Tag Archives: football

Thankful

30 Nov

By now, Sunday morning of Thanksgiving weekend, most people will have spent the long holiday period (not exactly a weekend) getting hammered (Wednesday night – AKA “Black Wednesday” – the drunkest night of the year – even worse than New Year’s eve)j, overeating (Thursday, natch), overspending (Friday), overwatching football (all weekend long), drinking even more, etc. etc.  Many people approach Thanksgiving weekend with both excitement and dread and the dread comes from a variety of sources – time spent with family you don’t care to see, travel worries and hassles, dividing time among various family members (Thanksgiving is considered to be the most complicated holiday for that), etc.

Notice the key missing element of the above is what the core of the holiday is supposed to be about? Giving thanks?

It seems like in our efforts as a country to over-program everything (admit it, we do) is extracting the basics of this holiday. The “first official shoppng day” of the Christmas season is now the day where everything USED to be closed, and people were home with family. Black Friday was officially usurped this year by Thanksgiving Day, according to the National Retail Federation’s tracking.

I have to admit to participating a lot in the overindulgence – but at least I think it is focused on family and friends. Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Professor Troutstream and I, plus our families and some select close friends gather at a pub for our annual “Burgers, Beer and Bourbon (and Tots)” fest. We do get a wee bit, umm, happy there, but the biggest feature is just great stories and tons of laughs.

Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, Robin and I hosted 22 for dinner at our house Thursday evening. We choose to do our big TG dinner in the evening – and that conveniently allows those who are having to split time, to hit multiple Thanksgiving celebrations. Most of our crowd was family – my mom, Robin’s parents, her aunt and uncle from Ohio, their kids and spouses – but we also had two couples that are among our best friends there – both couples are empty-nesters with no local family to go to. Happy to be their “local family”.

Friday was a chill day – I used it to get some house projects done, the most notable was getting my music studio organized in the way I have been planning to organize it since we redid our basement 2 years ago. Have a small PA system set up, a dedicated computer for playing and recording music, mutliple amps for visiting players, etc.  Pretty sweet. Still need to get all the guitars on the wall, but step by step. Friday evening, my inlaws hosted a wonderful dinner for the whole family plus a few more at a local Greek restaurant – and it was a huge treat and much fun.

Yesterday, on the idea of son #1, I got The Fanbulance out of storage, piled the three sons into it, and headed to Evanston IL to pick up Professor Troutstream and watch the Illini of U of Illinois play the Wildcats of Northwestern. The Prof and I enjoyed a bit more Kentucky “brown water” at the tailgate (goes great with Egg McMuffins!), and then left the game about halftime and headed to a pub where his wife joined us and we waited out the rest of the game and the arrival of the sons.  Last evening, was just a chill night – my mom made a delicious gravy to accompany the leftover turkey and we made “stuffing waffles” (heat up stuffing in a waffle iron – best idea ever!) to put all the good stuff over. Our local high school, Stevenson, was in the state championship football game and I watched them win that – enjoying the 4th quarter from bed.

Today, it’s just another chill day although we need to put the house back in order from the bash Thursday night as well as I need to put away our patio, run the gas out of the power lawn tools, etc.

So, now that I have bored you with a rundown of my weekend, I’ll return to the point of this post. I spent the entire weekend in the company of all of those I love the most – family, closed and dear friends, and more. Did we overeat and overdrink? Bet your ass we did. To me, that’s what Thanksgiving weekend is all about though – spending the time in the company of your friends and family.

And I have so much to be thankful for – my wonderful wife of 28.5 years, the three amazing young men that are my sons, my mom, and the fact that at 78, she is as sharp as ever and in generally good health and able to travel to us, live on her own, etc., Robin’s family and how they all travel in to make this such a fun weekend, my great pal Professor Troutstream, all of our other close friends, the fact that I have a challenging and rewarding career with a continued upwards trajectory, a nice home, a loyal dog, etc. etc.

Overindulge I did. Did I gain a few pounds this weekend?  I’m sure of it – back onto track with my Weight Watchers program this week. Do I creak and ache like a typical 50-something person? Sure do. But that’s how I know I am alive.

If you follow my blog, you most certainly know that my focus is on living life. It is entirely too short. I’m thankful for the opportunities I have to be able to live life so well with people I love.  There’s the sentence I was looking for.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

As you were,

Stew

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I love College Football

3 Oct

We spent a marvelous weekend in Champaign IL visiting our son at University of IL, and seeing the Illini play the Northwestern Wildcats on Saturday.  Having grown up deep in the heart of Iowa, with no professional sports around, college football was the religion drummed into me since my early days, and it was so much fun to relive the excitement.  Here’s the best things I love about college football Saturdays:

1) The pure excitement of it – yes, pro fans are rabid and mad too, but the excitement seems so much more pure with college ball than pro ball.  Entire stadiums filled with the team’s colors.  Entire stadiums singing the loyalty song at the top of their lungs, or participating in a unison chant (ILL-INI, etc.), and even the intensity of the athletes themselves.  Yes, there are questions about “are college athletes pros, or should they be paid” – the reality is all of them are seeking something bigger and greater than just making sure they have their contract.  There is much more pure intensity.

2) Tailgating:  Again, pro football also has tailgating, but … I love college football and tailgating seems like it is endemic to the sport.  Whether a simple beer and a brat, or an elaborate setup with residential-sized grills banging out filet mignon, tailgating is part of the sport.

3) The Students – this is the key difference in college ball.  Every college team has their student section packed with young kids who are there for one reason only – to cheer on their school to victory.  The student section at Iowa when I was there took up the entire north endzone, plus the first section on the west side of the stadium.  At Memorial Stadium in Champaign, it is the north end zone (called the “Block I”), plus an entire section of the east side.  Every kid dressed in orange, all screaming at the tops of their lungs.  It’s the “12th man” of the sport.

