Here Comes…Black Friday?
Today’s blog post will be in form of a mini-rant. It all started with a news story this morning about how stores are now opening their doors on Thanksgiving night for the “Black Friday” deals. I know I am not the only one that finds this trend appalling.
One year ago, while working at the Boys & Girls Club of Philadelphia, I arranged a trip to the Philadelphia Outlets for my kids. The outlets were promoting “Midnight Madness” which sought to get shoppers out at midnight on Friday morning to enjoy shopping as soon as Black Friday hit. I thought about the trip as a whole and considered the time at which the trip took place. However, I thought I was doing the right thing because I knew that the kids would have fun and would be able to get the best deals possible. I knew that it seemed like people would be giving up time with their families to take this trip but midnight was not all THAT bad. At least it was FRIDAY!
The Shrinking Holidays
This news story told its audience that stores would now be open as early as 8pm on Thanksgiving night so that consumers would be able to get the good deals even BEFORE Black Friday hit. Maybe this is good for some but for me, this effort that the stores have put forth just ruins the holiday known as Thanksgiving and effectively commercializes the holiday known as Christmas.
If you don’t live under a rock, you have noticed that stores have already put up their Christmas decorations and have begun the process of retro-fitting their stores to look and feel as if Christmas is almost upon us. What this means for Christmas is that the holiday has been stretched that much longer and by the time Christmas gets here, people have gotten “too much” or too saturated with Christmas. What it means for Thanksgiving is that it is a dying holiday. What will stop stores from opening earlier and earlier each year henceforth? The answer: NOTHING!
Thanks For Nothing!
Thanksgiving is a holiday that is meant to be spent with family and friends giving thanks to all the many joys they have in their lives. Yes there usually is a big meal and yes I do LOVE food so there is that. However, the meal becomes the centerpiece and the driving force behind getting everyone together. As with any “group” there must be a catch to “lure” them. This catch is the food. My catch is both food and family. I LOVE spending time with my family and laughing and joking. It makes me feel warm and its one of the reasons I came back from California after my freshman year of college. I can imagine that many of you also love spending time with your family and friends. Thanksgiving should be enjoyed not solely because of the food but also the company that it brings.
Christmas, like Thanksgiving usually features a meal and the rounding up of family members, no matter where they are in the country (or in some cases, abroad). However, this holiday’s centerpiece has become “presents.” We spend so much time now (and more time now because Black Friday gets earlier and earlier each year) worrying about the right gift to get someone instead of actually being able to see our friends and family. We worry about what they will think when they receive the gift instead of what they will think when we are together. The commercialization of Christmas has now gotten to the point where we need two days instead of one to kickoff “Christmas.” I believe it is appalling and that we have lost the meaning of both Thanksgiving and Christmas because companies are looking for “the edge.” That competitive edge that they seek has ruined my outlook on these holidays and I hope it is a trend that does NOT continue.
Enraged member of society,
JOE BONAMASSA: ALREADY LEGENDARY
How someone like Joe could go under the radar is beyond me. I discovered him for myself about a year or two ago while still in the band “Pete Staff and the Oxford Circus” and have not looked back since. This Blues Rock guitarist is one of the best I have seen and heard in my lifetime.
The Best Blues Rock Guitarist Out There
I bought my ticket in late August to a show at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. The show date was set for November 12th and at the time I did not even care what day it was, I wanted to go see Bonamassa at any cost. I bought my ticket (best available) and could not wait for the 3 months to go by. The chance to see one of the premier blues guitarists of this generation fueled my fire. I never got the chance to see Stevie Ray Vaughn or Jimi Hendrix so I thought my chance was now to see Joe.
I arrived at the venue about 30 minutes early and waited as time seemed to move backward. As people moved in and out before the doors opened, all I could think about was how my face would literally be “melted” off after the show. I had heard so many amazing things and had previewed his live performances on youtube. PLUS, this was my first time at the Academy of Music. I knew the acoustics, venue (one of the oldest in Philadelphia), and performance would be one of the best I have ever seen.
