What An Opportunity

Archive for June, 2012|Monthly archive page

Gentlemanly excursion reveals subtle epiphany

In Culture, Life on June 29, 2012 at 10:18 pm

It was going to be the funniest movie of all-time. Ever. Naturally, the Gentlemen had to go together.

While Ted may have fallen just short of the hype (and the egregiously hilarious previews), it took me to a place I never expected it would: deep in thought.

When we finally found three seats together, the boys and I settled in for a good time filled with barrel laughs and girlish squeals (totally not me). The movie is based on a pot head — an extremely offensive, alcoholic Teddy bear with a big heart. What part of that isn’t funny?

If you came up with an answer, you are wrong.

I won’t remember the laughs, though. There was one line that stuck with me, one part that had the three of us nodding in agreement.

Ted was a childhood star. He was on magazine covers and television shows. He was famous. As the narrator is fast-forwarding to present-day Ted, he reminds the audience: “It doesn’t matter how big of a splash you make in this world, whether you’re Corey Feldman, Frankie Muniz or Justin Bieber. Eventually, nobody gives a shit.”

I paused.

Akanimo chuckled. “It’s true.”

Akanimo is better at being OK with accepting stuff like this than I am. He always has the attitude I appreciate what I have and the ones I love while I’m constantly thinking Damn, I really need to do something incredible to have an impact.

Did we just posit some grand, deep truth? And, more strangely, did we posit it because of a movie about a fictional Teddy bear?

Maybe.

Here’s the concept: You, yes you, will be forgotten. Think about it.

Now really think about it.

It’s easy to feel bigger than we are, to forget that we are individually ants in the world and, well, something much smaller than ants in the grand scheme of history.

Obviously your family and close friends will remember you as long as they live, and your other relatives will, too. If you do enough, maybe you’ll even be remembered for 50 or 100 years. But eventually, nobody gives a shit.

Let that change the way you see the world today. I’m driven to be the most successful, the most well known, in my career. My life is all about success. It’s what I’ve always wanted, and I write that sincerely.

And for what?

Sure, any successful person will be remembered for a while. Think of the most famous, successful people around this day and age: among them are Barack Obama, LeBron James, and Steve Jobs, just to name a few.

In 200 years, do you think anyone will care about any of them? Maybe some kid will have to memorize Obama’s name for a history test, but adolescents in that day won’t care. The NBA probably won’t exist. Apple will have been far surpassed, and the one-time college-dropout who became wildly successful will be like the rest of us.

Forgotten.

Here’s my point: there’s nothing wrong with being driven. Nothing wrong with wanting success (just check out my favorite YouTube video). But when it gets in the way of you caring about the people of your life, it’s an issue. It’s bigger than an issue. It’s asinine.

When you focus more on individual success or being famous than you do on the people you encounter every day, you’re wasting your life on something trivial. Something that will be forgotten.

The movie was phenomenal, by the way.

But eventually, nobody will give a shit.

 

“Is there anything of which one can say, ‘Look! This is something new’? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.”
Ecclesiastes 1:8-11

UB sports outlook: what to expect for the blue and white in Fall 2012

In Sports on June 26, 2012 at 10:58 pm

I’m a total homer, a Buffalo kid who loves the University at Buffalo Bulls. I grew up high-fiving Victor E. Bull.

But these days I’m the editor in chief of the UB’s school paper, The Spectrum, so I’m obligated to provide objective coverage of the school’s sports teams, because, you know, that’s how journalism works. I still follow the teams fairly religiously.

Here’s the low-down — the things that won’t go in print — about what is to come for Bulls fans next year.

Football: The Bulls have gone 5-19 since Jeff Quinn took over as head coach, and there’s no question he’s on the hot seat. Buffalo’s schedule this year is murderous, including games against Georgia, Pittsburgh, and UConn. Branden Oliver (tailback), Khalil Mack (linebacker), and Alex Neutz (wide receiver) are the only real stars to show up so far on the roster. The rest of the squad is young and unproven.

Former AD Warde Manuel, who hired Quinn, was a big Quinn-believer, but Manuel has since bolted to work at UConn. He told me before he left that Quinn had a minimum of three or four years to prove himself.

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New Athletic Director: We’ll see if new AD Danny White, who was hired in May and comes from Mississippi, will have as much patience with Quinn. I sat down with White last week and got to know him a bit. A full profile is coming in The Spectrum in August, but here are the basics:

1. White, 32, is the youngest Division I athletic director. He’s never been intimidated by being young but being the boss. He’s incredibly charismatic and confident, which you would expect considering he’s a 32-year-old big-time athletic director.

2. He’s a family man and he adores his wife and three kids. Important fact: He also enjoys Diet Pepsi.

3. He was a walk-on basketball player at Notre Dame under coach Mike Brey, but said he doesn’t play pick-up any more. He enjoys jogging for exercise.

