Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Free-form Thoughts on The Force Awakens

NOTE: I initially started writing this soon after The Force Awakens was first released into theaters. It got a little long, and I obviously didn't finish it right away...but, upon revisiting, I found things in here that I thought were relatively important, as these things go, and that I still had just a little bit more I wanted to say. So, all that said, and on the off chance you're still worried about this sort of thing, yes, there will be SPOILERS AHEAD.

---

It's been well established that I grew up in thrall to Star Wars. Born in July of 1977, less than a month and a half after the first movie premiered, I literally have never known a world in which it did not exist. I grew up with Luke, Han and Chewie, and Princess Leia as the ultimate good guys, and my action figures were my prized possessions as a kid. The various Luke figures were known by their colors—White Luke was in his initial Tatooine outfit, Orange Luke was in his flight suit, Brown Luke was in his Bespin fatigues, and Black Luke was in his Jedi outfit. (Curiously, Luke in his Hoth gear did not have a nickname, or, if he did, it has been lost to history. Winter Luke? Maybe.) Remember fire safety lectures as a kid? When they'd tell you that if your house was on fire, you were just supposed to get out without stopping for anything? I remember thinking something along the lines of, "Yeah, sure, fine, but there's no way I'm leaving my burning house without Black Luke." True story.

Orange, Brown, and White Lukes, respectively (not mine, for the record, although I do still have a bunch of the old action figures).

But I digress. The point is this—when the prequels came out, I was excited, but those movies (and leave arguments about their quality aside for now) were never going to be 100% for me. I knew pretty much everything I needed to know about Anakin Skywalker's backstory. I saw all the prequels at midnight showings, yes, and I was bummed that they mostly sucked, sure, but it didn't affect me too much, because what I really wanted from Star Wars was the further adventures of Luke, Han, and Leia. I got that from the Expanded Universe (which eventually expanded too far and became tedious), and I was okay with that.

Another thing I want to mention is that, because I loved the action figures so much, Star Wars was pretty much all I could think about around Christmas during my youth because all I wanted were figures and ships. To this day, I have a tendency when talking about Christmas presents to say something along the lines of "I can't wait to see which Star Wars guys Santa brings me." Another strong memory is climbing under the Christmas tree every chance I got (knocking my mom's nativity scene from hell to breakfast, no doubt) and pretending I was Han Solo, working on the Millennium Falcon.

At any rate, fast forward to 2015, when a new Star Wars movie was set to premiere a mere week ahead of Christmas Day, and it's something of a miracle that I managed to function at all as an adult. My wife got Christmas presents and everything (although I didn't get around to wrapping them). I managed mostly by refusing to let myself dwell on the movie coming out. After all, this was what I had been waiting for—a continuation of the original story, with the original actors (even Harrison Ford!) as Luke, Han, and Leia.

So I was stoked, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't also at least a little bit apprehensive. If this movie sucked, with these characters in it, it would be more of a blow than the prequels. And for that reason, I was glad George Lucas wasn't involved. As skilled a moviemaker as he is, writing and directing just aren't his forte. Best to eliminate him from the process entirely. (That said, I would be incredibly interested to know the details of the story treatments he had written up, which JJ Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan discarded.)

I bought a ticket for opening night on the night they went on sale, suffering through the malfunctions of overloaded websites until there was an opening. By that time, all the very earliest showings were sold out, somehow, but I managed to get one for 7:20, ensuring, at the very least, that no one would be coming out before I went in. Back in the prequel days, of course, even having a ticket, you needed to get to the theater early to get a good spot on line with other people who had tickets, to make sure you got a good seat. This time around, reserved seat, no problem. Which was cool in its way, but I kind of missed the old way, crowding into the lobby with a bunch of other like-minded superfans for an hour or so beforehand.

Finally seeing the movie was an emotional experience. As much as I tried not to let myself think about it in the days and weeks leading up to release day, in truth this was the culmination of 32 years of anticipation. Once I got into the theater, I gave myself over to it and just let it wash over me. There were several moments in that first viewing that gave me chills, but the biggest one was when the Millennium Falcon appeared onscreen for the first time. Not gonna lie, I almost lost it. So many of my imagined childhood adventures featured the Falcon in some way, and seeing it again really was like greeting an old friend.

