Saturday, October 17, 2015

Blue Jackets: Choose Your Own Adventure

The fact that I am sitting here writing a blog entry speak volumes.  I hardly ever do this.

The fact that I am starting it during the third period of a Blue Jackets game, instead of actually watching the Jackets game, speaks even higher volumes.

The fact that the Jackets have started the season 0-6 is unfathomable.  But then again, it's the Jackets. They have proven they can disappoint you in a wide variety of ways.

When I was a kid, I used to read a lot of those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books.  If you are not familiar with the series, each book presented the reader with choices throughout the story.  For example if you wanted the character to turn left down a dark hallway,  you were told to turn to a certain page.  If you wanted the character to turn right into a bright room, you were told to turn to a different page.

I have to admit, I don't remember a whole lot about the stories, but one in particular stands out.  I remember it because no matter what choices I made, my character seemed to die every time.  No matter what I did, something prevented me from surviving.  Occasionally, I think I would survive...but it would not be the outcome for which I hoped.  I was imprisoned, lost, etc. I never was able to finish the book with the ultimate happy ending.

This is what it's like to be a Jackets fan. Every season seems to bring a new adventure that leads to an unhappy ending.  There are always new excuses and new story lines that are the reasons for the team's lack of success.  Occasionally you get a playoff appearance to make you think you are getting closer to the ultimate happy ending, only to start the story again and become enslaved by the Ant People (or whatever the heck they were in that story I am thinking of).

Last year the excuse was injuries but the Jackets finished the season on a positive note.  Fans, media, players, coaches...everybody had high expectations for the start of this season.  The Jackets were healthy.  They acquired Saad.  They dominated in the preseason.  They had the most depth ever at the forward position.  To come out 0-6, to the worst start in franchise history, is mind boggling.  To not even get one single win in the first six games is just beyond belief.  To think back to two weeks ago, to all the positive energy, high hopes, and excitement I had about the season is frustrating to a point of numbness.

So now what?  Does the team get rebuilt again?  At some point this madness has to stop, right?  At some point, we have to find the ultimate happy ending of the story right?  I'm sure it's hidden somewhere in the Blue Jackets' Choose Your Own Adventure book.  I'm just so tired of starting over to try and find it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Jackets' Offense of the Future

When Rick Nash left the Blue Jackets several years ago, fans like myself wondered where they would get their goals from.  The overwhelming response to such questions was "offense by committee."  We were getting Dubinsky and Anisimov who had the potential to be 20-goal scorers.  Anisimov accomplished that and Dubinsky was close.

Now with Ryan Johansen, Nick Foligno, and Scott Hartnell reaching the 20-goal plateau this season, it got me thinking.  The Jackets really have some potent offensive weapons.  They seem to have an abundance of players who have scored or have the potential to score 20 goals in a season.

Johansen, Foligno, Hartnell, and Anisimov have already done it.  I would think logic suggests they can do it again.

Others, in my opinion, who have the potential to score 20 goals: Atkinson, Dubinsky, Jenner.  Clarkson has done it in the past and Jackets fans like myself are hoping he can find some semblance of his former 20-goal scoring self next season.

Plus you have Wennberg and Dano who arguably could be 20-goal scorers in the near future.  Throw Borkstrand into that mix and that gives the Jackets a whopping 11 players capable.  Obviously having 11 20-goal scorers on a team is a bit far-fetched, but it makes me smile to think about the future of the Blue Jackets.  I only hope our coaching staff can install the right system to bring the most offense out of these players.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I just want to watch Jackets playoff hockey!

Please help.

I was unable to get a straight answer from Dish Network.
I was unable to get a straight answer from Fox Sports Ohio.

It is 12:39 am.  I'm supposed to be sleeping.  Big day at work tomorrow.  But instead I am sitting at my computer, stewing.  I was unable to watch the Blue Jackets Game 3 playoff game on TV on Monday.  Now it seems I may be unable to watch tonight's as well.

I live in Troy, Ohio.  Just north of Dayton.  I am not a wealthy man by any means.  I cannot afford to attend NHL games very often but I do drive the 90 minutes to Columbus a few times a year to enjoy a Blue Jackets game at Nationwide Arena.  When I can't see them in person, one of my favorite things to do is to relax in front of the TV with my two boys and watch the Jackets on our regional Fox Sports station.  We watch so much, that they have memorized the commercials!  Proven here:

I am a Dish Network subscriber and pay an additional $5 per month for the Fox Sports regional sports package.  I do this for one reason and one reason only: to watch my beloved Blue Jackets.  I do not watch the Reds or Xavier or any other sports team.  I pay those few dollars extra every month for the CBJ.

