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The Bachelor > College Title Game?

Last night, I missed the second half of what’s being considered one of the greatest national championship games of all time. Of course, there’s always a recency-bias to these things. Every Kanye album is the best Kanye album of all time (it’s actually him that says this the loudest); Every President, depending on your side of the aisle, is the greatest President of All Time. See? It’s true.

But, at least according to Twitter and the 73 text messages that I awoke to, the game was a classic. I missed it. And I’m (mostly) fine with that.

To call football my favorite sport would be difficult. I have a lot of difficulty swallowing some of the violence, the treatment of former players, the domestic violence issues, and the complete ignoring of head injuries and brain trauma. In other words, yes, I watch, but I kind of hate myself for doing so.

And, in reality, I tend to only watch one team per week. I don’t schedule my Sunday or Monday nights around the games; I barely even watch those games if my team isn’t playing. I think I saw one Thursday night game this year, early in the season, when my favorite team played. Contrast this with a sport like college basketball, where I will watch it all.

That said, it was Wild Card Weekend. This past weekend and this upcoming weekend are two of my favorite sports weekends. I even set these weekends aside in the family’s iCalendar. I’ll dedicate the weekend to watch all four games, making some bets, and generally enjoying life. Last weekend, during the Wild Card games, I watched all four, winning over the TV from my family. This wasn’t viewed as a problem and I will do the same this weekend.

Now, it hit me midway through Monday that the college football national title game was on that night, last night. Now, Monday night is my wife’s favorite show The Bachelor. We have one TV. I couldn’t justify taking the TV again. Not after the TV weekend I just had; Not after the TV weekend I’ll have come Saturday.

So we watched The Bachelor. Corrine is as entertaining as any championship game anyway. I streamed the game on my devices, but around 10 p.m., after The Bachelor was over and the game was at the half, I went to bed (I still can’t figure out how any other adult with kids goes to bed later than this). I silenced my phone and slept great.

Did I miss the game? Yes, of course. It was the best title game ever. Until next year I suppose.

Not that anyone cares

In what would probably be my sophomore year of high school, my friend Shaun wrote an article for the school newspaper about the absence of the Bud Bowl from the commercial lineup during that year’s Super Bowl. In the way that high schoolers eagerly pronounce their casual, yet knowledgable relationship with alcohol, I found this article hilarious. How cool was I that I recognized those cans on the television from that one party where there was beer that one time!

He wrote in an over-the-top, Microsoft Word thesaurus, “I was miffed and bamboozled” style, quoting mutual friends in quotes that were almost definitely fabricated or simply made up. Our school newspaper was not known for any sort of editorial genius: It came out twice a year at best, each issue severely dated and centered around the silly things we care about in high school: a singular sports team, prom tickets, Mrs. Smith’s can drive to help “needy families” at the holidays.

In short, I was on board.

I always enjoyed writing papers for class. I got to write funny articles, quote my friends, and have my name in print? I signed up immediately.

And I enjoyed these things. I found a way to write articles about my friends in an “athlete of the month” forum. I invented quotes. I used inside jokes that only my friends and I would understand. It was terrible journalism, but the narcissist that lies within me loved seeing my byline, loved hearing the compliment that someone liked my article. At this time, my dream was to host Monday Night Football. But I didn’t love being in front of the camera. Journalism was the answer.

Around this time, my friend made me a press pass on his computer. It was a press pass for a local sports site. I wasn’t part of their website, yet, for whatever reason, this press pass got me into most local games for free. I saved a whole $3 or something to get into a game in which I was openly cheering for one team. When I was a senior in high school, my cousin and I went to visit my grandparents in Fort Myers, Florida. During this trip, we went to the Red Sox Spring Training facility. I came armed with my press pass. Why not be part of the press corp? I literally had no idea what I was doing.

I jumped the rope into the press area and just kind of lingered around. I see the foolishness in this as I got older. I was 17. I must have stood out like a circus clown.

“Who are you with?” I was asked.

I told the nice gentleman with the cell phone firmly attached to his belt buckle who I was with.

He explained to me why I have to leave. He was nice about it. His name was Kevin.

When I was looking into colleges, I knew that journalism was what I wanted to study and it came down to two schools: Wingate University outside of Charlotte and Springfield College in western Massachusetts. Not exactly journalism powerhouses. That said, two good programs. When I went down to visit Wingate, I was disappointed by the focus on journalism and the emphasis on television; Despite the image of pretty southern blondes working on their non-regional dialects in all my classes, I left feeling that this wasn’t the place for me. In contrast, I went to Springfield where the focus was all on journalism. And, what’s more, all on sports. The professor with whom I spoke that day had written a book about one of my favorite teams of all time, the 1995-96 Massachusetts Minutemen. I was in.

