Friday, November 30, 2007

Recap of the Packers-Cowboys tilt.

If beer is water, then it was a veritable Niagara Falls at Joe Senser’s Restaurant last evening. It was 80-90% Packers fans viewing the Green Bay-Dallas tilt at said establishment. In fact, my brother and I were hemmed in by several tables full of Packer faithful as we rooted vociferously for the Cowboys.

We got some annoyed glares as we verbally ripped the likes of Brett Favre, Al Harris, etc. But for the most part the focus was on the game. My bro and I left at halftime with Dallas leading 27-17. As we exited, we had a number of Packer fans ribbing us for not staying for what they were sure would be a Pack rally.

Despite backup Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers playing admirably in place of the injured Favre, the Packers ended up losing by the same deficit by which they trailed at halftime. The final score was 37-27, Cowboys. Nice rally, eh?

I’m still digesting all that took place in last night’s game but I feel I have definitively reached one conclusion: Dallas QB Tony Romo has officially arrived!!

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thursday Night Showdown.

I can’t recall an NFL season when we’ve had likely previews of both conference championship games.

In week nine, the New England Patriots defeated the Indianapolis Colts in what many believe will be the matchup in the AFC title game.

Then you have this Thursday’s tilt with the Dallas Cowboys hosting the Green Bay Packers. Not surprisingly, many consider this contest a preview of the game in which the winner earns the right to be thumped by the Patriots in the Super Bowl NFC championship game. And why not? In looking at the other 14 teams in the conference, I see no club in the same elite class as the Cowboys and Packers.

It seems as though Dallas is on a mission to overcome the heart-wrenching loss to the Seattle Seahawks in last years’ wild card playoffs. QB Tony Romo, who was the holder on field goal attempts, dropped the snap on what would have been a chip shot kick to win the game. Instead, Dallas was dispatched early and Romo went in to hiding. Also, you have a focused wide receiver in Terrell Owens. With T.O. on a pace to score 20 touchdowns, all his press clippings have had to do with his work on the field. For the first time in about three years there’s been no off-field trashing of coaches and teammates, no alleged suicide attempts and, best of all, no extemporaneous press conferences from his deplorable agent Drew Rosenhaus.

On the Green Bay side of the ledger you have QB Brett Favre having his best season this millennia. In this his 17th NFL campaign, Favre has continued to eschew the retirement prospects for one reason only: To win another Super Bowl. It has been ten seasons since the Pack’s last appearance in the big game. While he still has fun playing the game, Favre is all about winning. Seeing the fervor with which he played last Thursday (where at one point he set a club record with 20 consecutive completions) tells me he won’t be satisfied unless he leads his team all the way to the championship.

All things being equal, I believe the Packers are the better team. However, they may be hampered defensively due to injuries to CB Charles Woodson (toe) and DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (ankle).

The latest line has Dallas as a 6 ½ point favorite at home. Given that, Dallas will win but not cover.

Cowboys 31 Packers 27

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Two long-standing NFL records in jeopardy.

It’s an annual tradition when members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the only undefeated team in NFL history, gather together to drink champagne when the last unbeaten team suffers its first defeat of a given season. Since the New England Patriots moved to 11-0 with a Sunday night win over the Philadelphia Eagles, the ’72 Dolphins annual soiree will be pushed off until at least the month of December.

Speaking of the Miami Dolphins, this year’s version is now 0-11 thanks to a 3-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night. In modern NFL history, only one team finished winless for an entire season. That would be the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

I’m curious. Do members of the ’76 Bucs gather together whenever the last winless team attains its first victory of the season? Given the ignominious record they hold, I’m thinking they would celebrate with a case of Grain Belt or something along those lines.

Just a thought.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

It's official: Torii Hunter moves on.

At least it wasn’t the White Sox.


Outfielder Torii Hunter and the Los Angeles Angels reached a preliminary agreement Wednesday night on a five-year contract thought to be worth $90 million.


With those kind of numbers, there is NO WAY the Twins had a shot to re-sign Hunter. The best they came up with is 3 years, $45 million.

