? Forgot your ticket? No worries–Just wave your wrist as you walk by the Kroger Cat altar and you’re good to go. Don’t worry either about Big Brother tracking your every move. As a loyal Kroger plus card member, we already know everything about your secret chocolate addiction, toilet paper preference, and underwear size.

We’ll market directly to the average fan by giving them an out-of-this-world gameday experience. No more locally sourced Kentucky Proud concession items, no more overpriced stadium hot dogs, and no more Papa in the house. From now on, all Kroger brand items 10 for $10. Bring on the low-grade sushi and twice fried chicken. Everyone and their brother loves cheap eats while tailgating! All the while, we’ll slam your cellphones with email spam, bogus digital downloads, and self-serving company ads.

Of course, we won’t forget the Kroger bobbleheads, Kroger fireworks, and the Kroger Kiss Cam. Did you know that Kroger now also proudly sells garments from sweatshops located throughout the world? Be sure to pick up a knockoff jersey just outside of Gate 12. Or better yet, head on over to Gate 14 for a two-for-one flu shot. Whether it’s a Redbox movie kiosk after the game, flowers for the Mrs. from our garden center, a Starbucks Espresso Macchiato, or that extra special Best Buy gift card, Kroger Field will have it all for you. Best of all we’ll even provide workable Wi-Fi, so just “click list” your item and it’ll be ready for pickup before Mitch Barnhart wipes off the wet bleachers.

Let’s not stop at the football fanbase. Now that we’ve got our foot in the door, we’ll just help ourselves to all of the university’s existing client base. Hey UK students, forget the local vendors. Come on over to Kroger for all your partying needs. If you’re a UK patient, switch on over to our pharmacy services. Kroger Pharmacy beats out UK Healthcare any day of the week. The university won’t mind. After all, Mitch and Eli personally signed off on this one. Whether Kroger Field or Kroger University, who really cares? A winning football team by any other name would smell just as sleek. Bring on the Kroger scholarships. I can’t wait for the Kroger All American team to be released. The Kroger Bowl is long overdue. The excitement all starts this season at Kroger Field. See you there for the takeover!

John Huang is not really the president of Kroger, although he is a loyal Plus Card holder. You can enjoy his writing at www.huangswhinings.com or follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.

Coming Home

Like Lebron returning to Cleveland, I’m coming home. Home in this case is Columbia, South Carolina, my first home away from home. I’ve got some pretty fond memories of my years spent in the Palmetto state three distant decades ago—a bachelor pad overlooking a lake, a red Chevy Camaro, a stereo tape deck, and fledgling cable TV—everything a twenty-something dude earning a real paycheck could want or need living out on his own for the very first time. I eventually met my wife and got married in Columbia, in the shadows of Gamecock football and the hundred-degree heat of the basic training brigades at Ft. Jackson. But unlike Lebron, I’m not returning to the adoring cheers and accolades of my hometown fans. I’m returning in a far less celebratory and festive role. I’m coming home to bury my mother-in-law.

Thongkrue “Jenny” Contreras died peacefully on the afternoon of July 4. During her time here on earth, she was as kind and as loving a person as anyone could have hoped for (Sorry, they’ll be no mother-in-law jokes here). Born in Bangkok, Thailand, she overcame tremendous odds, somehow made it to the United States, and carved out a living for her family with minimal financial resources or English skills. She loved her son, daughter, and granddaughter with unfailing passion. I remember her being as generous as she could be, always welcoming people into her home and volunteering her fabulous Thai meals to whatever worthwhile charity that beckoned. It seemed she forever had a special place in her heart for the downtrodden and sick. Even in death, she selflessly continued to give by donating her body to scientific research.

Standing by her bedside, listening to the rhythmic hiss of the life support ventilator, I felt many of the usual emotions experienced when watching a parent die—sadness and sorrow, gratitude and gratefulness, remorse and regret—wishing that I could have spent more time in her presence, getting to know her better, and telling her I loved her like a dutiful son-in-law. As I held her hand and kissed her forehead for the final time, I also felt an unexpected surge of confusion and uncertainty, bubbling over into a sentiment of exasperation bordering on outrage. My mind races and head spins. I’m upset and embarrassed as I find myself shaking my fist at a suddenly distant and uncaring God.

For Jenny was a devout practicing Buddhist—through death, supposedly confined to an endless dark cycle of hopeless reincarnation. As immediate family members gather around to stare at her lifeless body, I silently pray for the Holy Spirit’s mighty presence to allow me to minister to her the Blood of Christ and His Eternal Kingdom before her last breath passes. As she lays there unresponsively, I’m torn inwardly, secretly wondering how such a loving and benevolent God could possibly allow her soul to so unfairly perish. For the reality is that Jenny was born into a culture where being Thai is synonymous with being Buddhist. Let’s face it—had we been born in Thailand, all of us would most likely also be burning incense and seeking enlightenment from Lord Buddha.

