Friday, December 30, 2011


Last month, I turned 26. I'm still young enough to do foolish things in foolish places with foolish people, but at the same time, I'm old enough to realize that I'm not really a child anymore, and the superficial things that were surprising and exciting and passion-inducing when I was 14 now get a raise of the eyebrows and a retweet.

I'm not writing this to grouse. One thing I don't miss about being younger is being negative for negativity's sake. When I was a teenager, I hated roller coasters because they went upside down, Iowans because they were bad drivers, soccer because nothing happened, and egg nog because who wants to drink eggs, really. The highs may be less frequent now, but so are the cesspools of negativity, sneering pockets of disdain aimed at whatever movie or team or restaurant seemed cool to hate. I wore my dislikes on my sleeve like pus-filled badges of honor. I'm never going to be all sunshine and daffodils (ask me about The Big Bang Theory or Buffalo Wild Wings), but I like not being that guy anymore.

That said, the passionate highs are something I miss. It's not a secret that I spend a lot of time watching sports. I follow 700 people on Twitter, probably 500 of whom talk mostly about Major League Baseball or college football. When you're young, sports have the ability to shock on a weekly basis, and you get locked into a lifetime of chasing that high again. Luis Gonzalez's base hit to win the 2001 World Series, a series in which my favorite team was not participating, made me jump out of a friend's chair and yelp with glee, and no upset will ever shock me the way Kansas State's 35-7 dismantling of undefeated Oklahoma in 2003 did. I watched it at a Latin Club party.


Tom Brady was the 199th overall pick in the 2000 draft, a fact that crossed over into the mental compendium of the casual fan soon into the Patriots' run of three Super Bowl victories in four seasons.* It was seared into my mind as soon as the page loaded on ESPN SportsZone, having watched every game he had played the prior two seasons as quarterback of my Michigan Wolverines.

* - The third Super Bowl win came in Jacksonville. Someday when I open the Museum of WTF Sports Moments, there will be a bronze plaque that says "Jacksonville, Florida hosted the Super Bowl" hanging between 1996 Brady Anderson and the popularity of Jason Sehorn.

His finished his amateur career with a thrilling Orange Bowl win to cap 1999. It's a blast, knowing what we do, to watch the highlights on YouTube. Big Blue's opponent was an Alabama team that had another future NFL MVP at the height of his powers. Shaun Alexander ran for over 160 yards and three touchdowns, but it was Brady who brought his team back from a pair of 14-point deficits and put the team in position for a game-winning field goal at the end of regulation. The Tide blocked the Hayden Epstein kick before allowing Michigan to score on the first play of overtime. Alabama countered with a score of its own, only to lose in the most stomach-hollowing of manners: by watching their kicker miss an extra point. No block - just a straight push right, like a kid in the backyard who takes a full minute to get the ball to sit just right in the grass before letting it slide off the outside of his foot.

Tom was the first quarterback who was my quarterback. He had a strong arm, he made my team win, and, yeah, he was pretty handsome. He's the first athlete whose headshot I saw and thought, "I bet he doesn't have to do scholastic bowl to get girls to like him."* I searched the Boston Globe website every month after to find out where he would land on the depth chart behind the incumbent Drew Bledsoe, and every week in 2001 after a vicious Mo Lewis hit sheared open a blood vessel in Bledsoe's chest.

* - This strategy was less successful than envisioned

This isn't about then, though. Any sports fan who was bitten by the bug as early as I was reaches a point where the only thing that can bring back that raw excitement is seeing the athletes they loved at that age competing at a high level. Kerry Wood and Tiger Woods both feel that way to an extent for me, but in terms of the totality of a career and the monolithic odds facing him, Brady is the one.

He is now 34. In about six years, a guy whose career I've followed every fall weekend for the past 14 years will cede to the demands of time. He will make a decision to golf and sign autographs rather than play football, and that seems painfully soon.

So, until then, I'll keep watching him, and I'll keep pulling for him to be the winning quarterback in every Super Bowl that the Bears aren't in*, and I'll savor the joy that comes with watching one of your childhood heroes perform at the highest level imaginable. It feels fortunate, because this seems like something that easily could have only been realized as Brady stepped to the podium in Foxborough for that bleary-eyed press conference in February 2018.

- So, all of them.

So go do something you loved when you were 14. Listen to Barenaked Ladies, watch Titanic, eat Chef Boyardee straight out of the can. I can't begrudge you. I'll just be over here watching this video on loop in the dark.

Not crying, just allergic to something. Wood, maybe. Or typing.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I had a job yesterday, and now I don't.

Hey Nick, how is your job going?

Well. I went to the office at 8:30 yesterday. A little after 9:00, I was called into an office with the head coach of the team (not exactly a normal thing), and told that my position was being terminated, effective immediately due to organizational reshuffling something something. Our team president and director of community relations, both of whom are close friends, were let go as well.

