NCAA Tournament Preview

My apologies for the long hiatus, life got in the way and then when it was done getting in the way, I struggled to regain routine.

But now that it’s March, my favorite sporting event of them all gets underway. The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, often referred to as March Madness. This seems as good an excuse as any to get writing again.

I’m not going to preview every single matchup here, but I will give some general thoughts on each region and make my predictions for the Final Four.

I have been following college basketball and filling out brackets for 19 years. This makes my expertise on the matter nearly unprecedented (cough cough). My personal history would show that the more I know about the minutiae of a particular season, the worse my bracket ends up being. Hence, my best brackets were from the ages of 11 to 16 and have been a very mixed bag ever since. So this season, in an effort to improve my bracket, I pretty much only watched my favorite teams play (with a few exceptions). I suspect a pretty good bracket this year (but be warned about taking my advice on this sort of thing, I lost a bet in college and had to eat an onion like an apple).

Going into this year, many people thought that there were really only a handful of teams that had a legitimate chance at winning the title. But once the year really got going, rampant inconsistency (due to injuries in some cases and shoving Texas Tech fans in others) plagued many of the favorites. As a result, it seems that any of 10-15 teams could probably make a run to the title.

While the temptation might be to assume that means we’re headed for a wild tournament full of upsets (and it very well could), I’m going to actually play devil’s advocate and think we’re going to have a pretty chalky tournament. Now let’s have a look at the regions.

South Region

Florida is the No. 1 overall seed and find themselves in this region. I feel like I know too much by knowing that their only losses were to Wisconsin and UConn, but I can’t take back that knowledge, so I’m going to run with it. They dominated a weak SEC (Tangent Time: 2012 Kentucky also dominated a weak SEC that was actually rated below the Mountain West that year, but still rolled to a National Title. The argument by Kentucky proponents was that the team was very talented and had great chemistry, so playing in a weaker conference didn’t matter. Well that’s funny. I can’t imagine any SEC proponents saying anything like that about football. Those sound like the cries of the peasants from inferior conferences, even though the weak ACC won two BCS games this year, which happens to be one more than the SEC has won the previous two. Enough about that, back to basketball.), so they haven’t been challenged much lately. Nevertheless, I don’t think anyone in this region can really challenge them. Book them a trip to the Final Four.

A couple more points on this region. Stephen F. Austin has a 12-5 upset is a good bet. VCU isn’t as good as you think, and SFA was really good last year too. With that extra experience, they might be a solid upset Sweet Sixteen selection.

Without Joel Embiid, Kansas is good but won’t make it far.

Don’t buy Syracuse’s late-season slump as a reason to write them off. Nobody likes going against their zone on short notice. I like them losing to Florida in the Elite Eight.

East Region

If you’re looking for a region that might implode, this seems the most likely candidate. Virginia is the top seed, and let’s face it, they haven’t been anywhere near this good since the 80’s and nobody trusts them. They’re legit, but they have the misfortune of running into a fully healthy Michigan State squad in the Sweet Sixteen whom they won’t be able to beat.

The bottom half of the bracket is where things will get interesting. I think Villanova is overrated and have them out in the second round to UConn (keep in mind, a 2-seed goes out in the second round almost annually). Providence is my real Cinderella here, knocking off the kings of inconsistency, North Carolina, before taking down Iowa State.

Shabazz Napier will prove too much for Cinderella in the Sweet Sixteen before bowing out to Sparty in the Elite Eight.

West Region

Arizona might have been the best team in the country before the lost Brandon Ashley to injury. They didn’t lose a single game in a solid Pac-12 until he went down. And you know what? They still might be the best team in the country.

My poor Zags have the misfortune of running into a red-hot Oklahoma State team that might have been a 2- or 3-seed had they not dealt with off-court issues (can you call shoving a fan an off-court issue?). They certainly have the talent level for it. I think the Pokes give Zona a great game in the second round, but come up short.

I like North Dakota State as another 12-5 upset in this region, going to the Sweet Sixteen before bowing out to the mighty Wildcats.

I think Creighton is going to surprise people with an Elite Eight run that only ends because Doug McDermott hasn’t seen a defense as good as Arizona’s.

Midwest Region

If nobody trusts Virginia, then what can we say about Wichita State? Despite being the first team since UNLV in 1991 to enter the Big Dance undefeated and featuring many of the same players from last year’s Final Four team, they’re being written off. There are some fair arguments there: their conference was weaker than it was last year, they didn’t have a particularly strong non-conference schedule to name a few. They’re being compared to last year’s Gonzaga team who was awarded a 1-seed (whom this Shockers team beat in the Third Round [Tangent Time: the Zags were called overrated after losing that game, despite the fact that they were the only team to have a second-half lead on WSU prior to the Final Four. That’s right, not the  mighty Pitt Panthers or Ohio State Buckeyes managed to even briefly hold a lead in the second 2o minutes against Wichita State, while the Zags had them on the ropes and it took a miraculous shooting streak for WSU to pull it out]) and were considered overrated after losing early. In their favor, as any mid-major team will tell you, it’s always hard playing conference games, especially when you’re the big man on campus. All of your road games are the biggest game of the year for the home team, and  you take their best shot each time out. Despite all that, WSU went undefeated; that should mean something.

Kentucky is being heralded as a big upset pick. I’m not really sure why. Other than playing well in the SEC tourney, nothing about their season (even their late season) screams “peaking at the right time.” Pencil them in for one win, followed by an embarrassing loss to the Shockers.

