A News Reporter’s Husband Came Up With 26 Goals For Age 26. You Won’t BELIEVE What He Wrote

Whattup! It’s my birthday. Go, write on my wall, then come back. Or don’t. I don’t care. I’m 26 today, not that anyone really cares about your birthday past 21. But still, guys, I’m so young! Seriously, like 90% of my friends/family are older than me. Sure, I get sore after tough workouts, but not THAT sore. Do “kids these days” annoy me? Kinda, but not really. I’m still young enough to be hip, yet discerning enough to know when a trend is destined to fail (“On Fleek” was possibly the worst phrase I’d heard in my life, so I’m happy that’s over with… that’s over with, right?).

I’m aware that I can be overly optimistic at times, but I really think 26 is an awesome age… especially when most of my associations are with people older than me. It’s like I get all of your wisdom but I still have a relatively fast metabolism. Great stuff. One thing I’ve noticed is that us young people tend to wander around aimlessly, while us older, wiser folk tend to set goals and chase after them. So, here are my (mostly) aimless goals for age 26:

  1. Embrace the age of click bait. If everyone else is sharing pointless articles with all-caps headlines, why not me?
  2. Stay in touch with my Missouri people—this one is actually genuine. For that matter, continue to stay in touch with my Chardon and Pittsburgh people, too.
  3. Do more laundry. Maybe genuine.
  4. Be less funny: y’all are getting spoiled. On a related note…
  5. Be more brooding: I need more of that Bruce Wayne mystique to me. I’m obviously not just going to dive right in—I’ll probably work it into my schedule like college. Tuesday/Thursday I’ll work on my brooding. Monday/Wednesday/Friday I’ll stick to my usual personality. Sidenote: how to you spell the shortened version of usual? Yuge? I feel like the argument for a softer “g” could be made on that, but Trump has definitely turned it into a form of “huge” so that one’s out… Yuje? Yooj? Get back to me.
  6. Figure out a way to convince Courtny we don’t need a dog for another year. Pretty sure this is genuine, though I do love dogs. Still, that’s a lot of responsibility.
  7. If you don’t follow me on Instagram, join the 3K+ that do! @philnavatsykphoto.
  8. Rephrase the above statement to make my shameless self-promotion appear to be an actual goal.
  9. Last year I successfully convinced six people that I know what I’m talking about when it comes to cars (spoiler alert: I don’t). This year I’d like to pump that number up to 10. I think this goes without saying, but this goal does not include actually learning anything new about cars.
  10. Go on a trip. It’s been a few months since I was gone for a few months… I feel like I need a break. Genuine. Not the “needing a break” part. I just want to travel more.
  11. Find out how to celebrify (Yep. It’s a word now) myself. More and more people are recognizing Courtny in public, which of course deprives me of the attention I seek.
  12. Alternate my hair swoop on a weekly basis. This one might be genuine, too, now that I’m thinking about it.
  13. Learn how to fake an accent. Ever seen Kevin pretending to be Australian on The Office? That’s me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vX0yGJeTRI
  14. Mentally prepare to run a marathon when I’m 27. Or 28. Depends on how long it takes me to mentally prepare. After all, mental preparation is not a sprint, it’s—wait for it—a MARATHON!
  15. Integrate more puns into every day conversation. While I rarely find them to be genuinely funny, they can be a good warm-up for one of my truly witty moments.
  16. Come up with more goals.

Good stuff, people. For those of you who posted on my timeline, thanks for the birthday wishes. Hit me up if you wanna PayPal me any birthday money.

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Farewell to the CoMo Squad

Whattup, my Missouri people? I planned on writing this right when we moved, so I’m about 3 months late. Can I blame Courtny for that?

I backed down the snow-packed driveway of my home. My parents and I began the long, flat, long, exhausting… seriously long, drive to my new place of living: Columbia, Missouri. There were some adjustments I had mentally noted that I knew I would need to make:

  1. I was 97% sure my mom wasn’t going to wake me up with a bacon, egg, and English muffin (because bagels are for commoners) breakfast sandwich.
  2. Most people I ran into had probably never watched a real college football team. HAHA, Mizzou fans! Does that sting? O-H!
  3. On a related note, people probably wouldn’t share my love for Ohio sports.

Of course, my biggest concern was whether or not Courtny and I would be able to make friends outside of each other. I find myself to be generally lovable. I’m a little guy, so I don’t impose much of a threat to people. I have eyes that take me from an 8.5 to a 9.3, and a hair swoop that brings me to the rarified air of a 9.8. I’m humble. I’m really witty, like, on another level, so I’ll make you laugh. I’ll make me laugh, too. I have this ability to talk about cars for a 6-minute period even though I know absolutely nothing about cars. After 6 minutes I find an opportune “That’s what she said” moment and change the topic to The Office, which I’m much more knowledgeable on. So, yeah, on paper, I was set. Eyes, swoop, witty, BS-capable… did I mention humble? Humility was big. Oh, and my girlfriend (WOAH, THAT’S WEIRD TO SAY) was even cooler, and, believe it or not, better looking than me. Probably more humble, too.

Here’s what I’ll say about our short time in Missouri: if you’ve ever moved anywhere, especially after college, you know how hard it can be to make good friends. For Courtny and me, that wasn’t a problem. And, no, I’m not gonna double up on paragraphs about how awesome we are. The real reason it wasn’t a problem was because of the people who would become our family away from family.

Ashley & Josh:

I have been the biggest hater of mirror selfies since middle school. You two are the exception. Literally the first night we were in Missouri, Ashley, you invited us to go out with the KRCG crew in Columbia. I don’t know if you had Facebook stalked us or saw my hilarious Twitter feed (at the time it was good – now it’s basically just Cleveland sports updates), but inviting the new guys out on their first night is something not a lot of people would do. I know I typically turn up my nose to the newbies. So, exhausted from our 14 hours of driving and moving stuff in all day, we came out to the bar to meet the Missouri peeps. Honestly, I don’t remember anything from that night (and, no, people, it’s not from alcohol consumption). I was exhausted from moving and probably not funny. My swoop was probably looking a bit shaggy at the time. I actually think I swooped the other direction at that time – it wasn’t until my first haircut at Blanc Studio (I’m so fancy, you already know) that my eyes were opened to the left-to-right swoop. Game-changer. I remember Garrett telling CoJo he was gonna “put you through the wringer” during her upcoming training week, which was a very G-Money thing to say. Do you like how I started a paragraph about you guys and then literally didn’t mention Josh once and mostly focused on my former Twitter glory and the various stages of my hair swoop?

Let’s try this again: you guys are awesome, and it’s crazy to think that when we met just a couple years ago, we were all in the boyfriend/girlfriend stage of our respective relationships. Now we got dem rings on! Thank you so much for welcoming us to Missouri. Speaking of thank you’s, you guys also represented the CoMo Crew at our wedding! Thank you for making that trip – that’s not a short drive, no matter how amazing the dinner and band are. We are so happy that we got to celebrate with you guys in Charleston, and we can’t wait for our next reunion. We can do married couples things, like play Pictionary or something.

Ben, Steven, Garrett, Ryann & Liz:

I’m nearly at two pages of this word doc, so I’m gonna start consolidating some people here. I’ll start with Liz. Honestly, had you lived closer with that adorable puppy and jet ski access, we probably would have stayed in Missouri. That said; don’t blame yourself for our departure. Or do. I don’t care. When we inevitably vacation to Missouri (file that under “things I never thought I’d say”), we’ll definitely make a stop in Owensville.

Ryann: Honestly, at this point, I see your name and think of the Indians losing game 7. So, yes, you are synonymous with pain. I’ll get over it at some point, but not yet. Not yet.

Ben & Steven: look, I’m not gonna lie to you, when I hear my phone go off 43 times in two minutes, I automatically assume it’s you two blowing up the group message because you apparently forgot that you have each other’s numbers in your phones. HOWEVER, I also appreciate that your level of activity in the group message keeps us all in contact. It was great getting to see you guys at the Wedding of the Year.

Garrett: On the flip side, if I ever see there’s a message from you in the group, I open it IMMEDIATELY. You da man. As a side note, I admire your dedication to your craft – keep working! You’re going places.

