What is Pastafarianism?

Have you ever heard of Pastafarianism? Either have I, until very recently.  While browsing article at CNN today I came across an article that mentions it.  I will be touching on it later, but it just seems concerning how that is news.  This topic was sandwiched around the following topics: a Secret Service article, a travel ban article, an article about the spelling bee, an article about a donation from a former racist, and an article about the divorce of a former teacher/student relationship.  You can argue that all of those are legitimate newsworthy stories, except for the Pastafarian article.  However, maybe at times slipping in a somewhat humorous story is good for people reading the news.  Let’s take a deeper look into Pastafarianism.

Pastafarianism would be the study, practice, and teaching of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.  That’s right, one more time, Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster!  Clearly this has to be a joke, right?  According to the website, the organization has been secret for hundreds of years and has just now come into the mainstream.  They claim to be widely recognized as a legitimate religion, mostly by Christians because of the realization that “our God has larger balls than theirs”.  Yep, you read that right!  Check out the website for plenty more to read and you can also browse some of their photos and the ministry work.  It may even give you a laugh.

What has made this newsworthy? Back to the story on CNN about an Arizona man wearing a strainer for his identification photo. Normally you are not able to wear anything on your head for identification photos.  Sometimes, exceptions are allowed for religious purposes.  The man spent a couple of years trying at various locations and finally he was allowed to take his photo with a strainer on his head.  The photo is pretty funny to say the least.  Some would argue that is against the safety of of our citizens, or that this will open the floodgates for others to try these type of gimmicks.  Others could argue that as weird and goofy as it seems, what makes anyone’s religion more believable or realistic than this?  Who are we to say what a person can and can’t worship?  It was noted that Sean Corbett might have his ID voided for wearing his head gear.  If that happens, Corbett vows to wage a legal battle.

I am not in any place to say that The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is a real, fake, or ridiculous.  I would imagine that it will go to the court system just like everything else in our society.  The religion is recognized in New Zealand and the Netherlands.  Who knows, maybe the U.S. is next?  As for this being news, I am not sure if it really is, but it certainly can maybe put a smile on a face leading into a weekend!

–Victor Mandalawi

Halfway to a Champ!

Approximately one month ago I wrote about the start of the NBA playoffs.  At this time, we are almost halfway through the playoffs.  3 of the 4 semifinal participants are set and possibly after tonight all 4 will be set.  So far there have not been any real surprises or major upsets.  A best of 7 series is really designed for the better team to win.  Occasionally, you can have a really bad match-up against a team and the lower seeded team can beat you.  However, when you get to the semifinal round, I think any team can win. Your team has to be pretty good to get that far.  Just because there have not been any upsets does not mean there have been great stories to follow.

In the first round series with the Bulls and Celtics, the 8th seeded Bulls won the first two games of the series on the road.  In most series that would be considered a commanding lead.  The Bulls point guard, Rajon Rondo, was injured in Game 2 and had to sit out the rest of the series.  He is not alone in thinking that if he did not get hurt, the Bulls would have continued to win and most likely win the series. After he went out the Bulls did not come close to winning another game and the higher seeded team prevailed.  The Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors both won their series in a sweep, no surprise there.  The higher seeded Wizards and Raptors also advanced in the Eastern Conference.  The Western Conference had the Rockets and Spurs advance as well.  There was one minor upset in the West.  The Utah Jazz beat the Clippers in a game 7.  Ending the Clippers season and bringing up an interesting summer for them, but that is a topic for another day!

The second round has had a little more drama and suspense.  It was again no surprise that the Cavs and Warriors advanced, but maybe a little that they swept their series again.  When you sweep a team, you can give your team a much needed rest at this time of the year.  I am sure both teams will enjoy their rest.  The other 2 series had a little more drama.  The Spurs are playing the Rockets and the series would have been very competitive.  The Spurs then managed to lose their point guard for the season, a big blow for sure.  I would not have been surprised if they ended up losing the series because of that, but they went the other way. They were more than competitive with the Rockets and they were even able to close out the Rockets with another major injury keeping Leonard out.  The Celtics are in a tight series with the Wizards.  They could end it tonight with a win, if not, they will have to play a game 7 in Boston on Monday. I would count on it as each home team has won.