During college, I oscillated between working hard and hardly working. Marty Dobrow was witness to all of this. There were times when I really took my journalism seriously; There were times when I mailed in an article in favor of beers in the back of our townhouse with my friends. And my professor Marty likely knew all this, and has told me that in college I seemed to be more interested in calling myself a writer than actually writing. I’m glad that opinion has changed.

I don’t regret all of this, but my network of journalism colleagues from college is remarkably small. The two with whom I keep the most contact are both working in major markets with high profile teams, but neither is writing.

I covered some cool shit when I was in school. I covered the Basketball Hall of Fame Induction. In 2003, I went to Fenway Park to cover a Red Sox game. As I waited in the empty ballpark for my companion to arrive and bring me to the press area, I was approached by a man with a cell phone firmly at his hip.

“Who are you,” he asked.

I brandished my press pass, legit this time. He was satisfied this time with my answer. His name was Kevin.

I told him the story of Fort Myers from years ago.

“That’s not the story I’d tell me at this point in your career,” he advised.

I laughed because I didn’t know whether he was joking.

I had a great internship alongside some really fine writers. Mike Moran and Matt Vautour showed me the ropes of covering local games well. There was a passion for the local high school teams that warranted close coverage. I enjoyed going to those games and I enjoyed going back to the sports desk to write them.  The internship was paid, too, which was a bonus. After leaving work on Friday nights around midnight, I could also be back in time to meet the guys for a few beers or be a last minute addition to wherever the party was. That was important to me then.

Still, when tasked with a big article — a profile on the college president comes to mind; covering an Elite Eight women’s basketball team, too — journalism was something that I took seriously. That’s a piece I remember re-working a couple of times at least. It’s also a piece I remember because it was the one piece that really helped me discover an interview technique. Prior to that, I’d come in armed with questions and simply run down the list. Armed with a tape recorder, I remember coming with notes, but hoping to simply just engage our President in conversation and transcribe afterward. That strategy changed the way I interview to this day.

I left college with an inflated sense of accomplishment, at least journalistically. We all have things about our past that we’d change and it’s likely I’d involve myself a little more in that arena given the shot to do it all over again. Then again, being in college was a lot of fun. I can’t promise I wouldn’t opt for that game of beer pong. I like to believe these mistakes or miscues provide not a hiccup but simply a different path.

Post-college, I moved out to San Diego and immediately found work as a journalist at a weekly paper where I was tabbed as their sports editor. This was a difficult position to be in as a 22-year old. I had no management skills. I had little idea how to operate a sports department but I had an intern. I spent a good amount of time driving to high schools all around San Diego County. I went to a number of football games and wrote a few articles a week.

It didn’t work out. Through no fault of my own, I found out. They simply had no money to pay me. It was 2005. Print journalism was bleeding out in some global ICU.

From there, I did some freelance stories for literally $50 a pop for another local paper. Community events, youth sports announcements, etc. I literally brought a date to a fundraiser I was covering and we got drunk and ate sushi. All paid for by a local paper. Ah, to be stupid and 22 again.

When San Diego had run it’s course, I interviewed back in Massachusetts at a local paper. I thought the interview went great and drove back east. The job went to an internal hire. I found a job as a substitute teacher while I continued to write for a monthly sports paper, mostly profiles and features. Then the school wanted to hire me full time, so I left the journalism gig.

Over the course of the teaching career, I had a few journalism bugs bite. I wrote some op-eds for the same local paper that didn’t hire me; I wrote a few things about the craft beer scene for an alt-weekly out of Boston. The journalism bug never really left. It persisted. When teaching really came to a close, I chose to get back into the field that I’d chosen so long ago.

And this was dumb, I realize in retrospect and I’ve been wildly lucky to be where I am now which is still, essentially, nowhere. I had this idea that I’d reach out to journalism contacts that I still had and they’d be thrilled to help me. They’d be overwhelmed with my Michael Jordan-esque return to the game and throw jobs my way.

The best reality check I got was from a friend named Brian Shactman who’d been an adjunct at Springfield when I was there. We got on the phone and he said, “Okay, pitch me five ideas.” I didn’t have one idea when I called him, never mind five. In a very direct way, he told me I need to be better prepared. It was the best phone call I had.

So there I was. Few contacts. No ideas. Sitting in front of a blank computer screen.

It started with a personal essay reflection on the time I covered the Atlanta Braves at Spring Training, another great opportunity I got as an undergraduate. I reflected on baseball and youth; I wrote about despair of winter and the optimism baseball brings. I showed a friend named Alan Siegel.

