Category: Sports

Sure I would like to just skip to the most epic Super Bowl of my life but I feel I should give the rest of the weekend proper representation.  Saturday morning I got up and drug myself out of bed to go run, despite a lower body that was STILL sore from squatting and deadlifting on Tuesday.  I slogged through the run, never feeling comfortable.

When I got home I went right into a small chore list that I wanted to knock out.  After doing so Cindy, Elsa and I headed out to grab some coffee and run some errands.  We took the Tacoma so I could throw another 15 bags of top soil in the back to continue my winter long ground elevation project behind the chicken coop.  My hope is I am able to at least give the birds a decent size island in the back that will escape the soggy effects of wet season.

Cindy had a ton to do for SuperBowl party prep and she was working on it in earnest, with both food and decoration prep.  I kept busy doing my own things which included  3D printing, laser engraving, and a few more things. Late in the afternoon I took my wheels over to the school to futz around a bit.  I shot some footage for my upcoming 1000th video on my YouTube channel.  I’m hoping to make that one pretty cool.

On Saturday night we planned on watching Hell or High Water, our Netflix rental however there was some sort of problem with the disc and it wouldn’t read  in my Blu-ray player.  I told Cindy I would just get it on X1 par-per-view.  Yea it sucks to pay for something I could get for free but it wasn’t a big deal.  Well it turned out I didn’t have to pay anything since the movie was already on Showtime.  I could watch it on demand for free, cool.

The movie has a strong cast and an interesting plot.  It sort of had a Robin Hood good natured vibe to it until things got unexpectedly dark towards the end.  It was a good B+ movie for sure but it sure did not end up as I expected.

Sunday was the day. We had a lot to do, well I had a lot, Cindy had an unbelievable amount of work that she did.  She LOVES planning parties and doing everything connected to it.  She was literally on the go almost the entire day.

Her work was nothing short of incredible.  In addition to the conventional food prep Cindy made these amazing baked creations including the football field on the right and Eagles cookies made with a 3D cutter I printed.  Katie came over in the afternoon and did the decorating for the cake pops on the left.  She did an amazing job with them, putting her creativity on display.

I had the 3D printers working hard most of the day as well, creating an Eagles themed quarter tray and a toothpick holder, both of which I designed from scratch.  I filled in the squares of the betting board, a tradition from the very first Super Bowl party that was ever hosted at the house.  I tried to make more of the bets have less than a 50/50 chance so there was the possibility of some bigger winners.  For example one of the bets was the distance of the first punt.

We flipped on the tv as early as 12:30 and they already had Super Bowl pre-game on, wow.  I did mostly the grunt work part of the prep, moving and rearranging things, setting stuff up and filling in with whatever else Cindy needed.  Like I said the amount of effort she put into this party was nothing short of amazing.  About mid-afternoon there was a lull in prep, most things were done.  I decided to knock out an oil change on Cindy’s car as it was one less thing off my mental to do list.  It was uneventful and only took about a half hour, including clean up.

So the party was scheduled to start around 5:30.  Our first guest arrived a few minutes after that.  It was Megan, whose dog Wishbone has been walked by Cindy and I several times.  I was surprised when Cindy told me that Wishbone was coming to the party.  Of course my first thought always jumps to a dog marking his territory in the house.  Luckily Wishbone had no incidents but instead circled the party more or less non-stop, looking for food.  He literally did not sit/lay down once.

Other guests arrived steadily from there on.  By 6’oclock almost the entire roster was there and the house was loud and full of energy.  This was a very special party since MY team was in it.  The crowd was mostly friends of ours from the running club and a few others.  Ali and her boyfriend Shugs even came out, with Sadie of course which Elsa was thrilled about.

I sort of figured that Elsa would mostly hide during the party but surprisingly she was in the middle of the crowd, even snuggling up to Matt on the sofa for a period of time which surprised the hell out of me.

I did myself a favor and watched a lot of the commercials ahead of time since they were posted on YouTube.  Doing so allowed me to actually hear and enjoy them, something that is very difficult to do with 15 people in a room.  However I could watch the action on the field just fine.

The first half was pretty crazy with both teams moving the ball but the Eagles taking more advantage, scoring pretty easy and often.  There were two defining moments of the first half for me. The first was when Patriots pulled a trick play that had Tom Brady downfield as a receiver, a wide open receiver.  He proceeded to drop a pass that hit him right in the hands.  However on a 4th and goal, the Eagles stole that page from the Patriots and actually executed the play to perfection with Nick Foles pulling in a pass from the tight end for a touchdown.  It was an incredibly ballsy call but that was theme of this team all year, aggressive play calling.

The halftime show, which I didn’t entirely see, seemed not bad but not quite as iconic as I would have expected.  Almost always there is some sort of unannounced collaboration that goes on.  However Justin Timberlake performed with nobody else except towards the end where he sung some Purple Rain as an image of Prince was projected onto a big curtain.  I saw some people say the show was great so maybe I just have bad taste.

The second half of the game was a sprint.  All of a sudden the Eagles defense had no answers to stop the Patriots.  Luckily the Eagles offense was still scoring but the Patriots were scoring faster and way too easily.  In the fourth quarter the Patriots took their first lead of the game, by one point and I was worried that we were watching the start of another Eagles failure at the precipice of the ultimate victory.

By the time the fourth quarter started almost everybody had left, it was only Cindy, myself, Ali, and Shuggs.  Outside of Shuggs we were the only real Eagles fans there although pretty much everyone at the party wanted to see the Patriots lose.  It somehow seemed fitting that as the game came down to it’s teeth gritting, heart stopping conclusion, we were the only ones left.

So when Zac Ertz scored the go ahead touchdown which Chris Collinsworth, who has always been an asshole when it comes to the Eagles, was trying to convince the world was going to be overturned, we went nuts.  But because of an early missed extra point and two failed 2 point conversions, the Eagles were only up by 5 points with two and a half minutes to go.  With Tom Brady’s track record and the way he had been torching the Eagles at will the entire second half I was, concerned.

We all yelled at the tv at the Eagles defense that SOMEBODY had to make a play.  They had not even sacked Brady the entire game.  On the very next play, it happened, Brady was hit and fumbled the ball, recovered by the Eagles.  We went ape shit, literally ape shit.  Instead of folding up their tent, the Eagles actually came up when it mattered the most and smacked the Patriots in the mouth.

Unfortunately the Eagles couldn’t run the clock out and had to settle for a field goal which gave them an 8 point lead, meaning the Patriots could possibly score and make a two point conversion to tie it.  The good news was the Patriots only had 30 seconds to drive the length of the field and no time outs.  Brady made a valiant effort and actually got close enough to throw a ball into the endzone for a hail mary as time expired that thankfully fell to the ground after coming dangerously close to being caught on a rebound. It was over. The Eagles actually won the Super Bowl…..

Even though there were only four of us, we made enough noise for 40.  Ali had tears in her eyes of joy, Cindy was smiling ear to ear and I was just screaming.  My entire life I pulled for the Birds to win it all.  After five decades of near misses it seemed surreal that we were the last team standing, finally.

In the past the Eagles were good enough that they were expected to win.  This team that fought through some severe injury losses, including their starting QB, to get all the way to the end, being the underdog in each and every playoff game they played.  I don’t think I could have written a better script.  Nick Foles, who I always liked when he was with the team the first time around, was simply amazing.  He played smart and clean, if he felt nervous he did not show it, instead making throw after throw with his TD reception going down as one of the more memorable in SB history.

The game smashed records, not only for a Super Bowl but for any NFL game, ever.  Never have two teams put up as many yards as the Patriots and Eagles did.  The final score was the most points in SB history and even taking my Eagles partisanship out of the picture, I think it will go down as one of the best Super Bowl games ever.  To have my team be part of that equation and the winning side of it on top, is something I will cherish till things fade to dark.

Before the game I posted on Facebook that if the Eagles win I would jump in the pool.  I’m not the type to not follow through on such a promise so after ripping off my shirt and socks I jumped into the 60 something degree pool water after letting out the most enthusiastic E A G L E S cheer of my lifetime. Sure the water felt cold but my inner warmth from the glow of Super Bowl victory helped insulate me.

I’m glad I took today off from work to recover, relax and bask in the glow of a new reality where the Philadelphia Eagles are Super Bowl Champions!

 

 

 

And now with the plugs!

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Looking for Gotway, Inmotion or KingSong electric unicycles?
Go here for free shipping! – http://ewheels.com/eucarmy

Check out all my sites!
http://eucarmy.com
http://duf.net
http://dufisthenics.com
EUC Army YouTube – https://youtube.com/eucarmy
Duf 3D YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBnqqxnkBqc5ISDQRr0YkiA

Social media
Instagram – @duf67
Twitter – @duf67

Cindy’s site – http://fitfarmchick.com
Cindy’s YouTube channel – http://youtube.com/fitfarmchick 

So one of the many unfun things about turning 50 is the requirement for our county health insurance plan that I undergo a colonoscopy, a procedure I never had.  I understand the reasoning behind it, it’s a good preventative measure to catch any potential issues early.  It certainly doesn’t mean I want to have it done.

I have been putting it off for a couple months but finally decided to schedule the colonoscopy yesterday which should take place at the beginning of March.  Everyone says the procedure itself is no big deal, it’s the prep ahead of time that sucks where they give you a drink that flushes out your intestines, forcefully.  I’m sure that like most things, once it’s over with I will think it was less of a big deal than it currently appears.  Still, if I wasn’t forced to do it for insurance reasons, I’d probably put it off for a few more years.

While I was in the wellness mindset I also mentally committed to go get an eye exam on Monday.  My distance vision has been deteriorating for the last six or seven years.  For about the last five years one of my New Year’s resolutions has been to get my eyes checked and I have continued to push it off.  Since my eyes still work for looking at a computer screen all day I have just rolled with it.

My problem is exactly the thing that lasik does best at addressing but there is no way I would want to spend that kind of money.  Getting contacts is also out of the picture as I have a HORRIBLE time doing anything eye related.  I can’t even keep them open to put in eye drops.  Part of the reason I have not gotten my eyes checked is fear of the eye exam itself.   I am hoping the end result of all of this is I get a prescription for glasses that will allow me to comfortably see distance when necessary.  I can’t imagine a scenario where I would want to or need to wear glasses full time.

