Something to Someone: The Road to 5000 Followers

I’ve been rehearsing this blog post in my head for the last month, but now that I have to write it, I don’t know what to say. I still don’t know what to title it, so hopefully that reveals itself to me before the final period is typed.

I started this blog for selfish purposes. I wanted to write about sports, so I had writing samples to send to potential employers. That’s all. I had no aspirations to make friends. I had no desire to explore different topics. I didn’t want to leave my niche – bloggers need a niche.

Good things happen when you least expect it.

Little did I know, bloggers don’t need a niche. Nor do we need to stay in a bubble. Once I figured that out, this blog was no longer just about me. It was about the people who took the time to read it.

A few days ago, The Captain’s Speech reached 5000 followers.

I don’t know what that number means, really. But I do know what I think about when I see it.

I think about all the friendships that have been made.

I think about the people who told me my words had an impact on their life.

I think about the person who told me they enjoy my humour and to never stop giving my unique view of things because they read my blog as a way to forget – for a little while – about the rough situation in their life.

There’s more to that than I’ll share, but I tear up every time I think about it.

And who am I?

I’m just a person putting one word in front of the next. I don’t know what I’m doing in life. I mention pizza a lot. I start too many sentences with “And”. And I have no idea how to write a concise blog post, as evidenced by my 1466 word per post average in 2018 – find yours on the insights tab of a stats page near you.

I am truly grateful for all the nice things you have said to me over the years. The blogging community is incredible and I couldn’t have imagined such a welcoming group of people on the internet.

When I first came into this, I was just coming out of university and about to face the reality that friendships from school slowly fade away over time. I didn’t know that strangers on the internet would be there to catch me when I needed support.

Five years later, I talk to more bloggers on a regular basis than people I know in real life.

A couple of years ago, a group chat was made. It consists of Meghan, Jess, Chris, and myself. I had been blog friends with Meghan and Jess for about a year, while Chris and I have known each other for about sixteen.

That group chat quickly became, and still is, one of my favourite things.

Explaining the dynamic between the four of us is impossible. It’s like we’re roommates, but we’re not, yet we still scream through the wall knowing someone will respond.

In life, I think we all just want to find a place where we fit in. And that includes finding people we like to be around.

That’s why on the first day of every school year, we’d look through the class list, or around the room, trying to find the people with whom we fit. If there’s a group project, who are my people?

Because no one wants to be completely alone. I’m certain we’ve all felt that at least once in our lives.

We all need someone else, and in the blogging world, our words are the great unifier.

When I was in university, I had a few different friend groups as a result of living in residence each year. I don’t like separate groups, so I introduced each group to each other and made it one big happy family.

In a way, I think I’ve tried to do that with this blog.

When I go looking for new blogs to follow, I often find ones that don’t have many followers but are putting out content I really enjoy. I’ll always have a soft spot for bloggers like that. Not because I feel sorry for them or want to give them a charity follow, but because I’ve been in their shoes.

I know how tough it is to be writing for 8 people, 4 seemingly fake accounts, and 2 other skeptical ones.

You feel like you’re not being heard. You tell yourself you’re writing for yourself, but you still wish someone else read your work. As much as we can find ourselves through our writing, we hope it finds someone else, too.

When you see me nominating a bunch of bloggers in these blog award posts, I hope you’re clicking the links because that’s my small way of trying to bring everyone together.

I don’t want bloggers to give up because they don’t have hundreds or thousands of followers. I want to support them.

The most important post I’ve ever written was when I had 22 followers. The size of your audience doesn’t make your words mean less.

And I know it’s probably easy for you to think, “Oh, he’s just preaching from the hilltop known as The 5000 Club.” You’re missing the point if you think that. There is no hilltop. There never has been. We’re all on the same playing field.

If you’re looking for tips on how to get 5000 followers, I don’t have any. I only have truths. And the truth is, words bring people together. They always will.

Well, that’s it. I’m sure you’ll all get tired of me and my jokes eventually though, right?

If so, just give me two weeks notice so I can host an Unfollowing Party. It’ll be like an episode of Oprah, except everyone in the audience returns their free car.

I’m going to go now. Thanks again for all the support!

Keep writing your words because, I can assure you, they mean something to someone.

– Paul, The Captain’s Speech

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Posted in Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 39 Comments

Mystery Blogger Award x2

Greetings, earthlings!

I’ve been nominated for two more Mystery Blogger Awards, which means I am two steps closer to having an award named after me. I believe that’s how it works.

Thank you Becky and Cody for the nomination! Make sure you click on their names and check out their blogs!

Let’s get down to business.

Rules:

  • Thank whoever nominated you and include a link to their blog
  • Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
  • Nominate 10-20 bloggers you feel deserve the award
  • Answer the questions from the person who nominated you
  • Ask your nominees 5 questions of your choice with one weird or funny one
  • Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog

I’m doubling up, so here are 6 things about me:

  1. The first CD I ever owned was a Jazz CD.
  2. My favourite chip flavour is Plain Lay’s, though Ruffles All Dressed have been surging up the power rankings lately.
  3. I once bought 15 pizzas (most of which were customized with 3 toppings) from Papa John’s with excess meal plan money from school, for a Super Bowl party in 2011.
  4. Mint chocolate is my favourite.
  5. I like orange juice with the pulp, but it gives me a sore throat.
  6. I don’t remember most of the details from books I’ve read.

Becky’s Questions

1. When did something start out badly for you but in the end, it was great?
There was an intramural co-ed softball game in university where the other team was bad but they were beating us, so I called a team huddle halfway through the game and said, among other things, “We can beat these guys, their first baseman is smoking a cigarette” and then we rallied and won the game. Still waiting for it to be made into a movie.

I couldn’t think of a more serious answer, sorry.

2. What movie can you watch over and over without ever getting tired of?
Mrs. Doubtfire, Home Alone 1 & 2, Space Jam, Angels in the Outfield. My movie tastes never transitioned into the 2000s.

3. What “old person” things do you do?
Ha, everything. My knees crack when I stand up – I’m a hoot in quiet waiting rooms. I’d share more but it’s far too embarrassing.

4. If someone narrated your life, who would you want to be the narrator?
Jerry Seinfeld. If he’s not available, then Daffy Duck.

5. What artist or band do you always recommend when someone asks for a music recommendation?
I normally try to cater to what I think (or know) they’ll like. It’s never really bands I suggest to people, but individual songs. That being said, if I was just suggesting bands then it would be The Gaslight Anthem and 30 Seconds To Mars (mainly their “This is War” album).

Cody’s Questions

1. Other than the default apps on your phone (phone, messages, email, maps, calendar etc.) what is the one app you cannot live without?
This may sound weird, but I only have 3 apps outside of the default ones. I have Twitter, Instagram, and WordPress. I could probably live without WordPress since I’ve never written a blog post with the app (I’ve been meaning to try it at least once). Twitter – I could always check it on a computer. So I guess my answer is Instagram, since you can’t upload photos from a computer, nor talk to people in a chat. Wow, what a millennial I am.

2. What has been your favorite vacation you have been on?
I don’t know if I’ve ever been on vacation, but there have been trips. My favourite one was to Detroit for New Year’s in 2014 for the Winter Classic outdoors between the Leafs and Red Wings.

3. If you could go back and watch any TV series for the first time, what would it be?
Boy Meets World.

4. If you could make one food item or dish calorie free, what would it be?
PIZZA. Just hook it up to my veins at that point.

