Monthly Archives: August 2012

“The Legend Continues”

Young men and women are starting to embark on a grueling and treacherous journey comparable only to “The Odyssey.” To celebrate this momentous occasion, below is a special video about three friends and their adventures on the First Day of High School. Good luck to those starting high school and enjoy this stroll down memory lane…

Where is Your ‘Palace’?

What is the best way to travel?

There is the “I’m going to backpack through Europe to ‘find’ myself,” the “We’re doing the all-inclusive Gold Package,” the “Danny Tanner Clipboard of Fun” and the “We’re gonna hop on a couple trains, wander the streets and just kinda see what happens.” When exploring strange lands and new horizons, these tend to be, to some degree or another, the general itineraries for traveling right. And ‘right’ is the key word here. If things turn out wrong, then something horrible has happened: a vacation becomes real life. The party’s over and we are awakened from our dream with a bone chillingly cold splash of reality. Nobody wants to be cold, wet and upset.

When preparing to travel, most of us have the best intentions. We think ahead to what we need to find, wash and bring to ensure constant happiness for our departure from ‘the real world.’

Favorite shirts? Check
Comfortable shoes? Check
Nice clothes for dinner? Check
Shorts and swimsuit? Check
Jeans? Check
Music & Headphones? Check 
Underwear? Check. Wait…Yes, Check
Little boxes of cereal that are life savers in the form of an edible snack? Check

The constants are all accounted for, except for your passport that was left on the kitchen counter specifically placed next to everything else you packed and brought. Of course you remember this as the car is a good ten minutes from home for the flight that leaves in precisely sixty-seven minutes in rush hour traffic…at the airport that is twenty five minutes away in ideal circumstances. Time to take a deep breath. Inevitably we are forced back home because the passport is absolutely necessary to getting through security. Did I remember my ticket? After a ‘gentle’ shuffling and an eventual parting of the car, backpack & pockets Red Sea style, the ticket is safe in our now relieved hand. A car ride to the airport just became “The Amazing Race.” Otherwise, everything is a go for a rejuvenating vacation. Ahhh.

We all know we’re not a veteran traveler without this happening in one way or another. It’s a rite of passage and as Steve Miller said, “You know you got to go through Hell before you get to Heaven.”

The flight is next. This experience has undoubtedly changed since its ‘glory days’ of Pan Am and its patrons donning formal attire and sipping on drinks from the top shelf. Let’s face it, when on airplanes, aren’t we thinking about being just about anywhere else besides being on the plane? Without drowning this piece with the ever-evolving depressions of flying these days (uber casualness, lack of personal space, manners, etc.), let’s just pretend together that it is like a word for word recreation of a soothing experience courtesy of Ol’ Blue Eyes himself. Ladies and gentlemen, “Come Fly with Me.”

“Once I get you up there where the air is rarified
We’ll just glide, starry-eyed
Once I get you up there I’ll be holding you so near
You may hear all the angels cheer ’cause we’re together”

While gazing out at the bright lights of a lively city, excitement in the anticipation of landing builds. There is a universal feeling of wide-eyed wonderment that lifts our spirit. In preparation of arrival, the GPS is pre-programmed in our phones and navigational devices to ensure we won’t stray from the quickest and surest route. On vacation though, isn’t getting lost part of the journey? Strolling off the beaten path for an adventure is partly why we crave getaways. Our environment changes and as a result, shouldn’t we?

Whether romantically strolling the Champs-Elysées of Paris in the glow of street lights…navigating down a Gothic-inspired alleyway in Prague…skiing the freshly snow covered Swiss Alps overlooking a cozy village worthy of being encased in a Christmas snow globe…scuba diving off the northeastern coast of Australia in the warm waters of the Great Barrier Reef and gazing at underwater kingdoms…struggling through a bumpy camel ride in the Egyptian desert sun to marvel at one of the true ‘wonders of the world,’ then crawling through the dark tunnels and passageways of The Great Pyramid, all in an effort to travel back to the age of mummies, pharaohs and hidden treasure…stepping the big steps of a ‘Great Wall’ that is visible from space in the cold December air…exploring and sleeping in a hotel located in the middle of a jungle full of exotic creatures, rivers and views that pictures in books could never do justice…or venturing to a South American coastline town deemed, “End of the World.”

