Friday, October 17, 2014

Troy 27 Sidney 0

Not everyone understands why I spend my Fridays in the fall chasing the Troy Trojans up and down the I-75 corridor or wherever else in Ohio the schedule may take them. That was true even when I lived in Troy and most games were just across town or a short drive away; it's more true now that we live in the state capital and every game I attend involves a long and often-maddening slog across I-70 and back into the Miami Valley.

I love the action on the field, of course, but that's only part of the story. More than that, when I watch sports--and this goes for any sport, not just Troy football--I'm interested in the story, the human moments that go along with the game, the season, the moment. The best illustration I can think of for this happened several years ago when I was flipping channels and stopped for a moment on an NCAA women's basketball tournament game between Ohio State and Duke. The game was nearly over, and an Ohio State player was shooting free throws to ice the victory; as she got set, the camera flashed to Duke player Georgia Schweitzer, a senior in her final game that was about to end. She had tears streaming down her she settled into her stance and got ready to play on despite them. That's always stuck with me, and that was in a game I didn't care about between two teams I didn't care about.

All of which brings us back to this year's Troy Trojans, 0-7 coming into this game and, all things considered, no particular incentive to do anything other than mail in the rest of the season. Well, no incentive beyond pride, of course--and, as it turns out, that's something these Trojans have in spades. Sure, one way or another this is going to end up as a losing season, atypical in the rich history of Troy football, but this year's crop of Trojans has played all year with a visible determination to give their opponents everything they have. On this night, that determination paid off.

These Trojans have played their asses off all year and, as I said, came into this game with an 0-7 record to show for it, due largely to a brutal schedule. So while, on an intellectual level, I couldn't agree with senior receiver Billy Smith doing a flip into the endzone after sprinting 85 yards for the Trojans' third touchdown early in the fourth quarter, earning a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct in the process, in practice I couldn't do anything but smile. The kid had pretty much just sealed his team's first win of the season. He wants to show a little joy? I can get behind that.

The Trojans just looked so solid tonight all the way around. The defense...what can I say about them? Lights out. Time after time they had to come up big to keep Sidney off the board, and time after time they did it. Even when the win was well in hand, they kept up their intensity, wanting to ensure not just the win, but the shutout. Seeing the kids celebrate and congratulate each other on the sideline as the clock wound down was another "Georgia Schweitzer moment" that will stick with me for a long time.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Miamisburg 45 Troy 14

Unfortunately, I have to begin again by decrying the new OHSAA mercy rule that mandates a running clock in the second half of a game in the case of a 30+ point deficit. The Vikings were up 38-0 at halftime, and the entire second half was played under the rule. Again, it's just too aggressive--if nothing else, they should stop the clock for penalties. A couple of times there were flags thrown and a ton of time came off the clock while the officials talked to each other, talked to players, talked to coaches, announced the penalties, marked it off, and readied the ball for play. Too much time. Each time got two possessions in the second half, and that was it. The Trojans scored touchdowns on both of theirs. Not saying they would have been able to get back into the game; just saying they didn't even get a chance to bring the score under the 30-point mark to get the game back to normal.

At any rate, there isn't much to say about this one. Miamisburg was just bigger, faster, better than Troy. Again, the Trojans played hard from start to finish, and there's talent here and there, but not enough to compete. At least not yet--most of these players are young, and gaining valuable experience.

On the bright side, it was a beautiful, picture-perfect night for football. I wore a long-sleeved t-shirt to the game and put on a sweatshirt as the sun went down. Not bad for what's technically still summer--normally nights like this don't happen until October.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

A Quick Note on Being a Better Sports Fan

Are you a sports fan? Well, hold on to your hat, because I'm about to give you some groundbreaking, never-before-heard advice on how to be a better sports fan. I daresay that following this advice will make you the best sports fan you can be, not to mention a better human being. Ready? Here goes.

Don't tell other people how to be fans.

That's it. That's the list.

