one day. fifty bucks.

March-2018-Calendar-Green

The one glaring omission on this lovely March 2018 calendar: Noon on Thursday, March 15.

What’s up at Noon on Thursday, March 15? That’s your deadline to submit an entry for TPFAUCNFFC (BTYBPP) — Twelve-point-five-th Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Piper’s Pub*).

A full rundown of the rules is here, but it’s basically just this: Tell me your Final Four, your championship game participants and the team that will take the title, along with a score for the championship game. It’s free to enter, and the winner gets a $50 gift card at Piper’s Pub. As as I type this, I have exactly three entries … so the odds of you winning look pretty good at the moment.

So, here’s what that calendar should actually look like:

March-2018-Calendar-Green edit

Get your entries in soon, boys and girls.

*Note the name change. Everyone say, “Thank you, Mindy.”

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by popular demand.

daum doom
I am already having nightmares about South Dakota State’s Mike Daum, who apparently shoots like Larry freaking Bird.

OK. Fine. We’ll do it.

After a one-year absence, I am pleased to welcome everyone back to what we’re going to call TPFAUCNFFC (BTYBM) — Twelve-point-five-th Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Me). And we’re back thanks to a quick vote on Twitter and Facebook today that overwhelmingly revealed that most of you still have no idea what AUCNFFC is.

In other words:

With the off year in 2017, it’s likely that we’re all rusty on the ins and outs of AUCNFFC. Here’s how it works:

  • Find yourself a copy of the bracket. If you can’t manage that, I should probably disqualify you from the TPFAUCNFFC (BTYBM) right now. But I’m feeling generous, so here’s a decent one. Print it and fill it out, using whatever method you prefer.
  • 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 I’m totally 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 among 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: UMBC vs. Lipscomb, Radford vs. Iona

Championship game: UMBC vs Radford

Champion: UMBC, 82-74

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, TPFAUCNFFC (BTYBM) 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 gift card to the contest’s winner. As my beloved Bocktowns have since closed — one very big factor in the decision to take a year off — I am putting up a similarly Actually Fabulous Prize — a $50 gift card at Piper’s Pub, on Pittsburgh’s Historic South Side. And I make this promise without any actual knowledge if Piper’s actually offer gift cards. Whatever. We’ll figure it out.
  • 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. Carrier pigeon. 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, not unlike this example from 2016.

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 Piper’s 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 Piper’s gift card (as long as she uses it to take me to dinner).

To summarize:

  • Free.
  • Easy.
  • Deadline is noon Thursday.
  • Fifty bucks at Piper’s for the winner.

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

uh-oh.

IMG_1445

What I did: Post a pic of Cookie the kitten reaching up between the slats of our coffee table and playfully grabbing at my dinner.

What I expected: A whole bunch of AWWWW SHE’S SOOOOO CUUUUTE comments.

What I got instead: A fairly judgemental discussion of my dinner choice, which happened to be Spaghettios.

First: One serving of Spaghettios with Meatballs has 31 grams of carbs, about half of my limit for a meal.

Second: Y’all can bite me. I will always have Spaghettios in the house.

Third: I am certain the Judgey McFood people who commented on my dinner have their own skeletons in their pantries, whether it’s something left over from childhood or a bad habit left over from college days. So let’s hear it: What’s your culinary guilty pleasure?

Finally: I found this as I was looking for a Spaghettios pic to serve as the new header on my Facebook profile. Think there’s no way I’d try making a Spaghettios pizza? You. Are. Mistaken.

a day.

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This is the only photo I took during the day today. (And Mrs. Crappy won’t be happy to see this one.)

It wasn’t for a lack of opportunities. On the surface, this was an amazing day, mostly because Mrs. Crappy had a rare Sunday off and I was able to spend the entire day with her: outdoor yoga, outdoor lunch, pool time and a party on the Mon Wharf with friends, cold beer and a few of our favorite food trucks.

But life is rarely that simple, right?

I know I’m not the only person who got really angry yesterday as I took in everything that happened in Virginia (I’m confident that I’m not betraying any standards of journalism ethics when I say I find white supremacists of any variety abhorrent). And although Mrs. Crappy and I had a terrific night by a backyard campfire last night, I woke up under the same dark clouds I allowed to build the day before.

And when I let those clouds to gather, they tend to hang around. I can’t say my shitty mood this morning was responsible for everything that happened today, but I think it’s probably tough to separate all of these things from the negative energy I was oozing this morning:

  • Charlie knocking over a giant cup of cold brew coffee — full of sticky half and half — on the living room floor.
  • Noticing a mouse that seemed to be in distress lying in our driveway.
  • Noticing that the mouse had died in the same spot by the time we returned.
  • Sort of losing my wallet as we tried to depart for the pool.
  • Mrs. Crappy getting stung on the toe by a bee as we walked back to our umbrella after our first dip in the pool.

