Category Archives: Blog

Meal for Home…work

So we’ve learned that “Home Ec” has now been renamed to “Family & Consumer Sciences”… well alrightey then!  Anyhoo… Cole’s assignment this week was to prepare a meal for his family.  He had to choose a main course and at least two of the following:  salad, side dish or dessert.

Being the adventurous young man that he is, he chose to make Grilled Chicken Marsala, Roasted Rosemary Potatoes and Chocolate Ice Cream.  …all from scratch!

We started with the chocolate ice cream on Saturday evening (since it has to sit in the refrigerator overnight).  He does a fantastic job of measuring and making sure the ingredients are properly appointed.  Separating eggs was a little bit of an adventure though, and he’s got a little work to do on stirring, but it turned out great.  Once soft-frozen, we added some Hershey’s milk chocolate chunks and raspberry baker’s jam (thanks, Chef Seth!).  If that sounds familiar, yeah, it is just like Bruster’s Chocolate Raspberry Truffle.

Sunday afternoon he made the potatoes and Chicken Marsala.  Check out the pictures, the kid did a great job…he just wasn’t excited about getting his picture taken.

Carson Middle School Winter Concert

A Few videos from last night’s choral concert at Carson Middle School.  The music program there is absolutely amazing, led by David Woten (6th and 7th grade) and Jamie Davis (8th grade).

Hope you enjoy.

CMS Select is an auditioned group of 6-8th grades.  They meet from 7am – 8am on Tuesday mornings.  This group is used to help those whose voices are changing by pairing them up with older singers who are experiencing the same effects.

A funny thing happened with this song.  The first performance was not recorded on the audio track by the technicians…so this is the second performance of the song…which is why the choir is so loose.

Carson Middle School 8th Grade Boys singing a Jackson 5 medley. The annual tradition is that the boys choreograph their own movements.

The Chorale is an auditioned small ensemble that rehearses at 7am every Tuesday morning, the pieces they perform are significantly more difficult and require a great deal more practice to perfect.

On Friday evening the River City Brass was giving a concert and invited the Carson Middle School Select Chorus to join them.  The results were amazing considering the two groups had never even rehearsed together (or did a sound check).

Carol of the Bells

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree

Why the Blood?

I was asked to preach this week at the North Hills Community Baptist Church as our Pastor was away for the weekend.  The topic selected was atonement and repentance.  Why is it that Christians, in our modern society, are still talking about sacrifice?  Why are we still talking about blood?

Take a listen…

Sermon content credit goes to Dr. Ergun Caner from whom I borrowed a great inspiration for this sermon.  Dr. Caner is the former President of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and Brewton-Parker College in Georgia.

Marvin’s Uphill Climb

In the Wild Card game last weekend, the Bengals and Steelers both tried their best to see who could be the dirtiest team on the field. The Steelers players and coaches benefited from multiple missed calls to survive the game…thanks to the Bengals’ edging them at the line by committing two of the dumbest penalties ever seen.

Cincinnati fans blamed Joey Porter (on the field when he shouldn’t have been), Steelers fans don’t think anything was wrong other than Wallace Gilberry intentionally bumping Porter.

The problem with the whole thing is that both Marvin Lewis and Mike Tomlin have lost control of their teams…and coaching staffs. Steelers Offensive Line coach Mike Munchak pulled the hair of Bengals Safety Reggie Nelson when Nelson shoved Jordan Todman into the Steelers bench, and Outside Linebackers coach Joey Porter was on the field antagonizing Bengals players after wide receiver Antonio Brown was knocked unconcious by linebacker Vontaze Burfict.

The Bengals, not to be out done, saw Jeremy Hill come off the bench antagonizing four Steelers players after Ryan Shazier knocked Giovani Bernard out of the game with a hit that should have been flagged as a “spearing” penalty. Bengals DT Domata Peko also came off the bench to shove Mike Mitchell while wearing what looked like a cape.

Who’s in control here?

For Tomlin, this seems to be business as usual. The Steelers have always played on the edge of out of control even during the glory days of Chuck Noll. Remember this guy?

Tomlin, as Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports has noted, looks and carries himself like a player…not the Head Coach of an NFL franchise. He’s already been fined $100,000 by the NFL for stepping out onto the field during a kickoff return by Jacoby Jones in Baltimore.

For Lewis, this seems to be the new normal. The Bengals employ a number of players on their roster that came to them with…”baggage.” Adam “Pacman” Jones’s issues with teammates and law enforcement are well-documented. Burfict was a dirty player at Arizona State and went undrafted in the same NFL that managed to draft Randy Moss in the first round. Both were signed by the Bengals, who promptly build their defense around them.

