Saturday, October 22, 2011

Autumn Weekends, or, It's Hard Being a Pitt Fan

My sister just had her first article for the Post-Gazette published this morning! It's about growing up as a die-hard Pitt fan, which is not terribly common. You can read the article here:

This article about autumnal Pitt gamedays reminds me of my own youth; growing up 12-16 years behind my siblings, yet still raised as a Pitt fan. When Sue was in college and I was progressing through elementary school, they sucked. It was not fun to walk into school and talk to my friends who were Penn State fans about that weekends games. Penn State usually won, Pitt usually lost, and that was about it.

I vividly remember the days I would be running around the backyard playing football when I'd get called in for the second half of the Pitt games. I remember trying to go to games against Temple or Rutgers because those were the only games Pitt might win. One of my favorite memories was Halloween Thursday night, 1996, when I came home from trick-or-treating to find the best treat of the night: Pitt on ESPN! They beat Boston College that night for their third win in a four-win season. That same season, my brother took a trip to the Horseshoe at Ohio State to see the Buckeyes trounce Pitt 72-0.

I also remember the rise. Pitt had been bad the whole time I'd been a fan growing, so when a bowl game became a real possibility in 1997, it was something to talk about. After starting 2-1, Pitt upset the once-mighty Miami Hurricanes on Thursday night ESPN, resulting in some torn-down goalposts at Pitt Stadium, if I remember correctly. That season they needed two overtimes to beat Rutgers and two wins against perennial powers, Virginia Tech and West Virginia, to become bowl-eligible. They upset the Hokies, then turned around and upset West Virginia in a three-overtime game that I remember vividly. WVU kicked a field goal in the third overtime. Pete Gonzalez converted a 4th-and-17 to Jake Hofart keep the drive alive before another 4th down conversion to Terry Murphy for the win and bowl-eligibility.

Since then, it's been an up-and-down ride filled with higher expectations. A win in the last game at Pitt Stadium against hated rival Notre Dame, a blocked field goal attempt by LaVar Arrington to preserve a loss at Penn State, Walt Harris' Wide Receiver U putting players into the upper echelon of the NCAA and into the NFL, beating rival Penn State, 12-0, in their last meeting, Pitt garnering national attention, and ultimate under-performance by teams we expected more from over the years.

My memory has blurred a bit since my childhood. I've seen so many games on TV and in-person as a student that I am starting to forget details. I remember seeing some amazing things in person, like most of Larry Fitzgerald's catches, QB Tyler Palko (my favorite Pitt player of all time) running over a Boston College safety, and, of course, Aliquippa alumnus Darrelle Revis' silly punt return against West Virginia. Most importantly, I remember the day Pitt kept West Virginia out of the national championship game in a fluke win at my least favorite place in the world Mountaineer Field.

At the end of the day, sports are sports. They're nothing more and nothing less. Everything was magnified when I was a child, so I remember those events like they happened yesterday. I look forward to the day that I'm raising my kids in Pittsburgh, playing football in the backyard until it's time to come in for kickoff. I miss Pittsburgh today for that reason and for the reason that people honestly care about their sports in the Steel City.

No offense, Seattle, but your sports fans are lame and flaky. Watch your Huskies today, but know that you wouldn't care if they were 3-4 like my Panthers. Hail to Pitt!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Band Obsessions

Working in an office gives me a chance to listen to music all day, which is certainly amazing for someone who loves music like I do! There have definitely been days where I've been in moods when I feel like I'm bored with my music selection and I need some new stuff (which I usually indulge in at that point), but lately there have been a few albums or artists that have been able to simply captivate beyond the need for anything else. Let me mention a few of them here:

Fall Out Boy - Take This To Your Grave: These boys have a way of playing their way into my sub conscience and not getting out. They are probably the catchiest band I listen to and Patrick Stump's voice has a way of captivating my attention that few other singers can do. Take This To Your Grave was their first big hit and is one of my favorite albums of all time. It is pop-punk mastery. I loved listening to these guys on my way through their hometown of Chicago on my cross-country trip. Their follow-up album, From Under the Cork Tree is another one of my all-time favorites and is full of catchy anthems. Their last release, Folie a Deux, is one of the most underrated albums of the last 5 years, in my opinion, with plenty of diversity and a few cool cameos (Pharrell, Lil Wayne).