Certainly in the months and years you've spent being a fan of a certain team, you have absolutely perfected it. You. You are the pinnacle of fandom. Compared to you, everyone else in the stadium--nay, the world--is sucky.


You may find this hard to believe, but other fans don't fan the way you fan. As inconceivable as it may be, that does not mean that these other fans are doing it wrong. Your insistence that it is otherwise is not welcome. If you persist, you risk going from "annoyance" to "asshole."

Here's what happened.

Brandi and I returned to our beloved alma mater, Bowling Green State University, for the football team's hope opener against VMI. The BGSU Falcons ended up winning the game 48-7, so clearly the VMI Keydets were overmatched. Now, in the early stages of the game, there was plenty of cheering whenever the Falcons did something good, which was often. As the game went on and the outcome was less and less in doubt, the cheering cooled off. The crowd thinned out and quieted down. This was not to the liking of one dude in the front of our section, who repeatedly waved his arms at those of us behind him in an effort to get us to stand up and make more noise.

Before I go any further, let me say that, in what I've said so far, I've been this guy before. I've been in crowds that I wished were louder and more enthusiastic, and I've done the arm wave thing. I will say that I only remember doing it a handful of times, for really close, really big games. However: I get it. You feel like the crowd should be up,  you feel like you can influence them in that direction, you start flapping your arms. Cool.

So needless to say, I didn't hate the guy's message, although I did think it was a little unnecessary as the third quarter was winding down and the Falcons were up by 34 points. The game was over. Still, if that was as far as it had gone, it would have been fine. That was not as far as it went, though. After a certain length of time had passed in non-loudness and numerous arm-waves had gone unheeded, dude's cup runneth over and he started berating those of us lucky enough to be in the superfan section for not supporting the team, not caring, not being fans. Because of course he did. Brandi and I had noted previously that we were sitting in front of one player's parents and another player's grandparents, but hell yeah, dude, these people don't care.

Anyway, after a certain amount of abuse tossed our way, a few words were lobbed back in dude's direction, which, surprisingly, did not defuse the situation. Dude doubled down on his argument, more words were exchanged, and, with the third quarter closing and the game well in hand, Brandi and I decided it was time to go.

And this is exactly my point. Along with violating Wheaton's Law, dude trying to increase support for the team ended up driving two fans from the stadium, thus defeating his own purpose. And I'm not an early leaver--I go to a lot of sporting events, and I can count on one hand the number of times I've left before the final gun, and that includes many blowouts (both wins and losses for my team), crazy weather, and what have you. And I'll note here that I'm not knocking people who leave early; I'm just saying that staying until the end is what I like to do. You want to scream your face off at what ended up being a 41-point blowout? I respect that. Actually, I think it's kind of awesome; it's just not my thing. Me, I'll be behind you, kicking back with a brewski, enjoying the sunshine and the fact that my team's got one in the bag. If that bothers you to the point where you actually have to be a jackass to complete strangers, it seems to me that you're the one with the problem.

EDITED TO ADD: On the bright side, it was an otherwise spectacular day. I'll be writing about the good part as time allows.

EDITED (AGAIN) TO ADD: Writing about the good part has now taken place and can be found here.

Friday, August 29, 2014

CJ 42 Troy 7

Let's get this out of the way first: the OHSAA made a rule change this year, under which a deficit of more than 30 points in the second half results in a running clock, to decrease the amount of time spent in an obvious mismatch. As this game had a 35-point halftime deficit, I got a chance to see the new rule in action from the get-go. I can see pros and cons of it, but after seeing for myself how it goes, I can say that I think it's a little too aggressive. From the time the ball is kicked off, the clock runs, except in the case of a timeout or (I assume) an injury. I'd like to see it dialed back just a bit, so that the clock would stop for incomplete passes or a ball carrier going out of bounds, until the ball is reset for play.

Of course, I would have preferred not to see the new rule come into play at all, or for Troy to be on the other end of the blowout, but that wasn't to be.

