Thursday, October 19, 2017

Introducing Luigi

Long-running television sitcoms often introduce a new character, such as a baby, to create new storylines. Ross and Rachel had a child together near the end of Friends. Despite already having Kirk Cameron, Tracey Gold, and (looks up name) Jeremy Miller, Alan Thicke (RIP) and Joanna Kerns had another child on Growing Pains late in its run. Leonardo DiCaprio also appeared as a series regular for some reason too even though they could have given more time to Boner (RIP). Anyway, after almost 13 years of writing this blog, I needed some new topics. Ziggy is now a 9 year-old "senior" cat that doesn't do much. The Moose is in first grade, and still several years away from fully creating his own storylines. While Pedro Tulo provided excellent content back in June, there hasn't been much blog-worthy content to share lately. With the school year underway, life was becoming routine. There's good in stability, but it doesn't help Sean's Ramblings since I know that you, the readers, expect fascinating stories. Therefore, it was time to introduce a brand new character, and I'm proud to present Luigi, born last month at 6 pounds, 13 ounces.

Luigi's due date was October 9th though we expected him to arrive a week or two early like his older brothers. I actually joked that he would arrive either during a conference I was attending or during Yom Kippur services. Now the latter would have been interesting. Instead, Luigi shocked everyone by arriving five weeks early. The 6 pound, 13 ounce weight was a bit deceiving as he looked like a full-term baby, but he was still a preemie and went straight to the NICU. His breathing wasn't great upon his debut, but fortunately, he was always able to breathe on his own without assistance. Eating was the bigger issue, so he had an IV for the first 3-4 days of his life. Then, he was jaundice like his brothers since apparently we create jaundice babies. I've found that if you pretend that your baby is in some futuristic space machine that gives him or her superpowers (like, um, fighting high bilirubin levels), it makes the process go better.

After 7 days, Luigi was able to come home. I didn't write much about the hospital experience for The Moose or Pedro Tulo (though I did write some), so I wanted to share some early life moments surrounding Luigi.

- Actually, before we continue, in case you're wondering, Luigi is not my son's actual name. We had a first name all picked out but were struggling coming up with a middle name, knowing that we wanted it to start with L. While brainstorming, Luigi was thrown out as a suggestion. We both loved it, though again not for his actual middle name. Hence, Luigi is now his stage (well, blog) name.

- I should also probably mention that The Moose (age 6) and Pedro Tulo (3) had no idea that we went to the hospital. My wife's water broke at night after they went to sleep (and while I fell asleep watching TV on the couch), we called a neighbor to come over to "watch" the kids, Luigi arrived at 2:48 AM, and I came back home around 6:00 AM to get them up and ready for school.

- Luigi was brought into this world with the help of probably my favorite doctor who also delivered Pedro Tulo. I find that she is straightforward and has a positive bedside manner with a great sense of humor. It also helps that she grew up close to where I grew up and is a fellow Steelers fan. All of these characteristics are equally important for an OB-GYN!

- I'm not a doctor and I don't play one on the internet. However, I have the hand-washing routine for any medical professional involved in surgery completely down pat. This was posted in the NICU, and I followed it religiously.

- For a few days, my son was in the NICU while my wife was in the "Family Centered Care" portion of the hospital. Despite the fact they were on the same floor, I constantly said that I had to go down to the other area.

- All of the nurses at the hospital were fantastic. They were caring and professional and probably don't receive the appreciation they deserve. Therefore, I want to say hello to all of the nurses out there.

- The hospital has a wellness garden with a labyrinth that was quite calming. I guess it helps that this labyrinth was not the one featured in the movie, um, Labyrinth.

- Between the time the baby was born and arrived home, I made a trip to Target to get some supplies. I cannot confirm or deny that I bought 5 bottles of hand sanitizer. Okay, since you continued bothering me with these questions, it's true. It's all true! I did buy all of those bottles. And I would do it again too!

I also bought Lanolin at Target, and in one of the highlights of my life, I heard two women trying to find this and pointed out where it was located. They were in awe of me (or at least they were in my mind).

- These signs seemed to be above every toilet. Are there other things besides wipes people are flushing down the toilet at hospitals?

- Luigi was fairly quiet upon his arrival, and it took him a few days to make some noise. Now, a month later, the boy has some serious lungs. He lets you know when he's hungry and is quite persistent. I'm pretty sure neighbors about 4 (or 40!) units down can hear his screams.

- Since Luigi was a preemie, we tried to limit how close his older brothers got to him. The last thing we wanted was to get Luigi sick from germs brought home from elementary school and preschool. Finally, after I made sure he washed his hands and put on hand sanitizer, I let The Moose hold Luigi as long as he didn't tell his mom. Naturally, as soon as The Moose saw his mom, he immediately told her that he held Luigi and was so proud of this. Thanks for keeping this between us, kid.

- I may have taken a few graham crackers from the hospital.

- The Moose is enthralled by Luigi and wants to be around him and help. It's really sweet. Meanwhile, Pedro Tulo has little interest in his new brother. I'm sure that will change once they both get older.

Thanks to Luigi and his interaction with his brothers, Ziggy, and his parents, there are many more stories to share. Sean's Ramblings should be renewed for at least a few more seasons because of this!

(Please "Like" Sean's Ramblings on Facebook. There's good stuff there too!)

Monday, October 16, 2017

Postcard to Canada

We recently bought a new stroller and being the responsible parents that we are, completed the registration information to return to the company in case there are any product recalls in the future. When I went to mail the postcard, however, I noticed that the mailing address was in Nova Scotia, Canada, and it said free postage in Canada. While I was certainly fine with sending a postcard to Sidney Crosby's home province, since I don't live in Canada and have no plans on driving or flying across the border, I had to buy a stamp. Do you know how much it costs to send a postcard to Canada? $1.15!! No wonder I don't write letters to Canada!

This got me thinking though. The company that made the stroller is Britax, a pretty big player in the car seat and stroller market. No offense to my Canadian neighbors, but I was surprised that Britax didn't have an American address to send this. Maybe they are unhappy with all of the discussions about renegotiating NAFTA and want to take more money from its American customers from us buying stamps from, um, the US Postal Service?

Anyway, it turns out that there was also a product registration postcard that we can send to Allentown, where they may or may not be closing all the factories down. Britax was so prepared that they had registration postcards available for BOTH American and Canadian customers. We just only noticed the first one. I guess we'll fill out the second postcard and mail it for free.

Well, I know who to blame for all of this! (This video is NSFW!)

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Sean Sends Angry Email

I like to think of myself as a fairly calm person. It takes a lot to get me angry, yet that's where I am right now courtesy of my mortgage company. I'll get to my complaint below, but here's some mortgage information. Please feel free to skip this part. When we got our mortgage, since we did not put 20% down, we had to get private mortgage insurance (PMI). Basically, PMI protects the lender if you stop making payments on your home loan. This was extremely common at the time we got the mortgage and may still be today if you don't have a specific amount as a down payment. Anyway, once the loan-to-value (LTV) ratio gets to 80% (or 78%), the PMI goes away.

On to my angry e-mail!

Dear Mortgage Company,

I am writing today to share my displeasure and frustration with your company. We have had a mortgage through you since January 2010 and refinanced in 2012. As part of the mortgage, we've had to pay PMI each month. Earlier this year, I requested an appraisal and learned that the loan to value ratio was around 71%, meaning that I've probably paid PMI unnecessarily for at least 1-2 years. While PMI is now removed from the monthly payment, I feel like we should either receive a refund for the extra PMI payments or a credit towards the principle mortgage balance. After numerous conversations with you about this starting in mid-August, I finally learned today that there will be no refund. Besides the probably year or two of PMI payments that I didn't need to pay, I had to constantly call you for updates. I was given multiple dates when the review would occur and be completed and left messages with a supervisor without ever receiving a response. Even learning that there was no refund was because I called you, not from you contacting me.