He referred me to The Classical, a place for sportswriting that’s kind of outside the box. It was unpaid, but the editor, Dave Roth, was a great guy and would treat me kindly. The piece was accepted. And, as I drove to New York City early one morning, I got buzzed with text messages from friends saying the piece was great. It made me hopeful, seeing my name in a byline again.

I did more things with The Classical, all unpaid, all about sports. Alongside this, I reached out to an editor at a local magazine about doing some beer writing. They accepted this idea. If they were going to do some features on wine (they were making an attempt at high brow journalism), why not the growing craft beer industry? This moved into some local news writing.

One of the stories I did for The Classical prompted an e-mail from an Eric Nusbaum, who asked to include the story in a collection of baseball writing. Of course, I wrote. In his e-mail, his signature included that he was an editor at Vice Sports, to whom I had just written a pitch to their generic “sports@vice” or whatever e-mail. I mentioned this, and forward the pitch his way. Again, they accepted. And paid! Not much, but anything was great.

From there, it kept moving forward. I’ve written for Smithsonian, Vice Sports, The Atlantic, Sports Illustrated’s The Cauldron as well as many others. Freelance writing is a constant hustle. The waters keep rolling. You have to write every day. You have to pitch every day. This is hard. In the past three years, we’ve had two children. Children need attention. They need food. They need time. They’re expensive. It’s hard to balance these things with writing. There has been stress and struggle. There have been tears and anxiety. There have been impulsive e-mails to people like Marty or Alan or my wife about quitting. And maybe that still might happen. A steady paycheck sounds great. I can’t imagine how rich we’d feel.

When I think about my family during these few years, I can’t help but recognize and appreciate the sacrifices we’ve made for this … whatever it is. Pipe dream? Fantasy? Impossible, silly thing? Or maybe it’s what makes our lives interesting. For so many people, life happens to them, rather than the other way around. We always talk about making our lives more “fulfilled” and following our passions, but how many actually do it. And how many people have the support of their wives the way that I do to pursue these dreams? I don’t know where I’m going to end up. Hell, I don’t even know if I know where I want to end up. The destination isn’t the fun part, though, right? The journey is.

Get writing, everyone.

Where are the young novelists?

Maybe we don’t need young novelists. Young novelists don’t know anything. Someone in their 20’s might write really well, but there’s an utter lack of experience through which to tell a story. I’m a firm believer that you don’t become a writer writer until you’re 30. You can’t know anything in life until you’ve gone through some serious shit. Let’s face it: Most writers are college educated, which is one of the great paradoxes of our time. Spend a blue whales amount of money to be alone, writing, for a krill’s salary. Then you spend almost as much money on therapy as you did college.

Most writers are educated, meaning they spent the first twenty or so years in some way living off their parents money. They came home from college break to their childhood bedrooms, borrowed $50 if they needed it, came home drunk and slept the day away. But then something happens: Life.

Student loans appear. Rent is due. You lose some friends. You gain new ones. You meet someone. You fall in love. You get your heart broken. You get a job. You have money. You spend it foolishly. All of these things you’ll look back on and realize how insignificant they were.

But that’s not true. As a writer, all of these things that accumulate, the good and the bad, the scary and the safe, they add up. They give us a world-view. They provide us with empathy and strength and courage to write. Sure, you get over these self-proclaimed tragedies.

The girl you loved that broke your heart? Someone new will come along, but the former girlfriend never goes away. She informed you how to grieve, how to recover, how to cope. She taught you how to want and regret and to be lonely. She taught you how to overcome.

The job you lost provided a sense of self-worth and enabled self-reflection. Fuck em. But you’ll get another job and, instead of fucking up in the dozens of ways you fucked up — even if your job and boss sucked — you crush it.

The friends lost and friends gained teach us to let go and embrace change; We watch as some people fade away or get sick or hurt or addicted and we learn empathy and compassion.

This shit doesn’t happen to us when we’re coddled in our childhood bedroom, eating dinner cooked by mom and purchased by someone who asks you for “requests” at the market each Saturday morning. Lessons are learned through adversity and adversity starts for most of us in our 20’s.

We’re facing a Presidential administration that could shape our country for years to come in a way that adversely affects too much people and, incredibly, the health of our planet. Get writing everyone.

Post-Election/Hoosiers/ATCQ

For the last six or so months, I’ve been pretty vocal about my political leanings with friends and through articles I read and share on Twitter. This is not about that. For starters, yes, I did despair a bit on Wednesday, but, if I’m being totally honest, was less about who lost than who won.