5. If you had a water fountain in your house and could make it dispense any liquid you want what would it be? Here’s the catch, you have to drink at least 2 quarts of it per day.
How much is a quart? Sorry, just doing some Canadian conversions via Google. Alright, 2 litres. The boring answer would be water, since I don’t know if I’d drink that much of anything else every day. That being said, I’m going to go with wonton soup broth.

My Nominations:

For this one, I’m trying to nominate bloggers I haven’t nominated lately, or ever. The link will lead you to one of their latest posts. Do check them out! Some are relatively new to WordPress.

For The Love Of Sass

The Confusing Middle

Forever, Sierra Sky

Greater Than Gravity

Cactus Honey

He Met She

Kara’s Kloud

Sarah Warsi

New York Is My Boyfriend

Cracking Adulthood

My Questions:

1. What is your favourite topic to write about and why?
2. Which TV show would you like to be in and what would your character be?
3. When you were a kid, what was your favourite snack to bring to school?
4. What’s an irrational fear you have?
5. Go on your phone. Click on your text messages. Scroll to the chat at the bottom of your list. Why haven’t you talked to that person lately? For bonus points, what was the last message that was sent in that chat?

If I didn’t nominate you, but you would like to accept this award/answer the questions below, go for it! I’d love to hear your answers.

Again, thank you to Becky and Cody for the nomination! No pressure for any of my nominees to do this, though it could be fun.

Adios amigos.

Posted in Awards | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

Then vs. Now

I don’t want this blog post to be one those, “People are so inundated with technology these days, no one plays outside anymore, and no one looks up” rants that everyone nods their head at, but no one actually does anything about.

A few years ago, I would’ve written that post. I probably did. Now, I simply don’t care enough to tell people what they should, or shouldn’t, do with the technology available to them.

Me, or anyone else, telling you to stop staring at your phone all day isn’t going to accomplish anything. Preaching to a choir that has laryngitis is pointless.

We’ve been telling people since they were in Kindergarten to wash their hands before leaving the washroom and does everyone oblige? No.

You can lead a horse to a soap dispenser, but you can’t make them drink it. Or something like that.

So that being said, do what you want.

As for what I want this blog post to be about, I’m not really sure yet. The word “urgency” is creating thought bubbles in my brain and ideas are branching off of it. So I’ll write about that and hopefully by the end of this, we both know what this is all about.

For the last week, I’ve had a childhood memory on my brain and I don’t know why. So I’m going to release it here and make it your mystery to deal with.

In 1999, there was a new game show on television called, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, hosted by Regis Philbin. You’ve probably heard of it.

If you haven’t heard of it, then you are the weakest link, goodbye!

Sorry, wrong show. Shoutout if you still watch old episodes of The Weakest Link on YouTube, like I do.

Back to Millionaire, though. The premise was simple. Answer fifteen multiple choice questions correctly, win a million dollars. It’s every university student’s dream, really.

Imagine we walked into the exam room with the promise that if we got the multiple choice portion perfect, we’d win a sum of money? They always gave out scholarships based on what we did in high school, why not some sort of scholarship for doing well while in university?

I like big ideas. There’s one.

Again, back to Millionaire. The show was groundbreaking. It was the first show to ever offer a grand prize that large.

Up until then, all I really knew by way of game shows was Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and The Price is Right, which was hosted by everyone’s favourite sick day babysitter – Bob Barker.

The memory that’s been on my mind lately is of one of the first episodes of Millionaire. If I recall, it was originally on Sunday nights. At that point, the show had already been on for a couple of weeks.

I was watching TV in one room and my mom was watching TV in another, when she called out that it was starting. For some reason, it caught us off guard that it was on so early that day. But without hesitation, my entire family rushed to the living room and watched it together.

That’s the memory. It’s a small one but it’s a large snapshot of what 1999 was like.

I think this memory was triggered by me flipping channels a few weeks ago and coming across a recent episode of the show, which was hosted by none other than Chris Harrison – the host of The Bachelor/The Bachelorette.

I always wondered what he did the rest of the year when he wasn’t walking into rooms with his sleeves rolled up and saying, “Fellas”. Now I know.

That memory stands out to me because 19 years later, I don’t think that urgency of, “Oh my God, a game show where someone can win one millionaire dollars is on, I need to watch it right now” exists.

Please tell me if I’m wrong.

Sure, I’ll rush to the TV to watch sports, but that’s different.

Back in 1999, if you missed a show, you missed it. There wasn’t a way to watch it later, unless you planned ahead and taped it with your VCR. Even then, VCRs weren’t always foolproof. You could tape the wrong thing, or forget to rewind the tape beforehand and run out of space.

My mom was famous for accidentally taping the news, instead of a show. It’s one of the reasons why I control the PVR recordings in our house now. Everything goes through me. I’m the resident IT guy.

To branch off of the Millionaire memory a bit, I remember going to my neighbour’s house and playing the computer game associated with the show. We’d sit there and wait for the computer to start up, and Windows 98 would appear on the screen.

Then we’d play the game and try and guess our way through the questions because we were kids and knew nothing. We found it fun, though. Crazy.

Nowadays, I couldn’t imagine a kid going over to someone’s house just to play the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire computer game. Maybe another other game, but not that one. I guess that’s a sign of how things have changed over the years.

When I was a kid, a fun night would be sitting on a lawn chair outside, eating an ice cream sandwich, while my mom held an impromptu spelling bee between my sister and I, as we wrote our answers on small chalkboards.

Those were nights when there was nothing on TV worth watching and no internet available.

Find me the kid, in 2018, who is sitting outside at night with a chalkboard, spelling words. I don’t know that you can.

The way people – of all ages – entertain themselves is far different than it was 20 years ago. I’m not saying it’s right. I’m not saying it’s wrong. I’m just saying it’s different.

Again, I can sit here all I want and say that kids shouldn’t be so dependent upon technology at such a young age. I can sit here and say that we’re just scrolling endlessly through posts from people we haven’t talked to in years. I can sit here and say that it’s a shame no one plays outside.

I’ve said it all before.

But there’s no point in saying it anymore. What does it accomplish? It’s not like we’re going to wake up one day and all decide to live like it’s 1999 again.

All this technology is here to stay. All of these social media apps that make you feel alone and self-conscious, are here to stay. All of these advancements that require access to the internet, so you can set up an account with yet another password, are here to stay, even if some senior citizens don’t know what the internet is.

I feel bad for my grandparents. All of this technological mumbo jumbo, is beyond them. They’re home phone doesn’t have call display, don’t come around here talking about text messages, let alone a Wi-Fi password.

Therein lies the problem with this urgent era we live in. There’s a disconnect. The younger generation walks down the sidewalk while staring at their cellphone, while the older generation stares at them and shakes their head.

I think that sense of “What are they doing?” enters all of our minds when we see people younger than us doing things we didn’t do at their age. We can’t help it, but they can’t help when they grow up, either. Growing up in 1995 is not the same as growing up in 2005, or 2015.

There are things we do now, that we’ll look back on in 10 years and wonder why we ever did them. Time moves on – some things are replaced, most are left behind.

Heck, I feel like we’re slowly moving into a phase where people start to wonder why they’re still on Facebook.

Perhaps we outgrow some things. Perhaps we just grow up. Either way, we live in an era with an endless supply of options for how we spend our time.

The cellphone has become the default time killer. Think back to your first cellphone and its capabilities. I had mine for three years before I sent my first text message. Pressing the internet button on it sent 1000 jolts of panic throughout my body because doing so would result in additional charges.