Besides, the Twins rarely give five year deals. In fact, the only five year contracts I can recollect were for Kent Hrbek (5 years, $14 million prior to the 1990 season) and some guy named Puckett (5 years, $30 million prior to 1992).

Congratulations, Torii! You were a class act in your time as a Twin. You were a great ambassador for this franchise and we’ll miss your acrobatic plays in center field.

But most of all, we’ll miss you as the face of the Twins franchise.

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A timeless Thanksgiving message from President Reagan.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!!

I present to you the Thanksgiving Day 1985 greeting from President Ronald Reagan.

Every time I listen to President Reagan’s archived speeches, I can’t help but be struck by the timeless components of his profound messages.




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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving memories: 10, 20 and 30 years ago.

Thanksgiving, 1997: Since my Mom and Grandma traveled to Colorado to celebrate the holiday with my Aunt, I didn’t have any other immediate family in the area. As a result, I was invited to celebrate this particular Thanksgiving with my girlfriend and her family. This gal I was dating (we’ll call her Dawn) was living near downtown St Paul with her 4-year old son. I actually first met her when we were both in eighth grade but hadn’t seen her since High School when we reconnected a few months earlier.

Anyhow, her Mom, Dad and 14-year old adopted sister got there about a half hour late. Dawn’s Dad was this crusty, belligerent guy who didn’t like leaving his recliner. So when it was time to leave their house, he snuck out for a walk down the street, hoping his wife and daughter would leave him behind. Needless to say, they waited for him to get back home before leaving for Dawn’s place. Dawn’s 350 lb. brother then showed up in a t-shirt, ratty sweat pants and obvious disdain showing on his face. He would go on to inform the family that he would not be leaving his apartment on Christmas day. “I just want to keep to myself that day”, he declared. To me, the holidays are all about enjoying family and being able to put aside the daily stresses of life. But just a couple of hours with Dawn’s family and I would have preferred to have my bladder removed with the salad fork then spend another millisecond there.

Dawn & I parted ways within a week after what was easily my worst Thanksgiving holiday ever.


Thanksgiving, 1987: Since we now had the bigger house, my Mom decided to host Grandma J. for Thanksgiving. Usually it was the other way around since we had lived in a two-bedroom apartment all those years and Grandma had an actual home. On this Thanksgiving, the Vikings were to play the Dallas Cowboys at 3:00 pm. Having finished dinner by 2:00, my brother and I decided to kill some time by going out front and hitting a few tennis balls with the baseball bat. Yes, despite it being late November and 35 degrees, we still had baseball fever less than a month removed from the Twins winning the World Series. Once it struck 3:00, we headed in to watch what turned out to be an exciting football game. The Vikes led 38-24 in the 4th quarter only to have Dallas comeback and tie it at 38. The game went to OT with running back Darrin Nelson scoring on a TD run to give the Vikes a 44-38 victory! Food, family and football. How can you not love a day like that?



Thanksgiving, 1977: Despite the fact I have a near impeccable memory, I don’t recall where I was on this Turkey Day when I was age 8 ½. I’m going to assume we did as we always did and went to Grandma J’s place. Turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie. You know, the usual.



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Monday, November 19, 2007

Separated at birth: Joel McHale & Chad The Elder.















Joel McHale, host of E! comedy show The Soup.

Chad The Elder (always right), blogger extraordinaire with Fraters Libertas.

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Rocky Mountain high!

My gal & I returned Sunday from a three-day vacation to the Denver, CO area. We stayed with my very hospitable Aunt & Uncle in Fort Collins.

I have to say that the highlight of the trip was the hike we went on Friday afternoon. We started at the bottom of Lumpy Ridge trail in Rocky Mountain National Park, where we were approximately 7,500 feet above sea level. By the time we completed the 1.7 mile trek up to Gem Lake, we were up to about 8,800 feet! Granted the hike wasn’t that long distance-wise but the steep incline resulted in a rather rigorous excursion.

Below are some photos we took along the way.