This weekend will have an extra level of activity with the Super Bowl Party we are hosting at the house.  Of course this year is taking on additional significance since the Eagles are participants, trying to do what up this point in my life has been impossible, win it all.  Cindy is in full party planning mode, something she really enjoys.  I’m very glad she likes doing it so much because I certainly don’t.

We will be making various tweaks to the house to accommodate the guests which could number 15 or more.  This year we also have the option of splitting the party between the house and Cindy’s RV which can comfortably hold another half dozen people and gets clear reception of NBC on it’s antennae.  I’m sure it will be a fun time for sure.  The only downside is when you are the host of a party it is sometimes difficult to focus on the game itself.  If there was ever a game I wanted to focus on, it’s this one.

Win or lose I am glad I took Monday off to recover.  I will be other too depressed or too elated to be bothered with something like a job for 24 hours.

 

And now with the plugs!

Ender 2 on GearBest EU Plug – https://goo.gl/v5bNRG $159 USE COUPON – “Enderen”
Ender 2 on GearBest US Plug – https://goo.gl/v5bNRG $159 USE COUPON – “ENDERC”

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Get free cash back for stuff you are buying anyway – https://www.ebates.com/r/DUF391?eeid=28187

Esun Cleaning Filament – http://amzn.to/2zP3qwW
Creality Cr-10 3D printer – http://amzn.to/2w7yqIF
Dagoma Neva 3D printer – http://amzn.to/2hYNjoV
FlashForge Finder 3D printer – http://amzn.to/2sCllp7
Hatchbox white PLA filament – http://amzn.to/2rrIfMt
ESun white PLA filament – http://amzn.to/2sBRv42

The gimbal I use – http://amzn.to/2lJbZCa
My GoPro camera – http://amzn.to/2kkBUmJ
GoPro foam windscreen – http://amzn.to/2maDI2B
Selfie stick – http://amzn.to/2mJTJLL
Segway MiniPro – http://amzn.to/2lddTNt
Segway S1 – http://amzn.to/2A8CkQQ
DJI Mavic Pro – http://amzn.to/2kpV4Tk

My EUC protective gear
Killer 187 Wrist Guards – http://amzn.to/2p8y9m9
Triple Eight Helmet – http://amzn.to/2p8uuoH
STX Elbow Pads – http://amzn.to/2oNMrYJ
Killer 187 Knee pads – http://amzn.to/2oYtAHw

Looking for Gotway, Inmotion or KingSong electric unicycles?
Go here for free shipping! – http://ewheels.com/eucarmy

Check out all my sites!
http://eucarmy.com
http://duf.net
http://dufisthenics.com
EUC Army YouTube – https://youtube.com/eucarmy
Duf 3D YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBnqqxnkBqc5ISDQRr0YkiA

Social media
Instagram – @duf67
Twitter – @duf67

Cindy’s site – http://fitfarmchick.com
Cindy’s YouTube channel – http://youtube.com/fitfarmchick 

I picked up Sadie on my way home from work on Friday.  When we got home Elsa went absolutely bat shit crazy to see Sadie emerge from the Prius.  She loves having Sadie around.

On Saturday morning I started out once again with my 13 lap run around the track.  During the last half of the run some kids were getting dropped off presumably for some athletic event.  About a dozen of them joined me on the track, doing one high speed lap, easily blowing past me.  Some of the kids were wearing flip flops and still left me eating their dust.

 

My chore load for Saturday was pretty light with weeding being the primary must do.  We headed out to Rural King and Home Depot with the dogs mid-morning.  I grabbed 15 more bags of top soil to continue my primitive ground level elevation project behind the coop.

My 3D printers were working hard on Saturday finishing up another colorful EUC stand.  I also printed a blue version of my knife model to use at work. On Sunday I put my rudimentary Fusion 360 skills to work to design a little clip I could put on my pool vacuum hoses to keep them from falling off the holder I have on the wall.

Late last week I passed another milestone on my main YouTube channel, crossing the 3000 subscriber mark.  I thought I would celebrate the occasion by making a short montage video that touched on the core subject matter my channel is about.

Saturday night Cindy and I headed out to see 12 Strong, once again opting for the VIP theater experience at The Prado.  We decided to eat dinner there as well since we had a good experience eating there with Randall a few weeks ago.  Cindy and I ordered the exact same items off the menu and had the same praise for the end result.  The only negative was the super slow service at the bar where they had one woman back there that didn’t seem to know what she was doing.  Eventually we just bailed on the idea of getting a beer after waiting for more than 5 minutes with no movement in the line.

The movie was about a seemingly crazy true story at the beginning of the Afghanistan conflict. A small US team was sent in to work with a local Afghan faction to overtake a Taliban controlled area.  The soldiers literally at some points were fighting Taliban in tanks and truck mounted rocket launchers on horseback.  Yes it seemed sort of insane.  Their original intent was to serve as a cross hairs for US targeted airstrikes but it morphed into horses versus tanks in the end.  I am not sure how much of the scenario was exaggerated for the movie, but if it went down pretty much as depicted, it’s an amazing example of heroism and bravery. It’s a solid A flick.

After the movie we stopped at the cute little ice cream shoppe next door and enjoyed small cups of ice cream as we sat by the cool fire/water feature.  We both really enjoy watching movies at Prado.

On Sunday morning Cindy and I went out for an EUC ride, parking in the Super Target lot since Cindy had a few things she wanted to pick up there.  We brought the Msuper and Mten3 for the ride.  It was a fun ride and the longest distance I have taken the Mten3 as we looped all the way to North Collier Park and back.

So on the way back we came in behind Target like we did on the way out, to avoid the busy parking lot traffic.  As we were wheeling along a white SUV was approaching us from the other direction.  As it got closer instead of following the curve in the road it kept going straight in our general direction.  The driver of the vehicle had his face in his phone, of course, and was not paying attention.

Cindy yelled out and gestured at the guy who then immediately jerked the wheel to change direction.  We had plenty of room to avoid an impact but the guy was clearly not paying attention.  Well after we passed I saw the reverse lights on the SUV light up in my rear view mirror.  Cindy looked back and saw it as well and was worried he was going to try to hit us which I assured her he would not do.  Instead he sped past us in an adjacent lane and then gave us the finger as he drove by, what an idiot.

It would have been interesting if he would have stopped and gotten out of the vehicle.  I am normally not the type of person to overreact to a situation or go looking for conflict.  However if someone brings it to my doorstep then things can get a little scary. So anyway, the dumb ass drove away and we had a funny ending to the ride video as I had the camera rolling, just in case.

Sunday afternoon we did our own thing.  Cindy did a lot of crafting over the weekend.  She is getting really good with her Cameo and made a very pro looking t-shirt decal that she applied with her new heat press machine.  I edited the ride video  and then watched a good portion of the Patriots/Jaguar game.

Man although I have no love for the Patriots it is impossible to not respect how much they have accomplished.  Once again they came back from a double digit deficit to beat the Jaguars.  The fact that Tom Brady accomplished this without Gronkowski, who was knocked out with a head injury late in the first half, made it even more impressive.  Brady’s list of accomplishments are simply staggering.  To me, there is not a doubt that he is the best QB of my lifetime.

I of course was more interested in the next game.  Once again, despite having the best record in the league, for the second time in as many weeks the Eagles were an underdog, at home, which is almost unheard of.  Most people, myself included thought that once Carson Wentz got hurt the Eagles chances of success dropped way down.  However the team has managed to use that as a rallying cry, using the underdog role to fuel their efforts.

The way the game started did not give me a warm and fuzzy feeling.  The Vikings marched straight down the field and scored a TD with little resistance.  The sick feeling in my stomach was amplified by the stat that they flashed on the screen stating that no team with an indoor stadium has ever played an outdoor game in the championship game and won, their record is 0-12.  In the past the Eagles have had a bad habit of bucking these trends so I was worried that we were again headed in that direction.

If you would have told me that the Birds would turn things around to score 38 unanswered points at that time I would have called you crazy however that is what happened.  I was so used to Eagle teams in the past collapsing with big leads that I was still not confident when the score was 31-7.  Only once they got the final touchdown did I know for sure they were going to the Superbowl.  What an amazing game.

I was so happy for Nick Foles, he had  a superb game.  I always liked the guy when he was with the Eagles.  From the start he struck me as a quality human being and for him to succeed at this level after struggling when he was traded was heart warming. He played like his amazing year under Chip Kelly when he threw 27 TDs with only two interceptions.  He was calm and in control.

The Eagles defense came up big after looking like a doormat on the first drive.  The Vikings did move the ball somewhat but some big takeaways kept them from scoring again which was huge.  This game will go down as one of the all timers in my book as far as satisfaction and level of play goes.

The Super Bowl party we are hosting once again after a one year hiatus suddenly has taken on a whole new level of excitement.  To have the team I have lived and died with my entire life in the big game will be special indeed.  I can only hope somehow they are able to keep the magic going just one more time…

E-A-G-L-E-S

EAGLES!!!!!!!

 

 

Saturday morning I got up before my 5:45 alarm to get out and get my run in.  The air again was pleasantly cool which made for a more tolerable running experience.  The 13 laps went by fine and as has been the case for the last few months it was just me and the crickets out there on the track.

Cindy was teaching classes Saturday morning which meant I was left to my own taskmaster vices.  I buzzed around the house, inside and out tending to various things on my mental to do list.  When Cindy got home we piled into the Tacoma with Sadie and Elsa to head to Home Depot.  One of the things I wanted to look at there was screen doors, the type used on our pool cage.  I was unsure if Home Depot would carry them or not.

Well I may have mentioned, the screen contractor that I terminated my relationship with quoted a price of $500 to replace the door on the east side of the cage that was bent and twisted from Irma.  Of course I thought this was high but I did not get a true appreciation for just how outrageous it was until Saturday. A brand new door was less than $80.  I knew I didn’t have the time to install the door this past weekend so I didn’t grab it right away but you can be assured I will be doing so shortly.  I likely may replace the other door as well so I have a new matching set.  Even with replacing two I’ll still be miles ahead of the quote for a single door replacement.  I feel badly for people that don’t do any legwork to confirm if a contractor is being straight up with you or just feeding you a mountain of bullshit to justify overpriced goods and services.

