this one goes to eleven.

eleven giphy

Most March Madness basketball contests only go to 10.

But this March Madness basketball contest — the Eleventh Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Bocktown) — goes to 11.

I have a hard time remembering where I live these days, so I’m going to post a refresher about the ins and outs of entering AUCNFFC this year or any other. Here we go:

  • Find yourself a copy of the bracket. If you can’t manage that, I should probably disqualify you from the TAUCNFFC (BTYBB) right now. But I’m feeling generous, so here’s one, provided by the nice folks who employ me. Print it and fill it out.
  • After consulting your bracket, pick the four teams — one from each region — that you think will win the regional championships and travel to the Final Four in Indy.
  • After consulting your bracket again, pick the two teams you think will win the national semi-final games on April 2.
  • Consult your bracket once more, and pick the team from your semi-finalists who will win the title game April 4
  • How do I figure out who wins? You get two points for picking a correct Final Four team, four points for a correct semi-finalist and six points for a correct national championship pick. Assuming I can add correctly (and there is no guarantee of that, boys and girls), the entry with the highest point total is our winner.
  • Yes, there is a tie-breaker and, yes, as we’ve seen several times, tiebreakers are important. When you submit your pick, please also include your projected score for the championship game. If it’s necessary, the entry whose total score is closest to the real thing will be our winner. Note: We do NOT follow the Price Is Right rule; the closest total, over or under, wins.

Still confused? Given that I’m writing this in a hurry I’m mostly copying and pasting from past AUCNFFC intros, that’s entirely possible. Here’s a purely hypothetical example of what an entry from this year’s bracket could look like (Note 1: This is NOT my entry. Note 2: These are the lowest seeds in the tournament; if you want to make this your entry, feel free, but do so understanding the risk of being Blutarskied):

Final Four: Austin Peay vs. Cal State Bakersfield, Florida Gulf Coast vs. Middle Tennessee

Championship game: Austin Peay vs Florida Gulf Coast

Champion: Florida Gulf Coast, 74-66

Simple, right? As you begin to mull your picks, here are a couple of other things to keep in mind:

  • One thing to make sure you don’t do: Send me money to enter. As has always been the case, TAUCNFFC (BTYBB) is free.
  • In the first four years of the contest, we were competing for cheesy trinkets and I usually included a disclaimer that our FABULOUS PRIZES weren’t actually fabulous. And then Chris at Bocktown Beer and Grill blew that out of the water by putting up a $30 gift card to the contest’s winner. I have since taken over the fabulous-prize-providing portion of the Fabulous Prizes: a $50 Bocktown gift card for the winner. An admission: It occurs to me that I never actually got around to doing what TAUCNFFC (BTYBB) winner Kewyson suggested we do with the winnings. This is not the first time this has occurred — as Mr. Burns or Father Spoon could tell you — and we will do that as soon as it consistently warms up a bit.
  • Note: If you’re an out-of-town contestant, you may opt for the equivalent cash value of the gift card, which is, uh, approximately $50.
  • The tournament’s real games (the ones that used to be called the first-round games) get underway around 12:15 p.m. Eastern Thursday; I’m not a huge stickler, but I’ll need to have your entries by noonish that day for you to be eligible (see the Melo Rule below).
  • How do you enter? Comment. Email. Twitter. DM. Text. Facebook. Smoke signal. Please feel free adding whatever commentary you wish regarding how you arrived at your picks; each entry will be listed in a comprehensive post that’ll show up at some point Thursday.

And finally, the fine-printy things:

The Juan Rule: As is tradition, Juan, oh he of very little basketball knowledge, will once again be entered against his will, using either the Phil’s Mom Method or, if Phil’s mom isn’t picking this year, the Penny-Flipping Method.

The Melo Rule: Should an unforeseen thing happen with a player, a coach or a booster that might, in your opinion, have an impact on your already-completed entry, fear not. You may tinker as much as you like until I close the entries at noon on the tournament’s opening day.

The Crappy Rule: If I were to come out on top of my own contest (and believe me, boys and girls, there is very little chance of that happening), the Bocktown gift card would be awarded to the next runner up (although I retain full bragging rights, which I would exercise almost daily until next year’s contest). Mrs. Crappy, should she remember to get her entry in on time, does her own work and is therefore eligible to win the card (as long as she uses it to take me to dinner).

To summarize:

  • Free.
  • Easy.
  • Deadline is noon Thursday.
  • Fifty bucks at Bocktown for the winner.

Have any questions? Let me know. Otherwise, good luck to everyone — especially me Mrs. Crappy.

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a weekend.

A perfectly relaxing Saturday morning. Handmade Arcade. Keller Williams. A road trip to Columbus for the MLS Cup final.

Whew.

