MAY
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Somebody Needs To Explain NHL Officiating To Me

Somebody needs to explain NHL officiating to me.

In any other sport, if you knock over the person in front of you like an anxious Mom at a Black Friday sale trying to get the last big-screen television, a whistle blows and some sort of penalty is called.

But apparently not in the NHL.

As you can see in the video here, Ryan Reaves cross-checks John Carlson to the ice like a snowplow clearing a road. With that road cleared, he easily took a nine-iron to the puck, launching it on an upward trajectory and scored what would turn out to be the winning goal.

Imagine if this happened in football: A tight end is in the end zone, pushes the safety in the back to the ground, then catches the ball for a touchdown.

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MAY
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On This Memorial Day, I Remember A Total Stranger. Again.

Every Memorial Day, for the last nine years, I dig up an old copy of a story I wrote on Memorial Day in 2009. It involves a young man I had never met, and who would forever be a total stranger to me.

He was a hero. A husband. A Dad. And a big fan of the Washington Capitals. If he were alive today, he’d be 35 years old and probably doing what the rest of us will be doing tonight: glued to a television set, wearing an Ovechkin jersey, and cheering on the Caps along with his two kids, who by now should be teenagers.

Here’s the story:

On this Memorial Day, I find myself thinking of a Marine I never met. And never will.

His name was James. R. McIlvaine. He grew up in Olney, Md., and his mother lives in Purcellville. He was killed in Iraq on April 30 while saving the life of another. He was 26 years old, and the father of two children.

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MAY
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In Memory Of The Fallen...

I was not aware of this song until a friend posted a link to it.

I challenge you to watch it until the end and still have at least one dry eye.

Thank you to all who have served for your service and sacrifice.... 

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MAY
27
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The Finished Product...

Since I've been trying to encourage everyone to try making pulled pork barbecue this weekend, I did not want to appear to be one of those "do as I say, not as I do" kind of people. So here's my finished product.

It turned out great, particularly when paired with  cole slaw, baked beans, deviled eggs and potato salad. My wife said if I posted this, I better credit her for making the beans and not "steal her bean glory." So she made the beans and they were fantastic.

Hope yours came out as well. Now it's time to find a sofa and watch the Indy 500...

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MAY
27
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Happy Motorhead Thanksgiving, Everybody!

The calendar doesn’t specifically recognize it, but today is Motorhead Thanksgiving, the greatest day of the year for people who love cars and take motorsports seriously.

Even though I’m not that much into cars, for many years there was a yearly ritual in my house on this day. Get up in the morning and get the grill/smoker/whatever you cook on outdoors ready at about 11. Watch the beginning of the Indianapolis 500 for an hour. Go out and finish cooking. Come back in the house, have a meal with your family and see the finish of Indy. Nap. Watch the beginning of the World 600. Nap some more. Wake up and still be able to see the last 3 hours of the World 600 since it seems like it went on forever most years.

The holiday, however, is dying no matter how fancy the commercials shown on TV are for the races. Younger generations in general don’t seem that interested in going to any live sporting events, and the older generations that really supported racing over the years are passing away. Television has saturated the market with too much of a good thing, ticket prices have been raised beyond what demand warrants, and the product itself these days isn’t that good. Turn on any live sporting event these days and you’ll see a lot of empty seats. Turn to a race and you’ll see even more.

I was lucky enough to discover NASCAR racing at just about the time it was making the transition from good ol’ boy, gritty, redneck sport that was rarely on television, to one that was the darling of ESPN and growing faster than any other sport out there. A fight – of all things – at the Daytona 500 that involved Cale Yarborough and brothers Donnie and Bobby Allison (above) seemed to capture a lot of people’s attention in the sport. So naturally when a friend said let’s go to Martinsville Speedway and see one, I was game.

Much like Daytona, we weren’t 5 minutes out of the car before we saw a fight…although this was between fans in the parking lot. What were they fighting about? One said “Ford” and the other said “Chevrolet” and next thing you knew, fists were flying. Once inside in our seats, we met dozens of down-home, salt-of-the-earth people with serious opinions on why Cale Yarborough was a good guy and Darrell Waltrip (who would win the race that day) was not. They were fiercely loyal, and they all cheered, booed, threw chicken bones down at the fence at the base of the racetrack and just appeared to have a heck of a time.

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MAY
26
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Here's A New Game To Explore: "Messin' With Alexa"

I will acknowledge that when “Siri In A Can” – the Amazon Echo – first came out, I was one of the first to buy it. And it was fun for awhile, until it dawned on me that in order to answer when I said “Alexa”, it kind of had to listen all the time. What it did with what it heard all the time wasn't something I felt great about, so about two years ago, I just unplugged it and put it on a dresser in the guest room.

But no more. I’ve discovered a new use for it as more and more of these revelations about Alexa and her listening habits make the news. Remember those Jack Link beef jerky commercials about “Messin’ With Sasquatch”? Well, in my house, it’s now “Messin’ With Alexa.”