Late Saturday afternoon I decided to take my Mten over to the school, the perfect place to practice and experiment with the little, yet powerful wheel.  I had a lot of fun attempting and being successful with tricks/moves that I wouldn’t even dare to try with my larger conventional EUC’s.  I was glad I got to ride Saturday because we didn’t have time on Sunday to get out.

During the day I had the 3D printers working hard.  I printed another geometric Xmas tree, in a more festive green.  I also printed a bunch of gifts for Cindy’s nephew Owen including Harry Potter glasses, a wand, Minecraft keychains, and a cool target for Nerf guns.

Saturday night Cindy and I watched King Arthur, our latest Netflix rental.  The movie put a hip, modern spin on a very old story.  I found it entertaining but not mind blowing.  It was a solid B rental for me.

So Sunday was going to be a very busy day.  We were going to the Miami area to attend Owen’s birthday party.  Cindy had a mini-emergency when her Iphone 6 appeared to go DOA, only showing the red battery indicator and little else, despite being on the charger all night.  We tried a number of tricks found on the internet to revive it, including heating the back of the phone with a hair dryer, which worked briefly.  However we were unsuccessful.  Oddly when we returned from the east coast the phone magically started working again but it clearly has some sort of battery related issue.

I did my weekly bill paying session and then we quickly ran to the pool store and Dunkin Donuts before we had to get ready to leave.  We picked up Cindy’s niece Taylor on the way whom we don’t get to see that much of.  It was nice to have her along to keep us company.  Taylor is extremely intelligent and should have a very bright future in front of her.

The drive across state took a little less than two hours and was uneventful.  The most challenging part of it was staying awake as I had a very poor night of sleep on Saturday.  When we approached Cindy’s sister-in-law and brother’s place we were astonished that the street in front of their house was barricaded off because a HUGE inflatable obstacle course that was in middle of the road.  Both Cindy and I wondered if they had to get a permit for that or if the rental company just does it first and begs for forgiveness later.

I really had no idea of what to expect of the party.  It turned out to be quite large with a couple dozen kids running around like crazy.  The obstacle course got used heavily.  I hadn’t eaten lunch so I quickly started chowing down on chips and caramel corn, not my normal diet.  I soon felt gross for consuming so much fat, salt, and sugar in a short period of time.

I didn’t know 90% of the people there but I still did an ok job being somewhat social.  I was talking to one guy who seemed very nice but I had to do my best to conceal my inner cringe and disapproval of how much he loved duck and quail hunting.  He said his son loves it too.

I understand that people are a product of their environment.  If you were brought up in a family where hunting is just another activity I understand why the act of killing an animal may seem insignificant to you.  However the same applies to someone like me who never hunted, and never even fired a real gun.  To me, the act of willingly ending the life of an animal in a first person manner is pretty horrible.  However, the reasonable adult in me realizes that the right/wrong gauge for everyone is personalized and I do my best to let “to each its own” be the motto I generally try to live by.

I had a good time at the party watching all the young energy running rampant among us.  Owen seemed to really like the 3D stuff we made for him as he is currently a huge Harry Potter fan.  We left shortly after the pinata smashing festivities concluded with Owen’s half brother Ryan exploding the pinata with one hard swing.

On the ride back to the west coast we picked up another passenger, Cindy’s other niece Stephanie.  The girls kept the roughly 100 mile ride home entertaining.  We rolled back into the driveway about 6:30 or so.

My poor night of sleep combined with going to one side of the state to the other and back again in a little more than six hours was going to make watching the Eagles game challenging.  I actually fell asleep on the couch from early in the second quarter until about 11 minutes left in the third quarter.

If you read the scores today you see the 24-10 loss posted by the Birds.  It was a disappointing effort for sure but really from what I saw, there were a few key things that could have easily changed that outcome.  The Eagles were called on a TON of penalties, many of which came at the worst time, allowing the Seahawks to extend drives, drives that eventually lead to scores, instead of punting the ball away. Carson made some great plays but also some bad ones.  He continued his rather worrisome trait of randomly overthrowing wide open receivers and committed a soul crushing fumble at the 10 inch line, robbing the Eagles of another scoring opportunity.   The coaching staff seemed asleep at the wheel as well at times, failing to throw a red flag on an attempted lateral that clearly was a forward pass, once again allowing the Seahawks to drive down the field and score.  It seemed to be an equal opportunity case of sloppiness.

To the Seahawks credit, Russell Wilson had an outstanding game.  The Eagles got pressure on the pocket consistently most of the night but his elusiveness made it very difficult to pin him down.  Seattle also seemed very adept at running pick plays that had the Eagles d-backs running into each other all night long. In the big picture it might be a good thing for the Birds to have an ugly game at this point in the season.  The hope is it will wake them up a bit and bring the type of focus that is needed to really do something big this year.

Elsa is still cute, in case you were wondering.

 

15181481_1353205941359323_2370457378495481185_nSo now after having Elsa in the house for around two weeks we have both been getting more used to each other.  She is just extremely cute and seems very happy in her new home.  However neither Cindy or I have been able to figure out why she is so skittish in some situations.  We wonder if there was something about her old living situation that created this fear or if it’s just the way she is.  Anyway, we will keep just smothering her with love and hope it eases whatever worries she has.

So I stayed up to watch the Eagles game although I flipped it off with about six minutes left, knowing the team was going nowhere.  It was a very frustrating game to watch.  The defense appeared to have no answers for Aaron Rodgers, he picked them apart masterfully.  The Packers converted something ridiculous like 10 of 12 third down conversions.  The few times the Eagles did actually stop them they committed stupid penalties to let the Packers move the chains anyway.

The front four of the Eagles just did not get the job done.  Fletcher Cox who for some reason was deemed worthy of being awarded the highest non-QB contract in the off season has been the biggest disappointment of all.  He has 4 sacks this season, the last one coming during the loss at Detroit. Yes, that was SEVEN games ago.  You never hear his name called for making a play.  The only time I heard his name last night was when he allowed the Packers to extend another drive with a 3rd down roughing the passer call.  He is a rancid, stinking example of a player getting the big money and then laying an egg.  His play has been very disappointing.

Carson Wentz had another sub-par game.  Of course it is not entirely his fault.  The Eagles wide receiving crew, which was already poor was short handed because Agoholor (another huge bust), didn’t dress because he has hurt feelioma or something along those lines.  They could cut every WR on this team and replace them with waiver pick ups and not lose a step.  The interception Wentz threw was a bad one.  He has repeatedly exhibited a tendency to have balls “sail” on him during his rookie year.  Last night’s example landed square in the chest of a Packer defensive back. I just don’t get how a team that looked so balanced and disciplined for the first three games of the season has unraveled to what we have seen the last couple months.  At least the 2-6 record after the 3-0 start has put in focus what areas of the team are just not good enough.

During the game they flashed a stat that surprised me.  The last 17 times the Eagles have been behind entering the 4th quarter behind on the scoreboard, they have lost.  Wow talk about a lack of resiliency.

 

15094290_10155018788932841_6558027601994686520_nThe weather this weekend was great with cool, crisp air most of the time.   It was good weather for dogs to play. On Friday Sadie, Elsa, and the neighbor’s puppy Shadow had a rigorous play session.  The end result of it was Sadie walking around with a severe limp Friday night.  She gets excited and tries to run around like she weighs 20 pounds less than she does, which usually results in her hurting herself.  Luckily Saturday morning the limp was less severe but we tried to limit her running the rest of the weekend with some limited success.

It felt weird that as I was completing chores outside Saturday morning that the final race I was contracted to time was going on.  My timer buddy John had offered to time the race for me in a barter arrangement which was fine with me.  With the completion of the event my plate is officially cleared of Green Machine Timing business.  I have15079037_10154337470978089_5112068902732179854_n sold almost all of the equipment already and feel no regret in doing so.  The motivation I had for starting GMT was fueled by a lot of “f u” energy that has faded over time.  With that change along with the lack of financial pressure to supplement my income, it just feels good to let it all go.

Saturday afternoon we took the dogs on their first tandem road trip, hitting up Rural King and Home Depot.  It was weird that we just randomly met Elsa unexpectedly a week prior at Rural King and a week later she was living in our home.  Both dogs behaved well as we walked around the stores.

I was hoping to get out on my electric unicycle early in the afternoon since I hardly had any ride time during the week due to lack of daylight and other time commitments.  However I wound up getting sidetracked for over two hours working on a computer problem.  For some reason Windows file explorer kept crashing whenever I did anything that required browsing the file system.  There had been no major changes recently so I had no idea why the behavior would start all of a sudden.  I looked the problem up online and saw three possible remedies, I tried them all and none of them worked.  I even went so far as to do a system restore from Wednesday, still no dice.

I then logged on as a different user and saw explorer was working just fine so at least it meant my problem was profile specific and not system wide.  I decided to back up my documents and data and blow away my profile to start a new one.  Doing so fixed my problem but then required me to do a lot of tweaking to get things in the new profile working correctly.  I was quite frustrated by the entire process.

I finally got out on my wheel around 4PM.  I drove to the Target shopping center and parked there.  I then rode the 10K big loop that surrounds the North Collier Regional Park.  I entered the park as part of the ride and tooled around for awhile.  During the ride I rambled on about a bunch of various topics you may or may not find interesting.

On Saturday night we stayed in and watched Concussion, the movie Will Smith felt he deserved an Oscar nomination for.  It was an interesting movie that dealt with just how horrible the side effects of repetitive head trauma can be.  There were a number of players named in the film that died/killed themselves as a result.  The only two I was aware of before the movie were Mike Webster and Junior Seau.  I was shocked and amazed that I didn’t know the infamous Eagles safety from the Buddy Ryan years, Andre Waters, was another player that took his own life after battles with mental illness.  The film, although slow at times, does make me look at the only professional sport that I actively root for differently. B+

15037224_1347799841899933_8332032468019576567_nSo overall, Elsa has been pretty easy to merge into our daily routine except for one thing, house breaking.  A handful of times she has done number one and two in the house which I guess is expected, however the way it has been happening is a bit maddening.  Twice she has taken a dump in the dining room literally minutes after we just had her outside to go to the bathroom.  Last night Cindy was walking her around out front for a good 10 minutes to avoid this exact scenario.  She did nothing outdoors and promptly shit in the exact same spot in the dining room a few minutes after coming back inside.  Obviously this behavior needs to be corrected but other than that, she has been an ideal addition.