Therefore, pressing the internet button wasn’t an option. For the majority of the five years I owned my first cellphone, all it did was make and receive calls. What a weird thing for a phone to do, right?

I’ve only had three cellphones in my life. Each one acted as a giant step into the future. This trend will probably continue until food pictures become edible and you can reach into your phone and pull them out to eat.

You laugh now, but just wait!

I’m nearing the end of this post and still don’t know what my main point is.

I think all I’m trying to say is that our habits never stay the same. We evolve as the world evolves. Our behaviour changes because it needs to.

You’ve either heard, or said, “Back in my day, we had to walk up to the TV to change the channel”, but no one ever says, “I wish we still had to do that.”

Hey, I think I just made my point. I think.

You get what I’m trying to say, right?

With that, I shall stop providing words for you to read, thus releasing you back into the internet, the real world, or your dreams for a nap.

Fin

 

Posted in Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Fantasy Sports and Me

There’s a phrase out there that goes like this: “No one cares about your fantasy team.” A quick search of it on Twitter will result in numerous tweets from holier-than-thou citizens, some of which like to capitalize “NO ONE”, to let us know that they’re yelling those words out…as they stare at their screen with a blank expression.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for making bold proclamations against nonsensical things, like memes.

My problem with memes is it’s like telling me the chicken crossed the road to get to the other side, every single time I have to pretend like I’m unable to answer the question, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” Memes are butchered to death and people use them as a crutch because they can’t think of anything original on their own. ThereISaidItAhhhh.

Sorry. Pardon me. I don’t know how that paragraph snuck out of my “Do Not Publish Or Else People Won’t Like You” folder. Bad paragraph. Bad.

Back to fantasy sports.

I, for one, am realizing I’m a bit of a contrarian. Not on purpose. People just don’t agree with me that Nutella looks disgusting. Bam, shots fired.

But when it comes to fantasy sports, I actually care about other people’s teams, especially if they’re in my league. I don’t know why people pretend they’re too cool for school when it comes to talking about it.

People can reply to tweets from celebrities all day, but talking about my fantasy team is off limits? Get out of here.

So without any further adieu poking of bears (Sorry, the Leafs are facing the Bruins, I’m in a bear poking mood for the next two weeks), here is my commentary on my fantasy teams.

Fantasy Hockey

Last week, my fantasy hockey league ended and I won my second championship in as many years, and fifth in seven. I am a dynasty. I am the New England Patriots. Bow down and kiss my feet, while I record footage of your team practice.

That was a niche joke.

My team this year was named, “I Doughty That”. I think of myself as a punny person, but when it comes to naming fantasy teams, I am a splatter of soup on the wall of a microwave.

“A splatter of soup on the wall of a microwave” is Paul-speak for “A fish out of water”. I can’t just use the well-known idiom. I have to make it complicated.

So yeah, “I Doughty That” isn’t the best. Actually, plot twist, I think my sister gave me that name.

Alright, full disclosure. We’ve been saying “I Doughty that” around the house for years, so when she mentioned it as a name I could use, I ran with it. There.

Last year, my team was called, “Two and a Half Benn”. That one was all me.

The league has changed over the years, but the original 10 teams were all associated with the greatest university residence floor in history. Since then, teams have dropped out, siblings and/or friends have been added, and we have 8 teams.

We’re looking to expand into Seattle within the next two years.

Again, niche joke.

For most of the year, I didn’t think my team was good enough to win. Injuries to some of my top players hurt me. My three goalies were all eventually dropped. It was a mess.

We did the Head-to-Head format. Last year, I only lost once, in about 23 weeks. This year, I only had 2 wins after 7 weeks, but I also had 3 ties. THREE TIES.

My first loss was against my sister. I’m not knocking her because she knows her hockey, but I taught her all the little tricks to winning a matchup and she used them all against me.

I don’t like losing. I don’t know if you can tell.

You play to win the game.

In the end, I won. I go for the three-peat next season.

Fantasy Basketball

I won that too, for the second year in a row, and third time in seven years.

There’s not much to talk about, since most of the teams didn’t try at all. My undefeated Head-to-Head record will attest to that. That almost worked against me in the finals because I wasn’t used to having to pick up players every day. I was out of practice and didn’t know what my team needed.

Nevertheless, I won. It wasn’t as fun as hockey, though.

Oh, my team name was the Horford Whalers. Again, my sister came up with it.

Yeah, that league might fold. We’ll see.

Now onto fantasy baseball.

Fantasy Baseball

I was in a 12-team fantasy baseball league last year for the first time and ended up winning it. If you’re keeping track, I’ve won 5 fantasy leagues in a row.

Listen, I’m the most humble person you’ll meet in real life. But give me a keyboard, and my fingers will type up words that make it look like I’m bragging a little too much. Just know it’s not me, it’s my fingers. I have no control. 

I got the sense that that league wasn’t going to make it to a second year, so I started thinking of making my own. Unfortunately, I came to the realization that I don’t know enough people who A) like baseball, and B) would want to play fantasy baseball.

But I knew bloggers who did! Hey Becky and Reid!

So in my head I was putting a league together before I even mentioned it to anyone. I had those two, plus me, plus my best friend, plus another friend, and maybe we each bring one more person in…that would be about 8-10.

We got 9 people, which I was happy with.

Where do I go from here….

Fantasy baseball isn’t a sprint. It isn’t a marathon, either. It is a triple marathon, with a 1000 metre mud pit in the middle, that seagulls flock to because someone threw bird seeds in it.

The standings fluctuate every day and the team in first place is never safe. It’s like the Tour de France. You tune in and see the leader in a breakaway group that is 7 minutes ahead of the peloton and then by the end of the race, he’s fallen back so far you don’t even remember what colour his helmet was, let alone his name.

My team is in third place, but my players frustrate me every five minutes. You’d think I’d know by now that baseball is a game built around failing the majority of the time. Nope.

“0 for 4 for the third game in a row? What are you doing?” – Inner thoughts

My offence is okay. My pitching is holding me back. On paper, they’re great. That’s where my frustration kicks in.

Jon “I have the yips and can’t throw to first base” Lester, Chris “I play for the Rays, what do you want me to do?” Archer, and Sonny “No shades of” Gray, triple-handedly blew up my ERA and WHIP. So now I’m scrambling to get those numbers down but it’s so hard.

I dropped Gray last week because I believe in sending passive aggressive messages to the rest of my fake collection of players.

Lester and Archer aren’t really names you drop in a fantasy league, so I’m forced to stick with them…for now. Dun dun dun.

But other than that, I think it’s going well. I hope the others are enjoying it, or at least enjoying the struggle of it.

It’s important to set mini goals for your team throughout the season, so they keep their eyes on the pri…I’ve lost my mind.

Fantasy Football?

A couple of weeks ago I was thinking of ways to test my fantasy sport dominance (Again, that’s the fingers talking, not me, not Humble Pie Paul). I’ve never done fantasy football, I’m not as familiar with the players as I was in 2004, and I haven’t been following the NFL as closely in recent years.

That being said, I think it would be fun to throw a league together later this year – one that is built around bloggers,

I’m just putting that out there. Plant a bird seed, if you will. If you’re interested, let me know. If you’re not interested, I’ll probably still pester you near the end of August if I think you might want to participate.

I’m done.

Basically, all you needed to know from this blog post was that I really like sports, stats, and friendly competition winning.

Feel free to share your fantasy sport frustrations, or triumphs, below. 

Bonus: I need to stop filling out NHL and NBA playoff brackets. I am awful at them because I mix what I want to happen with what I think will happen, which results in me picking the wrong team most of the time.

