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Hanging it up: Recent trend of retiring raises concern

02/27/16 by Matthew S. Vandriak



Last week, Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Heath Miller announced he was retiring from the NFL after 11 seasons. Miller still had one year remaining on his contract, but opted against returning for a 12th season. Also last week, New England Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo announced that he is retiring as well. Mayo is 29 years old. This comes after Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch announced his retirement, at age 29 as well. It seems that early retirement is becoming the new trend amongst NFL players.
Rumors are also swirling that Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson is going to retire as well. While Miller was in the twilight of his career, Mayo, Lynch, and especially Johnson seemed to have several more seasons of good football left in them. But with growing knowledge of the after effects professional football has on a players life, it seems early retirement is something that could be a crisis for the NFL.
With more and more information coming out regarding CTE, the long term effects concussions have on a players brain, and more and more former players talking about their quality of life after football, it shouldn't be that surprising that more players are calling it a career early. Last year, 19 players who were age 30 or younger retired from the NFL. That number is up considerably from 5 years ago, when only 5 players retired at the age of 30 or younger.

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If Johnson retires, he'd leave nearly $16 million dollars on the table. But he's also made over $100 million dollars in his career since starting in the NFL in 2007. With players making more money and realizing the greater risks that a long NFL career can take on their bodies, it only makes sense that guys like Johnson are retiring early.
The trend had been that most players would play until they either weren't wanted anymore or until their bodies could no longer play at the level required to be in the NFL. But with player salaries being what they are, a new trend could be starting. If a player is smart and invests right, one NFL contract should be enough to set him up financially for the rest of his life without having to play a long and physically devastating career.
Could the NFL be in for a crisis in the near future? There seems to be more concerns about youths playing football because of the injury risk associated with the game and more and more information coming out about the effects football have on a player. So is a reduced number of players on the horizon as well? Combine this with early retirements and could the NFL have a future issue when it comes to their player pool?
This is definitely a while down the road before it becomes an issue. But it's something that the NFL is going to have to address at some point. It seems the trend of being able to enjoy life after football is becoming more of a priority for players than playing for the love of the game or cashing a paycheck is.



First step: Concussions can't be overlooked even on high school level

02/11/16 by Rennie Detore



Will Smith may have been left off the award list for the movie "Concussion," but the ramifications and just how much the movie resonated with the masses is already being felt.
The most recent is on a level that has nothing to do with lights, camera but the action and hard hitting still is there: say hello to the first high school football player that said "no" to football and cited the "Concussion" movie as reason why he's hanging up his cleats.
A high school senior in Mars (PA), John Castello, turned down offers to play college football and said the movie "Concussion" allowed him to arrive at this revelation that football isn't going to be his game going forward.

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The significance of the decision by Castello is hard not to take notice of: he's perhaps ushering in a trend of decision making as it relates to football and consciously bypassing the sport and its would be ill effects.
Plenty of NFL players, present and past, cite just how much the game of professional football has destroyed them for their post playing career lives. What they always fail to mention, however, is that they are the ones who chose to play a game that can be described as everything from "impactful" to "violent," with one high speed collision after another.
Granted, the argument that the NFL didn't have concussion protocol or show much care for their players 10 or 20 years ago is valid, but the notion that these players are victims is hard to swallow given the knowingness of just how the game takes years off your life. When someone slides a multi million dollar contract in front of you, the idea that you'll have some sort of post NFL playing ramifications goes out the window and is pushed to the background when someone in a tie hands you a pen.
On this level, the high school one, you have to think that as good of a basketball player Castello is, he left behind a scholarship that easily would have taken care of his entire ticket through school. The idea of being affected by concussions was more than enough to sway Castello off the football field.
Will more players find that same clarity when it comes to football and playing a game that is as hard hitting as it gets?
Most likely as more information about concussions comes to fruition, not so much the affects of them but players coming out from previous years talking about how head injuries have ruined their lives.
Does this mean no high school player is ever going to play football again? Obviously, that's not going to happen as long as the lure of the biggest and most popular sport looms large. What Castello did was set the stage for one element to finally find a voice: the one that allows you to make a decision predicated on more than prosperity.



Yes Man: Why Bryan beat odds and defied WWE and its big man approach

02/10/16 by Rennie Detore



Do you know who Daniel Bryan is?
Bryan is a WWE superstar, who just retired after 16 years as a professional wrestler, most of which was spent setting the independent wrestling scene on fire as an undersized athlete who was mixing it up in a sport that catered to those cut out of the Hulk Hogan and John Cena mold.
Bryan was forced to retire due to complications from a neck injury and several concussions over the course of his career. Bryan achieved his fame when he arrived in WWE, but his rise to being one of the greatest WWE superstars of all time hardly was the fairy tale one would hope when you finally get to the top company in the field in which you work.

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Bryan never was positioned to be a top guy, more of a middle of the pack work horse who could carry other lumbering wrestlers to good matches, earning a better living then he received on the indy circuit and keeping quiet for the next few years while other less talented guys got pushed to the top of the card.
Along the way, something happened.
"Yes."
That one word changed Bryan's life for the better and made him a top draw in the WWE. Bryan started pointing both hands in the air, with his pointer finger straight up, and yelling "Yes" over and over again, and the crowd bit. Big time.
Of course, he actually started saying "no" as a proverbial bad guy, but the crowd ate up the entertainment value, and the rest was history. Bryan was getting cheered louder than the likes of Cena, Randy Orton and Dave Batista, among others.
Bryan wasn't supposed to get this popular, and WWE had no choice but to listen to the overwhelming audience reaction to Bryan. Throughout the course of Bryan's time in WWE, the company didn't so much push him as much as the audience wouldn't allow him to go away.
But as much as the general audience wants to say the "YES" movement was what made Bryan the best performer in the WWE for the last five years (you could make a case for C.M. Punk as well), it was his ability to win over an audience with not only a gimmick and slogan but a depth of talent and a will to be more than just a small guy that the world of professional wrestling would forget.
Gimmicks in relationship to professional wrestling only go as far as the guy who has it. Catch phrases are of the same ilk. Bryan's "Yes" wouldn't have worked if Bryan wasn't likable, a superior athlete and one of the best wrestlers that has ever lived.
As much as promoters and wrestling companies have a love affair with guys that weight 300 pounds and are 6 feet 5 inches tall, you can't teach desire. You can't learn how to live and breathe a profession the way Bryan did.
He wrestled in front of 70 people and 70,000, and no matter the capacity Bryan gave it the same effort each time.
So who exactly is Daniel Bryan, now that his career in professional wrestling is over?
He was a wrestler first, one of the "good guys" in and out of the ring, and he'll also be sorely missed as a man who didn't let size or a sport's perception hold him back.



Toying around: Buying smart phones for kids depends on maturity level

02/03/16 by Rennie Detore



My 13 year old niece has a smart phone. She's had one now for a year. Every time I see her, she's doing something on it.
Texting, calling, playing games and simply ignoring the outside world. Not that long ago, she'd never even think about a phone or interacting electronically with friends, but rather stayed more dialed into having fun without the toys and gadgets.
Now, my 13 year old niece is an honor roll student, in all the advanced classes and will drop her phone in a heartbeat to head outside to play softball, badminton or anything else that gets her up and moving and being, what most kids should be, and that is active.

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So I'm not one of those overprotective adults that is telling you in this article that smart phones make for dumb kids. She's not dumb; my niece is very intelligent.
My concern is more about that parents or guardians might be helping this process along and not paying all that much attention to how their kids interact with phones, toys, games and others of that ilk.
If my niece, at 13, wasn't doing well in school, and was losing her grip on being able to communicate effectively (things that smart phones tend to do as far as losing the ability to talk and interact on a social level or simply be distracted all the time), my sister undoubtedly would be stripping her of those privileges or not even would have let her have a phone at all.
But is everyone that is a parent or guardian following that same protocol?
The truth is, I can't believe that is the case. I think kids and smart phones, gadgets and other forms of technology simply don't mix, at least not universally for all kids. I believe some kids can handle it, and others can't.
You also have to define the age in which your child actually needs this sort of device. My niece is involved in a plethora of in school and after school activities, and has plenty of friends and time with them.
Having a phone and a phone number (yes, remember those) is somewhat essential and convenient for everyone in the family that has had to pick her up from somewhere. But far too often parents, grandparents and anyone else who falls under the "gift giver" category tends to ignore the practicality element and age, and instead feels as though a 10 year old needs a cell phone.
Truth be told, that's insane and a really dumb decision to make. Again, just my opinion on what I've seen with my own nieces.
I'm not a parent, but I know that I'd temper my thoughts of cell phones and gadgets when it comes to my children and just how quickly I'd be ready to turn the reigns of technology over to them before I feel it is necessary and appropriate.



Fighting chance: Rousey deserves chance to regain title but can she win?

01/20/16 by Mike Catania



Ronda Rousey's rise to the top of the UFC was nothing short of remarkable. Her fall was even more astonishing.
Rousey was dominant, strong and had all the crossover appeal in the world, and all that went away only a few short months ago when she was knocked out and beaten for the first time by a relative unknown (as far as mainstream goes) in Holly Holm.
Holm is the reigning champion, and Rousey has been quiet since her huge ego got put in check when she talked a good game but had a bad result when Holm silenced her quite easily by vanquishing the then champion with relative ease.

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Rousey never stood a chance; Holm was dominant.
The rest is history.
Rousey went into hiding and with good reason; she was a huge talker, never one to back down or assume that her skills or dominance would be stopped so coldly by anyone, much less Holm. Rousey was already looking past Holm to a pay day potentially with the other queen of the UFC jungle: Cyborg.
So now, Rousey has finally spoken about fighting and wants to get her rematch in 2016 at some point. The call to come back by Rousey isn't surprising, even though some speculated she'd be done with UFC thanks to her mainstream commitments, mainly movies.
But Rousey is a competitor and losing in the fashion she did won't sit well with her, nor should it. She deserves her rematch and probably this time won't take Holm so lightly. Holm, for those in the know, is an accomplished fighter and those experts that said be careful because Holm is not the best opponent for Rousey (suggesting that the matchup would pose problems for Rousey) were the first ones pumping their fists and pushing out their chests when Holm cold cocked Rousey and ended her meteoric run to the top of the UFC world.
Rousey might seem more humbled by her loss, but her latest discussion about a rematch wasn't full blown, can't be beat Rousey temperament but she hardly seemed shamed by the defeat, either.
Whether Rousey wins or loses to Holm to some degree doesn't matter given that her career beyond fighting is already set in stone. You can make a strong argument that Holm, who has a title defense coming up in mid 2016, is the better fighter and always will be.
That won't deter Rousey, nor should it. Her chances of actually beating Holm are slim, but Rousey and the rematch alone will bring her a payday and UFC another huge gate and pay per view buys number.
Either way, Rousey remains a commodity with or without the win.



Hitting the Wal Mart: Closing of Wal Mart stores not surprising whatsoever

01/17/16 by Rennie Detore



Let the downsizing begin.
Wal Mart is just the latest retailer to start cutting, and this time it's not just jobs specifically but stores closing.
The nation's number one retailer is closing 154 stores in the United States and more than 200 worldwide, and that staggering figure shouldn't surprise anyone. The Wal Mart stock isn't doing so hot and hasn't been for quite some time, and the thought of the company closing stores seems long overdue.

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The Wal Mart blueprint of pushing Super Stores as their model quickly became a thing of the past when consumer started to skip the buy it all in one place mentality and instead have started to enjoy a smaller floor plan and more of an "express" feel to what they want out of a retailer.
Furthermore, if holiday shopping is any indication of how customers feel about going to stores to shop, then closing various Wal Marts throughout the United States shouldn't come as a surprise, either.
Customers are all about convenience and price, and online shopping has both at a very high rate of satisfaction and efficiency. And with that, Wal Mart might have held out for quite some time as far as closing stores, but they can only look at the books for so long before they realize a change is in order.
The other elephant in the Wal Mart room is how these stores seem to pop up so randomly and in the most questionable locations. It wasn't that long ago when Starbucks starting to close a multitude of stores due to saturation of the marketplace with their coffee, snacks, teas and everything else that is related to the brand.
There's a Starbucs on every corner, and there's only so much coffee to go around as far as people having five different stores to choose from within the span of only a few miles. Some argue that Wal Mart is the same in that you don't have to go very far between Wal Marts, and thus their research on population density and return on investment for some of their properties reveals that there's only so much need for Wal Mart when they're built only a few miles from one another.
The latest statistic on the Wal Mart closing suggests that a majority of the Wal Marts being closed have a close proximity to another Wal Mart erected nearby. That's bad business in that when business was booming, stores were being built left and right and something as simple as population density or the amount of people and money to go around never came up at the decision making table on that day.
The end result is Wal Mart starting to close stores and begin working backward to go forward as a viable entity that turns the corner toward being relevant and more profitable than it was in 2015.