Leslie & Stephanie:

I figured I’d keep you two together, because, you know, huskies. I’ll miss the barn parties, Leslie. Especially planning them and choosing who is worthy of being invited. I guess that falls on your shoulders now. We might need some of that sangria at some point, so barrel it up and I’ll handle the shipping costs. Stephanie, you always laugh at my jokes, which in turn boosts my ego, which in turn gets me to tell more jokes. It’s a beautiful cycle. Courtny always had great stories about you two and the rest of the weekend crew; some of her favorite work memories were with you by her side.

Dan & Chelsea:

First, Chelsea, I’ve known you the shortest time out of any of these guys – good job getting in the blog! You know I once had a post hit over 200,000 views. So… I guess I’m saying congrats on your celebrity status. Ok, enough about me – I wish we could have had more time getting to know each other in Missouri. Wednesday game nights had the potential to be a long-running tradition.

Weather Dan. The Flame-eradicator. Mustache Man. For two years, that’s a lot of character development. Dude, you are literally the reason we managed to get all of our stuff to Virginia. I feel like I’m always going to owe you for the insane amount of work you put in getting our boxes packed while I just kinda supervised and provided moral support. Most of our memories in Columbia involve you in some capacity. Columbia was always going to be 12 hours from our families, but you became family to us. Which is why I’m never going to feel bad for making fun of your mustache. And if you ever think it’s getting old, just remember that the “Oh, hey Mr. Jodon” joke has been running for almost a year (although I think we’ve moved on to “Mr. Zavala” now). Miss you, kid.

Zac:

Just like Ashley and Josh, you were one of the first people to make us feel at home in Columbia. I’ll forever relish the memories of hanging out at your apartment on the weekends. Food. Drinks. Outdoor Deck. Crosby defecating on the floor as a result of the pure awe my dance moves create. And, let’s be honest, when my girlfriend (again, weird to say) was busy working on the 4th of July, who was there to sweep me off my feet and hit the town for some drinks and fireworks? You were. And when the time came for you to leave Columbia, you left behind a legacy: I will forever be “Phil Miller” to this whole group. You created that. You.

Sam & Ryan:

Whaaaaaaaaaaat?! A couple of non-KRCG people on here?! We miss you guys so much and stuff. We love looking back on our memories in Columbia. You know, before you ditched us for Springfield? The Sunday night dinners. The Uno matches. Hanging out and Sam NOT being sick… good times. Couple of quick notes:

  1. Thanks for pushing Parks and Rec so hard on us. We needed a little bit of Netflix life coaching at the time.
  2. Remember when I was working near Springfield for a company that only paid based on commission and I made zero sales because literally not a single person that day was remotely interested in buying a family studio portrait so I was essentially just working at that place for free? (Purposeful run-on sentence, grammar police) Well, thank you for letting me sleep in your home and collect my $55 hotel per diem (because SO many halfway decent hotels are only $55) as income.
  3. Come visit us in Virginia. There’s wine! And our place is SO MUCH CLEANER than our place was in Missouri……………….. Actually, just give us like a 1-week heads up before you make the trip out here. Then you guys can get here, our apartment will be almost presentable, and we’ll be all like “Heyyyyyyyyyyy OMG we’re so embarrassed we just had no time to clean this week work has been so crazy and ugh you should have seen how spotless this place was last week.”
  4. Didn’t Courtny and I basically run the table during our last Uno showdown in Springfield? I’m pretty sure we did.

 

There are so many other people that made Columbia a great place to live for us (including Courtny’s former boss, who is awesome-sauce), but I feel like this post is getting way too long. Who else did I miss? Brian & Kristen: I’d write about you, but you don’t have Facebook, and I only do these sentimental things for likes. We miss playing Catan with you. Joe: I tagged you in this post on Facebook with the hopes that you would read through this entire thing, just to see that you are at the very end. It’s not a “you save the best for last” situation (though you are awesome). It’s my personal revenge for that time you wanted to meet Courtny and me for drinks at 9 but then showed up at like 10:45. Being late is our thing. Don’t try to take that from us. Miss you, buddy. Ok that’s all for now. If you had a big-time impact on our lives and I didn’t write about you, don’t be mad at me; I spent most of the post writing about myself. Deuces.

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15 Photos of New Zealand’s South Island

I feel like the title is pretty self-explanatory.

“But, Phil, we want an epic, exaggerated post comparing Fat Tui, Fergburger, and Devil Burger!”

Don’t worry, that’s coming soon. For now, here is 1 photo from each day of our South Island road trip. Enjoy!

Day 1: Abel Tasman National Park

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Day 2: Sunset in Marahau

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Day 3: Somewhere on the West Coast

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Day 4: Lake Matheson

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Day 5: Milky Way over Lake Matheson

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Day 6: The Road to Wanaka

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Day 7: #ThatWanakaTree

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Day 8: Hooker Valley Walk in Mt. Cook National Park

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Day 9: Lake Tekapo from Mount John

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Day 10: Milky Way over Church of the Good Shepherd

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Day 11: Kea on the way to Milford Sound

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Day 12: Queenstown Panorama

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Day 13: Queenstown

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Day 14: The Road to Glenorchy

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Day 15: Glenorchy Panorama

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Thanks for reading! Now it’s time to hit up some more wineries on Waiheke!

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I’m Back

I tossed and turned at night. With each passing day, the weight of indecision burdened my mind like, I don’t know, something heavy. But after countless hours of inner debate, my choice has been made: I’m coming out of retirement. I’m returning to the blogosphere.

As some of you know, I’m a one-hit wonder blogger. I still like to drink a whiskey and revel in the fact that over 80,000 people read my extremely biased, pro-Buckeyes rant, compared to my average readership of 7 (luckily I have a lot of sisters, though I think Gail only read the 1/10th-viral post*). I imagine this kind of clinging to past success is what the rest of the Funky Bunch goes through as they watch Marky Mark star in another movie.*

So let’s get you caught up on my life. My last post was about moving to Columbia, Missouri. In the 2 years since, I’ve:

  • Been the only guy at a bachelorette party of primarily 29-year-old ladies. And it was a blast.*
  • Co-emceed my sister, Julie’s, wedding. This is important to note in 4 lines.
  • Gotten engaged to my totally awesome wife*
  • Driven 11 hours through the night to be in downtown Cleveland for Game 7 of the NBA Finals (and it was obviously worth it)
  • Went on a 5-day, sleep-deprived road trip through Eastern Europe.
  • Gotten married to my totally awesome wife. Planning was super easy because we already knew of an incredible band and a cheap emcee from Julie and Jeromy’s wedding. Maybe super easy is an exaggeration… but easier!
  • And, finally, the reason for my grand return to the world of writing sans proofreading: I planned the most epic honeymoon ever. I’ve had 4 people say they want to read updates throughout the journey, and with that kind of demand, how could I not oblige?

Our honeymoon began the way I imagine most do—pulling an all-nighter to get ready, quadruple-checking for passports, and arguing whether or not to waste a precious protein bar, topped off by a 4AM, stress-filled walk through the Kansas City Airport parking garage wondering where the heck the elevators are.

But after an incredibly efficient security process (just another reason Kansas City is way better than St. Louis), we were off to La La Land.

Our wonderful host, Bri, picked us up from LAX and sped us back to her home for a much-needed nap. Bri and I go way back—we met our sophomore year at Point Park and spent countless nights getting drinks at Courthouse or, when times were tighter, just drinking our own alcohol on the roof of the Carlyle. We even tag-teamed a project that we were apparently not supposed to tag-team, and, were it not for our incredible charm and general attractiveness, would have had to re-take the class.* In other words: a bond was formed.

Upon our awakening, all of us got ready for the evening and went out to a delicious Mexican place in long beach. It may have been the fact that I was so gung-ho on the whole “don’t waste any protein bars” thing, and therefore hadn’t eaten in close to 24 hours, but WOW was this burrito delicious. The margarita was equally amazing—a little bit of mango, a little tequila, and a little freedom. Shaken, not stirred.

The rest of our night was just spent catching up with Bri and getting to know her longtime boyfriend, John, who is equally fantastic, albeit slightly taller. En la mañana, we set off for Venice Beach. People watching is one of my favorite activities, so VB was pretty much all I could ask for.

