Wednesday, May 31, 2023

James Madison-Oakton Playoff Baseball

The Moose arrived home from elementary school recently and said that he wanted to attend a high school baseball game later that evening. We had nothing scheduled, so I took my three boys to a quick fast-food dinner and then their first high school baseball game. Guys night out!

This was a regional semifinal game between James Madison High School (21-4) and Oakton High School (16-8) located less than 1.5 miles away from each other. The place was packed since it was a playoff game between two rival schools. The limited bleachers at James Madison HS were full when we arrived, so we watched the game standing against the fence where the third base line met left field. Well, I watched the game as the kids played various football and baseball games with some of The Moose's friends in the huge grassy area adjacent to the field. 

I should probably mention that one of the attractions of the game was James Madison pitcher/first baseman Bryce Eldridge. In separate mock MLB drafts over the last few weeks, Keith Law of The Athletic projects the Baltimore Orioles to select Eldridge #17 overall while Jonathan Mayo of (who apparently used to play basketball with my brother) has him going to the San Diego Padres at #25. It definitely appears that Eldridge will go in the first round, so seeing someone play before they are potentially a star was intriguing. Of course, it turns out that Eldridge didn't pitch in the game, and Oakton elected to intentionally walk him for all four plate appearances. More on this momentarily.

In preparation of writing this blog post, I searched online for a recap of the game. Some type of news article or a blog post. I came up with absolutely nothing except for this recap from the GameChanger app, which is clearly auto-generated. I guess I'll give a mini summary of the game. Tied 1-1 after 5 innings, Oakton scored 5 runs in the top of the 6th. While I might be wrong on the specifics, I believe that Oakton retired the first Madison batter in the bottom of the 6th before intentionally walking Eldridge. This makes no sense to me. Yes, Eldridge is the best player on the field, but the worst-case scenario is that he hits a solo home run. Maybe you think there's a 75% chance that he'll get on base, but that's still a 25% chance that he gets out. Of course, Eldridge came around to score and Madison ended up putting up 4 runs after a series of hits and errors. Then, down 6-5 in the bottom of the 7th (the last inning), Madison scored two runs including the walk-off hit batter which GameChanger described in great detail with multiple quotes from managers and players. A little local journalism would have been nice.

The highlight for the kids was the chance to meet Eldridge after the game. He stuck around on the field and was gracious in signing autographs for kids while he probably would have preferred celebrating the win with his teammates, family, and friends. I'm now definitely rooting for him, and my kids are too.

Once again, I show that I'm terrible at writing blog posts titles. There are probably countless options better than the one here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Random Ramblings

* I was the assistant coach for Pedro Tulo’s soccer team in fall 2021. I recently worked as a referee where one of his teammates from that team played. I believe that this was the first time that I was a referee for a kid that I coached. The kid definitely didn’t recognize me, but he played an extremely solid game, so I feel like I deserve some credit for this!

* I think I found my calling: being a soccer coach for 5 year-old kids. I really enjoy coaching Luigi's soccer team. It's a half hour of various "practice" activities followed by 30 minutes of either 2v2 or 3v3 games against another team. There are no other practices during the week, and an hour total (followed by snacks) is the perfect amount of time for them. They don't have the attention or focus for more than this. I try to make all the activities fun. For example, there's a game called "Ouch" where they try to kick the soccer ball at me and if they're successful in hitting me, I say ouch. Red Light, Green Light is also a big hit, especially since we're not using Squid Game rules. That probably wouldn't go over well!

* I donated blood on Sunday and feel like a superhero!

* Later on Sunday, I opened a porta potty during Pedro Tulo’s track practice, and there was a bird inside. I held the door open, and the bird flew out after several seconds. While I have no idea how the bird got in there, and I was definitely startled when I first saw the bird flying around, I felt like a superhero again!

* I entered one of my blog posts into a writing contest for Washington DC area journalists. The information states that finalists would be notified by the second week of May. Today is May 23rd, so it seems like I didn’t make the cut..