Perhaps strangely, seeing Han Solo meet his tragic end was not one of the most emotional moments for me, probably because I had seen it coming since they first announced that Harrison Ford was returning to join the cast. Ford, after all, had lobbied for Solo to be killed off in Return of the Jedi; I was surprised he agreed to be involved with the new movie, and assumed Solo's death as a foregone conclusion. So when it indeed happened, I was ready for it. What I was not ready for was the very next shot, in which Leia, worlds away, feels his death through the Force. Devastating.

I ended up going to see The Force Awakens seven times while it was still in theaters. That may seem excessive, and I know it exasperated my stepmother-in-law for some unknown reason, but I couldn't get enough. And beyond that, I wanted to savor it, because this is probably the last time that a new Star Wars movie coming into theaters is going to be a really big deal. There's going to be a new SW movie coming out each year through at least 2020 (starting with Rogue One this December). I'm sure I'll be excited about them, and seeing them in theaters will be awesome, but not "I've been waiting years for this" awesome. So I let The Force Awakens be a really big deal for me, and it was great, and I regret nothing.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Moving, Part 2

If you're tempted to go scrolling back through this blog to find "Moving, Part 1" to make sure you don't miss anything, don't bother. Brandi and I moved from Troy to the Columbus area nearly 2 1/2 years ago, and I still haven't gotten around to writing about that transition. I still plan on it at some point; hence, "Part 2." The next installment will be a prequel.

Recently Brandi and I signed a lease on a new apartment and gave notice at our current place of our imminent departure. So, in early September, we will be packing up all of our earthly belongings (and also our cat) and schlepping them to a new location. On the bright side, unlike our last move, which was a 90-mile trek requiring the hiring of movers and the sedation of Luna, this is a much more manageable 3-mile move that we will likely try to pull off largely by ourselves, with, hopefully, the help of some other amateurs like us. Although other options are still in play.

We have, for the most part, really enjoyed living at our current place. Our main motivation for moving is twofold. For one, the kitchen is tiny and suffers from a severe lack of prep space. Brandi has been making a concerted effort to cook more often, and the kitchen is wearing on her. Secondly, the building is fairly old and, may I say, not especially well maintained, and it's susceptible to water leakage. The basement in particular used to take on a lot of water anytime it rained at all; we've had maintenance performed on it twice in our 2+ years, and while it has gotten quite a bit better, it's still a problem. We've also had leakage in three different spots in our ceiling, and, on one memorable occasion, water from the bathroom was dripping down into the kitchen below.

The new place will definitely take care of these particular issues. For one, it's brand new—Brandi and I will be the first tenants. As of right now, in fact, it's still being built. It's also all on one level, a second floor, with a unit above and below us serving as an effective water barrier (not that a new building should have issues anyway). And the kitchen has counter space galore, and it's open to the dining room and living room, so space in there will not be a problem.

That second-floor balcony is ours. As soon as, you know, they finish building the inside.
What I'll miss most about our current place is its location. It sits just south of Old Worthington, and Brandi and I often take the opportunity to walk to some of our favorite spots when the weather is favorable. Just this morning, in fact, I walked through the weekly farmer's market and to the Old Worthington Library (which is where I sit now, writing this), a Saturday morning ritual I've grown quite fond of. The new place is still in Worthington, but it's in kind of a weird spot between industrial and commercial areas. There actually is a branch of the Worthington Library nearby, but as sidewalks are scarce, I'll have to scout out the walking situation.

I have to admit to a certain amount of apprehension about, of all things, our Internet service. So far as I've been able to ascertain (and I plan on finding out more about this as our moving day approaches), there's only one provider available at our new place for TV/Internet, one that I've not dealt with before, and it looks like all their Internet plans include data caps. I wasn't even aware that was a thing for non-mobile Internet in the data-ubiquitous year of 2016, and it doesn't please me. I telecommute on a daily basis, which involves some fairly substantial data usage, and we're also users of Netlix, Amazon, Spotify, etc., on top of our regular Internet usage. So yeah, I have some concerns about Internet plans with data caps.

On the other hand, there are some creature comforts in the new place that I'm very much looking forward to, not least of which is just the idea of living in a brand new place, where no one has lived before. I also, as strange as it may seem, can't wait to have a freezer with a built-in icemaker. What can I say? I go through a lot of ice, and filling the trays all the time is the bane of my existence (and yes, #firstworldproblems for sure). We will also, as you can see in the photo above, have a balcony, which I plan on using a lot; outdoor options at our current place are virtually nonexistent. We'll have two bathrooms, which comes in handy more often than you'd think for just two people. And while hardwood, which we have throughout our current apartment, looks nice, for comfort's sake, going back to carpet is a plus. Oh! And all of our electrical outlets will be grounded! At our current place, the majority of them are not, which apparently is also still a thing in the year 2016 for some unknown reason.

