Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Top 10 NBA Players of All Time

Every Thursday in my classes at my high school I present to them a Top 10 list. I LOVE lists. If there is a list show on TV, I'll watch it. So I thought it would be interesting to share some of them with you. And why not start with a controversial one, right? Enjoy!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Greatest Comeback I Ever....Missed.

Last night we witnessed (well, not all of it) one of the best Elite 8 games ever played between #1 seed Kentucky and #3 seed Notre Dame. It was back and forth in the last few minutes that I was fortunate to see and in the end, Kentucky prevailed.

It reminded me of a game ten years ago that may go down as the best Elite 8 game of all-time, as well as the greatest comeback in NCAA Tournament history…. and I missed it all.

It was 2005 and my Fighting Illini was the #1 seed in the Midwest. They have easily dispatched of Farleigh Dickinson and Nevada in the RCA Dome in Indianapolis and had beaten UW-Milwaukee and Satan in the Sweet 16 at the Allstate Arena in Chicago. The victory setup a showdown with #3 seed Arizona, At stake – a trip to the Final Four in St. Louis. Illinois hadn’t been to the Final Four since a trip in 1989 to Seattle that saw them lose a heartbreaker to eventual National Champion Michigan.

For those of you that don’t know me very well, I get VERY involved in my teams games. So much so on occasions that I will have to turn it off because I get too worked up. It actually affects me physically in certain situations, depending on the level of the game. Since I had gotten married five years earlier I promised my wife that if the game was going to get me angry and worked up that I would turn it off. She had learned this first hand, along with her mother, in 2001. Illinois was playing, of all teams, Arizona for a chance to go to the Final Four. I couldn’t watch it in the room that they were in and once the game was over and my Fighting Illini lost, I needed to take a walk to cool off. Lesson learned.

Saturday, March 26, 2005 was a nice Saturday. Our oldest son was 17 months old at the time and Rebecca was pregnant with our second child. My wife took advantage of my nervous energy and asked me to help her clean the house. I obliged. I set the channel to CBS and turned off the television. I decided that I would turn on the TV and check the score every so often so that I knew where Illinois stood, but wouldn’t get crazy during the game, especially in front of my young son.

Something to remember – this particular Illinois team had grown into my favorite Illini team of all-time, surpassing the Flyin’ Illini of 1988-89. That team had expectations of going to the Final Four, and did, only to fall short. We knew the team in 2004-05 was going to be good; we just weren’t sure how good. We got our first idea when Illinois hosted Chris Paul and #1 ranked Wake Forest on December 1st. It was a blowout. Illinois won 91-73 and it wasn’t even that close. The Illini lead by 30 at certain points in the game and cruised to victory. I didn’t get a chance to watch that game because I was back in school to become a high school teacher. Being the superstitious guy that I was, I decided to play that card all year; and on March 26 it was no different.

As I had planned, I turned on the television at certain points in the game to check the score. At the half, Illinois led by two. I was satisfied with this as Arizona was 30-6 at that point and still a 3 seed. Illinois went undefeated in the regular season until the last game when they lost at Ohio State on a last second shot. I personally thought this was good for the Illini as they didn’t need the pressure of being undefeated going into the NCAA’s (like Kentucky this year). I got very jittery and was doing various things to once again fight against my nervous energy. Finally, I turned the TV on again to check the score and saw that my cherished Fighting Illini were down 14 points with just under four minutes to go.

It was a gut punch. It’s difficult to describe the feeling that I felt at that point. I can, without reservation, say that it was the lowest I had ever felt as a sports fan, and still is to this day. I slumped down in front of the couch and tried not to throw up. I looked at my wife and told her that I did NOT want to talk to anyone.

Something else about sports fans that’s interesting – the more passionate you are about a team, the more smack you’ll get from fans of other teams when they lose. When my new students each year find out I’m a Bears fan their initial reaction is “You know they lost to the Colts in the Super Bowl, right?” No, I didn’t realize that at all, thank you for informing me of this. Ugh. It’s so tired and old. If I had a nickel…

Anyway, I digress. As I was wallowing in my despair that night in 2005 the phone began to ring. I assumed they were coming out of the woodwork to either give me grief or console me. I still didn’t want to talk to anyone. My wife answered the phone and politely told my brother that I didn’t want to talk to anyone. He told her to tell me to turn the television on. Other friends called and each time my wife told them I didn’t want to talk and each time the friends implored her to have me turn the television on. Finally, my brother called again (another fanatic Illinois fan) and was very emphatic with my wife about telling me to turn the television on – I vaguely remember a possible cuss word but neither he nor her can confirm this fact.

Finally, I relented and turned the TV on and the first image I viewed was Roger Powell celebrating. Huh?!?! What happened? I was befuddled. In some weird alternate universe my Fighting Illini had comeback and won the game. My brain kind of froze. I didn’t know how to react. I kept watching the Illini celebrate. Luckily, we had gotten this newfangled contraption called a Digital Video Recorder or DVR. It was a TiVo and since the channel had never changed it had recorded the entire game. After finally realizing that Illinois truly had won the game, I rewound the DVR and watched the most epic comeback ever in the NCAA Tournament.

The conflicting emotions I felt that day were very interesting. Absolute overwhelming pride in my team that they had dug themselves out of the hole and won the game, but disgust in myself for not watching it live.

Every year during the NCAA Tournament I always browse to YouTube and watch ‘The Comeback’. It beings back mostly good memories, but I still have the deal with my wife. J

Friday, March 20, 2015

My Bucket List

Everyone I know has a bucket list. It's a rite of adulthood I guess. Anyway, one of the items on my bucket list is to write a book. At first it was just to be a published author, but I've accomplished that goal.