Sunday morning I got out for another 4+ mile run.  The temperature actually dropped 5 degrees between me arriving at the track and leaving.  Some cool air was blowing into town.  The run was challenging as the incoming cool air meant that half of every lap I was running into a pretty stiff headwind.

Katie and her boyfriend were unable to join is for our Sunday morning PTV ride because they had to run their dog to the vet.  Cindy and I wound up riding around the Barron Collier high school area for maybe 5 miles or so.  Riding in the cool air required a sweatshirt but it still felt great.

After the ride we stopped at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  Their ad had a cool Christmas LED projector that I wanted to enhance our 2016 X-mas display.  The projector literally blankets the front of your house with clear laser red and green images that cycle and move.  We tried it out last night, it is coooool.

Katie and Daniel must really enjoy our Sunday rides, they asked if we could still go out Sunday afternoon, after they got back from the vet.  The Eagles didn’t play until 4:30 so I was fine with it.  We went back to the middle school I run at since they had closed in basketball courts that would be good for unicycle training.  At this point Daniel had the basics mastered, Katie was now the one trying to get up and rolling on one wheel.

She had very early success, being able to ride from one side of the basketball court to the other.  Within 15 minutes of that it had “clicked” for her.  She was rolling along impressively, turning, starting, and stopping at a level that took me several weeks to achieve.  It was another testament to the power of youth.  She quickly got to the point where she was maxxing out the speed of the training wheel which was tilting her back hard.  We had her get on the Ninebot One which she again quickly adapted to.  It was amazing.  She did have a wipe out that ended her riding session.  I didn’t see the whole fall but I think she ran off the edge of the asphalt momentarily.  Luckily she was wearing the new safety equipment we had bought for her so she escaped without any serious injuries.    I was very impressed with her progress.  Both her and Daniel picked up the skill much faster than I ever would have expected.

So that Eagles game was pretty brutal to watch, the Seahawks really did a good job of putting a spotlight on the Eagles weaknesses like their corner backs and wide receivers whom are both below average, at best.   Carson Wentz had his worst game of the season.  His numbers look better than they really were from junk yards at the end once the Seahawks went into prevent.  To add injury to insult, the top two Eagles running backs, Ryan Matthew and Darren Sproles left the game with injuries.  It was just a depressing game to watch and was a reality check for the team.  Although the Eagles are better than expected this year, they have several key problems that will prevent them from becoming a contender.

 

14910495_10154959658232841_1618068256359868455_nThe weather for most of this weekend was odd for Florida with mostly overcast skies that looked like rain yet yielded little more than a few sprinkles.   At least the cloud cover kept the temperatures down although the humidity level was not nearly as pleasant as last week. I did some normal yard work in the morning before Cindy and I took Sadie for a ride to one of her favorite places, Rural King.

Later in the afternoon Cindy and I went out for a ride on our wheels in Valencia Lakes, a nearby development.  While we were in there we tracked down the house of our friend Kerri  who we know from the running club.  Her and her son watched our chickens for us during our road trip last year.  We hadn’t see her in quite awhile so it was nice to catch up.

Saturday night we headed to the movies for the first time in a few weeks to see Inferno, the third movie based on a Dan Brown book.  I have read all of his books, including Inferno a year or two ago.  I enjoy his writing style as well the subject matter that walks on the edge of controversial subjects like the hypocrisy of religion.  Inferno, is based on another controversial subject, explosive human population growth and the brick wall it is hurdling us towards at a rapid pace.

The first two thirds of the movie seemed to follow what I remembered from the book pretty faithfully however the last third felt foreign with a number of things that I did not remember happening.  I was not sure if I was just suffering from poor recollection of the book details or if they did make some wholesale changes.  Well the answer is somewhere in the middle.  After the movie Cindy looked it up and there were a number of deviations from the book including a very major one.  I almost felt like I needed to go back and reread the last 50 pages of the book to see just how poor my recollection was.  Anyway, my spending the last third of the movie reconciling between the book and film may have affected my overall enjoyment of the movie.  I’ll give it a B+ although in reality I am feeling more B’ish about the whole thing.

14915171_10154956276317841_6788537475855175196_nDespite getting home late from the movie I woke up before the 6AM alarm to get up and run.  I felt exhausted but compelled to keep up with the minimal once a week running program.  I got out on the track about 15 minutes earlier than normal meaning it was literally pitch black when I started.  I like that by the time other people start showing up I am nearly finished.  Despite nearly 20 degree warmer temperatures and higher humidity than last week I turned in what I think was my fastest run of 2016.

Katie came over mid-morning to join us on what is becoming our traditional Sunday morning family ride on the Segways.  We decided to take her to North Collier Regional Park, a spot Cindy and I have rode before.  Not only is it a great spot to ride but they also had early voting available so Cindy and Katie could take advantage of it since neither had voted yet. This was actually the first time Katie had ever voted so it was cool to be there for her first time.  With as long as the ballot is, I can only imagine how long the lines will be on election day.  If you live in Florida and don’t take advantage of early voting you are crazy.

We had a fun ride after that although Katie had a few near falls.  The Segway Minipros are very stable normally but they do have the same tilt back mechanism that my EUC does in order to limit rider speed.  Basically when you cross 11mph the unit will start tilting you back, slowly at first and then more if the speed is still too high after a couple seconds.  Twice Katie got hammered with severe tilt back that took her off the path although she didn’t fall off.

The tilt back safety feature is really a catch 22.  Once the rear tilt reaches a certain angle your natural reaction is to lean forward to keep on top of the bot.  The forward lean is interpreted by the wheel as you wanting to go even faster so it tilts you back even harder.  The best way to deal with it is to just not go into tilt back speed area.  Katie had one more near crash incident when she squeezed between a parking stop and curb and got one wheel up on the curb in the process.  I’m not sure how she avoided falling that time but it made me think a helmet and wrist guards would be a good addition to both of the girls riding attire.

One of the things I like about the new wheel I am getting (arrives today) is the tilt back behavior can be customized.  The higher speed capability of the wheel should make tilt back a thing of the past as I don’t intend to run it out to it’s top end speed.  25+ mph on a unicycle is a bit crazy.

Sunday afternoon Cindy and I took Sadie along to Home Depot to get a couple things including a nice yard wagon that will make transporting things to the back yard not necessarily require a trip through the gate with the Tacoma.  We also bought an inexpensive Thanksgiving themed inflatable for the front yard, hoping to build off the popularity of our big red spider.

I got to play a lot of WoW Sunday afternoon which I enjoyed.  I literally have a mountain of virtual things to do in game if I chose to do so.  So far I have been echoing the feelings of other players regarding the new expansion that launched a month or so ago, it’s really good.  So far I have only touched two of my eleven characters.  There is just so much to see and do.

So of course I tuned in for the Eagles/Cowboys game.  I am not sure why I am feeling so negative about the loss today as going in I thought the Birds didn’t have a great shot to win.  I guess it’s because the Eagles played well enough to win and had a 10 point lead early in the fourth quarter that they gave away.  I was not very happy pushing my waking hours to midnight (considering I got up before 6) just to see the defense collapse, allowing the Cowboys to score a TD on their first possession, easily. So before I start naming names and pointing fingers, let me once again say that I did not expect the Eagles to be good this year, so the fact that they have been doing better than expected is not lost on me.

Ok, Carson Wentz completed something like 32 passes but only threw for a little over 200 yards?  When has that ever happened?  The dink and dunk passing attack was a bit maddening and a testament to just how mediocre the Eagles wide receivers are.  They scare no one.  There is no deep threat on the team.  You would think normally that a lack of speed would at least be countered by sure handedness?  F no, these guys routinely drop easily catchable balls.  Last night another four or five balls hit receivers in their hands and wound up on the ground.  If the team had a true number one caliber wide receiver I think it would make a huge difference.

The Eagles cornerbacks blow, especially Mills.  I am so sick of watching him get burned or penalized repeatedly and then wagging his finger when someone assigned to him doesn’t catch a ball, through nothing he did well.  I mean he wags his finger if the ball is uncatchable, like he did something significant.  Stop with all the gesturing and just play better.  I still don’t understand how a 7th round rookie draft pick is a starting corner for the team but oh well.  He also fell asleep at the wheel on special teams, allowing the Cowboy punter to run for a soul crushing 30 yard scamper.  You suck buddy, leave the taunting and gesturing to the guys that actually make plays.

Fletcher Cox, what the hell dude?  I recall during the tumultuous Eagles off season that I asked why in the world the team thought Fletcher Cox deserved to be the highest paid non-QB player in the NFL?  His stats were good, not great, and certainly not deserving of such ridiculous wads of cash in my opinion.  Well he has basically been a ghost this season doing nothing well unless you count  getting blocked or falling down as positives.  I focused on him during several series and he really looked like he was going through the motions with no motor at all.   He was an absolute non-factor once again last night.  That was definitely money ill spent.

Doug Pederson, the kicker made a 55 yard field goal not once, but twice at the end of the first half after the Cowboys called a time out to ice him.  When you have a slightly shorter FG opportunity late in the game to make it a two score game you instead punt it away which resulted in the Cowboys immediately marching down the field and scoring?  That was my first coaching wtf I had so far with Pederson this year, hopefully there aren’t a lot more of them. So ok, rant over, it felt good to get it out my system.

14568028_10154959601237841_5686872250311290303_nTonight for Halloween I totally expect to get zero trick or treaters, just like every year for more than decade.  Just in case we have a small bag of candy ready to go although I am sure Cindy and I will be the ultimate consumers of it.

Like I mentioned above my new MSuper electric unicycle is arriving a day or two earlier than I expected which is an awesome surprise.  I can hardly wait to give it a go.

 

 

12695000_10154281394497841_1631970154761970522_oSaturday morning it was cool outside, a forecast that looks to be the case for most of the upcoming week.  In the morning we went out to run errands.  Most of what we needed was picked up at Rural King including bird seed, top soil, and a few more odds and ends. After eating lunch I felt adequately ambitious enough to finally take on the brake shoe replacement on the rear drum brakes on the Tacoma.