Posted in Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Same Old Surprise

You’re doing it again
I know you know why
there’s nothing we can do
there’s nothing left to try
just one more time, it’ll be alright
tonight, you’ll cry
tomorrow, you’ll lie
and yesterday should’ve been goodbye

so go ahead and smile as the raindrops race
to the bottom of the window, opposite your face
the clouds are out tonight, they’ll carry you home
slouched in the backseat, you’re always alone

if I could draw a dream it would look like you tonight
we would sleep all day just to sit by the moonlight
it won’t get dark unless you close your eyes
but leave them open and it’s the same old surprise

you don’t know what to think
you don’t know how to feel
you’ve been here before
and none of it is real
it’s easier to dream
it’s easier to pretend
for when the thoughts fly by
there’s one less broken heart to mend.

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The 2018 Toronto Raptors: Are We There Yet?

There’s a small pillow in my bedroom that sits on my rocking chair. It’s black, has the Toronto Raptors original logo on it, and 1995 is credited as the copyright date.

I got it when I was in kindergarten because, for some reason, we were told to bring in a pillow so we could go take a nap in the gym. I’m pretty sure it was a one-time thing.

Instead of lugging around the pillow that I slept with, my mom bought me a smaller one. By my measurements, it’s about 17 inches by 16 inches, which means it’s a square and I didn’t measure it properly.

Tucked inside a drawer are my old sport jerseys I no longer have a reason to wear. Among them are two Vince Carter jerseys from his time with the Raptors. One is white with purple trim and the other is red, with red all over. It’s red, okay. I can’t make that more clear.

On my shelf is a Morris Peterson bobblehead, which I got at a Raptors game a few years ago. It was a pain to take out of the box. The small bits of styrofoam kept sticking to my hands and it took me a while to rid myself of them. My sister still laughs about it.

In my closet is a DeMar DeRozan jersey. It’s purple, with purple all over. It’s purple, okay. I can’t make that more clear.

Don’t mind me, just using repetition for rhetorical effect. Shoutout high school English class.

The point I’m trying to make here is that I’m a hoarder.

The point I’m trying to make here is that I’ve been a fan of the Toronto Raptors since the beginning. I may not remember the inaugural season in 1995; I was too busy tripping over hula hoops on the playground. True story.

But I remember the second season onward. I remember watching games on TV when they played out of the SkyDome. I remember players like Oliver Miller and Doug Christie. In the late nineties there was Chauncey Billups, who couldn’t find a team that would keep him.

I would record games with the VCR and watch them the next day. I did the same thing with hockey games, so I had to be sure to put a label on each tape. I had such initiative.

Then in 1999, there was the first game at the Air Canada Centre. The Raptors played the Vancouver Grizzlies and I recall the game being on while I was in the kitchen eating dinner. I left the TV on and after each bite I stood up to look in the family room and see how the game was going.

I don’t know why I was so addicted. No one else in my family was. Then again, I became interested in most sports on my own.

I still remember the first time I found baseball on TV. I was flipping channels, it caught my eye, and I flipped back to it. Then I taught myself the rules and learned what the numbers on the screen meant. I was probably 6-years-old.

The same thing happened with lacrosse a few years later. I saw it on TV once, made a mental note of when it was on, and always looked for it around the same time and day. 

In 2001, the Raptors were finally looking like a legitimate team. I could probably name you most of the roster, even the players who never saw the floor.

We had Vince Carter. Bam.

We had Charles Oakley. Bam.

We had the Junk Yard Dog, Jerome Williams.

We had Alvin Williams, who was tougher than nails.

We had Dell Curry (Steph’s father) coming off the bench and hitting threes.

We had Antonio Davis, Chris Childs, and Corliss Williamson.

We had Tracy Murray, who always had a smooth shooting stroke in NBA Jam 99.

There was Keon Clark coming off the bench, who had arms longer than the front door of your house and could block shots while sitting down.

There was Yogi Stewart and Mamadou N’Diaye who never saw the floor, but I got excited when they did.

This team won 47 games, a total that wasn’t matched until 2007, and wasn’t surpassed until 2014.

The playoff ride with that team was great. There was a local pizza place (it’s no longer in business) that my family would order a party size pizza from and we’d save the extra slices in the freezer.

For the playoff games, I’d take a slice out of the freezer, heat it up in the microwave, and eat it during the first quarter.

That’s when I really honed my pizza-heating-up expertise. The trick is to heat up one slice at a time, or else they’re all fighting for the same heat, but there isn’t enough to go around, so all slices suffer, and none of them are warm.

Games were on CTV back then and hosted in studio by Suneel Joshi. He was the best.

The Raptors season ended in the second round when Vince Carter missed a shot at the buzzer of Game 7 in Philadelphia. That morning, he attended his university graduation ceremony in North Carolina.

Why was Vince allowed to go to that on the day of the biggest game of his life? Who let him go? It doesn’t matter anymore. I don’t even think it mattered back then. (I’m alone in that opinion). If he made the shot at the buzzer to win the game, no one would even remember he went to his graduation that day.

From there, the Raptors fell apart. Vince Carter was traded away for two guys named Williams, a guy who never even entered the country (Alonzo Mourning) because he wanted nothing to do with us, and a draft pick that turned into Joey Graham.

Hopeless. Wearing my Vince Carter jerseys to school would be no more. He was public enemy number one. The discourse surrounding his trade was that he quit on the team.

Years later, we found out the other sides of the story.

Regardless, the Raptors were in for some bad years until Chris Bosh emerged as the next star of the team and took us to the playoffs in 2007 and 2008. We never got out of the first round.

He took his talents to South Beach and the Raptors were back to being a draft lottery team.

In the 2013-14 season, they tried to tank. They traded Rudy Gay away to Sacramento and were ready to ship Kyle Lowry off to the New York Knicks, but Knicks owner, James Dolan, stepped in and thought he was being swindled once again by Raptors General Manager, Masai Ujiri.

Ujiri had previously unloaded Bargnani on him, and had fleeced them in the Carmelo Anthony deal when he was with Denver. James Dolan went all, “Fool me thrice, shame on you” and rejected the deal.

THANK YOU, JAMES DOLAN.

The Raptors made a run and finished the season with 48 wins. They were elminated from the playoffs by the Brooklyn Nets in the first round.

But it’s fine. We’ll get ’em next year! I still remember Kyle Lowry face down on the floor at the end of that game after his shot had been blocked at the buzzer.

In 2015, the Raptors won 49 games. Alright, this is it! It’s happening! We’re doing it! We’re doing it!

Bam. Swept in the first round by the Washington Wizards.

Swept?

Swept.

The off-season came and we were told by management that the makeup of the team was flawed. We had the wrong players.

Alright. No worries. We’re still a good team. We have Kyle and DeMar. Let’s build it better. Faster. Stronger.

In 2016, the Raptors won 56 games. Now we’re talking! Before we were whispering. Now, we’re talking!

They defeated the Indiana Pacers in the first round in seven games.

They defeated the Miami Heat in the second round in seven games.

And now was the test of tests. No more cheating off your neighbour’s paper, or doing a class consensus when the teacher leaves the room. The real test was here.

LeBron James.

The first two games of the series were ugly. How ugly? Like a lasagna without the layers of pasta.

But you know what, the next two games would be at home. We’re good at home! And wouldn’t you know it, the Raptors won the next two games at home.

“Back to Cleveland, MacDuff!” – Shakespeare

We lost Game 5. We came home and lost Game 6.