I went back to my office where a suited man, religiously opposed to small talk, fidgeted in the doorway while I packed what was in my desk. It felt like a white collar crime drama denouement, but without the flashing lights, string accompaniment, or eight figures in an offshore account. They're paying me through the end of the month though, so same difference.

Why do you think this happened?

Doug is our owner. Doug is a millionaire who lives in Colorado. He made a lot of money working for Dell Computers, and he has, in total, owned 12 arena football teams, one of which still exists. When Doug fired Cory, our team president, he also let go the two employees whose hires Cory had most directly influenced. One of those was me.

Will you miss the job?

I don't have aspirations of working in PR or Arena Football. The league is run by people who threaten fines for noncompliance rather than asking nicely. On a team level, there's a lack of distrust of employees on the part of ownership that means many creative, engaging ideas get buzzsawed before they reach the marketplace. All of this led to a good friend who was not fired to submit his letter of resignation before the day was out. 

So not a great deal, no.

C'mon. It has to be a little bit of a bummer, right?

OK. A little bit. It's not a huge blow to the ego because I never thought myself a PR wizard, and the evidence (and a lack of reprimands) suggests this didn't have much to do with me. That said, no one likes to be fired. I like steady income, and that's something I'll have to get by without for a little while, but it also gives me a bit of freedom to do some reading, some writing, some exercising, and some time for stoic contemplation while staring off into a wooded glen.

So what's next?

The goal is to stay in Atlanta. I've made great friends, I love the city, I'm infatuated with the Braves, and the opportunities far outpace those back home. Having been here les than six months, I'm not ready to leave . Obviously, I'm jumping into the deep end here a bit, but I've got a few connections and no small amount of faith that great opportunities for me exist. Of course, it's still not Chicago and if you have a line on a semi-stable, entry level position there, that's something we should discuss.

So that's what's up. I appreciate the concern and kind words I've received from friends so far, but as Eva Peron said, "Don't cry for me, people who've heard of Argentina." I'm sure I'll soon be telling you about an incredible job I stumbled on while visiting Margaret Mitchell's grave.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving. If you're taking the time to read all this, know that I miss you, and don't ever be afraid to call. Thanks.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sluggish and blogger both have double g's

Some writer (90% sure it was Stephen King, but Will Leitch is possible, and every other writer ever probably, too) said that when someone asks them what they do, and they say, "I'm a writer," there's a response they get more often than not.

"Oh, I've always wanted to be a writer!"

They smile or laugh it off in the moment. Their next thought, invariably: No, you haven't. Or else you'd be a writer.  

I'm not a writer, and I wouldn't say I've always wanted to be one, because that would be a lie for the sake of solipsism and this isn't a Xanga. I do, however, have a planet full of respect for the guys and gals who are and more than a little bit of envy. In my wildest dreams, I'd be able to write feature-length stories with the verbal acuity of Esquire's Chris Jones. I'd pen pieces that whipsaw between emotional resonance and self-effacing humor like the great Joe Posnanski, a man for whom the title sportswriter does a deep disservice.

But I don't do anything that approaches that level and, outside of one college course with a professor whose first and last names rhymed, really haven't ever tried.

The only way to get good at writing is to write, and there's not a day that gets torn from your Jeopardy! Clue-A-Day desktop calendar that doesn't contain something worth writing a sentence or paragraph or quatrain about. I haven't been able to write a daily blog. I made a bid in college, but it was more marketing vehicle than concise thinking.

I'm in a new city, though. It's a virtual guarantee that for quite sometime, I'll be seeing something (or multiple somethings) that I've never seen before. 

So this seems as good a time as any to try. Though don't be shocked if nothing pops up for a couple months.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Do you ever notice something really odd that seems even odd when you realize that growing up, you thought nothing of it?

I'll give you an example. On the way back from the Quad Cities this afternoon (Bandits win 5-3), I stopped by my grandparents' house in Gerlaw to drop off a Mother's Day gift. Upon arriving, grandma offered me a grilled cheese sandwich on the condition that I retrieve bread from the basement deep freeze, so I headed downstairs.

Now, this isn't a finished basement. It's more of a cellar - cement floors, brick walls, the works. However, tucked away into one corner is a shower.

It makes sense why it's there. Grandma and grandpa didn't have a shower until eight or ten years ago, and grandpa didn't cotton to baths. I get the reason, but still, it had been awhile since I'd been down there and it struck me as odd now after years of thinking it was as normal as anything.

I'm thinking of Twittering. Not because I want to jump on the bandwagon (I honestly don't know how many of my friends do it - my guess is between 3 and 150), but a lot of times I have an idea for something to say, but a blog post can seem really daunting. Any former English teacher would cringe at hearing that, but it's true. My attention span is scant at best. Also, I like talking about sports, and Facebook statuses don't seem like the place for that. At the same time, jobs with 100-hour work weeks don't allow one a lot of time to explore new means of social networking.