I have had the new shoes at home for a couple weeks but I was in no rush to tackle the job.  I worked on the drum brakes of my Mom’s Rav 4 years ago and it didn’t go well.  I didn’t pay enough attention when taking them apart and as a result had a hell of a time getting everything back together correctly. The rear brakes on the Tacoma had not been touched for years and years.  I bet 100k miles have ticked by since they last received attention.

Recently the brake warning light on the dash has been coming on periodically and the pedal seemed to not be grabbing until it traveled a short distance, both indicators to me that the brake shoes on the back were probably ready to get replaced.  Of course I intended to video the entire job as my automotive maintenance videos are among my most popular on YouTube.  People seem to like my honestly amateur approach to the work where I am not afraid to show mistakes I make along the way so others can learn from them.

I took provisions this time to make sure I had adequate visual references.  I pulled the drums from both rear wheels so I could always refer to the other side if need be, even though it is reversed.  I also took close up pictures of each drum brake assembly to further assist me.  While this is helpful, there are parts of drum brakes that are not clearly visible when everything is put together.  Those aspects just needed to be mentally observed and noted.  As I started tearing down the driver side wheel I laid out the parts I removed on the ground roughly in their position in the brakes to further assist me in the reassembly process.

The most difficult part of getting the brake shoes off is the main long tension spring.  I used a combination of a flat head screw driver and my locking needle nose vise grip pliers to brute force the spring out of it’s mounting point.  Once it was removed the rest of the parts come off pretty easily.  The first thing I noticed on the old pads was they had more brake material on them than I expected.  After all they had been on the truck forever.  When I looked at them more closely later it appeared the pads were glazed over pretty badly which results in poor stopping power.

So once I got old shoes off I pulled out the new brake shoes I ordered online from AutoZone.  I immediately spotted a big problem, literally.  The brake shoes I just removed were much larger than the new ones I pulled out of the box.  Apparently I was sent shoes that are for non Pre-Runner Tacomas which are approximately 8 inches in length.  Pre Runners use shoes that are a little over 11 inches long.  My reaction when I see this was caught on tape and is pretty funny.

So I had no choice but to drive to the nearest AutoZone and swap out the pads.  I was worried they would not have them in stock.  Fortunately luck was on my side.  Not only did they have the pads, they were a couple bucks cheaper for some reason, despite their larger dimensions.  I headed back home with the proper part, eager to complete the project.

The 90 or so minutes it took to get the new shoes resulted in a few hiccups when I was putting stuff back together as I forgot how a spring on the back of the one shoe was positioned.  After some trial and error I got it figured out.  Getting the brakes back together was a bit of a grind, the biggest issues of course being reattaching the high tension springs which again I mostly used the vise grips to perform.  Tearing down and replacing the shoes on the passenger side went much faster after cutting my teeth on the driver side.

Drum brakes have a self adjusting mechanism.  Basically when you go in reverse with the brakes applied it is supposed to keep the brakes adjusted.  Normally you are supposed to manually adjust the shoes when you replace them so the clearance is tight and allow the self adjuster to take over from there.  In my case I only manually adjusted the brakes a little bit, hoping the self adjuster would take out any remaining slop.

I spent a couple minutes in the driveway pulling forward and backward to hopefully let the self adjuster do it’s thing.  However when I took the truck on the road in a steady rain I still felt too much pedal travel so I pulled it back into the garage.  I jacked up the rear end of the truck once again and slid underneath the wet and dripping undercarriage.  On the back of the brake assembly is a small adjustment hole covered by a rubber plug.   It gives access to the brake adjuster, you basically spin it with a small screw driver.

By this time it was dark outside so I was awkwardly trying to hold a shop light while I spun the adjuster.  Basically I spun the wheel, adjusted the gear and then spun it again.  I repeated this till I got just a little bit of resistance on the wheel.  On the next road test the brakes felt tons better, the best they have felt in years.  Sure in total I spent something like 5 hours (including drive for parts) getting the job done but it is another chapter in my growing book of successful automotive tasks.  If you have a half hour to kill you can watch the whole ordeal below.

On Sunday morning Cindy and I wanted to get out to do a run to help negate in at least to a small degree the caloric hit we were sure to take from the Super Bowl party.  I came up with the idea of running the loop down around King’s Lake, an area I ran years ago when Ali and I started running down here.  I knew the loop was somewhere close to 3 miles.  The temps were quite chilly in the 50’s with wind which I actually prefer to running in 85 degrees with 85% humidity.   The run was scenic and done at relatively slow pace but I didn’t really care.  It worked out to be a 1/4 mile short of 3 miles which was good enough for me.

We got home just shortly after Katie and her boyfriend picked up the second of my old furniture pieces.  It was the bigger sofa piece which had been sitting in the garage for the last few days.  I have been liking our new set from Rooms to Go but only time will tell how directly the correlation between it’s relatively low price and durability will work out.

Once we got home we got busy plowing into party prep.  While Cindy was inside I was outside trying to get the back yard in order.  The chickens have been on another hole digging kick recently, excavating a number of holes in the small hill by the pool border on the door side of the cage.  I bought top soil and a roll of green plastic chicken fencing to stop the behavior.  After back filling the holes I cut the fencing to length and laid it on top of the area, pinned down by heavy patio stones on either side.  It surely is not what I would prefer the hill would look like but it’s better than being filled with chicken created potholes.  I really wish we could come up with a way to permanently keep the chickens out of the pool border, they just make a mess of it.  When I see them digging around there I often will go set the sprinklers to fire off in the border to scare them off. Of course it works for a time being but in order for it to be effective we need to be more consistent so their little chicken brains associate digging in that area with getting wet.

12669687_951159784970300_1180290439153639016_nBesides taking a brief time out for lunch Cindy and I were busy pretty much right up to the arrival of the first party guest between 5 and 5:30.  There are just so many moving parts to hosting a party for almost 20 people.  Almost everybody showed up that we expected and they did so before kick off.  In the past we had some people screw around in the back yard before the game but the cold and blustery conditions curtailed that this year besides taking a few people out back to say hi to the chickens, since they are a new addition since last year.

At the party’s peak the great room/kitchen area was packed.  In addition to the two sofas we had our portable ottomans, dining room chairs, two bean bags and a couple large floor pillows in use to provide adequate seating arrangements.  There were so many people it was difficult to hear much of what was going out of the surround system, despite me having the volume cranked pretty high.  Between the noise and Cindy and I attending to party needs we got to focus very little on the game during the first half.

One of my main concerns was managing the betting board, making sure bets like first penalty, first td, first coaches challenge, etc… were all documented properly so the winners of each bet could be identified. After half time there was a mass exodus of people as most individuals were not as fortunate as I was to have taken off Monday from work to recover.  For most the second half of the game we only had maybe a half dozen people hanging with us so I got to pay more attention to the game itself.

Of course one of my core activities during the game was drinking.  I bet in total I knocked down somewhere between 7 to 9 Miller Lites.  Of course the generous consumption of alcohol lead to me consuming obscene amounts of food.  I sampled pretty much everything in the huge spread at least once with multiple trips to several items throughout the night. It was pure gluttony.

I was happy with the outcome of the game as I was really pulling for Peyton Manning to get a Super Bowl win to close out his spectacular career.  Peyton was really a minor player in the victory, it was the Denver defense that really controlled the game, battering Cam Newton from start to finish.  It reminded me of the way the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl teams felt.

Cam got chastised after the game for not diving on a loose ball after it got knocked out of his hand.  To me I think the criticism  is a bit overblown.  If you watch the play it seems to me Cam stopped himself from diving because he saw his offensive lineman already mid-dive in front of him.  Diving on top of your own player in a loose ball scenario rarely helps matters but evidently for appearance sake, the media thinks otherwise.

I was surprised to hear the negative backlash about the Super Bowl halftime show.  It was basically crucified but perhaps it was in a way similar to the Cam Newton thing.  Once a negative opinion gets legs  people love to pile on.  I am personally a Cold Play fan and even though I didn’t think there was anything spectacular about the halftime show I thought it was entertaining and well produced.  Apparently I am in the minority.

After the last people left Cindy and I dug into clean up duties, trying to get as much as we could done before retiring to bed.  As you can imagine there is all sorts of collateral damage when you have that many people jammed into a living space.  By the time we collapsed in bed closing in on midnight we were both exhausted.

On Monday we both hoped to have a good portion of chill time available.  Somehow it didn’t work out that way.  I rolled out of bed feeling hungover but not horribly so.  I slowly worked on breaking down the table we had in the great room to house drinks.  I then worked on emptying the coolers which included giving away large amounts of beer to two of our neighbors.  The Miller Lites I have left in the fridge would probably satisfy my drinking needs for the next 6 months or more.

We headed out to get some coffee and hit the bank.  Once we got back I had it in my head I wanted to set up my recently refurbished inflatable arch.  You may recall I sent it down to a place in Texas for them to replace some sections and rebrand it for Green Machine Timing.  Even though I saw a picture of it inflated down in Texas I had not blown it up myself since getting it back.  I am going to be renting the arch in a couple weeks for a race so I figured it would be a good idea to blow it up as practice and to see the refurbish work.

12698622_10154279981957841_3865319142461957225_oCindy helped me get the arch up.  We both liked the new look of the arch with the new black/green color scheme with the GMT badging across the top and both legs.  I decided I wanted to pull out all of my race gear and take a few pictures that I can use on my web site to help promote both my timing services and equipment rental.  Right now I only have the stuff needed to time a small event.  My further acquisition of stuff will depend on how things progress.  I am certainly in no rush to rapidly expand my workload as for the near future I would like to enjoy not having anything race timing related to worry about or focus on.

Somehow despite our noble intentions to chill out a good portion of the day we instead kept busy for the majority of it.  I needed to tend to the automatic chicken door once again.  It was in the down position Monday morning instead of opening up at 6AM as it is supposed to.  I found out the fishing line we used to fix the door last time had snapped.  I went to the local hardware store and bought some more robust braided string to use this time around.  I think it will hold up much better.