4. He recently bought a house in Clarence, N.Y., a beautiful, affluent suburb of Buffalo, though for now he’s living in an off-campus apartment.

5. His father is the AD at Duke.

6. People have already started asking how long he’ll be around, since he’s young and successful and young up-and-comers typically bolt from mid-major schools. He said it’s no secret that he wants to rise to the top of his profession, but he believes he can do that at UB.

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Men’s Soccer: UB’s men’s soccer team was really solid last year. The Bulls knocked off a top-25 team (No. 18 Northern Illinois), and almost did so again in the MAC tournament, eventually falling 1-0 to NIU in the semifinals. The team is young, with only one senior on board, but the group owns mighty potential. The Bulls should hang around the upper-half of the MAC this year.

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Women’s Soccer: This team is the one you want to keep an eye on. Ainsley Wheldon is an absolute monster in net, one of the best keepers in the country, and the Bulls made the biggest turnaround in Division I last year (finishing 12-5-4 after going 1-16-2 in fall 2010). Buffalo has a real shot to win the conference this year. But whenever I say that, I’m wrong, so let’s pretend I didn’t type that last sentence.

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Volleyball: Last year was a disaster. From what I know, head coach Todd Kress is an incredible guy, but his team dreadfully underperformed last year (11-19 after going 18-16 the year before). This team is packed full of sophomores and juniors, so we’ll see if their experience last year will translate into a better finish this year. The squad needs to get back to the days when it was a feared, up-and-coming MAC opponent.

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That’s about all there is to it — if I missed anything, be sure to shoot me an email at eic@ubspectrum.com or just drop me a line on Twitter @aaroncmansfield.

20 simple reasons this year’s NBA Finals will be the coolest thing ever.

In Sports on June 11, 2012 at 12:52 pm

 

1. We get to see what Russell Westbrook will wear to at least four more press conferences.

As SportsCenter put it, he just might be Urkel’s athletic brother. And if he dresses that ridiculously for a regular postseason series, just imagine what we’ll see on the biggest stage. Expect overalls and goggles.

2. Two white guys will play.

Nick Collison and Mike Miller are actually major contributors to the two best teams in the league. When they’re playing, the leaping ability will be low and basketball IQ will be high.

3. The two best players in the world are going head-to-head.

Duh.

4. Arguably the league’s two best defensive stoppers will be in full lock-down mode.

With Bruce Bowen hanging up his sneakers to don a bow tie on ESPN, two of the best shut-down defenders in the league today are Shane Battier and Thabo Sefolosha.

5. Two of the NBA’s youngest head coaches will square off.

Erik Spoelstra, 41, and Scott Brooks, 46, are youngsters in the industry. While some have called for Spoelstra’s job, they’re both up-and-coming young minds in the NBA coaching ranks.

6. Buffalo native Lazar Hayward will play.

Well, sort of. He sits on OKC’s bench, but still represents the 716.

7. We’ll see the greatest home advantage in professional sports.

Sorry, Seattle. I really do feel for you. People in Oklahoma City love their team and they make it mighty difficult for any road opponent to win. Chesapeake Energy Arena is going to rocking.

8. Quite possibly the two ugliest power forwards in the modern NBA era will line up for Miami.

Frankenstein lookalike Udonis Haslem and dinosaur-esque Chris Bosh form a deadly combination.

9. Dwyane Wade will face a younger, dumber, more athletic version of himself.

Hard to imagine a more athletic Flash. ‘Sup, Russell Westbrook?

10. Eddy Curry is on Miami’s bench.

This point isn’t really relevant because he never sees the court, but remember when Curry was supposed to be the future of the NBA? Check out a great article on Curry here: http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/7887970/the-divergent-careers-miami-heat-eddy-curry-new-york-knicks-tyson-chandler

11. Casual basketball fans will realize Juwan Howard is alive and kicking.

Hard to believe a member of the Fab Five still plays in the NBA.

12. Derek Fisher will shoot for one more ring than Kobe.

Fisher is perhaps one of the most unsung heroes in NBA history. The guy is unselfish and he consistently knocks down big shots. Plus that lefty stroke is nothing short of perfection.

13. The two best “big threes” will go at it.

Yes, Boston has a good one, but Ray-Ray tailed off and Rondo was clearly the focus of that team this year.

14. James Harden’s beard.

Life would make sense if I could grow facial hair half as beautiful.

15. Former mid-major star Norris Cole (Cleveland State) plays for Miami.

He may have fallen in the ranks throughout the year, but mid-majors unite!

16. Serge Ibaka will do something freakishly athletic and it will be awesome.

The big dude is a poor man’s Dwight Howard. Someone’s going to give him a lot of money next summer.

17. Someone will finally point out that Joel Anthony’s hairline is at least twice as bad as LeBron’s.

Bron-Bron might be getting older, but I can’t be the only one who’s realized that his teammate boasts a hairline much further back.

18. The league’s two most entertaining teams are playing.

Keep the highlight reel rolling.

