Tag Archives: Cleveland Browns

More Than a Game

Image/Nike

Image/Nike

On Jan. 17, 1988, I sobbed on the living room floor while my mom yelled at me for crying.

“It’s just a football game, Matt! It’s not that important!” she said.

Even though I was only 8, I knew she was wrong.

My stepdad had walked out of the house without saying a word. He didn’t take a coat even though it was freezing out there.

We just watched the Cleveland Browns fumble away the Super Bowl, and my stepdad and I were devastated.

“It’s not that important!”

My stepdad took a long time to come back inside.

Don’t tell me what’s important. I wanted my favorite team to win in the biggest game of the year, and when they didn’t, I cried because it hurt, and I don’t give a shit whether that makes sense to anyone.

Don’t tell me it didn’t matter, because my heart broke, which means it mattered.

People care about what they care about. I respect almost any demonstration of enthusiasm and passion, even if I lack interest in the subject.

My mom didn’t understand why a football game could mean so much.

A lot of people don’t.

Maybe it’s because we live in Ohio, and Ohio is “boring,” so we all care about things like football, basketball and baseball more than people who live in places where surfing and mountain climbing and Upper East Side parties and Hollywood Blvd. are viable options.

But we do care about these things. Passionately.

 …

On Thursday, my favorite basketball team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, is going to begin a best-of-seven (first team to win four games wins) series that will determine this year’s NBA champion.

Anyone even loosely familiar with American professional sports knows the city of Cleveland has not won a pro sports championship since 1964—the longest drought of any major U.S. city. The national media reminds us all the time because they’re evil sadists.

Under normal circumstances, that would make us media darlings—the You can do it! underdogs many of us love to root for.

But somewhere between the feel-good story that is the Golden State Warriors and their totally likable superstar (NBA MVP Stephen Curry who is super-easy to root for) and the bizarre hateful-admiration combo many people feel toward Cleveland superstar LeBron James, I get the sense most people will be rooting for the Warriors. And that’s fine.

 …

Here’s the thing I want people who don’t care to understand: I’m not rooting for the millionaire athletes you don’t believe deserve the praise and admiration and money and attention they get.

I’m rooting for my friends.

Kris and Todd and Dusty and Steve and Tim and Angie and Nate and people I’m forgetting to name. Long-time Clevelanders who have faced heartbreak after heartbreak from the bloody front lines. They’ve been waiting their entire lives for this. They deserve it.

I’m rooting for my neighbors. They deserve it.

I’m rooting for co-workers and the people I see walking around in Cavs hats and jerseys. They deserve it.

I’m rooting for my tribe. The people who live where I live and care about what I care about. We deserve it.

A common interest is not always enough to bring people together.

But in Ohio? In Cleveland? That’s exactly what it does.

Because it’s more than a game.

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How to Be Hopeful, Vol. 2

God, please make the Browns select Johnny Football and deliver us from awful quarterback play. Amen. Artwork by Ryan Cirignano

God, please make the Browns select Johnny Football and deliver us from awful quarterback play. Amen. Artwork by Ryan Cirignano

Hope is most important when it feels hopeless.

I’m sure everyone’s rock bottom looks and feels a little different. Mine came in those first weeks and months after divorce. I have never felt as uncomfortable in my own skin as I did during that time.

You lose yourself. You lose control of your mind and body. They do things involuntarily. And those things don’t feel good.

You look in the mirror but you no longer recognize the person staring back at you.

There are so many life events that send people into a tailspin. Mine was divorce. I have never known fear like that before.

How will I handle doing everything that two people used to do?

How will my son feel about me when he’s old enough to understand what happened?

How will I handle my ex-wife eventually marrying someone else?

What if I lose all my friends?

What if women won’t date me because I’m a divorced loser with a kid whose own wife wanted nothing to do with?

Even if they will, how will I ever meet them?

But here’s the scariest part: You have just spent years and years building dreams with your family. You have this idea of what five years from now will look like. There’s comfort in that. And you’re walking the walk with a partner. Someone you can count on for back up and support. Someone to give a teeny-tiny ounce of a shit about the things going on in your life.

And, poof. Gone.

All those ideas about your future are toast. Up in smoke. When you get dumped, you lose your PAST and FUTURE. I didn’t handle that very well.

I’m still coming to terms with everything.

But 13 months later, I’m learning to not focus so much on the past or the future. We spend so much time dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.

Why not live in the now?

