Tuesday, October 25, 2011
My grandfather, Paul Alongi, took a sip from his glass of vino. He swallowed, taking a moment to taste the flavors of the wine. His lips parted and he began to speak. He looked at me. I listened to my grandfather speak. Consuming each word that came out of his mouth much like I had consumed our Easter dinner, which consisted of my mom’s spaghetti and meatballs, salad, brisket, bread and corn. I made sure to savior and remember everything he was saying. His words were history. His history. My history. My family’s history. I knew they meant something, important. I knew I would want to remember what he was telling me. I felt like he was only talking to me. I refused to let the fact that I had drank almost a bottle of wine myself to impair me from remembering what he was saying.
Three generations sat around the dinner table, but none were listening as intensely as me. I loved when my Grandfather tells stories about Italy - the ‘old country’. It fascinates me. I could sit and listen about stories of my Great Grandfather, who I never met, all evening. If you want to keep me seated at the dinner table, just start talking about my families history.
My Grandfather spoke about his father, Charles. Charles was born in Sicily. He was 20 years old when he left his home for America. He arrived like many, on Ellis Island. He was one of the thousands and thousands of people you read about in history books in 5th grade. He was one of the people who left their homes in search of “a better life” or the “American dream”. He would first settle in Buffalo, N.Y.
I had to ask a question.
So, I interrupted and asked, “why there?”
It didn’t take my Grandfather a second to answer. “Because, it was where the work was.” Such a simple reason. ‘It was where the work was’.
Eventually, ‘work’ led him slightly further south, ending up in Farrell, Pa. He would meet his wife, my Great Grandmother, who I also never met, Catherine. She too was born in Italy. I can’t recall the name of the city where she was from, but my Grandfather assures me that it was a place far worse than Sicily in regards to being known for ‘organized crime’ or the mafia.
The two of them would make a home in Pennsylvania, where my Grandfather was born. My Grandfather would grow up in Farrell. He would meet a Hungarian woman named Mary Ann, who would become his wife.
My mom chimes in that she remembers visiting my Grandfather’s old house in Farrell. She would always find my Great Grandfather sitting in his garden just up the hill from the house. He loved his garden. He would sit in it in a lawn chair with a bottle of wine. He would sit amongst the vegetables, talking to himself, or his plants in Italian. My mom, as a kid, would dance around the heads of cabbage, lettuce and tomatoes and carrots and peppers and zucchinis, listening to her Grandfather speak, some in English some in Italian but completely at peace with the life he had and the life that his family had. His son, my Grandfather, had become a carpenter. He built houses. He gave people shelter.
My mind leaves my Grandfather’s story for a moment. I imagine every sip of wine ever drank in that garden by my Great Grandfather. I picture my mother as a kid playing in the garden, picking tomatoes off the vine, and my Grandfather out in the hot sun, nailing two-by-fours together and wiping sawdust and sweat off his forehead with a bandana. All this must have made my Great Grandfather proud. He had succeeded. He had created a family for himself. I’m sure he had his struggles along the way…. He was arrested before. He went to jail for 10 days for making his own moonshine during prohibition. The police showed up on his steps, said they had heard he was making moonshine, found it, and took him to jail. For 10 days, his job as an incarcerated man was winding the clock at the county’s courthouse. After 10 days, he was back him. Probably back in his garden. Probably happy.
My mind returns to the story. My Grandfather now talking about all the houses he built. He built the house I grew up in. He built his house. He built houses up and down streets. I’ve been on very few car rides with him where he hasn’t pointed out a house that he at least worked on. I’m proud of this.
Then he tells about my Great Grandmother. A woman, who could be the sweetest, kindness, most generous woman in the world, but cross her and you would feel the back of her hand or a kick in the butt. She had been known to go up to friends and family members at parties or gatherings and slip money into people’s pockets. She was the opposite of a pickpocketer. She snuck money into your pockets. There was also a story that she had SHOT someone. But my Grandfather assures me that is an exaggeration. She fired a gun into the air before, but that was because a drunk, who had been stumbling through their neighborhood had wandered into her house on accident and to scare him fired the gun. The cops were called. The drunk was taken away. Nobody was shot.
I sat speechless.
My Grandfather finished his wine.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Breakdown of 2011 Fantasy Football Draft: Incepted Anonymous
... Trying to get inside the minds of my fantasy football league.
