Saturday, August 23, 2008

Three times Ten equals birthday!

My favorite number is three. Has been ever since I knew I had a favorite number. Beyond the dozens of times that 3 appears in my life, I've discovered I also tend to categorize my favorite things into "Top 3s" rather than top 5s or 10s like most folks. For example, my Top 3 favorite foods are Pizza, Steak, and Waffles.

Today, my lovely wife made sure that I got all of my Top 3s for my 30th birthday!

Her day started at 8 in the AM. I thought she really wanted me to sleep in but she was really hard at work whipping up homemade waffles, tropical fruit, juices, and even decorated the house with balloons and party streamers for the family party later that day! I was greeted by all of this two hours later when I finally rolled out of bed.

Waffles. Check.

My parents and other immediate family arrived at our house not long after to go to Joey Fratello's Pizzeria for lunch. Joey Fratello's is a local success story around this area. The owner brought the business into a building, which had sustained flood damage, almost immediately after the record flood waters of the Blanchard River went down last August. It was a bold move especially when you consider the number of businesses that had to close up shop due to flood damage. One year later, his carry-out and eat-in business is going so well that he doesn't advertise...he doesn't have to, his restaurant is packed nearly everyday.

Pizza. Check.

After lunch, everyone came back to our place for cake and the bestowing of gifts for my major accomplishment (since when did surviving one more trip around the sun become an accomplishment? Oh well, I got presents for it). The party soon broke up and family parted ways to reconnect another time.

When dinner came around, I was sure we would be eating leftover Joey Fratello's...but no. My lovely bride mentioned that we were 2/3 of the way to a culinary tri-fecta and we were going to finish this race. Outback, here we come!

Steak. Check.

Ah, if everyday of my thirties is half this good, I'll be doing alright!


If you would, please take 30 seconds to pray to the Lord God for a cure for Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia. A dear friend from my college days who is now a 28 year-old father of two very young girls was diagnosed just this week with this bastard of a disease. Please pray for him, his wife and girls, and his family and friends during this challenging time!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

He Provides...

So, I was unemployed for a grand total of 55 hours.


I knew something was brewing with a good friend of mine, Fred, who owns Gridirons Gifts and Collectibles in the Findlay Village Mall but I wasn't sure when he would be ready for me to begin taking hours.

Today was the day.

I worked 7 hours with him today and I'll be catching another 13 by closing on Friday evening. So, if you are in the area and wanna stop by, please do! Gridirons doesn't yet have a shop-able website but it's under construction and should be up and running within the next two weeks.

Once the site is up and online, all shipping and handling will be free for the first month. I'm just sayin'!

I know that this gig is temporary and doesn't pay what I was making at WTOL but I choose to look at this as God's way of rewarding those who are resolved to work their way through difficult times.

I can't do it without God and He won't do it without me!

*Picture taken at Gridirons on June 1, 2008, during Troy Smith Autograph show.

Friday, August 8, 2008

A 2008 Big Ten Preview

The teams that make up the Big Ten conference have a big job ahead of them. Theirs is the task of reshaping the national opinion of the Big Ten as a weak conference. What's the best way to gain the respect of college football nation? Win. Lots.

A few teams will improve on last year's record, some will continue to struggle, and still others will take a step back. Who will do what? How will the season take shape? What will the landscape look like as we prepare to go bowling? Here is my take heading into late December.

The Final 2008 Big Ten Standings.

8-0 12-0

Key Moments:
This team has 20 returning starters including three guaranteed first-day draft picks. OSU is loaded in most areas that matter. However, Todd Boeckman and the two receiver Brians Robiskie and Hartline are not spectacular. The Buckeyes will win what will be a great match up against USC in Los Angeles. Quarterback Mark Sanchez and a young offensive line will prove the Trojans undoing. Expect a 3 to 7 point victory for the Scarlet and Gray. Ohio State also has to travel to Camp Randall Stadium in Madison to face the only Big Ten team against whom Jim Tressel has a losing record. This will be a high energy, night game filled with back-and-forth action. The Badgers will have to survive a healthy diet of Chris "Beanie" Wells (and likely Terrelle Pryor) in order to stay within striking distance of Ohio State. This game should end with a 7 to 10 point victory for OSU. Will Jim Tressel increase his BCS Championship Game record to 2-2?

Bowl Game:
BCS National Championship Game (against Oklahoma, USC, or Georgia)

7-1 11-1

Key Moments:
To borrow a line from my favorite movie, Bret Bielema "doesn't suffer fools nor strikes a bargain with one". He knows what it takes to follow in the footsteps of Barry Alvarez; a man who took a program when it wasn't and made it into (according to SI) the Number one college football town in the country. Wisconsin is one of the few Big Ten schools to have successful records against SEC teams in the last 10 years and this focus on winning will not lax this year. Their only loss this season will come at the hands of the Ohio State Buckeyes in Madison. UW has incredible depth in a backfield that is led by P.J. Hill. Hill is cast in a similar mold as that of Ron Dayne; a big, bruising back who punishes those who come to tackle him. On Wisconsin.