Right now is the only thing that’s real. Yesterday isn’t real. Tomorrow isn’t real. Today is real.

And right now you’re breathing. You’re thinking. You’re here. You’re a human being.

I am.

Not many things are more important than that. We’re here. Right now. We have right now.

Does Yesterday Determine Tomorrow?

I was kicking around two questions in the first post:

How much does what happened yesterday factor into what will happen tomorrow?

Is some hope—blind, unfounded hope—a dangerous thing?

The Cleveland Browns win, on average, five games every year and make me sad. My favorite football team has conditioned me to expect the worst. Does that make sense?

Does the team’s performances of yesteryear have ANY bearing whatsoever on what they might do this year or next? With new coaches and strategies and players?

Does the fact that every quarterback the team has drafted since 1999 failed to live up to expectations mean that the next quarterback they select will fail too?

Does the fact my marriage failed mean there’s no chance a second one could succeed?

Do the bad things that happened to me, you, or anyone else justify abandonment of hope? Is the sky really falling? Or is it the perfect opportunity to learn how to overcome fear so we can live life more courageously?

Is False Hope Dangerous?

You see it in the “faith healing” community sometimes where people want to rely on prayer (I am ALL for prayer—even when it comes to the NFL Draft) and ignore some of the resources available to them. People die doing that.

People die drinking purple Kool-Aid®.

People waste their lives holding on to relationships they think are on life support, but are really just corpses.

And the false hope kills you. It does. That’s why marital limbo is so hard. I think particularly for the person who really wants the marriage to last. You hope and you pray and you try and you work and you love.

Every day is an opportunity.

And then the rug gets pulled out from underneath you. The person with all the power—the person holding all the cards—seals your fate when they finally make their move and it’s not the one you’ve been hoping and praying for.

You lose your happy past. You lose your imagined happy future. And you just lost life. All that precious time.

You mourn every bit of it. All the loss. And you feel sorry for yourself, right up until you don’t anymore. Because we learned a valuable lesson about time traveling to the past or future.

Don’t.

All you and I have is right now. That’s true every day we wake up. Every second we get to breathe.

Don’t forget to breathe.

The Future

I don’t try to imagine the future much anymore. One of the biggest changes between me two years ago and me today, is that I’m so much more focused on the present.

What can I do today? What can I do right now? Is this the life I want?

And it has been so empowering to focus on the now. To concentrate on living in the moment.

Because now I’m not afraid of an uncertain future.

And now I don’t spend all my time living in the past, allowing the pains of loss to poison the present.

Hope

noun – a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

verb – to want something to happen or be the case.

I know a truth that almost none of us keep top of mind, or else the entire world would be different.

None of us know what is going to happen next. Not next week. Not tomorrow. Not five minutes from now.

Sometimes bad things will happen. And sometimes good things will happen.

Sometimes we’ll laugh. And sometimes we’ll cry.

If we always focus on the bad things that happened to us, we will feel sad. If we try to focus on all of the good things that happened, we will feel much better. In the end, the past barely matters and the future isn’t real until it is.

But we have right now. To expect good to happen. To desire happiness and contentment.

Right now we have the power to smile. To laugh. To hug. To kiss. To be kind. To love.

And if life is nothing more than a series of right-nows, then we always have the power to be a force for good.

To choose the life we want for ourselves. A beautiful one.

And I’m hopeful we will.

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How to Be Hopeful

I like the idea of hope. Of faith. Of belief. But is there an element of danger to some beliefs? To some hope?

I like the idea of hope. Of faith. Of belief. But is there an element of danger to indulging in them?

She would just smile and roll her eyes at me.

My pretty wife.

We’d be standing in the kitchen, or driving in the car, or huddled with friends at a weekend get-together.

“This is the year!” I’d say, referring to my favorite sports team, the Cleveland Browns. I’d be excited because we just got a new team owner, or because we just hired a new coach, or because we just acquired a new quarterback, and by God, these guys would finally get it right.

For the uninitiated, the Cleveland Browns are a professional NFL football team in the United States. And—what’s a good way to put this?—we’re pretty much always terrible even though we (“we,” being the lovable, if not altogether brilliant, fanbase) always convince ourselves we’re getting better.

The Cleveland Browns are actually a statistical anomaly at this point. It borders on mathematical impossibility that we could suck so bad for so long. If we actually TRIED to be horrible, the results over the past 15 years would be virtually identical to what actually happened.