It seems that we are still on track for the collision course we are all looking for!  It would be the third straight  time the Cavs and Warriors meet in the Finals, with this one breaking the tie.  It is yet to be seen if anyone can knock them off in the semi-finals.  The Spurs have major injury concerns and are a heavy underdog, but I would never count out a Popovich coached team.  I do not think the Cavs will be challenged in their next series.  LeBron is rolling and will be a tough out.  We should have a winner in another month!

Down to Four!

There are four teams remaining in the Men’s NCAA basketball Tournament.  They are usually referred to as the “Final Four”.  64 teams entered the tourney and only 4 remain.  60 games have been played and only 3 remain.  As I have mentioned in the last two posts, there is plenty of drama and there are plenty of story lines to follow.  That has not changed with only 4 teams remaining.  There are 2 #1 seeds left, a #3, and a #7.  It is not surprising that a number 1 seed makes it, but it might shock a few this time around.  Lets take a look at each team that is left.

We can start with the least surprising team, North Carolina.  They were the #1 seed in the South bracket.  Winning was not surprising, but the drama in the game against Kentucky was “edge of your seat” stuff.  North Carolina held a decent lead in the final minutes, but Kentucky managed to hit a few 3 pointers to close the gap and the final 3 pointer tied the game with roughly 7 seconds left.  North Carolina did not call a timeout and they dribbled right up the court and dished for a wide open jump shot…It went in with .3 seconds left and the game was all but over.  By the way, the next morning, this happened.  Sometimes it is easy to forget they are student athletes, good for him!

Another number one seed to make the Final Four are the Gonzaga Bulldogs. It should not be a surprise that a number one seed makes it, but it is considering I am discussing the “mid-major” powerhouse.  This is their first trip after having plenty of really solid teams and opportunities in the past.  Gonzaga advanced to the final 4 by winning a close game against West Virginia and then blowing out Xavier.  Quite frankly, it should not be a surprise they are here. They have only lost one game all year and they rose to the #1 ranking in the country at one point this season.  There is no reason they can’t win it all.

The number 3 seed Oregon Ducks advanced to the final four by squeaking past the Michigan Wolverines and then handling a really good Kansas team.  They had some really outstanding efforts by Dorsey and Bell.  Bell was a one man wrecking crew in the paint.  Oregon had a great regular season and could or should have been seeded higher.  However, one of their better players was injured in the conference tournament.  Most thought that would really hurt their chances of doing any damage in the tourney.  It looks like “most” people were wrong.  They have a good shot at winning it all.

Finally, our last team in the Final Four is the South Carolina Gamecocks.  This is their first trip to the Final Four and they certainly earned it.  They knocked off Baylor and Florida to get in.  Not too mention they beat Duke earlier in the tourney.  They play an extremely physical brand of basketball with outstanding defense.  Many would argue they have taken on the personality of their coach, Frank Martin.  He is about as intense as it gets!  They certainly have a shot to win it all if they continue to play like they have.

So there are three games remaining, I know there are favorites to win each game.  However, I would not be surprised is any one of the 4 teams came out on top.  It takes a ton of hard work to get here and just a little more to win it all.  There is only one winner and by late Monday, we will know who it is.  By the way, 25 years ago today a guy named Jordan hit this shot to win it all for North Carolina.

 

–Victor Mandalawi

Sweet Sixteen!

Last week I wrote about the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.  The first round was played on Thursday and Friday. The second round was played on Saturday and Sunday.  I thought there would be major upsets and plenty of stories to come from the tournament.  Trust me, it is not hard to predict upsets and story lines.  They happen every year.  I wanted to touch on the upsets and what teams are still left.  I also wanted to see if any good stories would appear.