During my conversation today, I was told that you would make it up to me if I ever had a late fee or document request. This is unacceptable particularly since I've never had a late payment in the over seven years as a customer and do not need any documents.

I am currently looking at options to stop being a customer. I don't have funds available to pay off the mortgage, so I may try to refinance with another company. There was never any consideration by you to let me know that perhaps the PMI payment could be removed, yet, I've received three escrow shortage letters within the past year. It is clear to me that your company puts profits above helping its customers. Plus, I've spent countless hours trying to get an answer regarding my question over a 2-month period. You seem to have a culture of providing poor customer service as I talked with at least 5 people over this period without ever receiving a call or letter with an answer.

Based on my experience, I'm sure that this email will be discarded or ignored. If someone does happen to read this, perhaps you can help current and future customers by retuning a phone call or replying to a customer when you say that you will.


I doubt that I'll get a reply.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Friday Video: Feels

Today's video is Feels by Calvin Harris featuring Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry, and Big Sean. A few things here. Pharrell may be one of the coolest people on the planet. It just seems like you're going to have an amazing time hanging out with him. I mean, he even looked cool wearing the Arby's hat a few years ago. Not many people could pull this off.

I'm also a big Katy Perry fan, though she is underutilized in this song. If I was a rapper, I would go by either Big Sean or DJ Seany Sean. I guess Big Sean made the choice for me. Finally, I like the guitar by Calvin Harris on this song. You really can't go wrong with Feels for a Friday video.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Mad, Mad World

These are depressing times. In the past month, hurricanes Harvey and Irma devastated Texas and Florida respectively. Then, Hurricane Maria absolutely destroyed much of Puerto Rico. I've been unsuccessful in trying to reach a friend who lives in San Juan (since she doesn't have power, she's obviously not checking Facebook), but a mutual friend let me know that she is okay since she evacuated and has access to water. Think about how insane this statement is. There's still little or no electricity and roads are impassable, but she's okay because she has access to water where that is not the standard or a given right now. So much of Caribbean is in ruins, and it's going to take months if not years to recover.

Meanwhile, Sunday featured the worst shooting in American history at a concert in Las Vegas with least 59 people dead and over 500 people injured. What an awful and sad tragedy. Much of the news now seems to be the motives of the shooter and whether or not this was a terrorist act. You know what? I don't care about the motives. I don't want to know anything about he shooter. I don't care about his background, and I certainly don't want to see profiles about him. He's a monster that took and impacted hundreds of lives. Don't give him publicity, news organizations. Talk about the victims and the good that they did.

I'm trying not to get too political in this post, but it is inevitable. I wrote about how the NRA can be a force for good several years ago, and I hope that it could, even though it seems unlikely. Any type of change to gun culture and guns in this country must happen within the organization. Outside pressure, even from Congress, won't have an impact since the NRA has so many allies in Congress and the White House. They aren't going to change unless they change themselves.

Back to Congress and our current political state. This is another tragic shooting and nothing is going to change. You can blame the NRA, but the political leaders only seem interested in staying in power. There is no bipartisanship and no desire to work together to get things done. Only victory seems to matter. It's my way or I'm taking the football and going home. Healthcare (Obamacare) is the perfect example. Both sides agree that it can be better, but no one is interested in actually sitting down and crafting legislation to do so. Working with the other side will get you kicked out of office by those more left or more right.

This is a depressing post during a depressing time, so I'll try to end on a positive. Even if we can't change things politically, we can still do things for good. Donate blood. Find organizations that are helping the hurricane victims and see what they need whether it is money, clothing, etc. Hug your family members. Say hi to your neighbors. Volunteer. Do what you can to help what's around you.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Library Book

You are reading the blog written by a proud owner of an Arlington Public Library book! Actually, proud is not the correct word here. I recently checked out a book titled The Arena: Inside the Tailgating, Ticket-Scalping, Mascot-Racing, Dubiously Funded, and Possibly Haunted Monuments of American Sport by Rafi Kohan.

The book covers everything around stadiums and arenas from public financing to ticket scalping and stadium operations to mascots. While I haven't finished reading the book yet, there doesn't seem to be an overall theme or message, but rather a closer look at things associated with sports and entertainment venues that you probably don't give much thought. This isn't a book review though. This is how I now own this book since my three year old (Pedro Tulo) decided to do this:

In case it's not clear by the picture, pages 33-36 are now no longer attached to the book. Ripping pages of books are generally frowned on, especially when it's a library book. I showed the results of Pedro Tulo's work to the librarian, and he asked if I checked it out in this condition. While I could have said yes and been in the clear, first that would have been a lie and second, I was the first person to check out this book, so any investigation would have found that it was me. I don't think I could interrogation by a library detective!

So I now own this book and have to buy a new hardcover version so that other Arlington, Virginia residents and community members can enjoy it. Any suggestions on where to buy a copy or is Amazon the best source?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Party Like It's 5778

Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown on Wednesday and thus begins year 5778 in the Hebrew calendar. Happy New Year! Like previous years, I thought I would share some Rosh Hashanah videos to help you celebrate.

The Maccabeats - This Is the New Year (originally performed by A Great Big World)

The Maccabeats have been a staple of Sean's Ramblings as they perform new songs for seemingly every Jewish holiday and I always post them. Random question: Is acapella out? With Glee and Pitch Perfect, it appeared that acapella music was the in thing a few years ago. Has acapella lost its audience?

Rosh Hashanah Robot Party

There ain't no party like a Technion-Israel Institute of Technology's Cognitive Robotics Lab in the Davidson Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management party!

4 Things Jews Do on Rosh Hashanah by Mayim Bialik

I love Mayim Bialik. I'm sure that I mentioned this before (since I tend to repeat myself after writing this blog for well over a decade), but when I worked at San Diego State University many years ago, Bialik called our office to talk to one of my colleagues about a similar program she was coordinating at UCLA. I remember being really excited and may or may not have screamed, Blossom is on the phone! Blossom is on the phone!


Several things here. Rosh Hashanah is the hidden day? I just went to Google and found out that Rosh Hashanah is on September 7th in the year 2097. Not so hidden. In addition, this woman is praying for the rapture? Maybe pray for Hurricane Maria not to cause any destruction or death instead. Let's say that there is a 0.000001% chance that the rapture occurs over the next few on Rosh Hashanah. I'll take the under.

Meanwhile, I prefer this Rapture.

Have a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Midre Cummings, Orlando Merced, Denny Neagle and the Future of the Pittsburgh Pirates

My son (The Moose) recently checked out this Pittsburgh Pirates book from his school library.

Published in March 1997, the book details the history of the team from Honus Wagner and Pie Traynor to the 1960, 1971, and 1979 World Series Championships. The book's final page seemed optimistic about the team's future.

I guess the team did sail onward. It wasn't until 2013 that the Pirates had a winning record, and they haven't been very good in the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Orlando Merced, Midre Cummings, and Denny Neagle (not Naegle) may have been looked to for leadership in the mid-90s, but they didn't bring a lot of wins. I just hope that if we read a 2017 version of a Pittsburgh Pirates book in 2037, we're in a good place.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Fantasy Football

I've written about fantasy sports many times over the course of this blog's history. I went more than 20 years before winning a fantasy/rotisserie baseball title, and I had a long run of disappointing fantasy football seasons until fairly recently. I won't even mention the fantasy league I created based on VH1's Rock of Love with Bret Michaels (though I guess I did just mention it). Regarding fantasy football, I first started in 1991. There were no online drafts or automatic scoring. The draft was at someone's house, and we figured out who won by looking at the box scores the day after the game. With the #5 draft pick, I selected Jerry Rice, only the greatest wide receiver in NFL history. Unfortunately, it seemed like you needed a good quarterback to win the league, and John Friesz of the San Diego Chargers was did not meet this description. 