I really want to see Star Trek.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Company makes sound business decision, angers millions

I like Facebook. Google Reader is my go-to time-waster now, but I can still count on it to learn something new anytime I log on. Sometimes it's something innocuous like a new boyfriend or a change of jobs, but every once in awhile, it's a display of misguided indignation from a group of otherwise rational people.

Today I was alerted that no fewer than 20 of my friends have joined Facebook groups protesting the renaming of the Sears Tower. It's mystifying on a number of levels, not the least of which is the fact that the Sears Tower isn't going anywhere. There will be a new name, yes, but the building itself will remain. The drive into the city isn't going to be any less picturesque, and I imagine the sightseeing trips to the top will continue in earnest.

Instantly, comparisons are made to U.S. Cellular's purchase of Comiskey's naming rights and Macy's's (pretty sure that's grammatically correct) buyout of the old Marshall Field's. Neither affected me personally, but I understood. Generation after generation of Chicago families made their pilgrimages to these places an annual rite.

There's probably an unflattering societal commentary in there somewhere, but it's beside the point - as we make memories in these places, they become friends. We personify them; we grow protective.

In part, that's why any indignation over the Sears Tower change - feigned or otherwise - makes so little sense. Though it's been North America's tallest building since its construction in 1974, it's the three-legged man of Chicago attractions - you give him a look, but he's not exactly practicing alchemy or perfecting interstellar travel, so you move on. There's nothing inherently fascinating about the building, so once we've gone up and snapped a few photographs, what more is there? Come back next Sunday?

The other aspect of this that's so bothersome is the sector of the populace that really takes these things as a personal affront. If/when the Ricketts family decides it's time to put Wrigley's naming rights on the block, I won't greet the news with the self-righteous anger that comes all too easily to some in situations like this. All things being equal, the Wrigley name is preferable; at the same time, the Ricketts family is very, very wealthy, and they didn't get that way by leaving money on the table. The same holds true here as, contrary to what public outcry insinuates, those holding stake in the Tower don't run a charity.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Out from Under

Amazon's Gold Box has been cycling through a number of HBO box sets over the past week or so. Picking this up for $15 was nice enough, but the real coups was nabbing the Six Feet Under gift set (SRP $249.99) on Sunday for $60.

Despite my current lack of real income (my $200 semi-weekly stipend might as well go straight into my tank), whether I'd buy it wasn't a question. I tried writing about the show soon after I'd finished it last spring, and have on countless occasions tried to recommend it to friends, but it's a very difficult thing to talk about - after all, how do you make a television show sound like a perception-altering experience without sounding like a bloviating turd?

The easiest thing to say, at the risk of serving up a Colonial Cafe Kitchen Sink's worth of hyperbole, would be, "Six Feet Under changed my life." That would also be very trite and lazy of me, so I'll try to clarify. I've been extremely fortunate in that I've never had to deal with the loss of someone especially close to me - the only two funerals I recall attending were for my grandparents' elderly neighbor and a high school acquaintance.
What this show did is something that no other experience in my 22 years to that point had done - it made me feel mortal. Painfully, imminently mortal. That's not to say that I had pipe dreams of omnipotence, but it made death a very present force in my life.

I'd like to say that I don't take life for granted anymore, that I've embarked on this daily quest for enlightenment, but it's sadly not true. I still spend too much time on the internet, exercise too little, and eat too much fast food, but now more than ever, it hurts like hell to do so. You don't come across a lot of television that has the ability to plant a big ugly grandfather clock in the back of your head, of whose tocking you become keenly aware when you spend an extra hour on Facebook instead of stopping for a tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright house on the way to work.

I worked with this big teddy bear of a guy at the Big Ten Network that everyone calls Johnny Font. Not his real name, but he was dubbed as such presumably because A) his real last name was eastern European (read: virtually unpronounceable) and B) he built fonts for our shows. The prototypical uncle that no parent wants to see at Christmas, Johnny is as likely to talk hockey with you as he is to tell you which Asian massage parlor gives the best happy endings (truth).

Anyway, what I remember most about Johnny are the times he would turn to me or Wes, smile, shake his head, and say "I'd kill to be your age again." That wistful sincerity was something to which I wouldn't have been as acutely attuned before watching Six Feet Under.

I apologize if I've made watching this show seem like a profoundly depressing experience - far from it, it's one of the most enlightening, beautiful, well-written, heartbreaking, and inspiring television series you could ever hope to watch. Though some take a perverse joy in penning 500-word screeds on that which depresses them, I'm not one of those people. It's an amazing achievement in TV, but more than that, there's something to take away, something worth far more than any Amazon price tag.

Please watch this show.