Louisville should cruise to the Sweet Sixteen where they’ll get a rematch of last year’s Final Four game against Wichita State. Last year the Shockers could/should have won that game, leading almost the entire way before the refs swallowed their whistles in the last seven minutes, allowing the ‘Ville to get slap-happy all they wanted (until of course, the refs recovered their whistles from their esophaguses esophagi in time to blow them for a very quick “held ball” favoring Louisville when it seemed WSU would have possession with a shot to tie the game). Wichita exacts revenge and moves on.

You  may remember me mentioning above that 1991 was the last time a team entered the tourney undefeated. The last time a team was an undefeated national champion was in 1976. Do you remember who beat that 1991 UNLV team? It was Duke. The much maligned Blue Devils do it again, giving underdog fans everywhere more reasons to hate them. But fear not Duke-haters (like myself), it would be absolutely hilarious if, given Coach K’s recent comments, Atlantic-10 member UMass upset the Blue Devils in the Third Round. Root for it, but don’t write it in your bracket.

Final Four

If you’ve been keeping track, we have matchups of Florida vs. Michigan State and Arizona vs. Duke.

Despite MSU being fully healthy, it’s hard to pick against the tremendously balanced Gators. They play great offense and defense to go along with a coach who’s won two National Titles. Should be a good one, but I favor Florida here.

Arizona may not be as deep without Ashley, but they still play great defense and have adjusted well offensively to his absence. Duke’s Jabari Parker struggles to get going against the Zona D, and the Wildcats knock them out.

Championship

Florida vs. Arizona

With two good D’s in play, the game stays relatively low-scoring. Ultimately, I like Arizona to pull this out. Florida runs out of steam after a tight game with MSU, and they haven’t had to play back-to-back games against top-notch competition since ever. It’ll be hard-fought, but Zona pulls away to win 69-61.

Lessons From 24

Here in America, we love our TV.

We enjoying relaxing on our couches after a long day of work and taking in mindless entertainment. Whether it be sitcoms or action thrillers, they can all help us unwind.

And it’s this very fact that allows us to miss some of the most important lessons that TV shows can offer, as we saw from my previous post about The Office. Now we’ll conduct a list of the 12 greatest lessons (one for every two hours of real-time action) we can learn from the soon-to-be-renewed action show 24.

I’m sure we can all find a way to apply these lessons to our everyday lives.

12. The Sun Sets Really Fast in Los Angeles

As we learned in Season 1, the sun may be halfway down the horizon when you clock says 6:59:56, but as soon as it clicks over to 7:00:02, it will be completely dark. Obviously if you live in LA or are just visiting and find yourselves in an area you don’t want to be in at dark, as soon as that sun starts to set you’re in trouble.

11. Los Angeles is the Terrorism Capital of the World

It’s become pretty clear that all of the most devastating terrorist attacks will occur in LA. If I were the President, I would just avoid it altogether. D.C? You’re fine. New York? No problem. Chicago or Boston? Have a great time. Los Angeles? Better bring your best crisis management people, it’s going to be a long and stressful 24 hours.

10. Counter-Terrorism Agencies Need Better Security Guards

They may boast some of the best field agents in the biz, but the people they have protecting their agents and administrators are good for nothing but being the first killed when the center is (inevitably) attacked by the bad guys. I mean, as we learned in Season 4 (Chloe with the machine gun), IT people are apparently better equipped to kill professional assassins than these security guys. This leads nicely to the next lesson.

9. Counter-Terrorism Agencies Need Better HR People

In addition to poor hiring at the security guard level, their HR people are evidently very bad at background checks. It never fails that during the most extreme crises, a mole is feeding information on their agency to the terrorists. But do they learn from their mistakes? No, of course not. They continue to hire people who are on the payroll for the bad guys.

They also seem to hire people who have trouble putting aside personal issues in times of crisis. You would think a job working for a counter-terrorist agency would involve a heavy psychological screening to ensure that you’re not going to break in a high-stress environment.

Anyway, if you have aspirations to work in HR, counter-terrorist agencies badly need your expertise.

8. Attractive Blond Girls are Magnets for Trouble

You probably don’t need 24 to tell you that, but it’s very accurate. From going on dates with people employed by terrorists to running into creepy hermits who want to lock you in their fallout shelter to babysitting the daughter of a murderer to having the rotten luck of being stalked through the wilderness by the (endangered) cougar. I can’t think of any other explanation.

7. Beware of Newly Hired Suck-Ups

If you have the privilege of managing individuals, beware of the new hire who seems to go out of his/her way to suck up to you. In addition to the fact that it’s simply annoying, they are almost certainly ambitious enough to undercut anyone in their way to obtaining a high-ranking position within their first day on the job.

On top of that, they probably have a checkered past with either yourself (which I would hope you’d know about) or another member of your team (but neither will readily disclose this to you).

6. If You’re Good at What You Do, Most of the People You Care About Will Die a Horrible Death

Okay, maybe this only applies to counter-terrorist field operatives, but it’s made even worse by the fact that all of those deaths are probably your fault (but you won’t die, you’re too good for that). If you didn’t spend your days thwarting the nefarious plans of the world’s top criminal minds, you wouldn’t have so many well-funded people who want you to die after suffering intense physical and emotional pain.