Wherever our traveling destination rests, our first impressions usually resembles a type of ‘Promised Land.’ It’s a fresh start to begin an adventure and escape into a world with help from our imagination. Regardless of location, the time has come to get dressed for our own “Midnight in Paris.”

“To each his own.”

This is a fantastic and insightful phrase. Perception is important. It’s what we make of something that ultimately matters. A beautiful beach on an island in the Caribbean may be paradise to you, but an anchor of limited possibilities to a local.

A vacation does not necessarily mean loading the luggage on top of the new family truckster for a cross-country drive to Wally World. For some, it’s a chance of a lifetime. By the end, we may do something that nobody thought was possible. It could be aspirations of a better life someplace new or breaking into Wally World during its summer renovation for some Marty Moose themed fun…just depends on the individual.

Traveling allows us to hit the refresh button in our lives and escape from reality. Often times, the best getaways are born from daydreaming. This may include recreating a scene from a movie, living out a favorite song that has an important meaning or reaching a personal goal that everyone else laughs at. Some may say that thinking and traveling like this is comparable to living in a fantasy land… being too detached from the ‘real world.’ But isn’t this what dreams are about? Some of the ‘craziest’ ideas are the ones that have changed the world for the better.

Remember the old saying, “You only go around this crazy merry-go-round once.”

As kids, we were pushed to work hard and dream big. Encouragements like “Anything is possible!” to “You can’t have no in your heart” and “Don’t ever let anybody tell you that you can’t do something” are foundations of the human spirit. It’s in our DNA. Is there now an age limit to dreaming? Why not bridge the gap between real and imagined?

Surely, there are people who upon hearing about exciting and elaborate adventures simply shrug it off with pessimism. The conversation may go like this:

“One day, I’m going to go to Paris…the Galapagos Islands…Fiji…Antarctica!”

“Yeah, sure. In your dreams.”

“That’s the plan.”

A ‘Massive’ Theory

Soccer is ‘the beautiful game’ played on a pitch with twenty-two players, a perfectly round ball and typically three people in matching brightly colored shirts that kind of know what is going on. It is a sport driven by athleticism, intelligence and fluidity. The thrill of a goal is partly what defines the game throughout the world. After a player scores an eventual game winner with a side-winding strike far post upper ninety in the 88′ minute he or she sprints towards the adoring fans in jubilation for a few moments of adoration. There are very few moments in other sports that are comparable to this kind of idolization. The reason is goals do not come easily in soccer and therefore when the onion bag shakes with a lively purpose, an eruption of celebratory chants, clapping and high fives all around to perfect strangers (how we all miss Balki) is the pulse-pounding protocol. The ‘soccer gods’ are often given their thanks for goals in the biggest of games.

Like other sports, soccer is proven on the field. As my Jamaican coach used to profess over and over again, “let the ball do the work.” He also threw in, “Jimmy, what is your malfunction!?” Just know the latter phrase was shouted at me in one of my very first games playing for this coach. It was a fascinating moment to say the least. To be clear though, upon reflection, I was ‘malfunctioning’ that game. Suffice it to say, the jest was just.

For most teams, what is left on the field when the final whistle blows, whether it’s a win or a loss, is generally accepted and the team then prepares for the next match. However, upon extensive research, it was discovered that the Columbus Crew is not like most teams in Major League Soccer. They should not just accept results and move on to the next opponent. There is an x-factor with this group that can be achieved if a specific threshold is met. Soccer is not a game of numbers, but in the Crew’s case, this season can very well be made or broken because of one precise number: 40.

The Columbus Crew has won championships before, as well as the horse race of earning the most points in all of MLS on a few occasions. Throughout the past decade, from 2002-2011, the Columbus Crew has revealed a fascinating formula for predicting their success. Stay with me, but the following is the mathematical argument for how the Columbus Crew sets itself up to win championships and/or Supporters’ Shields. Let’s begin.