Soaking in a terrific view!! You probably can't see it but "The Stanley Hotel" is located at the bottom of the hill and to the right. That is the very hotel where author Stephen King penned "The Shining".





Here I got a little adventurous by climbing up some rocks. I mildly sprained my foot jumping down from there.




My gal and I on one of our many rest stops. While I gasp for air she smiles nicely for the camera. Over my right shoulder and in the background is a nice view of Long's Peak.



An unobstructed view of Long's Peak.




Here we are after our hike back down the hill. By the time we were done, the temperature was in the mid-60s, which meant I could unzip my jacket.
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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Greetings from the Rocky Mountain state!!

Wrapping up a quick little excursion in Colorado, I am putting together a short blog post from the Fort Collins, CO Starbucks.

I will post some pictures sometime over the next couple days of a long hike we went on in Rocky Mountain National Park Friday afternoon. At one point we were over 9,000 feet above sea level!

I've basically been cut off from the world until today. In fact, I just now learned A-Rod re-signed with the Yanks and Barry Bonds has been indicted. However, Bonds has yet to turn himself in because he is currently hunting and fishing in --of all places--Colorado! Hmmm. Now that I think of it, I did see some bulky guy fly fishing along the Big Thompson River yesterday.

Developing.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veteran's Day tributes.

On this Veteran’s Day, I would like to go back to November 11, 1988.

It was the final Veteran’s Day address given by President Ronald Reagan. Living up to his nickname “The Great Communicator”, he conveyed a moving tribute at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

The entire 9 ½ minute speech is fantastic. And I couldn’t help but nod my head vigorously in agreement over the following excerpt regarding the Vietnam War:


“Perhaps at this late date we can all agree that we've learned one lesson: that young Americans must never again be sent to fight and die unless we are prepared to let them win.”


Hopefully that message rings loud and clear throughout the halls of Congress even today.

God bless the brave men and women who served, and are currently serving, in our Nation’s military.




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Being force-fed some humble pie.

Yeah, yeah, I saw it. The Vikings got destroyed by the Packers. As many are now pointing out to me, I predicted a 28-24 Vikings victory. Sheesh, you put something in writing on the internet and the Wisconsin friends and relatives come out of the wood work to rib ya.

Obviously I wasn’t acting on any insight or analysis in predicting a Viking upset. It was merely a gut feeling I had.

Now many of you may be wondering if that is the worst prediction I’ve ever made. In sports, it’s up there with some of my bad ones. But when you factor in predictions as a whole, it’s not even close.

I point you to the 1984 presidential election pitting incumbent Ronald Reagan and Minnesota’s own Walter Mondale. The night before the election I predicted a newspaper headline of “Congratulations, President Mondale.”

Reagan was easily re-elected, winning 49 of 50 states.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sports Einstein of the week: Tim Brewster.

To say the University of Minnesota Gophers football team (1-10 after today's loss to Iowa) has been terrible this year is to say The Elephant Man merely had a little puffiness around his eye.

Out of 119 NCAA Division I football teams, the Gophs Swiss cheese defense is statistically ranked…..119.

So it was this observation about highly touted safety Dominic Barber which earned head coach Tim Brewster this week’s Sports Einstein:


“I don't know where we would be without him."


Uh, Division III perhaps?

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Border Battle prediction.

I don’t have any delusions of the Vikings making the playoffs this season.

Heck, I would consider it a major milestone if they finish .500 this year.

But one thing is for certain: I will be OK with them finishing 4-12, provided that fourth win occurs this Sunday in Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers.

Yes, the loyal fans of the spinach and lemon green and gold already have visions of another Lombardi trophy dancing in their heads. The Pack is 7-1, QB Brett Favre is bearing much resemblance to the 3-time MVP Favre and this Green Bay squad can actually play a little defense. The planets seem to be aligning just right in the Packer galaxy.

That’s why they are ripe for a loss this Sunday. Adrian Peterson will run wild, the Vikes defense will get a touchdown or two and hand the Pack their second loss this season.

28-24, Vikings.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The sun is setting.