Sixteen teams are left standing after the first 2 rounds.  The NCAA takes a couple of days off before the 3rd and 4th rounds commence.  After this weekend, we will have four teams left standing. You will always have a few surprises and this year is no different.  The East region has lost the top 2 teams in the region.  The West region has an 11 seed that advanced.  The Midwest has a 7 seed that advanced and the South region is “chalk”.  Chalk is a term that means the top seeds have all advanced, like they should have based on their seeds. Even though 3 of the regions have upsets, I do not think they are that major.  The upset in the West region is courtesy of the 11 seed Xavier.  Seems like a “Cinderella”, but they were ranked preseason #7 in the country so some people thought they would be good this year.  They have had some injuries and they seem to have figured out how to play without their injured players.  The 7 seed in the Midwest region is seen as an upset, but that team is Michigan.  They finished the regular season on a roll, were in a minor plane crash, and won the Big Ten tournament. They carried that momentum over to the tourney.  I do not think they are Cinderella because they are not a small school with no expectations.  The East region lost #1 Villanova and #2 Duke.  Villanova lost to a very accomplished Wisconsin team. Duke lost to South Carolina.  In my opinion that is the closest team to a Cinderella that the tourney has left, even though their seed does not say that.

A few of the stories that have emerged are entertaining.  Here is a great one from the Gonzaga team.  I love the nicknames they got, “Shrek and Donkey”.  It is a great read and can give you a glimpse of what “Donkey” has had to deal with 5,000 miles from home. I have already mentioned the plane crash that the Michigan Wolverines survived.  A major story to me is the remaining match-ups.  We will have games this weekend that include two major programs in Kentucky and UCLA.  Xavier and Arizona playing each other is putting the coaches against each other.  Chris Mack was an assistant for Miller at Xavier and when Miller left, Mack got the job.  That will be a tough game for those two.  How about this, UCLA will have to beat Kentucky and North Carolina just to get to the Final Four!  That is brutal.

Regardless of the team you cheer for, you will be able to find a game that is interesting in the next few days.  If you are not able to, you are not a fan of college basketball.  Also, you should watch or pay attention just so you can follow your bracket.  I know you filled one out!

–Victor Mandalawi

 

Free Agency Begins!

NFL free agency begins at 4pm et on Thursday, March 9th.  Usually this means a few things.  There will be players that hit it big in free agency.  There will players that that earn less money than they felt they were worth.  There might even be players that take less than market value so they can go to a team they feel they have a chance to compete for a championship.  One of the the other parts of free agency are when teams start cutting their higher paid players that might not be performing up to their contract or they even release players to free up money to sign new free agents.  No matter what team you follow it is pretty much a given that they are going to make a few moves today, or at least be rumored to.

Since none of these moves are technically official, they are just from sources.  However, you can almost bet that they are on good authority.  One of those rumors is that the Bears are getting Mike Glennon.  It seems to be a very lucrative deal for Mike Glennon.  He has played a little in his career, but the Bucs drafted Winston to replace Glennon.  Now Glennon is getting 15 million a year.  Good for Glennon, take what you can get while you can.  The flip side of that signing will be that Jay Cutler is going to get released from the Bears. A team can’t afford to pay 2 Qb’s that much money.

Chris Long was drafted 2nd overall years ago.  He has made plenty of money in his career.  Last year he decided to sign for a short term, one year deal at under market value with the Patriots.  The thought was that he would get a chance to play for a contender as he had never played on a winning team.  He gambled by taking a short term deal, but it paid off.  He was able to play in and win the Super Bowl with the Patriots. He is now a free agent and will most likely sign somewhere and get more money than he made last year.

It has been thought for quite some time that Tony Romo will not be playing for the Cowboys next year. It is perceived to be Dak Prescott’s team now.  If that is true, why pay Romo so much money to sit the bench?  The Cowboys are trying to trade him, but the salary cap makes trading more difficult than it should be.  The thought now is that Romo would be going to Houston to replace Osweiler, who is being traded to the Browns. It seems like a game of revolving doors.

The NFL seems to get covered in their off-season more than any of the other major sports.  This is a really neat time of the year for NFL fans.  Teams and fans can look forward to free agency and then shortly after the draft.  There is hope that a few good signings and a few good picks can really turn the fortunes of your team.  It is also exciting that as I was writing this article, plenty of changes were happening.  So in a matter of an hour, the landscape of the NFL can change a little.  That can be pretty exciting!