I am ecstatic that my team is finally back in the playoffs.  Unable to watch Game 2 on Saturday night due to work, I was looking forward to watching Game 3 on Monday.  Fox Sports televised the game in my area (DirecTv customers were able to watch)...yet I was unable to watch.

You see, I actually have Fox Sports Cincinnati (a division of Fox Sports Ohio, I think).  Throughout the season I was able to watch every game on this station.  When there was a conflict with another team, I would always be able to find the game on an alternate channel.  But not Monday.  With the Reds playing that evening, I found myself searching for the alternate channel.  To my complete and utter frustration, the Reds game was also on the alternate channel.  That made no sense to me.

Was this a mistake?  I'm not so sure.  I contacted Dish Network and was told it was a programming decision by Fox Sports Ohio.  But the Fox Sports Ohio web site indicated that I still should be able to watch the game in my area as proven here:

So right before bed tonight I checked my Dish Network guide.  The Reds game for tonight starts at 7pm and is televised on Fox Sports Cincinnati.  So I searched the alternate channels.  NO BLUE JACKETS GAME.
I find this very disturbing.  I have been able to watch every Blue Jackets game on Fox Sports this season.  Now they are in the playoffs and suddenly I cannot watch???  Sure it's on the NBC Sports network but I don't get that channel.  That package would cost me an additional $10 per month.  I'm already spending $5 for Fox Sports...a channel on which I SHOULD be able to watch the Jackets.

But the bigger issue is this: EVERYONE in this part of Ohio and Cincinnati should be able to watch the Jackets game.  And EVERYONE who has Dish Network and the same package as me CANNOT.  From a marketing perspective, this is horrible.  The Blue Jackets organization should want everyone in the state with access to FSOhio to be able to see the Blue Jackets in the playoffs.  This is the perfect way to promote the game and hook new fans.

In comparison, DirecTv (from which I recently switched) offers both FSOhio AND FSCincinnati as part of its regional sports package.  Dish Network should follow suit. Or whoever is in charge.  Dish Network?  Fox Sports?  Blue Jackets?

I don't want to watch a choppy, illegal Internet feed.  I don't want to go to a bar.  I just want to sit on the couch with my two boys and watch the Jackets.  Is that too much to ask?  I should be able to do it.  I've been able to do it all year.  Why has it changed now when it matters most?

Please help!  Someone must know something!


Monday, April 21, 2014

I Can't Watch the Jackets Playoff Game

Tonight I cannot watch my beloved Blue Jackets play in their Game 3 matchup against Pittsburgh.  I emailed Dish Network to complain.  Here is what I wrote.  Bet I get some kind of generic response with no resolution.

Hello.  I pay $5 extra per month so that I can have the regional sports network package with Dish Network.  I do that for one reason only: so I can watch the Columbus Blue Jackets hockey games.  That's it.  I do not watch the Cincinnati Reds or any other Ohio sports on that channel.

So I was quite angry when I was unable to watch the Blue Jackets PLAYOFF hockey game tonight (Monday, April 21).  The Cincinnati Reds game was on Fox Sports Cincinnati.  Usually when such a programming conflict occurs, I can switch to an alternate regional programming channel for the hockey game.  Instead, the Reds were on that channel too.  When I contacted Dish Network to inquire about this, I was told this was a Fox Sports issue.  The Fox Sports web site seems to indicate otherwise.

I live in the Dayton, Ohio area.  When I visited the Fox Sports Ohio web site, it says that tonight's Blue Jackets game is in fact televised on Dish Network IN THE DAYTON AREA.  The following link clearly shows that as a Dish Network customer, I should be able to watch the game on FSOhio.

The problem is that I do not have FSOhio.  I only have FSCincinnati.

I would like to voice my displeasure with this.  I recently switched to Dish Network from DirecTV.  When I was with DirecTV I had BOTH FSCincinnati AND FSOhio.  Clearly the Fox Sports Ohio web site operates under the assumption that Dish Network offers both channels to their subscribers.

I would appreciate a response as I am currently second-guessing my decision to switch from DirecTV.  I would like to know how I can help initiate a change so that Dish Network carries both Fox Sports Ohio and Fox Sports Cincinnati just like DirecTV.