I will say that this Trojan team presents a contrast to last year's team. Last year the Trojans featured quite a bit of talent, but they just never quite seemed to get it all together and have their heads in the game. That aspect, even in game one, looked to be greatly improved. The talent, on the other hand, just isn't quite there, or isn't quite ready, at the very least. A lot of new names and faces were all over the field, and against a good, experienced team like CJ, that makes for a rough start. I do feel like the Trojans will come together and get better as the season goes on, but man, they've got a tough schedule.

I also have to say that the Trojans appear to have a horse at tailback. Elijah Pearson ran for 140 yards (behind an inexperienced offensive line) and looked good doing it. As usual at Troy, the running game will be fine. The rest of the offense showed some flashes, so we'll just have to see how it goes. I think the defense probably needs more work, as they got beat on some long pass plays and had some trouble tackling as well. Of course, Coach Brewer comes from the defensive side of the ball, which has always been a strength during his tenure (as d-coordinator and as head coach), so I'm confident that better days are on the horizon.

And as always, even though the outcome wasn't what I hoped for, it was good to be back at Troy Memorial Stadium to see the red and gray back in action. I will not be following the Trojans for their first road game at Cincinnati Northwest next week, as I'm going with my wife to her alma mater's game for a cheerleader alumni event, so I'll be reporting instead from Eastwood at Clyde.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Galaxy Far, Far Away, Reduced and Redux

Today is George Lucas's 70th birthday. With all the Star Wars news that's been coming out lately, I've been meaning to put together some of my thoughts; today seemed like an appropriate day to sit down and make that happen.

First came the news that the existing Expanded Universe (read: all the SW-related novels, comics, video games, etc. published up to this point) are being, essentially, discarded. They'll remain in print (and here I'm thinking mainly of the novels) under a new "Legends" banner, but they're not considered part of the "official" story; while certain elements may be appropriated and reused, future contributors to the SW universe are in no way beholden to what came before. The only things that are official are the six feature films, the Clone Wars animated series that recently ended, and the upcoming Rebels animated TV series. Going forward, anything that comes out (beginning with the appropriately titled novel A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller in September) will be part of one official, unified storyline.

Generally speaking, I think this was the right move. I actually wish they had gone one step further and nixed the Clone Wars cartoons. I'm still in the midst of watching the final season, which was never aired on television and distributed instead through Netflix, but I've seen the rest. While there were some cool parts, I think the low points outweigh them. The main thing that drives me crazy is the return of Darth Maul. Yes, he was a cool character that was vastly underutilized, but the fact remains that he got cut in half and then tumbled down a massive shaft. The dude died, and giving him robot legs and pretending he survived is just lame. You gave him a badass brother; that should have been enough.

Actually, I feel similarly about the rest of the Expanded Universe, that part that did get severed from the official Star Wars canon. There were high points (I've written before that, despite my love of the movies as a kid, my continuing level of fandom owes a huge debt to Timothy Zahn's Thrawn trilogy), but the low points were so bad that they absolutely had to go. I mean, come on: the ridiculous escalation of superweapons (the Sun Crusher, the Darksaber, World Devastators, Centerpoint Station...was there another Death Star? There may have been)? A clone of the Emperor (twice, I think)? Luke dating a ghost? The endless, contradictory musings on the nature of the Force? Ugh. Look, all of Zahn's novels were great, as were Aaron Allston's, and I really enjoyed the Han Solo trilogies (both Brian Daley's and A.C. Crispin's) and The Lando Calrissian Adventures (which were so totally unlike anything else in the SW universe); just about everything else was terrible. It would have been too confusing to pick and choose which stories happened and which didn't (and I'm sure there's plenty of disagreement over the quality of various works), so it all had to go. Besides, from a storytelling standpoint, it wouldn't have been easy to keep all of that and then pick up the storyline thirty years after Return of the Jedi in a way that would easily catch up those with no knowledge of the EU stories.