Ball player: Why winning Powerball comes with slew of choices

01/12/16 by Rennie Detore



So you want to be an instant billionaire, right? Who doesn't?
That is the attention centering on Powerball and the jackpot that crept over a billion dollars as the world waits for the drawing on Wednesday, January 13, 2016.
From office pools of people chipping in $10 and $20 to go in as a group to the husband and wife that is hopeful that winning can actually happen, you have to love the excitement of a long shot.

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A really long shot.
Chance are, you're not going to win, and even that slew of office workers aren't going to be able to win and watch the entire office go home in a walk out of epic proportions. But part of the allure of Powerball is the what if, the idea that if you won, what you would do or how you would spend the money.
Naturally, financial institutions and experts around the world are quick to point out that if you somehow, some way in a miraculous fashion that can only be described as a miracle win Powerball and have the money to yourself that you should be certain that you're making all the right money moves after that fateful occurrence has taken place.
Take for instance the idea of a lump sum payment versus being able to take it over a period of time. Experts in money will tell you that it's better to take the money in a lump sum and get over the idea that you'll lose about half of it up front to taxes. Yes, that's the reality of the situation when you win that kind of cash. But don't fret; it's part of the business at hand when you win that kind of fortune.
And that money still is on the table to be part of your income tax for years to come. From interest payments to the fact that you can't ignore it doesn't exist, that money is yours from positive buying to the burden of having it as an asset.
Pony up to the lottery machine, pick your numbers and close your eyes and keep your fingers crossed. Have the rabbit's foot in your hand, horseshoe over your door way or anything else that will help with luck.
So if, no when, of course, you can revel in the cash that is coming your way even if it's going to be less than you thought. The important thing is figuring out how to receive it, spend it and that even though you'll have it forever essentially, you can't be silly with how its spent .



Hats off: Female reporters in Chicago told to lose the hats

01/10/16 by Rennie Detore



As colder weather finally arrived in the midwest and east, reporters out in the field have tucked away their wind breakers and surprisingly short sleeves for December and January and replaced them with some much needed warmth.
Only to get the cold shoulder from their bosses.
This happened in the Windy City, Chicago of course, when a station producer told a female reporter to not wear a hat when reporting from the field, even though temperatures were hat appropriate.

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The station general manager from WFLD-channel 32's Good Day Chicago, quickly jumped into the fray and said that hats were perfectly fine as long as they were appropriate, which might suggest a difference of opinion from producer to manager or just some miscommunication that would suggest the memo might need reworded.
The idea that a reporter in a city like Chicago can't wear a hat is ludicrous, given that temperatures dip well into the negatives once the bulk of winter hits its stride. But alas, the station producer in question did say that it was perfectly fine if the temperature hit below 20 degrees.
Gee, thanks Mr. Dan Salamone, producer for the show. His exact words were that the female reporters would "look a lot better without hats." The comment can be perceived as sexist for one but also flat, out dumb given that it seems to put the reporters in harm's way should temperatures get below zero.
Of course, you can deduce that Salamone, didn't actually say not hats allowed but his words still should be met with a lot of head shaking.
The station GM, Dennis Welsh, deserves credit for attempting to step in as quickly as possible and kill the comments off before the firestorm got out of hand. He quickly injected some common sense into the equation and undoubtedly will let his station producer know that anything that squeezes out of his mouth should be, at the very least, be considered before it actually hits the internet or papers or whatever other medium decides to jump all over something that has to be considered a misstep of words.
Welsh went on to say that it is "5,000 percent not a station policy" to further the point that no one ever told anyone that hats were a no go.
Whether or not hats look bad is irrelevant in this situation but rather a station producer who said something he shouldn't have. The comment should go away quickly thanks to the GM but still is quite the lesson on what not to say to stir up a situation that quite frankly is hardly even a discussion point.



Resolution evolution: Why your New Year's plan needs stripped down and simplified

01/01/16 by Chasity McLeod



When was the last time you kept a new year's resolution for yourself?
Has been a while, perhaps; maybe even a decade or two, since you decided to do something different this year versus last, and chances are you haven't kept any of them.
But don't fret or feel bad; it happens quite a bit.

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Whether you're talking about weight loss, quitting smoking or any other bad habit or eating better, chances are you've had all the best intentions in the world, but by March or April you're back to smoking and those two per day stops at McDonald's have gone from two, not to one, but to three.
And as far as another popular resolution (saving money), that isn't happening all that well, either. In some perverse cases, you actually don't save money but rather you lose and go back to spending as much or more the second time around.
So why exactly do people make New Year's Resolutions and fail to keep them?
A lot of it has to do with results not really being held within realistic expectations. A friend of mine tried to quit smoking and paid nearly a thousand dollars for hypnosis, and the first round of treatment and appointments worked for a few days, then he was right back to smoking. The hypnosis center asked my friend if he wants a second appointment, and my friend declined instead opting to try a patch and be out more than just a few hundred dollars.
The same goes for money and exercise or fitness. You didn't gain 20 or 30 pounds in a few weeks, so what makes you believe you can drop that kind of weight right now. Losing that kind of weight can take months so waiting is paramount and knowing you're doing the right thing, and the results often take longer than the average person is willing to wait.
If you have a resolution that rings true to you, such as saving money, you tend to be more focused and determined. So when deciding on something that is deemed worthy of your New Year's resolution, make sure you actually care to keep it. If you don't care about eating healthy and never have, that as a New Year's resolution isn't going to do much to keep you focused, for example.
New Year's resolutions are more than popular; they've become a must for the masses. Having one and keeping it are two different things, so when you've landed on something you want to change, make sure you realize that change isn't going to occur overnight.



Soft Rock: Why Johnson at Wrestlemania is just fine for now

12/30/15 by Rennie Detore



A quick glance at programming being put forth by World Wrestling Entertainment shows a huge void in two key elements that make professional wrestling so popular: entertainment and compelling writing.
In its place is a sense of urgency for all the wrong reasons, and characters and story telling that is devoid of any sort of drama or interest that once defined the WWE in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Granted, WWE has dealt with a plethora of injuries, most notably star Daniel Bryan, who still is trying to get clearance to wrestle after neck surgery. The company also lost mega star CM Punk to the Ultimate Fighting Championship world when Punk inked a deal to fight, not wrestle.

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But WWE no longer is good at creating superstars or stars in general. They have a talented roster, but no one outside of John Cena that can generate any sort of star power that puts, as long time announcer Jim Ross would say, "butts in the seats."
You can argue that head honcho Vince McMahon and his daughter Stephanie and son in law Triple H aren't good at finding talent and pushing it as the next big thing. No one has unseated Cena, and those on the inside of WWE will tell you that no one has been able to reach out and grab that proverbial brass ring.
In actuality, WWE has been relying on the past and special guests and former stars to carry the load.
Look no further than the announcement that mega movie star and former WWE superstar Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is going to be at Wrestlemania 32 this year in Dallas, as WWE attempts to sell a hundred thousand seats in Cowboys Stadium.
The Rock said he'll be there, but at what capacity is yet to be determined. But this move feels more like desperation rather than WWE asking back one of its original and most successful performers.
The Rock could conceivably wrestle Brock Lesnar, another part time star WWE calls on to fulfill only a handful of important dates per year. Leans versus Rock would sell tickets and be a suitable main event for that stadium show, their biggest of the year.
In the end, however, this is another example of WWE relying on what they did, not figuring out what to do to extend the product beyond their comfort zone. Of the new breed of talent, you have several choices worthy of being pushed to the top of the card.
Until McMahon and company start seeing the future a little clearer, the past will always trump anything as the safety net WWE simply can't, or want, to escape.



Home found: Why Home Alone can show you all about holiday safety

12/26/15 by Jackie Russo



Macaulay Culkin popped up recently in what can only be described as an adult oriented short online that depicted him as himself, although he rehashes what his Kevin McAllister character went through as a child in the wildly popular and successful Christmas movie, "Home Alone."
He goes to say how he was left at home, his parents didn't care and he had to fend off his house from burglars that didn't even curse.
Yes, "Home Alone" was PG, and the then 8 year old Culkin scored big as the lovable Kevin in a movie that went on to be a box office smash. The movie undoubtedly has been watched countless times over the years as one of the more played and lauded holiday films in the history of that genre (or comedy in general).

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Often lost in the last act of the movie, where Kevin takes care of Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, the actors who play the two intruders, is just how unsafe the holidays can be if you're not careful. Granted, you won't have to dodge paint cans flying from the stair case or worry about a door knob being too hot when you try to open it, but there's plenty from "Home Alone" that we take and use for the purposes of not having an injury or accident as a result of winter weather.
The easiest scene to pull from is the very beginning of the chicanery where Stern and Pesci separate and go to the front of the house and down the basement steps outside. Both slip on ice and fall comically of course to the ground. The truth is slips, trips and falls account for a huge number of holiday and winter accidents, so the way to combat this is always have three points of contact when you ascend or descend steps. That would include using handrails at all times, but also make sure you test them to see if putting even a little bit of weight on it is going to result in that falling along with you.
Two other scenes that come to mind feature Pesci and Stern slipping and falling on toys left deliberately, but that is all too much of a reality for parents and kids who can easily slip and fall on toys left lying about on Christmas morning. That goes for the ornaments, too, that may have fallen off the tree (think Daniel Stern coming in through the window). In addition. always be sure to check toys for small pieces that can become dislodged or left about, which can be a choking hazard for younger children.
"Home Alone" is one of our holiday treasures in the form of film, but beyond the fun and hijinks in the movie, you can pull from it ways to make the holiday season not only happy but healthier in the form of safety.



Underlying symptoms: Concussion movie has every right to scare NFL

12/23/15 by Rennie Detore



The NFL and concussions have been a hot topic for quite some time, especially in recent years as the effects of players and years of taking brutal hits for their trade, has finally started to get noticed.
But the spotlight for concussions has finally reached its full effect with the release of the movie of the same name: "Concussion," which stars Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu. The synopsis of the movie has Smith's character discovering what has come to be known as CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy and how one man tried to raise awareness of it as a crusader against the multi billion dollar machine that is the NFL.
The film has been lauded and praised both for Smith and his acting chops and how spot on the film is as it relates to a number of issues, mainly how the NFL initially wasn't all that interested in concussions years ago, but now is trying to play the role of pioneer.

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Kudos to the NFL for welcoming the criticism that is largely warranted for mainstream media fans who are watching "Concussion" and wondering how the NFL is going to handle this negative publicity.
The NFL released its typically public relations fare by saying how much it pays attention to player safety and concussions specifically. The CTE discussion isn't going anywhere, however, any time soon.
Nearly 90% of players as part of a research endeavor at Boston University tested positive for CTE. The reality of the situation is that CTE and being an NFL superstar go hand in hand. The worst part for the NFL is that the much publicized suicide of Junior Seau, the standout linebacker for the San Diego Chargers, who died from a self inflicted gunshot wound in 2012 and also suffered from CTE.
To the NFL's credit, they've really enforced concussion protocol and have a strict policy on a player being cleared to return to the game or the following week.
But despite the NFL and it trying to do what is right, they have every right to worry about CTE and the findings that continue to pour out. The movie "Concussion" certainly isn't going to help, either. Every time a player ends up with a concussion and in the rare instances when that person stays in or goes back in a game, you are going to hear that the NFL is out of control and that they don't care or aren't strict enough.
No matter how many times they move kickoffs back, eliminate returns with crash and burn style plays or add thickness to the helmet, the NFL is in a no win situation.
As much as the NFL has its crosses to bear, you have to be realistic about the game at hand. It's a violent game and one that comes with its pluses and minuses for those who decide to make it their profession. Players get paid well, and they know the repercussions of what they're doing.
The NFL has to continue, however, to help players who didn't have the concussion rules and regulations when they played and also beef up what its doing in 2015 and beyond. The movies and negative press will come, but the NFL has to act as though they're right on board with all that is said or seen about concussions.



War machine: Star Wars shatters records but this return different from last

12/21/15 by Rennie Detore



In 1999, Star Wars returned to the silver screen after a hiatus of 16 years with "The Phantom Menace" and proceeded to break box office records at that time. The same thing just happened over the weekend with "The Force Awakens," but with one huge difference.
"The Phantom Menace" made fans of Star Wars excited at first just because there was a no movie coming out and the first since 1983's "Return of the Jedi." What transpired was a cinematic train wreck that easily was one of the worst movies of all time and easily the worst of all the "Star Wars" fare at that time.
"The Phantom Menace" was two hours and change of a movie that looked as thought George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, had 16 hours to write a script rather than 16 years. The characters were bland, the story thin and everything about the movie screamed formulaic and boring from start to finish. Even the scene between villain Darth Maul and our Jedi heroes was intense in a rather campy way.