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There were the cringeworthy moments: some guy walking on a bunch of broken bottles, or the dude on bath salts (not confirmed, just Courtny’s theory) struggling to walk while screaming random words that always seemed to be followed by the name of our new President. Not even necessarily bad words, though, just random phrases that didn’t really make any sense.

There were the bizarre moments: a shirtless, tiny-undied (pronounced UN-deed, as in underwear) man walking down the street while wearing horns on his head. Strangely, this is the only bizarre moment I can think of right now, though I think Bathsalts Man qualifies as both cringe-worthy and bizarre.

There was a moment of truth: due to my Oakley’s, it was impossible for people to make eye contact with me, so it was rare for someone to come up and ask me to buy their mixtapes.* However, I did have one man come up to me and ask me where I was from. In my mind, I was like, “Redondo (part of LA that’s super fun to say). Just say Redondo and he gives up and leaves you alone.” I hesitated. “CLEVELAND, baby!” Of course he then tried to haggle me to buy his meditation book, but it was worth it.

And, of course, there were the beautiful moments: the skateboarders being pulled by their smiling dogs, the sun-kissed waves crashing onto the beach… But nothing topped the electric violinist playing on the Santa Monica pier. He did get my money. And a lot of other peoples’ money. And he was amaze-balls.

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We followed up the beach with a journey to Hollywood, where CoJo saw Shania Twain………’s name written on a star. Does Marky Mark have a star? I should have been looking for that.

Today, we fly to New Zealand, where we hope to gain accents, curly hair, and a nice patch of fur on our feet to complete our transition into hobbits. Wish us well! Deuces, Merica.

 

*We’ll find out in the Facebook comments at some point

*If you don’t have “Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch Radio” on your Pandora playlists, you are living a fake life.

*It’s easy to ignore the “your man-card is taken” text from your brother-in-law when you’re robed up and sipping champagne in your floor-to-ceiling windowed suite at the Trump Hotel in Chicago.

*Seriously, she’s so lovable. Unfortunately, by comparison, I become less lovable to new acquaintances, so I usually try to make my 5-minute impression before introducing her.

*Or some kind of similar punishment.

*Microsoft word tells me that “mixtape” should be 2 words. If this is the case, then the English language is wrong and I hate it.

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Mo Impressions

Nope, that’s not the name of the latest Usher album, but guess what? I’m pretty much as popular as Usher now. As many of you know, my last blog had over 10,000 Facebook shares. Those of you who know me are probably wondering if my recent fame and new fans have gone straight to my head. Well the answer to that riddle is yes! In an effort to show my versatility as a writer, I was planning on writing a super emotional blog about my love for Chardon, Cleveland, and Ohio as a whole. But we’re gonna hold off on that one; as an unrelenting optimist, I would instead like to tell you all about my new home!

Now I know most of my friends think the United States consists of California, Texas, and everything east of the Mississippi. I also how hard it is to Google “Map of the United States”, so I’ll help you out. Missouri is sandwiched between Illinois and Kansas (that state with all the tornadoes). Arkansas is directly below me and Iowa is on top of me (hey oh!). So it’s been 24 hours—what has the Show Me State shown me?

The first thing I noticed in Missouri was the number of messages on the side of the road. I would be driving and see a big sign flashing, “Don’t respond yet—wait until you stop.” It wasn’t just about txting though—“Have a safe night”, “Enjoy your drive”, “It’s ok to be late. Slow down”. By the time I got to Columbia, it was like I already had a personal relationship with MoDOT. Sidenote: MoDOT is way more fun to say than ODOT or PennDOT. MoDOT also has swag. I passed a sign saying “Road Reconstruction: Completed as Promised!” Is this normal? I haven’t paid attention in Ohio and every road that was under construction in Pittsburgh when I moved there 3 years ago is still being worked on.

What else? There’s a Sonic a mile from my apartment. One mile. There’s a White Castle three miles from my apartment. In other words, I love this place.

Speaking of location, my building can be found in a quiet development about 10 minutes from Mizzou’s campus. I have a tennis court, basketball hoop, and pool—all are roughly 38 steps from my door. If I had to guess the average age of my neighbors (all female so far), it would be around 76. This means a few things:

  1. The community pool basically just became my pool. I hope they all love Jake Owen blasting on my Bluetooth speaker. #Beachin
  2. On the flip side, the only time I’ll deal with people blasting their speakers will be when there’s a Diagnosis Murder marathon. And I’ll probably be right there with them—I love that show and the theme song gets me amped too. #DickVanDykeForLyfe
  3. I’m probably going to dominate the 1-on-1 hoops round robins. #BallTillYouFall
  4. My future doubles tennis partner just hit the lottery. #IAmAndyRoddick
  5. Sure, I’ll probably be eating Digiorno for the next few weeks. But I give it two months before I’m living like a king. My sisters will be so mad when my neighbors start cooking meals for me. #ItsNotDeliveryItsDaGrandmas

Ok if that last hashtag doesn’t take off, I’ll be really disappointed. That’s all for tonight, folks! I’ll be sure to update everyone again soon… Now it’s time to go take advantage of the central time zone and watch my Cavs take on the Lakers at 9:30 (10:30 Eastern).

*Are you one of the millions of Phil’s Phans? Are you all up in his business? Sign up for the premium edition of Eurallopeinmybusiness to gain exclusive bonus fun facts from each of his blogs! Or just scroll past this ridiculous Christmas tree.

Clark Griswold would be proud.

Clark Griswold would be proud.

FUN FACTS!

  1. White Castle is asking for reservations for Valentine’s Day. That is not a joke. IMG_5595
  2. This blog would have been posted a few nights ago (when I wrote it) but my free Internet at the Hampton Inn ended. I’m not paying $4.95 to entertain you people. Do you know what $4.95 could get me when Courtny and I go to White Castle for Valentine’s Day?
  3. Turns out I could just renew my free Internet.
  4. My dad and I have been reminding people that Ohio State has the best football team in the country.
  5. Don has also been bragging about his ability to find amazing restaurants everywhere he goes (new nickname: The Original TripAdvisor). He delivered again this weekend.
  6. The real TripAdvisor lists over 300 restaurants in Columbia. I don’t think I’m going to starve.
  7. I don’t know what pop is called in Missouri. It might be soda. Maybe it’s something crazy that I don’t even know about. I just hope Missourians don’t call everything Coke.

Have a great night everyone! And remember… #ItsNotDeliveryItsDaGrandmas. Spread it like wildfire.

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Because Ohio State Haters Need To Hear This

Before I start, I want to throw some quick facts everyone’s way about the bowl games for the major Big Ten teams this season (Rankings are college football playoff ranks. Since Nebraska was ranked in the AP Poll, I’m including them in these games)

 Holiday Bowl (San Diego, California): (24) USC: 45,

                                                                        Nebraska: 42.

USC is 125 miles from the stadium. Nebraska is 1,558.

 Citrus Bowl (Orlando, Florida): (16) Missouri: 33

                                                             (25) Minnesota: 17

They’re both really far from Orlando. This is a neutral site game. Congrats to Mizzou.

 Outback Bowl (Orlando, Florida): (19) Auburn: 31

                                                                  (18) Wisconsin: 34

Auburn is 463 miles from the stadium. Wisconsin is 1,348.

 Cotton Bowl (Arlington, Texas): (5) Baylor: 41

                                                               (8) Michigan State: 42

 Baylor is 98 miles from the stadium. Michigan State is 1,136.

 Sugar Bowl (New Orleans, Louisiana): (1) Alabama: 35

                                                                         (4) Ohio State: 42

Alabama is 292 miles from the stadium. Ohio State is 914.

I understand nobody wants to go to Wisconsin in January, but I just like to look at those numbers because it makes it that much sweeter. Now… on to my rant.

Time to ruffle some feathers, people. In case you weren’t aware, I am an Ohio State fan. Like most Ohio State fans, I make it painfully obvious by yelling “O-H!” every time I see someone in any type of Buckeye apparel. Of course, the person on the other end will immediately respond. It’s gotten to the point where not replying with “I-O!” and a fist pump is almost worse than leaving a high five hanging. I will freely admit that Ohio State fans are obnoxious. Heck, I’ll even say that we are the 2nd most obnoxious fans in all of major sports. So, who is the most obnoxious group? The Buckeye haters—especially the ones who double as analysts. The way Ohio State and the Big Ten were disrespected this year is a joke.