But…why?

Why would Marvin Lewis, an extraordinary defensive coordinator, do this? Why would he employ players that he knows are volatile and prone to these types of melt-downs? Additionally, why would he not grasp control over his team in times of crisis?

Two Words: Mike Brown

Cincinnati Bengals Owner – Mike Brown

Fans today tend to forget how awful the Cincinnati Bengals have been under Brown’s ownership, due to the success of Marvin Lewis. After Sam Wyche took the Bengals to Super Bowl XXIII Brown fired the popular coach in 1991. The next 11 years would be the worst collective record in the NFL. Lewis has ushered in a run of success at Cincinnati that it hasn’t seen since Paul Brown roamed the sidelines. Lewis’ 14 years have been amazing…except the playoffs where Lewis is 0-7 (an NFL record).

That Lewis has been successful at all in Cincinnati is somewhat of a miracle given the constraints placed upon him by ownership. The Bengals’ management reads like the Brown family photo album…but so does the Steelers. The difference is that the Steelers employ a General Manager who is NOT part of the family (Kevin Colbert), a Director of Football Operations (Omar Khan) and 15 other “Football Operations” staff who are not part of the Rooney family. This gets better…The Bengals are run by Mike Brown who is the CEO and the General Manager (and gets a bonus for that title), his brother Pete is the Senior VP, his daughter Katie Blackburn is the Executive VP, his son Paul is the VP of Player Personnel, his Son-in-Law Troy is another VP. Nepotism anyone?

Compared to other NFL front offices, the Bengals’ front office reads like the skeleton crew that works Christmas morning at Wal-Mart. Whereas other NFL teams employ an average of 20 Player Personnel staff…the Bengals employ five…FIVE. They have a grand total of four scouts and one scouting consultant (John Cooper, the old Ohio State University football coach). By contrast, here is the breakdown of the Player Personnel departments of the most successful franchises in the league:

Team Player/Personnel Staff Scouts
Ravens 25 8
Packers 20 12
Broncos 20 9
Steelers 19 8
Giants 17 10

…and this is the Bengals

Team Player/Personnel Staff Scouts
Bengals 5 4

Marvin Lewis is having to coach his team, in one of the most competitive divisions in football, against two of the most successful franchises in the league (Steelers and Ravens)…AND run his own scouting department! All of these other teams have double the number of scouts, and quadruple the staff of the Bengals. Is Lewis also booking his own airfare? Is it any wonder that the Bengals are continuing to have to take chances on players that other teams pass on?

The success Lewis has had has come against a swelling tide of negativity and frugality by the Bengals organization. It remains the most lean operation in the NFL, employing a grand total of 74 staff. The Bengals employ as many Information Technology staff as they do scouts…to run a football team. The Bengals remain the northern-most team in the NFL without an indoor practice facility. When they do need to practice indoors, they must rent the facility from the University of Cincinnati. The NFL team has to rent from the non-powerhouse college to practice indoors.

Mike Brown continues to run the Cincinnati Bengals football team like the year is 1968. When his father, Paul Brown founded the team, the owner and coach was able to do his own scouting and coach…because Paul Brown was a genius and a Hall of Fame football coach…and because the NFL was nowhere close to being the sophisticated machine that it is today. Paul Brown also had an eye for coaching talent finding a young Bill Walsh to coach his offense.

Mike Brown isn’t his father, and the Bengals are woefully understaffed to compete in today’s NFL without cutting corners. The easiest corner to cut is in scouting. Take the players that are good and hope your coach can do something with them.

Open Letter to Georgia fans…

Dear Dawgs,

In case you aren’t aware, you just lost the most successful coach in your program’s history.  That’s right, Mark Richt was more successful than anyone in your program’s history and you pushed him out the door.  Vince Dooley…”Hall of Fame coach”…is a myth.  He’s a good coach who won the same number of National and Conference championships in 25 years at Georgia…that Steve Spurrier did in half the time at Florida.

Winning

From 2001 to 2015, Richt won 74% of his games overall and 70% of his conference games.  Dooley coached at Georgia for 25 years, so is it fair to compare all 25 or just the first 15 years?  We will do both.  In the 25 years Dooley coached at Georgia he won 69.8% of his games overall and 69.8% of his conference games.  In the 15-year comparison, Dooley won 66.3% of his games overall and 63.6% of his conference games.

In looking at raw numbers (number of wins), you automatically skew toward Richt because of the 12-game schedule and the presence of the SEC Championship game, so Richt automatically has more opportunity to win games… but percentages do not lie.

