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We're Now At A Fork In The Road For Virginia Tech Football...

It is a dreary morning. Raining outside. Cool. Dark. Depressing.

And, oh yeah, Virginia Tech lost yesterday to ODU. The same ODU that was 0-3 and lost to national powerhouse Liberty by 42 a few weeks ago.

Happy Sunday.

Life dictates you try to look at the bright side, put some lipstick on that pig, and put it all behind you. It gets easier over time, because the Hokies have a tendency to do things like this ever so often. An upperclassman in our dorm my freshman year at Virginia Tech jokingly told us “just remember, in the end, the Hokies will always break your heart,” and over the years I’ve determined he wasn’t joking: A brutal loss to Temple in 1998; an equally stunning defeat at the hands of James Madison in 2010; smaller, lesser ones that ended up stinging just as much in between.

This one didn’t hurt as much, I’ll admit, because of what it meant to ODU. Norfolk is my hometown, and this win was probably every bit as exciting to Monarch faithful as when the Hokies went to the Horseshoe and beat Ohio State. I even watched that upset in an ODU bar in 2014 (40th high school reunion) and some even said how cool it would be if ODU ever got to experience a win that big.

Now they have.

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Sometimes You Have To Be Careful Not To Jump To Conclusions

It is popular these days to bash younger people. It is also easy these days – thanks to thousands of hot takes you can read on social media at any given hour – to form a mindset of quickly jumping to conclusions.

And then you meet a young man like I did today named Javier.

It occurred when I was bringing my car in for regular service at the Tysons Corner Mercedes dealership. I refer to it as my “annual hosing by Mercedes” because maintenance is not cheap and they generally find something that keeps the bill around $1,000. It comes with owning a Mercedes I’ve always thought. First world problem, just accept it and get it over with.

I’m new to the Tysons dealership, and certain things about it are unimpressive. I own three cars, with the other two being a Lexus and a Volkswagen, and the other two dealerships make waiting for maintenance as painless as possible. Lexus and Volkswagen provide coffee machines, snacks, fruit, ice cream, free wi-fi, several different televisions on different channels…all the things that can make time go by quicker.

Mercedes – one of the crown jewels of luxury brands – had a coffee machine. Period. They had areas for snacks, doughnuts, etc. but they were not stocked. The men’s bathroom was filthy. There was no wifi. The guy sitting next to me said Mercedes’ wifi was listed as Penske – why you’d use Penske when you have a brand name like Mercedes is beyond me – “but don’t bother,” he said. “It doesn’t work.”

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How Do You Build A Brand This Powerful...Then Lose It?

Many years ago, I was part of the management team of a furniture company called Thomasville. We were enjoying a hot streak, as our products were much in demand, we had one of the best-known brands in the industry, and just about everybody wanted to be one of dealers.

This put us in the enviable position of not really having to sell. People came to us, we decided who we wanted to do business with, and we said no about as much as we said yes. If we said yes to you, you loved us. If we said no, people called us arrogant, cocky and many times words much rougher than that.

As the industry consolidated, we ended up being purchased by another comglomerate. The new chairman of the organization came to visit us one day and blistered us. He dealt with many of the dealers we wouldn’t sell, so he gathered us together to tell us we were arrogant, entitled and lucky we were on a hot streak. “This won’t last forever” he told us. “When it stops, people will not forget.”

He, of course, was right. He could have also been talking that day about the Washington Redskins.

If he had, today was the day you really knew the streak was over. And people did indeed not forget.

Don’t get me wrong, the team has been bad for a long time. The fan experience has been bad even longer, lasting a period of time that is coincidentally the same length of time Dan Snyder has owned the team. But during all those previous years, there had been so much momentum in the Redskins brand, you never worried about selling out on opening day. You’d have sparse crowds later in the year when the weather was bad and the team’s record was worse.

But never on the first home football game of the season.

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Virginia, Virginia Tech Made The Right Decision. Here's Why

Now that Virginia has moved its game with Ohio to Nashville, and Virginia Tech and ECU have cancelled their game, the expected comments are flowing on social media about the two decisions.

Should have waited, some said. You wait, it won’t even be raining on Saturday, others said.

Both may be true. It’s the nature of leadership that there are some decisions that will always end up being no-win situations. Don’t move/postpone/cancel the game? The storm might change course directly at you and you’ve needlessly put people in danger. Move it early enough so that alternative plans can be executed in an orderly process? More times than not, things change and there is a chance you could have an empty field on game day without any wind or rain.

But this is not an ordinary storm. And while there was a time I too may have been thinking “why make the decision so early?” the events of the last week of August in 2005 have changed my mind on the subject permanently.

Up until then, hurricanes were a very subjective situation to me. I grew up in Norfolk and it seemed like every other year we had a hurricane coming up the coast. As a kid, I wanted to escape to the other side of the front door during hurricane conditions just to be outside and see what 70 mile per hour winds felt like. Never mind that those winds could be carrying a tree limb traveling 70 miles per hour in the direction of my head, as my parents would often counter to my idea of going outside. It just sounded like a fun idea.

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Since It's The Opening Sunday For The NFL, I'll Say It Again...

This is a story I seem to tell every year on the opening Sunday of the NFL season. And I’m going to tell it again, because it’s a great story and one I’ll never tire of either telling or hearing.