The Show Itself
The start of the concert featured feedback from Joe’s guitar and only his silhouette behind a white light on stage. What better way to start a show than that? Then came his blistering but soulful solos which were just masterful. The funniest part of the evening came when Joe recollected his first gig in Philly at the Trocadero (he pronounced it “Troke-a-dare-0h). An audience member sought to correct his mistake by yelling out the correct pronunciation. His response: “What, do we have a fucking linguistics expert here?” His point is that he played to 6 people but those 6 people got the best concert of their lives. Last night, the Academy was filled with 2500 people who all enjoyed his performance. Quite a leap!
He played a lot of my favorite songs as well as some tunes from his newest album “Dust Bowl.” My favorites like “Sloe Gin,” “Just Got Paid(not really his),” and “Slow Train” were on tap for the evening and these were played to perfection. A new song that I fell in love with was “The Ballad of John Henry.” The riff in this song was kick ass and should be on everyone’s list to download. Overall this night satisfied my musical palette and went beyond anything I could have imagined.
GO LISTEN TO HIM!
Proud to be a listener of great music,
The Peculiar Case of Ryan Madson
I thought since all we ever hear anymore is this Penn State scandal that we switch gears for a minute. I was listening to sports radio today and almost the whole day was spent on the Penn State ordeal. The other part was spent commiserating about the lowly Eagles. It is clear in my mind as to who the best, classiest organization in town is: The Philadelphia Phillies. However, there has been some news as of late that hurts the Phillies’ reputation.
The Case FOR Madson
Look, Ryan Madson is a great pitcher do not get me wrong. He has been our elite setup man and since Lidge’s injuries, our closer. He has been moved around to a lot of different roles, even being asked to start games at one point. It was disastrous. He gave up too many homers and his ERA was abysmal. Since moving to the setup role (Primary 8th inning guy), Ryan Madson has been as good as any in the majors. As a closer (most consistently in 2011) he was 32/34 in save opportunities and came in and shut the door on many teams in tight spots. This is the case for giving Ryan Madson another deal. He is a great clubhouse guy, familiar with our system, and has been very good the last couple of years.
The Case AGAINST Madson
While Madson is a good pitcher, the sample size is still VERY small compared to other closers in the league who are now free agents. Jonathan Papelbon (say what you will) has been a closer his whole career (6 years) and Heath Bell had almost as many saves in one season as Madson has had in his career (43, Madson with 50). Comparing age, Madson will be 31 as the season starts next year. Papelbon ( 31 ) and Bell (34) have 219 and 134 saves respectively. You look at these stats and they blow you away. Why give Madson the kind of money Ruben wanted to give him with such a small sample size? Why have the Phillies set the market for closers when there is more than one closer available who would still be VERY serviceable?
The Ultimate Decision
Ryan Madson is certainly due a BIG raise on any team. However, his services as a closer were only needed because Jose Contreras’ injury forced Madson into duty. We may not even be having this conversation if Madson were still in his usual 8th inning role. While he has been our best and most consistent pitcher out of the bullpen, Ryan Madson does NOT need to return to the Phillies at the price Ruben and Scott Boras’ has set. In my previous post about the Phillies, I stated that the team must get younger and hungrier. Closer is one position that is immune to this tactic (See Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera). My answer for the Phillies is to go ahead and seek others’ services. David Montgomery is right to put the brakes on this deal. NOBODY should pay Madson 44-57 million dollars, especially the Phillies who are so deficient in other areas and are looking for upgrades.
I love the hot stove,
So naturally I have to write about the whole PSU blow up that started over the weekend. Even though I am a Marquette graduate, I have watched Penn State football for quite sometime. This season is turning out to be some what of a surprise much like 2005 was. The team does not win pretty or win with blowouts they win using solid defense (a PSU staple for as long as I can remember), heart and individual players stepping up when it matters (even if it with 2 minutes to go, at home, down a TD to Illinois).
When the allegations came out over the weekend regarding the involvement of former defensive coach Jerry Sandusky and his relationship with children from a charity group he founded I was disgusted and angered. As more details surfaced regarding the allegations my anger began to build- not just at this horrible human being but at all those involved. How can one simply report such a horrendous and terrifying crime and think that is enough? Yes, Pennsylvania law states that reporting the crime to your superiors is all someone would need to do- but as a leader of men, Joe Paterno should have done more. It is a shame that a man who is so well-respected through the nation, not just in the sport of football but in all walks of life, is going to have an event like this stain his career- especially in what could be (and now most likely will be) his last season. As a man who is in charge of fostering these young men into adults and not just teaching them about the game of football but helping them mature in life, he should have known that getting by with just the minimum of reporting it to his superiors was not satisfactory.