I also gathered up all of my tax paperwork to submit to my accountant during the afternoon.  I am expecting a less exciting than normal tax refund this year because of more race timing revenue, $1000 in Google Ad dollars combined with my cashing out the dependent IRA I received as part of my mom’s estate to pay for the flooring upgrade.   I am hoping some of the additional race timing expenses I had during the year will help even things out at least a little bit.  I guess as long as I don’t have to pay in any taxes it is a win although for the last 15 years I have counted on my tax refund as an indirect savings plan that is normally used for some home improvement task/item.  Hopefully that streak does not end this year.

I had a horrible night of sleep last night, waking up first at 1AM and then rolling around restlessly for at least a couple hours.  It’s frustrating and a negative on my overall well being obviously. Despite the poor sleep, all in all it was a productive/fun 3 day weekend.  The best news is I get another one in four short days. 😉

 

 

12466181_10154236838182841_7434535693338582281_oSo with the bad forecast for the half marathon I came up with an idea on Friday to make timing in stormy weather more feasible, rent a box truck.  I secured a 16 foot truck for $35 a day and 99 cents per mile, far less than I expected.  With that size I would have plenty of room to set up two or three tables loaded up with the computer equipment used for race timing.  The only thing that would be left outside would be the timing boxes themselves which are able to be operated with their lids closed, making them pretty weather resistant.  I picked up the truck on Saturday after getting permission from the running club to do so.

When I rented the truck I had a funny interaction with the guy that ran the office.  When I walked in he had a gamer headset on and he appeared somewhat annoyed I interrupted him.  After I took a look at the monster PC he had on the desk which I immediately recognized as a gaming rig I asked him questions about it, letting him know my computer background.  Once he knew he was talking to a fellow computer geek the conversation flowed.  He told me about the specs of his big full tower box that he built himself which were impressive.

We exchanged stories of our gaming experience.  I found out he was an old WoW player and a quite high level one at that.  He played the game the first three years it was out.  I told him I have been plugging away for a solid 10 years.  In addition to completing the paperwork for the rental he took the time to show me some details of Fallout 4, which is what he was playing when I walked in the door.  It was a geeky interaction out of nowhere that I appreciated.

On Friday after work I went over to the running store where I stayed until packet pick up wound up at 7PM.  I worked on getting current with any entries that came in during the day. On Saturday afternoon I headed back down there to do the same.

Now of course the potential for bad weather was on everyone’s mind.  The weather forecast for Sunday was consistently bad but the time frame seemed to be shifting around.  Unfortunately it seemed like the worst weather was forecast to hit during the time everything would be set up.  The plan was to show up as normal and if the weather conditions were really bad we could slide the race start time back to accommodate it.  Cindy and I used the 16 foot truck to hold most of the stuff which was a good thing since I had the most equipment I ever used at a race with four timing systems and 24 one meter mats.  We went to bed early, hoping to compensate for the 3AM alarm I had set for Sunday morning. Unfortunately I wound up waking  up somewhere around 1AM and not really falling asleep afterward.  During my tossing and turning I heard several bursts of storm activity outside.

When we got up I immediately looked at the latest weather conditions.  I was not happy to see a tornado watch had been put in place that ran until 8AM.  I called the race director who was already in the process of setting up the course just to let him know about the watch and suggest we wait until that watch clears to start the race which was scheduled for a 7AM start. Cindy and I pulled out our race caravan with me leading in the box truck and Cindy following in the Tacoma.

On the way to the race I got a message that they were officially postponing the start until 8 to give the weather a chance to clear, a good move.  When we got there the roads were wet but it wasn’t raining and the wind was minimal.  However when I looked at the radar before leaving home I saw Naples looked to be on the tail end of a long line of storms that was moving northeast very rapidly.  It was not a matter of if the storm was going to hit but when.

Cindy and I started working on setting up stuff.  We dumped the timing gear at the start and finish lines.  I parked the big truck in position by the finish line and set up tables inside of it.  I looked at my temporary timing shelter with a weird sense of pride for coming up with a way to get the job done despite the very challenging weather conditions.  We started setting up the registration area over by the bank under a covered parking area that we hoped would provide shelter if the storm got really bad.  With the one hour delay we suddenly had a much longer window to get everything set up.

12573050_10205622586667196_4983391032435396285_nSo Chris, who was there to help me do data entry had his iPad along.  On it he had the live radar view on loop which showed the line of red was almost on us.  The wind started to pick up along with the rain so the group of us around the registration area took cover.  As the wind and rain picked up it started blowing in so we quickly pulled all the tables and computer equipment that I already had set up back as far as we could to minimize it’s exposure to the elements.

The storm was bad but didn’t seem like anything beyond a typical Florida summer thunderstorm, until it wasn’t.  All of a sudden there was a few minutes where the wind ratcheted up to an entirely new level.  The huge flag that hangs over Cambier Park sounded like it was ready to be ripped from the pole.  I stood up and leaned on the huge, heavy wood tables in front of me for fear they could actually be blown around.  The sound of the wind, which was reported to be 80+ mph,  was dangerous.

So we all huddled underneath the overhang for around 15-20 minutes while the worst of the storm blew through.  I honestly felt a bit exposed there and had my eyes scanning for any flying debris that could come our way.  We took a look at the race banner hanging over the start line in the street.  We saw a mangled mess as one of the tether lines snapped from the force.  When things started to die down we did a brief survey of our immediate area and things seemed more or less intact with just some palm fronds down at various spots.

Just as we were getting ready to start drying stuff off and resume preparations we got word from the volunteer coordinator that the race was now cancelled.  Evidently there was much more extensive damage on the course with not just branches but entire trees down, severe flooding and even power lines down.  There was no way the event could take place with those sort of hazards on the course.  Later we were told that this storm had the characteristics of something called a “meteotsunami”, which very quickly and dramatically pushed a wall of water from the gulf on shore which caused the flooding.  The hurricane force winds were just the icing on the cake.

After we were told of the cancellation I just sat there for a few moments, shell shocked.  There has never been a race cancellation due to weather conditions, for it to happen with the biggest event the club puts on just seemed unbelievable.  I immediately felt very badly for the race participants, many of whom travel from out of the area to be here for the half marathon. I thought of all the preparation that went into the event by both myself and others.  To have all of that nullified by a 15 minute storm seemed crazy.

With a race of this scope there is no rescheduling possible so basically people are just SOL as “acts of God” do not qualify runners for refunds.  While I was on site I remote controlled to my home computer so I could quickly get information posted to the official race website.  Luckily the majority of racers had been following the updates and did not show up on site.

So the undoing of the race prep began with the crew of volunteers and ourselves picking up everything that had just been laid out.  Luckily for me I had not fully set up all my stuff at that point.  We packed up the stuff we set up at the registration area and I then took down the tables in the back of the box truck.  We drove the truck back to the start line to pick up the timing equipment we set there.  I was surprised to see some of the very heavy rubber mats had gotten blown off the stack. As we were throwing the wet mats into the back of the truck a reporter from the Naples Daily News snapped a picture of Cindy and I as we were standing under the mangled half marathon start line banner.  That picture wound up on the front page of the sports section of Monday’s paper which was unexpected.

On the drive home we saw all sorts of damage with tons of branches on the roadways along with a ton of uprooted trees.  When I saw substantial wind damage at the developments near our house I was quite worried about damage at our house, especially to the chicken coop.  We both breathed a sigh of relief that other than some smaller things scattered around the yard our property escaped basically unscathed.

I’m sure the chickens were scared to death. Having the shed/run pull through such extreme weather intact made Cindy and I feel good about the extra work we put in to make sure both structures were built to be as storm resistant as possible.  The one nuisance we did have to deal with from the storm was a power outage which lasted around half the day.

12487172_10154238544747841_152089865652134710_oBy the time we got home the weather seemed almost nice.  I pulled out the 24 wet mats and laid them out to dry, one side at a time.  We had some other stuff that needed to dry out as well.  All day I couldn’t help but feel weird about doing all of that prep and not actually getting to time the race.  After the huge timing disaster we had at last year’s half marathon I was really looking to make things run like clockwork this year, despite the conditions.  Since this was also the last half marathon I was timing for the club, not getting the chance to get that redemption was a little depressing.

The rest of our day Sunday felt incredibly long, a byproduct of starting your day at 3AM.  After getting all of the race equipment dried out and put away I turned my attention to the Tacoma.  While we were driving to the race Cindy told me the truck was acting weird and shaking.  When she first mentioned it to me I thought she meant just a tire vibration which I wrote off as no big deal.  I then got a clarification that it was an engine related problem.  The truck was missing and Cindy said she really couldn’t go any faster than 50 mph.  The check engine light had come on as well.

I hooked up my car computer scanner and got a P300, P304 and P304 error code which meant that cylinder three and four were misfiring.  I cleared the codes and took the truck out for a very brief test drive.  The misfiring was still there and the CEL came on again, great.  So I did some research about the issue on my phone as Cindy drove us home after we dropped off the box truck at the Penske lot.

The easy causes of the problem are stuff like bad wires, coil, or plugs.  Tacomas have a different coil arrangement.  Instead of having one coil there are actually three of them, each one drives two of the plugs.  The recommendation was to swap coil packs around to see if the problem follows the coil.  I swapped the coil pack on cylinder three assuming it also drove cylinder four.  After clearing the codes and doing another test drive the misfire was still present although I only got a P304 error this time.  After feeding these test results into Google it seemed like a more likely cause of the misfire could be a failed fuel injector, something very much in the realm of possibility for a vehicle with 186,000 miles on the odometer.  Unfortunately changing one involves pretty extensive tear down, similar to what I had to do to change the valve cover gaskets.  I called it good for the day with the intention to resume diagnostics on Monday.

On Sunday night we watched True Story, our latest Netflix rental.  With no naps during the day I knew I risked nodding off during the movie, which I did several times.  The drowsiness was not because of the movie which was interesting, seeing Seth Rogen and James Franco play very serious roles in a true life story about a man that killed his family.  I had Cindy help fill in some of the blank spots while I nodded off laying on her lap.  It added up to a solid B+ film that is a quality rental title.

Having Monday off was quite welcome after the events of Sunday.  We headed out relatively early to go pick up some oil change supplies.  Both the Prius and Tacoma were overdue for oil changes.    We also dropped off the left over race bibs from the race at the running store where runners were able to pick up race shirts and medals since they would go to waste otherwise.