I was approached by one of the teachers who ran the Transition to Teaching/MAT program at the University of Indianapolis where I worked to get my teachers license and my MAT. He wanted to write a book about the first ten years of their program and was choosing one student from each year to write a chapter. He wanted me to write the chapter from our year. I was floored....and accepted as quickly as I could. I would like to share that chapter with you. Why? I want to start to build the foundation for my upcoming GoFundMe video that I am going to create to assist me in writing my book while I'm still teaching.

Here is the link to read it on a website in case you don't want to read it via the following post - The First Ten Years. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.



You Just Know

This was a common response that I would receive when I would ask a married friend how they knew they had found the right person to marry. It would drive me CRAZY. How do you “just know”? Do you wake up one morning and feel different? Is it a flash of light in the sky with hymns playing in the background? Or did they just beat you into submission? I never understood that answer…until I met my wife. Then I got it. But the funny thing was – I thought it only applied to marriages. Boy was I wrong.

As a kid growing up in Central Illinois I loved many things. Sports, for instance, were a big part of my childhood. To this day I am a completely ridiculous over-the-top fan of my teams. So as I got into high school I thought that my career choices would veer in that direction. As a sophomore I decided to look into becoming the Athletic Trainer for the football and basketball teams. The coaches were very open to teaching a student how to tape ankles and knees because it gave them extra time to prepare for practice and games. And as a late bloomer (and I mean LATE) it gave me the chance to be involved in our school’s sports teams. During my junior year I started to look at colleges that had solid athletic training programs and I had narrowed it down to two, the University of Iowa and Northern Illinois University. I took my ACT, applied to both, got accepted to both and then began my decision making process. Well, that was easy; Big Ten School versus smaller state school was no contest. I decided I was going to the University of Iowa.

I began changing my allegiances in the sports world to Iowa from Illinois, I was that sure. And then came the day where I was going to send in my housing deposit and my parents told me that they wanted to talk to me. They had decided that they were not going to let me go to Iowa. As I mentioned before, I was a late bloomer. At this point in my senior year I was probably just a shade shorter than my Mom, who stands all of 5’1” tall. Yeah, that late. I was heartbroken, but at the same time I knew my parents were looking out for me. So I felt as if this was a sign that I wasn't supposed to be in athletic training. I enrolled in the local community college and had to decide what I was going to study. It came down to two choices – business and teaching. I LOVED cool commercials, especially the ones that NIKE had come out with starring Bo Jackson. But I also loved reading about World War II and American History. The final decision came down to this – my Dad was a blue collar worker at Caterpillar Inc. He helped build the chassis’ for the tractors. After watching him work his tail off and go on and off strike with his union I decided I was going to go the white collar route. I majored in Marketing.

After my first year at the community college I transferred to Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri. In May of 1990 I was the first person on either side of my family to graduate from college. It was a very proud moment for me. During my senior year my best friend from growing up had called me and asked what my plans were post-graduation. I told him my only plan was NOT to live at home. He had gone to Purdue University and began to look at Indianapolis as a possible destination. His family had grown up just north of town, so we had contacts already in place. I thought and prayed about it and decided I would join him.

After trying to break into some jobs that involved marketing, I fell into the Information Technology field. It excited me because I have always enjoyed being familiar with the cutting edge of the newest technology, if I wasn't able to own it. I progressed fairly quickly through the ranks and into other companies while honing my skills. In 1996, I joined a company called EDS and was making over $50,000 a year. I thought I had it made. In 2000, it got even better when I got married to the love of my life. We decided to build a house and it looked like the pattern for the rest of my life was set. So then why was I unhappy?

Let’s go back to 1996. While I was on a trip to Florida on vacation I got a call from my parents. They told me that my Dad had a brain aneurysm and was going to have surgery on it the next week. Needless to say, I was floored. I went back home to Illinois for the surgery. In a weird twist of fate I was the first (along with my Mom) to see him after surgery. My dad was 6’3” and about 300 lbs. His friends at work called him Bear. He was our family’s rock. And to see him in his hospital room, helpless and vulnerable….it rocked me to my core. I stepped out of the room and wept uncontrollably. I was devastated. It got worse one week later when I got the call at work that my Dad had passed away from blood clots to both his lungs and his heart. I went into a downward spiral. All I cared about was pleasing me.

You are probably wondering – wow, thanks for depressing me and what does this have to do with teaching? It will make sense shortly, I promise.

In the next few years, I got married to my soul mate, who was a second grade teacher. I was jealous of her time off during her breaks and her summer vacation and made sure to let her know about it. I still wasn't right in my head and one day my wife told me she spent the night in our closet crying. She told me that I wasn't me, the real Shawn. I was just a shell of myself. This is when I took stock of my life and knew some things needed to change. And lucky for me, some things changed without me having to do anything myself. The technology company I worked for decided to cut my entire division and I lost my job. I was ecstatic. I was so tired of it and needed a change. My friends called me the happiest unemployed person they ever met. In a span of four weeks I was able to get another job at a local credit union….doing technology. At first, I was just glad to have a job because we had just moved into our house four months earlier. Yes, I was burnt out on it. However, I was at a place where they got the right people and then saw where they fit best as opposed to trying to put someone in a position and hoped they stuck. My place happened to be doing marketing for a small subsidiary business within the credit union. I assisted the Saleswoman on making her presentations, doing mailings and newsletters, creating and running a symposium on our company’s software….all the things that used my creativity and people skills. While at the credit union I decided that I needed to further my education in order to get where I thought I wanted to go. I enrolled in the Anderson University MBA program. It was a great program and I enjoyed being back in the educational system. Aha! Is it starting to make sense yet?