Was any of this a direct consequence of my shitty mood this morning? No. But:

Ashley, one of my two favorite yoga teachers, has been touching on the four yamas in the last month; they’re at the start of Patanjali’s eight limbs of the broader Yoga, and they serve as a guide for ethical conduct for those following the yogic path. The fourth yama is Brahmacharya, literally, behavior that leads to Brahman, or the highest divinity. Patanjali’s definition of Brahmacharya is pretty narrow and pretty specific to his time: Celibacy.

Yes, that’s since been reinterpreted. Ashley has talked about tailoring our actions towards the divine — definitely a goal worth pursuing. But an interpretation that is perhaps more accessible is this: The right use of energy.

And wow, that goes a long way towards explaining how today unfolded. I am a news guy; I was that way before I chose this as a profession. I’ll never be able to step away completely from what I see, read and cover — it’s part of who I am, and it always will be. And this weekend was tough. I’m a veteran and I think I’m pretty patriotic … and seeing this garbage happen in my country is deeply offensive, to the point where it feels like a physical wound.

But here’s the thing: it feels that way because I let it feel that way. When something like this happens — and, I’m afraid, it’s going to happen a lot in the next couple years — I’m always going to feel the way I felt this weekend, at least initially. After that impulse, though, I can control my reaction … and I didn’t do that today.

Not at first, anyway. When Kelly got stung, she shouted — and that sort of snapped me out of all of the other crap that had been cluttering my brain all day. We got her some ice (thanks to the kids at the Avonworth pool for their help) and pretty quickly she felt better enough to take a nap in the warm, late afternoon sun.

I knew later that my mental clouds had passed, when I realized that I had to walk back to my car to grab my regular glasses that I forgot to bring to the wharf party. If I’m in a bad mood, that’s the kind of dumb little thing that can spoil a day for me; this afternoon, it did not. I recognized that I was in a cool space, among friends, and the walk back to the parking garage was insignificant.

I need to find that more, because that’s the right use of energy.

I’m now at home. I’ve had a stunning bottle of beer.

IMG_0406

I’ve hung out a bit with my cat.

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And, thankfully, I didn’t let at shitty start to the day — and all of the weirdness that followed — get in the way of a great Sunday.

feeling thirsty?

Some of you — mostly the ones who are running in the Pittsburgh Marathon or the half on May 7 — know this drill already: When you get to the fluid station at Mile 6+, look for the guy with the beard and the silly red Ohio State bucket hat for hugs, high fives and a cup of the best water on the course.

The guy in the red hat is me, by the way. See?

redhatcrop

For those of you who aren’t running but might not be completely averse to waking up at 4:30 a.m. and handing off hundreds of cups of water to people as they walk by … you should join me. Yes, the hours are rough, but we’ve done this for several years in a row now, and it’s my favorite annual event in Pittsburgh. And it’s a truly gratifying experience; even if you don’t see people you know running the course, everyone is grateful that you’re there and helping out. Seriously — it’s the most fun five hours you can have on an early Sunday morning on the North Side.

How do you sign up? Get to the Marathon’s volunteer page (I filtered this link to make the course water stations easy to find in the list), and scroll down to “COURSE Fluid Station at Fulton Street between Ridge Avenue and Western Avenue (North Side; Approx. Mile 6.2).” Click the button, fill out the info and you’re ready to go. And of course while we’d be happy to have company, if you’d rather volunteer at a station closer to you, that’s perfectly acceptable. We hope we see you there.

course

And if you’re running this year, keep in mind that the North Side part of the course is a little different, so you won’t see us on Western Avenue. We’ll be on Fulton between Ridge and Western, just before you guys make a hard left turn to head over the West End Bridge. Just look for the hat, people — I’m easy to find.

one down. one to go.

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That’s me. At Piper’s. I’m not hard to find.

A thing I should have done last night: Take a photo of the wings-and-beer spread we brought over to AJ’s house. It was … impressive. And delicious.

I don’t think four dozen wings will be part of the second AUCNFFC payoff Thursday night, but it could be fun regardless. As a reminder: Two seasons ago, winner Kewyson opted to donate his winnings to a night out for Pittsburgh AUCNFFC players … and we’re going to make good on that Thursday.

As I said before, if you’ve ever been an AUCNFFC contestant, show up at Piper’s Pub Thursday night — I’ll be there around 7:45 or 8 — and I’ll buy you a beer. I can’t imagine we’ll get there, but I’ll buy one beer per person until I hit $50 … or until it’s time for me to go home.

And if you want to stay for another, and maybe watch some basketball … or not … please do. I hope I see you there.