The most painful thing to watch through all of this is the reaction from students still there and recent alumni. The fact that the actions of ONE man are going to bring down a whole university is unfathomable. At the opposite end of the spectrum you have season ticket holders turning in their tickets or students saying they are going to boycott the football program. Each person is entitled to their own opinion- but take a second to think about this perspective. The current players, 18-23 year old men, have been playing their asses of this season and have provided the PSU community with a season that could bring more success than originally predicted. The idea of this team winning a Big 10 title was something I laughed at before the year began- now they are in the driver’s seat to win it. People need to realize- the current players did not commit the crime. The current players did not fall short on their responsibilities as humans beings to report these crimes. The student body and the PSU community as a whole should rally around THE PLAYERS. Boo the coaching staff, boo the administration but don’t boo the players. Don’t boycott the game because of the actions or lack there of from the administration and coaching staff.
These players are putting something together this season that is special. This Saturday will be the last home game for the seniors (fans and players) and probably the last game for Joe Paterno. As much as people can be angry at JoePa for his lack of urgency in the matter- he is the greatest coach in all of NCAA history and deserves to be honored at his “potential” last game. If there is one thing that can help to heal a university- it seeing the team succeed on the field on Saturday. During those few hours, 100,000+ people will pack the stadium to watch the players play their hearts out for each other to get a W. A win on Saturday could mean a lot more than taking one step closer to a Big 10 championship. When those fans chant WE ARE- it will have a slightly different meaning to it.
From the Windy City,
The Plan To Fix A Failing Team
With the republican and democratic parties bickering and getting nowhere in congress, I thought it wise to stay off the topic of politics and onto another topic that we Philadelphians have come to grips with: Change. As we notice, the leaves are changing, seasons are changing rapidly (more rapidly than we would like), and life changes before our very eyes. The change I want to talk about today has been talked about a lot in Philadelphia sports the past couple of weeks. The Philadelphia Phillies are in need of a change. Yes, they are in need of dramatic change. Here is my analysis of the situation:
Swagger? No, What We Need is Determination
For about 5 years now, sports writers, fans, players, and just about anyone that is interested in the Phillies has uttered this word: swagger. Since the 2006 and 2007 seasons when Pat Gillick came on the season and predicted this club would contend for a championship and Jimmy Rollins made his “team to beat” statement, all we have heard was “this team has swagger.” What is swagger? Swagger is a quiet confidence, it is a strut, it is the knowledge that you can beat anyone and do it on your own terms. This team possessed “swagger” in 2007 and got knocked out of the first round of the playoffs. My contention is this: The Phillies went into the next season with a new feeling, this one of “determination.” It was no longer swagger that made this team the way they were. It was the will to get to the playoffs and go farther. What happened in 2008 has already been detailed on this blog and we all know that the team assembled in 2008 would win it all. It was sheer determination and a will to achieve the highest honor bestowed in baseball.
The Core of It All
When this core of players was assembled by first Ed Wade and then by Pat Gillick, the expectations were great for this team. The Phillies were the team to beat and the winner of the 2008 World Series. The franchise had become one of the best in baseball and for the first time in a long time, players wanted to play here. The clubhouse atmosphere had changed from one of doom to one of humor and looseness. Come game time, these players were prepared to play and prepared to win every night. The team made it to the World Series yet again in 2009 but lost to the Yankees (I won’t go there). Then the team struck again and made it to the NLCS but was beaten by a scrappy, underachieving Giants team. This year, the Phillies, with the most firepower they have ever had with their pitching rotation and a payroll that would be second or third in baseball, had made it to the NLDS and lost. The question then becomes: What has happened in 3 short years that Ruben Amaro Jr. (RAJ) has unquestionably made this team the best team in baseball but we have fallen shorter and shorter each year?
Did I Mention The Word “Determination?”
The core of players like Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, and Shane Victorino is now getting older and they have one ring. To me, this team looks like it has quit despite having the best record in the regular season. The Seattle Mariners proved that regular season win records mean nothing(Go look at their 116 win season all come crashing down in the NLDS). The “real” season is played in October. This team has taken the attitude that they have already won, what more do they need to do? While this opinion may be unpopular, I believe it is the right assessment of the aging core of this team. Determination wins championships, not swagger.