Maybe, given a second chance, you would have chosen to serve your government as a postal worker instead.

5. The Rules Don’t Apply to Certain Special Individuals

But they still apply to you.

For Average Joes like most of us, this can be a hard one to swallow. We can watch our co-workers break colleagues’ bones (and they’re not even the mole!), violate numerous laws, and  make irrational decisions to protect their own family and then see them granted presidential pardons or given a slap on the wrist.

But the one time you decide to make a slightly rash decision in order to save your wife’s life (and everything still worked out fine for all involved), you get made an example of and charged with treason.

Life just isn’t fair.

4. Los Angeles Traffic Isn’t As Bad as You Might Think

You might have heard it’s awful. But the truth: You can get from any one part of the city to any other in 10 to 15 minutes, tops. 24 says so.

3. Ex-Wives are the Worst

The “ex” is there for a reason. They violated your trust and their moral compass is almost certainly pointed dead south. So when they come running to you offering to help, DO NOT take their help. People will just end up dead and your good name will smeared through the dirt.

2. People With Awesome Names Are Better Than You

What’s in a name? Apparently the confidence and skills to do anything (and probably all the things you’re good at better than you).

Let’s take, oh, Jack Bauer for example.

Have a person in shock? He’ll motivate that person to get back to work better than the clinical psychologist in the room.

Having trouble accessing records on a computer system? It’ll take  him five seconds to push the very creator of the software out of the way and pull those records up.

It’s clear that people with awesome names don’t need something like “experience” to be better at technology and psychiatry than the so-called professionals.

1. Love is a Wonderful Thing

As long as it doesn’t get in the way of NATIONAL SECURITY!!! Because absolutely nothing is more important than national security.

Lovers and friends can be replaced; America can’t. Don’t ever forget that.

Super Thoughts from the Super Bowl

Inspired by Bill Simmons, I decided to record my thoughts from the Super Bowl as I thought them.

The intent was to have time stamps to go with this, but initially I was expecting to be watching the game from the comfort of my home. However, an invite to a party came on Wednesday, and it seemed incredibly lame to bring a laptop to a Super Bowl party (and DVRing the Super Bowl and rewatching it seemed like both a waste of time and cheating).

So I did the next best thing: I simply shorthanded my thoughts into a note on my phone. I didn’t want to be overly consumed by this, so I did not take the time to add time stamps. Nevertheless, these are in the order in which they occurred.

  • I guess Fox is calling this the Pre-Kick show instead of the Pregame Show. Have they been doing this all year or is it a Super Bowl thing? I don’t know, I haven’t watched many NFC games this year.
  • My wife is one of the few people in Tennessee rooting for the Seahawks. She can’t get enough of Richard Sherman.
  • This one is specifically designed to annoy my little brother, Nathan: It doesn’t matter who wins, the Colts are the only team to beat both of these teams so they should be honorary NFL champions.
  • Epic: the only way to describe Joe Namath’s fur coat. I was hoping for something more along these lines, but I like being surprised.
  • I don’t know anything about Renee Fleming, but it took all of two words to figure out this is going to be a long national anthem (but as my wife pointed out, at least she knows all the words!).
  • These early commercials are disappointing. I miss the good old days.
  • Okay, who had a safety as the first score in their prop bets?
  • The moment my wife has been waiting for: the Full  House guys’ reunion commercial.
  • Lynch is getting shut down so far, but Wilson is extending plays and converting third downs. A split victory so far for Denver’s defense.
  • Uh oh, that’s one of those interception ducks Peyton forgot to mention.
  • TEEEEBOWWWWWWW!!!! That was amazing! He is clearly a far better actor than Kevin Costner right now. Speaking of that, which will be greater: the amount of money 3 Days to Kill makes or the amount of money spent on advertising it during the Super Bowl?
  • Well, it took nearly 20 minutes of game time, but Denver finally picked up a first down.
  • The refs did a nice job catching that blatant tripping penalty; it would have been nice had they caught the blatant one that led to a sack of Andrew Luck in the Colts/Patriots game a few weeks ago.
  • Peyton’s only Super Bowl win featured a three-touchdown comeback along the way (the Pats game in the AFC title), it could happen again.
  • Do you know what no one would have expected on fourth and short? A run. It’s better to have run and lost than to never have run at all (I owe that one to Gregg Easterbrook, writer of TMQ).
  • It’s halftime now. I’m not a big Bruno Mars fan (mostly because of “Grenade” and “Locked Out of Heaven”), but I love the Chili Peppers. But let’s face it, most SB halftime shows disappoint.
  • Wow! Jerry and George have clearly gotten a lot older since Seinfeld last aired, but Newman hasn’t aged a day!
  • Those were some aptly timed hip thrusts by Bruno & Co.
  • I know he’s had it for a little while now, but that is still an awesome ‘stache that Anthony Keidis is rocking. I can’t wait until I’m 40+ and can get away with that.
  • Overall, this was a pretty solid halftime show. The only real disappointment (and it is a big one) is that on the tenth anniversary of the infamous wardrobe malfunction, a band that once played a concert wearing only conveniently placed socks were all wearing pants. I was hoping for better, Flea.
  • One play into the second half and I think that’s the game.
  • Now I’m doing a Seinfeld character quiz. Apparently, I’m Uncle Leo. That’s what I get for choosing “Hellooo” as my catchphrase.
  • Late in the third and the true Broncos fans at this party are throwing in the towel and taking off.
  • You can laugh off a pass interference penalty when you’re up 36 points in the Super Bowl.
  • The shutout is over! It sure would have been ironic had the most prolific offense in NFL history been shut out in the Super Bowl.
  • Sherman is down! I hope we can still get an interview with him afterward.
  • I’m pretty sure this Legion of Boom would even break Jack Bauer.
  • Eli looks very sad up in the box. He should be laughing maniacally as he maintains his  hold on most Super Bowls by a Manning.
  • Four minutes left and the announcers are starting in on the Manning legacy talk.
  • Oooo, there was almost a brawl right there.
  • And….it’s officially over. Let the celebration begin. I wonder if any of the Broncos will take a cue from Dwight Howard and insist the core of the team sit and watch the opponent celebrate to remember what losing feels like, then slowly letting his own selfishness drive the team apart, and finally leaving for more money.
  • No time to stay and watch postgame (post-kick?) interviews. I sure hope Sherman calls Peyton a sorry quarterback (I don’t really, I still love Peyton and wore his Colts jersey tonight) and Pete Carroll says something about winning forever.

