Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Christmas Trip

Good times down in the south, y'all. Things went smooth getting there, being there, and coming back.

To give a little more detail...

We were trying to make it work out where Beth didn't have to take me to work Friday morning (lots of extra driving and time), but we didn't want to have to take two cars to the airport and meet there. So, good friend (and classroom next-door neighbor...and racquetball afficianado) allowed me to stash my car at his place (only lives 5 min or so from school) while we were away. It worked out great, Beth picked me up at the end of the school day, and we were off to the airport. Thanks, BK!

Probably the best thing about this trip was that we didn't have to worry about hauling around a bike box. That made things quick getting into the airport and through security (except for when somebody forgot to put their shampoo in the checked bag instead of the carry-on).

We grab dinner in the airport and head towards our gate. As we approach a people-mover, Beth and I notice this guy looking at me. I look back at him and do a double-take. Once we pass him, I asked Beth, "Do you know who that was?" She says no and I tell her that it was Dave Littlefield (former Pirates' General Manager). We settle down at our crowded gate and, sure enough, DL and his wife and kids are at the gate too. In my head at this point, I begin conjuring up all of these profound things to discuss with him:

*Did you really think Daniel Moskos was better than Matt Weiters when drafting?
*How painful was it to have to trade Aramis Ramirez to get in line with MLB's debt ratio?
*Why exactly did you take ALL of Matt Morris' $10M salary on AND give the Giants Rajai Davis?
*What was your overall draft philosophy?
*What are you up to now (researched on Wikipedia he was a scout with the Cubs in 2011)?
*What is it like working in baseball?

The list could go on and on....

However, an opportune time didn't come up while waiting to board the plane (that and of course I was chicken). However, we did strike up a conversation while on the plane. Okay, it was as I was walking past his seat as I went back towards mine and it went something like this:

DL: **sneeze**
OS: Bless you.
DL: Thank you.

And I kept on walking. There it was. Maybe next time I run into him, I can go through my list since we are now acquaintances.

After that, I am happy to say that I finally got around to finishing my book on the life of
John Wesley (founder of the Methodist faith). It's interesting to see the characteristics of a strong leader - unwavering belief in a cause, personal exceedingly high expectations and standards, high expectations of those around you, compassion, selflessness, and many others.

While I finished one book, I was furnished with FIVE new books from my mother-in-law (former librarian). The one I'm starting with is called
Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin. From what I understand, she's a noted historical author, but wrote this book about her life and growing up and how it was intertwined with her passion for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Does my MIL know me or what?

While in HHI, we ran outside (in shorts!), swam a few times, played mini-golf, scrabble, Settlers of Catan, watched movies and ate a lot. I always love the Christmas Eve service and the singing of 'Silent Night' as we light the candles. Good times all around.

Now, we're back in PA and getting ready to ring in the new year with our triathlon friends.

Happy New Year, everybody!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Taking a Big Risk

Something from the message at our church on Saturday night has really stuck with me. It revolved around the risk that Mary took of accepting God's plan of bringing Jesus into the world.

I keep thinking about the many people who have become admired throughout history for the great things they have done. But, many of those things were done by taking a very big risk. They didn't know how it would turn out. Some of the ones I was thinking about on my run today:

*Christopher Columbus and the many explorers to the 'New World.' What if it turned out the world was as flat as a pancake and they fell off the end of it? There was a chance they would never come back. That was a risk they were willing to take.

*George Washington and the entire American Revolution. What if it failed? How would the British deal with these 'rebels.' They would probably be put to death as traitors. That was a risk they were willing to take because they believed in their cause.

*Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. The easy thing to do would have been to let the south secede and not make slavery a major issue. But, he took a risk and stood up to that and kept this nation together. Imagine how different things would be today in the United States if he didn't believe it was a nation worth keeping as one.

*The astronauts on the first space mission. What if they couldn't get back to earth? They would never see their families or friends again. They would be lost in space.

*Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights movement. They withstood many negative things to stand for their equality and freedom. They didn't know how it would turn out. Martin Luther King ended up dying for the cause.

*Countless numbers of scientists and inventors who placed their entire lives and financial savings into a product. There were many failures along the way. They didn't know if it would succeed or fail and they would ever make any money.