I didn’t take pictures of the first part of Saturday, but I don’t want to give it short shrift: Yoga class at 8 a.m., followed by my first ever acupuncture treatment; that combination, boys and girls, is pretty much unbeatable. We took a productive spin through Handmade Arcade, got in a nap … and then …

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So we started with the photographic portion of the weekend as we each enjoyed a glass of Master of the Galaxy, the delicious imperial IPA by Grist House in Millvale. At least two of the last shows I’ve seen at Mr. Smalls — basically just around the corner from Grist House — have been on Sundays, so there haven’t been the same kind of pregaming opportunities we enjoyed on Saturday. And we did enjoy: a couple beers apiece, delicious dinner from the Burgh Bites truck, and a fun time talking with some folks who had driven to Pittsburgh from Cleveland to see Keller. If you haven’t been to Grist House, guys, you need to go — especially when you can then take the short walk to see your show at Mr. Smalls.

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Keller LOVES Mr. Smalls — when I interviewed him for BCT a few years ago, he said that’s why he picked it to film his concert DVD. On Saturday, he opened for himself, playing a short solo set — as solo as Keller and his infinite loops ever are, anyway — before he hit the stage with the KW Trio. As he always does, he starts playing before he actually comes up on stage ; that always catches people by surprise a bit, so Mrs. Crappy and scored floor space right up by the stage for the solo set.

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I mentioned trio, right? I hadn’t seen drummer Rodney Holmes before, but he has serious chops, playing jazz sessions with a host of different guys and winning Grammys playing with Carlos Santana. The bassist? That’s Rob Wasserman, Bob Weir partner in crime and original member of Ratdog. Seeing KW play with a band is always a cool, different experience, and that was definitely the case on Saturday.

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Because we weren’t tired enough on Saturday, we thought driving to Columbus for the MLS Cup final sounded like a great idea. Spoiler alert: In spite of the game’s outcome — and the atrocious officiating — it was.

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We met Fred and Ethel outside Mapfre Stadium, did a bit of tailgating — thanks to them, because they brought all the supplies on Sunday — and headed inside. Ethel told me what section they were sitting in when I asked about getting tickets from the match, so we scored tickets in the same section. And there might have been a little beer.

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Awesome atmosphere. Loved the Nordecke tifo. The place was nuts … for about the first minute of the match. The rest of the night was awesome too, but the match itself didn’t turn out the way we wanted.

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Still, I’d say it was a perfect weekend. Sure looks that way, huh?

28. a different experience.

Fred made a solo trip to Ann Arbor today. Here are two of his photos from the day.

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I know what this pic, taken well before the start of the game, feels like. It’s fun, but you’re also apprehensive about the approaching afternoon. And even though you can see plenty of Buckeyes nearby, it can seem very, very lonely.

But 42 points later, I’d think things feel a little different.

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I know a little bit about what it feels like to sing Carmen Ohio on the road; I’ve done it at Michigan State and at the end of two white-out nights at Penn State. But on his first trip to a game in Ann Arbor, Fred got something that I didn’t get in two trips during the 90s: a win.

Hey, Fred. We’re going to Ann Arbor in 2017. I need to take care of that thing.

23. i’m talking to you.

If you and I have:

  • Had a beer
  • Watched a game
  • Attended a tailgate party
  • Cooked for each other
  • Gone to a yoga class
  • Gone out for dinner
  • Raved about music
  • Played Cards Against Humanity
  • Compared tattoos
  • Met for lunch
  • Spent the weekend at each other’s homes
  • Seen a concert
  • Caught up at a reunion
  • Talked on Twitter, by text or even on Facebook or Snapchat
  • Taken a walk in the rain or snow
  • Discussed beer, mead or cider
  • Laughed so hard we cried
  • Sipped a glass of whiskey (or whisky)
  • Hung around a backyard campfire
  • Traded blog comments
  • Cheered each other’s successes and lamented our failures
  • Been there for each other, even in seemingly insignificant ways

…in the last year, I so am thankful to have you in my life.

Happy Thanksgiving, yinz guys.

16. bailing with bullets.