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Fast forward to the latest Star Wars fare, "The Force Awakens," which set all sorts of box office records this past weekend, taking in hundreds of millions of dollars in the first weekend (238 million to be exact).
The major difference between Menace and Force Awakens is the quality of the storytelling, the director and the overall reception of the film. Plenty of critics have a lot of positives to say about "The Force Awakens," the first Star Wars movie put out by Disney and new director J.J. Abrahams. Lucas is out of the picture, and that's a good things since his prequels for the Star Wars franchise were poor at best and hideous reincarnations of what was a classic trilogy.
The Force Awakens picks up where Lucas' last film left off and takes off with a heaping helping of nostalgia and new characters and a story that, while not exactly thick and hefty, works on the level that it is trying to do: simple story telling and characters that matter.
You can argue that Lucas didn't have Han Solo at his disposal or Princess (now General) Leia with the Phantom Menace, but that doesn't excuse him for writing a poor origin story about the would be Darth Vader and how he turned evil. The story was flimsy in Menace, and the acting even worse. You could say that about all three Lucas prequels; they just were flat and bland.
The Force Awakens made Star Wars fans wait 11 years, and Menace 16. Those long spans of dry spells for Star Wars fans are comparable.
But the comparison stop there, and Force Awakens far exceeded expectations as a thrill ride of epic proportions versus its counterpart Menace, a mess from start to finish.



Rose colored glasses: MLB great is delusional to think Hall is an option

12/17/15 by Rennie Detore



Dear Pete Rose: Enough already.
So, I get it, you're the all time hits leader and you're one of the more intense and hardest working players in the history of Major League Baseball.
You played with such hustle and intensity that you earned the nickname of that very status. And at the end of the day, you probably deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.

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But you bet on baseball while you were a manager. So for that, you're not getting into the Hall of Fame.
Not now, not then. Not ever.
And I'm perfectly fine with that. You left the game you "loved" in shame when you decided to do something wrong. And in a day and age when doing something wrong often is forgiven in sports quite a bit, you're being held accountable for your actions. 
Kudos to Major League Baseball for sticking to its original decision, and making it a point to tell you that the Hall of Fame, enshrinement in this historic institution just isn't going to happen.
Nor should it. Rose was a remarkable player, but he doesn't deserve a spot in the Hall of Fame.
I'm tired of sports looking the other way for the sake of wins and championships when its player do dumb things. Between betting on baseball or domestic violence and other serious issues, these leagues play to win, not to showcase the difference between right and wrong.
Players aren't held to the supposed higher standard that most should be given that athlete status does still mean something with the spotlight of millions watching your every move.
More importantly, you're supposed to be a smart, intelligent and thoughtful human being, athlete or not, you still have to make the right decisions.
Rose didn't.
You can argue that others before him in other sports and even his own deserve the same fate as Rose does. And to some degree, players who cheated and took performance enhancing drugs or some sort of steroid are sitting patiently waiting for their call to the Hall of Fame as well.
I hope they don't get it. I hope Rose doesn't get in, either.
The reason is simple, and has nothing to do with Rose as a player.
It has to do with Rose as the man, the manager and the human being who screwed up and is now pandering for forgiveness. Baseball is staying strong and steadfast in what it wants: Rose out of the Hall.
As far as Rose goes, he needs to stop this pathetic display and let the conversation about baseball's best still include his name but thinking he is going to get his day in the sun for a career tainted by gambling, then he's in for a collision with reality that is much harsher than any slide "Charlie Hustle" had during his playing days.



Force fooled: Lucas liked new Star Wars but so what?

12/06/15 by Rennie Detore



As the new "Star Wars" movie is set to open on December 18, plenty of critics and those who have been privy to see the movie are weighing in on the highly anticipated Episode VII, "The Force Awakens."
Ironically enough, somebody apparently woke up Star Wars creator George Lucas to get his thoughts, too.
Lucas said he enjoyed the new movie.

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Wait, what? That's it. He liked it.
The brief statement from Lucas pretty much sums up the hum, drum and rather boring and quiet demeanor the Star Wars creator has and just how inconsequential he's become as a film maker and has been for almost 40 years.
Lucas liked the movie, but does anyone even care what he thinks or his opinion in general?
Lucas is the man, the myth and the legend behind the first six episodes of Star Wars, the first three of course being Episodes IV, V & VI, and then the prequels beginning in 1999.
Lucas' tenure as the creative driver behind the Star Wars franchise is a mixed bag. Obviously his first try was exceptional but clearly he lost his way with Episodes I, II and III. The latter was quite the embarrassing endeavor for Lucas and you have to wonder if his creativity was questioned and Disney wanted nothing to do with him when they asked J.J. Abrams to direct the new movie.
Lucas lost a ton of credibility when "The Phantom Menace" in 1999, the highly anticipated Star Wars prequel and the movie that fans waited 16 years to see since "Return of The Jedi" in 1983. Lucas laid an egg. The story was awful, the new characters annoying and nothing about the movie was even moderately intriguing. The villain was poorly used and young Darth Vader was hardly the vexing character as a child that we would have wanted to see.
The next two movies weren't much better, mostly due to a rather campy story telling and Hayden Christiansen as Anakin Skywalker, a poor casting decision to say the least.
Of course, Lucas spouting off his thoughts on his baby, the Star Wars franchise, will gain some headlines due to his name value. But that's it; that's all that is left when Lucas speaks is the fact that he created the Star Wars brand and legacy. Just because he created it, doesn't mean he's done a lot to advance it creatively or do anything to add to the legacy of it. The brand is untouchable, but there's a reason Lucas isn't involved in this round and he proved why when he decided to unearth the franchise 16 years ago.
Lucas is free to chime in about the post Star Wars that doesn't have his stamp on it, but expecting people to take notice at this point would be wishful thinking.



Dark days: Why Black Friday failed and some retailers are really struggling

11/29/15 by Rennie Detore



The numbers are in, and "Black Friday" finished with more of a whimper than a wow.
You also can include Thanksgiving Day shopping on those figures as well, as both days were down quite a bit as the holiday shopping season got started.
The idea that Black Friday and in store shopping as a whole is down quite a bit shouldn't surprise anyone given that trend has been the same for quite some time with the rise of the internet and online shopping.

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Most consumers tend to be smart about their shopping and although some so called "door buster" deals could trump what you can get online, the masses are making a bee line for their computers in the hopes of doing two things: avoiding crowds and not having to deal with actually even leaving the house to get all their shopping needs done.
From parking to pushing and shoving, the mall scene is angry and horribly outdated. Malls across the United States are struggling and closing left and right due to the lack of demand for brick and mortar tangible stores much less these giant mall complexes that aren't really price conscious and fall victim to the likes of Wal Mart and other one stop shopping that is in person.
But the real issue is online and the propensity for much of the country to sit back on their couch and order, check out and be on their way without ever taking off their pajamas. That scenario for most ends any discussion about leaving the house for certain but mainly having to fight the craziness that is in store shopping.
The decision to buy and shop online moving forward isn't going to be a difficult one for consumers. Cyber Monday starts tomorrow, November 30, 2015, and analysts are expecting it to help 2015 and the shopping season into something spectacular as far as one of the better years retail will have from a revenue standpoint.
Some retailers are really feeling it, namely Sears. The once mighty Sears is stuck in retail limbo; they're not good enough in electronics to compete with Best Buy and appliances and tools tend to fall in the lap of the likes of Lowes and Home Depot. Sears has no clothes worth buying really as far as style standpoint and certainly doesn't stack up to any clothing retailer realistically.
So if you're Sears you shouldn't be all that optimistic about a wonderful holiday. For those companies that are wanting to have it all, they'll have to understand that most of what you achieve revenue wise is going to happen online.



Entertainment resourceful: Does WWE have it in them to find success again

11/28/15 by Rennie Detore



Ratings are at an all time low, the worst since 1997. General interest in the product is waning, and the once dominance that was World Wrestling Entertainment in relationship to pop culture and popularity has fallen considerably since wrestling's last "boom" period since the late 1990s.
So what is the once mighty sports entertainment company supposed to do in the face of a product that is hardly creative and a viable roster of talented athletes that just haven't connected with an audience, thus leading to ratings that have dipped below three million viewers for its Monday night "Raw" program?
You have to question the current crop of writers and executives that are currently running the show, week in and week out. And that starts with three people: Vince McMahon, his daughter Stephanie McMahon Levesque and her husband Paul Levesque, better known as Triple H.

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This three headed monster seems terribly out of touch with the WWE audience, and a lot of what ails the company starts with these three.
The Monday night show is just a microcosm of what is wrong with WWE. The show itself is tired, old and hasn't changed in 20 years. The show opens with a promo, most of the time from an authority figure, whether that was Vince or now Stephanie and Triple H, who go on to antagonize the "good guy" and make the main event for the evening's show. Everything in between seems random and totally lacking direction.
Aside from those in charge seemingly lost as far as what to do, you have a slew of performers who have been stuck in the middle of the pack (or as they say in wrestling, the "card") and haven't developed one way or another to be the kind of talent that draws money.
Vince and his pack of writers and executives can talk all they want about wanting someone to reach out and grab that proverbial brass ring and take the opportunity to be the next Stone Cold Steve Austin or The Rock, but that is such broad brush painting that the McMahon and Levesque family should be wearing coveralls.
The truth is the WWE has talented wrestlers, talented athletes and performers. WWE isn't taking a chance on them, isn't giving them the platform to succeed. They're holding them back. WWE is about opportunity, and that point won't be argued, but Austin and The Rock won over audiences and earned millions and gained fans galore because WWE allowed them the chance to pass or fail by putting them out there and saying "go get it." 
You can't bemoan or fault the current crop of what ifs if they haven't succeeded because they're given four minutes to wrestle and no time to talk and connect with the audience. Austin wouldn't have been "Stone Cold" in this atmosphere and "The People's Champion, The Rock" would be floundering at the moment, too.
The ratings are bad, the show is stagnant and no one cares about the product anymore. WWE isn't water cooler talk and hasn't been for at least a decade. The only way WWE pulls out of this funk is finding superstars on their roster that can take that next step and be great.
But they'll never do that when McMahon and company don't even think they're that good.



Beamer of light: Virginia Tech coach is class act

11/25/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak



In case you missed it over the weekend, Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer coached his final home game for the Hokies. Metallica whose "Enter Sandman" the Hokies take the field to, recorded a special message for him. ESPN put together a touching tribute. And despite losing to North Carolina in overtime, Beamer's players carried him off the field. All of it for a very deserving coach who coined the term "Beamer Ball" for his emphasis on a complete team effort.
Frank Beamer took over as head coach at Virginia Tech in January of 1987. Now in his 29th season, he has won 235 games and his teams have qualified for a bowl game each of the past 22 seasons. That's quite impressive considering when he took over as head coach, Virginia Tech had only been to 6 bowl games ever prior to Beamer's arrival. Beamer went 5 and 17 his first two seasons in Blacksburg, due in part to scholarship reductions stemming from violations of the previous coaching regime.
But Beamer took Virginia Tech from being an afterthought to becoming a power in both the Big East and then the ACC. Beamer's Hokies were Big East champions 3 times and have been ACC champions 4 times. Beamer was the AP and AFCA Coach of the year in 1999, a year in which he won 5 additional coach of the year awards. His teams have won 10 games on seven occasions and have won 11 games in six seasons. He is the only coach at Virginia Tech to ever win 11 games in a season. He's won 10 bowl games as well. Beamer was the Big East coach of the year 3 times and the ACC coach of the year twice. He was also named Big East coach of the decade after the league celebrated their first 10 years of existence.

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Beamer is most famously associated with the phrase "Beamer Ball". That's considered to be Beamer's approach that putting points on the board is a full team effort. Blocked punts and field goals were staples of Beamer's teams. Special teams and defensive scoring were as important as offensive touchdowns. That emphasis on special teams has led to 35 different players scoring special teams touchdowns during his tenure.
But it wasn't just what Beamer's done on the field that gave him the lore he has at Virginia Tech. It's what he's done off the field as well. Following the shooting massacre at the university in 2007, Beamer met with the parents of the victims and spoke to them. He walked the campus and when he saw students crying in the aftermath, he stopped to talk to them and tell them that Virginia Tech will overcome this. He said that act of violence wouldn't define the university and that one person wouldn't destroy the good that goes on there every day.
In today's world of college football, we see coaches jump from job to job almost yearly. The days of guys like Bobby Bowden, Joe Paterno, and Frank Beamer, guys who spent their entire careers in one place, are gone. So here's hoping Virginia Tech can win their last game and qualify for that 23rd straight bowl game. And that they win so Frank Beamer can be carried off the field on a winning note. The way a champion on and off the field deserves to be.