We were placed into cohorts and I immediately bonded with my fellow classmates. Yes, the homework and projects could get tedious, but again, I was enjoying the educational experience. I was also enjoying my marriage. It was at this time that we decided to start a family. And sure enough, we got pregnant very quickly. I couldn't believe I was going to be a father. This was a seminal moment in my life. Let me explain. As I had been taking classes I had this weird feeling. It was sort of like I was in a right size, wrong shape moment of my life. For example:
  • As I worked with my cohort they constantly told me that I explained things well and that I would be a good teacher.
  • I enjoyed listening to my wife’s stories about her classroom and the experiences she was having on a daily basis
  • As I was in class, I started to focus more on how the material was being presented than what was being presented
This is going to sound strange, but a TV show also impacted me. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition had me crying every Sunday night because it was all about helping people. I was jealous of the stars of the show. I wanted to help people.

All these events, along with becoming a Dad myself, came together and made me really think hard about what I wanted to do with my life. I thought about my Dad and how he did what he loved. It wasn't about a paycheck, it wasn't about status, it wasn't about having stuff, it was about doing what he loved to do, whether at work or in his personal life. Pardon me while I interject my faith in this story, but I truly felt as if God was calling me to teach. I had heard plenty of storied while growing up in the church about people being “called” to do God’s work. I always thought it meant going to Africa and living with nothing while being a missionary. Again, I was wrong.

It was a Sunday night. My wife and I had just finished watching Extreme Makeover Home Edition (ironic, isn't it?) and I just knew I had to tell her what I was feeling. As we went into our room I finally broke the news to her that I felt as if I should become a teacher. Did I get the response I expected? Yes. She became very upset and emotional with me. She doesn't like change and she had enough to last her for awhile with all my job issues. It was going to be more money, more time, more everything. I told her we should sleep on it. Honestly, I just wanted to stop her from killing my dream more than anything. I lay in bed knowing in my heart that this is what I should do. After I fell asleep I had the most vivid dream about being a teacher in a classroom. I woke up and knew that this was a sign and that I had to tell my wife. But after the previous night’s discussion I was a little guarded about telling her this news. I bit the bullet and told her about my dream. She began to cry. I thought, here we go; the volcano is going to erupt. And then she told me that she had the exact same dream – me teaching in a classroom. We both began to cry as we knew that I needed to become a teacher.

Thus began the process to find out how I could become a teacher. Luckily, the state of Indiana has a program called Transition to Teaching. This allows individuals from the business world to enroll in a university where they would enroll in classes designed to educate them on the teaching process. The individual’s undergraduate degree determines the subject matter for that individuals teaching license. As mentioned earlier, I have a degree in marketing so my content area was going to be Business. As I began to look at the universities in the Indianapolis area that had the T2T teaching program with the Business content area it became very clear that there might be a problem. Almost all of the programs were full-time programs and that was something I was sure I couldn't do. Not with one son just being born and my wife being out on maternity leave. My decision was essentially made for me. There was one program that had the Business content area and night classes – the University of Indianapolis. Again, it felt as if all the planets were aligning for me.

My first day on campus, after a full day of work mind you, was a breath of fresh air. I felt really charged up and ready to tackle the opportunity that lay ahead of me. But I was also nervous; I had so many questions. What were the teachers like? What were my fellow students like? Would I understand any of this “teaching” talk? There is always a shred of doubt that comes creeping in once you finally come face-to-face with challenge that is a career change. And I was 35; was I going to be the old fart? I knew I didn't act my age, but it was still a concern. As I entered my initial class I was one of the first ones there so I got to choose a good seat, but the little boy in me came out hoping that someone would sit by me and that I wouldn't look like a loner or a loser. Gradually, all the students arrived. At the time I had no idea of the relationships and friendships that would form from this group of people. Looking back, I was truly blessed to be in this specific cohort at this specific time. Dr. Mendenhall was our first instructor and he made us feel so comfortable. The aura that he exuded sent me back to a time when I was in middle school. He was the teacher that I wanted to make proud of my work. I knew immediately that he cared about his profession and that he cared about the program. And that means a lot because I then immediately cared about the program myself. I bought in from day one. We had the requisite get-to-know-you activities that first day and I got to meet some very cool people. Again, I “just knew” that this was the right place for me.

The other major instructor that I was going to have in this program was Dr. Ridgway. She and Dr. Mendenhall have to be the two most important figures in the teaching career of any of the students that go through the University of Indianapolis. They are amazing people, as well as, teachers, advocates, friends, and peers. Dr. Ridgway made me feel as if she was my older sister, watching out for me and making sure I took the right path and did things the right way. They both took great pride in nurturing us and molding us into teachers. I wish I could truly describe how I feel about them in words, but it’s difficult. Yes, I have not kept in touch with them regularly since I graduated (a bad habit I am trying to break), but they are part of what I do in the classroom every day. Each one of my students is being taught by them while they are being taught by me. And that is the best gift that I can give to them.

There were a few other students who I bonded with in our cohort. I got along with everyone; our cohort was a fantastic group of people. But there are certain ones that you just jell with on a personal level. Adrienne Qualls, Heatherly Hite and Scott Riley were the individuals that I instantly bonded with on a personal level. We formed our own little community within our cohort. Our personalities meshed and we had a good time in class. It was important to me that I enjoyed this experience to the fullest. I knew that this was my calling, but I wasn't about to kill myself by putting undue pressure on top of life’s pressures that already existed. I can look back now and smile when I think about the topics, assignments, projects, deadlines and whatever else was thrown at us while in the program. And these three people were a major reason for that. I can’t thank them enough for being there for me. And I hope I was there for them.

Now I know there were occasions where other members of our cohort probably felt as if we were a little too lackadaisical in our attitudes or that we didn't care, but I can assure them that this was not the case. I am a person who likes the find the humor in any situation. And my situation was that I was a new Dad, working full time, and going to school to change my career completely. I needed the humor. It helped me survive. At no point in the program did I ever not take my work seriously. I tell my students that to this day – I will always try to smile and have fun, but I do take my teaching seriously. And that’s another thing that I learned in this program. I cannot call teaching my “job”. I can’t say that I am going to “work”. It’s neither. It is my life now. I teach and I go to school. And I can’t even put my head around the thought of ever going back to the 9-to-5 life again.