Here is a table of numbers that highlights the year, total team goals scored and the end results of each season:

2002: 44 Goals (Open Cup Champions & MLS semi-finals)
2003: 44 Goals (Did not make MLS playoffs)
2004: 40 Goals (Supporters’ Shield Winners)
2005: 34 Goals (Did not make MLS playoffs)
2006: 30 Goals (Did not make MLS playoffs)
2007: 39 Goals (Did not make MLS playoffs)
2008: 50 Goals (MLS Cup Champions & Supporters’ Shield Winners)
2009: 41 Goals (Supporters’ Shield Winners & MLS quarter-finals)
2010: 40 Goals (MLS quarter-finals)
2011: 43 Goals (MLS Wild Card)
2012: 25 Goals with 11 games remaining (TBD)

The playoff and championship information is courtesy of the Columbus Crew’s 2011 Digital Media Guide
The goals per game information is courtesy of mlssoccer.com/standings

This information reveals that in each season from 2002-2011 that the Crew won a championship (MLS Cup or Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup) and/or a Supporters’ Shield they scored at least 40 goals. Also note that every single year the Crew did not make the MLS playoffs throughout the past decade that those teams never scored 40 goals with only 2003 as the lone exception. This anomaly should be considered the margin of error. This is an evolving theory and the data has established a nearly exact formulaic expression. It cannot be ignored that this statistical benchmark proves rewarding for our men in black and gold when reaching the big 40.

Some may argue that of course a team has to score lots of goals to be successful. Sure. The only caveat is there seems to be a particular pattern developing with this team that directly correlates to end of the season achievements and opportunities.

Here is a formula that expresses the Columbus Crew’s mathematical obligation and its subsequent springboard towards achieving championships and titles of varying sorts. I call it The Road Paved in Black & Gold:

Columbus Crew Goals For  >  40 = Playoffs and/or Winning Hardware

The Crew’s 2012 regular season is in its final third and currently the team has accumulated a meager 25 goals and sits in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. Only the top five from each conference will qualify for the playoffs. Mathematically, at least fifteen goals need to scored in the next eleven games for them to earn a playoff spot (acknowledging 2003) and have a legitimate opportunity to hoist at least one of the remaining championship trophies. In the Crew’s case, the only title left to be had that is realistically within their grasp is the MLS Cup. I’m assuming most of the Crew Soccer Nation would accept this proposition.

“So you’re telling me there’s a chance…Yeah! I read ya.”
–Lloyd Christmas, “Dumb and Dumber”

Some may call this analysis dumb and that it has no significance, but basic arithmetic disagrees. With 90% certainty, any collaborative goal tally less than 40 goals equals more snowball fights, snow angels and sledding time come this winter for America’s Hardest Working Team. Better news is the seeding for the playoffs would be borderline insignificant because in both 2009 and 2010 (painful memories for Columbus) the last and second to last teams that qualified for the postseason those years ended their seasons by hoisting the MLS Cup Championship trophy. Is hope starting to grow?

As showcased in the 2-2 draw at Houston and the 2-1 win against Toronto, the addition of Designated Player Federico Higuain adds a dynamic element to the Crew’s offense they haven’t had since the days of Guillermo Barros Schelotto. Add Eddie Gaven and the second newest player in forward Jairo Arrieta plus random offensive bursts from the likes of Cole Grossman, Sebastian Miranda or Josh Williams on a set-piece or corner kick (it will happen this year) and the third lowest scoring team in MLS can all of a sudden generate a relative explosion of goals and make the final games much more interesting for fans and competitors alike.

Forget 9 or 10 because as of August 23rd the most important number on the field for Columbus is 1.36 (rounded off) goals per game to reach the minimum 40. However, if the Crew’s new offense can muster the same goals per game at Houston and at home against Toronto (2 per game), then they would finish the regular season with 47. This total would be just three shy of their storybook 2008 MLS Cup Championship season. Just something to ponder…

Columbus Crew: Show us you understand that you prepare with your mind and play from your heart. In return, we’ll honor you with the loudest and most passion-filled fans in all of Major League Soccer. The atmosphere will be electric and Massive.

How do I know? It’s math.

iRobot

“One day they’ll have secrets…one day they’ll have dreams.”
–Dr. Alfred Lanning: I, Robot (set in 2035)

Who are they?