Bowl Game:
BCS Rose Bowl (against USC, Oregon, or UCLA)

5-3 8-4

Key Moments:
The Nittany Lions will show improvement over last years' conference record of 4-4. JoePa's team should bring a good air attack and a competitive rushing game. PSU's biggest emotional victory will be against a rebuilding and restructuring Michigan team while the biggest win of real consequence will come in South Bend against Charlie Weis and Notre Dame. And, yes, someone somewhere will wonder if this is JoePa's last season.

Bowl Game:
Capital One Bowl (against some SEC team that will win pretty handily)

5-3 8-4

Key Moments:
Gone is the back who allowed Ron Zook's spread offense to work so well, Rashard Mendenhall. J Lehman has exited the middle of the Illini linebacking core. Isaiah "Juice" Williams will continue to be a legit dual-threat signal caller but I see this team taking a step backwards this season due to the lacking ability to fill those voids. Illinois' biggest win will be in Happy Valley on September 27th but will suffer at the hands of Michigan, Wisconsin, and OSU. Faith in Ron Zook is well placed nonetheless because he knows how to recruit. So this down time will not last long.

Bowl Game:
The Outback Bowl (Save me a bloomin' onion)

4-3 8-4

Key Moments:
Rich Rodriguez's first year at Michigan will not be as bad as some have predicted as he'll score one more win than his counterpart in Columbus during his first campaign. Their similarities continue as RichRod must re-tune a group of instruments who are used to playing the song "three yards and a cloud of dust" into an orchestra blarring "catch me in open space if you can". This transition will take time to become fully incorporated as Michigan has few key returners. The number one pick in the 2008 NFL Draft Jake Long, Chad Henne, Mike Hart, Mario Manningham, and Shawn Crable are all gone. Should I mention Justin Boren? Maybe not. ***Upset Alert***Look for another first game loss this year as Utah comes to the Big House and stuns the winged helmets.

Bowl Game:
The Insight Bowl (college football's answer to Hollywood's, "Dude, Where's My Car")

4-4 7-5

Key Moments:
Mark D'antonio has learned quite a bit from one year ago and Devon Ringer is still running strong. Those of you in Michigan have circled October 25th on your calendar. This is the game that I had the most difficulty calling. In a very close, likely overtime featuring game, I'm expecting the green and white to fall in the Big House in what amounts to the biggest rivalry game for State. It looks like this year will be one of those most typical for East Lansing...start 5-0 then inexplicably coming apart.

Bowl Game:
The Alamo Bowl (don't forget it)

4-4 7-5

Key Moments:
Revel in QB Curtis Painter and Head Coach Joe Tiller for one more year, boys and girls. Painter will be one of the top three Quarterbacks in terms of pass efficiency and passing yards in the Big Ten this year. It's too bad he has few targets to get the ball to. Purdue's biggest game will also take place in South Bend and it will be a close one. Actually I'm not entirely sold on Notre Dame losing this game especially if QB Jimmy Clausen is as good as he is hyped to be. Thankfully, PU doesn't play Wisconsin this year otherwise they would be registering three losses to the conferences historically top teams; Michigan, Ohio State, and the Badgers. Bang that big bass drum like there is no tomorrow for the old gold and black...that should lift your spirits.

Bowl Game:
Champs Sports Bowl (the winning team to receive a $50 gift card to Champs Sports)

2-6 6-6

Key Moments:
The Wildcats will have one of the three best backfields in the conference running free this year. However, don't look for great things out of the purple and white's defensive unit. Tyrell Sutton and QB C.J. Bacher will do what they can to bring a bowl game appearance to Evanston, IL (which will be enough to defeat Iowa in Iowa City on September 27th). If Iowa can survive Pittsburgh, NU will be staying home this December. If not, a confident Sutton will run this team to a bowl game. It's too bad football games are not won by G.P.A. These guys would be National Champions every year!

Bowl Game:
Motor City Bowl

2-6 5-7

Key Moments:
Last year, this team drew strength from each other after their head coach Terry Hoeppner died of cancer mid-season. His mantra, "play 13" became a source of motivation for the crimson and cream to reach their first bowl game since 1993 (during the Antwaan Randle El era). After a field goal in the last 30 seconds of their final game against Purdue, the dream was a reality as they won a spot in the Insight Bowl against Oklahoma State. They lost that game and it appears that the loss of momentum will carry over into this season. While the Hoosiers return RB Marcus Thigpen and QB Kellen Lewis, this team says goodbye to star receiver speedy James Hardy. This brings their three-dimensional offense down to 2-D. ***Upset Alert*** Ball State will be an interesting game in Bloomington on September 20. Good luck, IU, you'll need it.

Bowl Game:

10. IOWA
2-6 4-8*

Key Moments:
The bright spot for Kirk Ferentz's team this year is the non-conference schedule. The bad news is the rest of the entire conference schedule save for Indiana and Minnesota. Even the Cyclones of Iowa State will have the Hawkeye's number in this year's rivalry game. It's a good thing the black and yellow plays the likes of Maine, Florida International. ***Upset Alert*** Pittsburgh will likely win their match up on September 20.

Bowl Game:
Toilet Bowl brought to you by Kohler

0-8 3-9

Key Moments:
A new outdoor stadium.

Bowl Game:
Where should we go for Christmas this year, kids?

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