LeBron James stood on our floor and was in awe of our crowd as the Raptors left the floor. He gave us the validation and recognition that we’ve been seeking since day one.

We had gone from that upstart basketball team in Canada, which was named after a dinosaur movie, and played out of a baseball stadium, to the team that made the best player in the game look around and say, “You know what, you’re alright.”

Finally, we had made it.

Until last year. The Raptors won 51 games. Not quite 56, but still, 51 wins isn’t anything to blow your nose in a handkerchief about.

However, we’d get Cleveland in the second round. They swept us in four games. It wasn’t close. I don’t want to talk about it.

That finally brings us to this year. The Raptors won 59 games this season and finished first in the Eastern Conference.

We have the best bench in the NBA, with players that fans outside of this country didn’t know about until halfway through the season.

Before, the Raptors played a style that relied on Kyle and DeMar way too much. Their substitution strategy was built around always have at least one of them in the game at all times. Without either of them on the floor, the team had no direction.

In the playoffs, it was easy to shut them down. Send two guys at DeMar and force him to pass to someone not as good. Same thing with Kyle. Then people wonder why those two struggle in the playoffs.

They’ve never had much of a supporting cast. The players they were passing to could never make an open shot, which only forced Kyle and DeMar to hold onto the ball and try and make something happen on their own.

It didn’t work.

This season was different. Head Coach Dwane Casey had a bench (most of them) that had already spent a season together in the D-League (now named the G-League) last year, where they won the championship.

Delon Wright. Fred VanVleet. Pascal Siakam. Jakub Poeltl. Norman Powell. C.J. Miles.

You see those names on paper at the start of the season and wonder how this bench will score more than 10 points in a game. I know I wondered that. I was skeptical.

They proved me wrong. The ball was zipping around. They were sharing it. Easy buckets here. A C.J. Miles three there. A one man fast break from Siakam. A big block from Poeltl. A dunk from Powell. Hey bada boom, bada bing.

This bench outplayed a lot of starting units this year. To end games, Casey wouldn’t automatically default back to his starters like he had done in previous years. Sometimes, it would be Kyle, DeMar, VanVleet, Siakam, and Poeltl closing a game.

I don’t think anyone could’ve seen that coming at the start of the season.

So now they enter the playoffs as the first seed in the East and face off against the Washington Wizards – the team that swept them three years ago.

Am I nervous? A little bit. I think the entire fanbase is.

That’s why I asked the question in the title of this post: Are we there yet?

Are we there yet?

Where is “there”?

“There” is the top of the NBA. Are we the cream of the crop? Are we an elite team? Are we finally in a place where we can defeat LeBron James in a 7-game series? Are we there yet?

We’ll find out.

The Wizards present an interesting challenge in the first round. I’m scared of John Wall running circles around us, but he hasn’t been completely healthy all year and their team doesn’t have the depth the Raptors have.

But there’s still that little ounce of doubt. I hate that it’s there, but it is. We don’t win the first game of playoff series. We just don’t. Take my word for it.

If we lose Game 1 to Washington on Saturday, there will be some people who will be saying, “Same old Raptors.” The American media can’t wait to say that. They’re practicing their delivery of that sentence right now.

To hear that hurts us. Because it’s a sign that we aren’t there yet. If we can’t be taken seriously, and are perpetually seen as chokers, we aren’t there.

Getting by the Wizards in the first round means we get LeBron in the second round.

Sorry, Indiana. I just eliminated you from the playoffs.

That’ll be the true test. Beating LeBron four times is a daunting task. It’s the reason why no Eastern Conference team has been able to do it since 2010.

People want to talk about how the Raptors always choke in the playoffs. Well, they haven’t the last two years. They lost to LeBron. That isn’t choking. That’s just the way it is.

Did they choke when they got swept by the Wizards? Yes.

And when they lost to Brooklyn the year before that? Sure.

But those teams weren’t meant to win anything, especially the team that lost to Brooklyn.

By now, the roster is completely different. This isn’t your teenager’s Raptors, or however that saying goes. The players that have remained are older and have experience they didn’t have back when they “choked”.

I’ve been following the Raptors for a long time. The relics in my bedroom, and the memories in my head, are proof.

These playoffs are important.

The Raptors either announce to the basketball world that yes, we are there. That we are one of the best teams in the league and we just proved it in the playoffs.

Or, the Raptors do what they’ve always done. They lose. And they play into the narrative that’s been there far too long – the one that says we aren’t capable of performing when it matters the most.

Come Saturday, the playoffs begin.

“Toronto over Everything” is nice. “We The North” is nice. “The 6ix” secretly annoys me to no end, but I’ll stick to the script and call it nice. Drake sitting court side and trash-talking the opponent is nice.

But nice has gotten us nowhere.

Nice has not brought us there.

And to get there, we have to act like we belong there.

So, let’s belong. Let’s go Raptors.

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2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview

The first time I ever wrote a playoff preview article was in Grade 6 for a group assignment about newspapers. Newspapers! What an inventive way of preparing us for the future.

I still remember doing a preview for a series between the Ottawa Senators and Philadelphia Flyers and including a picture of Daniel Alfredsson and Mark Recchi. It was one the first times that a school assignment didn’t feel like work.

With that in mind, here is my preview for the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Note: Predictions are silly, unless you’re right, so I’ll include predictions in this post for the fun of it. In my mind, I’m 100% correct, but in reality, the rest is still unwritten. What the heck did I just quote?

Note 2: I’m not going to go on a tangent about how ridiculous the playoff seeding in the NHL is. Just know that it’s ridiculous.

Note 3: I may never get to the actual previews if I keep doing these notes, but they’re important! I’m of the belief that the playoffs are 75% mental and 25% skill, while the regular season is 75% skill and 25% mental. The reason I say that is because every team that makes the playoffs has skill. They wouldn’t be there if they didn’t. What it comes down to is how each team handles the pressure, circumstance, and their opponent. Experience plays a factor in that.

Eastern Conference – Round 1

Tampa Bay Lightning (1) vs. New Jersey Devils (WC2)

I think the Tampa Bay Lightning are a hungry team that has been trying to get back to the Finals since 2015, but have been unable to due to the injuries sustained by Steven Stamkos. I think this team has a potato chip on their shoulder and have a lot of frustration they’d like to turn into motivation.

As for the Devils, they made the playoffs on the backs of Taylor Hall and their backup goalie, Keith Kinkaid. Who saw that coming? I think they can win a game or two in this series, but that’s it. This is the season that wets their appetite for the future.

Prediction: Tampa Bay Lightning

Boston Bruins (2) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (3)

On Easter, my grandfather and I were watching a game between Boston and Philadelphia. He kept saying how tough and physical Boston is. When it was made official that the Leafs would face the Bruins, my mom also mentioned how tough Boston is. Neither of them like this matchup for the Leafs.

The Leafs didn’t look overmatched last year when they faced the Capitals in the playoffs. They only won two games, but it was the first time this group had been there. It was a learning experience. They’re better this year and Mike Babcock knows how to get this team to play a certain way. As a Leafs fan, I’m not scared of the Bruins.

I might have a full blog post tomorrow just about the Leafs.

Prediction: Toronto Maple Leafs

Washington Capitals (1) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (WC1)

Why should I take the Washington Capitals seriously? They never do anything in the playoffs and this year, they’re not even going with Braden Holtby in net since he’s been awful down the stretch. Stars have to align in order to win the Cup, I think the Capitals need a ruler just to keep them straight.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are the kid that is picked on over and over again, before they reach a breaking point and fight back. I think this is their year to fight back. I think they knock off the Capitals and go on to knock off the Penguins in the next round, too. I believe they’re in the right frame of mind to do that.