Class act: Holm has resisted urge to let ego grow

11/22/15 by Rennie Detore



As much as everyone wants to talk about Holly Holm stunning the MMA world when she defeated previously unbeaten and figurehead of women's fighting, Ronda Rousey, the new women's bantamweight championship also knocked us out with something else we're not quite used to in sports.
Her class.
Holm has become an instant superstar, making her rounds nationally on a variety of talk shows and has seen gaming it up and taking photos with the likes Floyd Mayweather, among others, but every time she speaks, it is minus the arrogance of a woman that just showed her dominance against a former champion whose ego arguably lead to her downfall.

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Rousey was obnoxious as she compiled wins. She was letting the national spotlight derail her passion for fighting and quite frankly, those who know mixed martial arts fighting knew that Holm was the better fighter, more seasoned and definitely a better all around fighter, particularly when the two are boxing, standing toe to toe.
Holm crushing Rousey surprised the world, but most who knew fighting saw this one coming.
But beyond the fight itself, it's the aftermath of Holm and how she's been that is refreshing given the former champion and her propensity to flaunt her ego and flap her gums in a way that was hard to like.
Holm has praised Rousey, when in truthfully she deserves very little as a person and competitor to some degree. Granted, Rousey has done more for women's MMA than any other person in the history of the sport. Her rise and meteoric run as a female fighter gave fighters like Holm a chance to even be in the spot she was in: fighting for a championship on a national stage, pay per view and as the main event of a UFC card.
But Rousey and her antics before the fight, including a ridiculous dust up at the weigh in and not touching gloves with Holm just before the fight commenced as a show of disrespect to her challenger is one of the many reasons Rousey is so disliked and why Holm is just a breath of fresh air.
As easy as it would have been for Holm to go national and talk trash on Rousey, who did exactly that before getting her clock cleaned, Holm has risen above the silliness and showmanship that Rousey embraced and has acted the way a champion should.
She has heaped praise on Rousey, told anyone who will listen that she is the reason for all this success and would welcome a rematch any time the former champ is ready to return.
Holm might not be filled with the flare and salaciousness of Rousey and some fans may grow tired of her "nice girl" routine, but for now we can appreciate how Holm goes about her business with professionalism and humility as someone you can be proud to call a champion.



Help me, Ronda: Why losing might have saved career of Rousey

11/17/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak



Getting beaten in an MMA fight or boxing match is one thing. Getting dominated while losing is another thing. And having that happen when you're an overwhelming favorite is off the charts bad. But maybe, just maybe, losing to Holly Holm could be the best thing that happened to Ronda Rousey right now.
Through 11 fights, Rousey was a machine. She barely broke a sweat in those fights they were over so fast. But then came Holly Holm, a former boxer, who brought something different that a most of Rousey's other opponents didn't have. Real professional fighting experience. While most of Rousey's other opponents were doing something else in life before and sometimes during their MMA careers, Holm starting kickboxing at age 20. She has 38 professional boxing matches under her belt. Her fight against Rousey was her 10th MMA fight, and she had won 6 of the previous 9 by knockout. Despite being unknown by the mainstream media and obviously being underestimated (Holm was an 800 to 1 underdog), Holly Holm is a damn good fighter with a whole lot of experience and previous success.
So while it may be a shock that Rousey lost, it's not as bad as it may seem. Now that the world is finding out about Holly Holm, it doesn't seem like that big of a surprise that she beat Rousey. Losing that fight shouldn't take anything away from Rousey, it should be a credit to Holm that she won the fight.

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This could also be the start of a great rivalry. Rousey was a one woman show in the UFC. Nobody was on the same level as her. Now she has an a legitimate foe who isn't going to get tapped out in the first half minute of the fight. For as many UFC fans that tuned in to see Rousey destroy whoever she was fighting, more fans of MMA and other forms of professional fighting may tune in now to see a rematch that should be built up as a huge event. Rousey made over $6 million dollars for the first fight, both her and Holm are looking at a huge payday in this rematch. And if Rousey wins next time, how big could the rubber match in that 3rd fight be? The potential for this rivalry to grow is endless, especially with their being some real dislike between the two ladies before the first fight. And more so now with Holm winning the first match and handing Rousey her first defeat in the process.
But what is the best thing that can come out of this for Rousey? She can refocus on who she really is and what brought her to where she was prior to losing that fight. Rousey can forget about making movies and being on magazine covers for a while. She can back away from making WWE appearances. Not worry about hocking energy drinks and burgers and she can refocus on just being a fighter.
Rousey became so popular and so mainstream that people, myself included, were tired of seeing her. No matter where you turned, whether it was television, radio, online, or in print, Ronda Rousey was there. But all of that publicity and fame took away from her being able to focus on being Ronda Rousey the fighter instead of Ronda Rousey the Carl's Jr. or Monster Energy Drink spokeswoman.
So once the shock wears off, at the end of the day, it's just one loss. Ronda Rousey, like just about every great fighter before her, lost. But maybe by losing, that hunger that made Rousey so dominant will be back. Maybe instead of being so overconfident she wouldn't even touch gloves with Holm before the fight, she'll be a little more humble next time. Maybe instead of believing the overhype, she'll be grounded like she was when she ended 10 of her first 11 fights early in the first round.
And if she does find that and beats Holm in the rematch. Maybe dominates Holm in the 3rd fight. Then that dominance and invincibility comes back. Maybe she never loses again because this loss woke her up. Because this loss made her realize that instead of believing she could beat a male MMA fighter or would have any kind of chance against Floyd Mayweather (and she would have no chance), she needs to worry about that opponent in the ring with her. And maybe Ronda Rousey never loses focus again because of this loss



Holly cow: Why Ronda Rousey's loss could be worst thing for her career

11/16/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak



(Editor's Note: This is a two part story on Ronda Rousey, with the first one below explaining why this loss to Holly Holm at UFC 193 on Saturday, November 14, could be devastating to her career. Tomorrow's story will counter point this one, and go into detail why Rousey and this loss specifically, could save her career).
She seemed to be invincible. Ronda Rousey didn't just win her fights, she destroyed her opponents. In her first 11 fights, only 1 lasted to the 2nd round. Domino's delivers in 30 minutes or less, Rousey delivered in :30 seconds or less in ending most of her fights. She was considered to be one of the most, if not the most, dominant athlete in their respective sport on the planet. Rousey had the appeal of a young Mike Tyson. It wasn't a matter of if she'd win, but how she'd win and how quickly it would be over. But just like James "Buster" Douglas happened to Iron Mike, Holly Holm happened to Ronda Rousey.
At the peak of Mike Tyson's dominance in boxing, he met an unknown in Douglas who stunned the then champion. And even though Tyson would go on to have additional success in his career after the loss, he was never the same fighter in the eyes of the viewing public. That domination. That invincibility. It was gone after the loss to Douglas.

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Ronda Rousey had that same level of domination and invincibility associated with her. People purchased her UFC pay per view fights for the same reasons people had purchased Tyson's fights. They wanted to see Rousey destroy her next victim, I mean opponent, the same way Tyson did.
On top of the invincibility and dominance, Rousey has become a household name and has reached rock star status as far as her notoriety goes. Rousey banked $6.5 million for the fight versus Holm. She had recently signed endorsement deals with Monster Energy Drinks and with the Carl's Jr. fast food chain. She's been in movies. On the cover of magazines. Has been visible in all aspects of media both on television and radio. So with this loss to Holm, will all of that take a hit too?
Rousey didn't just lose to Holm. It wasn't like when Tyson lost to Douglas and the fight was called because he couldn't put his mouth piece back in the right way after Douglas knocked him down. There was controversy in the decision to stop that fight. There was no controversy in Rousey's loss. Holly Holm flat out pummeled her. Holm was dominant in the first round, landing strikes and punches that rocked Rousey. In the 2nd round, a thundering kick dropped Rousey followed by Holm landing a few more punches before the referee stopped it. It wasn't a lucky kick or a haymaker. It was a dominant performance by Holm. She made Rousey look like Rousey had made her previous 11 opponents look. On top of that, Holm was an 800 to 1 underdog coming into this fight. Those odds make this loss a much bigger upset than Tyson losing to Douglas was.
Yes, there will be a rematch. And if Rousey wins that there could be a third fight. If Rousey would dominate Holm in those future fights this loss may be forgotten or just chalked up to the fact that it was due to happen. But this did take something away from Ronda Rousey. She no longer will have that aura about her. She may very well be the underdog coming into the rematch. If she should lose that, Rousey may be an after thought in the MMA world with Holm as the new hot commodity.
She was on top of the world. The best in her sport. Raking in endorsements and having the earning potential on the same level as LeBron James according to a recent Nielson survey. But with this stunning loss to Holly Holm, will all of that be gone? Did Rousey lose more than just a fight here?
Time will tell as far as any of that goes, but this loss to Holly Holm may indeed be the worst thing that's ever happened to Ronda Rousey.



Image concern: NFLPA isn't exactly image conscious

11/11/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak



If you didn't see them, you've probably heard about the images that came out recently of the former girlfriend of NFL player Greg Hardy. If you haven't seen the pictures, they've been described as upsetting, disturbing, and graphic. If you don't want to see them for yourself, pick one of those words and it would be accurate. But this isn't an article about what's already happened in regards to Greg Hardy, it's an article about what needs to happen from now on in the NFL.
The short version of the story is this. Greg Hardy was arrested and convicted of assaulting his former girlfriend. He sat out last season in the wake of the NFL's sudden pose of standing up to domestic violence after the video of Ray Rice knocking out his fiancée in an elevator. Then the charges were dismissed on appeal, Hardy reached a settlement with his ex girlfriend, and the NFLPA fought to get him reinstated, which they did. Then Dallas signed him to a contract, and the rest is history.
But it's not history. It's the present that's the problem. And the future that needs to prevent this history from repeating itself. The images that came out of the bruised and beaten woman, that's your image NFLPA. The angry reaction and the disgust that's come along with those photos, that's your reaction NFLPA. Everyone has been quick to blame the NFL for not doing it's part to discipline players for off the field incidents. And to a point, the criticism is right. Roger Goodell has been far from accurate when its come to disciplining players. Some are blaming the Dallas Cowboys for signing Hardy to a contract and standing behind him after a sideline incident where Hardy slapped a clipboard out of an assistant coaches hands then got into a verbal spat with Dez Bryant.

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If you want to point the finger of blame towards anyone as to why Greg Hardy is wearing and NFL uniform this season, don't point the finger at Goodell or Jerry Jones. Point the finger where it should be pointed, at the NFL Players Union. The image of NFL players being wife beaters and thugs is on the NFLPA. They're the ones who fought for Greg Hardy to be allowed to play again. That tainted image of what professional football players can get away with, that's what the NFLPA is encouraging by getting Greg Hardy reinstated.
When I see Greg Hardy playing on a Sunday it disgusts me. When I watch a Cowboys game, I won't lie, I hope somebody cuts his legs out from under him and tears his ACL or MCL or anything else that will put an end to his playing career. That sounds bad, doesn't it? That might make me sound even slightly barbaric to wish major injury on someone. But it's an opinion I'm sure that is shared by many NFL fans. It's probably shared by more than a few non NFL fans too. I'm not one to agree with Cris Collinsworth too often. But what he said during Sunday night's game is something I agree with 100%, that it's time for the NFLP to take a stand if something like this ever happens again.
There should never be a next time for the next Greg Hardy. This should be the last time. The next time should be, no it has to be, the end of the NFLPA standing behind a convicted criminal who assaulted a woman. That anger. That backlash. Those disgusting pictures. That's your doing NFLPA. Now it's up to you to change it going forward.



Ink botched: Temporary tattoo company gets it right so you can too

11/10/15 by Rennie Detore



Have you ever wanted so badly to get a tattoo, but you just weren't quite ready to pull the trigger?
Many have pondered, thought and wondered just what it would be like to have a tattoo, but have opted against it for one very important reason. 
It's permanent.
Getting a tattoo is quite the catch 22. Tattoos are rooted in impulsiveness and often come as a result of death (remembering a loved one), love or family origin, but once you get one, they're on your body for good.