In a league where winning 10-11 games is the standard by which decent teams are measured, the Browns win, on average, five each year.

“I’m telling you! These are the guys that are going to get it done!” I’d say passionately about the newest hires or player acquisitions.

In the early years when she liked me, she’d smile and pat me on the back, humoring me.

“I hope so, babe.”

As the end of days drew near, she stopped pretending.

“I bet they’re going to suck like they always do. The Browns are just bad at football.”

I’d get a little mad at her.

Of course, she was right. Every single time. The Cleveland Browns ARE bad at football.

And it used to upset me. That she didn’t share my optimism. But more so that I’d invest so much time and emotional energy in a team and game that NEVER provided a positive return on investment.

Which raises two questions:

How much does what happened yesterday factor into what will happen tomorrow?

And.

Is some hope—blind, unfounded hope—a dangerous thing?

A No-Fun Game of Limbo

After we lost her father and our marriage crumbled, we lived as roommates for the better part of a year and a half.

I slept in the guest room, the room located directly beneath our upstairs master bedroom, so every night I’d listen to her footsteps while I wallowed in a bunch of self-induced misery.

We were in marital limbo. Which is a pretty horrible place to be.

I think we both wanted to make it work. Because divorce is bad and we had a young son to raise. But in the end, love has to go both ways. My wife felt emotionally abandoned and my transformation from shitty husband to guy fighting hard for the marriage did nothing to ease her pain. Maybe she thought I was faking it. Maybe she thought I couldn’t sustain it. Maybe she thought I was fat and stupid and poor and ugly and worthless and an embarrassment.

I don’t know.

I just know I hoped. I hoped and prayed. I hoped and prayed and talked and listened and read books in an effort to be a better man.

I always try to be hopeful. I always encourage people I talk to, to be hopeful.

But maybe that’s the wrong thing to do.

Maybe false hope is dangerous because she was never taking me back but I just hadn’t figured it out yet, and when I finally did, I broke.

Maybe, sometimes, hope can be bad.

“In reality, hope is the worst of all evils, because it prolongs man’s torments.” Friedrich Nietzsche

The Hope Peddlers

On Thursday, the NFL will begin my favorite sports-related event of the year—the NFL Draft—a three-day event where all 32 NFL teams take turns selecting eligible players from college football to join their teams in hopes of building a championship contender.

I’d like to think I’d like the draft even if the Browns were good every year, but the truth is, I probably only love it as much as I do because the Browns are always terrible, thus giving them the opportunity to pick near the top of the draft each year. (The previous year’s worst team picks first, and the champion picks last in a setup designed to create league-wide parity. And it totally works for all 31 other teams not residing in Cleveland, Ohio.)

So when you’re bad like the Browns, these talented young players represent tangible hope.

When my life fell apart and I realized I was in marital limbo, I stopped caring about things I used to love—all of the hobbies and activities I used to pursue independent of my wife. Things like football and the draft and basketball and poker and video games.

In case you’re wondering what marital limbo is, it’s like someone hit the pause button on your life, except minus the perks of stopping bad things from happening to you. When you’re in marital limbo, you can’t really do anything with your life until you’re no longer in limbo.

You’re stuck.

In my case, I wanted to be married to my wife. I wanted to be with her and my son forever. I hadn’t always acted like that earlier in the marriage, and those choices had finally caught up to me. But she didn’t know whether she wanted to be married to me anymore. I no longer felt safe to her. She was no longer attracted to me. My mere presence seemed to make her uncomfortable.

Marital limbo is when you wake up every morning sad and go to bed every night sad waiting for your partner to decide your fate. Like a deliberating jury.

Will she snap out of it? Will she love me again? Can we be happy together? Will she at least try?

You’ve got two choices: Give up. Or maintain hope.

Even though I missed the pleasant distraction my favorite football team once provided me, I didn’t miss the misery they caused by losing all the time. The advantage to not giving a shit is that they couldn’t hurt me anymore.

I think that’s how my wife probably felt after building the wall between us.

I felt that relief too, after it all came apart. A part of me wanted to die after she left. I completely lost myself when I eventually learned she was in a new relationship—so happy while I was so miserable. But it did finally dawn on me:

At least I’m not in limbo anymore. At least someone else isn’t dictating my happiness or controlling my future.

A little different than the kind of hope I had been feeling.

But it was hope nonetheless.