I started first by placing it somewhere that anything it heard wouldn’t be very useful: The guest room bathroom. After years of my wife and I being in each other’s way getting ready in the morning, I discovered a few years ago that you can shower and get dressed over there and nobody critiques how you hung up a towel, or complains if you miss the clothes hamper by a few inches with an otherwise near-professional toss. Why not put it there?

As an Echo is also a decent speaker for music, the product is also a handsfree tool that you can say “play Channel 311 on Sirius XM” or “play WJFK on Tunein” and it will do so. That’s helpful in the morning when you’re rushing around, so to a degree it has been useful.

But now it has evolved into part of a game. Every morning I have questions for Ms. Alexa. When it was reported this week that some family in Portland had its conversation recorded by an echo and emailed to someone else, I started by saying “Alexa, do you talk to the CIA?” While most of the time Alexa answers with “sorry, I didn’t get that” she did immediately respond to that with “Amazon takes privacy very seriously”, which I took as an admission that Siri in a can gets that question a lot, so programmers gave her an answer.

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MAY
25

It's Time For Memorial Day BBQ. You Can Do This...

Every time about this year, I run into younger friends who say how much they love barbecue. Each time I hear it, I usually counter with “if you love it so much, why don’t you make it at home so you can have it more often.”

This is usually quickly followed by a look from my younger friends that suggest I’ve just asked him to go dig up some uranium in the back yard.

So let’s go over this. One. More. Time.

Making pulled pork barbecue is about as easy as it gets. It’s only about a quarter step up from boiling water. And when it’s on sale, you can make as much as you could probably eat in a month for 10 bucks.

The cut of meat you need to make barbecue from is called either a pork shoulder of a Boston Butt. It normally sells for between $1.79 to $1.99 pound and around holidays like Memorial Day, it’s usually on sale. Harris-Teeter, for example, is selling a Smithfield pork shoulder/Boston Butt for 99 cents a pound this week (what you should see at Harris Teeter should look exactly like the picture above), which means WE are having barbecue this weekend. For you folks who skipped math, that means a good sized 8-pound shoulder is going to cost under $8. Or about what you’ll pay for one barbecue sandwich at a Nationals game.

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MAY
24

Will $$$ Buy Happiness In College Football For Northwestern?

I couldn’t help but notice that Northwestern has just built the Taj Mahal of practice facilities on its campus, spending $270 million on something that is pretty incredible. The headline on Pete Thamel's story about it on Yahoo.com says "Move over Clemson, Oregon and Alabama ... Northwestern's ridiculous new practice facility is on another level." Then Pete gushes about it even more.

The story raises certain questions (like why didn’t Northwestern invest the money in that dump of a stadium they play in) but will also provoke questions at other schools (like "why don't we have something like this?"). The whole concept that spending that kind of money will gain a competitive edge in college football is something I’m not certain is always true, and many alumni when they’re not winning rationalize the lack of success by saying it’s because other folks have more money, more alumni, more “something we ain’t got.”

So I've gone back 12 years in the world of college football to test a theory, because I believe that no matter how well you've figured anything out in college sports, every 12 years another generation of athletes enters school and there's no guarantee each generation will look at things the same (if you've ever been a parent, you pretty much can guarantee they won't look at things the same). Thus by going back 12 years, you can compare the power players of the last generation to this generation. And I think you do see a trend. 

In 2006, for example, Florida won the National Title. A lot of money, a lot of alumni, great weather, great facilities. They were so good they won the National title again in 2008. But then they dropped to 8-5 in 2010, 7-6 in 2011, 4-8 in 2013, 7-5 in 2014, then had a couple of decent seasons before falling to 4-7 last year. Did the money dry up? Less alumni? Bad weather? No, Urban Meyer left and they hired the wrong coach. Two different times. 

In 2005 Texas won the National Title. A lot of money, a lot of alumni, great facilities. But these are their records starting with 2010: 5-7, 8-5, 9-4, 8-5, 6-7, 5-7, 5-7, 7-6. No less money, no less alumni. But their coach didn't change with the times, then when they made a change, they hired the wrong coach. 

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MAY
24

Good Morning, Good Afternoon and Goodnight Tampa Bay!

Some sound bites need to be preserved. For example, the call by Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler of Jayson Werth's walkoff home run in Game 4 of the 2012 playoffs for the Nationals is still on my cellphone. If I ever need a smile or a few goosebumps on my arms, I play it. It just never gets old.

John Walton's call last night of the final seconds of the Caps Game 7 win over Tampa to return to the NHL Finals for the first time in 20 years qualifies for that sort of preservation as well. True, it wasn't as dramatic since the score was 4-0, but Walton has seen the good, the bad and the ugly of this franchise and blended all of that in to his final call.

"The pain and anguish that so many of us have felt over the last 20 years and throughout the Ovechkin era," Walton shouted, "...the puck drops...and that is gonna do it. Good Morning, Good Afternoon and Goodnight Tampa Bay, The Washington Capitals are the 2017-2018 Eastern. Conference. Champions!"

Pure poetry.

I only listened to him say this about a dozen times this morning. So click on the video to hear it a few times yourself...

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