Finding Bigfoot? Doubtful

In our last post, we discussed the evidence regarding the sasquatch phenomenon. To conclude our Bigfoot Appreciation Week, we will discuss the show Finding Bigfoot.

In brief, Finding Bigfoot is a show in Animal Planet that features four individuals who follow up with intriguing evidence sent to them from individuals around the country. Three of these are firm believers in the existence of sasquatch, while the fourth is a biologist who plays the obligatory role of skeptic.

The group represents the BFRO (Bigfoot Research Organization),  an organization dedicated to the collection of evidence and eyewitness reports of sasquatches’ existence. They also organize expeditions in an attempt to obtain firsthand evidence.

I will admit that I watch this show regularly. Not because I actually think they’ll find one, but because the evidence they examine is occasionally very intriguing.

The show has benefited the hunt for sasquatch in several ways.

First, it has made the idea of “Bigfoot” into a scientific endeavor. As discussed in the last post, perhaps the greatest hindrance to potential discovery of the creature (should it exist) is the scientific community’s inclination to brush it off as paranormal nonsense. If the media can portray the search as an endeavor to discover an unclassified species, then it does those of us who believe in a scientific manner a favor.

Second, it has helped take away the shame of admitting to having an encounter with a sasquatch (or a perceived encounter, depending on your point of view). If you take the time to read many of the encounter stories, you’ll find that they are told by people who are reluctant to admit it.

While the academic community would have you believe these encounters are voiced by low-class, attention-grabbing people or die-hard believers who merely want to think they’ve had an encounter, this is not the case most of the time (but that’s not to say it never is the case [hmmm…that’s a lot of negatives]). Many people seem relieved to feel that they’ve found a safe place to tell their story after having kept it to themselves for so long.

Some reports on the BFRO website have only been recently reported, although the encounters occurred years, even decades earlier. While the internet will always be a place where one can say terrible things and devise outright lies, many of these tales seem sincere, even if they turn out to be merely misidentifications.

On the flip side, the show has had some negative effects.

First, the details given about so-called sasquatch behavior (which was pointed out in Jeff Meldrum’s book referenced in the last post bears many similarities to primate behavior) that most people wouldn’t be aware of become free game for hoaxers.

While most reported encounters are by legitimate and sincere individuals, there are those who invent stories and will try to fake evidence. The more information hoaxers have, the more complex the hoaxes they can execute.

But perhaps the biggest issue with the show is that it will never accomplish what it intends. It will never find Bigfoot.

If such a creature does exist, it must certainly do so in minimal breeding numbers and be tremendously elusive. So how could one expect to find one with four people walking around talking, not to mention the camera and sound crews that obviously need to be there.

I’m sure they attempt to keep the staff minimal (I haven’t actually researched this so I could be a bit off-base with this point), but it still seems like that’s not the best way to get footage of an elusive creature.

I certainly wish the team well in their on-camera search for sasquatch. But as much as I like seeing the evidence they examine and hear the tales people tell, I doubt they’ll ever find Bigfoot while filming the show.

The Elephant in the Room

At last the time has come to deal with the elephant in the room (and by that I of course mean the ape creature in my blog title).

As previously mentioned, there will be two posts regarding our dear friend sasquatch this week. Therefore, I hereby declare this the first annual Bigfoot Appreciation Week!!! Feel free to celebrate however you deem fit.

I’ll start by answering an obvious question. No, I have never had an encounter with the legendary creature popularly known as Bigfoot (and consider yourselves lucky that I haven’t because if I had, not only would I know beyond doubt that they exist, but everyone who says they don’t would be calling me a liar and that would probably put a serious strain on our friendship).

As I’m sure is true for most of us about everything, my interest in this subject is rooted in childhood terror.

My first exposure to the concept of Bigfoot was through a constant source of nightmares, the TV show Unsolved Mysteries. Robert Stack’s unsettling visage and haunting voice were frequent reminders of how frightening the world could be.

By fifth grade, I became the kid who was sitting in class at the end of the day quietly reading his book on Bigfoot encounters while the other children laughed and played. I soon outgrew the interest and took up more…normal…interests.

Eventually, I reached adulthood, started caring a little less about letting the views of others shape my interests, and found myself captivated with the subject again.

I suppose the next natural question is:  Do I believe?