 

 

The Insanity of Youth Sports!

I do not think you need to have a child involved in youth sports to have an idea that they are much different than they used to be.  They are different in many ways.  The players are better, they have better access to all facets of the games, and the competition is much more hasty.  I believe that the high voltage competition has led to much more violence in youth sports.  There are all types of violence including player/player, player/referee, and referee/coach.  I do not think player/player violence will ever stop.  Competition can cause players to get after each other from time to time. However, there is no way a referee or coach should be involved in any type of violence, especially in youth sports. By the way, I am not even mentioning the “craziness” of parents. I have picked a few episodes of this violence and we can take a look at them below.

All of this is old except for this nugget that recently came out.  I have watched this at least ten times. At first it is pretty funny.    However, I do not understand why a coach thinks it is acceptable to go onto the court and so forcefully reject a players shot.  I have never seen something like this in my life.  No matter how angry the coach is that the kid is going the wrong way, you can’t go onto the court like that.  He then proceeds to block his shot and cross his arms.  The whole thing is pretty weird.  I am glad he is wearing a shirt and tie to the game, but he certainly is not acting like a shirt and tie guy in this clip.

This incident is a couple of years old, but it still sticks in my mind. I remember thinking the players were crazy for doing this.  They should have been shut down immediately and even have criminal charges.  However, more information came out and it seems the players might have been coerced by an assistant coach.  Of course, a coach ordering a player to do this is ridiculous and against all sportsmanship.  Even if the coach does not order it, but he/she hints that something needs to be “done” to a referee is an issue.  Many players, especially youth players will do anything to get the attention of a coach or to please a coach.  I know they were old enough to not have done this, but ultimately they are still children and are very impressionable.

Here is another video that shows a youth game getting stopped for some reason.  Then the video shows the referee being assaulted by one of the coaches.  In no way is this acceptable.  If this were to happen on the street it would be considered a serious crime and I hope it was treated that way in this instance.

There are tons of examples that are on the internet.  This article could go on forever about these issues.  I am not quite sure when it became acceptable for this behavior to occur?  I would imagine that this happened 40 years ago, but it was a different time and people did not have smartphones at their disposal to record everything.  I just do not think that is was nearly as prevalent as it is now.  Whatever the cause may be, it needs to be corrected.  The irony in this is that youth sports are a great way for children to learn tons of life lessons. But when this stuff happens it basically erases any good that the game itself can infuse.

 

It’s Official!

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As of 12pm Friday, January 20,  Donald Trump was President of the United States of America.  That statement seems like it can not be true, but it is.  Who would have thought 5 years ago that he could or would be the President? Did anyone watch the events leading up to the Inauguration? How about the Inauguration?  During his speech, Trump made many statement/promises that seem to be extremely lofty goals.  That is nothing new, he has been making these statements for a year now.  Did the Obama’s have any issues on the way out?

Thursday night was full of protests and rioting and nothing changed on Friday morning.  Businesses were damaged and pepper spray was used.  Seems like a pretty silly thing to do. Protesting is a part of our culture and it is our right.  However, peaceful protesting should be the ticket.  When property damage, human damage, and tons of money is spent to keep people safe it seems to be counter productive.  According to NBC News, 95 people have been arrested in the Washington DC area.  I am sure that number has increased.  The Presidency is always a hot-button topic, but Trump really seems to move the needle more than anyone I can remember in recent years.

President Trump, that is weird to type, had one heck of a day.  He started off by taking the oath of office, then gave a speech that makes plenty of promises, moved into a new house, and then went to a bunch of parties that celebrate the inauguration.     That would be enough for me to sleep in the next day!  Trump reminded everyone of his theme, “Make America Great Again”. Those are lofty goals, but I would rather him set the goal high and come up short than not have a goal at all.

So on a funny note, check out this article about the Inauguration cake.  The Trump team has been accused of plagiarizing a few times and now the cake might be plagiarized!  How on Earth could someone let that happen?  They look the exact same.  Let’s hope there are some new ideas for the next cake in 4 years.