So all that is gone but not forgotten, and I do think it will be interesting to see which existing elements get reused and how. Grand Admiral Thrawn is such a great character--he has to get back into the mix somehow, right? I'd like to think so. I also think it'll be interesting to see when and how the "Legends" stories get overwritten. New stories are going to be told to bridge the gap between Return of the Jedi and whatever ends up happening in Episode VII. How will they be different from the tales we've already heard? Only time will tell. I just hope they bring in adequate talent to do the job. I was underwhelmed with the initial batch of authors chosen to expand the universe officially with new novels (John Jackson Miller, James Luceno, Kevin Hearne, and Paul S. Kemp). I liked (didn't love) Miller's previous SW novel, Kenobi; Luceno's work has been decent at best, despite having some pretty cool topics and characters to work with, like Darth Plagueis, Darth Maul, Darth Vader, and the Millennium Falcon); Kemp's novels I honestly can't even remember if I've read or not; Hearne hasn't written for SW before, and I'm not familiar with his other work. To be fair, I don't know who would have been better; I don't read a ton of sci-fi. I do think it would have been awesome to let Zahn kick things off, as he did in the first place, and I'd enjoy seeing more SW from Matthew Stover. One name from sci-fi I am familiar with is John Scalzi--I know he's turned down the opportunity to write SW before, but personally I'd love to see what he could do with it.

And continuing with the "I just hope they bring in adequate talent to do the job" theme, we come to Episode VII itself, currently scheduled for release on December 18, 2015. Let's start with the old news first: I'm not conversant with J.J. Abrams's entire oeuvre, but I like what little I've seen (the two newest Star Trek movies as director, and Super 8 as director and writer). I'm excited to see what he bring to the table, and bringing back veteran writer Lawrence Kasdan from the original trilogy gives me great optimism. I'm also stoked that John Williams will be back to compose the score; given his age, I'm sure a day will come when Star Wars music is composed by someone else, and I do not look forward to that day.

Of course, as we all now know, Kasdan and Williams aren't the only old hands being brought back from the original trilogy. The recent cast announcement confirmed that original stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, and Kenny Baker will be reprising their roles as Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, C-3PO, and R2-D2, respectively. I think that'll be nice. It'll be awesome to see them in their familiar roles once again as they (I'm sure) pass the torch to a younger generation of heroes and villains. I'm still hoping they find a spot for Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian as well. I don't know a ton about the newcomers, except for Max von Sydow, who's always good, and Andy Serkis, who's an interesting addition. Everyone else? No real clue. I've seen Adam Driver in Girls, but that role is so far away from anything he'd do in Star Wars, there's no way to extrapolate. Domhnall Gleeson was fine in a bit part as Bill Weasley. I've heard good things about Oscar Isaac and John Boyega, and I'll try to catch some of their movies (primarily Inside Llewyn Davis and Attack the Block) in the meantime to get up to speed with their work.

The most important thing about the new movies, I think, is for the writers to let them be what they are. The original three movies had a broad appeal, including to kids, because it was a swashbuckling adventure with relatable characters, a lot of action and humor, and, of course, a happy ending. The prequel trilogy fell short in part because it was a very different story, but Lucas tried to tell it in the same way. The descent of a republic into fascism, and the fall of a hero into a power-hungry mass murderer? Not a story that can be told (well) if you want to aim it at kids. One thing I do think is good is that they're going to make a bunch of new Star Wars movies, and hopefully that will give them the freedom to make different kinds of movies. The prequels should have been dark. If the upcoming trilogy or standalone movies have a dark storyline, they should be able to go with it, with plenty of room to make other movies that are lighter. Variety and depth--that's what I'm hoping for.