bisonbeer

  • Samuel Johnson said patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Bullet posts are the last refuge of a distracted blogger.
  • I’m sitting at the kitchen table in my parents’ house. I have prep work for tomorrow’s tailgate party done, and I’m enjoying the hell out of this bomber of Bison Imperial Stout, from Homestead Beer Co. in Heath, Ohio.
  • This will be a (mostly) all-Ohio beer weekend and, if I have anything to say about it, the full week that follows. That’s what back-to-back weekends of games against teams from the state up north will do.
  • There is an exception to the all-Ohio beer rule in place for tomorrow’s Michigan State tailgate party. Ethel’s brother-in-law Chris is in town and he usually brings along something delicious from Founders Brewing in Grand Rapids, where he lives. That’s totally worth making an exception.
  • If you’re hungry for grilled cheese sandwiches, our tailgate party tomorrow is the place to be.
  • The other thing I’m making? The Official Queso Dip of the Big Ten Network.
  • I’m going to have to learn how to spell “neuropathy.” I already know how to spell “peripheral.”
  • As I write this post, I’m listening to a Phil Lesh and Friends show from Hershey, Pa., in 2002. I’m pretty sure Mrs. Crappy and I were there for that one — we saw Phil in Hershey several times — but that’s not really what sent me down this path. I’m suffering tinges of regret (yes, I’m sure that’s different from the neuropoahy) over not seeing Dead and Co. in Columbus last week. I know Phil’s dealing with more health problems, but I’d love to see him tour a bit more, even if it’s a last go-round. His bands were always excellent; a full show from the A.J. Palumbo Center in Pittsburgh in 2001 got me nearly all the way from Pittsburgh to Columbus this afternoon.
  • I am missing Mrs. Crappy. And Mr. Charlie.
  • As of this very moment, I am four days behind in my NaBloPoMo efforts. Any bets as to whether I can catch up?

1. hey.

yogurt

I used to do this as a matter of course.

But it’s been years since I’ve regularly written stuff here, much less successfully completed a National Blog Posting Month month. I’m not sure why I’ve neglected a tool that I used to appreciate so much — perhaps it’s because my jobs came to too closely resemble what I used to do here — but over the last several years, that’s what’s happened.

So I’m going to try to have some fun with Uncle Crappy — the blog — this month. NaBloPoMo used to be a thing I did regularly; I even remember approaching that first November with some trepidation about mustering one post a day for an entire month … and then coming up with something like 36 posts in the course of a month.

NaBloPoMo_2015I have no idea whether I have 36 posts in me this month. I have no idea whether I have 30 posts in me this month. And, frankly, I have no idea whether NaBloPoMo is even still a thing these days. (If you read this and you’re doing it too, leave me a comment, willya?)

But I’m going to give this a try.

Folks who have been reading here for a long time will know some of this stuff. For the rest of you: By way of an introduction, here are 10 things you might read about during the course of the month.

Weather. I’m kind of a freak about the weather. And we’re solidly in the middle of my favorite time of year, weather(and other)wise.

Diabetes. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, this is a new development. I’m doing pretty well with my goal of not letting diabetes define who I am, but there are moments of frustration, like the one I experienced today: Hungry, standing in a Sheetz in eastern Ohio and understanding that there is basically nothing in the entire building that I can eat. I get that from time to time; in other instances, I’m able to convince myself that a bowl of raspberries and plain Greek yogurt is every bit as good as a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Of note this month: As we approach the holidays, the diabeetus is going to make things interesting.

Food. No, I’m not trying to be funny. I love cooking. I love eating. And the fun part of my diagnosis has been searching for healthier alternatives to replace some of the crap I can no longer get away with eating. My favorite so far: Whole wheat flatbread pizza with onions and turkey pepperoni.

Beer. This is also a challenge, given the diabeetus, because I still need to keep up with my professional obligations. On my own time, the solution is easy: Drink much less, but drink much better.

Yoga. If there’s something on this list that should define me, it’s this. It’s been a tough fall, because work and our trips to Columbus have really taken away from the time I would spend in the studio, and I notice the absence, physically and — especially — mentally and emotionally. That’ll get better this month, because we travel only two weekends … and man, I need it. I am a different person now than I was 18 months ago because of yoga and the things that come with it, and I can’t wait to really jump back in.

Football. Mrs. Crappy and I are Ohio State football season ticket holders and in the fall, traveling back and forth to Columbus kind of overshadows everything else. We love it — especially the tailgate parties, which we manage for my folks — but by this point of the season, it can be exhausting. You may also hear about my long-tortured existence as a Cleveland Browns fan. My mostly successful plan for enjoying the current NFL season: Caring less means more fun.

Football (other). I had a brief flirtation with Aston Villa a few years ago, but that was based on common ownership with the Browns … so, naturally, that turned out to be a disaster. Over the past two years, I’ve undergone a more organic Premier League selection process, which has reached this final, carved-in-stone conclusion: Liverpool. On the domestic side, this process has been much easier: Columbus ’til I die.

Music. I can’t overstate the importance of music in my life, from the chill stuff that Kristi plays in her yoga classes to the hippie music that has occupied a huge portion of my life since, uh, junior high school. Coming this month: bluegrass, Johnny Rotten, the annual return of Christmas music and a buildup to a Keller Williams show in early December.

Pittsburgh. I grumble about Pittsburgh during football season, but the secret is that I love being here: the places, the social life and especially all of you. And here’s a not-so-closely-held secret: Pittsburgh during the holiday season is magical.

Mrs. Crappy. I saved the best one for last.