That said, here’s what I need the people who are protesting in the streets to do: Get over it. I’m all about protest when it can affect change, but what is standing outside the state house in Boston, Massachusetts going to do? Prove that you dislike President Trump? Maybe get you laid by a Berklee College of Music sophomore? I mean, really.

Shouting, “Not my President” will do nothing to stop what’s going to happen come inauguration day in January. Using a similar hashtag will get your some re-tweet, but it’s not going to change the outcome. Yes, we get it. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. Guess what, dummy. That means nothing. It’s the lowest of moral victories there is. It’s like losing a Game Seven in the World Series and trying to have the commissioner change the outcome because your team had more overall runs in the series.

Protesting the results of an election doesn’t show us anything other than you’re a bunch of millennial, participation trophy cry-babies. There are ways to act. But probably a better recourse would be to (a) pay attention to what’s happening, (b) participate in your local government, (c) contribute to campaigns, (d) identify a list of charities/organizations/groups that you feel would best further your political ideals, and (e) donate/volunteer/apply for jobs.

Protest, sure, but act, too.

Also, SNL cold-opens with “Hallelujah” … ugh, give me a break. Self-indulgent shit like that is exactly why Trump is our President now.

In case you’re wondering, here’s what the election means.

***

Thirty years ago, one of my favorite movies of all time —Hoosiers– came out. I remember we had a video cassette of the movie, taped off a VCR from HBO. So every time I watched the movie, the opening picture was a droid-esque movement through a city, into a town, and into a home where a family was watching HBO.

Then the subtle fade in of the music … the drive across America and into the heart of Indiana.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen that movie. 50? I still watch it once a year, at 34, as I try to do with all of my favorite movies: Stand By Me, Halloween, Dazed & ConfusedSilence of the Lambs, Boyz in the Hood. It combines basketball with a theme I quite like: nostalgia. I can’t believe it came out 30 years ago (almost as close, actually, to the time it depicts than it is to right now).

***

On one last, happier note, I’ve yet to hear the new A Tribe Called Quest album, but I’ve heard it’s fantastic. Read this great article about the ghost looming over the record. 18 years is a too many years to have waited for ATCQ record. But from what I gather over the past few weeks of the press the album has generated is that these are guys who needed to heal their individual wounds, repairs personal friendships, and/or regain a sense of self before creating another classic. What I love about this is that it’s not simply old tracks or lost recordings from sessions way back. They’re new verses, new beats. So happy & can’t wait to listen to the record. I can guarantee that I won’t be let down.

Election Day Returns (take two)

I couldn’t keep the other post up because I thought I’d regret saying bad things about Hillary Clinton. I might not, but, shit. We tried. We tried to make it easy on her in 2008, during the Primaries, and now. We should have read the warning signs. She was never going to be President. People hate her.

I will, however, re-stress a major point.

I am hurt that there are a majority of people who look at the progressions we’ve made (or tried to make) as a country — things like LGBT acceptance, transgender bathrooms, a black president, climate change reform, gun control — and think to themselves, “No. No way. Fuck that. I want my country back. Enough of this political correctness bullshit.”

I get the disillusionment with Washington, the detachment. I get the desire to shake things up, but doing it this way? By voting Donald Trump into office?

White women turned out very well for Trump. This astounds me. He can claim that because he’s rich he can grab women by the pussy. He gets accused by multiple women of sexual assault. And voters don’t care. He insults POW’s, people with disabilities, Mexicans, no one cares. He’s still got their vote. Endorsed by the KKK, it’s fine. I simply don’t get it. I never will.

This was a revolt of the worst kind. This country is becoming too PC, too liberal, too progressive, too multi-cultural. The white people are being discriminated against. It was a revolt against that. Let’s call it what it is. It’s racism, it’s xenophobia, it’s homophobia. It’s ignorance that people will take away their precious fucking guns.

If everything he promised during the campaign is sought-after, I hope he fails miserably. Otherwise, we’re fucked.

Election Day

This morning, Tuesday the 8th of November, is Election Day. I will share nothing of the importance of voting. I won’t implore you to go fulfill your civic duty. I won’t plead and bargain about exercising your right to democracy.

Polls in Massachusetts opened at 7 a.m. When I woke up this morning, as with most Tuesdays, the plan is to get our children up, feed them, and then put clothes on their bodies. My wife leaves to teach then, around 7:40, I leave to bring our daughter to school for the morning.

Today was different.

Shortly before 7 a.m., my wife loaded our daughter up in our car in order to go vote. She wanted our daughter to be a part of history. She wanted to take our two year old to the polls and participate in casting a vote for the candidate of her choice. This made me beam with pride.