1st Round, sixth pick overall – Michael Vick: Team Tomko
1st Round, seventh pick overall – Aaron Rodgers: Team Lumpp
Eight of the first 10 picks were running backs, with Vick and Rodgers filling out the middle of the first round and adding some diversity to the selections made in the first round. Both are strong picks and expect both to have better fantasy season than the running backs that went after them in the first round (Ray Rice, Rashard Mendenhall and LeSean McCoy). I wasn’t turned off by Vick’s 3 INT performance against the Steelers last weekend to not pull the trigger on Vick, the player who has the greatest risk/reward value in fantasy football. I don’t put much stock in preseason games and Vick will not have to face the Steelers during the regular season.
2nd Round, eleventh pick – Tom Brady: Team Guidish
To get arguably the best quarterback in the NFL in the second round will always be considered a steal. Pair him with McCoy, who was selected the pick before by Team Guidish, and the duo becomes potential the best combination of first and second round picks, while coming at 10th and 11th overall.
2nd Round, nineteenth pick – Darren McFadden: Team Sivin
Who would have thought a year ago that McFadden would be a second round pick? Now he must live up to expectations instead of floating under the radar and being a pleasant surprise to teams that drafted him in the later rounds last season.
3rd Round, twenty-third pick – Tony Romo: Team Wingenfield
This is the only pick I openly mocked during the live draft. I don’t think Team Wingenfield got good value with this selection. After seeing Brady, Phillip Rivers and Drew Brees get selected in consecutive picks in the second round, Wingenfield panicked and selected Romo instead of being patient and realizing he could have still gotten a quality quarterback in the next round. He passed up the potential playmaking of Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne, DeSean Jackson, Shonn Green and Dez Bryant. All would have been a nice addition to the pairing of Jamaal Charles and Calvin Johnson. Plus, he could have selected Matt Ryan with his fourth round pick, who I think is overall just a better quarterback than Romo. I think it was the first truly bad selection of the draft.
4th Round, thirty-eighth pick – Miles Austin: Team Wingenfield
Honestly, I’m not trying to pick on Team Wingenfield but this is another bad pick…. There is really nothing else left to say.
4th Round, fortieth pick – Matt Ryan: Team (Better) Lumpp
Great value in the fourth round and the player Wingenfield should have selected with the thirty-eighth pick. Ryan has plenty weapons around him to put up Aaron Rodgers type numbers and the Falcons are on the verge of an NFC Championship.
5th Round, forty-eighth pick – Beanie Wells: Team Williams (Cobb Salad)
Selecting an injury prone and frequent fumbling running back is never a good thing, and Wells being selecting inside the top 50 only adds to the risk of this selection, but with Beanie’s backup, Ryan Williams, being out for the season, Wells will have plenty of touches to prove he is worth this selection. Lucky for Williams, he already has Rice and Ahmad Bradshaw as his starting running backs so taking a risk on a potential starting flex player isn’t as bad as HAVING to play Wells because he is your only option.
6th Round, fifty-first pick – Felix Jones: Team Guidish
6th Round, fifty-second pick – Jeremy Maclin: Team Strahan
6th round, fifty-third pick – Percy Harvin: Team Williams (Cobb Salad)
Really liked al three picks. Guidish adds Jones, an explosive playmaker who is capable of producing at least one 3-touchdown game during the course of the season, and when listed alongside the players Guidish has already selected it looks even better. Both Maclin and Harvin were players I would have selected over my Anquan Boldin, who I ended up selecting with the fifty-fifth pick.
7th Round, sixty-third pick – Mark Ingram: Team Wingenfield
7th Round, sixty-fourth pick – Ryan Mathews: Team Osborne
The first pick I really like of Wingenfield. Ingram will be a talent. The Saints have spread out their carries between running backs over the years, but I think Ingram can be productive and slowly earn the majority of the carries by the end of the season…. Now with Mathews, a player I lived with last year that did absolutely nothing despite every prognosticator calling him a first round talent. My bad experience with Mathews didn’t turn Osborne off to selecting him in the seventh round, and if healthy, maybe he can live up to the first round hype of a year ago…. I just don’t think he will.
8th Round, seventy-first pick – Julio Jones: Team Guidish
Another pick I really like by Team Guidish. Through the first eight rounds I think it s safe to say that he has my favorite team on paper.
8th Round, seventy-sixth pick - Ben Roethlisberger: Team Galindo
Galindo attended the draft just long enough to select Eli Manning in the third round and then was gone, relying on auto-draft to complete his team. A ballsy move by one of the bravest fantasy competitors in recent memory, as time will tell if the move will pay off. One move that I don’t expect to pay off is Big Ben. Not because I don’t like Roethlisberger, I think Wingenfield would have been better off taking Ben back in the third round over Romo, but because this give Galindo three quarterbacks and last time I checked, you could only play one.