Our move is still seven weeks away, though—seven weeks of just wishing it was over with, already. I can't say I'm looking forward to moving, but I am looking forward to having moved. Hopefully this will be the last one for a good long while.

(Spoiler alert: It probably won't be.)

Friday, October 30, 2015

Piqua 26 Troy 7


First off—and let the record show that I've been harping on this from the very beginning and will continue to do so until it's a thing of the past, which will probably be never—this Great American Rivalry nonsense has got to go. With all due respect (and then some) to the U.S. Marine Corps, the sponsor of the event, this game doesn't need any hoopla it doesn't generate on its own. Yeah, it's cool that a player on each team gets a small scholarship, but that's the only real benefit I see. I hate seeing them pulled out of their pregame routine for recognition—and yes, I realize it happens too for Homecoming, Senior Night, etc., so if that were the end of it, I guess I could live with it. But what I really hate is all the postgame crap. This game doesn't need a trophy or an MVP. Get the kids off the field so they can celebrate/commiserate in the locker room. And yes, I feel the same way when it's Troy's kids dancing on Piqua's field instead of the other way around.

On the other hand, if I'm Troy coach Matt Burgbacher, I'm not sure it was the worst thing in the world to have your team take a respectful knee on the sidelines to watch the spectacle. If I'm him, I'm pointing at those kids in red and blue jumping up and down on the Trojan star and saying something to the effect of, "You like that? Remember how this feels. You want to avoid this feeling, you need to work harder and get better. Next year that's going to be us."

(Not that I think the Troy kids didn't or don't work hard. Still, you take your motivation where you can find it.)

The story on this night was Piqua's relentless, punishing ground game. Troy's defense kept it more or less in check for longer quite a while, but eventually they just got worn down. I have to give them a lot of credit, though—they kept fighting to the end, even when the game was pretty much decided. There was no quit in these kids.

The problem, really, was that they just spent so much time on the field (GWOC stats show Piqua with over 32 minutes of possession), and that's because Troy's offense just couldn't sustain drives (they had the ball for just over 15 minutes). They did some things here and there, and they were finally able to put a TD on the board late in the game to keep it from being a shutout, at least. Early in the game, it looked like they wanted to test Piqua's defense deep, and that looked like a good strategy as the Trojan receivers were torching their defenders with regularity. Unfortunately, QB Hayden Kotwica had a couple of overthrows, and even when he did hit them, his receivers had a case of the dropsies all night. And that was it, really. A few more catches, this is a different game; a closer game, at least.

And that's the season. These ten weeks always fly by, at least for me. As trying as the season was at times, I'd happily load up and make another trek next week for another game. Sadly, there are no more, at least for the Trojans. They finish the year at 2-8, dead last in the GWOC North with a 1-4 conference mark. They can pack their equipment away and start getting ready for basketball, while other teams (Piqua among them, it seems, as much as it pains me to say) gear up for the postseason. I'm sure I'll have more to say about the totality of the Trojan season and program in the coming days.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Butler 33 Troy 28


Oh, Trojans. Oh, so close.

Even without the win, this was a game for the ages. It was a back-and-forth contest all night, with Troy's decision to go for (and score) two points after their first touchdown looking like it might play a major role in the final outcome. Trojan quarterback Hayden Kotwica threw for well over 400 yards, breaking a 55-year-old school record, and, perhaps more importantly, the defense also put together a relatively decent game, holding Butler's leading rusher to just 59 yards on 16 carries.

It wasn't quite enough for the Trojans to pull the upset, however. In the end it was turnovers that cost them, as they gave the ball away three times without taking it away from the Aviators at all. One of those resulted in a 75-yard scoop-and-score that gave Vandalia its first lead, 27-22, with just a few ticks left in the third quarter. The Trojans had a couple of chances after Butler scored with about half the fourth quarter remaining for the final margin, but they just couldn't get there. On one, Trojan receiver Luke Robinson (who had a monster game himself) had his hands on a pass in the endzone, but the Butler defender was able to knock it away.

Still, this was the kind of game that I've been looking for from the Trojans--they weren't perfect by any means, but they played well enough to have a shot in the end. That's impressive, especially given that Butler is undefeated in the conference (the win tonight clinched the championship for them, actually), and given the records, most people would have expected them to win this one going away. Instead the Trojans gave them a hell of a fight, and if one of a handful of plays had gone a different way, they would have held on. Hell, if just two or three of those plays had gone the other way, it would have been Troy laying the wood, score-wise.