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Those who spend time thinking about getting a tattoo (usually their first one) end up talking themselves out of it due to the sheer nature of the process, not so much because of the pain per say, but that removing one is basically impossible or terribly expensive.
But one company took the idea that tattoos can be test driven, much like a car, or tried out, like a gym membership, before you decide ultimately to buy.
Or, in the case of tattoos, ink for good.
Say hello to Momentary Ink, an apt name for a company that deals in tattoos that are, well, temporary. But unlike other temporary tattoos, ones that fade quickly or you'd get out of a quarter machine outside of a department store, Momentary Ink makes deciding on a tattoo easy.
This company has devised a temporary tattoo solution that feels like real tattoo ink, so that consumers get a better idea of what a real tattoo is going to look and feel like on their skin, and give them more of a lifelike design as a result.
You get the option of having your own artwork uploaded, but can talk over design related questions with a tattoo artist slash expert or you can use one of the tattoo ideas from Momentary Ink as well.
What Momentary Ink has done is bridge the gap between bad tattoos on a whim and those who can't decide ultimately if they want to get one. With Momentary Ink, you can see if that tattoo idea of barbed wire around your bicep really looks as cool as you think or avoiding that dragon artwork on your shin that sounded so much better the first time you thought of it.
In addition newcomers and those who have never got a tattoo can look at what life is going to be like with a huge family crest on your back before you decide (or not) to get it.
Being able to visualize and try before you buy was never a viable option with tattoos, but Momentary Ink allows you that luxury.
Looks like Momentary Ink is going to be here to stay and not have a fleeting 15 minutes of fame. The only thing left to say about this company: where do I sign?



Socially inept: Why social media minus parents is dangerous for kids

11/08/15 by Rennie Detore



A recent story of a mom posing as her son on Facebook brought to light the dangers of social media as a whole for kids and young adults, and this one was especially chilling given that the mom thwarted a potential interaction with an online predator.
This occurred in Greensburg, Indiana, as a mom informed the authorities of a message to her 17 year old son from a online stranger that eventually led to finding a 40 year old who was taken in by police to be questioned after he propositioned the underaged child.
The mom should be lauded for her proactive approach to social media and exactly who is messaging her child.

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But are all parents this dialed in to what their kids are doing online?
And that question goes far beyond just an online, potential sexual, predator asking to meet up or talk to children. This also includes kids who are being bullied, ridiculed, and harassed online as well.
While the simple answer is to simply ban your kids from social media (which is certainly an avenue), the more realistic approach to not owning a computer is more about staying close to what your kids are doing when they come home from school and find their way to their tablets, computers or other devices, including cell phones.
The real problem with social media and the internet as a whole is it is so easy to use it without the parents or guardians knowing any better. That's why the need to ask questions and for parents not to be afraid or feel like they're bothering or over parenting their kids.
This also includes monitoring how long they are using social media but also having access to their passwords or asking their kids to show them what they're doing or view the Twitter, Facebook or Instagram page occasionally almost as an audit of sorts.
Being part of the social media process as a parent lets kids know not so much that they're being watched per say but that there is a certain level of concern. Parents need to address social media as a real concern and not something flippant that kids can "get into" online as more entertainment than substance with real potential for harm.
Far too often, social media is disregarded as being more kids being kids, and parents putting faith in their kids to make the right decisions or be able to spot something that doesn't seem right. While that isn't a bad thing, that doesn't relieve mom and dad from having that discussion with their kids that, while they trust what their son or daughter is doing, you can easily be manipulated or misled, particularly if you're a younger child that has access to the internet.
In the end, parents have to parent in this situation and not chalk up social media and all that goes on with it, as a product of our times that has to be dealt with in a reactive basis. The proactive parent is the one with the positive story to tell, much like this mom from Indiana who stepped in at the most opportune time with eyes wide open when it comes to social media.



Mighty have fallen: What's going on at USC?

10/20/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak



On the field, it was a tough loss against a rival. USC fought hard and went back and forth against 14th ranked Notre Dame, before ultimately falling 41 to 31 on Saturday. But what happened on the field even in a losing effort is more of a win than what's happened at USC over the past week.
It started last Thursday with the Trojans losing to Washington at home in a game they were double digit favorites to win. From there Athletic Director Pat Haden announced the Sunday after the game that head football coach Steve Sarkisian was taking an indefinite leave of absence. Originally it was reported that Sarkisian didn't show up for practice that Sunday. But afterwards word had leaked out that Sarkisian did show up, but that he wasn't in any kind of shape to be there. Upon announcing the leave, Haden said that he had spoken to Sarkisian and determined that the coach was clearly not healthy and that's when Haden suggested he take the leave of absence.
A day later, Haden announced that Sarkisian was terminated as head coach. Haden said Sarkisian's firing was what was in the best interest for the USC football program. This incident before the firing came after an incident at an August event for boosters where Sarkisian was visibly intoxicated and went on a profanity laced rant before Haden had to step in to stop it. Reports surfaced that Sarkisian was drunk when he showed up and then vanished at the team meeting on the Sunday before he was fired.

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This is another black eye for the USC football program. But not all of the blame belongs on Haden. Yes, he's the man who hired Sarkisian and ignored the rumors his drinking problems dated back to his tenure at Washington. Haden also let Sarkisian's behavior at that August event slide as well. But USC is a football program that has been in disarray since former head coach Pete Carroll left to coach the Seattle Seahawks. After Carroll left, the program was hit with heavy sanctions for "a lack of institutional control" during Carroll's tenure from the years of 2004 through 2009.
USC was once one of the proudest programs in NCAA football. Even with the allegations of wrong doing during Carroll's tenure, the success those teams had on the field can't be denied. But now the pressure to win that Carroll once felt. That Lane Kiffen felt as Carroll's replacement. And that Sarkisian had felt with high pre season expectations prior to this season. The pressure is now on Haden to bring in a coach who can lead USC back to glory.
The next coach Pat Haden hires has to be the right decision. Because if it's another wrong decision, it may very well be the last decision Haden makes as the AD at USC.



Pump the breakfast: Why McDonald might live to regret breakfast decision

10/18/15 by Jackie Russo



As the chants from consumers cry out "we want breakfast all day" as it pertains to McDonald's and its menu, those same customers still are crying but for much different reasons.
Now that McDonald's is offering breakfast for the entire day, consumers aren't exactly overflowing with optimism or positive responses or the kind of fanfare that the Golden Arches would have wanted.
You might say McDonald's has a little egg on its face, right?

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So the scoop is that McDonald's and those within the company are loving it; breakfast all day in their eyes has helped bring in new customers and, in its infancy stages, is doing exactly what they had hoped it would.
On the restaurant level and as far as customers are concerned, all day breakfast is a bust.
For now, at least.
Customers aren't exactly enamored or impressed with what can only be described as a limited menu and reports from a variety of locations that the quality of the breakfast items pale in comparison to ordering them during the morning hours.
The idea behind McDonald's offering all day breakfast was supposed to be built around adding variety to the menu and smiles to the faces of their customers. McDonald's and its revenue has been waning and that has translated into the company undoubtedly scrambling for ideas.
The all day breakfast was supposed to conceptually add to a menu throughout the day that was desperately in need of a boost. That boosts wasn't a new product but rather extension of what they already offer.
Instead what has transpired are McDonald's managers and franchisees scrambling around trying to make this all day breakfast concept work. What has transpired are stores through the world commenting loudly back to corporate that they're not selling as much money per customer and service has come slowed considerably.
Those within McDonald's, at first glance likely thought this would add to the overall value of what they offer. But even the average business person would have seen that by infusing the foods and drinks from breakfast into lunch is going to clog up what is supposed to be a fast food line of service. Eggs next to hamburger patties, fries swimming around near hash browns and the list goes on and on. Workers in the kitchen no longer have 10 items to worry about for lunch and dinner times, but have added another five to seven on that list.
That might not sound like much, but consider the hustle and bustle that is McDonald's at noon or 5 p.m.
Pulling the plug on breakfast isn't going to happen, but trying to recover from this decision might be more difficult than imagined.



Sporting goods: ESPN no longer novelty it once was

10/18/15 by Rennie Detore



ESPN ratings aren't what they used to be, and they're open to suggestions.
Hardly the game plan of the iconic all sports network.
The network has signed a deal with World Wrestling Entertainment to air highlights of wrestling in the hopes that some crossover appeal or influx of new viewers. WWE has roughly 3 million viewers every Monday for their three hour "Raw" television show, so ESPN is going to allot time for a recap of all things WWE on its network.

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While that idea has merit on ratings and advertising alone, it is only the proverbial band aid on the gun shot wound.
ESPN hasn't been relevant in years, and the sagging ratings and waning advertising numbers aren't surprising whatsoever. For all intent and purposes, ESPN hasn't changed much about itself since its inception.
The all sports network concept worked well when the network started, and Sportscenter was absolutely revolutionary. The recap shows, highlights and live sports made up what was groundbreaking at the time.
Today, it's as outdated as your flip phone and calculator watch.
Before scores and highlights became commonplace on this invention called the world wide web, Sportscenter was a game changer. You had all the action crammed into one hour of everything you needed or wanted to see sports wise.
The internet gave sports fans a reason not to sit through Sportscenter. And as far as live sports, ESPN actually feels as though they're falling behind.
Most of the live sports on ESPN actually feel like they can be easily missed. Sure, they have Monday Night Football but everyone knows the game of the week happens on NBC. They have their NFL Live show, which is shell of the original NFL Primetime. And, everyone knows "Football Night in America" is the football show that has supplanted anything ESPN has to watch.
Baseball does decent numbers of Sunday night during the regular season, but the playoffs belong to the network or TBS, once again leaving ESPN as the second rate place for sports.
Besides sports and TV deals being done right under the nose of ESPN, the network is no longer just "a network." 
ESPN watered down its own product with several channels under the ESPN namesake, so the idea behind the sports any time you want is bloated and overextended. Having ESPN 3 is like most third installments of movie trilogies; no thank you.
You almost think of ESPN in the same way you view MTV.
You remember what made MTV famous, right? Music videos. Today's MTV is donated to television shows, reality based programming and the only way you're going to see a music video on MTV is at 5 a.m. So instead of videos or what made MTV great, you get "Teen Mom" and yet another installment of the "Real World."
ESPN is about sports, and I'm not talking about running power lifting at 2 a.m., soccer all day, college wrestling or professional bowling. ESPN no longer is unique. Network television channels and other outlets have finally caught up with ESPN, and it shows in that the network, once the peak of sports, now is an afterthought.
ESPN can get back into the good graces of sports fans, but that is going to happen by getting back to their sporting roots, getting rid of the multiple channels and certainly doing more than injecting pro wrestling on to its programming.
The reality is, however, that ESPN may never reach its peak again, and that's perfectly fine. The web and instant access to scores and highlights renders ESPN moot. The network might be lucky and fortunate to settle for just surviving at this point.



Flip to be tied: Was there anything wrong with Bautista's bat flip?

10/16/15 by Rennie Detore



Jose Bautista sent his Toronto Blue Jays into the American League Championship Series with one swing of the bat. He sent the sports world into a tizzy with one flip of the bat, too.
Yes, every journalist and sports purist is having quite the fit after Jose didn't just flip his bat, he tossed it like a javelin after hitting a three run bomb that broke open the game for the Blue Jays and sent their opponent, the upstart Texas Rangers, home for the season.
In the heat of the moment, Bautista flipped his bat in what can only be described as pure pandemonium, and certain people within the sport are having a hard time with what they saw.

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It's disrespectful to the game.
It makes the pitcher look bad.
He's arrogant and doesn't care about his teammates.
All of those comments have their fair share of credibility, but seem a bit off based given the circumstances of the game and exactly what was at stake.
Look, Bautista's bat flip should have caused a stir if this was game 80 of 162 or just another Sunday afternoon at the ballpark.
It wasn't. This was a chance to get to the championship in the American League and one step closer to the world series. Are we really gonna start giving guys grief for getting caught up in the moment of professional sports?
We tend to get so wrapped up in tradition that we can't celebrate a moment of that magnitude. You have to chuckle a little at the ego that baseball purists have about the sport. Again, if Bautista is doing this in a game with little or no meaning or if the Blue Jays were in the midst of getting blown out, then that's beyond ridiculous.
The guy let his emotions get the better of him. So what; that shows passion, and a want to simply win.
These are the same writers and announcers that can't handle an end zone celebration in the midst of winning a playoff game or Super Bowl on a last second touchdown. If that touchdown dance comes in Week 4 of a 1 p.m. game, then it is foolish.
Aside from the mundane and rudimentary games and focusing more on the ones that matter, you can't get to bent out of shape about a player who reacts at the very second when he's made history.
Those who do aren't enjoying the game for what it is: entertainment and showmanship at its finest. What Bautista did wasn't disrespectful; it was a player pinning his heart on his sleeve and reacting the way anyone else could when they just won a meaningful game.



Body slammed: ESPN and WWE forge relationship, but is it right fit?

10/15/15 by Rennie Detore



For years, professional wrestling never was considered a sport.
Even at the height of its popularity, when World Wrestling Entertainment and its weekly Monday night television program would outdraw Monday Night Football, the mainstream media wouldn't necessarily cover the happenings of what went on in and out of the ring. In the late 1990s, professional wrestling did get some publicity from a variety of media outlets, simply because you can't ignore an entity that draws close to 10 million viewers per week through television and thousands more as part of live events.
In 2015, with wrestling ratings down a bit, the company is trying to regain some sort of mainstream foothold again, and looks toward another brand that also in in the midst of a downturn in relevancy: ESPN.

