water slinging.

I have a perfectly good reason to show up on Western Avenue at 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Just like some of you guys will have a perfectly good reason run down Western Avenue a few hours later.

Yep. Mrs. Crappy and I are working the Pittsburgh Marathon water station on Western Avenue — the one sponsored by the Humane Society — again on Sunday morning.

If you’re running on Sunday, find us. We’ll be on your right, probably in front of the First Niagara Bank as usual. And to make things even easier…

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From a year ago. Pic by @pantster.

… I’ll be wearing the same stupid bright red Ohio State bucket hat that I always wear.

So as you approach Mile Six, find the guy in the red hat. If you’ve done this before, you already know the line:

Hugs. High fives. And the best water on the course.

Find us on Sunday morning, boys and girls. We want to cheer for you.

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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.

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?

24. trotting.

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You’re surprised that I wore an Ohio State jersey? Have we met?

I’d always wanted to do the YMCA Turkey Trot, the annual 5K held in the city on Thanksgiving morning, if for no other reason that it would provide ample justification for the gorging that would occur later in the day.

So of course, I waited to do the race until the year when I’m not really allowed to gorge any longer.

But that’s my only gripe about this morning’s race. Well, that and that freaking hill coming around Commonwealth Place to Fort Duquesne Boulevard just as we’re hitting the third mile … that sucked a little bit, to be honest. But that’s a minor gripe — especially in a hilly town like Pittsburgh — and the only one I had about the race. I loved the course; I ran (or walked) past both PG newsrooms, over two bridges and past two stadiums, all on a perfect, sunny, 45-degree morning.

How’d I do? I joked on Wednesday about finishing last in my age group. And I was close.

But that’s not the point. The point is getting outside on a gorgeous morning. The point is enjoying the energy of your fellow runners. The point is responding to the people who are cheering you because you’re wearing an Ohio State jersey. The point is moving.

I did all those. I want to do it again. Soon. Thursday morning was too much fun not to.

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.

20. you can take it with you.

blurry stadium

It was the last thing I did inside Ohio Stadium when I left after Saturday’s cold, rainy loss to Michigan State.

And it was the best way for me to start Michigan week.

ohio-stadium-garland

Those concrete garlands – they’re “strung” all around the stadium, attached to the building’s original façade – are my connection between the current, expanded version of the stadium and the one that my grandfather worked on before it opened in 1922. I’m not especially superstitious, but I always make sure I go up the correct stairway to C Deck so I can touch one of those garlands. It’s a little thing, but it makes me feel like I have the entire weight of Ohio State football history behind me as I climb up to my seats.

The renovations to the stadium were completed in the early 2000s, and they added capacity to the building in two ways: the track was removed and the field was lowered, so additional seats could be added to the base of the lower bowl, and a new façade was erected outside the old one so C Deck could be expanded up an out. I don’t recall the first time I touched one of the garlands, but once I settled on that as a tradition, I’ll even backtrack down a second flight of stairs just to make sure I touch one before the game begins.

As you may be aware, I got my first tattoo last spring, a subtle – in theme, not in the size of the piece – display of my affection for Athens. Something having to do with Ohio State football was a natural for Tattoo No. 2, but getting a Block O or something else obvious just wasn’t going to work. But while struggling with potential ideas, Mrs. Crappy made a suggestion: What about those garlands? I immediately thought they would work as a bicep band.

erin tat selfie

So about a week after my birthday, I went back to see Erin at Kyklops. Once again she totally nailed what I had in mind.

tattoo stadium

And although there won’t be another trip to Ohio Stadium during the 2015 season, I will have a little bit of the stadium with me all the way through Michigan week.