Prediction: Columbus Blue Jackets

Pittsburgh Penguins (2) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (3)

It’s hard to bet against the Pittsburgh Penguins, especially because they’ve won the Stanley Cup two years in a row. Eventually, you have to bet against them. They can’t win the Cup every year, this isn’t the NBA. I worry about their goaltending, but not in round one.

The Flyers looked terrible early in the season and many thought they’d fire their coach. All of a sudden they’re in the playoffs. However, not everything has changed. They still lack solid goaltending – something they haven’t had since Robert Esche in the early 2000s, and even then, he was a glorified backup. I’d love to see them win this series, but the Penguins are too much for them at this point.

Prediction: Pittsburgh Penguins

Western Conference – Round 1

Nashville Predators (1) vs. Colorado Avalanche (WC2)

The Nashville Predators breezed through the regular season like a team that knows this year is all about getting back to the Finals and winning the Stanley Cup. Mr. Underwood Fisher came out of retirement near the end of the season, to help out, so that is this team’s “feel good” moment of the year and extra layer of motivation.

The Colorado Avalanche were caught up in an avalanche known as Matt Duchene’s trade request. Once they traded him to Ottawa, Nathan MacKinnon’s alarm clock went off and he turned into the superstar everyone thought he could be. I’d love to see them win this series, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. The Predators have too much on the line, while the Avalanche are just wetting their appetite, like the Devils.

Prediction: Nashville Predators

Winnipeg Jets (2) vs. Minnesota Wild (3)

I think people need to calm down with the Winnipeg Jets hype. I get it, they’re a really good team. But they haven’t won a playoff game since returning to Winnipeg, and the franchise as a whole (Atlanta Thrashers from 1999-2011) has never won a playoff series. The idea that they’re going to march all the way to a Stanley Cup is weird to me, just because I believe teams need to lose in the playoffs before they can win.

Minnesota is without a couple of defensemen and look like they could get steam rolled, but don’t be surprised if they sneak out a win in Game 1 in Winnipeg. I expect the Jets to be a bit over hyped for that game, which could be a negative.

Prediction: Winnipeg Jets

Vegas Golden Knights (1) vs. Los Angeles Kings (WC1)

The Golden Knights are the sweetheart of the NHL right now and for good reason. No expansion team has ever been so good. But this is the playoffs and that franchise has never been there before, and oh yeah, they’re going up against a team that has won two Cups since 2012.

If there is one team in the NHL that won’t be distracted by the allure of the night life of Las Vegas, it’s Los Angeles. You think they don’t know how to deal with distractions? Couple that with how much experience they have, and the fact that they have not won a playoff playoff round since their last Cup in 2014. I wouldn’t want to face them. They have too much to prove.

Prediction: Los Angeles Kings

Anaheim Ducks (2) vs. San Jose Sharks (3)

This was a toss up for me. The quack pack from Anaheim plays a heavy game and Randy Carlyle likes to match lines. The depth on his roster ensures that even when he doesn’t have the last change, he won’t be overmatched.

The Sharks are starting the playoffs without Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau for the first time since 1953 (or thereabouts). Thornton may come back, but Marleau is in Toronto, so the Sharks will need their younger players to step up. A lot of things have to go right for a team to win a playoff series and the fact that Thornton will miss at least one game doesn’t sit well with me. I think the Sharks are retooling and this isn’t their year.

Prediction: Anaheim Ducks

As far as the second round shakes down, I have the Leafs beating the Lightning, because I don’t fear the Lightning. I also have Columbus beating Pittsburgh because it’s time for them to stand up to the bully.

In the West, I have Nashville defeating Winnipeg because Nashville is on a mission, while the Jets could use some heartbreak as motivation for next year. Then I have the LA Kings defeating the Ducks because I think the Kings are rejuvenated this year and are out to prove a point to the rest of the Western Conference.

In the Eastern Conference Final, I have the Leafs defeating Columbus, which just feels wrong, I know, but that’s the way my bracket turned out. If I were smarter I’d have Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay in the Conference Final, but where’s the fun in that? Plus, I’m biased, even though I’ll deny it.

In the Western Conference Final, I have the Nashville Predators over the LA Kings. LA will have been through two very physical series and will feel the effects of it in this one.

In the Stanley Cup Final, I chose the Predators to defeat the Maple Leafs because it’s bad luck to pick you favourite team to win the Stanley Cup. Also, that whole Nashville is on a mission thing, while the Leafs are still too young to win it all. The Leafs will go into next season with a lot of optimism and then fall short of the Finals. I hate that I just wrote that, but sports are like that.

Alright, that is all!

I don’t expect many of these predictions to be correct, but I was able to justify them in my head, which is good enough for me.

Let me know what you think below!

Happy Hockey!

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WrestleMania 34

Write about what you like, right?

A couple of years ago, I wrote about my love of professional wrestling, which you can read HERE, if you want.

I know that most of my readers won’t care about this, but that’s the beauty of blogging. You can learn about things you know nothing about and all you have to do is read.

Going forward, I hope to write about wrestling more often. I’ll do my best to explain things as I go, so everyone knows what I’m talking about. I took a course about wrestling in university, so I’m qualified.

If you’d like to explore the world of professional wrestling via the lens called my brain, I invite you in with opens arms. If you’ve already closed this window and are scrolling down your Reader looking for anything else, I hope your dinner falls on the floor tonight.

Sorry, that was too harsh. How about just dropping your fork on the floor, so you have to get up and get a new one? Nah, let’s stick with the whole dinner. They aren’t reading this anyway.

Last night, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) held WrestleMania 34, which was held at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. The show was over seven hours long.

I think the easiest way for me to comment on it is to go match by match, in no particular order.

Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns (WWE Universal Championship)

We’ve known for a year that this match was coming. Not because the WWE announced it a year ago, but because it was obvious. Also because wrestling fans read the internet to quench our desire for inside information.

WWE has been trying to turn Reigns into the next big babyface (good guy) of the company for many years now. It hasn’t been working because the fans don’t like him. They will boo him out of the building, and they have.

Meanwhile, Brock Lesnar only shows up a few times a year. This could be its own blog post. It’s no wonder the WWE has been struggling to make new stars, when their champion is a part-timer who only shows up for big shows.

Anyway, Lesnar was apparently going back to the UFC and his WWE contract expired yesterday. (It was announced today that he was re-signed. Hopefully not for long, I can’t deal with this anymore). So everyone expected Reigns to win.

Roman Reigns didn’t win.

Lesnar has had the championship since WrestleMania 33 and I’m tired of it. Just move on to someone else. Give it to someone who’s there every week. Give it to someone who needs it.

Kurt Angle & Ronda Rousey vs. Triple H & Stephanie McMahon

I am all aboard the Ronda Rousey hype train. I don’t think anyone was expecting much from her last night in her first match. Dare I say she looked incredible in the ring? Couldn’t even tell she’d never had a match before.

I could see her and Charlotte Flair in the main event of WrestleMania as early as next year.

Braun Strowman & Mystery Partner vs. Sheamus & Cesaro (c) (RAW Tag Team Championship)

I’ve never really been a fan of Sheamus and Cesaro, as a tag team, or on their own.

Braun Strowman has been busy flipping ambulances on their side for the past year, as he’s been built up as a monster. The fans like him. I like him. He’s subtly hilarious.