If you’re a college football player and you got released in the last wave of NFL cuts, today’s probably not your day. After playing football every day of your life, you’re sitting at home watching. And you’re wondering if your football days are over.

Which takes to me to the subject of a Virginia Tech player named Nick Sorensen.

I worked at Rowe Furniture back in 2001 up here in Northern Virginia. My office was right around the corner from that of Nick’s Dad, and as any proud papa would, we talked about Nick a lot. Nick had signed as a free agent with the Miami Dolphins and stayed with the team right up to the last cut. Then he got the call that he was released.

Nick had no idea what his future would hold. But at least for this football season, he decided he was going to stay ready. He worked out every day at a local high school. He’d come by the office and see his Dad some times and I’d ask him what he was going to do. He had no specific reason to be optimistic, but he just knew if the phone ever did ring, he had to be in shape and he had to be ready.

He worked out every day as if the phone WOULD ring.

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When No One Wants To Sponsor The Defending Champion...

I have been slowly watching NASCAR die over the last few years, but today served notice as to just how bad things have gotten. Furniture Row Racing – the team that with driver Martin Truex Jr. won the championship in the highest-level series in the sport last year – will shut its doors at the end of the year.

The story here isn’t just a team shutting down. Truex, his crew chief and most of those employed will end up with other teams and probably be just fine next year. No, the story is WHY they are shutting down, and how the lifeblood of the sport is in serious jeopardy.

I’m not your typical racing fan. I’m not a car guy, was raised in Norfolk – technically in the south but because of the Navy base, we had a lot of Yankee influence – and I just didn’t see the point to 500 or more left turns on a hot summer day.

But the newspaper business introduced me to it. I worked at a place in Roanoke and our racing writer happened to be the son of my physics teacher at Lake Taylor High School. His name was Steve Waid and he not only loved the sport, he was a bit of a rock star on the circuit because of the way he covered it. I became intrigued.

A few years later, I became the sports editor of the newspaper in Martinsville. The owner was a character named Clay Earles and the PR director was one of the best on the planet named Dick Thompson. Clay, Dick and Steve all taught me the sport, introduced me to the right people and in a short period of time, I fell in love with it.

For me it had nothing to do with cars. It was the personalities of the drivers and the cult-like loyalty of the fans. Waid had gotten me a couple of tickets when I was working in Roanoke, so a friend and I headed to Martinsville to see a race live. We hadn’t even gotten out of the car for more than a minute and a couple of good ol’ boys were throwing haymakers at each other as if one had insulted the other’s mother.

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I Believe They Call These "A Blessing In Disguise"

Admit it. Something bad you don’t expect occurs, and you immediately think, “why did this have to happen?

This week, it happened twice to me. And the answer was “to prevent you from something even bigger happening in the future."

It started last Sunday. My daughter was visiting and realized when she came home late Saturday night that one of her headlights had burned out. That’s something you have to fix, or when you’re driving home from work the next night you run the risk of getting a ticket for not having two working headlights. And Sunday isn’t the best time to be getting repair work done.

I suggested she call our normal repair shop in the neighborhood and see if they were open. They were, from noon to 5, and were able to fix it, although for a not-so-cheap $350.

“Why did this have to happen?” may have been heard somewhere in the house.

It got worse. While fixing the light, the technician said the water pump was leaking. That’s a major repair of over $1,000, and for a millennial walking the tightrope of making ends meet, getting hit with thousands of dollars of auto repairs can be a source of significant stress. The technician did suggest that it might be covered by warranty, so call the dealer.

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In The Spirit Of Life, Liberty And The Pursuit Of Happiness...

On this 4th of July, I want to share a story with you about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The pursuit of happiness actually found me. And it involves the deep satisfaction I’ve been finding just trying to help people.

 It all started back in March. I’d decided I’d had enough with the working world. I checked my financials, and believed my wife and I had enough for a comfortable (although not exotic) existence the rest of our days. She was going to work for the next few years anyway, and I had been seeing far too many people I knew encounter serious health problems within days or weeks of them reaching retirement age.

So I called it quits and retired at a relatively young age.

Not too long after, I got a phone call from a young friend. She was frustrated with her job, had been sending out letters and resumes for months and not getting any calls back. Would I be willing to help?

I mean, who could say no to that?

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You Know, You Could Actually Help Someone On Social Media

I have long followed people on social media I’ve never met and probably never will. If you have similar values, or are funny, or just live in my general area, I’ll follow you.

What tends to happen is they follow back, and over the years we get to know each other’s families even though we probably wouldn’t recognize each other if we passed down the same aisle at the grocery store. Similar pictures at holidays, pics of our kids growing up, comments on how a Washington sports team let us down (except for this month)…we find out we are more the same than different.

It’s the cool part of social media. Conversely, there are times like the last few days on Twitter (and it’s now starting to bleed into Facebook) where we’re back to the “I’m going to shout out a declarative sentence that oversimplifies a complex issue and makes you look like a monster” phase.

It’s what I call the “impulse control” days of Twitter and Facebook. React to such statements from a friend and you won’t change their mind; you’ll just lose them as a friend. Debate a stranger and you’ll get dragged into an ugly circle of name-calling and snark that you swore to yourself you’d never stoop to.

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