For the record, the game is also televised on NBCSports Network.  However I do not wish to pay an additional $10 a month to upgrade my package to include that channel when I already pay the $5 per month to receive the regional sports network package.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Trading Gaborik: Mistake

I am writing this entry with the understanding that perceptions can change.  I may very well look back on this entry in a year or two (or even at the end of this season) and say "what was I thinking?"  With that in mind, let me flat out say: trading Marian Gaborik for Matt Frattin was a poor decision.

As I write this, the Blue Jackets' offense is practically non-existent and the power play is in an 0-for-30-something slump.  You know what would help with that?  A proven NHL goal scorer.

It comes down to this question really, Blue Jackets fans: would your rather have, right now at this moment, Marian Gaborik on the ice or Matt Frattin in the press box?  At this juncture I think the answer is obvious. Many will argue that Gaborik would have been lost at the end of the season so the Jackets did the right thing to get something for him.

But is having Matt Frattin on the roster in the summer better than having a playoff berth in the spring? If I were Jarmo, I would have kept Gaborik on the team as a potent roster option.  Instead, we traded him for a guy who sits in the press box every night.  Gaborik would have helped this team, simply put.  I don't think keeping him on the team would have hurt.  If the Jackets can't find some offense soon they'll be finding themselves on the golf course in mid-April again.

Let's pretend we kept Gaborik and made the playoffs.  Then Gaborik walked.  The positives of making the playoffs would outweigh the negatives of losing him for nothing.  Seriously, would any of you Jackets fans be THAT upset if the Jackets chose not to re-sign him this summer?  I would have given it a big fat "oh well" and moved on.  Because you know what? We traded him for practically nothing anyway.

This was not addition by subtraction.  We lost a goal scorer and right now we need goals.  I was skeptical when the trade was made.  Now my worst fears are being realized.  Maybe I'm jumping the gun and things will turn around.  But things don't look so hot right now.

I am not saying that Gaborik would have solved all our problems with the offense, but he could not have made it worse than what we've recently seen on the ice. I've heard fans say he didn't fit into the gritty style the Jackets play.  Well, I hate to say it, but that gritty style is not putting pucks in the net right now.  We need all the help we can get.

So I hope I am wrong and the Jackets get hot and make the playoffs for only the second time in their history.  But if they don't, and we fans start talking about where things went wrong, the conversation should start with the Gaborik trade.  

Sunday, July 21, 2013

I Love Summer

For the longest time I was kidding myself when I said my favorite season was Autumn.  I love the fall.  Cool weather, hockey season begins, beautiful scenery, hockey season begins, my birthday, football season begins, and hockey season begins.

But I've decided that, as a teacher, summer trumps all that.  Here's why.  My top 12 reasons, in no particular order.

12. No school.  Duh.  That means no lesson plan writing, no papers to grade, and no stress about new, stupid evaluation practices.

11. Shave today? Nah.  Shave this week?  Maybe.

10. I don't have to worry about packing a lunch or eating those crappy frozen meals.

9. I get to spend much more time with my kids.  Granted, sometimes I want to wring their little necks, but in general I love the time I get to spend with them. Most non-teachers don't get to spend as many waking hours with their children.  I am very thankful for that.

8. I spend a lot less money on gas.  A LOT less.  Since I don't have to commute each day, it is amazing to me how much less I need to fill up my tank.  I am a glorified chauffeur during the summer, carting my kids to and from camps and activities, but those are mostly in town so my tanks last much longer.

7. Those warm summer nights.  I love walking outside in the summer.  It is so peaceful.  I also enjoy the community atmosphere.  There's people sitting outside on restaurant patios, fountains spouting water, and parks busy with people.

6. Staying up late.  I enjoy the time with I have with my family, but I also enjoy "me time."  The only time I really get that is once everyone has gone to bed.  I use that time to surf the Internet or watch movies.  I'm usually up to about 1:30am every night.

5. Sleeping in.  Most summer days, there's no alarm to wake me up.  My kids get up before me and get right to playing.  So they don't even wake me up.   They are pretty self-sufficient when it comes to breakfast too.  So I just stay in bed and rest, even if I'm not actually sleeping.

4. More tennis!  Hockey is my favorite sport, but I love tennis.  Unfortunately, this summer I have not been able to play much because of my elbow injury but I'm hoping to be back in the saddle next summer.

3. I feel more useful.  During the school year, I am either too busy or too tired for home projects.  During the summer, I have time to accomplish things.  That sure keeps my wife happier.  I'm also able to take the kids to appointments that my wife would usually have to take care of during school months.