There was a time not so long ago that I was obsessed with fantasy football. I was in six leagues at once and was even part of a CNN article about fantasy football. (You can find it via a Google search.) Now, with kids, I don't have nearly the time or energy to devote to fantasy football. I mean, I'm still in 3 leagues, and I won all 3 leagues last year, so fantasy football is still part of my life, but not as much as it used to be. Fantasy football is big business, and there are daily, weekly, and season-long leagues, so you can participate in a Fantasy Draft right now. I just suggest not drafting John Friesz..

Good luck to everyone playing!

Friday, September 01, 2017

Friday Video: Taylor Swift

In the Taylor Swift-Katy Perry rivalry, I'm Team Katy. Despite the fact that she was awful hosting Sunday's MTV Video Music Awards (we can blame the writers, right?), I think we can all agree that it would be much more fun to hang out with Perry over Swift. Plus, Perry has a car named Kitty Purry. How adorable!

With that written, I really, really like several of Taylor Swift's songs. I've actually written about them once or twice. While I've now heard Swift's new song, Look What You Made Me Do, several times and it's starting to grow on me, this is definitely not her best work. Hearing it the first time, I didn't think it was good at all.

A few years ago, Swift wrote an amazingly catchy and fun song, Shake It Off. How did she go from that mindset to Look What You Made Me Do, where she is now no longer able to, well, shake it off? If she isn't the biggest pop star in America, Taylor is in the top 2. (Hi Beyoncé!) She has plenty of money and fame filled with commercial and critical success. Look what you made me do? No one is making her do anything. Yet, she still holds these grudges against Perry and/or Kanye West.

As a tangent, the new song features a line that the old Taylor is dead. Upon hearing this on the radio, The Moose (age 6) asked how old she was when she died and how old is the new Taylor. (He is obsessed with people's ages. During every song, he asks the age of the singer. I think I tell him that every current pop star is about 25 with the exception of Shawn Mendes who is probably 13.) Anyway, I tried to explain that Swift didn't really die and that this is her new mindset or something. I don't get it and he clearly doesn't either.

It's a holiday weekend, so I'll leave you with something happy. Here's Shake It Off:

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Random Ramblings

- The Moose, who just started first grade, is interested in US Presidents and has a couple books about Presidents and likes a few YouTube videos with songs about the Presidents. Because of this, he can now list all of the American Presidents in order. It is really, really amazing, and I felt a little dumb as I needed to double-check if he was right. Do you know that the 11th-14th Presidents in order are Polk, Taylor, Fillmore, and Pierce without looking it up?

- As a bit of a tangent, you don't hear about many (any?) kids named Rutherford or Millard. These could be ideas for names for boy #3.

- Last week, I received a phone call, a text message, and an e-mail all at the same time with my child's bus information. That's efficiency! Of course, he doesn't take the bus to school, but we know the bus number and times if he did.

- The Moose's school had an open house along with a carnival last week. Near the end of the event, Pedro Tulo (age 3) decided that he wanted to climb up one of the giant inflatables. The only problem: he was a little scared about coming down, so I had to climb up and slide down with him.

- Over the weekend, I participated in an auction fantasy football draft via a video conference. At the same time, I was at my niece's birthday party with my The Moose at a trampoline/bounce house place. As expected, both when poorly. I didn't do a very good job with the draft, and I basically ignored my son during the entire party. (He was busy jumping and then eating, so he was fine...I hope.)

- Five years ago, I spent $64 on quarterbacks Cam Newton and Matthew Stafford as part of the auction draft. This year, I got the same two quarterbacks for a combined $6.

- Thanks to a free trial of Showtime, I'm finally watching Homeland. I just finished the amazing first season, but I'm not sure if I should continue. While I've enjoyed the first two episodes of season two, I heard that the show goes downhill after the first season. I guess I'll stick with it.

- I also watched a show called Search Party that aired in late 2016 on USA. Search Party stars Arrested Development's Alia Shawkat and is a "single-camera dark comedy about four self-absorbed twenty-somethings who become entangled in an ominous mystery when a former college acquaintance suddenly disappears." It's an odd show with several unlikeable characters but strangely worth watching because of Shawkat and guest appearances by Ron Livingston and Rosie Perez. The show actually had a really cool ending, and I'm curious to see if there's a season two. I don't know where the show would go from the end of season one, but I would tune it.

- On Tuesday night, 19 year-old Frances Tiafoe took arguably the greatest men's tennis player of all time to a 5th set in the first round of the US Open. I really wanted Tiafoe to win. If you've never heard of him (which is likely unless you really follow tennis), this Washington Post profile about him is definitely worth a read.

- Finally, here's something very random. Someone I know wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about North Korea. I definitely wasn't expecting to see this on my Facebook feed!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Friday Video: Betty Dreams Of Green Men

Back in June, my brother mentioned that Celebrate Fairfax was mentioned in an episode of NPR's All Songs Considered. I was curious as to why, but we'll get to that momentarily. I regularly listen to NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast (my best podcast of 2016), so I thought that PCHH's Stephen Thompson, an editor and reviewer for NPR Music, would be discussing music. While it seems that Thompson often appears on All Songs Considered, he was not on this particular podcast.

At around the 36 minute mark of the June 13th episode, NPR Music's Lars Gotrich comes in and mentions that he saw Bush at the "Fairfax County Fair." The two other hosts were really dismissive of county fairs and a little of Bush. Clearly, they have never been to Celebrate Fairfax which features dozens and dozens of live bands every year. Anyway, here are the bands/musicians that were featured on this particular episode of All Songs Considered:

Guerilla Toss
Chastity Belt
Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton
Mt. Wolf
Thoughts Of Ionesco

None of these bands/musicians will ever be big enough to headline a county fair. And maybe they don't want to headline a county fair, but just how dismissive the hosts were of "county fair" turned me off.

Anyway, the first song featured on All Songs Considered is Betty Dreams of Green Men by Guerilla Toss. The song was inspired by the "alien abduction" of Betty & Barney Hill in New Hampshire. It's such an interesting and unique song that I felt the need to share. I dig it.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

2017 Eclipse

Monday marked the first total solar eclipse viewed from the contiguous United States since 1979. Despite having the eclipse on my radar since December when I visited Carbondale, Illinois (essentially the official eclipse city of America), I almost failed as a parent. It wasn't until Thursday that I decided to get solar eclipse sunglasses, but at that point, they were all sold out. Fortunately, a friend had an extra pair, so all was good in the world.

During lunch on Monday, I tried to explain to the kids what the eclipse was and used coins to demonstrate how we would see the moon blocking the sun. Between that and the looking at the eclipse map from Sunday's Washington Post, my six year old (The Moose) was excited. My three year old (Pedro Tulo)? Not so much though he liked playing with the coins.

At 1:00, I turned on TV to see the eclipse coverage on ABC. They had correspondents set up at multiple areas across the county starting with several locations in Oregon. After a few minutes of this, The Moose asked if there was any baseball on TV. There was not, so The Moose and Pedro Tulo watched an episode of Bubble Guppies.