I found this gem at the bottom of a Great Divide variety pack...as an aside, Denver's Great Divide Brewing Co. is one of my favorite breweries; I highly recommend it.

I found this gem at the bottom of a Great Divide variety pack…as an aside, Denver’s Great Divide Brewing Co. is one of my favorite breweries; I highly recommend it.

One of the problems with such a belief is that there are some people out there who believe in Bigfoot as some sort of supernatural being. They believe he levitates over the snow so as not to leave footprints or comes from another dimension (or is an extraterrestrial). This gives the rest of us a bad name.

I believe in it from a purely scientific point of view (which is why I prefer the moniker sasquatch to Bigfoot). Therefore I view sasquatch as an unclassified species of ape living in the dense woodlands of North America (with the Himalayan species known as the yeti). For a fair view from a scientific perspective, I would recommend the book Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science by Jeff Meldrum.

The author is a scientist who is a professor of anatomy and anthropology with an emphasis in biological anthropology and has paid special attention to bipedal locomotion. In his book, he never asserts or claims that sasquatch does in fact exist.

What he does is describe two incidents he had in Northern California that remain unexplained (he did not actually see anything, but describes two creatures that raced through his campsite and a separate incident in which something hurled a stone at him). This book examines general evidence as well as several specific incidents.

The incident that coined the term “Bigfoot” occurred in 1958 near Bluff Creek, California. Large footprints continually appeared near a construction site. Pieces of equipment were also moved, including coils of wire weighing well over 100 pounds (one was eventually found a considerable way up a nearby mountain, lending considerable doubt as to whether a human could have moved it). This went unexplained until some years later when the family of a logger who worked the site (and had passed away) came forward stating the man had created the whole incident as a hoax. They produced a pair of wooden feet that were said to have made the footprints at the construction site as well as all subsequent footprints found throughout the Pacific Northwest.

The problem with this is that the wooden feet produced did not even come close to matching the plaster casts made from the footprints at Bluff Creek. The book rightfully levels criticism at the media, who accepted this story without bothering to do a comparison or investigate at all. One newscaster attempted to demonstrate how the wooden feet were used to create the footprints with poor results. It seems likely that the only hoax occurring here is that of the family’s version of events.

But of all the circumstantial evidence such as footprints (some are so detailed as to have skin ridges [like those on a fingerprint]), blurry photos, unidentifiable howls, wood knocks, thrown stones (a distinctly ape-like behavior…gotta have opposable thumbs), Teddy Roosevelt relating a story in his outdoors book, sincere individuals describing encounters, the fact that Pacific Northwestern native Americans have long acknowledged the existence of such a creature, the fact that on some tribal totem poles in British Columbia an ape-like creature appears alongside other known animals (and none that are mythical), and the fact that footprint size conforms with Bergmann’s rule, the most famous piece of evidence is the Patterson-Gimlin film of 1967.

This footage was shot near Bluff Creek. As discussed in the book, scientists were invited to view the film. After review and discussion, it was determined to be a hoax. What’s telling, though, is the reaction one individual had. He believed it to be a hoax not because of any evidence seen in the footage, but simply because he and others could not conceive of such a creature actually existing in North America.

Meldrum goes on to discuss the film at length, including using his expertise to explain how and why a human dressed in a costume could not replicate the gait used by the subject in the film. Basically, the human form is not capable of walking in such a fashion. So while Hollywood could create a realistic costume, a human being could not execute such a walk.

While the evidence in favor is compelling, there are obviously problems. Namely, no body has ever been found. Until a live or dead specimen is produced, acceptance of sasquatch as a real animal will never occur (and that’s a fair expectation).

But the statement of the scientist after viewing the Patterson-Gimlin film is the epitome of what’s wrong with the consensus view. Meldrum states (and I wholeheartedly agree)  that the evidence and accounts are compelling enough to warrant serious scientific investigation. Yet, the academic community largely believes it to be paranormal nonsense and tall tales spewed by the uneducated. The few who believe such endeavors to be worthwhile fear being ostracized by colleagues and labelled as crackpots.

I can only that sometime in my life, such endeavors will be made and irrefutable proof presented. But if nothing else, there will always be belief. After all, it’s nigh impossible to prove something doesn’t exist.

Sasquatch Poll

Grammatical Pet Peeves

Do you know what’s wonderful? The English language (this guy thinks so).

It should be fairly obvious that with a background in journalism, I would have a fondness for language and grammar. But I am a big fan of the inherent elitism of the English language. With its exceptions to every rule and the fact that even the exceptions have exceptions (see: i before e…except after c…except in plurals of words that end with ‘cy’ like fancies or in words in which the two vowels are part of separate syllables like reincarnation or science). It also has a clearly divided class structure of low/middle/upper among words that mean the exact same thing (see: change/modification/amelioration), allowing you to sound as smart as you want!

But do you know what’s not wonderful? The butchering of this beautiful and snobby language.

So to help everyone become a little bit more knowledgeable about the English language, I have compiled a list of just a few of my grammatical pet peeves. Because do you know what else is wonderful? Lists.

5. Dialect as an Excuse for Poor Grammar

I realize this is probably a bit harsh, as dialect is evidence of diversity within a society. Nevertheless, that does not give you the right to drop or add syllables or letters (and certainly not the right to state that your pronunciation is correct). You can speak with whatever accent you like, just speak those words with all their syllables.