And I have to say, the effort did not go unnoticed by Trojan fans in the stands (if we've got spirit, clap our hands). After the game, in what I sincerely hope is a new tradition, the team gathered in front of the home stands for the alma mater, and they received a warm standing ovation. It was pretty awesome, and again, one of those moments that reminds me of all the things I love about sports. If I would have had the presence of mind to pull my phone out of my pocket, that would have been the image I would have captured to lead off this post, but I too was caught up in the moment (and I regret nothing).

So now the Trojans find themselves at 2-7, 1-3 in the conference. Next week is Week 10, and lest you think that Troy, with that record, has nothing left to play for, well, think again. It's actually the biggest game of the season, the one that can wipe away all the other bitter moments if only they can pull it out. That's right, boys and girls: it's Piqua week. The two rivals are hooking up for the 131st time, and the series stands tied at 62-62-6; Piqua has won the last three. The game will be held at Troy Memorial Stadium, and I'll be there for my 25th in a row. (The first I attended was in 1992, my sophomore year at THS; I haven't missed one since. Fittingly, the record stands tied at 12-12 in those games). Piqua comes in at 5-4 with an outside chance of making the playoffs with a win. I'd prefer not to see that happen, and I imagine the Trojans themselves feel the same way. So let's do this, shall we?

Friday, October 16, 2015

Sidney 52 Troy 28


I'm in no great hurry to talk about this game. So let me warm up by starting with last week, when Troy played at Trotwood, a game I did not attend.

When I looked over Troy's schedule prior to the start of the season, I pegged the Trotwood game as one I was unlikely to attend. Trotwood is on the far (west) side of Dayton, and making it there for a 7:00 pm kickoff when I get off work at 5:00 on the north side of Columbus is a little too much to ask. And then when I realized that my schedule actually had me working in Toledo for the day, that sealed the deal—even if I was inclined to go, I'd be lucky to get there by halftime, when—let's be honest—the Trojans would probably already be facing a running clock, facing the powerful, state-ranked Rams.

Not worth it.

So instead I drove home to Worthington from Toledo; and, as I hate to let a Friday in the fall go by without attending a game of some sort, I walked over to see the local Thomas Worthington High School game, where I was treated to a fair spectacle of very bad football. After I had been there for a few minutes, I decided to check in on Twitter to see how the Trojans were doing. (Thanks, @TheFong.)

The Trojans were leading 14-0 at halftime.

I immediately regretted my decision to not try to go, even though that was completely irrational. And I cautioned myself that there was still a full half left to play, and reminded myself that Troy also held Trotwood scoreless in the first half last year, only to give up four TDs in the second half and lose 28-0. Still, I was glued to Twitter from there on out, relentlessly refreshing my timeline for score updates as I hoped against hope that the Trojans could hold on.

And hold on they did, stuffing a two-point try late in the game to eke out a 21-20 win, the first time they've beaten Trotwood since 2005, and the first time Trotwood has lost in the conference since 2007. As this is the Rams' last year in the conference, I was ecstatic the Trojans were able to give them a bloody nose on the way out and at least give them a little reminder of the days when the GWOC North didn't just roll over for them (quite the opposite, in fact—@TheFong informs me that Troy's all-time record against Trotwood now stands at 22-12, which, of course, would have been 21-3 in the Trojans' favor before Trotwood's nine straight wins from 2006-14).

Aside from the thrill of beating Trotwood, of course, the win gave the Trojans two on the year. After seven games, that's not much to get excited about, except that it doubled their total from last year's 1-9 disaster season. And Sidney, this week's opponent, was the one team they did beat last year (a 27-0 win). I was really hoping the Trojans would come out, play well, get another hard-earned victory, and get a little confidence and momentum heading into the last two weeks of the season.

Alas.

Sidney is much improved from last year. Their freshman QB/sophomore RB duo of Andre Gordon and Isaiah Bowser are going to give the GWOC North fits for a couple of years to come, I'm afraid. Add another week of not-particularly-inspired play from the Trojans into the mix, and you get a blowout result like this. Had they been able to make just a couple of plays go a different way, especially early on, I really think this would have been a competitive game. Instead, it went south fast (Sidney was up 22-0 after one quarter), and Troy was never able to recover. They did get the offense going a little bit, but the defense...ugh, this defense. But again, credit Sidney on that score, and especially their young playmakers. They were determined not to let the Trojans back into the game, and they didn't.