Living in the Washington DC area, we expected to get approximately 81% coverage of the sun at the peak time of 2:42pm. I decided to take the kids outside (with eclipse glasses in hand!) around 2:00. It was at that moment that Pedro Tulo had a meltdown. How dare I make him wash his hands after going potty? Basically, meltdowns by a three year old for no apparant reason is much more common than being able to see an eclipse!

While we (meaning mostly The Moose and me since I don't think Pedro Tulo was able to see much beyond the brim of his hat) saw the eclipse, we missed out on the peak viewing thanks to clouds from about 2:20 until after 3:00. Still, I found this very cool. Plus, it was neat seeing other neighbors being outside also looking at the eclipse. It was a neat bonding activity.

My friend was in Carbondale and sent me some pictures from someone he was with. These are truly incredible.

I like how Metropolis, a place I also visited during last year's hockey road trip, celebrated the day.

So the next total solar eclipse is on April 8, 2024 visible from Texas to Maine. I'm between Texas and Maine! While this is still seven years away, I think I'd like to see a total eclipse if it is within driving range. Fortunately, Passover starts on April 22nd in 2024, so you don't have to have Matzah with the eclipse. Unfortunately, the eclipse is on a Monday again, and the kids will be at school. Couldn't the sun and moon change their schedules to have an eclipse occur on a weekend?

Anyway, I already put January 2, 2024 on my calendar to purchase eclipse glasses!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Friday Video: Portugal. The Man.

There's a really good song getting major radio airplay (yes, I still listen to the radio) called Feel It Still by Portugal. The Man. (as opposed to Portugal. The Country.) Actually Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the two best soccer/football players in the world, is probably also known as Portugal. The Man.

While I don't understand the video or even the meaning of the song, I like it. (I'm really selling this, right?) One thing that jumps out is that the line "Oooooh, I'm a rebel just for kicks now" sounds very similar to "Oh yes, wait a minute Mr. Postman" from the 1960s Marvelettes' song Please Mr Postman. (Yes, I had to look up the name of the group.) Sure enough the writers of Please Mr Postman got writing credits here.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Andrew Stevenson! Jose Lobaton! Feel The Excitement!

Even though it is mid-August and there is still a month and a half left in regular season, the Washington Nationals have essentially won the National League East division barring one of the biggest collapses in baseball history. Therefore, the team can afford to lose a few games and let some of their best players rest. (The Washington Post's Barry Svrluga basically wrote the same thing on Monday.) That's what happened Sunday when I attended the Nats-San Francisco Giants game.

Meanwhile, prior to Sunday, the Moose (now 6) has been to two Major League Baseball games. In his first game, Max Scherzer threw a no-hitter and was one strike away from a perfect game. In the second game, the Pirates defeated the Nats in 18 innings. Although we left in the 15th, we saw two Presidential mascot races and participated in both the 7th and 14th inning stretch. The Moose was due to attend a regular, normal game.

With the Friday night game postponed due to rain and thunderstorms, the Nationals and Giants played a split double-header on Sunday with the first game starting at 1:05 and the second at 7:05. Apparently, Nats manager Dusty Baker gave Max Scherzer an option about which game he wanted to pitch. He picked the night game, meaning that we got to see the highly anticipated A.J. Cole-Chris Stratton pitching duel. Baker also seemed to give most of his veteran players the option of playing the day or evening game, meaning that we got to see Adrian Sanchez instead of Daniel Murphy, Andrew Stevenson instead of Michael A. Taylor or Howie Kendrick, and Jose Lobaton instead of Matt Wieters. With Bryce Harper going on the DL, we got to see a truly lousy Nationals line-up.

Let's go to the notes:

- We had really, really great seats. As an extra bonus, we were in the shade!

- Sunday was Boy Scouts game at Nats Park, so Baker and the Nats clearly DID NOT THINK OF THE CHILDREN when making the line-up.

- Due to the double-header, the Nats also cancelled the kids run around the bases activity they usually have after Sunday games. WOULD SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

- Chris Stratton's parents missed a golden opportunity to name their child Briggs. The middle name could have been "And" or just something that starts with N.

- If Stratton becomes an All-Star, this will be his breakout game, meaning that perhaps The Moose's streak of seeing something significant stays intact. Stratton struck out 10 in 6 & 2/3 scoreless innings. This was his 2nd major league win and first as a starter.

- After the 8th inning, The Moose declared that he needed to poop. I asked him at least three times if he was sure but he said yes. Stadium bathrooms, especially after 8 innings, are disgusting. I asked an usher if there were any family restrooms nearby, and she looked at me incredulously and simply pointed us to the nearest men's room. Fortunately, we found a stall that wasn't awful, I cleaned it the best I could, and placed three layers of toilet paper between the toilet seat and The Moose.

- After an awful weekend in Charlottesville, I totally understand Thomas Jefferson just wanting to watch a baseball game.

Me: Would you like to take a picture with one of the President mascots?
The Moose: No. They're kind of scary. (I'm slightly paraphrasing The Moose here.)

- Random question #1: People remove hats for the national anthem, but are you supposed to remove your hat for G-d Bless America?

- Game one of the double-header ended with Howie Kendrick striking out. Game two ended with Kendrick hitting a walk-off grand slam. I wonder if this was the first time in baseball history where the same player was the last player to hit in both games with these results.

- Random question #2: After the first game, everyone had to leave the stadium with the gates reopening at 6:00 for game #2 of the double-header. How difficult would it have been to hide somewhere in the stadium for an hour?

- I didn't expect to see this being sold at the stadium. I wonder if I'll see them during Rosh Hashanah services.

- With the Nationals offense doing little, the crowd was its loudest when booing San Francisco relief pitcher Hunter Strickland. Strickland purposely hit Bryce Harper with a pitch in May. Strickland then gave up a 2-run home run to Anthony Rendon. AND WE NEVER HEARD FROM STRICKLAND AGAIN! (Unless you watched the 2nd game of the double-header where he pitched again.)

For more about the game, check out and ESPN.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Video Week: Macklemore Wears Clemente Jersey

This is a late surprise entry to Sean's Ramblings video week. If someone wears a Pittsburgh sports jersey on national TV, I'm going to blog about it. On Thursday, Macklemore went on Good Morning America to perform his new song with Skylar Grey, Glorious, wearing a Roberto Clemente Pittsburgh Pirates jersey. It's an awesome jersey.

(I'm having trouble embedding the ABC video of the performance here, so you can see Macklemore being interviewed by the Good Morning America crew instead. The point of the post is the jersey, not the song itself.)

A little critique though. I don't like the tucking a jersey into jeans look. Yes, baseball players tuck jerseys into their uniform, but they aren't wearing jeans.

In addition, I noticed that Macklemore is releasing Glorious as part of a solo album. What happened to Ryan Lewis? (I found the answer here.) Is this the equivalent of Hall leaving Oates? Is this George Michael leaving Andrew Ridgeley and Wham?

This post is a little of everything. It's Sean on Fashion, my series of Celebrities in Pittsburgh gear, and Sean's Ramblings video week!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Video Week: When Snoop Went Country

During last year's hockey road trip, we visited the Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville. I think this is a must see for any music fan, and I'm writing this as someone who is not a big country fan and didn't really know much about Johnny Cash prior to the visit. The memorabilia is really cool, and Cash's story and longevity are fascinating. There's one area where you can listen to other artists covering Cash's songs. One song/version in particular jumped out at me: Snoop Dogg's I Walk the Line

I like Snoop. He put out a lot of hits both on his own and with Dr. Dre and remains relevant today. I'll tune in to see Snoop as the host of Joker's Wild. We're both Pittsburgh Steelers fans too. With all of that written, this version of I Walk the Line is awful. Now, Snoop's country song Buy My Medicine with a cameo from his friend Willie Nelson isn't bad.

This post is part of the first ever Sean's Ramblings Video Week.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Rum and Cola?

This is Stay by Zedd and Alessia Cara, one of the songs of the summer.

Besides being catchy, I believe that this is the first song that prominently features the word cola in the lyrics since Savage Garden's mid-90s hit, I Want You.

Let's dissect this a little more. The specific lyrics in Stay are:

Living on my sofa, drinking rum and cola
Underneath the rising sun.

First, I thought it was curious that a 16 year-old was singing about rum, but Cara is actually 21. Who knew? More importantly, who says rum and cola? The drink is always called Rum and Coke. It's a curious decision, but I'm sure the songwriters have their reasons for the lyric being cola rather than Coke.

And the reason seems to be the song appearing in a Pepsi commercial! Sacre Bleu!!

This post is part of the first ever Sean's Ramblings Video Week.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Video Week: Bullpen Hijinks

Welcome to the first ever Sean's Ramblings Video Week. While I generally only post videos on Fridays, I wanted an excuse to share multiple videos that deserve separate blog posts. Hence, video week!

Last week, there was a rain delay during the Chicago Cubs-Arizona Diamondbacks game at Wrigley Field. Apparently, there are cameras in each bullpen so the opposing teams can see what the other team is doing. That led to this "competition" to make the other team laugh.

This certainly made me and The Moose laugh!

Thursday, August 03, 2017

A Facebook Story (Or A Story From Facebook)

I saw this story below posted on Facebook. I have no idea whether it is true or not, but I'll share my thoughts at the end. Here we go:

When I got home that night as my wife served dinner, I held her hand and said, I’ve got something to tell you. She sat down and ate quietly. Again I observed the hurt in her eyes. Suddenly I didn’t know how to open my mouth. But I had to let her know what I was thinking. I want a divorce. I raised the topic calmly. She didn’t seem to be annoyed by my words, instead she asked me softly, why?

I avoided her question. This made her angry. She threw away the chopsticks and shouted at me, you are not a man! That night, we didn’t talk to each other. She was weeping. I knew she wanted to find out what had happened to our marriage. But I could hardly give her a satisfactory answer; she had lost my heart to Jane. I didn’t love her anymore. I just pitied her!

With a deep sense of guilt, I drafted a divorce agreement which stated that she could own our house, our car, and 30% stake of my company. She glanced at it and then tore it into pieces. The woman who had spent ten years of her life with me had become a stranger. I felt sorry for her wasted time, resources and energy but I could not take back what I had said for I loved Jane so dearly. Finally she cried loudly in front of me, which was what I had expected to see. To me her cry was actually a kind of release. The idea of divorce which had obsessed me for several weeks seemed to be firmer and clearer now.

The next day, I came back home very late and found her writing something at the table. I didn’t have supper but went straight to sleep and fell asleep very fast because I was tired after an eventful day with Jane. When I woke up, she was still there at the table writing. I just did not care so I turned over and was asleep again.

In the morning she presented her divorce conditions: she didn’t want anything from me, but needed a month’s notice before the divorce. She requested that in that one month we both struggle to live as normal a life as possible. Her reasons were simple: our son had his exams in a month’s time and she didn’t want to disrupt him with our broken marriage.

This was agreeable to me. But she had something more, she asked me to recall how I had carried her into out bridal room on our wedding day. She requested that every day for the month’s duration I carry her out of our bedroom to the front door ever morning. I thought she was going crazy. Just to make our last days together bearable I accepted her odd request.

I told Jane about my wife’s divorce conditions. She laughed loudly and thought it was absurd. No matter what tricks she applies, she has to face the divorce, she said scornfully.

My wife and I hadn’t had any body contact since my divorce intention was explicitly expressed. So when I carried her out on the first day, we both appeared clumsy. Our son clapped behind us, daddy is holding mommy in his arms. His words brought me a sense of pain. From the bedroom to the sitting room, then to the door, I walked over ten meters with her in my arms. She closed her eyes and said softly; don’t tell our son about the divorce. I nodded, feeling somewhat upset. I put her down outside the door. She went to wait for the bus to work. I drove alone to the office.

On the second day, both of us acted much more easily. She leaned on my chest. I could smell the fragrance of her blouse. I realized that I hadn’t looked at this woman carefully for a long time. I realized she was not young any more. There were fine wrinkles on her face, her hair was graying! Our marriage had taken its toll on her. For a minute I wondered what I had done to her.

On the fourth day, when I lifted her up, I felt a sense of intimacy returning. This was the woman who had given ten years of her life to me. On the fifth and sixth day, I realized that our sense of intimacy was growing again. I didn’t tell Jane about this. It became easier to carry her as the month slipped by. Perhaps the everyday workout made me stronger.

She was choosing what to wear one morning. She tried on quite a few dresses but could not find a suitable one. Then she sighed, all my dresses have grown bigger. I suddenly realized that she had grown so thin, that was the reason why I could carry her more easily.

Suddenly it hit me...she had buried so much pain and bitterness in her heart. Subconsciously I reached out and touched her head.

Our son came in at the moment and said, Dad, it’s time to carry mom out. To him, seeing his father carrying his mother out had become an essential part of his life. My wife gestured to our son to come closer and hugged him tightly. I turned my face away because I was afraid I might change my mind at this last minute. I then held her in my arms, walking from the bedroom, through the sitting room, to the hallway. Her hand surrounded my neck softly and naturally. I held her body tightly; it was just like our wedding day.

But her much lighter weight made me sad. On the last day, when I held her in my arms I could hardly move a step. Our son had gone to school. I held her tightly and said, I hadn’t noticed that our life lacked intimacy. I drove to office…. jumped out of the car swiftly without locking the door. I was afraid any delay would make me change my mind...I walked upstairs. Jane opened the door and I said to her, Sorry, Jane, I do not want the divorce anymore.

She looked at me, astonished, and then touched my forehead. Do you have a fever? She said. I moved her hand off my head. Sorry, Jane, I said, I won’t divorce. My marriage life was boring probably because she and I didn’t value the details of our lives, not because we didn’t love each other anymore. Now I realize that since I carried her into my home on our wedding day I am supposed to hold her until death do us apart. Jane seemed to suddenly wake up. She gave me a loud slap and then slammed the door and burst into tears. I walked downstairs and drove away. At the floral shop on the way, I ordered a bouquet of flowers for my wife. The salesgirl asked me what to write on the card. I smiled and wrote, I’ll carry you out every morning until death do us apart.

That evening I arrived home, flowers in my hands, a smile on my face, I run up stairs, only to find my wife in the bed -dead. My wife had been fighting CANCER for months and I was so busy with Jane to even notice. She knew that she would die soon and she wanted to save me from the whatever negative reaction from our son, in case we push through with the divorce.— At least, in the eyes of our son—- I’m a loving husband.

The small details of your lives are what really matter in a relationship. It is not the mansion, the car, property, the money in the bank. These create an environment conducive for happiness but cannot give happiness in themselves.

So find time to be your spouse’s friend and do those little things for each other that build intimacy. Do have a real happy marriage!

Five people replied that this was beautiful and/or made them cry. I had a different reaction.

1. Based on the child clapping and telling his dad that it was time to carry his mom (along with the fact that the parents were together for 10 years), this child can't be older than 10. So what exams are so crucial that he needed to be prepared a month in advance? He's not taking the SAT!

2. The mom/wife was so concerned about her child and this exam but appears to have no concern about the kid when she knew she was dying. Oh, he'll remember that mom and dad had a loving relationship for the last month of her life. (Even though dad spends A LOT of time at Jane's, I mean, the office). She is also leaving the family in shock with no support system. Did she tell her husband or other family members or friends that she was dying so that maybe the child could have some counseling ready after her death? Maybe this was just revenge. Maybe she thought, you cheated on me, so you get to deal with this mess.

3. The husband was really, really oblivious. His wife is dying, but he notices only that she got thinner on basically the last day of her life.

The final message in this story is nice, so maybe I'm just being mean and cynical. Do you agree with me or am I a cold person?

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Halsey's Arena Tour

This is Halsey. (It sounds cooler if you say it like "This is Jeopardy.")

You may know her as the female lead in The Chainsmokers' 2016 #1 song, Closer. You may also know her from her current solo song, Now or Never which reached #17 on the Billboard Hot 100. While I try to keep up with popular music, I'll admit that this is all that I know about Halsey. However, I recently heard commercials that she is coming to Washington's Verizon Center in October as part of an arena tour.

While it's possible (likely) that I'm out of touch, how is Halsey big enough to do an arena tour? Yes, she has 5 million Twitter followers and had the #1 album in the US (according to Wikipedia, "Hopeless Fountain Kingdom debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 with 106,000 album-equivalent units, of which 76,000 were pure album sales"), but here are bands/performers that have played or will play at Verizon Center in 2017.

Janet Jackson
Green Day
John Mayer
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Chris Brown (and others)
The Weeknd
Eric Church
New Kids on the Block with Paula Abdul and Boyz II Men
Kendrick Lamar
Daryl Hall and John Oates and Tears for Fears
Queen + Adam Lambert
Roger Waters
J. Cole
Earth Wind & Fire an CHIC featuring Nile Rodgers
Shawn Mendes
Depeche Mode
Arcade Fire
Ed Sheeran
Katy Perry
Bruno Mars
Tim McGraw and Faith Hill
Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull
Guns N' Roses
Imagine Dragons
Lady Gaga
Andrea Bocelli

There are plenty of superstars listed in this group. While there are others where you can debate whether or not they can fill an arena, it seems like all of them have more impressive resumes than Halsey. Again, I may (and probably am) out of touch, but my question still stands: how is Halsey big enough right now to do an arena tour?

Monday, July 31, 2017

J.D. Vance Comes To Washington

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance has been at or near the top of the New York Times' bestseller list for an entire year. I recently read this book described as "A Yale Law School graduate looks at the struggles of the white working class through the story of his own childhood." It's a really interesting look at Vance's tumultuous childhood and what's happening in many small towns, particularly in Appalachia.

I mention this because J.D. Vance will be at the Library of Congress' National Book Festival.

While this is an impressive list of authors, no one (not even David McCullough) can compare with J.D. Vance who apparently has cloned himself and will be at the festival twice!

Although this ad appeared in Monday's Washington Post Express, this doesn't count as an "Express Fail" since I doubt that Express created this.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday Video: Linkin Park

In the spring of 2001, I was a full-time graduate student with three part-time jobs, a long distance relationship, and no solid prospects for what I was going to do after graduation. I also disliked my boss at my primary job. I don't remember why, but at some point, she asked me to show her my schedule over a several day period. Maybe she thought I wasn't doing enough at the job or she was actually concerned about my well being (though I doubt the latter), but I remember she criticized me about my time management, particularly for working 8 hours at a different job over the weekend. Maybe she didn't think I needed a second or third job or that I didn't need to spend an entire night writing a paper?

Anyway, what helped me get through this time was the song called One Step Closer by Linkin Park. It was exactly how I was feeling at the time, especially in my relationship with my boss. It felt good to sing (or scream) along with the song when I heard it on the radio.

Linkin Park's Chester Bennington passed away Thursday in an apparent suicide. The band's music will live on, but this is another sad example of someone gone too soon.

If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone, contact the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at or 1-800-273-8255 (TALK.)

I also feel like sharing Linkin Park's Faint since this is a great song too.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Interview With Chris Wright: Minnesota Timberwolves & Lynx President

Welcome to part two of my interview with Chris Wright, the former General Manager of the Pittsburgh Spirit and current President of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx. Please click here to read part one about how Chris went from England to Pittsburgh and everything you didn't know you needed to know about the Spirit. In part two, Chris discusses the end of the Spirit, how he went to Minnesota, his role with the Timberwolves and Lynx, and memories of Pittsburgh.

Sean: When did you know that there wasn’t going to be a next season for the Spirit? Is there a certain time that you knew?

Chris: At the end of the [1985-1986] season, we got called up to a meeting in Youngstown, Ohio, met with Mr. DeBartolo, and Mr. DeBartolo at that point said, guys, I’m sorry, but I think we’re done with the MISL. At that point, although our attendance was terrific, it was still at a difficult time when the NASL teams had come into the MISL, so they’d closed down their sort of indoor league, and now the NASL teams were coming in, payrolls were not necessarily out of control, but the investment that you were making in players, if you're looking at it from a business standpoint, it didn’t make an awful lot of sense because the owners were writing checks at the end of every year, and you know, in hindsight, if the one thing that the league had ever done was sort of impose some type of a salary cap, you know, on the league, it might have been really helpful for the indoor game particularly to have continued to grow because if you went to a Cleveland Force game, if you went to a San Diego game, you went to the Strikers game here when I came here, and saw the number of people who were really appreciative of the sport, loved the sport, loved the quickness of the sport, loved the prolific goal scoring in the sport, you know, it had an amazing following for a young league. But unfortunately the players’ salaries outweighed the revenues that you were able to bring in.

Sean: I remember in the mid-80s, the Spirit definitely drew more than the Penguins.

Chris: There was one year I can remember we drew on average just underneath 11,000 a game.

Sean: Before that meeting, did you have much interaction with Mr. DeBartolo and his family?

Chris: Oh, yeah. My boss on a day-to-day basis was Paul Martha, and Paul Martha was in charge of the Civic Arena, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Pittsburgh Spirit, so I mean, his office was right around the corner from mine, so I would see Paul every day, whether it would be senior or junior, all people from different areas of Mr. DeBartolo’s sort of business operation, they were in our building all the time. Mr. DeBartolo would come down for games. Junior would come down for games, which was terrific, then every now and again, whether it would be player transactions, whether it be budgets, whether it be attendance, you would be invited up to Youngstown to explain some of the things that either you were doing or were happening inside the franchise. So yeah, I got to know that drive pretty well.

Sean: That’s funny. So the team ended, and then I guess you went to Minnesota from there?

Chris: I was asked by Mr. DeBartolo, the way that he looked at it, he said Chris, he said, you were the first one in when we hired you and we decided to bring the team back, I want you to be the last one out. Your job for me is to close down the franchise, all of our obligations, etc., and obviously get the players, as many of them as you possibly can, a home somewhere else in the league. So that’s what I did for probably about almost three months. And while I was doing that, and I asked permission to do this, I said, look, obviously I want to be able to sort of continue in the league if I possibly can, if I close it down by a particular date for you, are you OK with me going out and interviewing for different jobs around the league that might be available. And he said absolutely, and there were three jobs that were open, I interviewed for all three of them. I was in conversations to accept all three of them and decided that Minnesota was the place to come for a lot of different reasons. I knew Alan Merrick very well here, the coach here. I liked the fact that Joe Robbie was an NFL owner and had sort of “deeper pockets," and I just loved Minnesota. Every single time that I came here, I always had a great time here. It’s cold during the winter, but it’s an incredible place to live and a very good place to raise a family. So a very good friend of mine, John Best, who was running the Tacoma Stars at the time, was somewhat disappointed that I didn’t go out to Tacoma. A very very good friend of mine, Kenny Cooper, was disappointed that I didn’t go to the Baltimore Blast and that I chose to come to Minnesota. And it was sort of in hindsight it was meant to be. Even though we closed the franchise down here two years later, it was when the World Cup was being bid for 1994, and Minnesota back at the time was looking to bid to be one of the cities where games would be hosted. So I was invited to be part of that group of people that were going to bid for games to be played in the World Cup in Minnesota, which led to development of something called the National Sports Center here. So I was one of two people who went to the state legislature, got $17.4 million, built the National Sports Center here. We weren’t fortunate enough to get games here in the World Cup, but then the Timberwolves expanded to this market in ’89, 90, and I came to work for them during the 1990-1991 season.

Sean: You just answered my question. That’s what I was wondering, how you went from MISL in soccer to the Timberwolves and later the Lynx.

Chris: Yeah, so a lot of people, a lot of people from the MISL found their way into the NBA. Because the MISL was very creative from ticket selling standpoint, unique promotions, to this day, one thing that people don’t realize, the creative group that we had in Pittsburgh was unbelievable. We actually were the first team in the history of sports, back in 1986 I think it would be, maybe ’85, we developed what was the equivalent of a family four-pack that was four tickets, four hot dogs, Cokes, Pepsis, and a tub of popcorn for a particular price. That still exists in sports today, and we were the very, very first team to do that in sports in Pittsburgh. So, you know, you’ve got everything from those, think about introductions back in the day, think about Hot Legs, think about neon sort of rolling up and down in smoke and ice, and think about the Baltimore Blast with basically a space ship coming from, you know, the rafters to introduce their players, and now think about sort of NBA-style introductions today. Well, an awful lot of that actually started back in the MISL, and the creativeness of the people who were involved. Because everybody saw it as outside of the big four, they saw it as this upstart league, nobody could figure out why 10,000 people on a night were going to go and watch these games be played. So, you know, fast forward now to Minnesota in 1990-1991, there were already three or four people working for the Minnesota Timberwolves who came from the MISL. One of them was a guy called Tim Leiweke, and Leiweke ran the Kansas City Comets, and he said, Chris, we’re moving into Target Center, we played our first year in the Metrodome, they built a building here, we need more talent, come on down and come work for us. So there we were in 1991, and I’ve been here ever since.

Sean: My brother-in-law is from the Minneapolis area, and he mentioned that the Target Center is doing some renovations. How that will benefit the team and the fan experience?

Chris: We’re putting $150 million into Target Center. The building was built in ’89-90. We moved in here in the 1990-91 season. Basically the building has pretty much stayed the same for all of those years. The bones of the building are very, very good. It’s in a great location right in the center of downtown Minneapolis. And so rather than tear it down and build new, we worked out a relationship with the city of Minneapolis. And the city of Minneapolis is now the owner of the building. We don’t own the building. AEG manages the building. We’re the major tenants in the building. And so some money from AEG, some money from the team, some money from the city, $150 million all told, basically we’re renovating this incredible building in downtown. So it’s everything from clubs to skyways to concourses to concessions to seats to scoreboard to the outside cladding on the building. It’s going to look really, really beautiful when it’s finished.

Sean: Another question about your day job. So I will admit that I follow the NBA the least just because growing up in Pittsburgh, we had the Penguins, Steelers, Pirates, but I’ve certainly followed enough of the off-season to know that you acquired Jimmy Butler and a couple of signings just happened. Have you noticed an increase in ticket sales or merchandise sales or even sponsorships?

Chris: Yeah, I mean, just so you know, we’re involved in a number of different things. So, you know, you talk about a day job. It’s fascinating because we own the Timberwolves, we own the Minnesota Lynx, we won three championships in six years in the WNBA. We just bought a G-league team in Des Moines, Iowa, and we’re a major investor in Minnesota United, the MLS expansion franchise that we got here last year, and we’re actually building a stadium for the MLS team to play in in two years’ time, in 2019. So a lot of my responsibilities are across multiple platforms. Actually, yes, Jimmy Butler is here, and [Jeff] Teague and [Taj] Gibson and we’re not done yet in rebuilding our roster around sort of some really good young talent, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and we will be very, very good on that side next year, and we’ll be able to capitalize on that. We’ve sold over, I think we’re just shy of 15,000 new full-season ticket memberships right now for our next season. We have the highest base in the WNBA season ticket members. We lead corporate sales on the WNBA side. The G-league team that we now own is the second most profitable team in the G League. And we are getting more and more and more and more involved in the MLS and basically sort of helping run that franchise. So there’s a number of us on the senior executive group that we have here. We have different roles and responsibilities to all of our franchises, but the idea is that we make every single one of those franchises as healthy as we possibly can for Glen Taylor, who is our primary owner.

Sean: Do you have any other memories of Pittsburgh or the Spirit? Do you get back to Pittsburgh at all?

Chris: Yeah, you know what, there was a big retirement party for Paul Martha, and it was just before the Igloo was imploded, so I got back there for that. I haven’t been back since. I have a lot of great friends there. The best man in my wedding, Dan Frasier, who lived out in a community just south of the city, unfortunately passed away about a year ago. A great, great friend. So I used to do an awful lot of different things with him outside of the soccer world there. We lived in Shaler for a while, we lived in Upper St. Clair for a while, still got many friends that we go backwards and forwards with, you know, in the Pittsburgh community. I absolutely love Pittsburgh. I love the sense of a diverse community. I love Shady Side. I love Polish Hill. I love the German Quarter.

Sean's Note: Is the Deutschtown area of Pittsburgh also referred to as the German Quarter?

I love the Gandy Dancer over on the other side of the river. Pittsburgh was this incredible melting pot of cultures, and that’s why I really believe that soccer, football, the real football, sort of worked there, because there was an appreciation from a heritage standpoint of the world’s great game, and although everybody said, no, this is a Steeler town, it’s a University of Pittsburgh football town, I always saw it as more than that. It was always more than that to me just because of the depth of sort of heritage in the majority of people there. And a lot of them sort of coming from Europe. So I loved my time there, miss my time there, miss a lot of my friends there, but I remember those days as being great days for me and my family.

Sean: Last question for you. If the Vikings play the Steelers, do you root for the Vikings or is it a toss up?

Chris: You know, I don’t. I root for every Pittsburgh team. So I root for the Penguins, the Pirates, which has been tough, and the Steelers. So I am a huge, I love Roethlisberger, and I love those guys, I love watching them, and I actually, when I’m looking at schedules during the NFL season, the very first thing I look for is what time is the Pittsburgh Steelers game.

Thanks again to Chris for taking the time to speak with me and answer my questions. The Spirit had a huge impact on me and many others in Western Pennsylvania, and Chris played a huge part in this. You can follow Chris on Twitter.

Thanks to Patrick McCarthy, probably the most active Pittsburgh Spirit fan on the internet, as well. This interview wouldn't have happened without his connection to Chris. Please follow him on Twitter @pwmst1. In addition, I'm still amazed that my friend Ellen agreed to transcribe this interview. There are a lot of tough names to try to type! Thank you!