There was almost an air of inevitability when we got the news. After last week’s lengthy surgery to remove my father-in law’s cancer-riddled prostate and bladder, we learned today the results of his CT scan. The disease had already spread to his lymph nodes and appears to be inoperable.

After almost seven years of battling several types of cancer, our beloved father has chosen to commence treatment which will merely make his final days comfortable. At 77-years old, he realizes he is in the twilight of his life here on Earth.

I guess it goes without saying that we will cherish every moment we have with Howard over the next 12 to 24 months. Truth be told, it won’t be any different than the previous years we’ve been blessed with his presence.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Little League redux.

This past August, I wrote about my hometown Coon Rapids little leaguers’ appearance in baseball’s Little League World Series.

I celebrated the one game they emerged victorious while also taking umbrage with the antics of the opposing starting pitcher. Earlier in that game, Salisbury, MD pitcher Canaan Cropper could be seen shouting towards the Coon Rapids dugout after completing a spectacular double play. I don’t like smack talk. Never did. So I then took great delight in seeing Canaan give up the game-winning home run to my neighbor, Tanner Lowe.

2 ½ months later Bill Cropper, Cannan’s dad, has taken issue with my comments.

I thought I would dedicate an entire post to responding to Mr. Cropper.


Hey Brad. Just googling my sons name and ran across your sight. Little tough on a 12 yr old. As a Christian and pastor myself I think you are a little bit over the top about my son.


Yeah, calling him a pipsqueak was probably a bit much. However, everything else I’ll stand by.


Kid has a lot of passion but just amped up and wanting to win like the other 22 million that started the summer. Oh yeah, hats off to that team and the Lowe kid. Great players. Why don't you tell everyone about the kid on your hometown team whose mom had brain cancer and who we all gathered in center field together before the game and prayed for. That’s good LL stuff.


Duly noted, sir! In all seriousness, thanks for sharing that!!


Obvious you never played on any level and wouldn't know the pressure.


BZZZT!!

Actually, I did play Little League baseball, which is why I said what I said. I played for a coach who would sit any player that didn’t maintain a sense of decorum during a game. Heck, I remember one time he yanked his own kid for throwing a bat after striking out. Enthusiasm and being “amped up” is one thing. Rubbing an opponent’s nose in it is quite another.


Articles like that and posting that you are a born again believer would really make me turn toward Christ.

Canaan’s dad.


Whoa! Do I detect a little sarcasm from you, Pastor? Besides, the one thing I emphasized in my original post was the kind of brashness displayed by your son has a way of coming back to haunt. To put it in Biblical terms: You reap what you sow!

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Bridging the gap.

I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve been up by 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday in the past 10-15 years.

One such occurrence was this morning as my wife and I were to put some time in for our church service project. As I mentioned a couple of months ago, our church had initiated a program entitled “40 Days of Community”. Over the past six weeks, we’ve been involved in “Life Groups” where we’ve had the opportunity to fellowship with other 30-something couples. It allowed all of us to share thoughts and testimonials about dealing with life in what has become a world which strenuously tests one’s faith.

At the end of this six-week period we were to get involved in a project which benefits the community. As any other church body, we are wonderful at meeting the needs of families within the congregation. But we also realize those gifts of service and hospitality can be extended beyond the walls of the church building.

So on this crisp Fall morning, eleven of us gathered in our church parking lot to load donated furniture into trailers owned by an organization called Bridging. This wonderful organization “bridges the gap” between those who donate household goods and families in need. That is they will take the donated goods, make any necessary improvements to them and make them available to families referred to their warehouses.

One thing we know for sure is God can bestow His blessings without any assistance from His people. After all, He’s God. But the fact that we are able to give of ourselves in a venue where other people are blessed is itself a blessing handed down by our precious Lord!

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Father-in law update.

We arose this morning, praising the Lord!

We learned that our beloved father, Howard, was as ornery as a grizzly bear with a sore derriere!! After a very serious surgical procedure yesterday, he seemed like his old self this morning. That is, when my mother-in law walked in to see him he was crabbing at her about everything that was wrong.

