26. whew.

I had fun this morning, posting a stream of dumb Michigan jokes on my Facebook page.

I had fun for a bit in the third quarter, when it looked like Ohio State’s defense had settled down and the offense would continue scoring on most of its possessions.

The first half of the Michigan game? I’m not sure I’d call that fun. Fourth quarter? Fun, in a masochistic sort of way.

Tyvis Powell, Drew Dileo

Michigan’s two-point conversion attempt? If relief equals fun, then sure — fun.

I’m proud that Ohio State found a way to win a game that it shouldn’t have today. But there is a lot of stuff to figure out before Saturday’s title game against Michigan State — overall passing defense, defending screen plays, improving the consistency of our passing game. Oh, and maybe how to not throw punches at members of the opposing team.

But. That’s two in a row over Michigan. That’s a rivalry-game win on the road. That’s the nation’s longest undefeated streak. And that feels pretty good.

* * *

Speaking of fun: Did you catch the end of the Auburn-Alabama game?

That upset could — should? — open a door for Ohio State that as recently as a few hours ago looked to be deadbolted, barricaded and boarded up.

Look. There’s still a huge game — and a tough one — ahead on Saturday. But let’s consider just a couple of things:

  • No undefeated major-conference team has ever been jumped in the BCS rankings by a one-loss team.
  • If going undefeated was easy, there would be more than two AQ teams to do it this year.
  • As a response to the “Ohio State Doesn’t Belong” Chorus that has already started: Ohio State was favored today by 16.5. Alabama was favored by 10. We play the games for a reason.

18. about me.

How you can tell it’s a NaBloPoMo month — we’re only two weeks in, and this is the second Facebook meme I’ve stolen from the blog.

I may have bitten off more than I can chew with this one, the *insertnumberhere* Things You Didn’t Know About Me meme. The rules and conventions for this one state that you like a friend’s post and they assign you a number; I liked Mel’s post last week … and she assigned me 15.

FIFTEEN. As in, the most she assigned to anyone who liked her post. I’m choosing to be flattered that Mel thought I could come up with that many reasonably interesting things about myself — even if myself thinks that’s probably a stretch.

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Before I begin, let me make it clear that I’ll follow the rules here — comment on this post here, like or comment on FB and I’ll give you a number. And if you don’t have a regular outlet for Internet Fun, feel free to leave your list in the comments here.

Mushrooms and olives. I really want to like them. But I really, really don’t.

My first craft beer. I was visiting Juan in Brooklyn, and we stopped at his corner grocery in Park Slope to get some, uh, supplies before we went out for the evening. There, in the cooler, were six packs of Brooklyn Lager. I later found Brooklyn Brown in The Union, my home bar in Athens. And my life hasn’t been the same since.

Certified weather freak boy. I’ve always been curious about what makes weather work, ever since our childhood babysitter let me stay up and watch a thunderstorm light up Leighton Road. That fascination has continued well into adulthood, when I’ve voluntarily attended National Weather Service storm spotter certification classes multiple times — the basic class twice and the advanced class once. Understanding the weather helps professionally, but c’mon — as nerdy stuff goes, it’s pretty cool, too.

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Shorts, man. I love this time of year. When the weather turns, I love digging out sweaters and coats and scarves and all the other accouterments. But let’s be clear — if it’s above 30 degrees, I’m wearing shorts.

I’ll die with a beard. The last time I shaved off my beard entirely was late in my collegiate career. I had an interview for an internship with an editor from a major metro paper in Ohio, and I wanted to make a good impression. But I’ve always suspected that I blew the interview because the editor had a glass eye that pointed up and to the left by about 45 degrees. I was so distracted that I don’t think I uttered a complete sentence the entire time we talked (and it’s always been my guess that the paper sent this guy to interview college kids FOR THAT VERY REASON). I didn’t get the internship and Mrs. Crappy liked the beard, so I grew it  back immediately. And seeing old pictures of beardless me are more than enough to help solidify the decision to keep it forever.

My cause: skin cancer. I’m not a preacher. I generally think it’s best to let people make their own decisions. But for the most part, preventing skin cancer is so simple — and it seems that so few people ever worry about it. I’ve written a bunch about this over the years, starting the time the second tumor was hacked out of my left arm. I’ve had three taken from my arm and one burned off of my forehead. And if I had just put on sunscreen when I was a kid, chances are decent that I wouldn’t have had the trouble I’ve had. It’s not a huge deal — none of my tumors have been serious — but given that skin cancer is largely preventable, it’s a thing for me. And yeah, I’ll probably try to make it a thing for you too. Sorry in advance.

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Chateau de Blanc. I have eaten White Castles for breakfast. When we drive from Thanksgiving dinner in Pittsburgh to my parents’ house in Columbus, I will bring home a bag of White Castles for a Thanksgiving night snack. I once picked up 60 White Castles for my father’s poker night (along with another dozen for me) . If there was was a White Castle closer than Canton, Ohio, I’d be there right now.

Best concerts by non-hippie bands. Wilco, especially the show at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland a few years ago. Little Feat, on a sweaty August night at the Newport. The Stones, on the Steel Wheels tour in Louisville, especially because that’s the first time I heard them play Sympathy for the Devil (otherwise known as the Greatest Rock ‘n Roll Song of All Time) live. Cowboy Junkies at Metropol, which had temporarily lost its liquor license, making for a quiet, respectful audience. Jorma Kaukonen and Michael Falzarano, in front of me and maybe eight other people at Another Fool’s Cafe in Athens.

Bourbon. The Manhattan is the family cocktail. I come by it honestly.

Irish kid, Italian cook. I have no Italian in me whatsoever, but I love me some Italian cooking — and, uh, eating. Some of this comes from the family spaghetti-and-meatballs recipe, which was born decades ago when the family owned a restaurant somewhere in Columbus; I suppose it also comes from it not being too difficult to do Italian pretty well. Lasagna? Yep. Carbonara? Yep. Improvising and tinkering with pasta dishes? Yep.

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Meeting famous people. It might have something to do with my job — I’ve interviewed senators, congresspeople, Timothy Leary, Graham Chapman, and many others — but I have no difficulty marching up to someone I recognize and saying hello (and it still kills me that I wasn’t with Mrs. Crappy the time she walked right by Ringo Starr in Aspen a few years ago). As a caution — that goes for Internet-famous people as well. If we haven’t met before but I think I’ve spotted you while we’re out, I will stop you and introduce myself.

Best job ever. I have been a paperboy. I have worked in restaurants. I have made it through multiple holiday seasons at a chain of Hallmark stores in Columbus. And I am now a journalist, the fulfillment of the closest thing I’ve had to a lifelong dream. But without question, the most fun I’ve ever had was working at the Bagel Buggy in Athens every Friday morning for one of my senior-year spring quarters.

Work is surreal. I am a trained professional journalist. And nearly everything I do professionally now didn’t exist when I was a student at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.

The moment I first set eyes on Mrs. Crappy. I was never really sure love at first sight was possible until it happened to me. I was starting a late night at my college paper, and I walked through the business offices just as the general assignment staff — where most of us got our starts — was wrapping up a meeting. I looked over and there was a new girl — long, light brown hair. Round, almost Lennon glasses. Big smile and a big laugh. I was thunderstruck; I think I actually stopped and stared for a second before moving on to the production room. I tracked down the GA editor as soon as I could and was filled in, because she also happened to be Mrs. Crappy’s resident assistant. It took a while for us to connect — although not for a lack of effort on my part — but, yeah, it’s worked out pretty well.

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Hats. In the summer? I’m a ballcap guy. But when the weather turns cold — as you may have gathered from the photos — I’m a fan of hats with stuff on them.

i’m back.

medal

I saw the guy not too long after Mrs. Crappy dropped me off on the North Shore.

He had the same build as me, and although he has much more gray hair than I do, I guessed we were about the same age. But there were plenty of old fat guys getting ready to run this morning’s Pittsburgh Marathon 5K, and the similarities I shared with this guy weren’t what caught my eye.

It was his Michigan shirt.

I am capable of being pretty competitive in general, but that’s typically the furthest thing from my mind if we’re talking about running. And as I thought about the race last night and this morning, the notion of beating anyone wasn’t even a consideration — I was concerned only about finishing.

Until I saw the Michigan shirt.

I started running again about a month ago, sporadically at first and, for the last two weeks, steadily following the old Couch to 5K program. I knew I wouldn’t be close to being able to run a full 5K by the time today came around, but I didn’t hesitate to enter the marathon’s 5K race. I thought — correctly, it turns out — that the race would provide a nice boost at a point in the C25K program where I have struggled in previous attempts.

But even before today’s race, I felt something different, closer to what this all felt like in the fall of 2011, when I completed C25K for the first time and ran my very first 5K. I found that I enjoyed running back then; that feeling carried over into the following winter, at least until I got hurt and had to stop. That was discouraging, enough so that I just stopped. I made a couple comeback attempts, but my heart wasn’t in it.

This time has felt different. There are things I needed to change, not the least of which was my fitness and my weight. The issues that existed in 2011 — high-stress job, family history of heart problems, love of beer and cheeseburgers — all still exist, almost two years later — which means I’ll be 47 on my next birthday, and I can’t simply can’t behave that way any longer.

 

I have a good start. And today’s race was a huge part of that. I love the energy you pick up before the start of a race; I also love the boost you get from seeing friendly faces — Kelly, Chelsea and, of course, Mrs. Crappy — and cheering strangers on the course. And the shot of adrenaline you get when the finish line comes into view is one of the best things ever.

I’ll do another 5K soon. When Mrs. Crappy — who has started running again as well — is ready, I want to do one with her. I’d love to do one a month for a while, with an eye on getting to a 10K or a half marathon sometime in the fall.

And, mostly, I want this to continue. Because this time, I’ve having fun again.

As I shuffled down Wood Street, I finally caught sight of the gray t-shirt again, the one worn by Michigan dude. The nice English lady just told me to walk, but I kept him in view as we rounded the corner to the Boulevard of the Allies and the home stretch to the finish line.

I didn’t wait for the nice English lady to tell me to run again. I knew I was going to be slow — my official finish time was 42:57 — but I was going to beat Michigan Guy to the finish line.

mefinish

There’s a little uphill on the boulevard, but the last few hundred yards to the finish are slightly downhill — and that’s when I kicked. Perhaps I benefited from the fact that Michigan Guy wasn’t aware he was racing anyone, but I blew by him just after we crested the little hill and cruised to the finish.

Ohio State beats Michigan once again.

we have aaa winner.

Best dunk I've ever seen.

Best dunk I’ve ever seen.

No matter how much I complained about it last night, I’m happy I watched the championship game — it was the best title game I’ve seen in years.

I don’t know if Aunt Annoyed Angel watched last night’s title game, but I guess it doesn’t matter; by virtue of her eerily accurate tiebreaker choice, she’s the winner of the Eighth Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Bocktown).

AAA was one of eight people — including My Mom, who apparently is some kind of college basketball savant, having one our family’s Clark Kellogg Trophy for the third straight year — who finished with 12 points by correctly picking Louisville as the eventual NCAA champion. But her tiebreaker of 157 was just a single point off the actual total of 158 points, and she is our EAUCNFFC champion and winner of our generously donated Bocktown gift card.

I will admit to being nervous as I scanned the tiebreakers from our 12-Point Club, because two of  you — Casey and Calipanthergrl — each picked 142 points. I had flashbacks to last year’s tie — until I saw AAA’s entry.

As I mentioned before, this was a rough year. And that makes me that much more appreciative of everyone who participated, whether as a contestant or as  a sponsor (by which I mean Bocktown’s Chris Dilla). You guys are what makes this fun — well, that and the actual basketball — and I can guarantee we’ll be back again next year for NAUCNFFC.

conflicted.

Back in January, I wrote about an unpleasant decision: picking between Notre Dame and Alabama on the day of the football national championship game.

Today? Another title game, and another unhappy choice.

Back then, the basic choice was between a team I can’t stand versus a conference I hate above all others. This time, the choice is more complicated, because I’m picking between what should be good for my conference versus … uh … that Team Up North.

Let me make one thing clear — this doesn’t really have a whole lot to do with Louisville. I’ve lived there, I love the city and I’ve even seen a Dead show in the old Freedom Hall. And I have nothing at all against Rick Pitino; I was living in Kentucky when he took over at UK, and those undermanned teams were a blast to watch, what with the incessant threes and unrelenting full-court press.

No, this choice has everything to do with Michigan. Which is a word that is even uncomfortable for me to type.

Here’s the thing. My gut reaction is to want Michigan to not only lose, but lose badly. Don’t even want it to be close. Twenty points-plus. Back in January, I wrote about the terrifying potential for overbearing smugness on the part of ND fans, should the Irish win the championship; as I recall from 1997, Michigan fans are even worse, even if this is only a basketball title.

Don’t want any part of it. No thank you.

But then there’s this logical part of my brain — you know, the part that usually should keep you out of trouble. This time, my logical side is poking at me about how the Big Ten would benefit from a national championship tonight. It would help in a tangible sense and it would help improve the perception of the conference with those vote in polls or pick the participants in next year’s tournament. It would be a big deal for the B1G on nearly every level.

But shit, we’re talking about Michigan. If it were Michigan State, Indiana or maybe even Wisconsin, I wouldn’t have a problem. But it’s Michigan.

Or maybe two.

Or maybe two.

So what am I going to do? I’m going to have a beer and hope there’s something good on the History Channel.

***

I will, however, pay attention to tonight’s game, in the sense that we’re about to wrap up the Eighth Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Bocktown). I have done exactly zero work to figure out what has to happen for who to win whatever … but I’ll work all that out in the morning and let you know who’s won the Bocktown gift card so generously donated by Chris Dilla.