Bon Iver - Bon Iver: In short, this is the best album of 2011. There will not be an album that is better. If there is, I will pee my pants. I did not think there was a chance Bon Iver could follow-up their first release, For Emma, Forever Ago, with anything better, but they reinvented their sound and released a completely different album that is simply beautiful. Every track is stunning. I have a couple favorites, but I rarely repeat songs because each song prepares your spirit for the next. It just makes sense to listen straight through. In particular, though, I have been obsessed with this Bonnie Raitt cover from a little CD of extras, "I Can't Make You Love Me/Nick of Time"

The Tallest Man on Earth - Everything: Kristian Matsson is The Tallest Man on Earth, but isn't particularly imposing in stature. Instead, he's fairly meek and humble. He is one man with no other musicians involved. He is Swedish, but manipulates and utilizes the English language. Most importantly, he controls you. There is something incredibly endearing about him, despite the fact that he doesn't talk much, move around much, or really do anything much to particularly entertain you. He simple plays beautiful music with such emotion and obvious spirit in his voice that you can't help but be under his spell.

Taking Back Sunday - Tell All Your Friends: This is the quintessential teen angst album, which I didn't actually own until I was firmly inserted in my mid-20s. Regardless, this album is full of anger, frustration, and I-don't-give-a-what mentality that it fits any disgruntled mood you might have. Can't find any motivation? Tell All Your Friends? Girls being a pain? Tell All Your Friends. Missed the bus? Tell All Your Friends. It was amazing to see most of these songs performed by the original lineup on their tour this summer. What's more, take a look at videos from 2011 and then take a look at 2002, when the album was first released. The maturity has changed this band quite a bit. The emotion is still there, just in a different form, and with a microphone swinging swagger.

Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend: The most unlikely addition to any music list of mine, I could not figure out people's affinity with Vampire Weekend for years. The songs were odd, cheeky, and not particularly interesting to me. Then one day, it just hit me. Everything was sticking in my head. I wanted to learn every word to every song. I'd listen to the album straight through, then I'd want to listen to it again. The songwriting sounds simple, but is full of changes in time signature and demeanor. The lyrics are intelligent and full of one-liners. I think what did it was "Oxford Comma", thanks to "who cares about details" mentality and its use of the most taboo word in the English language.

Monday, October 10, 2011

100th Post

This is my 100th blog post. Initially I wanted to type "I can't believe it" or "I remember my first post like it was yesterday", but the fact is that it seems like an appropriate amount of time. Lots has changed since November 2008. I've grown immensely and in ways that I didn't expect, but in a lot of ways that I did expect. I would say that I can't believe where I'm at, working and living in Tacoma, WA, but I can believe it. It's been a natural progression. I've had to prove a lot of things to myself by getting here, like the fact that I would actually pick up and leave Pittsburgh.

Since that post three years ago I've written about getting back to the city, falling in love with the Northwest, working through graduate school, and working through a difficult job search. The things I've learned along the way have not been surprising. Patience and humility were certainly virtues that I did not possess remotely when this blog started. I haven't developed these virtues nearly as much as I'd like to, but I've grown a lot. 

I was extremely impatient on a micro and macro scale three years ago. I was short with people when I waited tables. I was rude to my parents and others when I would get upset about having to live at home. I was especially impatient with God's plan to get me into my next life stage. I think I knew that God would take care of me, but I didn't want to wait for it.

I was extremely arrogant about feeling like I should have a "real job" just because I had a Bachelor's degree, which I'm learning more and more was an extremely prideful and foolish stance. Just having a Bachelor, especially in a field like History, doesn't guarantee anything. I did have a salaried job in youth ministry, but God showed me that was the wrong direction. Waiting tables for a living is extremely humbling as you offer selfless service to people in hopes that they'll offer compensation for your work. Sometimes they would take care of you and sometimes they wouldn't. In the end, I learned to rely on God's provisions to carry me as far as I needed to go. I even had a chance to share my faith with co-workers who noticed my relaxed attitude with regard to making money. I never expected that people would learn about patience from me.

God got me to where I needed to be on his timetable. I learned what it means to be humble, patient, and rely on God as my provider. I'm still learning, for sure, but things seem clearer now. The last month has shown me so much about relying on God for safety and company. It's been very lonely here at times compared to my life in Pittsburgh, but God has provided people in His time and He has shown me to rely on Him in times of need rather than other people.

Thank you for reading, for whatever reason! I look forward to continuing to share my journey with you in the next hundred posts, however long that takes. God finds ways to show Himself to me every day, so I look forward to sharing my experiences with you and hearing the same from you.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Failure and Success

If there is just one single solitary thing that I've learned in my life, it's that every single time I try to do something on my own and without God, I fail. Every single time I seek God, I succeed. Success may not look like what I expect it to, but it is success nonetheless.