I would LOVE to know how many critics of Ohio State’s schedule actually watched the Big Ten this season. Because anyone who saw Wisconsin’s running game would have seen them beating Auburn. I’ll admit that I had Wisconsin winning by double digits, but a win is a win. On top of that, there’s no way Michigan State should have been a shock to anyone either. But guess what? It’s cool to say the Big Ten is horrible. Why is that? Because they were ONCE the most overrated conference in college football? When Florida and LSU slaughtered the Buckeyes in back-to-back seasons, there is no doubt the Big Ten had been overrated for a while. However, what exactly does that have to do with 2014? Why is Urban Meyer the best coach in the country when he’s in the SEC, but he comes to the Big Ten and now you don’t hear his name? Riddle me that, Mark May.

So, because I know none of you actually watched this team play this year, let me give you a little recap of our undeserving season. We get to start off the year with the news that our starting quarterback, and one of the preseason Heisman leaders, won’t play this season. We were already being labeled as the “overrated” team coming in ranked #4, and we proved our critics right against Virginia Tech. It’s crazy to think that a kid playing the most important position on the field, in his first meaningful college football game, would play poorly. This might be the only full game that Mark May watched the Buckeyes play.

There are two types of athletes in the world—competitors and non-competitors. I think it’s safe to say we found out what type of player J.T. Barrett is. This kid put together one of the best college football seasons in recent history and led the Buckeyes to win after win. It wasn’t always pretty, but please remind me what great college football team hasn’t struggled with any opponents.

Let’s talk about Michigan State. Oh, Sparta, I genuinely felt bad for you this year. See, last season, when Michigan State beat Ohio State, they were hailed as the only legit Big Ten team. This year’s team fought hard, but eventually lost to a team that was better than them. So now, just ONE YEAR LATER, Michigan State is “overrated”, “just a product of a horrible conference”, and all sorts of other labels that are simply, OBJECTIVELY, untrue. So THANK YOU Sparta. The way you played against Baylor (you know, that team that should have been in the playoffs ahead of Ohio State) was a beautiful display from an underrated and underappreciated team.

Conference championship week. Ohio State vs. Wisconsin. Wisconsin’s running game would be too much for the Buckeyes. Oh, and one minor detail. Heisman candidate J.T. Barrett broke his ankle against Michigan, leaving the Buckeyes with their THIRD-string quarterback, Cardale 12-Guage Jones. The Badgers’ defense would stifle this kid. The first game of his career is in a conference championship game? Mark May has been waiting all season for something like this to happen. Touchdown, Ohio State. Touchdown, Ohio State. Touchdown, Ohio State. Touchdown, Ohio State. And however many more times I need to say that until the score reaches 59-0. All of a sudden, “Wisconsin is awful.” “Wisconsin is the worst 15-seed in the history of college football.” “With a conference like this, OF COURSE Ohio State only has one loss.” So shoutout to the Badgers. The worst 15-seed in the history of sports just beat Auburn (who was viewed by many as the team with the best shot to beat Alabama) in a game that should not have been nearly as close as the score. It turns out, Wisconsin’s RECORD SETTING running game is actually pretty good. The Buckeyes were just the better team this season.

Alabama is clearly better than any other team in the country. Oregon avenged their early season loss by slaughtering that same team in the conference championship game. Florida State went undefeated in the most unimpressive way possible and against the weakest conference of the Power 5. But, undefeated is undefeated, and I will never argue the fact that Florida State earned the right to get destroyed by Oregon. One playoff spot left. TCU. Baylor. Ohio State. I said it then and I’ll say it again: Baylor ruined TCU’s shot at the playoffs. For the record, I believe all three teams deserved to be in the playoff, but I also believe any playoff system should be at least eight teams. I still have yet to hear a legitimate argument as to why the Buckeyes did not deserve the 4th spot over both of these teams. If the Big 12 had a championship game, surely one of those two teams would have been in. But they don’t. 12-1 is better than 11-1. Baylor’s loss to West Virginia was at least as bad as Ohio State’s loss to Virginia Tech (let’s all remember that Baylor was healthy, at least compared to the Buckeyes). However, Baylor beat TCU and Kansas State. Tough to put TCU ahead of a team that beat them and finished with the same record. Plus, Ohio State just beat a 15th-ranked Wisconsin team 59-0.

So the only remaining argument is that Ohio State played a horrible schedule. I don’t even need to say any more about that. The people who claimed the Big Ten was horrible this year are the people who didn’t watch the conference. The people who thought the Buckeyes would get annihilated against Alabama are (and have been proven) clueless. ESPECIALLY if they paid attention to the Wisconsin and Michigan State games. Plus, the Buckeyes have a decent coach you may have heard of. Exactly WHEN has Urban Meyer gotten blown out in his career as a coach? The guy has won 84.4% of the games he’s coached. (If he did get blown out at all, please remind me, because I didn’t take the time to look up all of his games).

Did the committee get it right? Yes. Did the committee get it perfect? Not at all. That wasn’t an option. Five teams very clearly deserved to be in the playoffs this season, and I would have loved to see Michigan State and Baylor in there as well. I am thrilled that TCU beat down Ole Miss. With 5 power conferences, there is no way the playoffs should be restricted to four teams. I’m all about player safety, so go ahead and eliminate one of the regular season games. Does Bama really need to play Florida Atlantic?

Finally, I will leave you with a few thoughts:

  1. Think about how many times the BCS got it wrong in the past. This year’s national championship matchup would have seen Alabama on one side of the field. Florida State, despite their struggles, went undefeated in a power 5 conference and would have been the default second team. And they told us a playoff system wasn’t necessary.
  2. The Big Ten was, at one point, the most overrated conference in football. Remember when people thought it should be an OSU-Michigan rematch for the national title? However, just because they used to be overrated, that doesn’t mean they should be disrespected the way they were in 2014. Anyone who actually watched a good dose of Big Ten games would see that.
  3. Random, but thank goodness Michigan took a step toward turning around their program. The Big Ten needs them to be good again.
  4. If you think you have college football figured out, you’re wrong.
  5. Did anyone see the look on Urban’s face when Mark May started talking?
  6. Take out the name “Ohio State” and you’ll appreciate the narrative of this team too. Name another team that could compete after losing one Heisman candidate quarterback, let alone two of them.

Last, but certainly not least: Oregon is a GREAT football team. They have been a dominant force all season long, and the national championship is going to be one great game to watch. And guess who has earned the right to come out of the other tunnel… O-H!

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Shoutout To Pennsylvania!

I’m getting into this bad habit of warning my readers about poor writing due to exhaustion. That being said, I’m not ready to break that habit yet. See, Courtny got a job in Columbia, Missouri, which is awesome. The central time zone will be so clutch with primetime sporting events. The down side is that she starts on January 19th. Today is December 31st (at 1:30 AM), so that leaves less than three weeks until she starts. In that time, she needs to fill out all sorts of forms, find a car, find an affordable place to live, learn the area around Columbia (after all, she’ll be reporting on it), and fit in time to say goodbye to family and friends. If you know Courtny, you know she has 728 best friends, so that will be tough. As a sidenote, if I were her, I’d wait and see which friend did the best job of honoring me in my final days at home, and label her my singular best friend until another candidate one-ups her. So, Gabi, Katey, Bethany, Fran, Kelsey, Krystal, Chelsea, Hilary, Sears, Katie, Liz, Allie, Abby, Kristin, and whomever else I forgot… let the games begin. Where was I? Oh yeah, Pennsylvania. Well, PA, you really have become a 2nd home to me. Despite the horribly repetitive jokes about being a Browns fan, I managed to fall in love with you. I fell in love with a beautiful city, a beautiful girl, and a beautiful cheese pizza (plus ranch) every time I walked home from South Side. Sure, there are aspects I might never get over; I don’t know why people think pierogies are a Pittsburgh exclusive, the fact that people drive wheelchairs in the streets of Philly concerns me (in fact, a lot of Philly concerns me—fun city though), and BY FAR the most frustrating is also the most obvious—the Yinzer accent. 92% of the greater Pittsburgh area doesn’t speak English. I don’t know why “to be” is left out of every sentence. No, the clothes don’t need wershed. They need TO BE WASHED. I can already picture a lot of my favorite Pennsylvanians getting ready to smack me through their screens right now, so it’s time to pay them some compliments. Here it is, people: a one-blog summary of all the goodness Pennsylvania has brought me in the last four years.