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WWE and ESPN announced a deal that would have WWE highlights shown on the network. ESPN made the decision likely predicated on ratings that are also declining along with interest and advertising heading in the wrong direction.
And although WWE is not the draw it once was, it still does wonders in the highly coveted 18 to 35 year old demographic, not surprisingly one that ESPN wants to capture.
For both groups, this is a win win formula.
ESPN gains more visibility in front of WWE fans, and the wrestling conglomerate can get more eyes on what they do to sports fans that might not have a penchant for power bombs and athletically based story lines.
One criticism of the WWE and ESPN joining forces as a tag team of epic proportions potentially is that they live on opposite sides of the "sports world." ESPN deals directly in sports, outcomes that aren't predetermined and reporting on scores, stats and highlights that aren't rooted in more drama than actual winners and losers that matter. 
WWE is filled with elaborate story lines and superstars, all of whom are tremendous athletes and arguably just as athletic as those who compete in so called real sports. That said, the outcomes of matches are scripted and aren't sports in the sense that winning or losing is authentic.
So why would ESPN want to have a WWE presence on the air?
Well, quite frankly, money.
WWE is a brand that, even in a down time, has plenty of loyal fans. Millions in fact. Why wouldn't ESPN want to tap into a market that they don't have.
And this isn't the first time professional wrestling and ESPN have done business with one another. Wrestling aired on ESPN 20 years ago in the late afternoon, and WWE at peak of its popularity, had wrestlers featured on the network as part of commercials they would run to promote the flagship show, "Sportscenter."
This deal is like any other between two entities that want to gain ground on on slipping interest in the product. Mutual interest in what the other has is nothing new as reasons why brands, companies and other groups get together to further their exposure to a marketplace they ultimately want.



Wild sting: Current wild card system in baseball needs changed

10/09/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak



You work all season long to labor through 162 games. You finish with one of the top 3 records not just in the National League, but in all of Major League Baseball. And your reward? To play another of the top 3 teams in MLB with your entire season hanging on one game. Sorry, but count me as one of the people who feel it's time to do away with the current Wild Card format in baseball.
There was a time back in the old days of MLB, you know those ancient times known as the early 1990's, when only 2 teams made it to the post season in each league. That's where the term pennant race came from, because each division champion won their respective division's pennant before facing the other division winner in the league championship. That was replaced in 1995 when MLB went to 3 divisions instead of 2 and introduced a wild card team into the post season mix. That was a good idea. To have 30 teams play 162 games and only 2 making the playoffs was kind of ridiculous.
But just as ridiculous is the fact that a team's season after playing those 162 games comes down to 1 game. The one game Wild Card, or 163rd regular season game as I like to call it, is in no way a playoff. It's one game. That was exciting when 2 teams were tied after the regular season, but it's not in anyway a playoff.

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The Wild Card needs to be changed. Either its time to go back to just 4 teams per league making it, or increasing the Wild Card round to a best of 3 games. And since it's highly unlikely MLB would go back to having less teams in the post season, it's time to make the Wild Card more than just a game and into an actual series.
The argument against making the Wild Card a best of 3 is that it isn't fair for a division winner to have to wait that long for their next opponent. That by increasing the Wild Card to a 3 game series that somehow those teams are being rewarded for not winning the division, which is part of the reason why the extra team was added in the first place. OK, I see the point, but here's the thing. Increasing the Wild Card from 1 to 3 games doesn't have to benefit the teams in it.
How about if there was a best of 3 series played over 2 days? The top Wild Card teams gets to host a doubleheader, and if necessary, the 3rd game is played at the 2nd place Wild Card team's home field the next day. The divisional round series would then start the 2 days later at the top seeded division winner's home ballpark. If anything that rewards the division winner by giving them a few more days off and home field the day after the Wild Card series ends. In the NHL, the reward for winning a playoff series quickly is that you get some rest before the next round, especially if the other series goes to 7 games. So the top division winner would still have home field, get additional time off, and be rewarded by having a team who just played 3 games in 3 days come into their ballpark. I don't see how that rewards a Wild Card team in anyway while in anyway punishing a division winner.
The current Wild Card format needs restructured. Having your entire season come down to 1 game is not a good way to do things. Pittsburgh was the top National League wild card team the past 3 years. They had the 2nd best record in MLB this season. In the past, they'd have to open on the road against the top division champion. Instead of having the chance to play an actual series, they've lost in 1 game the past two seasons and had to use their top starter prior to the start of an actual playoff series. The 1 game Wild Card punishes a team much more than a 3 game series would. Even though you would have to play more games in a short period of time, you would have your top starter back by the beginning of the next series. Not having your ace puts a team at a huge disadvantage right now to start the divisional series, more so than playing 3 games in 3 days does.
The idea of expanding the post season is a good idea for MLB, but the way it's decided now isn't. With this format, baseball is the only of the four major sports to have teams win a round without winning an actual round. It's time for baseball to make the Wild Card round just that, an actual series that justifies a round, not a one game play in that diminishes what a team worked 162 games to accomplish.



The Lonesome Kicker: What Is Going On With NFL Kickers?

10/06/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak



Two minutes left in the game. Your team is down by 1 point. The offense starts to move the ball. Before you know it they have it at midfield. :30 seconds left on the clock and they're in field goal range at the 25. Coach uses the last time out. Here comes the field goal unit for the win. And the kick is....NO GOOD!!!
How many times has that happened this year so far in the NFL? If you were in Pittsburgh on Thursday or in Jacksonville or New Orleans on Sunday, you felt the above scenario play out in some way. Josh Scobee missed 2 field goals in the Steelers overtime loss to Baltimore. He had missed 2 more in their season opening loss to New England. He won't miss another one in a Steelers uniform though, because Scobee was released.
It was just as bad for the Jaguars, or maybe worse. With :06 seconds left in regulation, Jason Myers missed a 53 yard field goal that would've given Jacksonville the win. But Indianapolis called timeout prior to the kick, so he got a do over on the miss. And missed again. Then missed from 48 yards in overtime. And then the Colts won on their next possession.

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In New Orleans, Drew Brees drove the Saints downfield for a chance to win the game as regulation expired. But Zach Hocker missed a 30 yard field goal. Luckily, Brees and the Saints won the game in OT.
So what's the deal here? How come kickers suddenly can't kick? Myers and Hocker are first year players, but Scobee is a 12 year veteran who is actually the Jacksonville franchises all time leading scorer. Is it the new extra point distance in the NFL? Does the fact that a kicker doesn't have the almost always automatic extra point anymore make it harder to kick field goals? Perhaps that does hold some truth. A kicker could kind of get warmed up hitting a couple of easy PAT's before having to try a long field goal. But now that the extra point is from 33 yards out, that automatic kick isn't so automatic anymore. And if a kicker misses what is expected to be an easy extra point, does it cause him to lose enough confidence to be shaken when it comes time to try a field goal?
Another theory is that a lot of kickers in the NFL don't have the experience. Many teams in recent years have gone with a younger kicker over a veteran because the younger guy was the cheaper option. But these younger kickers haven't experienced the pressure of making a game winning kick that a veteran kicker has. And with the game on the line, especially if he already missed a field goal, he doesn't have the nerves or mental toughness to make that kick.
Whatever the case may be, if you're a team with a reliable kicker, you should be very happy so far this season. Because with the NFL's change on the extra points and what seems like so many missed important kicks, the kicker is no longer just the last guy on the bench. Being the kicker is actually important. And I think NFL teams will start looking at them that way and not as just the last roster spot anymore.



Social stupidity: Why social media saves the day and ruins others

09/28/15 by Rennie Detore



When it comes to Facebook and Twitter, or social media in general, you have to marvel at just how the general public uses it.
For some, it is a paint by numbers numbing that includes step by step what you're doing through the entire day. Why the masses might believe that their "friends" or "followers" want to know what they had for breakfast, that they lost their coupon for paper towels at the grocery store or the ubiquitous posts that don't mention people by name but are more like attacking someone without actually saying what it is that is happening.
Truly a head scratcher and beyond belief in terms of annoying.

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For others, it is how they gather news and entertainment, without turning on the television or going to CNN.com or others of that ilk. Their "news" feed truly is just that.
But such is the way of social media, which has essentially given everyone with a user name and password and subsequent log on information the ability to have a voice and 15 minutes of fame that lasts much longer.
The hardest part about social media is that it has some redeeming qualities, such as trying to keep in touch visually with family that you don't see all the time or finding friends you can reconnect with, but the majority of what happens on Facebook and Twitter is terribly tiresome from the posted content to just how much time is wasted checking your feed or deciding that today is the day you're going to post something to get back at your boss or an old girlfriend or boyfriend.
And some ways, it's highly stupid, particularly when you forget that what you post isn't for your eyes only.
Case in point, remember those in the know telling you that posting that you're on vacation isn't a smart Facebook or social media move. Did you stop to think that maybe someone who isn't only interested in your fascination with Cheerios or the show Scandal might be waiting to see if your house is fair game to be their personal and private showroom?
The same could be said for the inane and haphazard posting that occurs by, well, anyone that shows perhaps a lesser side of their personality, and yet wonder why they didn't get a particular job that they had high hopes to secure. Employers pay close attention to Facebook pages and social media prior to hiring you but also if you're using that sick day and yet post how wonderful that baseball game was or trip to the zoo, complete with pictures.
Your life on display doesn't work just one way, you don't just get to be a social media superstar and would be smart aleck and not have to be accountable for every word or action you post as a result.
Ironically, however, Facebook and social media can be the salvation that can be useful in serious situations, from parents unsure about the mindset of their children or their capacity to go to school or if they're being bullied to cops and authorities trying to solve a case or dig a little deeper when traditional work runs cold.
A recent story saw a few small time criminals rob a bank and post their recent windfall on Facebook, which meant a short live spending spree and quick apprehension.
Social media certainly isn't going anywhere and would figure only to play more into culture as time progresses. How you use the media is going to mean not only how it is perceived by not only you but aware that others are paying attention too for reasons both good and bad.



Hair raising: Child sent home for haircut is beyond silly

09/24/15 by Rennie Detore



Jakobe Sanden is just your average seven year old student, a second grader in a obscure elementary school in Utah.
That was, until he got a haircut.
Sanden sported a mohawk in school, and he was subsequently sent home because the haircut was deemed too distracting for the other students. The principal, Susan Harrah, told the parents of Sanden that the haircut "could" be a violation of the student handbook.

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"Could," Ms. Harrah or "is?"
The difference between the two is extremely important, because if the violation is legitimate than Sanden being sent home has a little more legs than if it was a judgment call. The report goes on to say that the school handbook didn't mention anything about hair as an issue, so Principle Harrah made the call to send Sanden home.
Throwing more fuel on the fire, Sanden's mom and dad say the mohawk is a tribute and pays respect to his Native American heritage and culture, only making Harrah's knee jerk decision more questionable.
The truth is Sanden did indeed have a mohawk but, based on the photo, would hardly be considered something that is distraction. It was not spiked, nor was their any hair color or other changes to the hair. In fact, the only reason you could tell it was a mohawk is because the hair on the sides and back of his head (aside from the mohawk design) were gone. There wasn't anything distracting about the mohawk other than that technically is what it was.
For Sanden, he was back in school quickly after the principle asked his parents to get a note from their tribal leaders, which happened almost immediately. The school brought him back quietly and sheepishly mostly because it had to know that this story, which was picked up nationally, was more of a black eye for the school rather than some sort of progressive discipline that will be mirrored by other schools or lauded as a decision that was the kind of enforcement that needs to happen in schools across the country.
This is a classic example of schools and administrators trying to fight the good fight but picking a battle that isn't worth the time of day. Being ultra strict is fine as long as the reason behind it makes sense for the greater good of the school and the children within it.
A haircut, mohawk in this case, isn't going to change the landscape of the educational system. Instead, it is a non story that should have never really hit the news, because that is exactly what it isn't.