19. Kevin Durant will continue to hug his mom, Wanda, after every game in OKC.

And the sports world will continue to collectively “awww.”

20. Oklahoma City is bound to chant “MVP” for Kevin Durant at some point.

That’s gonna be pretty awkward for the actual MVP, LeBron. Perhaps Miami will respond with its own MVP chant and we’ll be stuck in a chant-off, which will only add to the series’ heavy amount of awesome.

We’ve got us.

In Sports on June 10, 2012 at 1:41 am

Everyone wants to have a lot of friends. Call it the Facebook effect, blame it on the fact that high school never ends, whatever you want. In my vast wisdom at age 22 though, I’m learning that quantity in friendships only gets me so far… I need some quality. I need some deeper friendships.

That’s where it gets hard. It’s not easy to develop those kinds of friendships. They take time and effort, and they don’t happen by accident, but they don’t happen strictly on purpose either. So, when one comes along, give it the weight it deserves.

I was fortunate enough to develop a bunch of these deeper friendships, and the magnet that brought those friendships together was nothing complex or really even extraordinary; it was basketball. In a matter of weeks, basketball brought me closer to 11 other guys than I would have ever gotten in years without it. That’s the beauty of team sports, especially when it’s hyper-competitive, varsity-level competition, and  especially when you have an insane galvanizing force like a psychotic coach. That’ll bind you together in a hurry.

Adidas has a famous ad that states, “Basketball is a brotherhood.” I imagine some might roll their eyes and accuse Adidas of making romanticized, hyperbolic statements for material gain. But I can dismiss such critics; I’ve lived that brotherhood. I shared a deep, genuine camaraderie with 11 other guys, even including some I couldn’t stand off the court. And if I were to see them today, that bond would still exist… I know it would.

Consider – if it’s still there with the guys I clashed with, imagine the depth of affection and devotion I feel for the ones I was closest too. Basketball truly is a brotherhood. My good buddy Aaron, a high school teammate of mine and fellow Gentleman, just wrote a great article (Surrendering Sport) that talks about how hard it was to stop playing competitive basketball… and boy, is it hard. But it isn’t just the lights, and the crowd, and the adrenaline that we miss. It’s the sweaty mass huddled in the locker room after the game, where the sweetest of joys and bitterest of defeats are borne not by the shoulders of one or two, but of twelve. In fact, that’s what I miss the most. No one outside those walls could understand what we were feeling, or what we had experienced – no one could commiserate with our sorrow or truly share in our ecstasy. Sometimes feelings are too much to bear on our own. That’s why we need those deeper friendships; because at the end of the day, when the bright lights go out and the crowd shuffles on home, all we have is within those four old, yellow, cinder block walls of the locker room.

We’ve got us.

Over the moon.

In Life on June 6, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Sleeping as eyes were affixed

Stirring. Peaceful. Perfect.

Head gracing the pillow as wonders danced

Eyes slowly opened as the gaze was caught red-handed

A quaint smile stole across the breath-taking visage

And in that, all was safe.

In that, all was nothing.

In that, time…breath…all is nothing.

In that, joy and fear could not hold a candle.

Over the moon, and the cow begs the question if I could love you more.

What’s in a name?

In Sports on June 1, 2012 at 3:38 pm

What’s in a name?

Everything and nothing but something worth noting.

It is the only word on the back of the jersey.

The 2nd field you fill on most applications.

The family name.

What’s in a name?

Everything and nothing but something worth noting.

Your name defines you. It brings to mind a history.

A grandfather…father…sibling…cousin that shared that surname.

It is the moniker that cannot be erased; the designation that cannot be forgotten.

You are what your name says you are. Or not. Guess it matters what your name says about you.

It is the portion of your personality that cannot be swayed. Or can it? That is up to you.

So again, what’s in a name?

For when you step onto that field, you are a number and a name.

You are an idea and a position. A collision of talent and placement.

And when the game is over, all of your effort will be attributed to a number and a name.

Are you the one with little aspiration? The star? The glue guy? The overachiever? The next man up?

All of that will not fit across the back of your jersey.

The only label that appears is a name.

So I ask you: what will your name say about you?

Everything and nothing but something worth noting.

Still looking up.

In Life on June 1, 2012 at 2:23 pm

I

Looking up from the grass where he sat when he told her

The tail lights faded into the aphotic as he strained to recover

Draw back the words he didn’t mean…remember the words he should have said

But the tail lights faded east

He stood looking up at the red moon

An opaque maroon sewn in the fabric of midnight

Her words still burned in his ears

Tried. Wouldn’t. Promised. Gave up.

And in a moment, he was awake.

A chill ventured down his spine.

He rolled over to her and kissed her softly on her neck; that spot between her ear and the beginning of her hairline.

As she stirred softly and continued to dream, he wondered what she saw when she closed her eyes.

He rolled onto his back, still looking up.

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