 Nature

 “Ah, the sweet scent of coal in the morning.” I feel like most people think this way when they think of Pennsylvania. Well, I am happy to report that Pennsylvania smells nothing like coal. It smells more like an Eat’n’Park smiley cookie, which is to say, it doesn’t really have a distinctive smell. Was that intro pointless? Only if you consider debunking myths pointless. Anyway, Pennsylvania is a beautiful state, but I’m here to tell you about one spot that was better than all the rest. Why? Because there are very few places like it in the world. Consider this; there are 20 recognized dark sky parks worldwide. Of those 20, 12 of them are gold-tier dark sky parks. Cherry Springs State Park is one of those twelve. Now, I understand that I’m not here to educate, but to entertain, so I’ll cut to the chase: If you go to Cherry Springs on a clear night, you will see the best display of stars in your life. I don’t even know anything about constellations, but I know Courtny and I saw a ton. The shooting stars were seriously so bright that you could see trails of light behind them. You could see the Milky Way just how you can in those crazy awesome pictures. It was wild stuff. So, Pennsylvanians (and everyone else), go there.

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 Cities

 PA has two of the coolest cities around. For the big-city feel and a much better grid system, head to Philadelphia. If you want amazing beauty and some awesome bridges, head to Pittsburgh. If you want really cool architecture, you can’t miss. Great food? Can’t miss again. I didn’t get to Philadelphia often, so I can’t offer much wisdom on that front. Pittsburgh is different, though—I know everything there is to know about this city (at least I think I do, until James Hill goes on his daily Pittsburgh information rant). Southside: despite our up and down relationship, I think, in the end, you are a good thing. Just work on that parking situation. Strip District: you are misunderstood. Your substance makes up for the lack of flash… Mostly Kaya. I love Kaya. North Shore: Whether it was a city run or a casino walk, I hugged your waters weekly. Don’t let anyone change you, you beautiful piece of Pittsburgh. Market Square: I’m pretty sure your restaurants have 80% of the money I made at King Kone. I could go on and on… And I will. I dare any of you to find a better city view than that of Mount Washington. Of all the state parks in United States, does Point State Park have BY FAR the best phallic-shaped fountain? The answer to that riddle is YES. And PNC Park? Even when the Pirates were terrible, there was no denying the beauty of watching America’s Pastime in Pittsburgh. Now that they’re good, there’s even less of an excuse, Yinzers. Get out there and support your team in that beautiful stadium! On the other hand… Heinz Field: Until the Pitt Panthers prove they are worthy of playing in a legit stadium, kick them out. Chardon High School’s practice field has a better playing surface than Heinz, so get Pitt out of there and give Antonio Brown and crew fewer rolled ankles next season. Or switch to turf. But something needs to happen.

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Oh, Pittsburgh, you are one beautiful skyline. A blurry skyline (stupid iPhone 4), but a beautiful one

 Relationships

 The best part about living in Pennsylvania for three years wasn’t the cities or Primanti’s. It wasn’t Mount Washington or PNC Park. Heck, it wasn’t even the 1001 (Respect to the greatest apartment ever). No, in the most predictable and cliché way possible, it was the relationships. It was surviving another day of 5AM’s at Point State Park with my teammates during baseball season. It was sitting in the green room before Pioneer Sideline and Daybreak (although that one time Celina, Alex and I were super late to Daybreak). It was sneaking up to the roof with my closest friends to have a beer, or walking to Market Square with Courtny for a break during our marathons of The Office. Maybe the best part of Pittsburgh was going to The Body every week. But then, it could also be calling Allie to let me in when Courtny was predictably running late. Everyone remember when I made that awesome snapchat storyboard of me sneaking out of Luis’ microeconomics class? That got me mad street cred, and I really enjoyed showing it off (which is a drastic departure from my usual quiet, stick-to-myself attitude). Could it be that I actually enjoy looking back on the interrogation Chelsea put me through when Courtny and I first started dating? Don’t worry, Chelsea, I know you meant well. And who could forget Friendsgiving? What about my first Goblurrito with Jess and Courtny at Mad Mex? Allie, Remember when I put the Catwoman standup in your bathroom and you freaked out? HA! And Ryan, I already know you can’t wait to drink a few glasses of red zinfandel and plan another trip to Europe. Joe, Thursday nights at Ryan’s apartment were the start of our current hate-hate relationship. Bri, I knew we would hit it off as soon as we almost got kicked out of Point Park together. And Courtny, fortunately for you, that didn’t happen. Although I guess I would have been screwed, too. Kristin, I’ll never forget telling Courtny that an outdoor wedding had to be perfect weather to succeed. 73 and partly cloudy, I told her. Sure enough, it was 73 and partly cloudy on your wedding day. Bethany, since we’re talking about weddings, thanks again for allowing me to be the backup ring-bearer. Wait, you don’t even have a Facebook, you won’t see this. One of the bridesmaids tell her I said thanks, but deep down we all know I was more prepared for the big stage than that kid. James, I already mentioned your unending Pittsburgh knowledge, but shout out for your ability to spot a problem with a room and adjust the furniture to make it ten times better. You’re welcome, Carlyle. Mr. Bailey, any time a major sporting event is happening, I miss our radio show. There’s a reason we got those Fibilli awards, and it’s because we were hilarious. Maybe my favorite memory was picking up Courtny and her Belle Vernon friends from Southside… Of course, Katey asked if Chase Rice was Nickleback, so that was enough to ruin that memory. Speaking of picking people up, I’ll never forget when I picked up my aunts and cousins (the number of people that fit into my tiny G6 will remain a secret) from Southside and brought them back to my apartment. And finally, I’ll say it: I AM HAPPY I WENT ON THE TRIP TO WASHINGTON, D.C. Did I enjoy it at the time? Look at the pictures and captions and you tell me. Was it the most miserable weekend of my life? Quite possibly. However, it was also where Courtny and I became friends (spoiler alert: she friendzones me and I claw my way out (spoiler inside the spoiler: Kelsey is a fan of that foundation)). My relationship with Courtny has led me to so many of the people I will be saying goodbye to in the near future, and I’m blessed to know you all.

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Seriously up until 5 AM every Sunday because who starts assignments before 2 in the morning?

 Is Anyone Still With Me?

 Well… that was a doozy. It’s now 3:30AM, Courtny is passed out, her cat, who usually sleeps at my feet, keeps staring at me wondering when I’m gonna get off this painfully bright machine, and my eyes are rapidly getting heavier. Anyway, Happy New Year! Here’s to Pittsburgh, R&B’s pizza, and all of you crazy kids I call my friends. Yinz guys be safe tomorrow… the roads might be a bit slippy.

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P.S. Keep an eye out for the blog about the big O-H!

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The Return

Long train rides will inspire even the worst writer to put his or her thoughts on paper. In the midst of a 3-hour train to St. Moritz, one conversation with my traveling companions, Ryan and Courtny, gave me the urge to write about a subject that has nothing to do with Switzerland. No, I won’t be giving you details about the beauty of Lucerne or the majesty of the Swiss Alps. Instead, I am going to tell you about my favorite city yet—Cleveland, Ohio.

 

As I tried to explain to Ryan and Courtny the significance of LeBron returning to the Cavs (Courtny has heard it at least 5 times now), I realized that I can’t articulate it through the spoken word. I get too emotionally worked up. I make claims that if the Cavs win the NBA Finals, it will be the greatest sports story ever (not including things that are bigger than sports, i.e. defeating cancer and winning a championship or things of that nature). In terms of pure sports narrative, I stand by that statement, but as I sit here alone in my room, I can explain my argument for this bold claim. You may not agree with it, but at least you’ll see my perspective.

 

You think you know struggle?

 

1964. 27 years before I was born, Cleveland won a championship. Of course, considering the Super Bowl wasn’t even around, it puts a bit of an asterisk next to the NFL Championship that the Browns won. So let’s rewind a bit more to 1948—the last time the Indians won the World Series. Since then, Cleveland has endured more sports heartbreak than any other city in the country.