The curriculum was pretty straightforward. Since we already had our content areas set, the professors’ job was to teach us how to teach. In my case, I think I learned more watching how they taught then what they taught. I know I still use teaching strategies in my classes that I saw Dr. Mendenhall and Dr. Ridgway use in our classes. Every step of the way, whether it was 505, 506 or Climate and Culture, the professors’ taught us and modeled to us the different methods of teaching. My favorite parts of the classes were when we actually got to teach a lesson or had to come up with a creative way to present curriculum to students. Back in high school, as mentioned before, I was a late bloomer. During our sophomore year all students were required to take a Speech class. Being the runt in the class didn't exactly bolster my confidence when standing in front of people and talking. I got to my Speech class on that first day and almost wet myself. It was full of the popular, smart and athletic students in my class. I was terrified. Our first speech was introducing another member of the class to the entire class. I know for a fact my voice shook like Peter Brady’s (time for a chaaaaange) when I gave this first speech. I also know that I cried the night before because I was so scared. If you talk to my mom now, she’ll probably tell you that I cried before every speech that semester. I've blocked most of it out of my brain at this point. But I do remember one important thing. After our last speech our teacher was handing out our grades and she commented on how well spoken the class was from beginning to end. At that point she made note to the class that there was really only one person with significant improvement from the first speech to the last. She no more got those words out of her mouth when she handed me my grade…and at the top she had written – nice improvement. I was on cloud nine. I had made it through. Whew!! Now here I was 20 some years later taking classes so that I could talk in front of people every day. And I loved it. Miracles never cease.

We weren't offered the luxury of having Dr. Mendenhall or Dr. Ridgway for our content area pedagogy class (unless your content area was foreign language) so I was curious, not only how the class would be run, but who would be running it. Once again, the Big Man upstairs was looking after me because the Business area teacher was a fantastic educator named Paige Balka. She had a presence about her when she was in front of our class. There is something a little bit different about being a business teacher. Many of us have spent time in the business world prior to becoming a teacher. You could tell from the first time you met Paige that she brought a very business-like attitude to the classroom. And that was something that we, as new teachers, needed to see. She was demanding of us and our work. But at the same time, she did have a sense of humor and a very personable side once we got to know her on a personal level. It was extremely helpful to have a model for us as business teachers as we were learning our craft. She was also very instrumental in helping us find our way within the curriculum of business. It’s a different bird. Things like marketing, technology and finance are very fluid. It isn't like Algebra where formulas never change or English because verbs are always going to be verbs. We have to adapt to the ever changing times and Paige was great at showing us strategies to use to enable us to keep up. I consider her an extremely important part of my teaching life (again, though I haven’t maintained very good contact – sorry Paige).

Around this time I could see the opportunity to student teach closing in fast. I was excited about the chance to actually get into a classroom, but dreading the part where we don’t get paid. My wife and I were discussing our options quite a bit as Christmas rolled around in 2004. We were on our way from Alabama (where most of her relatives live) to Chicago (where my family was gathering) when we thought she was getting sick. We just assumed it was the stress of the holidays and all the travel. The holiday season ended as January rolled around and things started to get back to normal. By this point, our first son, Brannon, was almost 14 months old. It was a fun time as a Dad. On my 3rd or 4th day back at work my wife, Rebecca called and asked if I wanted to meet her at home for lunch. I told her I didn't have time and didn't think anything of it. Once I got home, Brannon was with the grandparents and it was just the two of us. She proceeded to tell me that she wasn't sick – she was pregnant again. Huh-wha???? I was shocked. I had thought we were taking the precautionary measures making sure we wouldn’t get pregnant due to my upcoming student teaching. Now THIS threw a kink in the plans. I was certain that this was going to be the derailment of my plan, as if I hadn't learned a single thing through this entire process to this point. Rebecca and I talked about the possibilities of moving my student teaching to the spring once the child was born and we had some to time to get everything squared away. I have to admit I was extremely disappointed at this point. To be at the juncture in this process where I could see it and taste it, yet think that I would have to postpone it was heartbreaking. So I did what every student in the MAT program should do, I talked with Dr. Ridgway and Dr. Mendenhall. We discussed our situation and they let me know that some schools will hire students in the process of getting their licenses on what’s called an emergency license. This means that the school couldn't “find” anyone else to teach the class and that the state should grant the eventual teacher a license to teach with until the completed license was obtained.

OK, now I had an option. They would keep their eyes and ears open and I would constantly check the Indiana Department of Education website for possible jobs. As if it wasn't stressful enough with everything I had on my plate at the time, rolling the dice everyday to see if a possible teaching opening was available for someone with my credentials added to that pressure. Yet again, I doubted the path I had been set on (see a recurring theme here?) and started to give up hope. Since my undergraduate major was Marketing, I needed to look for a position in the Business content area. These jobs aren't exactly a dime a dozen, because those classes are elective classes. Students aren't forced to take business classes, therefore business departments are relatively small and jobs scarce. However, I did have quite a bit of professional experience in the Information Technology area – 12 years to be exact. So those were my choices.

You know that butterfly feeling you get when you see something you've been looking forward to for quite awhile? I got it one day when I saw that Westfield High School had an opening for a Technology teacher. This applicant needed to have experience teaching computer hardware and software classes to the students. Hey, that’s me! So I applied, and got my first experience in filling out application forms for schools. As if that wasn't enough, there was a section of the application where I needed to answer questions on how I would handles certain situations and students. It was very interesting and stressful at the same time. The most important thing I did for myself was not try to answer the questions with the answers they wanted to hear, but with my genuine responses. I clicked the submit button and began to dream.