Alright, so the whole thing around this match was that Strowman needed a partner. Wrestling fans expected the partner to be a big name returning.

Nope.

Strowman scanned the crowd, picked out a shy 10-year-old boy named Nicholas, and brought him into the ring. Strowman went on to win the match on his own, thus making Nicholas one half of the RAW Tag Team Champions.

Normally, I’d be all for a story like this, but I found the whole thing to be extremely hokey.

Apparently, Nicholas is the son of one of the WWE referees. How long could this storyline possibly last? Never mind the fact that the kid can’t wrestle, he has school.

HE HAS SCHOOL.

Part of me is hoping the Authors of Pain (a monstrous tag team) get called up from NXT (the minor league of WWE) tonight and win the championships from them. Unless the WWE plans to have a different kid in each city step up and be Strowman’s partner…

I hope not.

AJ Styles (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (WWE Championship)

This was supposed to be a dream match, but by all accounts, it didn’t live up to the hype. I figured it wouldn’t. These two would’ve needed about 40 minutes to have a legendary match. They had 20 minutes.

Styles won the match and afterwards, Nakamura hit Styles with a low blow, officially turning heel (bad guy).

I was happy with that. Nakamura hasn’t done much since coming to the main roster, maybe this will give him a push.

The Undertaker vs. John Cena

The whole build up for this match was Cena coming out on TV every week to challenge The Undertaker, without ever getting a response. So Cena attended WrestleMania as a fan, until he got word from a referee that the match was happening, so he ran like a cartoon character to the back to prepare.

The Undertaker won in just under three minutes, in what was a glorified squash match. A squash match is a match that is one-sided and ends quickly.

Ten years ago, this match would’ve been half an hour and the best match of the night.

Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss (c) (RAW Women’s Championship)

Ah, the good old “former best friends turned rivals” storyline.

Alexa Bliss is a great heel. She’s five feet tall but talks as if she’s eight feet tall. I’m a fan.

Nia Jax deservedly won her first championship last night and at this point, she will probably hold onto it for most of the year, while spreading her “Not like most girls” message to the youth.

Daniel Bryan & Shane McMahon vs. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn

Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon are the General Manager and Commissioner, respectively, of SmackDown Live. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn are two best friends that don’t like authority and beat up their bosses.

Owens and Zayn were then fired.

But wait, after three years of retirement due to concussion issues, Daniel Bryan was finally cleared by WWE doctors to wrestle again! Every wrestling fan was/is thrilled about this.

So when that happened, this match was made. If Owens and Zayn won, they would be reinstated. If they lost, they’d stay fired.

Owens and Zayn lost, which means they are “fired”. Which really means, they’ll end up on Monday Night RAW in the coming weeks.

I’m okay if Shane McMahon never wrestles again. He’s more of a stunt man. But now that he’s older, it just doesn’t work. His match against Kurt Angle from King of the Ring 2001 will always be a favourite of mine to watch on YouTube, as are the rest of his stunts, but it’s time to call it quits on the wrestling, Shane.

As for Owens and Zayn, I just want them to get a championship and keep it forever. They’re great.

The Bludgeon Brothers vs. The Usos (c) vs. The New Day (SmackDown Tag Team Championship) 

It still baffles me how in the PG era of WWE, a tag team can be called “The Bludgeon Brothers” and walk to the ring with mallets.

But anyway, that’s wrestling!

I think The Usos have been in the WWE for nine years and this is the first time they were on the main card at WrestleMania. It’s long overdue. They’ve been really, really good the last couple of years.

The New Day are a comedic trio, who love unicorns and pancakes. Again, that’s wrestling!

I’d love to see The New Day split up, or at the very least, let Big E go after a championship that he doesn’t need a partner for.

Oh, The Bludgeon Brothers won.

Jinder Mahal vs. Randy Orton (c) vs. Bobby Roode vs. Rusev (United States Champion)

Let me put this into context. Jinder Mahal is the worst team in any professional sports league, but ends up winning the championship. That’s him. That’s what he was, at least.

Last year, they made him WWE Champion after years and years of him not doing anything except losing matches, and not even in an entertaining way.

The idea was that his title run would help the WWE expand into India.

No one took him seriously as WWE Champion and we had to endure many months of it until he finally lost the title.

But at WrestleMania, he won the United States Championship. I don’t think anyone saw this coming. The guy with all the momentum was Rusev, who has proclaimed that every day is Rusev Day. The crowd was begging for it. Nope. Another Mahal title run.

I don’t even know if people dislike him because he’s a really good heel, or if we just want him to go away. Probably the latter, which isn’t good.

You can’t hinder, Jinder.

Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka (SmackDown Women’s Championship)

Asuka hasn’t lost a match since coming over to the WWE from Japan, which is over two years. That includes her time in NXT. Asuka won the first ever women’s Royal Rumble which gave her the right to choose between Charlotte Flair or Alexa Bliss for a championship match at WrestleMania.

She chose Charlotte – the daughter of Ric Flair.

No one saw it coming, but Charlotte won. She beat the streak! After all that buildup! Asuka didn’t even get a championship out of it.

For context: Four years ago, WrestleMania was held in the same stadium in New Orleans. The Undertaker had been undefeated at WrestleMania, going 21-0, until that year when Brock Lesnar beat him and broke the streak.

Everyone was stunned.

So I guess it makes sense that Charlotte won. She is the best female wrestler in the world and New Orleans is the place where streaks die.

But man, now what does Asuka do?

Seth Rollins vs. The Miz (c) vs. Finn Balor (Intercontinental Championship)

All three of these guys should be fighting for the Universal Championship, but Lesnar has that thing on lockdown, so they’re forced to battle it out for a secondary championship.

The Miz is great. He’s been a heel for his entire WWE career because he just has a face that’s easy to dislike. Lately, he’s been a bit more likeable, and he just became a Dad about 10 days ago, so everything is sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows with him.

Seth Rollins won this match. He’s been stealing the show lately and, in my mind, should always have a championship belt around his waist.

Finn Balor needs something. He just needs something.

Well, those are my thoughts. This post could’ve gone on for about 5000 words, but I would’ve lost myself, let alone all of you.

If you read this until the very end, I appreciate you. I hope to write about wrestling more often, even if it’s just prediction posts for upcoming events.

Thanks for reading, I hope you learned something new!

Posted in Sports | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

My First Trip To Costco

Who wants to hear a story? Great! Gather around and don’t spill your juice box on the carpet. Someone always does. It’s the reason our Kindergarten teachers never trusted us with any food or drink on the carpet. Only duct tape was allowed, so we knew where to sit. Obedient little rug rats, we were.

Have I stalled long enough? Is everyone here? Good.

For the uninitiated, Costco Wholesale Corporation is a membership-only warehouse, which sells just about everything. It’s a great place to buy groceries if you want to buy in bulk.

Essentially, Costco is the place you go to if you need a bath tub but want to buy an entire ocean. Does that make sense? I think it makes sense.

The story I’m about to tell you is from a couple of months ago.

Is it weird that the first time I went to Costco is in 2018? I don’t know. It could be weird. I could be an anomaly.

My family never had a membership until the last few years, so I’ve never really had an excuse to go. You can’t go to the other side of the world if you don’t have a plane ticket.

And let me tell you, walking into Costco for the first time was like entering a different world.

They should really just call themselves Costco Rica, at this point. Any objections? No. Costco Rica it is.

But this story starts before that. It starts in the parking lot. I’ve heard, and seen, stories of how vicious a Costco parking lot can be. So I had my elbows up, ready to fly, if needed.