Tide rolled: Alabama looks to return favor after last year's upset against Ole Miss

09/19/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak

Week 3 of the 2015 college football season has some big games between Top 25 teams. Let's take a look at the best matchups this weekend.
#19 BYU at #10 UCLA 10:30pm Saturday
So far BYU is 2 for 2 in the late game heroics department. After beating Nebraska in their season opener on a Hail Mary pass, the Cougars knocked off then #20 Boise State last week, scoring the game winning touchdown with :45 seconds left in regulation. It hasn't been that close for UCLA, as the Bruins rolled Virginia 34 to 16 in their season opener, then pounded UNLV 37 to 3 last week. Both teams are being led by freshman quarterbacks as well. UCLA's Josh Rosen has passed for 574 yards and 4 TD's in the Bruins two victories. BYU has been led by Tanner Mangum, who took over under center in the Cougars season opener after starting QB Taysom Hill was injured (and is out for the season). Mangum launched the Hail Mary game winner in week one, and passed for 309 yards and 2 TD's in last weeks win. He'll have a tougher test this week against a UCLA defense that is giving up just 147 yards per game passing, including giving up just 56 yards through the air in last week's win over UNLV. Rosen may have it a little bit easier, as BYU has struggled against the pass, giving up over 300 yards per game on average so far. These teams last met in 2008, with BYU routing UCLA 59 to 0.
#18 Auburn at #13 LSU 3:30pm Saturday
Despite winning their first 2 games, things haven't been going too well for Auburn. The Tigers started the season ranked 6th in the nation, but have fallen 12 spots after a couple of less than impressive performances. After beating Louisville 31 to 24 in their opener, Auburn needed a late score in regulation then overtime to defeat FCS opponent Jacksonville State. LSU got a big win in their opener, knocking off Mississippi State 21 to 19. RB Leonard Fournette led the way for the Tigers, rushing for 159 yards and 3 touchdowns in the win. That's not good news for Auburn, who's allowed nearly 400 yards rushing through their first two games. Worse for Auburn is QB Jeremy Johnson hasn't done what was expected of him so far, throwing 5 interceptions so far and being held in check on the ground as well. It won't get any easier for Johnson this week, as last week, LSU held Mississippi State dual threat QB Dak Prescott to just 9 yards rushing. Auburn won last years battle of the Tigers 41 to 7, but has lost 7 straight games at LSU.

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#14 Georgia Tech at #8 Notre Dame 3:30pm Saturday
The bad news for Notre Dame is they lost starting quarterback Malik Zaire for the season last week. DeShone Kizer will take over at the helm for the Irish, but a new QB means Notre Dame's defense will be counted on to do more. That could be worse news for the Irish, as they face a Georgia Tech team that's averaging 475 yards rushing per game so far and has outscored their first two opponents (Alcorn State and Tulane) by a combined score of 134 to 16. It'll be a big step up in competition though this week for the Yellow Jackets against the Irish, who have given up less than 100 yards per game rushing on average so far. But after an impressive performance in a 38 to 3 win over Texas in their season opener, Notre Dame struggled on defense last week against Virginia. The Irish surrendered a 12 point 4th quarter lead before coming back to win, allowing the Cavaliers to put up 416 yards in offense as well. This will be Georgia Tech's first road game of the season, Notre Dame is 1 and 0 at home.
#15 Mississippi at #2 Alabama 9:15pm Saturday
Last season, Ole Miss stunned Alabama at home. This year, the Crimson Tide will be seeking revenge on their home field against a Rebels team that has been lighting up the scoreboard so far this season. Mississippi has scored over 70 points in back to back games in wins over Tennessee Martin and Fresno State. The competition will be a bit more stiffer this week, as Alabama will be playing their second Top 25 team already this season. The Crimson Tide opened the season with an impressive 35 to 17 win over then #20 Wisconsin, and followed that up with a 37 to 10 win over Middle Tennessee State last week. Last year's Ole Miss win was the broke a 10 game losing streak against Alabama. The loss was the only defeat the Crimson Tide would suffer in the 2014 regular season. Alabama has also won 12 straight against the Rebels at home.



50/50: Is the new, cheaper Amazon tablet going to be difference maker?

09/18/15 by Rennie Detore



Amazon is no stranger to offering low cost gadgets that not only aren't cost prohibitive but also work much better than their price tag would suggest.
They continued that string of product placement in the laps of the average consumer by announcing the arrival of a $50 tablet aimed at those who want to enjoy the perks and benefits of said device but aren't in the market for higher end, more expensive models such as what Apple and Samsung are offering.
Now, the marketplace is no stranger to low cost tablets, as you can go into any relatively modest electronic dealer or a Wal Mart or Target and find a tablet that is marked down to the point that you'd think it doesn't work all that well.

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And most of the time, you're right. It doesn't.
But Amazon is promising more from this tablet, even at a price point that is appealing to virtually anyone, particularly those on a budget who want to enjoy a tablet but can't.
The real question, however, is despite the claims from Amazon to the contrary, how can they honestly guarantee that a $50 tablet is going to suffice customers?
If what Amazon is saying is true, the tablet is going to be quite the seller. But experts have already spoken up that Amazon isn't really interested in making a huge profit on the deal but rather extend its brand to more people and thus make money on the bulk of people taking note of this deal and the Amazon name and other ancillary products and services they have.
Think of this as a door buster of sorts, the way stores get you into the door and then end up selling you five other things you didn't come in for but bought anyway. To sweeten the deal, Amazon is offering that $50 tablet but also is selling it as a bulk item, meaning you can buy six tablet for the price of five, thus making the final one free. Can you imagine the run on these tablets, which are competent and rather impressive, when the holidays are approaching and buyers might be inclined to have this as a "one and done" gift that they can purchase and pass out accordingly.
Only time will tell, of course, if Amazon can accomplish their goal with the release of the tablet. But more so, to understand this decision, is to truly believe in the fact that Amazon isn't so much interested in getting into the tablet business but rather keeping things at the organization business as usual, and that is to show the consumer that Amazon is all about the customer.



Play ball: Does football even matter in the NFL anymore?

09/13/15 by Rennie Detore



The start of the 2015 NFL season started Thursday with the resounding thud that was the off the field issues that are plaguing the most popular sport in all of America.
Today is the first Sunday of the NFL season, and millions will be flipping on their NFL Sunday Ticket or just plopping in front of the couch to start the extension of Week 1 that began only a few days ago.
What is troublesome about the NFL is that the product on the field is waning a bit, mostly because ticket sales are down around the league due to big screen and 4K TV sales being up. But more so than that isn't so much the league losing popularity on television, but just the proverbial black cloud that hangs over it, spearheaded by the commissioner Roger Goodell and his inability to do anything for the league on a decision or punishment side of the business that ever is taken seriously. Granted, he can negotiate TV deals and get a slew of high powered, NFL owners to agree on issues, but watching him fumble through league suspensions and fines is laughable.

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And the result is two fold: his credibility is awful, and the next time he tries to hand out some sort of discipline, you have to wonder if anyone is even going to be paying attention, since mostly it always gets overturned or ignored, quite frankly.
The other flip side of the Goodell as the world turns is the product on the field is overshadowed on a consistent basis. Last Thursday's NFL opener between the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers was more about embattled, deflate gate quarterback Tom Brady playing in Week 1 despite Goodell handing down a four game suspension that went away and disappeared faster than the Steelers' secondary in that very game.
But no one is worried about the final score, and yes the Patriots did win that game quietly, rather the focus was on Brady and how he'd react to being the public figure he deserves to be but only because he's fighting for his legacy against a haphazard system the NFL commission has in place where suspensions of games, fines and other means of punishment makes no sense and is hardly consistent.
There's been talk among NFL owners of taking away Goodell's power of handing out punishment, but that seems like more wishful thinking than anything. How an entity as powerful as the NFL doesn't have standards set on what requires what sort of punishment is just as funny as watching Goodell and his guess work. Aside from the NFL drug policy, the league looks clueless.
And no one is quite as lost as the NFL Commissioner himself.



Depp perception: Why Black Mass might be Depp's last chance

09/12/15 by Rennie Detore



Judging from his body of work, Johnny Depp, by all accounts, is a superstar.
But even the most famous and talented of actors have been plagued by that part of their career that sends stardom into a certifiable tailspin.
The actor, perhaps best known for his work in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, hasn't had a hit movie in quite some time, and unless he dons the Captain Jack Sparrow outfit again, he may be relegated to the guy who is tabbed as the "he used to be a star and draw money at the box office." 
Instead, Depp and his career are in the doldrums. Every movie he's put out in the last few years has bombed, and his one lustrous star power is hanging on by a thread.

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That's why his latest movie, "Black Mass" is both powerful and poignant, albeit laced with sweet irony as it relates to the career of Depp.
He no longer can rely on his name or the brand that most actors become. Will Smith isn't just "Will Smith" the man, he's the brand, who produces movies and was always one of the more bankable stars in Hollywood. Same with Tom Cruise.
Depp was right up there with them. Was, that is.
"Black Mass" signals a point in Depp's career that is the proverbial crossroads. Another flop and Depp goes about his business, still a rich man in theory but hardly an A lister in terms of recent endeavors. But what Depp needs to ensure longevity is a winner here with "Mass," which by all accounts is stellar work on his part and overall a strong movie in and of itself.
"Black Mass" is Depp, starring as Whitey Bulger, a notorious Irish criminal from the 1970s. Depp nails the character, and he is both chilling and hard to take your eyes off on the screen. For Depp, pulling together a performance like this isn't anything new to him. He's a fine actor who theoretically has opted to make some really bad movies recently.
So can a good movie with a great actor help the latter resurrect a fledgling career?
You'd like to think that Depp is always one wonderful performance away from finding his niche again. He's not like Tom Cruise, who also is in the midst of a downturn at the theater, but mostly because he's never been considered a superb actor and he too is relying, much like Depp with "Pirates," on the "Mission Impossible" franchise every time things go badly.
Depp doesn't want that route, although he'll take it if he needs to.
Let's home for his sake "Mass" is the one that makes the difference so Captain Sparrow can stay docked.



Gate keeper: Spygate is back and with a vengeance

09/10/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak



Ka Boom! ESPN Article Drops A Bomb On The New England Patriots And The NFL
Wow. Talk about a turn of events. Just when you thought all of the shenanigans surrounding the New England Patriots and the NFL were finally over, ESPN comes out with Spygate Revisted. And the allegations of cheating far surpass anything that was discussed before. This time, it also included alleged covering up of the Patriots cheating by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Whoa, that's some pretty serious stuff.
The ESPN article says that Deflate Gate was blown up to the epic status it had because it was the NFL's version of a make up call after Spygate. Honestly, Deflate Gate was blown out of proportion from the beginning. Footballs being underinflated had no influence on the outcome of an AFC Championship game that was a blowout. The evidence against Tom Brady being involved was very thin to begin with, and started to stretch more with the release of the Wells Report. There was never any evidence that Brady was directly involved in deflating those footballs. Roger Goodell justified his suspension and overruled Brady's appeal because Brady destroyed a cell phone the NFL had requested as part of the Deflate Gate investigation.

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I always wondered two things about the Deflate Gate saga. First, I couldn't understand why Goodell kept pushing it as hard as he did. I didn't understand why he wouldn't step down from overseeing Brady's arbitration hearing when the NFLPA had requested he do so. And second, I never understood why Patriots owner Robert Kraft accepted the league's punishment of losing a 1st round draft pick and a million dollar fine, when Kraft had stated Brady and anyone involved in the Patriots organization had nothing to do with deflated footballs.
According to the ESPN article, Goodell's relentless pursuit of Deflate Gate was his way of making up for what would be interpreted as the NFL covering up the Patriots cheating in regards to Spygate. According to the article, there was evidence of the Patriots illegally video taping coaches for play call signals dating all the way back to the 2000 season. That the Patriots had taped opposing teams signals 40 times from 2000 through 2007. That the intricacy of the Patriots video taping was far more sophisticated than what was originally reported. That the Patriots actually had someone sneak into visiting teams locker rooms and steal play sheets. And that after the Patriots were caught, that Goodell did all he could to make sure what was really going on didn't get out. Since Kraft was very influential in Goodell getting the job as league commissioner, the article states that Goodell helped cover up Spygate by having league officials actually destroy evidence. There's plenty more than that, I'd suggest you read the article yourself if you want to see the full scope of what all it entails.
If most of this is proven true, the NFL is in a bad way. Especially if the covering up of evidence by Goodell is proven true. If so, he has to be removed as commissioner. He probably should be anyway just for the buffoonery that has been the result of his decisions and actions in other things around the league. The disciplinary process in the NFL is a joke. Almost all of the publicity the NFL has gotten since the start of last season has been bad. First Ray Rice. Then Adrian Peterson. Then Greg Hardy. Then Deflate Gate. And now this.
Of course the Patriots have denied all of the allegations from the article. Some say ESPN came back with this now as their own way of retaliation, since they actually broke the Deflate Gate scandal, which was shown to be far less than what was originally reported. Goodell has yet to say anything regarding the article.
So just when football fans thought the off the field drama would end after Deflate Gate, here is another major twist in what has become a soap opera staring the New England Patriots and Roger Goodell. Remember when watching the NFL was just about watching football and the outcomes of games were decided by the better team actually winning on the field? I miss those days.