About a week later I received a call from the Westfield-Washington School District. They wanted to interview me about the Technology teacher position. Hallelujah!!! I got a bite, but can I reel them in? I went to the interview more nervous about any interview I've ever had in my life. And then a funny thing happened. This giant red headed man took me into his office and then setup a video camera on his desk. He explained that they videotape all of the interviews in the district and should an applicant pass the first interview, they forward the video on to the school and its administrators. This threw me for such a loop that I forgot to be nervous. To top that off, he explained that he was going to give the interview with no emotion so that I would not take any nonverbal cues from him and be completely sincere with my answers. And he did exactly that – the most deadpan, monotone interview I have ever had in my life. The scene was so bizarre that it just fit my situation and I felt pretty good after the interview. I hoped I would hear something soon.

THE NEXT DAY, Stacy McGuire, the principal at Westfield High School, called me and asked if I could come in and interview with her. Wow!!! I was on cloud nine. The second I walked into her office and we began to talk, I just knew this was right. Her demeanor fit perfectly with my personality, yet I could sense her authority and love for her job. She graduated from WHS herself so she was very invested in the school. She explained that the questionnaire that was part of the application was to discover the teaching personality of the applicant. This part of the application process weeds out teachers who do not have the teaching philosophy they are looking for in potential teachers. My teaching philosophy came up as student-centered, which triggered my application to move on in the process. After we talked for awhile she explained that she needed to go to the Superintendent and the School Board to let them know that I was the candidate they wanted for the job, but since I didn't officially have my license yet they would need to apply for an emergency license.

And yet again, I waited…..and worried. Hey, do what you do well. It took a lot longer than I had hoped but I finally got a call from Stacy and she said that my emergency license was approved and that I was going to be hired. Praise the Lord!!! I was not going to have to postpone my student teaching!! Not only that, but I was also going to get paid while I student taught. Unbelievable. I didn't think it could get any better. And then I met my Cooperating Teacher. Her name was Becky Sondgeroth and she had gone through the University of Indianapolis program as well, so she knew exactly was I was going through in every phase of my introduction to public education. We met a couple of times and everything just felt so comfortable about the time and place for me. As if the entire process wasn't all lining up for me from the very beginning, here I was ready to be a full-fledged teacher. It was a great feeling. I met all of my fellow business teachers, as well as some teachers who had classes near me. I got along well with everyone. It was destiny.

Funny story – being a brand new teacher in the district, I needed to attend New Teacher Orientation a couple of days before school started. As you remember from earlier, my wife was pregnant with our second child during this whole process and he was about to be born. Since she had a Cesarean Section with our first son, she was going to have the same for our second son. We were given a couple of dates to choose from, one of which was August 15. That date struck home for me as it was my birthday. We chose that day because I just thought it would be super cool to have a son with the same birthday as me. Well, guess what day New Teacher Orientation happened to fall on? Yep, August 15. I got up that morning with a smile on my face that you couldn’t blast off with a jackhammer. My first order of business was to go to the Orientation, where I had to let them know that I was leaving at noon so that we could have our son. August 15, 2005 will always be one of the greatest days of my life because it was my first day in my new profession of teaching, my first day at Westfield High School, and my birthday. My friends say I should have bought a lottery ticket that day….but I had a few things going on and couldn't find time.

Back to Westfield, the first day of school came and I woke up and was surprisingly calm. Normally I am pretty nervous about new and unexpected occasions. But that morning, I wasn’t. Good sign. I got to school, went to my classroom, and waited for the students. I’ll never forget that feeling I had that first day. It was the most confident I had ever felt with any job in my entire life, and I owe that all to the University of Indianapolis MAT program for preparing me the right way. After the day was finished, the shop teacher, Doug Orahood, came by my class to ask how my first day was at school. Right before he left, he asked “So, do you feel like a teacher?” I smiled and responded, “I am a teacher.” I just knew.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

How to Fix the WWE in 10 Easy Steps....