All turned out well in these scenarios. However, in all of those situations, gigantic decisions were made without any assurance that it would turn for the positive. They took major risks. They believed. It's easy to look back and say they made the right choice, but that's hindsight. At the time when they made that decision, they didn't know how it would turn out. It's like watching a movie for a second time, you know how it's going to turn out. You have a lot more ease when the character is making the decision because you know it's going to turn out good in the end.

Mary believed. You can read the account in the
first Chapter of Luke in the Bible. To boil it down, she was engaged but not married and is told by and angel that she is pregnant by God. The consequences of an unmarried female being pregnant were very bad in that times, potentially punishable by death. On top of that, if her life was spared, she would face ridicule and looks every day as she went about her daily routine.

But she was willing to endure all of that and trust in God. In verse 38 of Luke 1, Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant." She was willing to trust God and follow God. I admire Mary and the many other risk-takers throughout history. Their willingness to take a risk in spite of potentially negative results did not dissuade them from making their decision. They did not know how it would turn out, but believed anyway that it would turn out for the good. That is faith.

The closest thing I can think that we've done is that we decided to leave Grad School at Virginia Tech after only one semester. I was there to continue towards my PhD (after a BS and MS in engineering at Penn State) and Beth was starting grad school after a very successful undergraduate career. Up to this point, we each had just met each obstacle in life and achieved in it. Success came with most everything we did to that point. However, this was different. It just didn't seem like the right fit. We weren't sure if we should continue, but we had always continued to that point.

We made the choice of moving back to Pennsylvania after only one semester at the risk of altering our planned career paths. Looking back now, I'd say things have turned out well with my getting into teaching and coaching and Beth's work at the hospital and triathlons. But, at that point, you could only put it in God's hands and see what was in store. There were many unknowns. No jobs waiting for us back in PA. No assurances on what we would do next. But, we trusted God that it was the right decision and we went with it. And, it turned out well.

So in closing on this very scattered ramble, I hope that each of us can be like Mary and willing to trust God and take a risk without knowing how it's going to turn out. It's scary to have that unknown staring you in the face. You may fail, but things could turn out better than you ever imagined. It sure did for Mary (and the rest of mankind as a result).

Now onto some lighter topics. In other news...

*Christmas kind of snuck up on me this year. I don't like playing the Christmas music too soon because then you get tired of it when Christmas arrives. But, it is now only 5 days away. So, I cued up my Christmas playlist for my run this morning and was loving it. I think it put an extra hop in my step.

*We're heading south for Christmas to visit Beth's parents. Looking forward to the nice weather!

*For the spring semester at school, I am going to be working with a student teacher. I had a chance to meet her today and I'm looking forward to the opportunity. This is my first chance to work with a student teacher, so I hope over the last 8 years I've learned a thing or two that I can pass on. Hopefully it's more than just "don't do what I just messed up."

*One of the great things of being a teacher is seeing students come back to visit. Several were at track practice today and it's great to hear their stories about how college went, how they're acclimating to the new environment, and (most importantly) how prepared the felt in their college math courses!!!! But on a serious note, it is rewarding to see that your investment in a student has paid off, whether that was academically, athletically, or simply as a human being.

*So far I'm 1-2 on the bowl picks. Just sayin'. Mediocre (or worse) here I come.

*If you're looking for a way to make a difference this holiday season, would you consider helping me support the
Running for Laptops charity? I'm working with them as I prepare for the Pittsburgh Marathon. Their mission is to raise funds to supply students who 'age out' of the foster care system with laptops as they move on to their next endeavor. If you could find it in your heart to help out (even if it's just $5, that adds up too!), you can click the link here.

Merry Christmas to all! Remember that Jesus, not gifts, is the reason for the season!

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Since I did so mediocre last year at picking all the college bowl games (18-15-2), I figured why not do it again.

Odds from USA Today on December 17
Favorite Spread Underdog (Over/Under)

My selection is the underlined one:

December 17, 2011
Temple 7 Wyoming (50.5) - Over
Utah State 1 Ohio (60) - Under
San Diego State 4 UL Lafayette (59) - Under

December 20, 2011
Florida Interational 4 Marshall (48.5) - Over

December 21, 2011
TCU 10 Louisiana Tech (55) - Over

December 22, 2011
Boise State 13.5 Arizona State (65.5) - Under

December 24, 2011
Southern Miss 6 Nevada (62) - Under

December 26, 2011
Missouri 4.5 North Carolina (52.5) - Over

December 27, 2011
Purdue 2.5 W. Michigan (60) - Under
NC State 2.5 Louisville (44.5) - Over

December 28, 2011
Toledo 3 Air Force (70) - Under
Texas 3 California (47.5) - Over

December 29, 2011
Florida State 3 Notre Dame (47) - Over
Baylor 9 Washington (78.5) - Under... 78.5!?!?!?