I dug into the oil changes early Monday afternoon, completing both oil changes in the span of 45 minutes.  I then resumed my diagnosis of the Tacoma.  One of the things I did not do on Sunday was pull the plug in cylinder four to take a look at it.  When I pulled the spark plug wire something didn’t feel right.  When I looked at the boot of the wire something didn’t look right, the attachment terminal was missing.  A look into the spark plug hole revealed it was still attached to the spark plug.

This scenario was good and bad news.  The good news was that possibly the misfiring could have simply been caused by a defective spark plug wire.  The bad news was I now had to figure out some way to get the broken terminal off the spark plug so I could remove the spark plug itself.   This turned out to be a VERY challenging task that tested the limits of my patience.

At first I tried using a simple needle nose pliers to grasp the broken terminal.  Because of the lack of space it was impossible to get a grasp on it.  I then began a long and arduous session with a long flat head screw driver.  I stuck it into the plug hole and tried to work the terminal back and forth so it would loosen up.  I then tried to pin it against the side of the hole so I could pry it upwards.  After a couple dozen attempts over the course of 45 minutes I got it to pop off the top of the spark plug.  I was able to fish the terminal out of the hole with my retractable magnet.

I then confidently stuck my spark plug socket in the hole, ready to finally remove the plug after all that futzing around.  Despite removing the terminal it still felt like my socket was just spinning around on nothing.  WTF?  I brought out my stick light so I could get a better view down the hole.  What I saw was a circle of rubber on top of the spark plug.  Not only did the terminal of the spark plug wire break off, the rubber boot that normally surrounds it was down there as well, awesome.

This discovery lead to another incredibly aggravating session of trying to get the rubber removed.  I was able to spin it around with my screwdriver but not remove it.  I alerted Cindy to my issue and said I needed a small wire hook to snag the rubber.  She found an old wire plant hanger in the shed.  I was able to snip off one  of the wires and then bend the end into a very small hook.  As I stuck the wire into the hole my eyes were watering as I tried to focus, it was very hard to see.  Finally, finally I snagged the rubber boot and managed to lift it out of the plug hole.  Instinctively I said “f you” out loud to the remains of the spark plug boot as I removed it.  It was the end result of close to two hours of digging around in a little hole with no clearance and the wrong tools for the job.  I finally was able to get a socket on the plug and remove it.  The plug itself looked ok but I ordered a complete new set of plugs and wires on Amazon.  My hope is the misfire was all wire related and I can avoid ripping off the entire intake of the truck to do injectors.

12615226_1115058618507391_534867812883020341_oAfter the Tacoma work I suggested to Cindy we take out the mountain bikes out for their first test ride of Bird Rookery swamp, something we had wanted to do for a little while.  The cool air in the low to mid-60’s left us both feeling quite chilled on the 3 mile ride to the trail head.  Once we got off road both of our bikes felt good on the mostly grass trail.  In total we went around 2.25 miles into the swamp before turning around.

Doing the trail on a mountain bike is different than doing the same by foot.  You obviously cover territory at a much faster clip.  I think you also get to see less since you need to concentrate more on the ground under you to avoid obstacles while riding.  We stopped several times so Cindy could take some pictures of especially scenic locations.

By the time we started the return ride out we were both feeling some aches and soreness.  Mountain bikes are double the weight or more of the road bikes we are used to riding,  Riding them over uneven terrain introduces a new sort of effort level which also carries a discomfort penalty for your rear end, back, and hands.  By the time we rode the 3 miles back to the house we were BEAT.    Our eventual goal is to do the entire 12 mile circuit in the swamp which when added to the ride to and from the house will be around 18 miles.  The way we felt doing the roughly 10 miles yesterday makes me only imagine how we will feel when we take on the whole deal. The rest of our Monday, the little that was left of it was more low key with us enjoying a nice dinner and dvr’d tv content to wind up the 3 day weekend.

Of course I saw the news that the Eagles hired a new head coach, Doug Pederson, who was the offensive coordinator for the KC Chiefs.  I wish I could say I liked this hire.  Eagles fans remember the name Doug Pederson.  He was the starting QB VERY briefly right before the Donovan McNabb era began.  I remember feeling very unexcited back then when we were told that Pederson, despite not having much actual NFL play time, had been a back up in good programs which somehow meant he should be decent by osmosis.  Well the reality was he was extremely unimpressive  in his Eagles stint.  His starting record as  a qb was something like 3-14.

usa-today-8773028.0[1]Well Andy Reid always liked Doug and eventually brought him on staff as a coach.  First as an “offensive consultant” and later as a QB coach for the Eagles.  When Andy was fired from the Eagles he took Doug with him to KC and named his as offensive coordinator.  During his three years there the Chiefs offense was ok, but certainly nothing dynamic.  Plus since Andy Reid is very much involved in the offensive play calling, being an OC on an Andy Reid team means you aren’t really calling the shots.

The overwhelming consensus is the Pederson hiring is underwhelming.  I read an ESPN article that said out of the 6 coaches hired this off season, Doug is the least impressive of them. I assume that Jeff Lurie is hoping that somehow Doug will be Andy Reid-esque since he has been in his company for a long time.  We saw how that “greatness by association with greatness” theory worked out in Pederson’s QB career.  I have a bad feeling his head coaching career could follow a similar story line.  Hopefully I am wrong.

 

rumble99-9[1]Yesterday I was reminiscing with my good friend and volleyball partner extraordinaire, Rich about our 1999 Pottstown Rumble win in the BB division.  He asked me if I still had the write up I did about it.

The page that had the link to it had a 404 error so I manually found the write up and sent the link to Rich.  I reread the recap as well.  It brought back the magic memories of the day where we outlasted a field of more than 120 teams to take the top spot.  Well Rich, some 16 years later decided to write up his own recollection of that day along with a general overview of our days as a volleyball doubles team.  Rich is blessed with strong writing skills along with a pretty remarkable ability to recall minute details of events that occurred long ago, a gift I do not possess.

Well anyway, with Rich’s permission, I am posting his recollection of that epic day, enjoy.

 

Another Point of View – My Recollection of the 99 Rumble Win

Shawn and I had been serious partners the year before, and on various quads teams and sixes a year earlier, but it was right about here that we, through repetition, became very in tune to each other’s habits, coverages, and abilities as double’s partners.

I had various partners for tournaments prior to, during and after our run together with some success, but never was I to match up with someone who was so like me in certain game aspects, while so complimentary in others. Both these factors wound up being exactly what I needed to excel in the doubles game. Both Shawn and I at the time were tall, athletic types who took on volleyball later in life (for me, at age 28 or so), and subsequently didn’t have any formal training on teams to develop skills. Neither Shawn nor I was comfortable hand-setting, so about 90 percent of our sets were bump sets, even when there was a ton of time to square up to a ball to hand set. Neither of us, in spite of our height, was an exceptional blocker, and as a result, we would rarely commit to blocking, instead relying on quick reads and throwing block signals at the last possible moment, with the down person running a best guess defense. I would say in these years, we would block at most 25 percent of the time, falling out of blocks and doubling down at mid-court, challenging hitters to beat us that way. We never spoke of these unorthodox decisions; it just wound up being what we did, letting our reaction and athleticism dictate our success or failure. I’m sure we were unlike most any team our opponents encountered, and probably, if given time, could be dissected easily.

However we differed in fundamental ways that, as I look back made our play so interesting. Shawn, if asked would say his best feeling in a game would come when he smashed a ball down so hard it would bounce 15 feet in the air through whatever defense was put up. I on the other hand felt best when someone like Shawn on the other team would hit like that, yet I would dig the ball clean. He wanted to punish; I wanted to rob them of their best effort. That kind of chemistry was a magic that only we shared. I had good twitch reflex back then, and would play a step back and lunge forward. Shawn stayed back a bit more, and whereas I would cover more than half the court in the front, he would do so in the back. This resulted in digs for him that gave him time to run up on approach, and my digs would offer me little approach and become more a finesse game when I had to hit.

Shawn had a powerful outside hit. We were both lefties, and he preferred weak side. If his timing was on and the sets were there, he could hold his own against any hitter I remember us facing. He rarely did anything else, a slugger through and through. But when it works it works, and I would bump set and scamper to dig blocks which most always would come on my side anyway since he hit angle more times than not. But he was hard to block. I didn’t have near the strength or form. I could hit, but needed a better set, was more prone to be blocked and I’m sure I hit line as often as cross. I relied on placement to supplement, and this also kept my body a little fresher for running around like a nut. I was forced to watch how the other team played, and adjust my game as I saw habits. I can’t say this was strategy by design, rather it was to supplement shortcomings. Shawn was the stronger of us two, but as is the strategy in doubles, the weak person gets most of the serves and has to do most of the siding out, so it was always important to me that I at least looked as imposing as Shawn, so even if I didn’t have the raw power, it would take other teams at least a game to figure it out. Not that I was a slouch by any means, but that’s how doubles works.

Shawn was a competitor. He wanted to win badly always, and provided us the drive to win. I had more of a casual mentality, seeing games as more of a challenge than anything else, and whereas I liked winning, never had a killer instinct. I think maybe I did want to win just as much, but never had confidence in my abilities frankly, and pawned it off as if I didn’t care as much. I guess there’s some psychology to look into there. Sure, we would talk each other up when we got into ruts, as is bound to happen throughout the day or the season, but we were neither the type that yelled at each other (I had some partners like that, and my response to being yelled at was a basic, F you, it’s only a game shutdown) Shawn knew how to deal with me, and keep me interested in the win. I never thought we were the best team on the net; he ALWAYS thought we were. Looking back I probably was playing above my level in a way to prove to him that I could do it.

Finally, Shawn was a preparer. He had the tent, the cooler, the multiple balls, the Oakley’s and the spare Oakley’s ,the towels, medicine, bandages, braces, food, chairs, a case of water, and the wife who took pictures and movies all day and pretty much every comfort there was. He even registered us. I, in turn brought a towel, sunglasses and a spare shirt. I travelled light. I never thanked him for all that stuff. Thanks, Shawn.