Yes, my blog is a reflection of my faith - but I don't think being a professional wrestling fan is a sin. I know many fellow Christians who are huge WWE fans. Therefore, I will now channel my inner David Letterman and give you the Top 10 Ways to Fix the WWE...
  1. Vince McMahon retires – I realize we are talking about the patriarch of the WWE but it’s become obvious to me that it is time for him to hang it up. Vince has long been fond of the muscle-bound big man, which ironically looks a lot like Hulk Hogan looked for him back in the 80-90’s. He struggles to let guys like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels get over because they weren’t big enough. And they are two of the best wrestlers ever, in my opinion. Even recently he had to cave in to fan support for Daniel Bryan even though Vince wanted Batista vs. Orton to headline WrestleMania XXX. You would have thought he’d learned his lesson, but the WWE is continuing to push Roman Reigns into the spotlight so he can take on Brock Lesnar in the main event at WrestleMania XXXI. The fans protested and they were appeased for a while when Bryan faced Reigns at FastLane for the chance to meet Lesnar at WM, but Vince won out (he does, after all, own the company) and Reigns v Lesnar is on in Levi’s Stadium. The problem here is the wave of wrestling talent working their way to the top is the athletic type. Bryan, Rollins, Ziggler, all of NXT for crying out loud (and I’ll get to them later). You’ve got to understand and have the pulse of the landscape and the audience and I believe Vince has lost it on both accounts. Move into retirement Vince and let HHH take over.
  2. Speaking of big, burly dudes – put the Heavyweight Title on someone who appears on TV more than once a month. I can understand to a point why Lesnar was given the belt, but at this point, it’s gone too far. The champion is the face of the company. Promoting the company is of the utmost importance to the WWE as they rely on those promotions to lead to ticket sales, WWE Network subscriptions and viewers of their shows. If the “face of the company” isn’t on television or at live shows every week it diminishes the title…and the company. Don’t get me wrong, Brock is a beast and I love every moment of every Paul Heyman promo. But the main guy has to be the main guy. It’s difficult to tell stories about the chase for the belt without the guy holding the belt even being there. WrestleMania has to produce a change in the title picture – whether it’s Reigns winning the belt or Rollins cashing in – it needs to happen.
  3. While we’re on the topic of belts…jettison the US Title and create a Television Title, which is defended EVERY week on television. You’ve got TWO television shows on cable each week. You mean to tell me you couldn’t create a stable of performers who could view for the belt week in and week out? Create an atmosphere of reverence for the main titles by having them defended rarely on television. It makes the pay-per-views (if that’s what we’re still calling them) more appealing (which leads to more network subscribers). I know I’d be more apt to watch the shows live if I knew a title was going to be on the line before I even tuned in. And with the depth of the current roster, there are plenty of guys who you can slot in this title picture to make it intriguing At the same time, the WWE is giving guys a chance to prove themselves on a smaller scale to ascertain if they are worthy of being moved up into the Intercontinental or Heavyweight Title pictures. It just makes sense!
  4. Build the Tag Team division. It needs to have significance again. Back in the day there was the Hart Foundation, the Bulldogs, Demolition and others all vying for the belts. It was a great scene and those matches could headline PPV’s they were so good. Somewhere along the line the Tag Team division got lost in the wayside. Again, harkening back to my previous point – the talent base has such depth that it’s possible to grow the division. I love the Uso’s, but to be honest, I’m sick of them. Give us other teams thrown into the mix. The WWE threw together Cesaro and Kidd and look what happened. There needs to be a multitude of tag teams to make the division strong and healthy. It’s almost as if the WWE throws tag teams’ together just so they can break and have a singles push. That’s NOT THE PURPOSE OF TAG TEAMS. Give me the days where I rooted hard for Windham and Rotundo to get their shot at Volkoff and the Iron Sheik; or the Bulldogs taking down Beefcake and Valentine (yes, I’m aging myself here); or Demolition getting a shot at the Hart Foundation. Please, I beg of you – build the tag team division!
  5. Decide on NXT. Is it going to be a feeder system for RAW and Smackdown or is it going to be a brand/entity unto itself? From all the news I’ve seen, NXT is having better shows and matches than the big boys on the main roster. We’ve been through the Raw v Smackdown brand split and that didn’t work. Does HHH think that NXT has enough stroke to live on its own? That’s the question they have to decide. Because if it is a feeder system, it’s glaringly obvious that certain superstars need to be on the main roster; especially within the women’s division. If it is to stand alone will it be a purely WWE Network entity or will it eventually get a cable TV slot? Will it have monthly PPV’s? Yes, they have run some special shows as if they were PPV’s but without the grandeur of the main roster. I don’t know about you, but I’d love to see Kevin Owens, Hideo Itami, Finn Balor, Charlotte, and Sasha Banks, etc face the current superstars preparing for WrestleMania. 
  6. While we have the thought of Charlotte and Sasha Banks fresh in our minds, make the Women’s division a true wrestling division. Enough of this Diva crap. Either they’re wrestlers or they’re divas – one or the other. Granted, “Total Divas” is a huge coup for the company, but the only “real” wrestler in my opinion is Natalya. The others are eye candy that they’ve tried to train to become wrestlers so they can get TV time. It’s not working! Look no further to NXT to see the women who are true wrestlers. And guess what?! They’re attractive too. Funny how that works. Put the Bella’s as managers or reporters, keep Nattie, Paige and AJ Lee and jettison the rest unless they can cut the mustard on the mat. And change the belt while you’re at it to a legit belt. The image girls are looking up to now is Ronda Rousey. Get with the times and make them legit performers who are strong women. 
  7. Take some of the old horses out to pasture. Yes Kane, Big Show, Christian, Goldust, and Mark Henry, I’m talking to you. You’ve been great performers over your careers and we thank you for your service, but it’s time to move on. Remember back into 1997, when the then WWF was struggling to gain traction against the ever-growing power called WCW? Vince had just told Bret Hart that he couldn’t abide the 12-year contract Bret had signed because it would put him in “financial peril”. Fast forward to Survivor Series, the Montreal Screwjob happens, Bret leaves, Shawn Michaels is the main guy, he hurts his back severely and the WWF needs new guys to build their brand on. Who do they look to? The young guys at the time. Some of these names you might recognize – Steve Austin, The Rock, and HHH. Yep. Vince had no choice but to give them a chance and they took the ball and ran with it. Do that again Vince, er, HHH (see point #1). It doesn’t have to be the Attitude Era again, but the WWE has a lot of young talent waiting for that chance.
  8. Three hours is too much content, so scale RAW back to two hours. It is a LONG time, three hours. I was fortunate enough to have a weekend radio show on the Internet for a few months as a test and it was a three hour show. Could we fill it? Yes. But we had umpteen different sports we could talk about and that made it easier for us. The WWE only has so many storylines to choose from for RAW. And lately it feels like they are just stretching the show out until the pinnacle of the show (right before 11pm). I want two things in my wrestling shows – wrestling itself (novel concept, right) and crisp, concise promos. Here’s where they lose me. We don’t need 20 minute promos for content they can condense into five minutes. WAY too much talking. Add to that the fact that many of the guys aren’t the best at promos (I’m looking at you Roman Reigns and Randy Orton), yet the still keep forcing them down our throats. Go with the good talkers, shorten the promos, give us quick, efficient matches and go home. I would be infinitely more willing to watch two hours live, than taping the current three hours and fast forwarding through the boring segments. 
  9. Smackdown has become the forgotten show for WWE; it’s not “must see TV” as it used to be so I think that Paul Heyman should return to writing Smackdown. If you’ve watched the DVD “Ladies and Gentlemen, My Name is Paul Heyman” you watched as he described his time writing Smackdown (and if you haven’t watched the DVD and call yourself a pro wrestling fan – shame on you. It’s fantastic). Not coincidentally, the Heyman-Smackdown era garnered the best ratings in Smackdown history. The storylines were tight and exciting. He was building new starts like John Cena, Batista, Brock Lesnar and Edge. Pretty impressive resume builder there for Mr. Heyman. Let’s be honest – all the writings teams could use an overhaul. However, if Smackdown starts to bypass RAW in the ratings then RAW will become competitive and raise their game. It’s a win-win for everyone.
  10. Finally, and this one is a tough one to swallow, but get rid of Michael Cole as the head announcer for WWE. An issue we’ve all noticed lately is a change in the announcing teams for the television shows. Jerry Lawler was moved off of RAW and on to Smackdown and Booker T was added to RAW. I don’t think that’s the problem. I believe Michael Cole is the problem. First, I’ve have no ill will towards Cole. I’m sure he’s a great guy but announcing for wrestling needs a certain set of talents which I don’t think he has in his arsenal. The crux of the issue is storytelling. This is the most important attribute an announcer can have – to help convey the storyline through their announcing. Very few men have been able to master the trait – Jim Ross is the best. Gordon Solie (what little I saw of him) was fantastic and someone that is extremely underrated was Joey Styles in ECW. All of these men were able to add to the match and the story being told. I don’t believe Cole does that at all. It’s almost as if he’s just a shill for the WWE Network most times. Again, this isn’t a character assassination. It’s about the business and I deem it necessary for changes in the lead announce position for someone who can add to the show and allow viewers to really dive into the storylines.
Those are the 10 ways I would fix the WWE. Hopefully you enjoyed what you read. If you did, leave a comment!