According to the tenets of the Christian faith, the only way to eternal life is through Jesus Christ. As I sit in Sunday School class with other believers, it’s quite easy for me to accept this reality as truth. We banter freely about predestination, free will, salvation, and damnation on an intellectual plane. We’re grateful for the saving grace of our privileged lives and are quick to acknowledge our role in spreading this privilege to others. We go on mission trips, sharing our faith and resources with those who are hungry and thirsty. Everything seems crystal clear as we nod our heads in agreement and praise God for his goodness, grace, and mercy. We feel good about ourselves. It’s only when we are forced to reconcile the tenets of our faith with the reality of the eternal lives of our unsaved friends and family members that those irritating seeds of doubt and frustration begin to creep in.

LORD, WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON HERE? Jenny identified far more with her faith than many of the Christians here in America. She led a far more virtuous earthly existence than most professed Christ followers I know. She prayed and attended temple worship far more frequently than I’ve ever spent in church pews. She definitely displayed more generosity than I could ever muster in ten lifetimes. And yet, she (and 33 million other Buddhist) are doctrinally damned to eternal hell. WHERE’S THE JUSTICE IN THAT?

I know in my head that Christians are saved by faith and not by pious works. I know in my heart that I’ve probably sinned more than Rick Pitino on a Vegas bender. I don’t really want JUSTICE. What I really want is MERCY! Honestly, I can’t profess to know who God chooses to save and who he allows to perish beyond the veil of death. I can only hope and pray that his mercy and grace extends to other “non-believers” in the same compassionate and loving manner that none of us “believers” deserve.

The usual words of comfort just don’t quite cut it in my bereavement. I want so badly to believe that Jenny’s no longer suffering, that she’s in a better place, and in the glorious presence of saints. Rather than basking in the streets of gold, however, it terrifies me that she just might be undergoing torture in a burning lake of fire. For many of you, a mother-in-law in hell is the ultimate answer to prayer. Not for me. I’d love nothing more than to be eternally reunited with mine in heaven. Jenny Contreras, one of these days, I’m coming home for good. I hope you’re there to greet me.

If you enjoy my writing, please continue to visit me at http://www.huangswhinings.com and follow me on Twitter @KYHuangs

Still Awesome After All These Years

I mentioned in a previous post that there are currently only two musical acts I would still pay good money to see. John Mellencamp was the first and I proactively checked him off the list last October.

Just the other night, I finally got to attend my first Paul Simon concert and thus, cashed in my musical bucket list exacta ticket. Unless Michael Jackson miraculously comes back from the dead, I’m now perfectly content from here on in to get my musical fix solely through ipod downloads and YouTube videos. I’m two and done. I’m too old to fight unruly crowds and too picky to settle for bad venues. There will be no more live concerts for me.

I still haven’t fully recovered from my last PNC Pavilion experience where I was forced to endure ninety minutes of Backstreet Boys hell. Listening to boy bands are demeaning enough but just getting in and out of the parking lot* at Riverbend in Cincinnati is usually an ordeal in itself. Doing it while short on time is downright asking for trouble.

That was my predicament as I sped down I-71 from the River City after attending the Kentucky versus Louisville baseball game earlier that day. Stinking to high heaven while lathered in stale sunscreen and sweating profusely from covering a season-ending defeat, I slid into my reserved floor-level seat just seconds before Simon popped onto the stage. Despite being sandwiched between two people the size of sumo wrestlers, I was ready to kick back, relax, and groove to five decades of music from one half of a musical duo that never should have split up.

Sure, Garfunkel was missing tonight, but Paul Simon can still hold his own as a solo songwriter, artist, and on-stage performer any day of the week. The guy is 75 years old, has a bit of a paunch, and looks like your grandfather with a bad back-to-front combover, but he can still rock the house. Wearing a jacket in 83-degree weather and backed by his talented band, he opened with the beautifully rhythmical Boy in the Bubble from the award-winning Graceland album, and finished up with a solo acoustic version of the hauntingly iconic The Sounds of Silence that could put your dog down. In between, he dazzled the audience with an array of familiar tunes such as Homeward Bound, 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, Obvious Child, and Graceland. At one point in the evening, the crowd became so energized with Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard that he even volunteered to play it twice. When he broke out with back-to-back strains of Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes and You Can Call Me Al during the latter part of his set, I thought the Skyline Chili Vision video boards bordering the stage would literally explode with excitement.

Even during the obligatory newer and lesser known songs, the audience responded with much more than the usual polite and tepid applause. Likewise, Paul Frederic Simon seemed genuinely thankful and appreciative of all the cheers, salutes, and accolades thrown his way. During one of his numerous standing ovations, he looked directly my way and nodded, as if personally acknowledging the one hundred and sixty-three bucks I had surrendered to Ticketmaster for my seat in the pit. As I looked to my left and right, I noticed that many of the fans in attendance were a bit younger than I had envisioned (younger meaning younger than me), but good music is timeless and Paul Simon’s music continues to mesmerize multiple generations. After nearly two and a half hours and two and a half encores, Simon finally sauntered off the Cincy stage for a well-deserved slice of LaRosa’s, a mug of Hudepohl, and a scoop of Graeter’s. Whether composing the soundtrack to The Graduate, or performing with Garfunkel in Central Park, or marrying Carrie Fisher, the guy’s still awesome after all these years.

*It took me a good 50 minutes to clear the parking lot even though I was parked near the Belterra Casino.

If you enjoy my writing, please continue to visit me at http://www.huangswhinings.com and follow me on Twitter @KYHuangs