Sure, the Pirates had 21 straight losing seasons. But right down the road, the Steelers were collecting Super Bowl rings and the Penguins were parading down Boulevard of the Allies after the Stanley Cup.

Cubs fans want to bring up Bartman interfering with a foul ball? Please. It’s a foul ball. Sure, it may have been caught, but instead of blaming your shortstop for the error he had immediately following that incident, you choose to blame the diehard fan who did what 20 other fans were attempting to do. Go ahead and complain about your city’s sports “curse” as you stare at the six NBA trophies sitting in the Madhouse or watch highlights of the Blackhawks record-setting championship season.

Relax, Boston. The Curse of the Bambino is over, but even when the Red Sox were breaking your hearts, you had your GQ QB leading the Pats to numerous Super Bowls and the Celtics have had some of the best players of all time lead your city to championships.

So don’t try to tell me any city has struggled in sports the way Cleveland has—we’ve turned it into an art form.

 

Our Masterpieces

 

The Drive. The Fumble. The Catch. The Shot. Red Right 88. Those are just the heartbreaks with names. Willie Mays. John Elway. Michael Jordan. Jose Mesa. Those are some of the names synonymous with heartbreak. Heartbreak has become part of the sports culture in Cleveland, Ohio. I wasn’t alive for many of the Browns’ most devastating moments, so I’ll stick to the other two sports in Cleveland. Do you wonder why our fans are so passionate, yet hesitant to hope?

Go ahead and watch Game 7 of the 1997 World Series. One of the clearest memories I have of my childhood is watching that game, KNOWING we were about to win the World Series. This was the year. One of the greatest offensive lineups in the history of the game (seriously, look at the roster) and we were 3 outs away from bringing home the ring. Of course, had we gotten those 3 outs, I wouldn’t be typing this. Jose Freakin Mesa comes into the game and gives up the lead. Local good-guy Tony Fernandez lets a grounder to his left slip under his glove, and all of those champagne bottles in the Tribe locker room remained corked. For a moment, I was stunned. Then little 6-year-old Phil did what many Cleveland fans of all ages did—cried himself to sleep.

Before I move on to basketball, let’s skip forward to 2007 and 2013 for a brief moment. The Indians were the best team in the far-superior American League and had the matchups to beat Boston in the ALCS. When the Tribe took a 3-1 series lead, I remember hearing Mike Trivisonno claim that it was literally impossible for the Indians to blow this series. He was right. We had the two best pitchers in the game on the mound the next two nights. If C.C. Sabathia blew game 5, surely Fausto Carmona would carry us to a game 6 victory. Yet the Indians somehow blew it. The Red Sox predictably swept the Rockies in the World Series, Sabathia left for the Yankees, and Carmona lost all control of his two-seam before eventually being deported. No, seriously. His name wasn’t even Fausto Carmona and he was three years older than his documents claimed.

On to 2013. Everyone knows what a grind it is to even get to the playoffs in baseball. So Cleveland fans were ecstatic when it was announced that there would be two wild card teams and a one-game playoff to get to the divisional series. But in true Cleveland fashion, the Indians miraculously won ten straight games to earn the number 1 seed in the Wild Card Game (which I drove 3 hours to see). Before 2013, this would have meant a divisional series berth. Instead, we lost the first ever one-game playoff series to Tampa Bay. It’s not like we would have won the World Series or anything, but it still has to be mentioned.

 

Basketball Time

 

At the beginning of this blog, I mentioned how the Browns last won a title in ’64 and the Indians won in ’48. Do you want to know the last time the Cavs won a title? Well, truth be told, we never have. But as a 90’s kid, this didn’t affect my passion for the NBA. The 90’s were possibly the most entertaining era of NBA basketball ever. Rivalries meant fistfights. Every year there was a new contender, but the same champion. I’ll admit it—I was a Michael Jordan fan. I was also a Reggie Miller fan. They were conference rivals, but you had to respect the way they played the game. The passion of the NBA in the 90’s was unmatched.

 

2003 was supposed to be the rebirth of the NBA. Sure, it had Kobe, but the league needed a fresh batch of superstars. 2003 brought that. And the Cavs were getting the number 1 pick. Carmelo or LeBron? ‘Melo had just led Syracuse to a national title, but LeBron was the hometown hero who had it all. His sophomore year OF HIGH SCHOOL he was already gaining national attention. My sophomore year of high school I was competing with Boo Boo Rivera for the starting job at 2nd base on a .500 baseball team. LeBron was the real deal and everyone knew it.

 

The Draft

 

After the NBA Draft ping-pong ball lottery went our way, Cleveland fans sat anxiously as we awaited the announcement. We all knew it was coming, but it had to come out of David Stern’s mouth for us to celebrate. “With the first pick of the 2003 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers select LeBron James.” The crowd roars. Season tickets sell out and, suddenly, there was hope in Cleveland. It was hope that rested on the shoulders of an 18-year-old boy, but it was hope nonetheless. He was The Chosen One. King James. The Hometown Hero. It wasn’t going to be a quick process, but fans were just excited to have a fun team to watch and we hoped that eventually, LeBron would lead us to a championship.

 

Cleveland Rocks

 

The 2007 Eastern Conference Finals put the Cavs against a familiar foe—the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons saw a lot of success in that decade, making multiple NBA Finals appearances and proving that, with the right pieces, it was possible to win an NBA title without any true superstar. They were a group of hard-working, gritty individuals who played as one unit and stepped up when they needed to. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the way Detroit played the game. I also hated them. They knocked the Cavs out of the playoffs the year before, but now it was our turn. Detroit was good, but LeBron was better. In a memorable game 5, with the series tied 2-2, LeBron scored 29 of the Cavs’ final 30 points IN DETROIT to give us the overtime win and a 3-2 series lead.

Game 6 was all but guaranteed. Back in Cleveland, there was no way the Pistons would beat LeBron James and his crew. And you know what? For the first time in a long time, one of those “guaranteed wins” finally went Cleveland’s way. The Cavs ran the Pistons out of the gym as Daniel “Boobie” Gibson dropped 31 points and the Cavs were celebrating their way to the NBA Finals.

 

Spurred

 

Well, that ended quickly. LeBron was clearly out of gas and Gibson lost his shooting touch. Despite a few games that were closer than people remember, the Cavs were swept 4-0. Still, they had gotten over the hump—they made their first Finals appearance with more to come in the next few years.

 

Then Again, Maybe Not

 

Freakin Boston. They had just broken our hearts in the ALCS and now their basketball team was a contender. The Celtics acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in the offseason to join Paul Pierce, and suddenly the Cavs had a much tougher nemesis than ever before. The two teams met in the Eastern Conference Semis. It was one of those series where we would go down, then come back and tie the series. We were constantly fighting back until finally, game 7 came. Despite 45 points from King James, the Cavs were eliminated from the 2008 playoffs. Maybe next year.

 

 

The Year

 

66-16. Number one seed in the playoffs. Best player in the world. This was the year. The Cavs steamrolled the Pistons and the Hawks on their way to the Eastern Conference Finals—they won all 8 of those games by 10 points or more. Up next was the Orlando Magic, who had somehow gotten past the dreaded Celtics. Talk about a break—not only were we rested, but we didn’t even have to play against the Big Three in Boston.

Game 1 was a fluke. LeBron scored 49 points but no one else showed up. It was probably just a case of finally facing a decent team trying to prove themselves on the road. The Magic got hot so we had to give them credit. Surely game 2 would be different.

Game 2 wasn’t any different. The Magic stayed hot and the Cavs were in danger of going down in the series 0-2 before traveling to Orlando. Then, it happened. Down by 2 with only a few seconds left, the Cavs inbounded the ball to the best player in the world. LeBron caught the pass, stepped back, and NAILED a fade away 3 to keep the Cavs hopes alive. Series tied 1-1. Season saved.

Unfortunately, Orlando never cooled off. They won game 3 on their home court, then won game 4 in a crucial overtime must-win scenario for Cleveland. The Cavs salvaged game 5, but the series would end in six as the Magic closed it out on their home court. Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis were just too much for the Cavs. Of course, both of them would end up playing horribly in the NBA Finals against the Lakers as Kobe got his easiest ring yet in 2009. That was supposed to be us.