In the mid to late 20th century, people had dreams, ideas and expectations for what they envisioned the 21st century would look like. The phrase ‘turn of the century’ this time around had sensationally high hopes and aspirations. If you recall a scene from “That 70s Show” when Red imagines his family’s future in which his daughter Laurie has married her dimwitted yet charming boyfriend of the moment Michael Kelso. It takes place far off in the year 1997. By Red’s account, all the surroundings are white and complemented with transparent black plastic tables and chairs. Everyone wears clothes with sparkles, the butlers and dogs are robots and food comes in pill shapes of varying sizes and colors.

Once he gets predictably upset at Kelso and Laurie for wanting to sponge more money off of him, he jets off on, well, literally a personal jet-pack into the sky. The setting of the room was peaceful and simplistic, which was definitely a contrast to the bright and oddly matched color splashes of the 1970s.

Perhaps one of the most famous predictions and portrayals of the future was a little movie that is prefaced with the tagline, “Roads…where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” This of course is a reference to the cult classic, “Back to the Future: Part II.” Truly one of the best B-movies of all time. In 2015 all the cars fly, the skateboards have advanced to hover-boards, a 3-D holographic Jaws leaping out at the public is in, jackets dry within ten seconds with the press of a button and Nike shoes are fully equipped with power laces. Dust busters are an antique, breaking news is published within seconds (huh, seems familiar), there are scanners galore, the Cubs are World Series champions and so on and so forth.

One scene that strikes home is when the McFly family congregates around the dinner table. Father Marty McFly sports his corresponding two ties and his kids show off their phone glasses while Marty’s mom bites open what looks like a Pizza Hut bite-sized snack wrapped in a Pop-Tart-like plastic. She slides it onto an over-sized (so we thought) circular pan and then into a Black and Decker Hydrator (patent pending). Two seconds later, a perfectly pre-sliced steaming hot pizza (1/2 pepperoni, 1/2 veggies) is immediately ready to satisfy the family’s anxious hunger. I’m assuming Pizza Hut is still “Makin’ it Great!”

In a matter of seconds, a family dinner was prepared and served. Apparently, long gone are the days of slaving over a hot stove for hours and keeping up with the necessary and stressful synchronization of ingredients to the main course and complementary side dishes. To a mother, this seems like a small slice of nirvana. However, take a closer look at that scene. Notice anything off?

In this scene, a family pizza night was homemade in literally a couple seconds. But let’s examine the mood. The mother seems annoyed and stressed out as she is gently hassled to hydrate the family’s pizza. The kids’ glasses ring and the corrupting Needles successfully interrupts and takes Marty away to the family room where he accepts a fire-worthy scam (so much for no phones at the table). Each kid appears, like any teenager really, to be annoyed by their parents and off into their own world. The point is that even with the effortless routine of preparing a family dinner by Pizza Hut, with a fully loaded fruit overhang at one’s disposal upon a simple vocal demand, more convenience did not equal more smiles or friendlier family conversation.

One of the primary goals of technology through history is to make something, whether it be traveling, building or downloading a slamming ringtone, easier. These eases on the human race should free time for us to engage more together and interact in ways that bring us more joy to the things that matter above all else in life: our personal relationships with people we care about.

It’s the summer of 2012. In most places around the country, and world for that matter, one does not have to look hard or far to find someone who is doing the ever-famous ‘smartphone look down’ pose. We all know or have seen someone who has done it, if not ourselves from time to time. Captivated by what our iPhone or Blackberry or iPad or any mobile device is able to show us, basic human interactions seem to be gradually going by the wayside. Making eye contact to a passerby is increasingly becoming a foreign concept. Far too many people are so engrossed in the technology at their fingertips that they are missing life as it passes them by, literally. Where has basic interaction gone? Is this all a geeky fad or are we at a point of no return?

Fortunately, there is one family that drew together the pieces for living life with state-of-the-art technology: The Jetsons. They perfectly demonstrated how a family of the future should live and interact with one another in a world filled with things and people whizzing by. While Orbit City in 2062 was drastically different to the world of the viewer, how they lived their lives, both personally and professionally, remained the comforting constant. Who doesn’t smile at Elroy’s childish hijinks, Judy’s high school ways, Jane’s motherly instincts or George’s comedic struggles at the office and at home? “Jetson!”

A great cartoon aside, when we see people sitting or walking today, they are ultimately isolated with their technological device. We usually see a serious, business-like stare down at their gadget’s face. It’s non-emotional…like a machine.

Who are they? That certainly is the question.