4. Abuse of Style

Think back to elementary school. Do you remember your teacher telling you that it’s wrong to start a sentence with a conjunction like ‘and’ or ‘but?’ Well I have some shocking news for you:  your teacher was a liar.

There’s actually nothing grammatically incorrect about beginning a sentence with a conjunction. But the reason elementary school teachers tell you this is because little kids, if allowed to do this, would begin 90% of their sentence with ‘and’ or ‘but.’ So teachers just take a hard line to prevent kids from writing poorly (and I can respect that).

Sadly, we struggle to grow out of these inclinations.

While as adults, we don’t usually begin every sentence with a conjunction, we do abuse other stylistic choices. My (least) favorite is the use of the semi-colon. It would seem that once a college student properly learns how to use one, they feel the need to start writing ridiculously lengthy and elaborate sentences. The semi-colon has its place, but not in every other sentence.

3. The Use of Made-Up Words

I must admit, I have been guilty of this one. But I  learned my lesson.

My sophomore year of college I used the word ‘thusly’ in a paper and received feedback saying to avoid this word. Naturally, I was offended and chose to look up the word’s etymology. Turns out it was invented a couple of centuries ago by ignorant people trying to sound smart. Ouch.

Probably my least favorite “word” in this category is ‘irregardless.’ It’s not a word! It’s a double negative! The way it’s used is a contradiction to the word itself! It’s disgusting.

2. The Acceptance of Made-Up Words

Following in the footsteps of the previous item on this list, this one is perhaps even more offensive. While it would be easy to blame the ignorance of the masses (see the previous item) for allowing made-up words to become popular, this one falls squarely on the weighty shoulders of Merriam and Webster.

No one made them put ‘irregardless’ in the dictionary. But they did anyway.

You are responsible for maintaining the integrity of the English language (here in America at least)! Allowing these type of words to find a home in your great tome has nothing but further ignorance! This type of acceptance is intolerable.

1. The Most Misquoted Phrase on the Planet

The phrase, as it is often spoken, is “I could care less.”

Don’t you see the problem there?

The point of this phrase is to indicate that you don’t care about something at all. Therefore, the correct phrasing should be “I couldn’t care less.” By saying it the proper way, you indicate that you care so little about whatever the individual you’re speaking with just said, it’s not possible for you to care any less.

By saying it “I could care less,” you imply that you do, in fact, care about it. We don’t know how much because it’s ambiguous (furthering the ridiculousness of that phrasing), but you do it care about it somewhat. You’re not even implying what you intended.

It drives me crazy because I think 9 out of 10 people say it wrong.

Anyway, feel free to post your biggest grammatical pet peeves in the comments section (no need to create an account to comment). Also, come back tomorrow to vote in a poll that will preview the topic of next week’s posts.

Bidding Farewell to The Office

Wow, it’s been a while since I last posted. I suppose I’ll make mention that it’s my intention to post about twice a week, but I don’t have specific days in mind. It’ll be whenever I have time/something to say. So this is post No. 1 this week.

On to the meat!

There are two things that should be acknowledged right off the bat.

First, this post is about the mockumentary television program known as The Office…the American version (as an aside, I find British humour to be rather distasteful, more annoying than funny in most cases [‘Merica!!!]).

Second, I realize this show ended roughly eight months ago. But before you rush to judgment, let me explain.

We live in the Netflix era of TV viewing. That  means you can start watching a show ten seasons into its run or stay constantly one season behind a show. For the final three seasons of The Office, I was a year behind. The only shows you can really expect me to discuss through the current seasons are Mad Men (the best show on television), The BlacklistLaw & Order: SVU, and Finding Bigfoot (don’t worry, there’s a post coming about that). And a couple of those don’t really lend themselves to much blog material.

Now that I’m two days done with the show, I can reflect on one of my favorite shows from the previous decade.

Like many popular sitcoms these days, it combined elements of soap opera-style drama with witty humor. Over the course of its nine-year run, it had its ups and downs. After Steve Carell left the  show late in its tenure, it took some time for the show to regain its footing.

Overall, I would say the early years were fantastic, the middle years had their moments, and the final season had me laughing more than I had in several seasons.

But what truly made The Office such a memorable show? After all, there are plenty of funny shows out there. Tempting as it is to credit the “that’s what she said” jokes, for me it’s the fact that the show emulated a sense of reality that is lost on most sitcoms, even many satires.

This stood out for me in three key areas.

First, Michael Scott’s fatal flaw is reflective of the core desire of all humanity: to be loved. The way this played out in his character evoked a number of emotional responses in the viewer. At times we merely laughed when it was presented as humorous, other times we felt annoyed by his often selfish attempts to gain appreciation, and we also felt pity as a man who just wanted people to like him fell flat.

Though most of us don’t go to the lengths of desperation that the World’s Best Boss does, we all can relate on some level with the desire to be loved, liked, and appreciated.

Second, the work setting and diversity of characters strikes a realistic chord with me. The characters in the show, though often a bit over-the-top, have such a diverse range of unique personalities, that you can’t help but appreciate how true that is in most real-life office settings.

While the show obviously attempts to cover a number of stereotypes, it does a nice job of presenting each individual as having his/her own quirks. We all have our little idiosyncrasies, even if we aren’t always self-aware enough to identify them.