December 30, 2011
BYU 2 Tulsa (55.5) - Under
Rutgers 1.5 Iowa State (44.5) - Under
Mississippi State 7 Wake Forest (48) - Under
Oklahoma 13.5 Iowa (57.5) - Under

December 31, 2011
Texas A&M 10 Northwestern (66) - Under
Georgia Tech 3 Utah (50.5) - Over
Illinois 2 UCLA (47) - Over
Vanderbilt 2.5 Cincinnati (48.5) - Over
Auburn 2 Virginia (49) - Over

January 2, 2012
Houston 5.5 Penn State (57) - Under
Georgia 3.5 Michigan State (50.5) - Over
South Carolina 3.5 Nebraska (46.5) - Over
Florida 2 Ohio State (44) - Under
Oregon 6 Wisconsin (71.5) - Under
Oklahoma State 3.5 Stanford (74) - Over

January 3, 2012
Michigan 2 Virginia Tech (51) - Under

January 4, 2012
Clemson 3.5 West Virginia (60.5) - Over

January 6, 2012
Arkansas 7.5 Kansas State (63) - Under

January 7, 2012
Pittsburgh 3.5 SMU (47) - over

January 8,2012
Arkansas State 1 No. Illinois (63) - Under

January 9, 2012
Alabama PICK LSU (40) - Over

After a stellar 13-20-2 mark last year, Beth wanted to give it another try, too.

December 17, 2011
Temple 7 Wyoming (50.5)
Utah State 1 Ohio (60)

San Diego State 4 UL Lafayette (59)

December 20, 2011
Florida Interational 4 Marshall (48.5)

December 21, 2011
TCU 10 Louisiana Tech (55)

December 22, 2011
Boise State 13.5 Arizona State (65.5)

December 24, 2011
Southern Miss 6 Nevada (62)

December 26, 2011
Missouri 4.5 North Carolina (52.5)

December 27, 2011
Purdue 2.5 W. Michigan (60)
NC State 2.5 Louisville (44.5)

December 28, 2011
Toledo 3 Air Force (70)
Texas 3 California (47.5)

December 29, 2011
Florida State 3 Notre Dame (47)
Baylor 9 Washington (78.5)

December 30, 2011
BYU 2 Tulsa (55.5)
Rutgers 1.5 Iowa State (44.5)
Mississippi State 7 Wake Forest (48)
Oklahoma 13.5 Iowa (57.5)

December 31, 2011
Texas A&M 10 Northwestern (66)
Georgia Tech 3 Utah (50.5)

Illinois 2 UCLA (47)
Vanderbilt 2.5 Cincinnati (48.5)
Auburn 2 Virginia (49)

January 2, 2012
Houston 5.5 Penn State (57)

Georgia 3.5 Michigan State (50.5)
South Carolina 3.5 Nebraska (46.5)
Florida 2 Ohio State (44)

Oregon 6 Wisconsin (71.5)
Oklahoma State 3.5 Stanford (74)

January 3, 2012
Michigan 2 Virginia Tech (51)

January 4, 2012
Clemson 3.5 West Virginia (60.5)

January 6, 2012
Arkansas 7.5 Kansas State (63)

January 7, 2012
Pittsburgh 3.5 SMU (47)

January 8,2012
Arkansas State 1 No. Illinois (63)

January 9, 2012
Alabama PICK LSU (40)

Please don't use these as a reference for betting suggestions. You'll just lose money if you use the picks.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

2011 BCS Playoff Proposal

Note: To see this year's proposal, follow this link.

Because for some reason this doesn't get old for me, here is year four of my BCS Playoff Proposal.
For background on my rationale, check out the last three years:

In summary, the goal is two-fold:

1) To give EVERY team a LEGITIMATE chance to win a national championship (see Houston before their loss to Southern Miss on Saturday, or Oklahoma State who's only loss came in overtime a day after the women's basketball coach died in a plane crash)

2) To have every team's final game be a MEANINGFUL game (for example, congrats to Wisconsin and Oregon on their respective conference championships and good luck in your Rose Bowl EXHIBITION game)

This year, I set up the bracket Saturday morning BEFORE the conference championship games were played and just extended the bracket as if the top seeds would prevail. The bracket looked like this:

Not so fast, Houston and Virginia Tech. Today, I revised the bracket and it looked like this:

It actually worked out well because it helped to demonstrate that the "brackets" are NOT like the NCAA basketball tournament, but rather the NFL playoffs so that the seeding is revised for each round.