 

Quitness

 

My memory of the 2010 playoffs is quite clouded. Normally I’m a detail-oriented person when it comes to sports, but there is one moment that will always stick out in my mind when I bring up the 2010 Cavs. Every Cleveland fan knows exactly what I’m talking about. The signs were there. LeBron was sick of carrying the team on his back. His effort against Boston in those final games wasn’t the killer attitude we expected of him. He looked disengaged. As much as we hated to admit it, he looked like he was ready for the offseason. Well, Boston was more than willing to send him to the offseason he desired. Then, as the final seconds ticked off the clock in Boston, LeBron started walking off the court while simultaneously taking off his jersey. In that moment I knew he was gone. There was no way he was coming back to Cleveland, and who could blame him? He had weak teammates surrounding him and a coach he didn’t get along with.

 

The Decision

 

Cleveland is a city of subtlety. People outside of Northeast Ohio wonder why we love Cleveland so much, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s not a flashy place, and certainly isn’t on anyone’s bucket list. LeBron’s hour-long, self-centered, and downright ridiculous ESPN special was the complete opposite. His pink button down shirt was more fitting for a city like New York or maybe even Miami. Still, despite all of the signs, we remained hopeful.

 

“Taking my talents to South Beach”

 

It’s one of the most famous quotes in basketball history. It wasn’t enough to say he was going to play for Miami. He had to “take his talents” there. This was unlike anything we had ever seen before in Cleveland. This wasn’t the type of heartbreak that would leave 6-year-old Phil crying himself to sleep. This was temper tantrum material, people. 6-year-old Phil would have had tears of anger as his favorite athlete ditched his city on national television. Of course, 18-year-old Phil settled for swearing at the TV and burning a jersey in a bonfire. The city responded by immediately tearing down his building-sized mural downtown.

 

The Party, The Letter, The Cavericks, and The Rings

 

I know this blog is getting long, so I’m going to speed through the next couple of points. LeBron was already well on his way to becoming the most hated figure in Cleveland sports history (move over, Art Modell). Then he cemented that legacy when he arrived in Miami and made his “taking my talents” quote sound humble. He claimed it would be easy to win with that team. When asked about winning multiple titles, he responded with “not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4, not 5, not 6, not 7, not 8…”

Meanwhile, back in Cleveland, Dan Gilbert wrote an incredibly impulsive letter ripping on not only LeBron as a player, but as a person as well. He said things in that letter that every Cleveland fan was feeling at the time, so of course we all rallied behind him. Fast forward to the actual season.

The Heat rolled through the Eastern Conference and went on to play Dallas in the NBA Finals. They dominated game 1, and Cavs fans were already drinking their sorrows away as they watched their ex enjoy a level of happiness he never had in Cleveland.

Game 2 was more dominance from the Heat. I watched as Dallas got down by 5, then 10. “WADE FROM DOWNTOWN!” D-Wade’s corner 3 put Miami up by 15 with 7 minutes left. Dallas called a timeout as LeBron and Wade celebrated on the court by punching each other in the chest and gloating right in front of the Dallas bench. But Dallas crawled their way back into it as Cleveland fans everywhere were clinging to the hope of a championship evading LeBron James. That’s what it had come to. Behind Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki, The Mavericks (or the Cavericks as we called them) came back and tied the series at 1. The rest of the series went back and forth with plenty of heroics. As game 6 ended and Dallas won its title, it was the closest thing Cleveland had to a championship in a long time.

We mentally regrouped for next season, when the Cavs would once again be terrible but the season was a success as long as the Heat lost. That’s no way to live. At some point you have to let go. When the Heat won the finals in 2012, we finally started to let the hate ease away. The Heat won again in 2013, but that sting wasn’t nearly as bad. But 2014 had to be different.

 

Spurred Again

 

Cavs fans didn’t want the Heat to lose the 2014 NBA Finals. We NEEDED them to. Because if they lost to the Spurs, maybe, just maybe, LeBron would leave the Heat to come to a younger team like the Cavs. But no one foresaw the pure dominance of the Spurs. In a quick 5-game series, the Spurs won the NBA Finals with the biggest point differential in NBA history, and all of a sudden LeBron was back on the market.

 

We Have History

 

Twitter rumors spread like wildfire. Was LeBron actually considering leaving Miami? Could he really come back to Cleveland? There was no way. Josh Teplitz, a personal trainer in Cleveland, broke the story on Twitter that LeBron was definitely coming home. He and other “unreliable” social media sources claimed Dan Gilbert’s plane was heading to Miami to meet LeBron, which began a #PlaneWatch2014 craze. The national media thought we were crazy. We trusted a personal trainer and a parody Cleveland sports account for our information. Maybe we were a bit crazy. But we didn’t care. LeBron’s camp wasn’t squashing any of the rumors, so that was good enough for us. Plus, what Clevelander would be dumb enough to get the entire city worked up about a LeBron comeback if he wasn’t absolutely sure it was happening? This was potentially the biggest moment in Cleveland sports in the last 50 years. You think Bartman feared for his life after the Cubs lost in the playoffs? That is nothing compared to what Teplitz would have gone through if he turned out to be full of BS. Eventually, the national media caught on and started giving Cleveland a shot to land LeBron. Apparently our local sources weren’t as unreliable as people thought.

 

The Return

 

As we all know now, the rumors that were being spread on Twitter were 100% legitimate. Gilbert and LeBron met in private to settle the past. LeBron really did have a strong desire to come home, and he definitely wasn’t the same LeBron that had left 4 years ago. Finally, the announcement was made official on July 12th. It wasn’t on an ESPN special. Fittingly, the official announcement came on LeBron’s Twitter account, where he sent his followers a link to the Sports Illustrated article that had all of the details. The announcement was subtle. It was humble. The article emphasized hard work and loyalty. It was Cleveland.

 

Obviously getting LeBron back doesn’t mean Cleveland will win its first title in 50 years. It’s not going to be a quick process. We’re just happy to have a team that will be fun to watch and we hope that eventually, LeBron can lead us to a championship. Only this time our hope isn’t resting on the shoulders of an 18-year-old boy. This time, our hope rests on the shoulders of a 29-year-old man.

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I want to see mountains, Gandalf!

I quote Lord of the Rings a lot as it is, but if you throw me in a mountain town, you better be ready for a full movie recital. Ever since we booked our trip to Switzerland, Zermatt has been the place I have looked forward to the most. I love ski areas anyway, but if there is one mountain in the world I wanted to see in person, it was the Matterhorn.

 

Well, after going there, I can understand why it’s the most photographed mountain in the world. We arrived in Zermatt on a cloudy afternoon and the mountain couldn’t be seen from the town. But soon after our arrival, the skies began to clear up and suddenly the Matterhorn appeared. The first time seeing it in person was quite the awe-inspiring moment. Never had I seen a mountain that beautiful—its unique shape, towering height, the snow-covered peak… it was definitely one of the coolest sights of my life.

 

The Matterhorn summit

The Matterhorn summit

We spent the evening strolling around town and scavenging for food. As usual, the local market became our go-to, where I got a hummus sandwich. You may remember from my last blog that I ran out of hummus on the train the next day. Anyway, we headed back to the hostel (with a perfect view of the Matterhorn) and got ready for our big hike to the base camp.

 

The next morning we woke up with a somewhat clouded view of the Horn. Still, in a month that had seen rain or snow almost every day in Zermatt, we were just thankful to be dry. We headed off to the cable car station and took a nice, scenic ride up to Schwarsee, where the hike to the base camp started. I’ve gone on a good number of hikes in my life. But hiking through the towering hills of Chardon is slightly different than going to the Matterhorn base camp.

 

“An impossible labyrinth of razor sharp rocks! And after that, it gets even better!” –Gimli

 

The trek began with a steep incline up the first of many hills. It was quite rocky, hence the title of this section. Of course, the trail was pretty well-marked, so the whole “impossible labyrinth” portion doesn’t really apply. But I can’t control what Gimli says. If you don’t like Lord of the Rings then you have no idea what I’m talking about, so back to the hike!