I also appreciated that not every character was portrayed by a model. So many TV shows revolve around casts of characters who are all very physically attractive, but The Office manages to pull off a cast of characters that look like a normal random group of people.

Finally, I appreciate the realism of Jim and Pam’s relationship. Even though their relationship is often idealized by other characters as a fairy tale love story, we see the normal ups and downs of a real relationship play out over the long-term.

After the drawn-out process of them actually getting together, we see things like jealousy and trust become issues as Pam goes to art school.  We were able to see the true struggles of marriage, particularly in the final season. Jim begins to put his career dreams ahead of his relationship, and the marriage begins to struggle.

The funny thing is, regardless of what your opinion on marriage and divorce is, everyone is thrilled and happy when the couple is able to work things out. Yet, our culture today would indicate that the right thing to do is whatever makes you happy and is in your personal best interests–if that’s staying with your significant other, then sobeit; but if pursuing your career in another city that your spouse is not willing to move to is what makes you happy, then perhaps you’re just not meant to be together or your lives are just going in separate directions now.

But as Jim and Pam learned, the way marriage is supposed to work is giving up one’s own  desires and dreams for the pursuit of joint desires and dreams. And what happens? Jim showed that he valued her over his career and she agreed to move away to allow him to take a dream job. With the help of couples counseling and self-sacrifice, they both ended up happier than they would have been getting divorced or trying to make a self-serving marriage work.

Again, not everyone has been through this exact scenario, but anyone who is married or in a long-term committed relationship understands that it’s not always easy and it’s not always a fairy tale romance. It can be very hard at times and require supernatural self-sacrifice to put your spouse’s best interests ahead of your own (I think this reflects two reasons our society is so down on marriage: a fear and unwillingness to bend from one’s own desires; and a belief in the so-called “soul mate” giving rise to the idea that if you just find that right person for you, you can truly live happily ever after). But in the end, you’ll often find that you’re happier for having done so, even if you didn’t think that would be the case beforehand.

I will certainly miss The Office and considered starting all over again from the beginning as soon as I finished the finale. Maybe sometime in the future.

For now, I leave with you one of my favorite moments from the show (hurry! watch it before it gets taken down):

BCS Wrap-Up

If I’m going to discuss college football, I should probably disclose a couple of things.

Having grown up in Ohio, I’m an Ohio State fan.  I’m aware that their fans have a bit of a bad reputation outside of the great state of Ohio, but I honestly believe that I’m a more rational fan than most.

Second, I suffer from a severe case of what’s now being referred to as “SEC Fatigue.” The symptoms include irrational rage directed at SEC schools, extreme agitation in the presence of SEC fans, and nausea when watching SEC teams beat schools from other conferences. My disease has only grown worse since moving to SEC country.

So now you know my inherent biases.

But last night, two things came to an end. The reign of the BCS as the determiner of the National Champion (I know, the AP can vote differently, but that only happened once in 16 years) and the SEC’s reign of terror atop college football. This means the following scenario may have a slim chance of occurring.

Playing off purpose number two for creating this blog (as seen in my debut post), I hope to someday be able to show my eldest child this post and have a conversation that goes something like this:

Child: Was the SEC really ever good at football?

Me: They sure were. It was a very dark time for our country.

Child: How bad was it, Daddy?

Me: Do you remember watching the Star Wars movies?

Child: Those great new Disney movies?!

Then I like to think I’d give a cold, unfeeling stare before breaking the uncomfortable silence.

Me: No, the ones that were made before Daddy was born.

Child: Oh.

Me: Well the SEC was like the Empire. It was big and powerful and evil. Every other team in the country was the Rebel Alliance. They were outgunned and outmanned. They needed a  hero to step up and save them.

Child: But the good guys won, right?

Me: Yep, and that’s why the SEC never wins championships anymore, insert name here. Anyway, the SEC’s evil empire was led by our Darth Vader character, Nick Saban. When teams played him, he would simply force-choke the life out of them. But ultimately, out of the SEC itself, a hero arose.

Child: Was it Nick Saban’s son?! Luke was Darth Vader’s son!

Me: No, it wasn’t. I think I’ve taken this metaphor about as far as it’s going to go. His name was Urban Meyer, and to the best of my knowledge, he has no relation to Saban. It was man named Jimbo who first put a chink in the SEC’s armor, but Meyer, whose Florida team won the first of the SEC’s seven straight titles,  eventually left to coach our beloved Buckeyes. And the college football landscape has never looked the same. Football glory was returned to frozen wastelands where it belongs.

Child: That’s a great story!

Me: It sure is, insert name here!

Child: Okay, good night Daddy! God bless the Big Ten!

Me: Atta boy/girl! Good night, Champ/Champette!

Let’s move on before I embarrass myself further.

Following Auburn’s loss and the temporary silencing of the “S-E-C” chants (my wife would like to point out that this conference unity may be a cultural thing, as in “the South will rise again” type of culture), it’s time to look back and examine what made the SEC so dominant in National Championship games and whether the league is still as good as its coaches, players, and the media would have you believe.

I have been of the opinion that the SEC has been living off reputation the past couple of years, and while there is some evidence to support that, some of it is probably just wishful thinking. But really that attitude of SEC fatigue began to take shape with the championship game two years ago (that would be three games ago, the LSU/Bama rematch).

The SEC argued that it had the best conference and the two best teams, therefore even though the Big 12 had a one-loss team, it couldn’t possibly be on the same level as an SEC team (these were the same ones who argued that their one-loss team deserved a shot instead of a Big Ten rematch for the 2007 championship game).