Championships

  • Dooley:  6 SEC Championships, 1 National Championship (1980) in 25 years
  • Dooley from 1964-1978 (1st 15 years):  3 SEC Championships (1966, 1968 & 1976)
  • Richt: 2 SEC Championships, 6 SEC East Division titles (not available to Dooley)

Bowl Games

This is a little troublesome because in Dooley’s time at Georgia there were far fewer bowls for a team to participate in than there are currently.  In today’s NCAA Football landscape, there are so many bowl games that the NCAA is considering allowing teams who do not have winning records to go to a bowl.

Dooley led Georgia to 20 bowl games in 25 years. In his first 15 years at Georgia, Dooley led them to 11 bowls.  His overall bowl record is 8-9-2 whereas in his 11 bowls from ’64-’78 he was 4-7.  Both are losing records.

Richt led the Dawgs to 14 bowl games in his tenure as coach (every season), going 9-5 in those games.  Georgia will also be in a bowl in 2015, Richt just won’t be the coach.

Richt

Strength of Record

Here’s where the rubber hits the road, even if you think that Richt’s numbers are bloated or that he “underachieved” while at Georgia.  Scholarship restrictions instituted in 1973 reduced the number of available scholarships to 95, further restrictions in 1992 reduced that number to 85.  Dooley never coached under the current scholarship model, and for the first nine years of his tenure at Georgia he had zero restrictions on the number of scholarships awarded.  Richt has had to manage rosters in a more modern league with far fewer scholarships than Dooley had available and Richt’s winning percentage is a full 10 percentage points higher over the same nine-year stretch.

The Southeastern Conference is a radically different animal now than what it was from 1964-1988.  Because schools could make their own schedules, even in conference, Vince Dooley’s Georgia teams did not have to regularly play Bear Bryant’s powerhouse Alabama teams.  In fact, Georgia played Alabama only eight times from 1964 to 1988, Georgia won three of those games.  Georgia played powerhouse Tennessee seven times, winning four.  Seven of the programs 15 most difficult schedules in history were played under Richt’s watch including the top two (2011 & 2008);

The Herschel Walker Effect

WalkerIn 1979, Vince Dooley signed the most important player in Georgia football history, Herschel Walker.  To that point, Georgia had won a few conference titles, but was still averaging seven wins per season under Dooley.  Georgia had lost four consecutive bowl games and was coming off a 6-5 season.

The arrival of Walker changed Georgia.  The Bulldogs, with Walker in the backfield, went 33-3 over the next three seasons (1980-82) before Walker turned pro.  Georgia won the National Championship in Walker’s freshman year, and added two SEC Championships in ’81 and ’82.  Walker capped his Georgia career winning the Heisman Trophy his final season.  Even having Walker on campus for a full three seasons, Dooley was only able to win a single National Championship.

After Walker’s departure Georgia would not win another SEC title for 20 years, Mark Richt’s second year on the job.  Vince Dooley won 10 games in 1983, and would not repeat that again, winning 7 games in 1984 and ’85, 8 games in ’86 and 9 games in ’87 & ’88 before retiring.

The Reminder

Maybe you Georgia fans are remembering those three years with fondness and you’ve forgotten just how much Dooley struggled outside of “the Walker years.”  Do you Georgia fans remember that from 1977-79 Georgia was 20-13?  Do you remember that the only postseason you had in that time was a loss to Stanford in the Bluebonnet Bowl?  Do you remember that from 1983-1988 you were 3-1-2 in bowl games, not one of which was a major bowl?

You don’t.  You don’t remember how average Vince Dooley was from 1977-1988 without Herschel Walker.  You don’t remember that Dooley had a losing record to Bear Bryant.  You don’t remember that Dooley had a losing bowl record, or that he barely cracked the Top 25 twice in his last five years…LEGEND. You don’t remember how bad things got after Dooley retired and before Mark Richt arrived either.  All time, Georgia wins about 65% of its games, Dooley for the first 15 years was below average, Richt…significantly better.

Prepare a worthy Thanksgiving feast!

I never really understood just how complicated Thanksgiving dinner is if you have a big family.  When you’re a kid, you show up, eat and fall asleep…come to think of it, that what the dads did too (well, until the turkey deep-fryer came along…grunt!).  Seems legit, I mean, who doesn’t fall asleep watching the Detroit Lions?