I had a light stomach, when I played, which led to problematic fatigue if matches lasted too long. I would drink Gatorade and water, but normally any food would make me sluggish and feel worse. If events offered food, I would need to eat sparingly, and never unless we had some serious down time. I remember for the Rumble, I brought a bag of Smarties candy. That’s more than I usually brought, content on riding the day out and eating when we were done. Shawn and Ali packed enough supplies to eat for 3 days. I believe one of the secret factors on my part for the 99 Rumble was that it lasted so long..from 6 AM to 10 PM, and we had such a lull between pool play and playoffs, somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 hours, that I actually had the time to eat a full meal, hydrate, and digest. Sure we were stiff from waiting, but the day was so hot and humid that it didn’t take long to stretch out again. And boy was it hot that day.

I’d love to write about our finals match being this epic, hard fought battle of attrition, but truthfully, it was anything but that. We really just played consistently, while the other team imploded. I can’t offer a reason why it happened, and frankly I remember in my eyes conceding the win before we began, as this team looked far better than any team I had seen all day, and our semi-final match was such a war. They were young guys who obviously played ball in high school and/or college, with soft handset ability and an arsenal of presumed tricks and power. I was running on a reserve tank of adrenaline by that time, and my effort was far more robotic. I remember telling Shawn before the game that we could be proud just being here this far, and that there would be no shame in losing. How’s that for a booster speech? He looked at me and gave me a “What the fuck, we can win it! Do you want to lose to them ?” reply which is just what I needed. I hated the other team. I hated how they looked, how they acted, and I hated their gaggle of annoying friends that stayed to watch them win. I wasn’t normally that way, so it took a certain attitude to make me delight in another team’s misery. And I remember, after one point we got, where I did a reverse bump at the net on a wayward ball that was at a hard angle and they didn’t even try for it, that, “Hey we’re at 7-1. It would really take us falling apart at this point not to win this”, and how confusing, somewhat frightening and surreal that felt. “Don’t over-think it, Rich….let them make mistakes…Shawn’s serving hard and in…just don’t fuck up, and play consistent”, that was what was racing through my mind. Consistancy…pass the ball as precise as you can..keep your feet light…be ready…I hope this is over soon….

The real game, the real finals was in fact our semi-finals match. We had just come off beating a team that we lost to a year ago, that I was proud to have beaten now in the playoffs, and anything after that point was just gravy to me. This new team was a wicked combo, of a 40 year old guy who had the skills of our friend Brian Eisele, a cerebral player (and well-respected mentor) if ever there was one, and a 20 something athlete guy who ran the back, played defense well, and could hit out of anywhere. The older guy happily fed the younger guy, and neither was weak so there was no better play in most circumstances. That, and the encroaching darkness meant that it was easy to lose points that otherwise we shouldn’t have, and the breaks didn’t start out going our way. We were asked if we wanted to move under the lights when it was about 9-6 and we were down. That’s only 2 points of wiggle room. And I remember at that moment, and only that moment ever in my career that I vowed to myself to play my absolute hardest. Without exaggeration, I believe we faced at least 12 match points during our comeback, and held up to the insane pressure that is on to execute perfectly to keep it going. We didn’t waver from our normal routine, we just tried that little bit harder, and that was what was needed.

We were in the center court under the lights; the first and only time I ever wound up there. It was funny in general, earlier in the day there were literally thousands of people at the Rumble, with stands at center court, music blaring, announcements being made over the loudspeaker, and a ton to do and see during your down time. There were food stands, a massage tent, and an apparel stand for souvenir wearables. It was a carnival sports atmosphere; the biggest I’ve ever been part of. People would stop by our tent to check on our progress, we would go visit others as well…I even remember a friend of mine, Rod, swinging by to tell us he just completed his first skydiving jump there in Pottstown earlier in the day. Plenty of sight-seeing and people-watching. One by one though, as the day closed out, so did the people, and one by one coolers were packed up and drug out and well-wishes and good lucks were given, the tents were closed down, until now, the one time we were in the big time, center court, there were only about thirty people left in the entire place, and only about ten were paying any attention to us…the rest closing up shop, and readying for the co-ed day that followed on Sunday. Our division was huge, and by the time we were forced to play our best ball, we were left almost alone to do it on a hot, sterile, and totally quiet night. We were the only game playing anymore. If you were the type who played to showcase for the masses, this wasn’t the place to be. It was easy, in fact, to start wondering what the point of it all was, if you dared to stop long enough to reflect.

I’m sure there were many, many moments that were inspiring, but this was the one play that sticks out in my mind for me, if I could replay one in my life. Facing a match point, Shawn belted one line, or more line than normal to side us out…hell, maybe it was a bad set of mine and he poked it, and they came back over in one or quick two, over his head as he came down at the net, into the corner behind him. I don’t know if it was cheap or not, whether he hit it that hard and that was the result, or if they were trying to get things over with then and there. Either way, it was match point and would count. It was in the back 3 foot by 3 foot corner. If you’ve never played, when your partner comes down at the net and the ball is coming back over, that whole court is yours. And the court at that moment is a very big place. I got to that ball. I don’t know how we sided it out, if Shawn went over in 2 from whatever I did, or if we had time to set it up, or what. It wasn’t some crazy kind of sand dig that sent me diving or flying either, and if I bothered to look for it, I’m sure it wouldn’t be anything for a highlight film. My momentum took me off the court quite a bit and to the colored flags that surrounded center court. I remember as I was running to that ball, looking at Shawn for a split second when I started tracking it, and shoulders slumped as he was turning around, clearly the visible tell that he believed we were beaten. I would have yelled something like Go! Or Got it! normally, but I was running diagonally across the court, and when I did get wrists on the ball, hooked it high up and back somewhere, I barely got out a grunt, more like just a nasal Brahma Bull exhale. As I spun, I saw Shawn tense back up and come to life when he knew there was still work to do, and now it was on him. It was more the one moment I executed coverage on something unconventional and unexpected because I really, really wanted to win. “If we lose, I don’t want it to be on this ball…because the only reason would be because I was too lazy to run this one down.” (at least this is how I remember it….time has a way of playing tricks, and if this wasn’t game point, I’d be surprised, but not surprised…but it certainly did happen)

Anyway, the game raged on into the night, and finally I dug a championship point on their attempt to side out, but it wasn’t controlled and looked to be a high straight drop onto the net on Shawn’s side. And he reached up and knuckled it; a super smart move, just enough to make the older guy flounder. It was a brutal game, and one that I’ll never forget. We were so tired, and there was still one to go…

And then we won it all. It was a short lopsided game in comparison. We weren’t stellar. We were composed. We didn’t show off, or act up, or behave foolishly. We were tired, and that probably was a saving grace, as there was little left for me to have any real nervousness in a finals of an event this size. All that was left was the robotic approach of passing yet another serve, lining up to hit, getting back to position…looking at eyes and hand angles. But truthfully, they hit into the net a lot, couldn’t handle our serves, and I don’t really remember getting bombarded in any way. They didn’t have a finesse game, or didn’t break it out, and the one knucklehead lost his composure and cost them everything. His partner wasn’t great either, but couldn’t handle the other guys’ outrage and mistakes. The game point serve was Shawn’s crowning moment as a player. He changed up his serve to the rage boy and picked on his partner who was sliding over to help out.

To relive it, I was at the middle of the net, crouched and flashing some meaningless hand signal, both Shawn and I knowing full well I had no intention of blocking anyone and was soon to fall back.

“This”, I muttered.

Shawn replied “Yeah” so quickly, it was apparent to me at least that he wasn’t even pretending to be looking anymore, not that it mattered. So I stared ahead at their faces, watching the angry guy who was gearing up for the tough topspin cannon serve that was to follow. His buddy was a step away from center by now since his friend was having such trouble.

“Serve.”, I heard from behind me.

And then the strangest thing happened. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the ball hit, at least 3 quarters in on the line to my left, at about half court on their side. I wasn’t even looking there. Shawn had floated one in; probably the first and only time all day. I was looking at them, and when I glanced at it, and back at them, they both kind of grimaced or smirked and turned around. My mind raced quizzically…Did I have the score wrong? It wouldn’t be that surprising. Back then in the sideout scoring days, it was easy to lose track. No. Weren’t they ready? Was there some timeout? They had seemed ready. Did the ball hit the net? I should have heard it more than anyone if it did. I looked back, bleary and said, “What?”

Shawn had this glazed look and a bit of a bemused chuckle. About as subdued and anti-climactic as it could be uttered, he said, “Dude, we won.”

There was no cannon going off; no chorus of cheers, no fireworks… just the quiet, hot night.

I was the last one on the court to know it was over, and I saw the ball hit. That’s how fooled they were.

I don’t think we bothered shaking their hands afterwards. There were no kind words for them. We won the night.

Shawn and I gave each other the double-high five, which is all the more two men can show that kind of congratulatory mood, although if I had to do it again, it warranted the back slap man-hug, but we were sweaty and who wants to remember that? I was proud, and it felt strange, and didn’t really sink in until I was talking about it on the way home. It wasn’t as if anyone saw any of this, and I knew no one would want to hear a self-serving recap (such as this); as a matter of fact, the only real reply we ever gave to those who knew we were playing, was “Yeah, we won it”, so this feeling would wind up being the reward. We each won volleyballs I think, which was pretty piss poor if you ask me for all the entry fees and teams. But trophies were made for us anyway, and I keep mine on my dresser to this day.

In closing, and this is more reminiscent of a brief volleyball career of mine in the rear view mirror, I like to think about something a friend of ours, Jim, recalled reading about the dynamics of teams, and how it affected me. He read that successful volleyball teams have unwritten roles for the players (we all played triples a bunch and quads), and we fit in these categories. The Stud (Shawn), who was the raw power guy other teams feared, who we lived and died by, the Field General (Jim), who strategized and used his knowledge of the game to work the team and exploit weaknesses, and the Stabilizer (Me). And the Stabilizer definition may not mean much to some, but became my mantra from then on in. The Stabilizer (or so I am paraphrasing) was rarely the reason a team won a match, or a tournament…..but he was never the reason they lost. I could not have been happier in that role, and hope that as we look back to those days of our wayward youth, that those who were in the mix remember me as just that.

I’d put this up there as one of my life’s favorite days.