As ESPN college football blogger Andrea Adelson argues effectively here, much of this was due to the way we now viewed college football. Strength of schedule became king (although strength of schedule is largely based on who you beat with quality wins being based on ranked teams you beat…and of course, who is ranked is often based on irrelevant preseason rankings that do nothing but skew teams’ perceptions as the season wears on). Nothing else mattered. If the perception was that the SEC was by far the toughest conference, it would always win the strength of schedule argument.

Back to the rematch. One of the more rational SEC fans I’ve met agreed it should have never happened. The SEC is the best because it beats the best. By having a rematch, the implied perception was that the SEC no longer had anything to prove. The other conferences couldn’t measure up, so if people wanted the best teams on the best stage, they would have to watch two SEC teams.

The problem for the SEC is ever since then, they haven’t performed on the biggest stage.

I must admit that I no longer think the SEC has been living off reputation these past two seasons. I now have a hard time agreeing with Bob Stoops, who argued this past offseason the SEC has a few good teams at the top but not as much depth as they’d have you believe. I could put up a couple of arguments in favor of it, but ultimately the most telling stat is their bowl records for the 2012 and 2013 seasons (6-3 and 7-3 respectively).

But the less-talked about stat is that the SEC is 1-3 in BCS games the past two years (including going 0-2 this year). That’s right. They may have more depth than other conferences, as evidenced by the overall bowl records, but their best teams are no better than the best teams the other conferences provide.

You don’t need to play in the best conference to have the best team (just ask the 2012 Kentucky basketball team). The SEC won seven straight national championships not because their conference was deeper or they played a tougher schedule or their players are faster (the original thought behind their run) or their linemen are bigger (the current thought). They won them because they simply had the best team (singular) in the country that particular year, they used the motivation of being the underdog (of their seven straight wins,  they were the #2 ranked team for five of them) and they played like it was the only game that mattered (look at how LSU opened up their offensive playbook in the 2008 game, too many “favorites” think they just need to play the way they always do to win).

So as we transition into the playoff era of major college football, it’s time to put to rest the notions that strength of schedule is the ultimate determinant of how good a team is (did you know the much maligned AAC/Big East is 2-0 the past two years in BCS games?) and that a one-loss team playing in the SEC is more deserving of a title game/playoff spot than an undefeated team from another conference.

Debut

H-Hello? Is this thing on?

Welcome to my blog. Though I have long enjoyed writing, this is really my first foray into the world of blogging. I guess my purpose for starting would be twofold (and self-promotion is not one of them, though I suppose I am posting this to Facebook).

First, as I aspire to a career path focused on communications and editing, it’s a great way to keep my writing skills honed. While I don’t intend to actively seek work as a writer, knowing how to write and the way that writers think is a great asset to have as an editor. So I figured starting a blog would offer me a way to write about what I want, when I want without the pressure of deadlines and all the other things that go along with the professional demands of writing.

The second reason, naturally, is to document all my (tremendously) important thoughts for my future posterity. And hey, maybe I’ll even be able to look back and see personal growth over the years (or however long I continue this blog).

So what will I write about?

Well, contrary to the title, it will not be documentation of bigfoot sightings (though I do have a firm believe that sasquatch exists, but not in a mystical, supernatural sort of way…but we’ll save that for another post). Simply put, this will be about whatever I feel like discussing at the time.

I suppose to give you a better idea about what that may be, I’ll tell you a little bit about myself (for those who know me well, most of this will come as no surprise but maybe some will).

I am a Christian, and so my faith affects all aspects of my life, though as an imperfect person, it doesn’t always shine through as well as I’d like it to. I enjoy sports, particularly football and basketball and played in high school for four and two years, respectively (I use the word “play” here very loosely). I went to college at Ohio University and studied journalism, so I have plenty of opinions on the media. Consequently, I also enjoy grammar (and yes, by putting this out there, I have opened myself up to comments criticizing my grammar and pointing out typos [here’s a criticism of my writing style to start you out: I have a borderline unhealthy love of parenthetical statements]). I enjoy playing video games, especially story-based games (so you need not fear, there won’t be any posts of videos documenting my best Call of Duty kills). I really just enjoy “story” in general, whether it be in book, movie, TV show, or game format. I’ve also really come to enjoy experiencing the beauty of nature, whether it be hiking or watching Animal Planet or visiting the zoo.

Okay, well that’s the majority of things. I won’t use this space to rant very much about political issues, at least not in a way that’s going to get myself and any commenters called horrible names. I also won’t use this space to rant about my wife or any other friendship of mine (I hate when people use social media as the medium for an actual fight or feud…but again, another post). I’ll mention that too since I brought it up. I’ve been married for four and a half years to a lovely young woman named Sarah. She’s pretty fantastic and has a cooking blog of her own, The Pajama Chef (she refuses to market her blog, so I have to do it for her).

I can’t think of anything else to discuss in an introductory post, so I’m going to wrap things up.

Some of my topics may not be interesting to all of you all the time, so feel free to not read any that fall into that category. But please do come back for those that do! I would love to have friends, acquaintances, and strangers weighing in, so please do feel free to agree, disagree, or just simply add to the conversation (ugh, that phrase is so emergent churchy…I almost reworded it) in the comments.

Expect a football related post on Tuesday or so!