Friday, January 27, 2017

Random Ramblings

I had big plans to write about Steelers-Patriots AFC Championship game earlier this week, but based on the results, I didn't really feel like it. Instead, I thought it was about time to share my random thoughts on a variety of topics.

1. I'll start with the Patriots-Steelers game, but not the game itself. The CBS telecast showed Jon Bon Jovi several times during the game hanging out in the Patriots owner's box. What the heck? Bon Jovi is a proud New Jersey resident and owned an arena football league team in Philly. Now he's a Patriots fan? Again, what the heck?

2. I'm okay with Donald Trump building a wall along the United States-Mexico border with several caveats. First, I don't want to see one continuous Great Wall of China style wall along the border. That would just look bad and probably isn't possible based on the terrain. Plus, does the border patrol really need one, 2,000 mile wall? More importantly, paying $12 billion is an insane figure to build a wall. Money can be spent better for so many other purposes. Finally, imposing a 20% tariff on Mexican goods to pay for the wall just isn't realistic. That would only increase the cost for consumers (that's us Americans!) on cars, oil, electronics, vegetables, and more. So why am I for building a wall? Public works! During the Great Depression, the Tennessee Valley Authority (one of many projects during the New Deal) provided jobs and gave the region electricity. Maybe building a wall will on the Mexican border will also improve Wi-Fi in rural Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. So, Trump should want to build a wall on the Canadian border too. Bring jobs to Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Michigan, Montana, etc. While we're at it, let's build levees or retaining walls (or something) along the entire Eastern seaboard. Trump wants to be the jobs president, right? Public works!

3. I'm amazed at the success of the song Closer by The Chainsmokers featuring Halsey. Who would have thought a song about Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, and Mark Melancon would have been at the top of the charts for so long in 2016 and now into 2017.

4. My friend Rob wanted me to pass on this ESPN story identifying former Ohio State players as the best rookie class in NFL history. He admitted that he agrees with the article but is also biased.

Enjoy your Friday!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Kids Book Predicts Steelers-Patriots Game

Back in November, I traveled to Portland and made sure to visit Powell's Books the "largest used and new bookstore in the world." While trying to find Ron Lippock's Steelers Takeaways among the approximately 1 million books in stock, I stumbled upon Here We Go Steelers, Here We Go and bought it for the sake of a future blog post (and to read to my kids, but mostly for blog content). What I didn't realize is that this predicts the outcome of Sunday's Steelers-New England Patriots AFC Championship game.

Before we see the pictures below, I think it's fair to point out several inaccuracies. First, the game in the book takes place at Heinz Field which makes perfect sense for a children's book about the Steelers. In addition, most of the uniform numbers don't match up with current players. So with that, let's witness what will happen on Sunday.

Coach Mike Tomlin, arguably the greatest cheerleader in this country's history, leads the team in a rousing edition of Give Me An S, Give me a T, etc. so that the entire team spells the word Steelers. Antonio Brown is front and center this time to get a better camera angle for Facebook Live.

In the spirit of the referee's message of good sportsmanship, Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount and Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell decide to get high together right at midfield.

The role of James Harrison in this picture is being played by Anthony Chickillo. After the sack, Jim Nantz will refer to James Harrison as "ageless." (And yes, that is my cat Ziggy's tail next to the book.)

After last week's struggles in the red zone, the Steelers decided to hand the ball to Le'Veon Bell (being played by Fitzgerald Toussaint in the book) for a touchdown on a 4th and goal. Smart call!

Chris Boswell has been terrific this season, so why wouldn't he (and not the pictured Jeff Reed or Landry Jones) kick the game-winning field goal?

Celebration time! I'm sure Julian Edelman will be all smiles shaking hands after the game since that's how his team is run." Meanwhile, Steely McBeam is out haunting people in the parking lot.

So there you go. The Steelers will win on Sunday with a late field goal. Enjoy the game (even though you already know the result)!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Ultimate Lee Greenwood Inauguration Set List

Ever take an idea too far? Well, that's the motivation for this post. Country singer Lee Greenwood, best known for "God Bless the USA" during his long career, will perform at this week's inauguration festivities. While I'm sure he'll sing all of his normal hits, I thought it would be fun for him to mix things up and play a bunch of covers.

I proposed several songs and asked for more suggestions on my Facebook page. Please note that these songs are probably not very popular among Greenwood's audience, and it's almost certain that Greenwood has never sang these songs. (That's what makes this even more fun!) Please note that I don't think there are any bad words in these videos, but you still may not want to watch them at work. Enjoy!

Baby Got Back by Sir Mix-a-Lot

Pour Some Sugar On Me by Def Leppard

Not Ready To Make Nice by Dixie Chicks

Break Free by Ariana Grande

Why perform one Ariana Grande song, when you can perform two!

Dangerous Woman by Ariana Grande

Raising Hell by Run-DMC

Why perform one Run DMC song when you can perform two?

It's Tricky by Run DMC

OPP by Naughty By Nature

Raining Blood by Slayer

Hips Don't Lie by Shakira featuring Wyclef Jean (Greenwood could probably perform both parts.)

I really, really, really hope Greenwood performs some of these songs during the inauguration concert. Even just one of these would be fantastic. Feel free to include your own set list suggestions in the comments section below.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Hating The Patriots

On Saturday night, Alan Saunders of Pittsburgh Sports Now, Pirates Prospects, and the Beaver County Times among other places mentioned on Twitter that he has an NFL column bouncing around in his head, but he doesn't write about the NFL or have his own column. I replied that he was welcome to share his thoughts here. Amazingly, he said yes. So here's Alan:

We don’t root for injuries in football. 

It’s an interesting thing, that piece of football fandom, and it tells us a lot about the way we tick as football fans. Of the major American team sports, football is by far the most violent. Men of over 300 pounds collide with one another at the force of a minor automobile accident dozens of times a game. 

Injuries are a part of football. The league has a policy that each team must release a list of which players are injured and how injured they are each and every week. It’s not the exception, it’s the rule. Players are going to get hurt. It’s often said that it’s not the best team that wins the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season, but the healthiest one.

But we don’t root for injuries, even against a foe as despised as Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, whose level of revulsion by the fans of the league’s other 31 teams is only rivaled by their own level of success. The Patriots, who now await the winner of the Pittsburgh - Kansas City game, escaped their Divisional Round game against Houston without any serious injuries, whether they were rooted for or not.

The fact that we don’t root for injuries is a lesson I learned in 1989. That was the year I first became a sports fan, and at the impressionable age of six, there are some things that have stuck with me. The Steelers had played the Cleveland Browns early that year and got trounced, 51-0, in one of the most lopsided defeats in team history. Six weeks later, the Steelers would have to go to Cleveland to avoid being swept by their (at that point) fierce rival.

I don’t recall the identity of the Browns player that laid, sprawled out on the field on the muddy grass of Cleveland Municipal Stadium long after a play. I’m sure it was one of their more-explosive offensive players, perhaps Eric Metcalf, Ozzie Newsome or Webster Slaughter. As the Browns trainers rushed onto the field to tend to their injured star, 6-year-old me leapt off the couch. The loss of a big offensive weapon would for the Browns would be a huge boon for the Steelers’ chances of winning.

The Steelers ended up winning the game, but six-year-old me’s father was unimpressed with my behavior and I got something of a talking to. That’s when I learned that we don’t root for injuries in football. 

There’s a reason.

Now, I haven’t been around long enough to know the intentions of the men that molded the game of rugby into what we now call American football, but whether it was intentional from the start or acquired along the way, there is a gladiatorial spirit to the game.

The goal is of course to win, but that spirit demands that a victory be celebrated less if it is a hollow one. The goal of every team is not just to win, but to face — and defeat — the best each opponent has to throw at them.

That is why we hate the New England Patriots. The Patriots, for all of the success of their four Super Bowls and 14 division titles over the last 15 years, don’t succumb to the will of that gladiatorial spirit. They beat teams, not by overpowering them, not by being more athletic, or stronger, or tougher, but by outsmarting them.

Everything they do, from exotic formations and schemes to the things on the fringes of the rulebook (or over, some would say), is designed to give the team an advantage. In 2015, the Patriots flummoxed the Baltimore Ravens in the playoffs with a little-used but technically legal formation that confused the Baltimore defense. That was the same game in which it was initially revealed that the Patriots were using under-inflated footballs. The team had also been cited for illegal recording the practices of opposing teams and has been accused of tampering with visit radio equipment for years.

The reason we hate the Patriots is the same reason we don’t root for injuries. We’re not supposed to want an ill-gotten advantage. We’re supposed to want to face and beat the opponent’s best in a fair fight. The Patriots are healthy, so someone is going to get their wish.

Sean's Note: I think we also hate the Patriots because of Bill Belichick. He thinks he's smarter than everyone, and though he's probably right, he's a jerk about it. It also doesn't help that despite being so smart, he still had to cheat with Spygate. Tom Brady is also unlikeable. It's acknowledged that he's one of the best quarterbacks ever to play, but he's robotic. Besides appearing in Ted 2, has he every showed a personality?

Thanks again to Alan for his willingness to share his writing here. Please make sure you follow Alan on Twitter.

Monday, January 09, 2017

2017 State Of The Ramblings

12 years. That's how long this silly blog has been around. 12 years is a really long time for a blog. Are there even new blogs anymore? Josh recently lamented the fact that there aren't many personal blogs anymore. They seem to be either subject-specific (sports teams, "mommy" blogs, etc.) or corporate/business blogs. Yet, Sean's Ramblings marches on.

So what can I write about the past year? I wrote fewer posts than ever before, though I still managed over 100 posts. I've found that "short" posts work best on Twitter or my Facebook page. These are essentially videos or a couple of sentences about a subject. However, I just don't have the time to write "longer" posts anymore. For example, I really want to share my experience in Nashville during the most-recent hockey road trip, but nearly 6 weeks after I returned home, the post hasn't happened yet. Instead, most of my posts are just a few paragraphs or a video with a longer narrative than 140 characters.

My favorite posts from the past year were actually my interviews. They probably qualify as "longer" posts but since I'm not writing most of the text, it doesn't feel that way. Thanks again to Ron, author of Steelers Takeaways, Dane Fischer, Assistant Basketball Coach at George Mason University, Vinny, the Gamenight DJ for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Ellen, live in New Hampshire before the primary elections, for taking the time to answer my questions. I also had a few posts about being a dad. However, the "highlight" of the year was getting a cease and desist from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. What an honor! I'm going to blame Drake.

With all of that written, I still have big ideas. Although getting press credentials for the Oscars didn't work out, I've love to cover an awards show. Maybe the Grammys or People's Choice Awards. I don't know, something. Are there any award shows in DC? Maybe something live in New York which would be a lot easier (and cheaper) to get to than LA. Actually, covering a sporting event would be cool too. There has to be some DC area or Pittsburgh sports team that want to give me press credentials!

Thanks to all of you for your support the past 12 years. It's greatly appreciated!

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Tuesday Night

Happy New Year! Today, you're going to get three rants for the price of one (assuming that you're paying for this blog...which you're not, so you're just getting three rants).

I don't have a Fitbit, but my phone counts my steps, and I try to get 10,000 steps per day. Since I returned from my hockey road trip on the first Sunday of December, I've only reached 10,000 steps three times due to me being sick, one of my kids being sick, and/or cold weather making it easy for me to stay inside. We have a gym in our complex, so I decided to walk on the treadmill for about 30 minutes. Not hard core exercise but a way to actually move instead of sitting on the couch after the kids went to sleep.