Needless to say, George Lucas's work, and plenty of products based upon it, has brought me a great deal of joy over the course of the past 36 (almost 37) years. Despite my disenchantment with the prequels (primarily The Phantom Menace; it was the only one I'd describe as outright terrible, and the following two likely would have been much improved with a better start to the series) isn't enough to make me not excited for the new trilogy and everything else Star Wars still has to offer. I'm very much looking forward to it.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Everybody's Doing It, Doing It, Doing It

Twitter and Facebook have been blowing up this week with people posting pictures of forecasts and temperature displays, as well as pictures and videos of the weather outside and all the cool, unexpected, and bizarre phenomena brought on by the extreme cold. I'm not going to join them in the pics/videos department, but I guess I'm going to write about it. It sure is cold.

"How cold is it?"

Well, let me tell you--I've had two straight days off work...and I work at home. Right now my weather app informs me that it's 6°, -8° with the wind chill, and that represents a significant increase from what it was yesterday and earlier today, when wind chills dropped below -30°. That's pretty fuckin cold, not to put too fine a point on it. Now, I had every intention of working yesterday, but the office was closed; at some point over the weekend my PC in the office lost power, and there was no one in the building to turn it on for me. I connect to that PC remotely to do the overwhelming majority of my work, and without it I had nothing to do. Even if I had been able to work yesterday, I wouldn't have today, because I would have caught up on everything with nothing new coming in.

The company I work for is in the Toledo area, which was hit even harder by this "polar vortex" than we were here in Troy, about 120 miles south. They were hit with a bunch of snow on Sunday night (the totals I've seen seem to be in the 7-10" range), which we were supposed to get, but which (for the most part) didn't happen here because of much higher temperatures than expected (i.e. we got rain instead). At any rate, the resulting wind and cold have made it nearly impossible to clear the roads in that area; hence, the two-day company closure. I fully expect we'll be back up and running tomorrow, but we'll see.

If it's anything like it is here (and I imagine it's not like it, it's worse), travel is definitely no picnic. Brandi reported yesterday that the interstates were in pretty good shape, at least between here and Columbus (which is east, not north). When I went to the gym around 11:00 this morning, though, I found that the surface streets are still pretty well sheeted with ice here in Troy. I expected it in our neighborhood, which sees little traffic, but I expected Main Street to be in much better shape. I've found the Neon to handle pretty well in snow and ice, especially for such a small car, but today was a slip-and-slide fest until I got a feel for just how bad the streets were.

I'm supposed to travel to Toledo on Thursday and Friday this week for our monthly catalog deadline, so that should be interesting. On the bright side, it's supposed to be significantly warmer by then--we may even rise above freezing! Of course, I also see that the forecast for those days calls for snow and rain, which would mean ice on the roads at the times I'm driving. So, we'll see how it goes--I ended up cutting my trip short last month due to impending snow, and at this point I wouldn't be surprised to see deadline postponed by a day or two to make up for the two days we've lost (that would be unprecedented in my 9+ years with the company, but then, so is a weather-related closure, let alone for two days).

But hey, it's only 37 days until pitchers and catchers report for spring training. Better days are on the horizon!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Closing, Closing the Year

The title of this post (the second consecutive year I've used it) comes from Stephen King's Wizard and Glass, one of my favorite books, part of his Dark Tower series and, among other things, a particularly fine observation of young, obsessive love. The line, likely because of the part of the tale in which it's used, has always struck me as romantic and melancholy, which seems fitting for this time of year.

Another Christmas has come and gone, and that's just fine with me. I love this time of year, but frankly, this year was just a little off. With Brandi working in Columbus now, she's been spending quite a bit of time over there. We're lucky that she has a place where she can do that even before we procure a living space for ourselves, especially given her schedule and the weather, but not having her around hasn't been much fun for either of us. I'm a loner by nature, so I can appreciate a bit of time to sit in silent communion with the Christmas tree and a glass of wine or whiskey, but I had far more than I needed or wanted. Then, on top of that, Brandi came down with the flu while we were visiting her family on Christmas Eve, so she missed out on those festivities, as well as those with my family the next day. She did feel better in time for the weekend, which was good, but now she's back in Columbus while I'm once again alone with the tree. And the cat, of course.