Here are a few things about the departure of Obama.  How about the fact that his plane had to be diverted yesterday.  His last day in office and his first flight as a civilian gets messed up.  The article notes that the handful of supporters gathered had to go home unhappy because the Obama’s flight was diverted to another airport. Any idea how much money Obama will make from the Federal Government?  According to this article, Obama will make $207,800 in pension payments as a retired Government employee.  That is a decent pension, but it will be pennies compared to the money he will make in the private sector and through speaking engagements and book deals.

No matter what side of the fence you were on, it does not matter at this point.  Trump is our President and he deserves a fair shot.  If he can not deliver on his promises he will get his share of negative reactions.  I have a feeling that even if he does deliver, he will have his share of negative press.  He just moves the needle that much!

 

 

 

 

Do they need rest?

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The NBA recently came to an agreement with their players union.  They are admitting that it is a great time to be in the NBA.  They have a monster TV contract and the teams are making plenty of money.  The players are also reaping the rewards of the monster TV deals.  So who is losing in the deal?  I would argue the fan is losing.  Ticket prices, concessions, memorabilia, and many other items have increased as well.  Even if you do not go to a game you are paying more if you watch. The networks now have to charge subscribers more for their service.  They also have to charge their advertisers more for the ad spots and I would think that gets passed onto the consumer(us).  If you are able to put that aside and decide to spend your money and go to an NBA game it could be a great experience.  Maybe once in a lifetime for some people.  What happens if you spend your time and money and the team does not play their best players?  Would that be an issue?  That is becoming more prevalent and I am not sure there is an easy answer for it.

So your favorite player is Lebron James and his team is coming to play your local team.  You decide to buy tickets to the game.  You notice that they are more expensive than other regular season games and you wonder why.  It is called dynamic pricing!  It is a ticket pricing structure that has been happening for a few years.  It stinks as a fan to have to pay more for a ticket based on the team being played or the day or date of the game.  However, it makes perfect sense for the organization. It is simple supply and demand business!

You still have tickets and are excited to get to the game.  When you get there you realize your favorite player is not playing, as well as the other two stars on the team.  You figure injuries are a part of the game and you deal with it.  However, you learn that they are not playing just because they are “resting”.  According to Forbes, it is the NBA’s number one problem.  Many teams have been doing this for a few years, rest your players to keep them fresh throughout the year and try to avoid injuries.  Does that make it easier on Average Joe that spent a lot of money to get his family to the game? The simple answer is no!

The Cavaliers front office seems more than at peace with this.  They should be, they rested their players at an away game and did not anger their season ticket holders.  They are keeping their players “rested” for a playoff push.  So according to the GM, “There’s just no reason to push anything”.  Even though the fans are losing in this situation, how can we argue with it?  If a Dr. tells a coach that if he rests a player, he will be better later in the season it makes sense to rest him.  After all, most coaches will get paid based on their playoff performance, not if they win or lose 1-2 games more in the regular season.  I do not understand why they rested all 3 stars.  Would it not make more sense to rest one at a time?  Would that give you a better chance at winning those games vs. a “forfeit”?

I do not think there is a simple answer to the issue.  I certainly would hate to be the fan that loses on this end of the deal.  However, the team has to protect their assets and do whatever they think helps them win it all.  The only way this changes is if the fans stop buying tickets, but that’s really not possible because you have no idea who will be resting and when they are resting.  Basically, the situation stinks and would love to see it corrected somehow.

Cubs Win! Cubs Win!

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I would most people have heard that the Chicago Cubs won the World Series last night.  It was a fantastic game that resembled a roller-coaster.  There were ups and downs for both teams and fan-bases.  The series in general was quite entertaining and of course it had plenty of story lines.  Just the idea of going to a game 7 is entertainment enough.  However, you add in that it is the Cubs and they were down 3-1 in the series makes the drama that much more thick.  Who was the MVP, how did the fans react, was the game a highly rated television viewing?  By the way it had been 108 years since the Cubs last won a World Series!