Now on to fixing my favorite sport, MLB….

Until next time,

Monday, March 16, 2015

NCAA - National Cash Acquiring Association

Everyone and their brother is going to fill out a bracket this week. I get it. And many pundits will offer you their takes on each region and how it will shake out, according to their expertise. I will also do both…and share them with you. But today I need to rant about the NCAA and the Selection Committee.

First, I’d like you to watch a video. Yes, it is 20 minutes long, but it hits all of the points that are a precursor to what I am about to say. Granted, I do NOT condone the language and some of the innuendos that appear in the video. It is an HBO show; therefore you will have some salty language. Again, I don’t excuse it but I would ask you to look past it to see the bigger issues.

After viewing the rant from John Oliver I realized that I probably shouldn’t have gotten as upset as I did yesterday during the brackets reveal. However, I don’t like enduring, voluntary hypocrisy. The committee chair can come on my television and spew his rhetoric all he wants. This tournament is about one thing - $$. And they’re going to try to squeeze the most out of it as possible. Quite frankly, that ruins it for me and I LOVE this time of year.

So why do I feel this way? Here are a few reasons why:
  1. First and foremost, the pod system may be the worst change to any athletic event in the history of time. The committee states they are concerned about “keeping teams close for travel reasons” when we all know that it’s about selling more tickets. This produces match ups just for that reason. Example, a possible 2nd round match up (I will not EVER call the First Four the first round) between Wichita State and Kansas. You cannot tell me that it is just a coincidence that this match up may occur…and that it takes place in Omaha, NE. 
  2. The major conference teams get more “credit” than they deserve. One of the reasons we watch the tournament is for the upsets. This is when mid-major teams can make their names – like a Gonzaga or Butler. Even if an underdog only wins one game the fans love it. So how does UCLA, Oklahoma State and Indiana get in the tournament? How is Wichita State get a 7 seed and UNI get a 5 seed? Listen, the Missouri Valley is a great conference. GREAT players have come through the Valley – Larry Bird, Hersey Hawkins, Xavier McDaniel, Antoine Carr, Paul Pressey, Kyle Korver and Doug McDermott just to name a few. Don’t undersell the mid-majors. A LOT of the big boys won’t play them in the pre-conference schedule because they’re afraid they’ll lose to the “little guys”. Give them some credit. Dayton last year ring a bell?
  3. Common sense goes out the window. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that ALL five teams from Indiana are in the Midwest Region. Seriously? Not a single committee member stood up and said “Guys, Indiana is a basketball-loving state. Do you think we should have all their teams in one region?” C’mon. For crying out loud, they put Dayton in a First Four game….that is played in DAYTON. If that doesn't scream ‘we’re in it for the money’ I don’t know what does. 
  4. Squeezing every last drop of money possible. To sit there, with straight faces, and tell us that college athletics aren't about money but about student-athletes may be the biggest lie in society today (not withstanding and government officials). The NCAA makes a bajillion dollars off the television deals for the tournament AND people will ALWAYS follow their teams if they make it in the tournament. Why then should there be the need for changes like a ‘pod system’? The only logical reason is to make more money. That takes us back again to the hypocritical stance of the NCAA having the student-athletes best interests in mind. I refer back to the video for sources of this accusation.
  5. Integrity takes a backseat. Finally, why are Athletic Director’s on the Selection Committee? Isn’t that a complete and utter conflict of interest? They are ALL AD’s with one Associate Commissioner added in. FIVE of the committee members’ schools are in the tournament. I’ve never believed that this scenario does not have an effect on the seedings and bracket placement. It’s human nature to help out friends. How ethical is this process? While I understand that these gentlemen are professionals, but with so much money at stake it becomes a slippery slope. And it’s one I do not like at all. The basketball committee needs to look at the football committee for guidance on how to create a worthy selection committee.
Whew! I feel better now that this is off my chest. Tomorrow and Wednesday I will (hopefully have time to) analyze half of the bracket and give you my picks. As always, these are for entertainment purposes only. :)

Until tomorrow (hopefully),

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Free Agent Madness

Yesterday was insanity. Leave it to the NFL to overtake the news at a time when conference tournaments are in full swing preparing for the NCAA Tournament and Spring Training games are being played as we prepare for the 2015 MLB season. It just goes to show you that the NFL truly is king.