4) The rivalrys and the loyalty.  Pro teams are generally defined by where you live, but you never lose the loyalty to your alma mater – I don’t live near Iowa City and haven’t been to an Iowa game since 1991, but I still bleed black and gold, although now I put on the Orange and Blue for Illinois as well.

5) Related to Rivalrys and Loyalty, college ball does draw a different crowd to the games than the crowds you get at pro games.  Because colleges tend to be concentrated in smaller cities, they draw from around their area for fans, and often that’s the only game in town for these folks – my experience growing up is a great example.  While we enjoyed rooting for the Vikings and the Chiefs living in Iowa, reality was that OUR team was the Hawkeyes.  At the tailgate this Saturday, there was a large tailgate next to us all from the area around Effingham, IL – Effingham is close to nothing other than Champaign, and therefore, these folks are ILLINI fans, first and foremost.

I could go on and on, but there you have it.  At Saturday’s game, I felt more pure excitement and got so completely into the game, just like the old days of going to Hawkeye games.  May have to start going to those again now that the kids are older.

As you were,

Stew

Ahh … Friday

9 Sep

Is there anyone on the planet that doesn’t love Fridays?  Seriously … I can’t imagine that there is.

It is fun to think about what Friday means to different folks, but at the same time, the common theme is “ahh … end of the week.”

…  In elementary school, it’s no more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks.

… In high school, especially this time of year, it’s that plus, it’s GAME DAY!  I loved Fridays in high school – the football players roaming the halls wearing their game day jerseys, the cheerleaders in their cheerleading outfits.  Being in band, we’d start the day at 6:15 AM for marching band practice, which we’d end with marching into the school and down the hallways as people were arriving, playing the school loyalty song and other pump up music.  Usually a pep rally assembly during the day, and of course game night!  And perhaps a late date with the girlfriend afterwards for pizza and fun.

… In college, Friday night was date night usually – when I had a girlfriend, which was my wife Robin during Jr. and Sr. year.  Otherwise, it was the night you went out with friends to the bars – several of the bars had live music or club-style DJ dancing.  During football season, we often laid low on Friday nights as we knew we’d be up early for game day fun and tailgating.  My parents would often come in overnight for games (they came to every Iowa home game and tailgated), and we’d go out to dinner and then hit the Iowa City bars together.

… After college, in our early marriage years before kids, it was the night we’d go out with friends to bars or clubs either in the suburbs or downtown.

… with kids, Friday night was always the “chill from the week” night – hang at home, catch up on TV or conversation, rent a movie, etc.  “Sitter nights” were usually Saturday nights.

… As a working stiff, though Fridays are always either really slow, or really frenetic.  There’s rarely anything in between.  If it is slow, it is because it’s been a pretty big week, client deliverables have been met, and it’s a day to get caught up – clear the inbox, do the expense report, set appointments for next week, plan next week’s work, etc. etc.  OR, it’s the opposite – it’s the day the clients call with 20 requests, a big project you’ve been working on for weeks is due by EOD (end of day), etc. etc.  Hopefully, in either case, you can knock off a bit early, and join friends for a beer or cocktail at the end of the day.  Or just hustle home and start the weekend a few moments early.

At my current workplace, iCrossing, it fits that pattern, though as an office, the Friday pace of the Chicago office of iC is usually quite slow.  Thankfully, our company has a great policy for working from home and supports a culture of that, at least for my department, client services.  There are a lot of folks that “WFH” on Fridays, so the office is pretty quiet and empty.    I happen to be going into the office today as I have meetings, but I know I’ll catch an earlier train than normal home today because I can.

For me now, Fridays are a combination of religious observance and relaxation.  In religious observance, it is Shabbat in my worship of choice, Judaism.  Most Friday nights, we will have a family Shabbat dinner – candles, prayers over the wine and bread, great cooking, food and conversation.  Occasionally, we will share that with friends – our good friends “Beavis” and his wife “The Other Robin” are coming for an adult Shabbat dinner.  When we were active in a synagogue, we’d go to services a couple of Friday nights a month, usually after having Shabbat dinner with friends.  Our current worship group meets occasionally on Friday nights for Shabbat dinner and prayer.

We have a great group of friends that we often get together with on Fridays for what we call “MOC” – that stands for “Martini O’ Clock” – as in ‘what time is it?”  The MOC group’s origin is interesting – back when our kids were little, I’d get together with my buddies after 9:00 PM at night on Friday nights or other nights for a late beer and cigar – often by the firepit.  My late pal, DP, was my most-often guest, as well as other friends like Greg, and in the last 8 years or so, “GASHM”.   DP passed away the week before we moved to our current place, and all our friends pitched in to help us pack that last week – coming by a 9:00 for Martini’s and packing and grieving.  That gave birth to the MOC group – as we didn’t want to let go of that gathering.

Now the MOC group consists of a decent sized group of friends that gather once a month or more at one house or another, after 9:00 PM for martinins, wine, beer, brown stuff, noshes and spirited conversations.  It is part religious (as we are all Jewish) – the “proscribed” celebration for Shabbat is to gather with friends.  I’m

sure when whoever was writing that portion of the Torah described Shabbat, they weren’t imagining what we do, at the same time, my Rabbi pal next door thinks what we do is a blessing – it is a chance to gather with friends, converse and relax.  Most of us do observe Shabbat – often folks are joining MOC straight from Friday night services, and so the gathering just helps carry the observance forward.

Whatever Friday means to you, I wish you an enjoyable one.  May your Friday Night Lights – whether they be stadium lights or Shabbat candles, burn brightly for you this evening.  Shabbat Shalom.

As you were,

Stew

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