I’ve Got The Hunger
What does this team need this offseason? It certainly does NOT need a total shakeup but I believe Ruben needs to send a clear message to this team. He has already come out and say that this team needs to change its approach offensively next year. Here is my plan for 2012: You can agree or disagree (or agree to disagree) but it is a plan that will get this team back in the driver’s seat and hungry once again.
1B – Chase Utley until Ryan Howard can return
2B – Placido Polanco – While he does not have as much range, he will be a serviceable 2nd baseman until Howard can return.
3B – Aramis Ramirez – Type B Free Agent that may not command a huge salary. He has pop and will fill in nicely for the lack of Howard in the lineup.
SS – Freddy Galvis – Anyone who has been around me lately has heard me chirping for his call up to the big leagues. Rollins was a great player here for 15 years. However, he has worn out his welcome with his injuries and his lack of hustle. Just as Rollins was thrown into the “mess” as a youngster, Galvis must also be thrown in. (See: Elvis Andrus and Starlin Castro). This will send a clear message to the team that nobody is safe.
C – Carlos “Chooch” Ruiz – Need I say more?
CF – Shane Victorino – Great guy, high energy still, can fly with the best of them
LF – Dom Brown/John Mayberry Jr. Platoon – I believe this will work. Again, thank you Raul for your time here but we need to get younger and the future is now.
RF – Hunter Pence – Is VERY hungry as per his comments the other day. I think he takes the “Good season, but I am still starving” approach.
Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Blanton, Worley – I am fine with not re-signing Oswalt. I believe Worley would be a gem at the 5th spot.
Again the future is now: Bastardo, Stutes, Herndon(as much as that pains me), Joe Savery, Justin De Fratus, Michael Schwimer. Our closer should come from within. I would not pay Madson the money that Boras will demand. Maybe we get a veteran closer.
This team has a great mix of veterans and rookies. It WILL become hungry again and also can acknowledge that our window is still upon us. It has not shut and if the Phillies can pull this off, we will become an even better team. I saw a Cardinals team with talent and HEART win the World Series. As much as I wanted to die the night they won, it is the Cardinals that we are chasing and another World Series that we desire.
To Another World Series in 2012,
Today’s rant actually comes about from a conversation I had with my dad earlier in the day. We were on our way to lunch and the subject of connectivity came up. We both were talking about how society today is certainly different than that of when he was a kid (50’s and 60’s). The difference we keyed in on was that of connectivity with our cell phones vs. connectivity with others when you are with them.
If you are one of those that whips out a cell phone every 5 seconds to check how popular you think you are (like me), you may realize when you step back how ridiculous you look. My uncle made a very astute observation the other day about iPhones and other smartphones. He brought up the point that wherever you go now, people are always constantly on their phones. It could be at the mall, the ballpark, the city streets, even at the bar or restaurant. Everyone’s faces are lit up because their screens emit all of the light. Some may ask the question, “what is so important, that it could not wait a little amount of time?” These folks are valid in their thinking but we must first take a look at what society used to be like when my dad and uncle were growing up.
The 60’s and 70’s yielded some crazy times and movements that grew not from social media or even the news media, they grew from word of mouth. People with bullhorns seeking others approval of their plan or their “way” dominated the scene some 40 years ago. Movements spread from coast to coast because people literally drove there and told their story. Nobody had a cell phone or could fathom what a cell phone would even look like. When you were in places such as a mall, restaurant, city street, or ballpark people talked to each other instead of on their cell phones. People were interested in what the next person had to say.
Fast forward now to 2011 where social media outlets dominate the culture and we now live in a world where we are less concerned with whatever whoever we are with has to say and more concerned with what we have in our inboxes or our texts. We claim to be more well connected with others and yes, while we may have resources now that people of the generations before us would only dream of, society as a whole seems married if not ensconced in their phones or iPads or iPods.
So the very simple question that comes of this that I thought about all day is: Are we a more connected society today than we were when my father was growing up? Can this movement toward more technology in our lives be labeled as progress? I want to get your thoughts.
Until the next one,