2. I can cook!  I have trouble finding the motivation to prepare meals during school months.  But during the summer, I have time and energy to do it.  I love to cook!  I even find recipes on the Internet to try.  My favorite way to cook is to grill.  Unlike others in my family (Dad!), I don't enjoy cooking in cold weather.  So summer is my time to cook the way I like best!

1. My house is clean.  I live with a bunch of slobs.  Of our family of five, I am the one most concerned with a clean house.  During the school year, I don't have the time or motivation to keep things as clean as I would like them to be.  But during the summer, I can stay on top of things.  So far this summer I think I have vacuumed more than ever and have even machine-cleaned our carpets.  You probably shouldn't visit us in the winter!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Baldness May Have Saved My Life

Around 2003, I decided to end my battle with a receding hairline and accompanying bald spot and shave my head.  Hence began the last hairstyle I would ever have.  I was going bald.  It was a fact.  And I didn't want to be the type of guy who tried to hide it with tricks like comb-overs and toupees.  I just accepted it and dealt with it by taking it off completely.

Going bald sucks.  It means I'm getting old.  It also means I'm losing my sex appeal (not that I had much to begin with).  Think about it...when you picture a handsome guy, does some bald guy immediately come to mind?  Probably not.  And the ones that shave their heads by choice have huge muscles (I'm talking about  you Vin Diesel).  I don't.  However, going bald also means I don't have to spend money on haircuts, shampoo, or hair gel.  Less time is required to shower too.  So there ARE some good things that go along with it.  Little did I know that about 10 years later, I would discover that going bald may have saved my life.  That's a REALLY good thing.

When I first started shaving my head, I noticed a red splotch right in the back.  Supposedly a birth mark.  But right in the middle of the splotch was a soft, circular bump.  I just assumed it was a normal part of my weird shaped, bumpy, splotchy head.

As the years went on, I kind of thought the bump was getting larger but the only time I ever saw the very back of my head was when I shaved it (and used a hand mirror to see what I was doing back there).  My wife thought so too.  Over several years, I had a total of two physicians and one dermatologist examine the bump.  All three said it was just a benign fatty growth called a lipoma (I'm probably spelling that wrong).  All of them said it was nothing to worry about and I should leave it alone.

But as time went on, the bump got more annoying.  It never hurt, but was uncomfortable when I would lay my head back against my bed's headboard to read or play on my iPod (which I pretty much do every single night).  Plus I admittedly got more and more self-conscious about it.  I love wearing baseball caps, but I would wear them ALL the time because I didn't want people to see the bump.  Keep in mind that this bump was inside a large red splotch.  It stood out.  I'm a teacher and every year at school, where I cannot wear a hat, I would always get asked by students (and sometimes even their parents) about what happened to my head.  Questions ranged from "did someone hit you in the back of the head with a bat?" to simply "what happened to your head? It looks nasty." Stuff like this made me think about it all the time.  I even wondered what the people who sat behind me at church thought when they saw it.

So after years of dealing with the self-consciousness, embarrassment, and discomfort, I decided to seek a plastic surgeon to remove the growth.  His diagnosis was the same as the two previous physicians and dermatologist: a lipoma. He said it would be a simple surgery to remove so we scheduled it.

I had the surgery on May 15th and things did not go exactly as planned.  During the surgery, the doctor discovered that the growth was more fibrous than anticipated.  This meant two things:

1. I bled a lot more than expected, making both the surgery and recovery longer and more difficult than anticipated.  Not a huge deal.  But here's the biggie...

2. What was thought to be a harmless growth could have developed into something much, much worse in time.  To paraphrase the doctor, it was good that I chose to get it removed now before it potentially turned into something bad later on.

The doctor sent a sample of what was removed off to be tested (just to be safe) and sure enough it was benign.  But I can't help but think about what could have happened if I had just left it alone and not opted for the surgery.  I also think about how I probably would never have even noticed the bump had I had a thick, luxurious, covering of hair.  Perhaps I would have noticed it eventually, once it had gotten much, much larger.  And by that time, it could have developed into something very bad.

So if I wasn't balding, I wouldn't be shaving my head.  And if I wasn't shaving my head, I may never have noticed the potentially dangerous growth on my head.  It is July now and my scar is still healing.  Still pain and discomfort.  Because of all the unexpected bleeding, I have had to return to the surgeon three times to have my head drained of fluid.  Obviously things did not go as expected.  But even with the continued discomfort (which I was told will go away within a few months time), I am thankful I had it removed instead of waiting.  And I'm thankful for going bald.