* Ithaca College publishes the ICView Magazine several times per year geared towards alumni, students, staff and faculty and basically anyone already involved in the community. My goal is to get into ICVIew someday though I don't think there's anything interesting about me that would make for an interesting article. Being a soccer coach for 5 year olds probably doesn't qualify.

* Finally, in less than 24 hours, I heard Never Let You Go by Third Eye Blind on a commercial and while grocery shopping. While I could view this as an "I'm so old" moment, I'll be positive and share that I'm happy that the band is still making money off of a 23 year-old song. Still a great song too!

Friday, May 19, 2023

Sheffield Wednesday Wins Greatest Comeback in EFL Playoff History

I don't write about Sheffield Wednesday very often. While I watch highlight videos, follow Twitter for updates during games, and listen to the Owls Americast podcast, I haven't watched a live Wednesday game in about a year. That changed over the last week as I watched two Wednesday-Peterborough United playoff matches.

A quick summary of English football for those who don't follow. You know what, I'll let the first episode of Welcome to Wrexham explain. (Warning: One bad word in the video.)

Sheffield Wednesday has been around since 1867 with a long history of playing in England's top league. They were actually a founding member of the Premier League in 1992 but got relegated after the 1999-2000 season. That's when I was first introduced to the team though I probably didn't start following them closely until about a decade ago. Wednesday haven't been to the Premier League since 2000 and were relegated from the Championship division to League One (the third division) following the 2020-2021 season. The way English Football works is that the top two teams during the season earn an automatic promotion. Then, the teams finishing 3rd through 6th compete in the playoffs with the winner also going up. Wednesday finished 3rd this season meaning that they played a two-game series against 6th place Peterborough United. Peterborough won the first game last Friday 4-0 in an awful game. So to advance to the final at Wembley Stadium for a chance to move up to Championship League, all Sheffield Wednesday had to do was come back from a four-goal deficit. No team had ever been down more than two goals after the first leg and advanced, but to quote Jim Carrey, so you're telling me there's a chance. 

And then this happened:

Incredible. I don't think I've been this excited about a game and celebrated so much after a goal (in this case Liam Palmer's goal at the end of regulation) since the US-Algeria 2010 World Cup match.

I should probably mention that I almost predicted the result. I published this tweet several hours before the game.

When Peterborough scored in extra time, I figured, yeah, this is just like Wednesday. Get our hopes up and lose in the worst way possible. Fortunately, the team came through and won an amazing game.

Now, Wednesday will play at Wembley Stadium at 10:00 AM Eastern time on Memorial Day. I'll be watching!

Here's a little more about the game from the BBC and ESPN. Sheffield Wednesday also posted an extended video of highlights of the match. I may watch this all weekend long!

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Campout Lockout

I recently celebrated my birthday by going on a Cub Scouts camping trip with Pedro Tulo. If I got to choose what I wanted to do on my birthday, attending a rainy campout and sleeping on the ground inside a tent probably wouldn't make my top 10. Or top 100. As I wrote in the fall, camping really isn't my thing. My son likes his Cub Scout pack, and everyone is nice and helpful, which is fantastic as I have very little to offer in terms of cooking, setting up a tent, etc.

On Saturday night, the rain finally stopped and the activities (and smores) concluded, so it was time to settle down for the night. Pedro Tulo and a friend ran ahead to use the campground restrooms. The campground has about 6-8 individual restrooms with sinks and showers. While I feel like most of the people with RVs don't necessarily need showers, they are nice if you just show up with a car and a tent. You can also get away from the dozens of Scouts for a minute or two to use the restroom in peace. 

Anyway, I found Pedro Tulo as he finished brushing his teeth, and I took his restroom after he departed. I placed my things down and apparently locked the door while I held it open. I hoped that Pedro Tulo would wait for me, but he decided that he wanted to head back by himself without a flashlight. As I tried to convince him to wait a few minutes to walk back with me, the door closed behind me. I attempted to open the restroom, but I managed to lock myself out. Not great, Bob.

Here are the items stuck inside the restroom: A lantern, a towel, my toothbrush, toothpaste, my contact lens case, contact lens solution, and my multifocal prescription glasses that I just bought last fall. Some other scouts/parents we knew tried to reopen the door by using a library card. (I didn't want to mess up a credit card.) That didn't work, so we went back to the campsite and found one of the scout leaders. I left Pedro Tulo with some friends, and a scout leader and I found the campground hosts.I was not familiar with the campground host position. Apparently, you get to stay at the campsite for free (and some places offer a small salary) in exchange for greeting and assisting campers, performing janitorial duties, and being available for late night emergencies. In my case, it was a 9:00PM emergency. I had another flashlight in the tent, and I could skip brushing my teeth, but I kind of needed my glasses.

The first host didn't have extra restroom keys, so he found the second host. This host had keys, which worked on the other bathroom doors but not at the one with my stuff. I found out later that some teenagers damaged the door last fall by setting fire to toilet paper in the bathroom. If I ever get a bill for my kids causing damage by lighting toilet paper on fire, they're going to be grounded for a year. The park replaced the door, but the master key didn't work on this particular bathroom. Despite being an amateur locksmith (I'm not sure I want to know what that means, but I'm picturing an Ocean's Eleven heist), the host could not open the door. The only option was to wait for park staff the next morning. I went back to our tent and went to sleep wearing my contacts.

That's pretty much the end of the story. I found park staff early Sunday morning, and his keys didn't work either. Fortunately, he called one of the managers on site and did have a key. I guess that Pedro Tulo and I helped the staff and campground hosts learn that they need a new key for the one particular bathroom.

Friday, May 12, 2023

Goodbye Ziggy

Over the last few years/decades, I've found that I express myself better through writing than through words. Writing gives me time to think things through, and I can easily edit what I type. I've also found writing, particularly through this blog, therapeutic. I really hope that this helps me right now.

On Wednesday, we had to say goodbye to Ziggy. We adopted Ziggy in November 2008 as a kitten from the Fairfax County Animal Shelter. He was with us when we moved into our current home in early 2010 and prior to the kids. I remember worrying about how he would respond to kids and how they would respond to him. It turned out that we didn't need to worry since he was fantastic. He kept us company during feedings and trying to get the kids back to sleep in the middle of the night, and he was patient as they got older and would pull his tail. 

Throughout this time, Ziggy would always find time for the two of us. When the kids went to sleep, he would curl up next to me on the couch. For many years, as soon as I got into bed, he would jump up and join me under the covers. He made regular appearances on Zoom when I worked from home and was a comfort during COVID always being near me as I worked. Sure, there were times he was annoying. Many nights, he would bite any loose paper around to get my attention to give him more dry food. He did this multiple times a night even with a full bowl. 

A few months ago, we noticed Ziggy vomiting nearly every day, so we scheduled an appointment with the vet. They discovered that he had a tumor in his lung which may or may not have contributed to the vomiting. Based on his age, it didn't make sense to have any type of surgery. The vet prescribed Ziggy medicine, and although he vomited less, he still dry-heaved every day or two. He also ate less and less even with medicine designed to increase his appetite. Without food or water, his energy was down. He barely moved from the bed the last few days and his walking was unsturdy. It was time for ZIggy to go. We know that this is the right decision, but it didn’t make it any easier. I'm typing this on the couch, and he's not sitting next to me. When I went to sleep, he wasn’t by my feet as he usually was. When walking around the house, I find myself glancing at places Ziggy usually was to see if he’s there. I’m sure this will fade over time, but I still expect to see him there.

The kids are sad but not overly so. Pedro Tulo and The Moose have already asked about getting a new pet. I’m not sure when or if that will happen.

A relationship with a pet is different than anything else. When I go away, I can still talk or FaceTime with my family. Pets may understand that you’re leaving based on seeing you pack a suitcase, but they don’t know when you’ll be back. My wife shared that Ziggy would often sit by the front door waiting for me to come home when I was away. Ziggy was also the first pet I had as an adult. The first pet I was truly responsible for. We had a bond, a connection.

I’m tearing up again while typing this, so I’m going to stop. I’m really going to miss Ziggy, and I’m glad he’s been part of my life. Here are some pictures through the years in no particular order.

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

Passover On A Boat

We took a family cruise with 4,500 of our closest friends for Spring Break. Royal Caribbean has enormous boats that include multiple dining rooms, pools, water slides, a casino, a miniature golf course, a basketball court, theaters, an ice skating rink (because why wouldn’t you put an ice skating rink on a boat?) and much more. While I could write about how I made a cruise activities staff member think I was a professional golfer, lost playing bingo and trivia, share that The Moose (now 12!) won a free throw competition against teenagers and adults, or other highlights from the trip, I'm going to write about the Passover Seder, which is the ritual dinner to start the holiday. Wow, that was a really long sentence!

Passover, one of the most important holidays in the Jewish calendar, commemorates the Israelites becoming free after being slaves in Egypt. Think The Ten Commandments starring Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner. Too old of a reference? Go with the animated The Prince of Egypt. Anyway, some cruises have a rabbi and/or a formal Passover Seder. Our cruise did not. Instead, the cruise provided a portion of a dining hall for a self-led Seder. While we thought the cruise was going to provide prayer books, they did not. Fortunately, another family brought a Seder plate and Haggadahs, which are the Passover prayer books. Unfortunately, the Haggadahs were completely in Hebrew with no English at all.

I guess now would be a good time to mention that there was just my family and another family in attendance. The other extended family consisted of a couple, their three elementary school aged kids, and the father's parents. The family was from Israel and moved to the United States several years ago. The grandparents still live there and only speak Hebrew, so the other family led a fast Seder all in Hebrew. We participated in a few prayers here and there, but any readings were recited quickly by the dad or grandfather.

It ended up being a nice and unique Seder. The cruise provided a good meal of brisket, chicken, matzah ball soup, and more including Manischewitz wine, which one of the other family's kids quickly discovered was not grape juice. We had a nice conversation, and there was a huge area to hide the afikomen (it's a piece of matzah that kids try to find). And again, did I mention that this was on a boat?

The next day, we took a tour of Nassau in The Bahamas and stopped in the Atlantis hotel. I noticed a few men walking around wearing kippahs, a traditional head covering, and realized that people were celebrating Passover at the hotel. My aunt used to go to "Passover resorts," where you spend the entire holiday away and have all of your meals prepared, but I'd imagine that Passover at the Atlantis is at a completely different level. Sure enough, celebrating the entire holiday for a family of 4 is probably going to cost five figures and that doesn't include airfare.

Here are a few pictures from the trip:

Canadians can bring back so much more than Americans!

Thursday, May 04, 2023

Advice Needed For Television and Streaming

We have had DirecTV for television since 2010 and are generally happy with their service. Part of the reason we initially became DirecTV subscribers was for the NFL Sunday Ticket so I could watch Pittsburgh Steelers games from the comfort of my home. While we stopped purchasing Sunday Ticket several years ago due to the cost and being busy with kids’ activities over the weekend, DirecTV gave us the NFL package for free the last two years. Of course, Sunday Ticket moves to YouTube TV this fall, and paying $250 (plus the cost of subscribing to YouTube TV) does not seem to fit into our budget. 

I find that we watch less television than we used to even though we have DirecTV as well as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney Plus. So today's question is what should we do if we want to spend less money on television? Actually, the question is what do you do for your television and streaming services? Are you saving money and still getting all of the content that you want?

I will preface this by stating that having network telvision (ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX) is a must. I also still like the idea of network television, and I try to watch the first 20 minutes of Good Morning America to start the day. We also watch live sports more than anything else, so besides watching games on these networks, we currently view sports and sports programming on the ESPN channels, MLB Network, NFL Network, TBS, and TNT (and occasionally FS1, NBA TV, and The Tennis Channel). What kind of options are available to keep these stations with some streaming services at a lower price.

You make the call!