And Piqua beat Trotwood tonight, too, so that takes a little bit of luster off last week's win as well. I mean, I'm glad to see Trotwood getting some comeuppance on their way out, but Piqua? No thanks. I don't root for those guys against anybody.

So there are now two weeks, two games, left in this season, and if the Trojans are looking for a break, they can forget about it. Next week they face the Butler Aviators, another team they've traditionally dominated (21-12), but who is currently sitting atop the standings with an unblemished 3-0 conference record and at 6-2 overall. On the bright side, they will be back at Troy Memorial Stadium for the first time in three weeks, and emotions should be high for Senior Night. I'll be there, cheering like hell for them to shock the conference again.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Greenville 27 Troy 14


Let's start with the positives, shall we?

.
..
...
....

Oh, wait! I've got one! I took a different route to the game from Columbus, and it was much better, despite the fact that it was almost entirely country roads instead of interstate. There was a little bit of inexplicable stop-and-go, but not nearly as much as on Route 315 and Insterstates 670 and 70. Now, I still need to look for an alternate route out of town for any games south of Troy, but for home games, I think I'm golden.

There's no way to sugarcoat this: the Trojans were bad tonight. No disrespect intended toward Greenville, who has a pretty decent team, but this one should have at least been interesting, but the Trojans just couldn't make it so. As bad as they were, they still managed a slim 14-13 lead at halftime; even competent play could have kept them in it or given them a win. Alas, it was not to be.

The one bright spot on the night was defensive back Bailey Williams (no relation), who was responsible for both Trojan touchdowns. The first he scooped and scored after a blocked field goal that I was stunned Greenville actually tried to kick. The second was an interception that he more or less returned for a touchdown. (He returned the interception to the endzone, but it was called back due to a penalty; still, the good field position led to Troy's lone offensive TD.)

There were some flashes of good things that made it seem like the Trojans could pull this out if they wanted to. The blocked field goal. A blocked extra point. A goal-line stand. But for the most part, I'm flummoxed by how bad the defense was--partially because defense was Troy's redeeming aspect under Coach Brewer and it's amazing the difference from last year to this, and partially because I really though Coach (Charlie) Burgbacher would have them whipped into an acceptable shape by this point of the season. Not so much, at least not tonight. Greenville receivers were often open behind the entire Trojan defense; bad angles were taken; tackling was bad.

Another thing I just want to mention: as long as Coach (Matt) Burgbacher is in charge of this program, Trojan fans need to learn that they can't expect any favors from the officials. He's not shy about getting in their ear pretty vociferously, so it can't come as any surprise later in the game when, say, a receiver gets bumped a little early and no flag comes out. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

So after two straight home games, the Trojans go on the road again next week to take on the Trotwood-Madison Rams. I'll be pulling for the good guys from afar, I'm afraid; Trotwood is a little further than I can expect to make it in time for kickoff from Columbus (or maybe Toledo--my work schedule may have me up north on Friday). I'm going to stay close to home, for once--weather permitting, I think I'm going to stroll just a couple of blocks north to check out the Thomas Worthington Cardinals. And if the weather doesn't permit, I may just stay on the couch with a movie and a cocktail.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Xenia 45 Troy 42


I was at this game, but I don't have very much to say about it. Not because it wasn't a memorable game--it actually got pretty crazy toward the end. No, the reason I don't have much to say about it is because I was at the game with a group of my fellow alumni from Troy High School's class of 1995, and so I wasn't paying as much attention to the game as I usually do.

All I can say is that the Trojans got off to a really slow start. It actually looked like it was going to get ugly for a while, despite both teams' identical 1-3 record coming in. Xenia led 24-7 at half, and a score to begin the fourth quarter put them up 38-14. However, Troy's furious rally began at that point, scoring four TDs from there (in about a five-minute span, actually) to end up with the oh-so-close final score. They actually had another drive as the clock was winding down, and it looked like they were really going to pull it out, when the Buccaneers came away with an interception to seal it.

I was pretty impressed by how loud the Troy crowd got as the game got closer and closer. Troy Memorial Stadium hasn't rocked like that in quite some time. Two game have been played there now this season, two close losses for the home team by a grand total of five points. The Trojans will get another chance to put their first home win on the board next week when they play the Greenville Green Wave (2-3) for Homecoming.

(Also: I had a great time with my classmates. Looking forward to the actual reunion tomorrow night.)