To be continued…

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How to Swear: Welcome to O-#%!*ing-hio

Swearing

If you can read this, you might be from Ohio.

Because the folks at Mashable took their sweet-ass time reporting this awesome story, many people didn’t learn until yesterday that Ohio is the “sweariest state” in America.

The Marchex Institute actually discovered this and reported it back in May as part of National Etiquette Week.

So, I’m a little late to the party. But I’m going to try to be fashionably late.

The Potty Mouth State

Is that where I live?

Because honestly? No way we cuss more than New York and New Jersey.

I’ve lived in the Buckeye State since just before my fifth birthday, with pit stops in Illinois and Florida sprinkled between.

Also, I’ve lived in three distinct parts of this state. And I’m legitimately surprised to read this.

Here’s my favorite part: This wasn’t the NSA listening in on our personal phone calls or anything, which is when I’m guessing most of us really let loose.

This data was based on more than 600,000 recorded phone calls to BUSINESSES.

Ha!

Presumably customer-service lines and stuff.

I’m always nice to the customer-service people I talk to. Even when I’m furious. Because, A. I know they’re getting earfuls all day every day and are immune and don’t care. And B. Kindness gets you better results.

But I like to imagine what I WOULD say if I couldn’t control myself.

For example, I used to be a Time Warner Cable customer. And while I don’t want to bag on Time Warner (because their local customer service team was top notch, and because they FINALLY carry NFL Network), that company was—without equal—the one I always said the most bad words about.

I imagine people who feel as I do, but don’t give a rat’s about kindness, say things like:

(Ear muffs, sensitive readers!)

Pissed-off Ohio Time Warner customer who just waited on hold for an hour on the only night this week he didn’t have to take his kids to an extracurricular activity or complete a project at home: “Hey! Time Warner! This piece-of-shit “refurbished” cable box is on the fritz again! Want to explain to me why my goddamn rates go up twice a year when your product is so fucking horrible?”

Time Warner rep: “I’m sorry you’re having problems with your equipment, sir. My name is Jonathan. What can I help you with this evening?”

POOTWC: “Well, let’s see. Shows we schedule on DVR don’t record. The fucking screen freezes and pixelates constantly. Your channel guide isn’t updated, and half the time it’s wrong when it is. And any time we try to call for help, all you assholes ever do is recommend we restart the cable box.”

Time Warner rep: “I’m sorry to hear you’re so frustrated with your cable equipment, sir. At Time Warner, we strive to provide the very best service at affordable prices and we pride ourselves on satisfying our customers. Have you tried restarting the box?”

POOTWC: “Are you fucking kidding me right now?”

Time Warner rep: “I’m sorry, sir. Can you please describe your problem?”

POOTWC: “… *takes a couple deep breaths*… Your shit sucks. My box doesn’t work right. Please fix it.”

Time Warner rep: “Sir, would you please read to me the 15-digit serial number on the bottom of your cable box?”

POOTWC: “Why don’t you just know wha-… nevermind… hold on, I’ll need to get my reading glasses and completely fuck up my entire home theater setup to pull this off.”

*Gets reading glasses on, grabs flashlight, gets even more pissed while pulling wires and shit all over the place while trying to read the bottom of his cable box*

POOTWC: “B-1-5-6-9-8-7-F-J-O-O-8-9-1-1.”

Time Warner rep: “Those are zeros, sir. Not Os. We never use the letter O in serial numbers because they’re too easy to confuse with zeros.”

POOTWC: “Um, I’ve got a fucking zero for you. I think the second quarter has already started, and I’ve seen zero fucking minutes of football because I’m a Time Warner customer and God hates me.”

Time Warner rep: “I’m sorry, sir. Time Warner Cable is committed to providing the very best television and Internet service in the industry. We understand how much you love to watch football and we thank you so much for choosing us as your cable provider… Do you see anything happening on your television screen?”

POOTWC: “No. This box is a piece of shit.”

Time Warner rep: “I understand, sir. Thank you for your patience as we work to resolve your problem in a timely fashion. Could you repeat that serial number one more time, please?”

POOTWC: “Are you fucking… *deep breath*… you ready?”

*repeats number, emphasizing the zeros*

Time Warner rep: “I see. I had it entered wrong. I apologize for the inconvenience, sir. Thank you for your patience.”

POOTWC: “I’m not being patient. I’m fucking pissed.”