The game itself was not necessarily played well, but it was still a fantastic game to watch.  It seemed as if the Cubs were going to run away with the game, but the Indians stabilized and clawed back.  The Cubs best relief pitcher was on the mound with a 6-3 lead. I am not sure you could ask for anything else, yet Cleveland fought and tied it up at 6-6.  The 9th inning came up empty for both teams, and then there was a rain delay that was very short. The Cubs came out of the delay and took control by plating two runs in the 10th inning.  Cleveland did manage to score another run in the bottom of the tenth inning but the Cubs were able to seal the deal and end the game!

Of course it takes a lot contributions to win a World Series and the Cubs received plenty from pitchers and hitters.  The MVP was given to Ben Zobrist, not only did he knock in the go ahead run in extra innings but he was the most consistent performer throughout the series for the Cubs.  Zobrist and his teammates really helped Joe Maddon.  He is a great manager that seems to have an answer for all of his moves, but a few in the last couple of games were quite inexplicable to say the least.

Despite Maddon’s moves and Chapman blowing the lead, they won and the celebration was on.  You have your typical champagne spraying, hugging, screaming, etc. The Cubs have quite a large fan base and there are plenty of celebrities that love the Cubs.  Somehow they managed to gain access to the locker room and you saw Eddie Vedder and Bill Murray.  I am not necessarily a fan of Murray and his act, but he has been with the Cubs for a long time.  I can remember him sitting with Harry Carray during the first night game at Wrigley Field.  The players and ownership must love him to allow him access and that is all that matters.

The party will rage on for days, weeks, months for Cubs fans.  It starts tomorrow with the celebratory parade.  What do you think that scene will be like? How productive will the workforce in Chicago be for the next few days?  I do not think it matters if you are a Cubs fan, if you are a baseball fan you have to happy for the Cubs.  It is clear that the game was highly viewed.  The most wacthed baseball game in 15 years!  If you believe in curses, this one is put to bed.  Hopefully it does not take another 108 years to win another!

–Victor Mandalawi

The World Series

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I would assume many have heard that The World Series is being played right now.  Baseball has taken a backseat to football over the years, but it is still a major sport with plenty of fans.  This year will bring more fans to the series because the Chicago Cubs are in involved.  There are plenty of story lines in this series as both teams are currently in the longest drought in the sport.  Which ever team wins, it will end the misery for long suffering fanbase.

We can start talking about game number 1.  How many people watched it?  You would think a decent amount because Chicago is a large market but Cleveland is not.  I do not really understand the way the ratings work, but the game was up 20% compared to game one last year.  That game had a large market team as well, The Mets.  I think if the series goes the distance and a potential Cubs World Series is hanging in the balance, the ratings would be through the roof.  I just think the Cubs have a massive national following and there will be some interested  people.

One story to follow would be that of Kyle Schwarber.  Here is a Cubs player that has been out all year after having knee surgery in April.  I did not think a guy could get cleared and in less than a week be inserted into the line-up in game one of the World Series! How can anyone be ready after just hitting out of a cage for a few days?  Apparently, Schwarber was ready.  He struck out a couple of times, but he also hit one off the wall and drew a walk against a very tough left handed pitcher. It will be interesting to see if he can leave his mark on the series.

The Cubs have been the lovable losers in baseball for so many years.  They have not won the World Series since 1908! That is a long, long time!  What team holds the next longest drought?  Of course, it is the Cleveland Indians.  Their last win would have been in 1948.  One of these teams has to win, so a certain fan base will be excited.  Check out this story, so the kid predicts the Cubs to win the World Series.  What other team would even have a kid mentioning that in the school yearbook.  Only the Cubs! Hopefully for Cubs fans he is right.

No matter what team wins, it will be deserved.  Each fan base has waited a long time for this moment. The Cubs fans have had to listen to silly curse stories for years.  The billy goat story, the black cat story for the 1969 Cubs, and Bartman.  I would think most of this is ridiculous, but people entertain the idea of curses. If the Cubs do win,will they lose their Loveable Loser nickname?

 

–Victor Mandalawi