Next year we've discussed making new arrangements for our holiday celebrations. On one hand, it's nice that it's her family's tradition to celebrate on Christmas Eve and my family's on Christmas Day. It has always allowed us to do both. On the other hand, it's a lot of traveling (her family lives about 2.5 hours away), and for a holiday, it's never been particularly relaxing. And next year, with us living in Columbus, it would add yet another leg to any potential travels. So, while we haven't worked out the details yet, we'd like to change it up. It's hard, because holidays like this are the only chances we have to see some members of our family...and yet, as it stands, it's simply too hectic. We're hoping to travel to an exotic locale for Thanksgiving, at least for one year; we'll see what happens with the Christmas plans.

On the bright side, Brandi will be home by the time I get off work tomorrow, so we'll be able to have a fun (and, most importantly, healthy) New Year's Eve together. Hopefully with a friend or two, but we'll see how it shakes out.

Now, as for this new year coming up...should be a big one. First on the docket, of course, is unloading this house and moving to Columbus. With the holidays almost over, hopefully that won't take too long. I'm not looking forward to moving, not looking forward to leaving Troy...but I am looking forward to living in the Columbus area. We've really enjoyed the parts of it we've explored so far, and there are definite advantages to living in such close proximity to a major city.

Aside from that, there are a few things I'd like to accomplish. I plan to re-read all my Dean Koontz novels--I have a metric assload of them that I loved as a young adult; I have a feeling they haven't aged well, so I need to know which ones I want to keep (no force in the universe could separate me from my copy of Watchers) and which I can offload. Also, come hell or high water, we're getting at least one new car this year, and the sooner the better. Brandi's Neon wants to be put out to pasture in the worst way.

Beyond that...well, look. I've never been any great shakes at keeping New Year's resolutions. In part that's because it's hard to make changes, and in part I think it's because I've tended to take far too much of a macro approach. I say I want "to write more," for example, and come January 1 I'm all fired up. I sit down in front of my computer, my mind overflowing with possibilities--and that's the problem. I've got this great story idea. Oh, but I had that idea for my blog, and that's so timely...if I don't write about it now, I shouldn't bother. Oh, and I really should email so-and-so. Next thing you know, I can't decide what to write, and by January 3, that resolution is toast.

That said, I do like New Year's as a starting point for creating new habits, and thus New Year's resolutions aren't the worst thing in the world. For one, I just need to take a more quantifiable approach. And secondly, I need to revisit them from time to time to evaluate progress (or lack thereof) and adjust or recommit accordingly, so that they don't fall by the wayside just because I haven't revolutionized my life by January 10. As such, consider these my "January resolutions." That will allow me to start small and see how things are going by February, when I can hopefully fine-tune them a bit.

Write more: Yes, this year and every year. Always the best of intentions, always the poor results. So here are my initial quantifiable goals for this month. Number one, I'd like to write at least a brief review of each book I read. Number two, I think one blog entry per week is doable. And number three, I'd like to write at least 1,000 words of fiction per week. That should be no problem if I can sit myself down to write at least 2-3 times, but the plan is to start small. Let's see how that goes for a month, and if that number can be revised upward at some point, so much the better.

Get in shape: Let's be honest: I love fast food, and at this point in my life, I'm not going to stop eating it on occasion. I'm okay with that. But do I really need to maximize the amount of calories I jam into my face each time I do so? I do not. So I'll try ordering "medium" instead of "large" items. Also, for quite a long time, I used to eschew pop except on weekends; I'll try that again. As for working out, I'd like to hit the gym three times per week: two of those visits will be cardio-focused, with the other dedicated primarily to lifting. Again, if this number can go up after a trial period, that's awesome.

So that's what 2014 looks like from this end. I feel pretty optimistic. I mean, we're already moving to Columbus, so at least one big change is definitely coming. Why not take the opportunity to effect a few more?