There’s been a lot of talk about who has landed where, but let’s take a look at who’s left and where they might go…

1. DeMarco Murray – he’s #1 with a bullet on the available FA list. The Eagles appeared to be swooping in to sign him until they inked Ryan Mathews to a 3 year deal today. That would look as if it puts them out of the running…but you never know what Chip Kelly has up his sleeve. Obviously he can return to Dallas, but I have a strange feeling that Ole’ Jerry is going to put his eggs in the basket of a Texas native who might want out of where he is now – Adrian Peterson. Oakland has a ton of money to spend, but they’re Oakland and most people would say the same goes for Jacksonville. However, with the signing of Julius Thomas, Murray may want to form a core with him and Bortles. They now become intriguing. MY PICK – JAGUARS

2. Terrance Knighton – a pure nose tackle, the big man has interest from quite a few teams. He can return to Denver where he’s played for the last two years. He was drafted by Jacksonville but I don’t see any interest there. However, it does mean he’s played with Jack Del Rio as a coach for his whole career. Does that mean he goes to Oakland? Two other teams to look at are the Bears and the Redskins. Both run 3-4 defenses and are looking for that run-stopping, block-hogging guy in the middle and Pot Roast is just that guy. He’s allegedly visiting with Washington today. The Colts are also interested in him but with the signing of Cole, Gore and possibly Andre Johnson can they fit him in their salary structure? MY PICK – REDSKINS. They have a history of over-paying for free agents and I see this as the case for Knighton.

3. Brian Orakpo – he’s been an outstanding rush linebacker for the Redskins in his career so far but it’s going to be interesting to see if Washington wants him back after his third pectoral injury. They franchised him last year and signed him to a one-year deal, but you have to think the injury bug is a concern for the Redskins. The Titans are interested in him as they are looking for a rush linebacker. The Cardinals are also interested according to NFL Network’s Ian Rappaport. MY PICK – TITANS

4. CJ Spiller – Another player that has been injury prone his whole career, but is shown the door in Buffalo after they traded for LeSean McCoy. The teams interested in him are fascinating because they are all potential playoff contenders. Can Spiller sign with one of them and make a difference? Dallas is interested but I can’t see them having Spiller be their #1 back if they lose Murray. Philadelphia is in the mix, but again, with the signing of Mathews and the interest in Murray, who knows what will happen with the Eagles. Two AFC East teams are also interested. One being the Jets, but that just doesn’t feel right to me. Now the Patriots are really interesting here because they just lost Shane Vereen to the Giants and need another RB to complete their mix that Belichick likes to employ. MY PICK – PATRIOTS

5. Greg Hardy – my final selection has a lot of baggage to deal with should he be signed. He is still on the Commissioner’s Exempt List at this time, but like states, with his age and production you know there will be teams interested. They mention a number, six, that might be interested but don’t give out any names. Here are my thoughts:

a. NY Jets – money to spend and could use another DE. Jason Babin is getting up there in age but is an OL and they could use a bookend to Wilkerson.

b. Patriots – Belichick has been known to take on a reclamation project or two (Dillon, Moss, OchoCinco, etc…) and again, with Hardy’s age and production he’d be a great fit in NE.

c. Titans – they’ve got cap room and their DL is nothing to write home about

d. Dallas – looking at their roster, they need a legit pass rusher to help solidify an improved defense. And Jerry is a guy who will take a chance on someone like Hardy.

e. Chicago – they didn’t get the production they would have like from Jared Allen and Hardy could be a nice fit as a rush OLB. After the debacle with Lamarr Houston last year the Bears need a solid pass rusher to put pressure on Rodgers, Stafford and Bridgewater.

f. New Orleans – their roster is being gutted by cap restrictions but they need a good pash rusher in the mix. But this is a LONG shot.


There you have it. My picks for the best 5 free agents on the market that aren't aligned with just one team. It's been quite a conversation piece the last few days here in Indianapolis. I'm just ready for my Bears to make some more moves..... *ahem - Cutler for Brees*

Oh yeah, in case you didn't see it - the Young Guns took center stage in Mesa yesterday amid all the NFL free agent news. Jorge Soler, Javier Baez and Kris Bryant went back-to-back-to-back against the Indians. Oh baby I'm ready for baseball. 

Until next time,

Monday, March 09, 2015

A New Day

No Monday Musings today as it is the start of a new day in the life of this blog/website. I've had a vision for awhile about a sports website that could report sports news but be just a little different than everyone else. I've been a Christian my whole life and it is an important part of who I am as a person. I can't deny that. At the same time, I've also not been a person who always puts my religious perspective into my sports takes. On very few occasions do the need to mix the two occur.

It's very simple. At my church we discuss sports ALL the time. Christians aren't different than anyone else when it comes to sports. Yes, we may like athletes like Tim Tebow more than the secular fan because of his faith, but again, it's not a proselytizing purpose. For example, should an incident like the Ray Rice incident occur again I truly believe many Christians wonder how to react to it. Our God is a forgiving God, but he also asks for each gender to be submissive to the other in love (Ephesians 5:22-33).

It can be a slippery slope but the Bible is the truth and that's where I'll go if necessary. However, for the most part I will reports sports...and some professional wrestling because I'm a huge fan of that as well. Maybe some pop culture stuff like movies, music and TV may pop in occasionally as well. 

There you have it - a new day. And I'm excited.

Until next time,