 

Following a couple of hills, we were faced with a more mentally challenging section. If you don’t have a head for heights, this hike isn’t for you. This section of the trail was mostly along cliff edges—I know you are worried at home, but it was really quite safe. There were always a few meters of track before you would reach the cliff, but the view could still get a bit freaky if you let it get to you.

 

 “Up, up, up the stairs we go!” –Gollum

 

One particularly scary section of the trail was a staircase over the cliff. Don’t worry, there were railings and ropes to hold on to, and it gets less scary when you see other people make it to the other side alive. Of course, before we went up the stairs, I had to take a picture for you, just to freak you out a bit. Fortunately for me, Courtny was quite adamant on doing it, so we made it through the stairs (admittedly without ever looking down).

 

Yep. Pretty freaky

Yep. Pretty freaky

“But he was destroyed. Sauron was destroyed!” –Frodo

 

I don’t know how to make that quote work yet. Anyway, after the stairs, we continued our little climb along the mountain. As we got higher, it inevitably got a bit chillier, so we took a small break on a bench to eat protein bars and get a bit of H2O in our systems. We stood up rejuvenated and ready to finish our climb. To the camp!

 

The path got a bit snowier as we went on, but we were no longer along the cliff edges. The rest of the trek went rather smoothly as we came ever closer to the base camp. As we made our final ascent, we could see the cloud-covered Matterhorn suddenly much closer to us than it had been down in Zermatt. The base camp was covered in fresh snow and more was on the way as we stopped for a break. We went a little bit beyond the camp toward the Hornli Hut (the last place you can go without mountaineering equipment) but the conditions ahead were foggy and icy, so we decided to just stop and relax for a bit. I wish we could have seen more of the Matterhorn during our time up there, but the fog was so intense that we rarely got a great glimpse of the summit. At one point it cleared enough to see the peak (and it was incredible) but unfortunately that was right after I had put all of my camera equipment away.

 

See those white tents down and to the left? That's the base camp

See those white tents down and to the left? That’s the base camp

“Gandalf! We must get off the mountain!”—Boromir (RIP)

 

Ah, Boromir. What a tragic character. All he wanted was to secure the future of his people. But his ego, like so many men, led to his downfall… for more on Boromir, read the books.

 

As we turned around to head back, the fog was getting a bit thicker around the Matterhorn. We figured it probably wouldn’t clear up in time for us to see the mountain clearly again, so we began our descent.

 

“I always liked going south. It feels like you’re walking downhill.” –Treebeard

 

For the most part, the descent was quite easy. It’s also much quicker when you aren’t stopping for pictures and such. Obviously, we still had to be quite careful on the portions near the cliffs, but we made it down pretty quickly. We then began the long (and painful) hike back down to Zermatt.

 

“We should just take a cable car.” –Courtny and me

 

As we descended, Courtny and I quickly fell behind mostly due to her hiking shoes. They had been giving her blisters over the past couple of days, but she toughed out the Matterhorn hike. However, there was no way she could make it all the way down the mountain to town. So instead, we purposely (not really) took a wrong turn, setting us back a solid 45 minutes. From there, we strolled to the nearest cable car and rode it on down to town. Of course, we had no food and no water at this point with 30 minutes to run to the hostel and get to the train station. I went to the hostel and got our stuff, Courtny ran to the market and got us sandwiches (mine was hummus again), and the three of us ran to the train station and caught our train just in time. And that is why I was in such an exhausted (yet triumphant) state when I wrote my previous blog. Probably the same way Frodo felt after destroying the one ring. Exhausted, yet triumphant.

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Difficulty with transitions. Spoiler: as long as it’s a theme, it’s no longer bad writing. Just like an outrageously long title is acceptable because it’s my blog, and Eurallopeinmybusiness.

Well, folks, there’s a lot to be caught up on! I know, I know. That blog about Santorini was pretty great so your expectations for this one are probably through the roof. Well, time to be disappointed, friends. Look—transitions are hard. The climate change from Greece to Switzerland has Ryan popping more ibuprofen than Dwyane Wade after a knee workout. Courtny switched from flip flops to hiking shoes and the results have been less than ideal. Meanwhile, we’re sitting on a train from Zermatt to Geneva after a brutal (but awesome) hike. I am exhausted. I have two drops of water left and I’m all out of hummus. Insert transition here back to Greece here.

 

            So Ios was a good time. We were pretty exhausted from our sunrise trip to Ia the night before, but Courtny and I sucked it up and rented a double kayak in the afternoon. We went out to a beautiful bay area and only fought about mistimed paddle strokes 14 times. Insert transition here.

 

            Later that night we went on a group bar crawl, making it our first group activity since the first night in Athens. It was a good time, but we were ready to go to sleep after a few bars so we made our way back to the hotel. Insert transition here.

 

            Predictably, day two started off around noon. That is the schedule Courtny and I have become accustomed to at home, but on vacation we’ve been getting off to much earlier starts. However, after the intensity of Santorini and the kayaking on Ios, our poor little bodies were exhausted. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t take advantage of all of our time—the day started off with a boat excursion out to some caves, a private beach, and another cliff jump. This cliff jump wasn’t as high or as beautiful as the one in Amoudi Bay, but it was still a fun experience. Insert transition here.

 

            We watched an amazing sunset from the top of Chora, the main town in Ios. There was a classic Greek island church and a mountain with the sun dropping into the ocean in the background. Afterward, we went into town and found a nice little restaurant with the best sagnaki I’ve ever had. Admittedly, I had never tried sagnaki until I went to Greece. I don’t even know if that’s how you spell it, but it was delicious. Insert transition to Athens here.

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The sun setting on Ios. It’s super symbolic because our Greek Isles trip was nearing its end. So the sun is setting on our trip. That’s what I’m trying to say

 

            Athens was a lot of fun. We had a farewell dinner and wine (with a lot of extra that we poured into giant plastic bottles) and headed off to the hotel to hang out with our tour friends. Unfortunately, we had to catch a shuttle to the airport at 4 in the morning and didn’t get to bed until 3. So I got 20 minutes of sleep. On the bright side, falling asleep on the flight to Switzerland was incredibly easy. Now THAT’S a transition!

 

            We landed in Zurich on Sunday afternoon. We missed the memo that Switzerland is completely dead on Sundays. I mean, sure, most people in Chardon stay inside and watch football on Sundays. But if you walk uptown, you’ll at least see some cars going up and down the street. By the time we got to Zumikon, there was no humanity in sight. Have you ever seen I Am Legend? That was us. We were legend. To add to the effect, my GPS wasn’t working, so we had no clue how to get to Robin’s house. Fortunately, two lovely people walked by after about ten minutes and guided us to our destination. Robin’s family has been incredibly gracious in our time in Switzerland—the dinners have been amazing, the wine from their winery in Australia was delicious, and the beds… oh the beds. Insert transition to Lucerne here.

 

            Lucerne was the first city I’ve been to on this trip that felt like a traditional European city. The architecture was elegant and the churches were towering over everything. In a quick stroll around town, we saw all of the landmarks that we wanted to and made our way to the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Boom. Transition.

 

            The Lauterbrunnen Valley hostel we stayed at had a better view than most hotels I’ve seen. We got to overlook the whole valley from a balcony and I spent probably the first hour and a half just sitting on the bench looking out over the landscape. At night, Courtny and I (along with a couple of hostel buddies) braved the rain and walked to the biggest waterfall in the valley. There was actually a path leading behind it, so we took that well-marked (and quite wet) walk to see the waterfall from inside of the cliff walls. I have to say, my first time behind a waterfall was a pretty cool experience. After that though, it was time to head back and go to sleep.

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We walked behind that. It’s whatever

 

            Day two was much better in terms of weather. We could actually see to the end of the valley where there was a huge glacier towering over us. We went to the Trummelbach Falls—a series of waterfalls inside of caves. We got soaked but the sheer power of the water was awesome. If anything, my time in Lauterbrunnen Valley convinced me there’s no way Kuzco and Pacha survive that waterfall in The Emperor’s New Groove. Water is powerful stuff, people. Insert transition to Zermatt here.

 

This movie is unrealistic

This movie is unrealistic

            Actually, we’re gonna hold off on Zermatt. It deserves its own blog. Boom. Transition.

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