Anyway, a few years ago the wife and I began hosting Thanksgivings at our house and because I love to cook, it was more of an adventure than anything else.  I’ve taken some recipes, developed some more until I came up with a fantastic Thanksgiving Day feast!  Now, if you have a small kitchen (as I do), and if you’re doing all of the cooking (yeah, me too)…then you’re in luck, because I’ve got the perfect plan for you.  This is a two-day affair, but you’ll thank me later…and your guests will think you are the next Emeril.  Ready?  Here we go…

Menu:

  • Roast Turkey with Salt Crust
  • Smoked Turkey Wing Gravy
  • Fresh Green Beans with Carmelized Onions and Toasted Almonds
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Sweet Potato Casserole with Bourbon
  • Yankee Stuffing or Southern Cornbread Dressing
  • Whole Cranberry Sauce with Orange
  • Artisan Garlic Bread with Compound Butter

Start your planning this weekend, get all of the ingredients necessary and listed here: Thanksgiving Shopping List.  MAKE SURE YOU THAW THE TURKEY.  You’ll also need a meat thermometer, not an instant-read, but a real honest-to-goodness thermometer with probe…a good one.  The bird is the central dish and if it is dried-out, you failed.  Get a good one.  Here’s my suggestion:  The Maverick M Remote Smoker Thermometer

Now you’re ready, so start with these recipes on Wednesday Night:

Whole Cranberry Sauce with Orange and Cinnamon

Smoked Turkey Wing Gravy

Sweet Potato Casserole with Bourbon

You can choose to go to bed right now, because you’ve already worked hard…or you could go ahead and make the dressing.  It is a real time-saver for tomorrow.  Your choice.

Thanksgiving Day!

Your start time will depend on the desired “sit-down” dinner time and how large of a turkey you have purchased.  Go ahead and do the calculation based on the recommended instructions, then add one hour.  This will be the “start cooking” time for your turkey.  (ex. if the roasting time estimate is 3 hours and you are eating at 4pm, plan to put the turkey into the oven at Noon).  Your Turkey prep time is about 30 minutes.

Roast Turkey with Salt Crust

** PRO TIP:  Place the other half of the garlic head into an aluminum foil pouch and roast with the turkey at 400 for 20 minutes. Remove and allow to cool for garlic bread.

Once you have the turkey in the oven, you can begin cooking the rest of the feast, starting with your green beans.  These take a while…

Fresh Green Beans with Carmelized Onion and Toasted Almonds

Mashed Potatoes

Yankee or Cornbread Dressing

You can choose to do either, we actually do both, but no, we don’t stuff the bird!  If you do that, it adds cooking time to the Turkey, increases the risk of samonela, and you don’t get to season the bird from the cavity…  now you know

Yankee Bread Stuffing

GRBmom’s Southern-Style Cornbread Dressing

Now you have a little time to breathe, you probably still have a couple of hours before the turkey is scheduled to come out, so sit down, have a glass of wine…

*BEEP, BEEP…BEEP, BEEP*  Your meat thermometer says the bird is ready, trust the thermometer.  Pull the turkey out of the oven and set aside.  DO NOT allow Uncle Bernie or Aunt Maude to start cutting into that thing!  Let it sit…30-45 minutes…minimum.

Go ahead and get the Sweet Potato Casserole and your Dressing out of the refrigerator, they can go in next (make sure to add the topping to the Sweet Potatoes).  They will take a little longer to cook because they are cold.  The Dressing will be done when the tops are toasted.

Prepare your Artisan Garlic Bread and throw it into the oven right away…

Meal Time

Ready to carve that bird?  Good, get your electric (or carving) knife and go to work, but here’s a great video from Alton Brown on how to best go about carving.  I always carve at the counter on a cutting board and put all of the meat on a platter…but some insist on carving at the table.  It’ll work either way!

Once the bird is carved, the bread is out of the oven and everything is on the table, sit back and enjoy the accolades!  YOU prepared a Thanksgiving feast fit for a king!…or not a king…this is ‘Murica!

Dessert

Look, if you have a bunch of people coming over for your feast and you’ve done all this, have them bring the pies…it’s the least they can do, right?  But, if you insist, this recipe is a WINNER every time:  GRBmom’s Chocolate Meringue Pie

The SEC Schedule, TV Heaven

Is the SEC cheating its television partners in Week 12?

Multiple media members have posited the idea that the SEC should join other “Power 5” conferences (BigXII & Pac12) in playing a 9-game conference schedule in the regular season. Tim Brando of Fox Sports (among others) have taken to Twitter and other outlets to decry the week 12 schedule as abysmal and they complain that it is akin to the SEC stealing money from their television partners.

Frankly, the SEC’s slate of games in Week 12 is not good (six games against *ahem* less than stellar competition), but I would argue the SEC’s schedule is more balanced from Week 1 to Week 13 than any other conference.  To this end, let us look at data to see where SEC scheduling compares with other conferences.

Methodology:

From the outset we will determine whether a school is attempting to schedule strongly by looking at two factors: how many teams are on the schedule from the other “Power 5” conferences (ACC, B1G, BigXII, Pac12 & SEC), and secondly where do the conference games fall on those schedules.  Additionally, we will count both Notre Dame and Brigham Young Universities as “Power 5” schools even though they are independents, given their relative history as football programs.

Lastly, all scheduling of teams from outside of the “Power 5” conferences will be treated equally without regard to their current standing in the polls or rankings.  This is done for the simple reason that schedules are made up at a minimum of 3-5 years in advance.  Attempting to schedule “Power 5” teams is an attempt to schedule an opponent of equal size and strength (relatively).  The Non-Power 5 schools fluctuate wildly in their relative strength.

The Data:

Conference Games

The College Football regular season takes place in thirds and for most conferences, the league schedules begin in earnest the 4th week of the season.  This is particularly the case with the ACC, the BigXII and the B1G Conference.  The Pac12 and the SEC start their conference seasons earlier in September.  The schools of the SEC played 12 conference games in the month of September, by far the highest of all conferences.  The BigXII and B1G by comparison played two, and one in September (respectively).  The SEC filled 46% of its available game slots with conference games.  Among them, Florida vs. Tennessee, LSU vs. Auburn, Mississippi vs. Alabama and Arkansas vs. Texas A&M.  All of which are intra-conference rivalry games.  The Pac12 gave their television partners six conference games in September; among them, Stanford vs. USC and Arizona State vs. USC.  The biggest conference game the ACC provided television partners was Clemson vs. Louisville, the B1G had one conference game; Rutgers and Penn State.

As a monthly average across the entire season, the highest monthly percentage of conference games goes to the Pac12 at 68%, the SEC is at 64% and the ACC at 60%, the average percentage of conference games by month is 61%.

Conference Percentage

Conf

Sept Oct Nov

Average

ACC 14% 86% 79% 60%
B1G 4% 73% 94% 57%
BigXII 5% 88% 80% 58%
Pac12 25% 83% 96% 68%
SEC 46% 70% 75% 64%
Total 19% 80% 85% 61%

Non-Conference Games

A measure of a school’s willingness to challenge its self is to gauge its schedule of teams from other “Power 5” conferences.  Sometimes this is the case of an in-state rivalry, sometimes it is a game of national importance.  Either way, the scheduling of non-conference “Power 5” teams shows the school (and by extension, the conference) is at least willing to try to create a good schedule.

The leader in this category is the ACC.  The schools of the ACC will play a total of 22 games outside of their conference against “Power 5” schools.  This is, by far, the most…but with one caveat:  six of those 22 games come against Notre Dame, who joined the ACC as a partial member.  While these are technically non-conference games, they are part of a contract between the ACC and Notre Dame.  Taken away, the ACC has 16 Power-5 Non-conference games.  Other conferences scheduled as follows:

Conf

Count

ACC 22
B1G 18
BigXII 8
Pac12 11
SEC 12

 

Power Percentage

Conf

Sept Oct Nov

Average

ACC 38% 89% 91% 72%
B1G 42% 73% 94% 70%
BigXII 25% 88% 80% 64%
Pac12 40% 85% 98% 74%
SEC 59% 70% 84% 71%
Total 41% 81% 89% 70%

While the SEC will schedule six teams in Week 12 who are not “Power 5” teams (14% of the schedule), the September schedule is 13 percentage points lower than the national average in this category and 19 points lower than the BigXII.  Take away the SEC’s 41% and the national average of game slots filled by teams not from “Power 5” conferences swells up to 58%.  On balance, the SEC evenly distributes what many pundits would call “bad games” against inferior competition.

Non-Power Percentage

Conf

Sept Oct Nov

Average

ACC 55% 3% 2% 20%
B1G 58% 8% 0% 22%
BigXII 60% 0% 0% 20%
Pac12 58% 0% 0% 19%
SEC 41% 11% 14% 22%
Total 55% 5% 3% 21%

Time Off:

Some conferences space these off weeks out and others would rather have those off-weeks come in the middle of the grueling season.  The chart below shows the distribution (by percentage) of off weeks throughout the season.

The Pac12, SEC and B1G schedule almost all of their off weeks in October, whereas the ACC and BigXII evenly distribute.  The SEC has a total of one off-week in the months of September and November combined.  The confernce scehdules the 13 other off weeks in October during the height of the confernece schedule.

Time off Percentage

Conf

Sept Oct Nov

Average

ACC 7% 9% 7% 8%
B1G 0% 18% 6% 8%
BigXII 15% 12% 20% 16%*
Pac12 2% 15% 2% 6%
SEC 0% 19% 2% 7%
Total 5% 14% 7% 9%

* Note: the BigXII concludes its regular season on December 5th, 6 off weeks are calculated into this percentage.

Conclusion:

So what are we to take away from all of this?  Is the SEC “robbing” its television partners in Week 12?  No more than the BigXII is in the month of September where the conference plays all of 25% of its games against Power 5 teams.  No more than the ACC who plays all of 38% of its games against Power 5 teams.

If anything, the SEC does a much better job of catering to television partners than any other conference because it evenly distributes both its conference and non-conference games through all three months of the schedule.

The SEC also concludes the season with a slate of games that showers their television partners with ratings-grabbers.  Alabama & Auburn, Texas A&M & LSU, Ole Miss & Mississippi State, Florida & Florida State, Georgia & Georgia Tech, South Carolina & Clemson, and Kentucky vs. Louisville.  That’s seven quality games for television partners to broadcast.

If any conference is “robbing” their television partners, it is the BigXII.  The conference has almost no conference games in September, and has the fewest non-conference games against other “Power 5” schools.  The B1G, to its credit schedules 18 non-conference “Power 5” games in September to make up for having very few conference games.

Does the SEC need to add a 9th game to their conference schedule?  The question begs another question:  Would adding a 9th game to the conference slate change the scheduling of Week 12?  Probably not.  The SEC has shown that it will front-load the schedule willingly to play bigger conference games earlier and take their bye-weeks in October…which would leave the other games (non Power 5) for the later weeks.

We asked for help…they said no…

Ever had one of those times when you don’t know how we survived without cell phones and GPS systems? When the open road really mean that you were on your own and that if your car broke down, dad had to walk to the nearest “service station?” Remember those days? Me either… those days are long past. Now we have 24-hour roadside assistance, emergency call boxes and companies that will come “pick you up” if you have a problem…well, almost.

That’s where the story of the Mother’s Day Odyssey begins…actually no, it begins on Friday. The wife and I were headed over to Sandusky, Ohio (from Pittsburgh) for a little weekend away…celebrating the Spring this way has become a tradition in our family. Reservations were made in the dead of Winter during one of the coldest weeks on record; little did we know that the weekend we chose to visit Kalahari Indoor Water Park would be the warmest Spring weather we’d seen in decades. We’d just bought a used SUV and I wanted to drive it to “stretch it out,”… see what it would do on the road. Being the sensible one, my wife said we should take our 2011 Honda Odyssey…because it is the “reliable” car. We should have known…

Dannyboys
Danny Boy’s Italian Eatery…GREAT pizza and service. Go see ’em

Weekend went great, kids had fun, parents had fun, got a compltementary upgrade (thanks, Kalahari)…we even found a new favorite place to eat over in Sandusky. (For the Record: Danny Boys)

Go get a pie there if you are in the area…if not…drive, totally worth it. After a wonderful Mother’s Day late-lunch, we sent the kids to the potty, loaded the van and were on our way…for about 20 minutes. That’s when the “check engine” light came on…within the construction area…with nowhere to pull over. Kerri checked the manual, flashing code said it is an “emissions system failure.” Couple miles down the road we were finally able to pull over and shut the car off. I checked the gas cap, did the cursory walk around the car…not sure what I was looking for but I felt better about it… Flashing lights didn’t come back on when we restarted so I thought we’d be ready to hit the road…get it checked-out when we get home. Not so fast…

I hit the accelerator and … well, everything went to crap. The engine shuddered like it was on a fault line, dashboard lit up like a Christmas Tree…and there we were. We broke down…on the side of I-80, the Ohio Turnpike.

Time to call the ANPAC roadside assistance number. That’s why we have that right? We called and attempted to describe our location. I told the lady we were just outside of Middleburg Heights, east of Sandusky…mile marker 155 east bound…

ANPAC person: “Ok, I found a service provider in Freemont, Ohio.”

I pull start looking at the map on my iPhone…THAT’S ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STATE

Me: “Ok, let’s try this…I’M IN CLEVELAND”

ANPAC person: “Oh, ok, do you know where in Cleveland you’d like to have the car towed”

Me: “No, are you kidding? I don’t know any service providers here”

Looking at my iPhone, I Googled “Honda Dealerships near me”

Me: “Ok, I found a Honda Dealership in Middleburg Heights, can they tow me there?”

ANPAC person: “Yes, that looks like it is within your 10-mile limit”

Me: “Great, please send the tow truck”

ANPAC person:  “Ok, you’ll be receiving a call from the towing company”

30 minutes later… I call ANPAC back

Me: “Hey, we still haven’t gotten a call from the towing company”

ANPAC person: “Yes, they are still trying to find a provider”

Me: “Ok”

10 minutes later… phone rings; It’s ANPAC…

“We found a provider in Middleburg Heights, they will be calling you shortly.”

Me: “Thank you”

See, what I now know is that I’m going to have a tow truck come take the van to the dealership, but there’s not room for a family of four in a tow truck. I have no way to get to a rental car office…Ooh!…brilliant idea…I’ll call Enterprise. They will come pick you up

After going through their menu I finally get Enterprise’s 24-hour roadside assistance on the line. Mind you, NOBODY is open on Sunday afternoon. Especially on Mother’s day. I get Enterprise and the lady on the line was very nice, made a reservation and everything, then attempted to transfer me to the Enterprise counter at the airport…because…Sunday. They are open…and this is where the real fun begins.

The phone rings multiple times and I finally get “Roosevelt.”

Me: “Roosevelt, hey buddy, I’m hoping you can help me out, I was just on the phone with your roadside assistance folks and have a new reservation…just need somebody to come pick us up.”

Roosevelt: “Ok, I have to transfer you to one of my bosses…hold on”

Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring… no answer…

Call back: “Enterprise, this is Roosevelt”

Me: “Hey Roosevelt, I just spoke to you a minute ago, nobody answered”

Roosevelt: “Ok, I’ll try again…

Me: “…Wa..”

Roosevelt: “…hold on”

Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring… no answer…

Call back: “Enterprise, this is Roosevelt”

Me: “Hey Roosevelt, it’s me again…look, um nobody is answering that phone over there…

Roosevelt: “Want me to try it again?”

Me: “No…Hey, Roosevelt, what’s your role there?”

Roosevelt: “Oh, I’m just a trainee…Just answering the phone, man”

Me: “Ok, well here’s what I want you to do, put me on hold and walk out to where your bosses are and ask them to pick up the phone”

Roosevelt: “Ok…I’ll do that…Hold on”

Silence…

“Enterprise Rent-a-Car, this is Nick”

Me: “Hey Nick, my name is Ryan, I’m stuck on the side of the interstate here right around the corner from you and I need a pick up”

Nick: “I’m sorry, I can’t do that”

Me: “What? What do you mean you can’t do that?”

Nick: “Yeah man, we’re really short-staffed here and we don’t do the pickups here at the Airport”

Me: “Your corporate slogan is ‘We’ll pick you up”

Nick: “I know, the Airport is the exception”

Me: “Nick, I’m not sure you’re understanding the situation here. My car has broken down on the side of the interstate, I have a wife and two kids here with me and a tow truck on the way. I can’t put a family of four in that tow truck, so three of us are going to be standing on the side of the road here in a few minutes if we can’t find someone to help us out… are you going to help us out?”

Nick: “I’m sorry, man, but I just don’t have the extra staff”

Me: “Well don’t you have a trainee, intern, someone with a drivers license? SOMEBODY who can hop into a car? We are literally 5 minutes away from you”

Nick: “I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do..but if you can get a ride and to the counter, I’ll be happy to help you out”

Me: “no, thanks”

What I really wanted to say was “Nick, you REALLY don’t want me to show up at your counter…”

If I could have done that really cool throat-choke Jedi maneuver Darth Vader used in Star Wars…I totally would have used that over the phone...

Now what do I do? I’m looking at the “Emergency *-9-9-0” sign…the wife finally calls…It’s an emergency. Not a minute later, the tow truck shows up… and the Ohio State Police are on their way.

I want to state for the record here that I don’t believe this to have been an emergency situation. Had we been able to reach one of our Cleveland-based friends, or had the company who advertises that they will pick you up…had actually lived-up to that claim this wouldn’t have been such an ordeal.

Fortunately we were dispatched a great tow truck driver (John) who stayed patiently with us until the Trooper arrived. She was very nice and great with the kids. She followed the tow truck with the family to Sunnyside Honda, but had to leave us there. She can’t venture too far off the Turnpike…and that we understood. John took me to the Airport rental counters (on his own, didn’t have to do that) to get the car.

We ended up renting an “economy” car from Thrify…a Chevrolet Spark. Cute little overgrown go-kart that it was…We stuffed our family in that puppy and drove home. I swear, a Smart Car would have thought we were tiny. We got passed by a Prius and the wife asked “when did they start making those so big?”

You want to know how to succeed in life?

Here’s how to succeed in life: when you have an opportunity to make a difference…you make a difference. Damn the rules, you make a difference in someone’s life.

John made a difference for us. I called his boss at Rich’s Towing on Monday morning to praise his efforts. Trooper Cagey made a difference for us…yeah, I know she was just doing her job…but her effort and demeanor were amazing. Jennifer at the Thrifty counter made a difference for us.

Enterprise…Nick…whoever you are. You did not. You failed. You had a chance to make a difference and you utterly and completely failed. I can never wish evil on anyone…so I hope you never, ever find yourself in the situation I found myself in on Sunday afternoon. As a husband and a father, you feel helpless, exposed and weak. You can’t protect or provide, and that is failure. Failure for me…and ultimately failure for you.

America’s Lack of Class

There is a story out of Port Orange, Florida this morning where an elderly man was assaulted in Applebees by a 26-year-old patron. What did he do to earn that beating?  He asked the young man to stop yelling profanities in a family restaurant.

Two weeks ago, Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston stood on a table in the student union and repeated an obscenity. The phrase is part of an internet meme (which I will not repeat or link to here), started as a prank but rapidly spread because people apparently think it is funny to recite profanity on live television.

So this is a thing now… Stand behind a reporter doing a live report and scream obscenities so that your face can be on television. It is not limited to reporters and obscenities either. The PGA is undergoing a similar problem where fans shout random, often idiotic, phrases as a golfer strikes the ball.

So this is a thing now… Shout inane phrases so your voice can be heard on television. It is not limited to voices either. Streakers and over-served fans at sporting events have always tried to get attention by running out onto the field of play.

Individuals desperate for attention do things that previous generations would not have done. Why? Because previous generations would not have conducted themselves in such a manner. Why? Because they had class.

What is “class” though? What does it mean to conduct yourself with “class” and “dignity?” Class, according to the dictionary definition (of the adjective) is “showing stylish excellence.” Synonyms include: classy, decent, gracious, respectable, and noble. What do these terms remind you of? Whom do these remind you of?

When I think of class and dignity, my mind goes to a number of great people like Martin Luther King, Jr., Joe Dimaggio, Pat Summit, Doug Williams, John F. Kennedy, Margaret Thatcher, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Charlton Heston, Meryl Streep, Mariano Rivera and James Earl Jones.  What’s the one common theme surrounding Derek Jeter’s “farewell tour?”  Class, Dignity and Respect.

 

“Class” transcends all boundaries. Race, sex, socio-economic, political stance…even international. The larger point is that to conduct oneself with class and dignity is a personal decision, and one of training.

The newest generations, beginning with my own, have lost what it means to have and to show class.  How else would people like Daniel Tosh and Tucker Max make millions of dollars making a mockery of of America’s temperate culture? That’s why many people are excusing (or diminishing) what Winston said/did as “well, that what his generation does.”  While that may be true, it is a sad state of affairs.

#1 rule in life is this: Show some class.

Forgiveness to Grant…or Receive

…but not both

In America (and around the world really) we are being inundated with supposedly wise ideas and anecdotes that are sometimes true, but often times are not.  Case in point…

“You have to learn to forgive yourself.”

Now, on the surface this looks like a brilliant and poignant saying.  Of course it makes sense, right?  We are supposed to forgive others, or so says the Bible.  According to the same book we are to be given forgiveness by God if we ask…so it would only make sense that we should be able to forgive ourselves right?

Wrong.

All of the “forgive yourself” sayings:

  • “You have to forgive yourself before you can ask for forgiveness,”
  • “you won’t have peace until you forgive yourself,”
  • “how can you forgive others if you can’t forgive yourself,”

…are based in Pagan moral codes…not Christian ones (even though some have embraced the idea).  It even shows up on supposedly credible sites like WebMD.  The idea is that if you create your own moral compass, as Pagans do, then when you do something wrong, you have violated your own law.  In Christian theology however, you don’t violate your own moral law, you violate God’s law.

Forgiveness is granted by the one sinned against.  If a person sins against another person, that second party has the ability to grant forgiveness.  If a person sins against God only, then God grants forgiveness.  Often times though, the sin is against both people and God…so forgiveness may come from many angles.

The sin is never against your own self.  This is egotism.  This manifests its self in the idea that you cannot trust that God forgives you.  Distilled, you just don’t trust God.

What passes for the idea of a good anecdote is really imprisonment.  Because you do not have the ability to forgive yourself, you end up wallowing in the past instead of moving toward a brighter (and liberated) future.

So don’t wallow in your past trying to erase the wrongs you created by attempting to adjust your own moral compass or healing the wounds you don’t have bandages for…