While one of the two televisions had the Capitals-Maple Leafs game, the other had the CBS show Bull. I pledged never to watch this show because a guy who can select a new jury every week sounded like a terrible show. Plus, I have no interest in Michael Weatherly. It's great that he got his NCIS money and wants to prove he can be out of Mark Harmon's shadow but that doesn't mean that I'm going to watch his show. Yet, I was stuck sort of watching it on Tuesday night. While I knew that Dr. Phil was somehow involved with the show, I was shocked to see Steven Spielberg listed in the opening credits as an Executive Producer. My question is why? It's not like he needs the money. Did he want to get some kind of deal with CBS and being a producer on this show was part of the agreement? I just don't get it. Bull seems like nothing that should have his name attached to it. Oh, I watched about 10 minutes of Bull without sound and probably won't ever see it again.

After the gym, I went to the local Safeway to pick up cat litter. Safeway has $5 Friday deals each week and every few months have Tidy Cats litter for, you guessed it $5. Gene Weingarten, humor columnist for The Washington Post, recently wrote a very funny article titled "Here’s what happened before God let cats loose upon the world." This is the ending

God: Indeed. That leads us to a central issue, Cat. You shall poop in a box.

Cat: WHAT?

God: A little box. From the time you are a small suckling you will know that you must do this and you will never, ever, ever make a mistake about this.

Cat: No!

God: Your life depends on it. Trusteth me on this.

Cat: I cannot ...

God: You can and you will. You scratch bellies. You bite feet. You live as a saboteur. You are an unconscionable jerk. In return for this license you will poop in a little box.

Cat: I am a very good boy.

God: You are not.

Cat: The sand that I shall poop in? Is it expensive?

God: Yes, it is very expensive, indeed.

Cat: Fine.

Basically, $5 for a 20-pound container of cat litter is a fantastic deal. It seems like many other people had the same idea as me last Friday as the litter was completely sold out. I got a rain check.

Back to Tuesday, I went to Safeway to cash my rain check and although I arrived at the store around 9:30 and not midnight, all of the registers were closed with only self-checkout machines available. Of course, two of six machines were out of service leaving one overworked employee to assist a line about 15-deep. After finally getting to a machine, I informed the employee that I had a rain check. He told me that they can only be redeemed at a register. Lovely. He called someone to open a register, and after about five minutes, I finally got to check out. Sort of. The cashier had no idea how to redeem rain checks, so she had to call a manager. Add another few minutes. Finally, we got everything resolved. Sort of. My rain check was for 6 containers of cat litter, but Safeway only had 4. The manager basically told me that I was out of luck and had to use the rain check on the 4. He did not issue me an additional rain check, and I was in no mood to argue as I had already been at the grocery store for nearly 30 minutes. I'm so spoiled by Wegmans with actual people working and employees available to answer questions and, you know, provide customer service. I would vow to never return to Safeway, but I can't pass up the $5 deals of cat litter.

Finally, I came home and opened the mail. One letter was from the homeowner's association with the semi-annual assessment. Here's the problem. The assessment was due on January 1st, so being a responsible resident, I paid it on time. However, the letter included this statement:

Please note that the remittance address on your payment coupons has changed. If you pay by personal check, you do not need to do anything further. Simply use the coupons and remittance envelopes provided to mail your payment. If you use your financial institution's bill payment feature, you must change the payment information.

I do all of my bill payments online, so now I need to call and figure out where my payment went and how it can get to the right place. None of this would have been an issue if I knew about the new address BEFORE THE DUE DATE.

Now that I got this off of my chest, I'm going to try to do something positive. I'm not necessarily going to call it a resolution, but I heard this on the radio and thought it was a good idea. At the end of the day, you're supposed to write down three good things that happened to you. It could be something minor like the Metro didn't break down or cat litter was on sale or something much bigger. Supposedly, after only a few days of doing this, you'll feel better (or something). I'll probably post "my three positive things today" on Twitter. And again, Happy New Year!