Time Warner rep: “I understand, sir. We’re going to have your television service back up and running as soon as possible. I’m sending signals to your machine now. You should see the box reboot. Please let me know when you see activity. This could take a few minutes.”

POOTWC: “Great.”

Time Warner rep: “Who’s playing tonight, sir?”

POOTWC: “The Cleveland Browns are playing the Pittsburgh Steelers.”

Time Warner rep: “Really!? I grew up in Pittsburgh!”

POOTWC: *muttering* “Of course you did.”

The cable box finally starts rebooting.

Time Warner rep: “How are the Browns doing this year?”

POOTWC: “Don’t watch much football, huh? They’re fucking terrible. And when I say ‘fucking terrible,’ I don’t mean they’re having a bad year. I mean they’re having a bad millennium. Because—maybe you don’t know this—but the Cleveland Browns actually relocated to Baltimore back in 1995, so we didn’t even have our favorite team for three years. The Baltimore Ravens have won two Super Bowls since, including last year.

“When the team moved, that’s when I became an alcoholic. And while you might think that’s a bad thing, it’s actually been a GOOD thing, because then God gave us our team back in 1999 as a cruel joke. A bunch of us in Ohio got really excited about it and bought season tickets and got our hopes up about our bright future. But then we started actually playing games. And I’ve needed the drinks more than ever to cope.

“Between 1999 and now, only three decent things have happened: 1. A shitty nine-win playoff team in 2002, where we lost to the fucking Steelers after blowing a huge second-half lead because Dennis Northcutt can’t catch. 2. Joe Thomas. 3. A shitty 10-win season in 2007 where we didn’t make the playoffs because all the other teams were awesome that year, and because we couldn’t beat the Cincinnati Bengals—who blew ass—in an easy must-win late in the season, and because of Derek Anderson. And now, every year, we win four, sometimes five games. Our players always disappoint. Our coaches always seem incompetent. Our front office always seems incapable of acquiring new talent. Our quarterbacks ALWAYS get fucking hurt, so we always have to start shitty no-name players who have, literally, never started in the NFL before, so we get beat embarrassingly bad, and then everyone laughs at us.

“The one upside to only winning four or five games every year is that we ALWAYS have really high draft picks so we get to select from the very best players in college football using the system designed to create parity in the most-popular professional sports league in many parts of the world. Sooner or later, EVERY team gets good and has their day in the sun.”

Time Warner rep: “But not the Cleveland Browns? They don’t get their day in the sun?”

POOTWC: “No. Have you been listening to anything I’ve said at all? We always draft players who are out of the league three or four years later. We’re terrible. We always lose. We’re always sad. We’re always drunk.”

Time Warner rep: “Are you drinking now, sir?”

POOTWC: “I’m always drinking. Please don’t turn this box back on. I can’t watch that shit anymore.”

Time Warner rep: “But sir, your cable equipment should finish rebooting any minute now, and your game will be back on for you to enjoy!”

(And just then, the game does come back on. A Steelers linebacker destroys the Browns’ no-name quarterback and the ball comes flying loose. A Steelers player returns the fumble for a touchdown. It’s 24-0 in the second quarter.)

POOTWC: “FUCKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Why me, God!?!?! Why!?!?!?!?!?”

(The piss-drunk, angry Ohioan tears the cable box from the wall and throws it as hard as he can on the floor, stomping it to bits in front of his wife who will now start having an affair, and his two young children, who will now need therapy but not receive any.)

POOTWC: “I’m going to need a new cable box, man. I just fucked mine up.”

Time Warner rep: “I’m very sorry to hear that, sir. We can have a cable technician deliver a new box to your house in 14 business days between the hours of 8 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Will that work for you?”

POOTWC: “I hate Pittsburgh. And I hate you. And I hate my life. And I hate my football team. And I hate my shitty job. And I hate that I spilled bourbon all over me wrecking that piece-of-shit box. I need to go get another drink. Thanks for your help, Jefferson.”

Time Warner rep: “It’s Jonathan, sir. Thank you for being a valued Time Warner customer.”

POOTWC: “Your whole company can eat shit and die except for you, Jeremy. You’re the best.”

We use bad words.

We use bad words.

Welcome to Ohio

You know what’s a little bit bullshit, though?

All the crap this state takes from pundits and naysayers.

I am UNQUESTIONABLY biased and overly defensive of my home state. But I’m also kind of an expert on Ohio. I’ve lived here for the better part of 30 years, covering much of the state. AND I have excellent taste in things.

1. We have three major cities.

2. We have one of the Great Lakes.

3. We have nice people.

4. We have affordable real estate.

5. We have pretty natural resources.

If you’ve never been here, Ohio is nicer than you think.

I Have A.D.D.

This post jumped the shark during the fake Time-Warner call. Sorry.

I almost deleted this entire thing, but I feel like I’m in too deep at this point and just have to go with it.

I’ve been all over this country. From New York City to San Diego. Key West to Chicago. Las Vegas to New Orleans. Detroit to Charlotte. Kansas City to Cleveland.

And I’m REALLY surprised that such a large sampling of phone calls pegged Ohio as the state using the most bad words.

And that makes me wonder: Is my propensity for using bad language a function of my growing up in this state? OR, am I simply part of the problem?

I don’t like to end posts with questions, because then I can’t be clever the 15 percent of the time that I’m actually clever.

But today it just feels right.

What state, or place in the world, do you consider to have the most foul-mouthed people?

Inquiring minds need to know.

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Remember to Remember

I don't have a pensieve. Bummer.

I don’t have a pensieve. Bummer.

I was just paging through an old photo album my mom gave me during my Thanksgiving visit.

I was little in the photos. Newborn and toddler pictures. Photos of my mom, dad and I all together, before they split when I was four years old. Photos I’ve never seen before.

Images from the early 1980s. My parents, aunts and uncles all younger than I am now.

I don’t remember any of the moments captured in the images, even seeing the irrefutable proof I was there.

I don’t think that’s particularly abnormal—not remembering much from your first few years of life. But it got my wheels turning.

Friday morning, I sat with my five-year-old son, my 20-year-old sister and my mother. Mom’s obsessed with old family videos and insists on watching them whenever we’re all together.

VHS tapes.

She popped one in.

It was Easter Sunday, just after my 20th birthday. I was home from college. My little sister was five, like her little nephew today.

I watched myself supervising her Easter egg hunt, remembering none of it.

And that’s when it dawned on me that I don’t remember the vast majority of my life.

I can’t miss the memories I don’t have. But conceptually, I found that realization a little sad.

MCI and Cheap Long-Distance Rates

At some point on that Easter morning 14 years ago, my mom hit the “Stop” button on the camcorder. An inconsequential move at the time.

But an awesome one in 2013.

Because something rad happened. After a tracking adjustment (remember VCR tracking?!?! Mom’s totally old-fashioned) I realized my mother had taped over an old football game we’d recorded.

It was the 1989 NFL playoffs. The Cleveland Browns versus the Buffalo Bills.

“Mom, can we please keep this on for a little bit? This is kind of amazing.” I said.

She obliged.

Just a couple minutes in, my favorite childhood quarterback—Bernie Kosar—hit my favorite childhood wide receiver—Webster Slaughter—with a perfect pass down the sideline for a 50-yard touchdown catch and run.

I instinctively raised my hand in the air, celebrating the success of an event I’d watched 25 years ago, but don’t remember.

It’s not a big deal watching old ball games. Because of ESPN Classic, most sports fans have seen old game footage before.

But you know what IS a big deal?

Watching 25-year-old television commercials. Because they DON’T show those on ESPN Classic.

First, it was an old Ford commercial, touting the merits of the 1990 model year Ford Taurus.

Have you driven a Ford, lately?

We all laughed.

Then it was a commercial for Delta Airlines. When’s the last time you saw a commercial for an airline? Southwest is the only one advertising on TV these days, right?

Fly the friendly skies.

Then it was an old Coors Light commercial. Everyone looked awesome because it was 1989.

Coors Light! It’s the right beer now!

And finally, there was a great MCI commercial bragging about how much cheaper their long-distance phone call rates were than AT&T’s.

The phones were big and old.

We were still 18 years away from the iPhone.

Amazing.

And the entire thing made me smile. I’ve told at least three people about it.

And it struck me as a reminder.

A reminder to soak in the moments.

To remember to remember.

To take a lot of photos. A lot of video. A lot of mental snapshots.

Maybe write it down.

So you can taste it again. Feel it again. Live it again.

The world’s always spinning.

The clocks, always ticking.

Always.

Tick, tick, tick.

You and me? Right now?

We happen once in a lifetime.

Make it count.

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The Fantasy Life, Vol. 2

My championship trophy from last season is so much smaller than the Shiva trophy, pictured here.