Alright, my elbows weren’t really up, but if they were it was because I was in a winter jacket and was like Randy from A Christmas Story, when his family tightly wrapped him in his snowsuit and he said, “I can’t put my arms down.”

If that joke resonated with at least one person, I’m satisfied.

We parked in the furthest spot from the door. Right next to our car was a buggy.

Most mortals call it a “shopping cart”, but I call it a “buggy” because I am not from this planet.

Growing up, I was always the buggy pusher when I went grocery shopping with my mom. It was so much fun. I was a total pro. It was like a real life video game. Navigate the obstacles and avoid the banana peels on the floor.

So I grabbed the buggy next to our car and pushed it all the way through the parking lot, into the store. Being a buggy aficionado, I immediately realized the dimensions of it were much larger than I was used to.

I felt like I was pushing a jacuzzi, or a float in the Santa Claus Parade.

We get in the store and my mom has to show her membership card. I felt like I was a member of some secret society, like Homer Simpson was with the Stonecutters.

We do! We do! 

Anyone get that reference?

The security to get in and out of this place was tighter than…tighter than…please hold while I think of a comparison.

The security to get in and out of this place was tighter than the 2014 Winter Classic at The Big House in Detroit, Michigan. There were over 100,000 people at that stadium, yet I walked through the gates and at most, the security personnel breathed the same oxygen I did for two seconds.

No one searched me. I didn’t go through a metal detector. It was colder than cold (Ice cold!) that day and I was a walking 12-layer lasagna, but no one bothered to check if I was sneaking something nefarious in.

Of course, I never would. But still.

Costco, though, they stop everyone at the door. Thou shalt not pass without a membership.

My first impression of the warehouse was, “Oh, so this is the place that will be overrun first, when the zombie apocalypse comes. Got it.”

My second impression was, “Did I make a wrong turn and enter a Home Depot by accident?”

It did not feel like a grocery store, at all.

There were people everywhere. It’s as if someone kicked an ant hill and the ants were frantically dispersing.

I hate that about large crowds. You realize that people don’t really know how to walk, so everyone has to overcorrect their own walking pattern. And when buggies are involved, the stakes are raised.

I wasn’t in the store for more than 60 seconds before my buggy almost got T-Boned by a reckless buggy pusher. The near-accident was never going to be my fault. I’m a buggy aficionado, remember? That gives me immunity.

The main reason we were there was to buy cases of water that were on sale. I was there to lift the heavy cases.

I wasn’t in the mood for browsing. I’m a very “get in, get out” person when it comes to shopping. I go in with a general game plan of what I’m looking for, and then when I see it, I’ll know if I want it. Then I get out.

So after the near buggy accident, I had my mom direct me to the water. Let’s make this quick.

Along the way to the water, I noticed sampling stations set up. I don’t want to poo-poo a sampling station because who doesn’t like free things, especially food?

But if you think I was going to stop, park my buggy, and wiggle my way through a crowd of 10 people to get something attached to a toothpick, you’ve got the wrong person.

That being said, I have no clue what the free sample was. I had an empty road (aisle) ahead of me and I was going to enjoy it, like a dog with his head out the window of a moving car.

After loading the water into the buggy, my steering was impaired by the weight. I felt like a Formula One car going through Monaco. I could only hope that when people saw me coming, they’d leave some room.

HA!

I don’t know if I was wearing an invisibility cloak, or what, but people seemed to like to walk directly at my buggy. I don’t understand it. Do you want to get hit?

The place was a zoo and it wasn’t even a weekend. I’ve never gone Boxing Day shopping, but I’m assuming this is what it must be like.

From the water, we went over to the cookie section because why drink water if it’s not washing anything down?

That was a joke.

It’s amazing how bad cookies can look once you look at the price tag. They could be the most scrumtrulescent thing that your taste buds ever touch, but $8 for a case of cookies scared me off.

Also, I’ve had those particular cookies before, and although they tasted great, there were always clumps of sugar left in the container, as well as on the backside of each cookie.

Too sweet.

Yes, I’m turning into an old man.

Long story, short, we headed to the check-out line.

We joined a line and the lady in front of us turned around and stared right at me.

RIGHT. AT. ME.

Eye contact was made, kids. The kind of eye contact that says, “Hey I just met you, and this is crazy, but I’m a stranger who’s going to start a conversation with you in 5…4…3…2…

I darted my eyes away. Shut it down.

And then she made eye contact with my mom. Oh no. Don’t look into the eyes!

My mom and I are notorious for strangers coming up to us and asking questions, or starting random conversations. We don’t know why.

I guess it’s a compliment. Perhaps we always look like the most welcoming people in the room? Who knows.

For the moment, we had avoided a conversation with this person, but lines are long and time stands still, so a few minutes later, she turned around again and started talking to us.

I don’t even remember what she said.

Oh wait, I might. She was there to buy flowers and came across a piece of clothing she liked. I stood there thinking, “Why would you come to Costco for flowers and clothes, when you could avoid the chaos and do that anywhere else?”

As we were approaching the cashier, I noticed that we had to say goodbye to our buggy. Our buggy would be passed to the cashier behind the counter and they would scan and bag items from there.

What!?!?

There wasn’t even a sign telling us to do this, so if I were there by myself, I would’ve loaded everything onto the conveyor belt, brought the buggy with me, and looked like a fool.

That’s a pet peeve of mine. If you’re relying on someone to follow a certain protocol, make sure you have directions somewhere to instruct people who have never done it before.

You have to educate before you can expect. Someone should put that on a t-shirt.

As soon as it was our turn to pay, I abandoned ship and went to their Food window to get myself some lunch.

I ordered chicken fingers and fries because I have never been let down by an order of chicken fingers and fries.

Before we could leave the store, we had to join a queue so they could check our receipt. I understand why they do it, but my chicken fingers and fries don’t have time to stand in line. They lose heat. Time is of the essence here!

I was expecting them to take my chicken-fingerprints at this point.

I should’ve asked them if they ever caught the buggy pusher who almost ran into me, but they probably would’ve said they’d check the surveillance footage and get back to me. Then they’d ask for an e-mail and phone number they could reach me at, but really they just wanted me to be on their mailing list. So I never asked about the wild buggy pusher.

Leaving the store felt like I was exiting Halloweentown and returning to the real world. It was like I went through a portal.

I’m not here to bash Costco – this is a humour post. Costco is a dog-eat-dog-eat-samples world, and a good place to study human behaviour.

It’s just not for me. Give me a nice grocery store, with a bakery smell that hits you as you enter, and I’m a happy customer.

I think that’s what I like about grocery stores the most. You’re greeted by the smell of fresh bread and pastries, which you’re forced to track down as you make your way through the store.

It’s like a scavenger hunt.

Will I ever return to Costco some day? Never say never; maybe say maybe.

The End.

Feel free to share any thoughts you may have after reading this story. Did you relate to any of it? Do you have any Costco/grocery store-related stories to tell?

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Two Chairs

I don’t remember the street being so old
I don’t remember the basement feeling this cold
I don’t remember the sign in the grass
Better slow down, son, you’re going too fast

And the smile on their face means so much more
We’ll watch TV like we never did before
With the volume way up high
If no one moves, we never have to say goodbye

But maybe I’ll be the one to mop up the floor
The crumbs and the plums and the soup du jour
Stand out as a moment in time
All the way back to before I could rhyme

So if you are the one who makes the sun shine
My thoughts become yours and yours become mine
We can watch the cars go past
Set up two chairs and let the moment last.

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments