Gaslight Anthem comes to rescue

I spent something like 10 hours crafting what I thought was a timely, relevant column discussing the NBA, black culture and hip-hop music. I was excited about my piece for two main reasons, both of which occurred to me at a poker game I hosted. First, of the nine card players, three could name more than four of the 16 teams participating in the NBA playoffs. I find this disconnect between some of my white friends and the NBA interesting and thought I could address it well.

Second, of the same nine players -- all of whom I consider friends -- the same number (three) told me they knew where to find my column on ESPN.com. It was my hope that a piece relating music and the NBA could help me find some exposure nearer the front of ESPN.com, thus relieving me of my slot at No. 16,000,089 for page views for the site.

Unfortunately, neither issue is going to be addressed this week. My original column has been scuttled, which means you won't learn anything about race relations in the next 20 minutes and I will continue to have the most-hidden byline on ESPN.com.

The good news is you'll go to sleep tonight knowing more about a wonderful band called The Gaslight Anthem.

Thanks to readers Peter C, Matt M-S and Michael J for the Gaslight recommendation. I finally secured the band's sophomore album, "The '59 Sound," a week ago; I think I've listened to it twice a day since. The sound is that of Bruce Springsteen's fist-pumping energy, delivered by dudes who sound like a combination of The Killers, Goo Goo Dolls and Old 97's. It's not Southern rock, exactly, but it has that feel. It makes me think of Ohio coalfields, so I'm naming a new genre for it: coal miner rock.

On "The '59 Sound," each song is better than the last, which in this case is not an attempt at hyperbole -- it actually feels like they back-weighted the album with the better songs.

The boys of the Anthem sound like grizzled veterans of life, which frightens because all indications are that they are not grizzled veterans of life. They make music like 40-year-olds, but they look like they're just out of college.

This presents a problem, one that has been lurking in the back of my mind ever since I turned 30 a little more than a year ago. It became obvious to me then that each passing day would cause me to have less in common with the up-and-coming musicians I tend to like. Wooderson from "Dazed and Confused" would have had no problem with that situation, but I did. What, I thought, did teenaged and college-aged punks have to tell me? What could they know about life that I didn't?

I was borrowing things to worry about. Neil Young released "Harvest" when he was 27. And The Gaslight Anthem released "The '59 Sound" when its youngest member was 23. I forget there is no age requirement for heartache, depth of thought or poetic notions.

In a coincidence that can only be described as fortuitous, The Gaslight Anthem will be in Kansas City, Mo., on Saturday, which gives me a few days to procure its debut album and memorize it as well as I have "The '59 Sound," before preparing to lead the crowd in a rendition of "Casanova, Baby!" I have no doubt that by the end of that song, I'll be over the disappointment caused by the rejection of my controversial attempt at Web site-bridging.

Thanks in advance, Gaslight Anthem.

Paul Shirley has played for 13 pro basketball teams, including three NBA teams: the Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns. He can be found at myspace.com/paulshirley and by e-mailing him here. His book "Can I Keep My Jersey?" -- which is available in paperback -- can be found here. With his brother, he co-hosts an online radio show, "Off Topic with Matt and Paul Shirley."