9th Round, eighty-third pick – Same Bradford: Team Wingenfield
I like Bradford…. But I’m rooting for Thaddeus Lewis to somehow become the number one quarterback for the Rams.
10th Round, ninety-first pick – Reggie Bush: Team Guidish
Damnit G!... Another selection I like, especially since it is the tenth round and Guidish keeps finding players that could potential put up huge fantast numbers. Through 10, G is the leader in the clubhouse.
11th Round, 106th pick – Matthew Stafford: Team Tomko
I think this is the point in the draft that my interest started to wane. Plus, a new episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm was starting… But I still got the backup quarterback I wanted. I think the Lions will be better than people think and Stafford has looked good this preseason (so obviously I don’t listen to my own advice about the preseason not meaning anything.)… Back to Curb. Amazing episode. It gave us the term, ‘shitbow’, Leon returns and Larry competing for the affections of a bi-sexual woman with Rosie O’Donnell.
12th Round, 114th pick – Ronnie Brown: Team Lumpp
Remember when Brown was the second overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft? Me either.
14 Round, 134th pick- Kevin Kolb: Team Lumpp
I’m still not 100 percent sure how to say his last name… I should probably learn that.
15th Round, 143rd pick – Ricky Williams: Team Wingenfield
It’s like he wants me to keep making fun of his picks… well I’m not going to give in on this one.
16th Round, 152nd pick – Danny Woodhead: Team Strahan
“You want to see my Danny Woodhead. That’s not even a joke, I just think he is a good player.”
Thursday, June 30, 2011
The Cave, the fortress, the dungeon or the hole, all names apply. It is where I spent the majority of my days the past three years. It is where I drank swill, aka the coffee from the business office, with Brad Jones in the morning to start the day. The cave almost wasn’t even my home. Brad pulled me out of the Sports Information office, seeing that it was already cramped and would become even more cramped once students arrived, and into his newly converted storage closet that would serve as command central for the newly created Duke athletics video department. On day one, all that existed in the room was a long desk that was mounted on the wall stretching the length of the room, a Dell laptop, a Mac Desktop and two Penn State graduates. A recipe, if not for disaster, but the potential for a lot of hilarity, both ensued.
In a blink of an eye all the space that existed would become engulfed by cameras, racks, towers, bags, monitors, switchers, audio boards, lights, tripods, cables and just the general clutter that two people who grew up in Western Pennsylvania generally amass over the course of a few weeks. A filing system was non-existent. Once a day a notepad would exist with scribblings from a meeting written on it, the next day that same notepad would be long gone. Flash drives, forget about it, they never stood a chance, countless were lost, but never forgotten.
“Have you seen the blue junk drive?”
“Not in weeks.”
But somehow it worked. Before long the new video board in Cameron Indoor Stadium was installed and with it a rack of equipment would be stationed in the back left corner, taking up more space. Another monitor. A switcher. A TV mounted on the wall. An Aja digital conversion box, a beta player, external hard drives, firewires, old cups of coffee, bottles of water that were now half way filled with chew spit, a Mac laptop, a box of donuts, all of this now filled the room, the desk, the work space, and essentially, the storage closest that was emptied to house the video department became a storage closest once again, but yet, it was still so much more.
This was only the beginning of the mess that would be created, over even more time Croc Pots would be used to keep beer cold, five pound bags of Mike & Ike’s, Reese Cups and peanut M&M’s would live on the desk, if only briefly. A shot clock, yes that’s right, the backup shot clock for Cameron Indoor Stadium would make The Cave its home, of course with its buzzer disabled, but other than that fully functioning. Another desk would be added, pulled from the hallway because Brad would have rather kept it in the office than have it thrown away. The desk just added another location for us to pile coffee makers, clothes, whisky and paper.
Since shelves were not in the budget, we improvised. Finding an old basketball rack in the hallway, along with some wooden planks, and before you knew it we had ourselves a shelf. Quickly it was covered with DVD’s (Seinfeld, Dumb & Dumber, Gladiator), a giant stuffed lobster, a Pittsburgh Maulers helmet, a bottle of Aleve that had an assortment of different colored pills in it, Blowpops, trophy’s, books, media guides, papers, everything, simply, we had everything but somehow we never could FIND anything.
That first year, with The Cave still evolving into what it would fully become, was my favorite, and my proudest year for what Brad was able to accomplish and pull off with zero budget. Things might not have always looked great. Cables may have been hung off lights and through ceiling tiles. The Fire Marshall may have given us fearful looks, but everything worked. It functioned in a way that the people out enjoying the show in Cameron, watching the videos on GoDuke.com, would have thought everything was roses behind the scenes. In reality, we were rushing. Software and hard drives were crashing. Video boards were freezing, but somehow, and I give all the credit to Brad, it worked when it needed to.
And in a way that is the best way to describe The Cave and us. It worked when it needed to and we had things done when we needed to. When the chips were down and the deadlines were upon us, we got things to work; we finished projects, exported files, filmed games, created highlights all when it needed to be done, even if we had went home at 3:00 a.m. the night before or were going on our seventh game in ten nights. So what if occasionally we spent an hour on YouTube laughing at videos, or Facebook, or making an extra coffee run, or taking a little bit longer at lunch, or simply just driving around Durham, because as much as we needed The Cave to be our place and feel like it belonged to us, there were times when we needed to be anywhere else but that room.
I’m sure I’ll never work inside an office like The Cave again. It was its own animal. It was not for the weak minded. It was our brainchild. It functioned how we thought… scattered in 10 different directions. But it was home, through the good times and the bad, the one constant was that office. It was always there, ready to house whoever wanted to stop by, to talk about work, to complain about their boss, to vent, to cry, to laugh, it served as something for everyone that stepped into it… If only those walls could talk….
Three years later the room has come full circle. Brad is gone. Chad is fully situated as the new director of video operations. He tried to clean up The Cave. He succeeded for about eight months. It is back to being a mess now, despite some slight changes. I fought Chad's need to be organized and brought the room back to its rightful clutter just before walking away. It looks good.
Monday, June 13, 2011
In triumphant fashion, Chad’s day had officially begun.
He managed to grab his toothbrush and tube of Crest as he wandered out his dorm and across his hallway to the co-ed bathroom. His first sight was a female student, one that he saw often spending way too much time in the bathroom applying her makeup and meticulously grooming her hair just so. Paying little attention, he made his way over to the sink, splashing water on his face to help the wake-up process. Then, placed a generous portion of toothpaste onto his toothbrush as he gently massaged the bristles along his teeth and gums. Two spits later and he was back in his dorm.
He pulled a pair of grey sweatpants with a Clemson Tiger paw logo embroidered on the left leg just below the pocket out of a pile of clothes on the floor. Checking for any noticeable stains, Chad decided they were suitable for the day ahead. He then removed an orange Clemson t-shirt from a hanger in his closet. His closet doors doubled as mirror, mockingly, to nobody in particular, Chad gave a quick once over of his appearance in the mirror, checking that his hair, which couldn’t have been longer than an eighth of an inch was in pristine condition.
It must have been because Chad whipped his black Nike book bag over his shoulder and locked the door behind him.
Clemson University, located in Clemson, South Carolina and founded in 1889 is home to 15,346 undergraduate students. When the school opened over 100 year ago, it was educational institute to just 446 students and 15 faculty members. Now Chad was one of those 15,000. Erin was another. Both had arrived in South Carolina via different paths. Currently though, the only path that mattered to Chad was the one to Harcombe’s Dining Hall.
He exited through McCabe’s Hall North exit. In front of him, just a few hundred feet of quad separated him from his destination. To his left was Holmes Hall, just up ahead of that was Student Government Building and to his right was the Edgar Brown University Union. Resting between all that was Harcombe, the dining hall Chad frequented daily. The building was located on the corner of Union Drive and Alpha Beta Circle.
Twenty of so students milled around the quad between the buildings, some returning to their dorms, other just leaving, some on the same path as Chad. One though happened to catch Chad’s eye. A female student, wearing a black dress and her heels in her hands, was walking toward him. He recognized her. She lived in his dorm. He had seen her in the laundry room occasional. It was obvious she wasn’t returning from class. She was performing the ‘walk of shame’ for the 20 or so students in the quad. She was still 100 feet in front of him, but Chad could see the embarrassment on the girls face. Her eyes focused on the ground just in front of her. Two male students, wearing Chi Psi fraternity t-shirts asked, “fun night?”, as they passed her on the sidewalk. If their comment bothered her it didn’t show. Her focus never left the concrete.
The frat boys comment actually bothered Chad more. While his initial reaction to spotting the girl on the ‘walk of shame’ was smirk at the situation, the slight smile was quickly removed. He thought about Erin rushing out of the dorm earlier that morning, late for class and fumbling with her shoes as she hopped out of his room. How was she feeling about having to run out of his dorm and to her first class this morning in the same clothes she had the night before? Her difference though was that she was wearing tennis shoes, jeans and a long sleeved shirt that morning. Still, it bothered Chad. If somebody were to make a comment, like the frat boys to the girl who was now passing Chad on his left, to Erin, Chad wouldn’t have liked it. So whatever desire existed to laugh at the humorless comment by the frat boys at first was completely gone and filled with thoughts of Erin and if she has ever been harassed that way.
He would ask her later.
His attention turned back to Harcombe Hall, which was just a few feet in front of him. He hurried up the 10 steps that led up to the door, taking them two at a time. At the door, he paused, took one long last breath of the crisp November air, and then entered.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
The incessant buzz of the alarm clock had been beeping for two minutes. Finally, Chad rolled to his left, his girlfriend Erin’s sleeping face stared back at him, her eyes still closed, her mind lost in a dream, maybe about the life they would one day have together, the three kids, the house, the white picket fence, the golden retriever that would guard the house at night from intruders or the monsters that inevitably haunt every child’s nightmares while they sleep. Or maybe she was simply dreaming about the day ahead, the English midterm that afternoon, the meeting with her advisor afterward to plan her final semester’s schedule of classes, the dinner she would have with Chad in Harcombe Dining Hall that evening.
Chad on the other hand smiled as he looked deep into the back of her eyelids. Any moment he would see her bold green eyes in the morning sunlight that was creeping through the slits in the blinds. He reached his left arm over her body gently grazing her right shoulder with his elbow. His fingers, extending fully, reached the alarm clock, his index finger pressing the button to stop the buzzing. By the time his arm was back by his side Erin’s eyes were open, already gazing back at him. She blinked four times in succession, focusing her vision, then smiling, then leaning forward, then parting her lips slightly giving Chad a kiss on his forehead.
“Good morning”, sung from her voice. “What time is it?”
“Just after 8”
“Shit,” she shrieked, the moment completely gone. “I’m late for class.”
Leaping our of the bed, Erin fumbled for the hair tie that rested on his desk, in the process knocking over a Styrofoam Bojangles cup that once was the home of sweet tea, but now just housed the remnants of crushed ice that hadn’t melted yet.
“Shit. Sorry. I need to go. Love you. See you tonight.”
And as quickly as she woke up she was out the door and headed to her first class, the ice from the Bojangles Cup scattered across the hard-wood floor.
Chad, unfazed, reset his alarm. His first class of the day, HIST 400 - Medieval History with Caroline Dunn would take attendance in 27 minutes. Chad would not be there. His 9:00 a.m. wake up call would buzz precisely 30 minutes after Dunn would have called his name. He resigned himself to his bed until at least 9 o’clock, with his first class of the day being breakfast at Harcombe Dining Hall.
For Chad, Harcombe Dining Hall was a short walk. Living in McCabe Hall, a five-story building that houses about 290 Clemson students, the trip over to the dining hall took Chad no more than eight minutes. For Erin on the other hand, the trip to Harcombe’s dining hall was much longer. She lived in Smith Hall, an all female dorm on the opposite side of campus. Her commute was much longer to the favorite dining destination of her boyfriend, who would graduate with her in just less than three months.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
It’s 2:00 a.m. and I am just leaving Cameron. I’ve just watched my last Duke-North Carolina basketball game at Duke. This time next year I will be in Chicago, hundreds of miles away from one of sports greatest rivals. Tonight’s game was special. The Blue Devils overcame a 14-point halftime deficit to win by six. It was Duke’s largest second-half comeback win over UNC in the series history. And while I know I am ready to leave Duke and experience something new in Chicago, Duke will always a hold a special place in my heart. I will remember today. I may not remember the specifics of the game, but I will never forget that Duke won. It’s funny, but the moment I may remember the most about tonight doesn’t involve Duke or North Carolina. It will be that I spent 10 minutes (at 1:15 a.m.) watching former Atlanta Brave Kevin Millwood playing a game of H-O-R-S-E with his buddy and filming it on a flip cam. I will remember his Marvin the Martian t-shirt and thinking, this guy once led MLB in ERA and now he is air balling a 16-foot jumper. It’s the obscure things that I will remember. Those moments behind the scenes that only a select handful of people have seen. So while 9,000 plus people watched Duke win, I rather remember that I watched Kevin Millwood take jump shots long after everyone else went home.