So, some of the minutiae:

General stuff from years past*EVERYBODY finishes the regular season by November 19 (the weekend before Thanksgiving)
*Non-BCS conferences must have their conference champion crowned by November 19th, whether it's just by standings or by a conference championship game.
*BCS conferences will have their championships after a "bye week" on the weekend of December 3rd (just like they were this year)
*The "Play-in" round, matching up at-large teams (highest ranked non-conference championship game participants) with non-BCS conference champions
*After each round, the brackets will be reseeded by the BCS standings before the conference championships
*Quarterfinals on December 8-10
*Semifinals could either be weekend of Dec 24 or 31
*Finals could be either weekend of Dec 31 (aka the New Year's bowl) or the next weekend

Some of the specifics on the 2011 version
The non-BCS conference champions were, in order from best or worst (based on either BCS or USAToday Sagarin Ranking):

A. TCU (Mountain West)
B. Southern Miss (Conference USA)....can't believe Houston lost
C. Louisiana Tech (WAC)
D. Northern Illinois (MAC)
E. Arkansas State (Sun Belt)

The four at-large teams (based on BCS rankings of teams NOT in a conference championship)
1. Alabama - top at-large gets bye to second round
2. Stanford
3. Arkansas
4. Boise State (Note: Boise State didn't win the MWC, that was TCU)
(Kansas State and South Carolina are on the outside looking in)

In this first round (Thanksgiving weekend), games are played at the site of the conference champion (putting the "BIG" guy on the road at the "small" guy) with conference team A vs E, then B vs 4, C vs 3, and D vs 2. So, looking like this:

E-Arkansas State at A-TCU
AL4-Boise State at B-Southern Miss
AL3-Arkansas at C-Louisiana Tech
AL2-Stanford at D-Northern Illinois

So, all three BCS teams would be favored, but penalize them for not being in their conference championship by making them travel and giving the "small guy" the chance to upset the BCS conference team. This also rewards the top non-BCS champion team playing a cream puff like Arkansas State from the Sun Belt conference.

The winner of those games move on to play in the second round (Dec 1 & 3) again seeded based off of the BCS rankings in a 1/4, 2/3 setting. The higher seed is the home team. If seeds would hold, this would mean:

#18 TCU at #4 Stanford
#7 Boise State at #6 Arkansas

In addition to this, there are the five other conference championship games (kept the Big 12 since Oklahoma St and Oklahoma played just to keep it simple. Also, moved Notre Dame to the "Big East/at large" slot since the Big Ten now has 12).

SEC - LSU vs Georgia
ACC - Virginia Tech vs Clemson
Pac-12 - Oregon vs UCLA
Big 12 - Oklahoma vs Oklahoma State
Big Ten - Michigan State vs Wisconsin
At-large #1 at Big East/ND - West Virginia vs Alabama

The winners of these games would play in the third round (Dec 8 & 10) at the site of the higher BCS-ranked team. It doesn't work out this year, but you'd love to see a warm-weather team have to play in snow for the quarterfinals. Based on the conference championship results, it would look like this:

#15 Clemson at #1 LSU
#5 Oregon at #4 Stanford (rematch!)
#6 Arkansas at #3 Oklahoma State
#10 Wisconsin at #2 Alabama

So, that's my two cents. Here's the bracket again if you don't feel like scrolling back up:

Then, the final four could be perhaps a double-header at a neutral site (New Orleans, Miami, Phoenix, Pasadena) with the two winning teams staying in town for a "Super Bowl-like" media week. (They're on semester break, so the student-athletes aren't missing any school). Also, this eliminates all but 8 teams by this year's deadline for the bowl announcements, so you could still have your slate of meaningless exhibition bowl matchups.

But, it all comes down to money, TV contracts, and bowl officials. So, the odds of this plan that makes sense to me coming to fruition is probably slim and none. But, it's a fun little annual exercise. I hope you enjoyed it.