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Published Jul. 5, 2010

The B.J. Upton Playlist

When I was growing up in a small town outside Boston, my favorite ballplayer was Red Sox slugger Jim Rice. He could mash it a mile, a prodigious swat that earned him the 1978 AL MVP. But that's not the sole reason I rooted for the leftfielder, why I closed my eyes when the count was 0-2 and Jim Ed was destined for a tragic whiff. Rice, you see, was an antihero, his gifts overshadowed by his taciturn get-away glare. He lacked the outward charm of the smilers on the Wheaties box. In a city infamous for complex race relations, the African-American Rice was mercurial, polarizing, unlike his beloved teammate Fred Lynn, a white man. No one would call Rice an underdog - not with those Popeye forearms - but in many ways, he was.

And I loved him for that.

When Tampa Bay Rays centerfielder B.J. Upton got in a dugout brouhaha with Evan Longoria last week, I might have been the only guy in town hoping that Bossman Junior decked Longo in the chops. Yes, the Rays' underachieving outfielder was dogging it, and indeed, Upton has head-shrink issues. His younger brother, Justin, an outfielder for the Arizona Diamondbacks, is the better player, the hotter star, and that must be brutal.

But again: I love B.J. for that.

His reputation off the field is as a good man. His five-tool potential is mighty - a future AL MVP, perhaps. But something is missing in B.J., something is wrong. He's beyond misunderstood; heck, he doesn't even understand. But alas, in a game of superheroes, behold, a human. So go on, root for Longoria, dude's amazing, no argument here. But I'm going to keep wearing my No. 2 Upton jersey to games at Tropicana Field. Call me crazy, but life's much more interesting that way.

1 You Don't Know Me, Ray Charles

2 Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood, the Animals

3 Paying the Cost to Be the Boss, B.B. King

4 Go Faster, Black Crowes

5 99 Problems, Jay-Z

6 Cruisin', Smokey Robinson

7 Another Day to Run,Bill Withers

8 Run Like Hell, Pink Floyd

9 Respect, Aretha Franklin

10 The Promise of a New Day, Paula Abdul

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Miley's mid-teens crisis

With all due respect to select chunks of the male populace, no one is more excited for Miley Cyrus to become a woman than Miley Cyrus. "Free yourself, slam the door, not a prisoner anymore / Liberty, liberty, li-li-liberty," the 17-year-old s-s-sings on the first track of new album Can't Be Tamed, the cover of which shows her (1) thumbing down the front of her leather pants and (2) flashing a dour look that screams not-so-happy hour at Applebee's. The problem on this 12-track effort is not that she wants to be older, but that she wants to be 43. The tired, uninspired '80s synths have few good hooks to cling to, and a cover of Poison's Every Rose Has Its Thorn is somehow cheesier than the original, no small feat there. Despite the hideous Dirty Bird video that came with it, the title track has some genuine dance-floor thrust and youthful energy. But for the most part, the modernity stops there. The ironic truth? Miley, so desperate to be older, was a much hipper artist at age 15.

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Stars and Stripes 4Eva

Happy Fourth, boys and girls! Whether you're going to a BBQ or staying home and watching Jaws ("Larry, the summer is over. You're the mayor of shark city!"), please find time to crank up Stars and Stripes Forever, the bombastic John Philip Sousa march as played by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops. I'm not well-versed in obbligatos, but I do know that the piccolo part is tingly goodness, the brassy blasts are the stuff of action movies and the finale is so moving, so initially teasing, it makes me want to salute Old Glory, hug my daughters and tipple responsibly. Have fun!