His nose hurt.

His legs were twisted up in that uncomfortable hospital bed.

The food was bad.

But it was fine. My mother-in law let him complain mightily, all the while celebrating the fact he’s still with us.

My wife & I will be visiting him tomorrow. If he’s still in the aforementioned ornery state, I have news which is sure to perk him up.

The team he has despised for years, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football club, lost to Navy for the first time in 44 years.

Even better? Howard can say such a rare occurrence happened in his lifetime.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Howard.

I remember the first time I met Howard. It was Labor Day weekend 1998. At the time, I had been dating his daughter for about two months. Since I already had a sneaking suspicion that I would one day marry this gal, I figured I ought to meet her parents.

While I was advised that Jennifer’s Mother was a gregarious sort, her Dad couldn’t have been more opposite. He was a very calm, non-expressive person. But on those rare occasions when he showed any kind of emotion, you knew it was serious business. My favorite story has to be when Jennifer was dating some other guy about six months before she and I met. I guess this guy was pretty fond of himself (translation: ARROGANT), which doesn’t mix well with a family of down-to-earth, humble folks. Anyhow, Howard did not like this guy much and certainly didn’t want him marrying his daughter. Of course he always kept the best peace. But one day after playing this guy in a round of darts Howard uncharacteristically gloated about the fact he won that particular match. He then went on to add “I’ll whip his a** in golf, too!” Needless to say, that kind of direct statement from Howard shocked the family. So whenever Jen & I would talk about her Dad I would always say I must OK in his eyes...... as long as he doesn’t want to kick my butt in a golf match.

While I’m sure Howard had a myriad of stories to tell about his military service in the Korean War, he wasn’t interested in reliving that part of his life. Instead, he’d prefer to talk about the street ball games he and his brother played in the New York neighborhood where they’d grown up. An avid golfer, Howard also loved to reminisce about some of the finer tee shots he had made. Yes, despite growing up in an upper class family, Howard enjoyed the simpler things in life.

If there was ever a time Howard would open up, it would be in a one-on-one conversation. For three weeks leading up to our wedding, Jennifer stayed at her parents home. Being a school teacher, she had the Summer off which meant she could get up in the morning and work on various wedding plans. But every morning started with Howard and Jennifer having breakfast together. Jen cherished this time with her Dad because he was willing to have those heartfelt conversations he wouldn’t otherwise engage in amongst a group setting. And for the first time, Howard opened up about the pending marriage by blurting out “I don’t know if I’m ready to let you go yet.” She reassured him it would be OK and that she was more than ready for marriage. He never said much about it again. Then at the wedding reception the videographer went around the room to ask people to convey a message to the bride and groom. In typical Howard fashion, he would only muster “I hope they make it.”

Since that joyful day when Howard gave away his youngest daughter’s hand in marriage, he has had to endure one ailment after another.

In September 2000, he suffered a heart attack. Shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with chronic leukemia, skin cancer of the nose and prostate cancer.

The leukemia seems to be under control.

The skin cancer was removed and he even got a new nose out the deal, thanks to some cosmetic repair.

And it appeared the prostate cancer was in remission for a time.

Unfortunately, we received the news this week that not only has his prostate cancer been re-aggravated, now his entire bladder is riddled with the disease.

No matter how stoic a person Howard is, he has let his guard down these past few months.

He has told my mother-in law that if it weren’t for her, he might not be living.

He has expressed overwhelming and sincere gratitude to Jen & I for working in their yard these past several Saturdays.

And he has pleaded for both his daughters and their families to come for a weekend visit at least once per month.

So on the morning of Friday, November 2nd my thoughts and prayers will be drifting towards a St Paul hospital. A five-hour surgery awaits Howard. The procedure entails removing the prostate and bladder and essentially making new ones out of a section of his colon. Given the fact he’s 77-years old with a bad heart, blood that has trouble clotting and a poor immune system, we are all hanging on by the proverbial thread.

We just pray that Howard feels no more excruciating pain, regardless of the outcome.

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