Finally, please feel free to follow me on Facebook and Twitter where I'll also include some outtakes of this interview.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Interview With Chris Wright: Pittsburgh Spirit GM

Chris Wright is the President of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx and previously served as the General Manager of the Pittsburgh Spirit of the Major Indoor Soccer League. As someone who was a big Spirit fan back in the 1980s (I even attended a Spirit soccer camp), I recently learned that Chris held the GM position and reached out to him to find out more about the inner-workings and history of the team. Chris was gracious enough to take 30 minutes to talk to me last week about his time with the Spirit, his current job, and much more. I broke this interview into two posts. Today focuses on how Chris went from England to Pittsburgh and his work with the Spirit. The second portion includes his transition to Minnesota, everything he's doing with the Timberwolves and Lynx, and his thoughts about the city of Pittsburgh. Please note that there are a lot of names in this post, and there's an excellent chance that some are spelled incorrectly. If you have any corrections, please feel free to contact me. And now, here's my interview with Chris.

Sean: How do you go from growing up in England to Pittsburgh and being the GM of the Spirit?

Chris: Yeah, I mean, it’s an incredible journey when you think about it. A young kid from in Filey, North Yorkshire, England, fishing town, 2,000 people, you know, goes on this sort of journey all the way through to ultimately ending up in Pittsburgh, then Minnesota, Minnesota in soccer, national sports center here and then into the NBA and the WNBA. So it’s been quite a journey, and I’m on the sort of back end of that journey now, but it’s been truly remarkable. So I played at school, at high school, I was seen by Hull City, invited to be part of their junior program, in the end didn’t make it to the top levels of their professional roster, so went away to college and played at Carnegie College of Physical Education. The single biggest thing that we did there is we won the English colleges cup by beating Cardiff 1-0 where I saved a penalty.

Sean's Note: Take that, Cardiff!

From there I decided that really what I wanted to do was be part of the game, so I did my English full badge, which is their top coaching award, I did that in Cardiff in Wales. Back then the national team manager of the Welsh soccer team, Mike Smith, he basically led that particular course, and he passed me to be able to coach at the highest levels in England. So I did a lot of work for the English FA, the Welsh FA, etc., coached at a really good level in England. I coached a team called Hitchin Town in the Isthmian League and from there managed to get a job in Allegheny County through the county commissioners there, Tom Foerster, Robert Pierce, Jim Flaherty, they hired me to come in as the soccer coordinator of Allegheny County, and from there Jim Mihalke bought the Spirit and they sort of folded for a year, and [Edward] DeBartolo [Sr.] brought them out of moth balls and offered me the General Manager’s job. So that’s how I sort of ended up in that seat.

I obviously hired John Kowalski as the Head Coach, and between John and myself, we put that new version of the Pittsburgh Spirit that played in the Igloo together with basically a Polish line, a sort of an Anglo-Scottish line, remember Graham Fyfe, David Hoggan, Paul Child, those guys, and sort of a mix of American players, the Joey Papaleos of the world, the Dave MacKenzies of the world, Canadian by birth, but Johnny O’Hara, etc. One or two additions like Drago [Dumbovic] that we found, Marcio Leite that we found, they became sort of that first iteration of a team that we put together.

Sean: Going back a little bit there, how did this all come to pass? Did they come to England to recruit people, or were you interested in moving to America?

Chris: No, between the ages of 21 and 28, I came to the United States every summer to coach in different soccer camps all over the country. Back in the day, North American soccer camps were absolutely huge. They were owned by a guy called Gary Russell. I actually met him over in England when he brought an American soccer team to England and I was asked to basically chaperone and coach the team while it was over in England. So he brought me over to the United States when I was 21, and I basically at that point started coming over every single summer. So I got to know a lot of people around the country but particularly in Pittsburgh, some of which happened to be led by Jim Flaherty [one of] the County Commissioners of Allegheny County. So when they wanted to expand their soccer program, they reached out to me to see if I was interested in the job, and after a series of interviews, they offered me the job, I packed my bags and came to the United States.

Sean: That’s really interesting. As a kid, I loved watching the Spirit, I never knew the history.

Chris: When I got here, in terms of registered players with the United States Soccer Federation, there was, believe it or not now, so I was 21 then, 68 now, so this was 47 years ago. 47 years ago there was 2,000 kids registered with the United States Soccer Federation. When I actually moved into the role with the Pittsburgh Spirit, there was 26,000 kids playing. So that was how the program grew. And through that and really getting to know the Pittsburgh area and a lot of the coaches in that area, there were already people doing great work, Denny Kohlmyer, John Wilshire, Bruno Schwarz, Jim Perry, Joe DePalma, all of those guys were doing incredible work in soccer. I just became for Allegheny County the catalyst and the growth of club soccer in each of the communities.

Sean: What was it like working with Stan Terlecki? It seemed like he had quite a personality.

Chris: Stan was an incredible talent, and back in the day, he actually came to us from Bruges in Belgium. There were basically two teams that were chasing him, we were and the New York Arrows. And Don Popovic was the head coach of the New York Arrows back in the day. John Kowalski had seen Stan play back in the day a number of times for the national team at the club level and really, really felt that Stan could be an incredible force inside of our league. Back in the day, the Arrows had Branko Segota, they had Steve Zungul, and we just felt, and I can remember conversations saying, if they got Stan Terlecki, then they would become just this basically unbeatable team because of the fire power that they would have had. And so we worked really really hard to recruit Stan. We actually went over to Europe a couple of times, once to Belgium, once to Poland, to really recruit him very very hard, and in the end, an agent for IMG called George Kalafatis), who we worked with on a lot of different player contracts. We convinced them to come to Pittsburgh. Stan was incredible, had a great family, incredible work ethic, very passionate about the game, prolific both right footed left footed, could go past players like nobody that I had seen, and it was unbelievable for the indoor game, particularly Pittsburgh. Because we had a big Polish community in Pittsburgh, Polish hill, etc. people like him and Greg Ostalczyk, Piotr Mowlik, Adam Topolski, Zee Kapka, Jan Sybis, all resonated really really well with the market. Stan obviously was the most notorious of all of them and well-known, but that group of players were, one, they were incredible human beings, very very incredible work ethic all of them, and always gave you 110, 120% in everything that they did. So we were really proud of the Polish connection, particularly John. This was nothing of the doing of Chris Wright, I just supported John in all of his efforts and made sure the contracts and everything else. I supported John in all of this, and he was the one who really recruited very very hard that Polish group.

Sean: You mentioned Steve Zungul, and Patrick asked me to ask you if the Spirit were close to acquiring him in the last season.

Chris: It was a little bit of a pipe dream because he was very close with Don Popovic, and obviously the last season was under the guidance of Don. We had struggled, I think it was season number five under John, if I remember correctly, you know, we had struggled, we decided to part ways with John Kowalski, and that was one of the, really that was one of the hardest decisions that I had to make because John was, John’s an incredible person, incredible coach, incredible human being, had worked so hard on behalf of the Pittsburgh Spirit and its fans and its players. And that’s one of the hardest decisions that a general manager ever has to make. So it was difficult to do that, and having made the determination that John would go, then obviously to have someone the caliber of Don Popovic as the potential head coach, I thought at the time was truly going to be a game changer for the team. He knew a tremendous number of players. He was able to attract a lot of great players, Helmut Dudek, Freddy Grgurev, and as much as he and we particularly wanted Steve to come, we knew that it was going to be problematic. So although we talked about it, it was never going to be realistic that Steve was going to wear a Pittsburgh Spirit jersey.

Part two of the interview is available here.

A special thank you to Patrick McCarthy, probably the most active Pittsburgh Spirit fan on the internet. This interview wouldn't have happened without his connection to Chris, and he gave me some suggestions of questions to ask. Most of the pictures and videos in this post are courtesy of Patrick. Please follow him on Twitter @pwmst1. In addition, I'm still amazed that my friend Ellen agreed to transcribe this interview. There are a lot of tough names to try to type! Thank you!

Please feel free to follow me on Facebook and Twitter where I'll include some outtakes of this interview.