My championship trophy from last season is so much smaller than the Shiva trophy, pictured here.

Many of us have been there.

Drinking all night. I feel fine! Totally cool to drive.

Maybe your friends take your keys.

Maybe you drive and make it home safely.

Maybe you try to drive, realize you can’t, and pull over.

Maybe the fuzz busts you because you’re stupid.

Minus the increased likelihood of hurting someone or getting arrested, I’m kind of like the I-feel-fine! asshole right now.

Because most of the time, I have myself convinced that I’m fine.

But then I need only take a step back and look at the evidence objectively.

Non-manicured landscaping.

Dishes piled up in the kitchen.

Not calling my grandfather on his 80th birthday.

Letting my bills pile up, half-heartedly paying them, sometimes late.

Neglecting projects I’ve promised to complete for people I really care about.

Not exercising regularly.

But one thing stands out above them all: Abandoning my fantasy football teams.

The Comeback Tour

That’s what I thought the return of fantasy football and the NFL season represented for me. I wrote about it in The Fantasy Life.

The comeback tour. The bounce back. The ability to let loose and really enjoy something again that doesn’t matter. To derive pleasure from the inconsequential.

That, I’ve come to learn, is evidence of a charmed life.

Things started off okay, too. I didn’t draft particularly well this year. My teams aren’t as strong as I’d like due to a little bit of bad luck and a little bit of poor decision-making.

But I was active. Participating. Competing. Attentive. And doing relatively well.

And then, during the fourth week of the NFL season, the wheels came off.

I just checked out.

I didn’t make a conscious decision to check out.

I just kept remembering on late Sunday afternoons: Oh shit! I didn’t update my fantasy football lineups again!

Then I’d shrug.

Screw it. I don’t care.

For four consecutive weeks, I didn’t update my teams or participate or give any kind of shit at all.

I just don’t care.

Right now, 50 percent of you are like: Yeah, no shit. Fantasy football is stupid. I don’t get it.

Another 49 percent is like: Yeah, every league has guys like that!

And then there’s the remaining one percent of you who know me. Who know that, while I’m not the epitome of fantasy football nerddom, I do take it pretty seriously. All those people just had stroke-like symptoms.

Because I read fantasy football magazines. Study. Watch shows. Have several conversations leading up to the preseason. Analyze coaching and personnel changes, and evaluate how they might affect a particular player’s performance.

Formulate strategies for draft day. Target sleepers in later rounds, and debate how I want to tackle the meat of my roster early.

But here I am, right now, halfway through the football season.

And, I. DON’T. CARE.

“I love the Cleveland Browns as much as my family,” I’ve said more times than I can count.

I’ve always been joking, but that line was designed to illustrate the depths of my fandom for that football team and for the NFL, in general.

It’s 6 p.m. on Sunday. An NFL Sunday. I haven’t watched one minute of football today. Not one.

I played with my son. I made lunch and breakfast. I took him to a park. We played with toys outside and on the living-room floor. We played video games. We played basketball on his Little Tikes hoop in the basement. We watched a show about African pythons.

After dropping him off at his mother’s, I mowed my lawn.

And now I’m here.

Here at the keyboard. Feeding this place. Because it’s what I care about.

Because this is what matters to me now, after my family.

This Road is Long

This post-divorce road.

This journey to rediscover myself. To create a new life. A new normal.

It’s so long.

It’s so laughable to me that I was trying to date right from the get-go. And justifying it because I hadn’t gotten laid in 48,000 years, as if that somehow made me ready.

A lot of people say it takes a year.

Others have said more like two. That sounds about right to me.

And yet another said it takes about a year for every three in which you were married.

Which means I’ll feel normal again in another two and a half years. Ugh.

I want to be back. I want to feel like me again. So badly.

But I’m not ready.

I’m not ready to date. I’m not ready to hurt someone or be hurt by someone.

I’m not ready to be back to 100 percent at work.

I’m not ready to prepare good, balanced, time-consuming meals.

I’m not ready to get all my work done at home.

I’m not ready to be back volunteering at the shelter.

I’m not ready to wake up early every single day and make this body what it wants to be.

I’m not ready to get lost in the inconsequential. Football. Television. Books. Poker. Golf. Parties. Music.

I’m not ready.

You see, The Fantasy Life used to be regular life. And I didn’t know how good it was.

And now regular life is the elusive fantasy life.

And I can’t wait to taste it again.

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