For over 200 years, we’ve voted men into the highest office in the world. This might change today. You can disagree with her politics. You can disagree with her tactics or her demeanor or challenge her policies. You can cite missteps in her political decisions. You can vote for her opponent(s). That’s okay.

What’s important about the election today is that there’s a chance for young women all over the country to see what their ceiling has become in our country. They can become President of the United States. That’s important. It’s important to all the women who’ve been left out of the democratic process throughout history here and across the world.

It’s important, also, to men and little boys in this country as well: Their perspectives won’t have to change. They will have a different starting point.

I hope that the past eight years have helped the above as well. For the traditionally ostracized outsiders — the women, the people of color — to see a new reality, to live in a place where their potential is Easter mornings on the South Lawn, that’s amazing to me. And it should be to you, regardless of political stances.

And at the very end of today, I hope we can all root for the same thing. Whoever wins, we hope they succeed. We hope they do the job we elected them to do: Keep our families happy and prosperous; Afford people of all backgrounds the right to marry and vote and go to good schools; Make our country a welcoming place for everyone.

(A day after edit: Please let’s do the above.)

When I voted this morning, I took my son. He’s 7-months old. Even by the end of our next president’s four-year term, he won’t be able to tell you much about that person’s politics. His interests won’t align with theirs. But, hopefully, he’ll be able to see this person on TV from time-to-time or see this person on the walls of school classrooms, and not have to think, “Wow, we elected a woman!” in a surprising tone. It’ll just be what he’s known his entire life.

I was never a headline writer

Let’s first acknowledge my dedication to the lunch time posts because I’m doing some brainstorming for a much more important story right now in Pages. Mark Twain, I think it was, said you gotta eat the ugly frog first, or something along those lines. What he meant was that the day was filled with tasks small and large, unimportant and important, and that you should always complete the most important tasks — the uglier frog — first. Alas, here I am.

I remember being in college (kind of) and being in the offices of the school newspaper and having the advisor say to me, “Try to give your article a headline” and being totally stumped. I’m the type of person who writes “whats up” as the title of an e-mail. I’m terrible at naming articles because I’m always inclined to write something pun-ny and awful. So coming up with titles for these posts is excruciating, even when I know what I want to write about.

I thought about going with the old “Lunch Time Thoughts: (and then the date)” but that’s boring. Here is what’s on my mind this afternoon:

  • My MacBook Pro (purchased in 2011) has been awful w/r/t battery life. In the course of this writing, it went from 19% to 10%. There’s no way I’m finishing this blog post before it runs out. Does anyone know why?
  • My son is ridiculous. I took him today to get his sixth month shots. He’s constantly smiling. He loves everyone and has a great personality. Then you take him to get needles stuck in his legs and he cries. It’s awful. Right? Oh wait. He doesn’t cry? He just quivers for a second and then wants to stand and smile again? I’m 34 and if I get a shot, I’m down for the count. I’m sore and cranky. Not Jack. He’s the man.
  • How much of Carolina’s Super Bowl run was a product of a shitty schedule? I’d say a good percentage of it. They’re awful. Cam Newton seems human. They can’t beat anyone. The argument was that they beat a couple teams in the playoffs, but look at who they beat: Seattle in one of their worst games (and they almost came back to win) and Arizona who seemed to peak the week prior. I never bought into the hype and I’m now sure I was right.
  • Dak Prescott is 5-1 and just beat Green Bay at Lambeau. There’s a bye week and then Romo could be ready to return. However, I feel like this much is true: There’s no QB controversy in Dallas. Prescott has to be their guy.
  • I’m not a baseball guy, but at least one friend and my wife always gives me shit come October when I suddenly care. Playoff baseball is great because the pitching is what drives a championship run. I don’t care about watching a three-game series in July when each team scores eight runs a night. I care about 2-1 games when each team has a combined seven hits. That’s baseball to me. That’s the type of game I want to watch, regardless of sport: a game played at the highest level and the stars step up like Kershaw did last night.
  • That said, I get why they’re putting the ALCS and NLCS on TBS and FS1, respectively. No wait, I don’t. Are that many people bummed about missing The Simpsons or re-runs of Burn Notice for a couple weeks in October? Jesus Christ, you can’t put these games on basic cable? I’m poor. I don’t have more than basic cable. I have to rely on unreliable streaming services. There are so many great, singular performances in playoff baseball that people like me miss out on because there’s a bottom line to be met. It sucks.
  • Ha! Made it. 5% battery life left. Back to the ugly frog.