Fair weather fight: Lack of big fight feel plagues Mayweather fight

09/09/15 by Rennie Detore



No is going to argue just how good Floyd Mayweather is, but then again no one seems to be interested in post Manny Pacquiao fight, either.
Mayweather is set to fight Andre Berto this weekend, and plenty of seats are still available. Ticketmaster is reporting that there are about 2,000 seats left and that the ringside fury that was Mayweather versus Pacquiao is not there for Berton and Mayweather. A front row seat costs thousands for the former fight, but Berto and Mayweather is about an $800 first row ticket.
The fight is quite the letdown after Pacquiao set pay per view records for a fight that was a must see, albeit years later than it should have happened given the age of both fighters, mainly Manny.

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Berto is a bum, to put it bluntly. He's lost consecutive fights, and he's hardly even a fly in the ointment that Mayweather's trainer is going to rub on his guy.
Mayweather is claiming this is his "last fight ever," which is hard to imagine but yet still feasible given Mayweather is 38 years old. Anyone who knows Mayweather, however, knows that his ego won't allow him to retire at 49 wins to zero loses, which is where he'd end up when he beats Berto this coming weekend. The desire to get to 50 wins and zero losses might be too much for Mayweather to pass on given that record is so close to attaining.
Mayweather and his camp of cronies painted themselves into their boxing corner with picking such as poor opponent to fight after Pacquiao but also dubbing this disasters as a "last fight" for the undefeated, multiple champion.
No one is buying it. Literally.
And that is because the fight is essentially nothing. It means nothing and won't earn more than lead story status on Sportscenter. And it certainly isn't going to do anything from a pay per view standpoint, aside from Mayweather likely getting his usual huge chunk of change to knock out yet another person that isn't of his ilk as a fighter.
Should Mayweather not have picked a fight at all? No, but the idea that you're going to pair a "last fight ever" moniker with a matchup against a guy who lost three fights in a row is laughable at best.
There's no "big fight" feel to this at all. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to feel anything about a legendary fighter holding a glorified sparing session against an opponent who belongs nowhere near the ring in this scenario.



Falling flat: NFL looks foolish in Brady case

09/04/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak



Not guilty. Well actually, that's not really the case. What is the case though is that Tom Brady's 4 game suspension that was levied against him by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been overturned.
Now Tom Brady's involvement with Deflate Gate hasn't been confirmed or denied. But what has been confirmed is that both the Wells Report and Goodell's decision to uphold the full 4 game suspension even after Brady's appeal, were unfair. Because Brady wasn't given notice that he could be suspended for failing to cooperate with the NFL's investigation, because according to the NFL's rules, the result of first offenses will be fines. And since this was Brady's first offense, and since he wasn't notified that he could be suspended, the suspension given by the NFL and upheld by Goodell after arbitration lacked fairness.
So the punishment wasn't overruled because Tom Brady had no knowledge of Deflate Gate. It wasn't that Brady was proven innocent. It was overruled because Roger Goodell overstepped his boundaries as commissioner. Or in this case, as judge, jury, and executioner. Had Goodell stepped down from overseeing Brady's appeal, maybe the punishment would've been upheld? Or at least, forced the NFLPA to negotiate a middle ground, which would've been a 2 game suspension. Instead, Goodell tried to enforce a "rule" that allows him to punish players as he sees fit when it comes to conduct detrimental to the NFL. But the NFLPA, then Judge Richard Berman, decided that Goodell's powers are not absolute and they do indeed have limits.

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So even though Brady may have been aware that employees of the New England Patriots did indeed deflate the footballs before the AFC Championship, he is absolved of all punishment. Because Roger Goodell assuming he was the czar of the NFL was incorrect. Because the commissioner over stepped his boundaries, the NFLPA wins again over the league. Which makes Goodell's power and the power of the NFL look limited in cases when the players union challenges the league's authority.
The NFL does have the option of appealing Judge Berman's ruling. But even if they do so, Brady will still play the season. And again in a major case regarding the NFL disciplining a player (Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy, and now Tom Brady), the NFLPA has trumped the league.
It's been said for the last few years that maybe the discipline power that Goodell has needs to be reviewed and the process needs to be changed. Considering that Ray Rice knocked a woman out on camera, Greg Hardy was actually convicted of domestic battery, and Tom Brady's innocence was never proven, maybe it's time that Goodell's power and the NFL's disciplinary process is indeed, changed.



Pick me ups: Some underrated players turned into NFL caliber studs

09/01/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak



There are 2 sides to the debate regarding the necessity of the NFL's pre season. One side says the games are unnecessary and only increase the risk of and the occurrence of injuries. To support that side, look at the number of and some of the big name players who were lost to injuries sustained in exhibition games.
On the other side, there are those who feel the pre season is necessary. They say the players need it to get ready for the regular season. They also say it provides opportunities for low round picks or undrafted players to make an impact and find work in the NFL. To support that side, let's take a look at some of the best undrafted players in recent years who used the pre season as their spring board to NFL stardom.
Current Miami defensive back Brent Grimes played his college ball at Division II Shippensburg University. Coming from a small school, Grimes needed the pre season to show his talent was as good as any Division I players at his position. He was actually cut after being signed in 2006 by Atlanta, then went on to play in NFL Europe. He was signed back by the Falcons in 2007, he used that pre season as an opportunity to make a name for himself, and he's been in the NFL since. Grimes is a three time Pro Bowl selection, and was voted as the Dolphins MVP in 2013.

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Coming out of Kent State, current Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison had an uphill battle to make it to the NFL. He was signed by the Steelers in 2002, put on their practice squad, and released 3 times between the 2002 and 2003 seasons. He signed with Baltimore following the 2003 season and also played in NFL Europe before being cut by the Ravens prior to the 2004 season. He was signed back by Pittsburgh in 2004, and the rest is history. Harrison has won 2 Super Bowls, made the Pro Bowl 5 times, was the Steelers MVP twice, and the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2008. Harrison had to work hard in the pre season multiple times, but eventually used that platform as a way to start his stellar NFL career.
Wes Welker was an undrafted wide receiver out of Texas Tech when he was signed by San Diego in 2004. Welker parlayed a strong pre season into a roster spot with the Chargers, but he was released one week into the season. Welker then signed with Miami and made a name for himself playing special teams. He used a strong pre season in 2005 to find his way as one of the Dolphins top 3 receivers heading into the season. After signing with New England in 2007, Welker found stardom in the NFL, playing 6 seasons with the Patriots then 2 more with Denver. He's a 5 time Pro Bowl selection, led the NFL in catches 3 times, is New England's all time receptions leader, and is the all time leader in catches by an undrafted player.
Arian Foster came out of the University of Tennessee in 2009 expecting to be drafted in the middle to late rounds, but his name was never called. He was signed by Houston and used the 2009 pre season to show his skills, enough so that he was added to their practice squad. He became the Texans starter in 2010 and hasn't looked back since. Foster is a 4 time Pro Bowler, who led the NFL in rushing touchdowns twice and rushing yards once. He is also the Houston franchise rushing leader in career rushing yards and touchdowns.
Like James Harrison, Antonio Gates played his college ball at Kent State. Except it wasn't football Gates was playing, he played 2 seasons of basketball for the Golden Flashes. Gates was signed by San Diego in 2003, used the pre season that year to hone his skills, and earned a roster spot at the Chargers 3rd string tight end. Gates broke out as a star in 2004 and has been one since. Gates has been to 8 Pro Bowls, was selected as a member of the NFL's Decade Team for the 2000's, has recorded over 10,000 yards receiving and is 1 touchdown away from 100 in his career. He's also San Diego's franchise leader in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns.
Despite a strong collegiate career at Division I/AA Eastern Illinois, Tony Romo wasn't drafted in 2003. Instead, he was signed by Dallas as a free agent. Romo parlayed a strong pre season into making the team as the Cowboys 3rd string quarterback. Romo used strong showings in the 2004, 20005, and 2006 pre seasons as well to remain on the Cowboys roster. He took over as Dallas' starter during the 2006 regular season and has been under center since. Romo has made the Pro Bowl 4 times and led the NFL in passing yards and touchdowns one time each.
So while some say the pre season is something the NFL doesn't need anymore, I think the six gentlemen mentioned above may disagree.



Guy thing: What to do when your team signs that guy

08/26/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak



1985. That was the first year I started to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was 9 years old and at the age where I started to follow professional sports with a passion. For the first time though in these past 30 years I feel conflicted to be a part of Steelers Nation. Because the Steelers have done what I've ripped other franchises for. They signed "that guy". The guy with the stigma and the controversy and the criminal record and the distraction factor that comes with it. The Steelers signed Michael Vick.
This is where I'm torn at. I love the Steelers. I'm as passionate a fan of the Black and Gold that there is. And I'm proud of that. I'm proud of it not just because of the six Super Bowls or the numerous NFL Hall of Famers. I'm proud to be a Steelers fan because I'm proud of the way the organization has handled things and how the Rooney family's moral requirements have outweighed what a player can do on the field. It's hard to find that in professional sports today, a franchise that weighs character more than talent. "The Cowboys and the Raiders and the Bengals and the Ravens can have all the convicts they want", us Steeler fans have said. "Those kinds of guys don't play in Pittsburgh for the Rooney's. We are happy to not have "them" in our teams uniforms. But now one of "them"is a member of our beloved Steelers.
First things first, Michael Vick has served his time. He committed a heinous crime, went to prison, and claims to be reformed. Nothing he has done since getting out of jail has shown he isn't reformed. He has the same right to make a living in his profession as a drug dealer who cleaned up his act in jail and deserves a second chance to work as a truck driver again or whatever his line of work may have been. You don't have to like him. You don't have to respect him. You can outright hate him if you want. But Michael Vick did his time the way our legal system is set up and is trying to live his life in his profession as an ex convict. Except unlike driving a truck, his profession is playing football in the NFL. Which draws a lot more attention and a lot more judgment than the guy who's driving a truck and not in the public eye.

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With that being said, I think Michael Vick is a despicable person. I don't care that he served his time or that he is reformed, what he did is reprehensible. To willingly torture, maim, and kill dogs for your own amusement is disgusting. Reformed or not, prison time served or not, to me Michael Vick is still that same guy who chose to do that. He wasn't suckered into it. He wasn't an outsider. He wasn't just the money behind it. He was the ring leader. He was a grown man making millions of dollars playing professional football and living a dream and he still willingly decided to have animals killed for his enjoyment. In my eyes you're a scum bag for doing that. And believe me, my words would be a lot stronger if you wanted my true opinion of Michael Vick, but those words can't be printed. However, that's my opinion. And my opinion isn't the law.
People deserve a second chance. And whether we like it or not, we all make mistakes. Sometimes we really mess up. I know men who have served prison time. I've worked with others in the past who I always wished the best for. I've seen good men get passed up for jobs and opportunities that they would have been great at because of the ex con stigma that was associated with them. I thought that was unfair, because they served their time and deserved a second chance. They deserved an opportunity to live life again. I'm also a Christian. I believe in forgiveness. I believe that it's not our place to judge others. I believe we should look for the good in others and encourage our fellow man to be better. But that's a hard pill to swallow right now for the Steelers fan in me.
Pittsburgh is abuzz right now regarding Michael Vick being a Steeler. Most of the opinion has been negative. Very negative. And honestly, I don't like it either. But I'm going to take my opinion of Michael Vick the person out of it and explain why I don't like it. Michael Vick is mediocre at best. He couldn't beat out Geno Smith in New York last year. He didn't do much more the season before in Philadelphia. And in his last year as a starter with the Eagles in 2013, fans were calling for his benching and the team finished with a 4 and 12 record. And there are several other NFL teams in need of an upgrade or depth at the QB position. Yet none of those teams chose to bring in Michael Vick. Why not? Because for no other reason, he's not that good, that's why.
As a football fan taking the opinion of Vick's person out of the equation, this isn't a good move for the Steelers. They could have waited a couple of weeks and seen who's available as teams make their roster cuts. A quarterback at least close to what Vick brings skill wise would more than likely be available. And that player would come without the controversy and baggage that Michael Vick has. The Steelers don't need the distraction factor Vick has already brought to Pittsburgh before even his first practice. The negativity and the distractions aren't worth it because honestly, Michael Vick just isn't that good. He's probably still good enough to be a back up. But you don't need distractions and the majority of your own fan base angered for a reserve player. The move was made by the Steelers to help the team after back up quarterback Bruce Gradkowski was lost for the season. Other than Landry Jones, who has been less than impressive during his tenure, the Steelers have nobody behind Ben Roethlisberger. But with the backlash that has already happened, this move could end up doing more harm than good. Vick may be the best backup quarterback available now, but that might not be the case in a few weeks when teams have to make their final roster cuts. And that backup quarterback would come with no negativity associated with them and no distraction factor. The only time that backup QB's name would be mentioned is if he actually had to play during the season. Otherwise you would hear nothing of him. And that's the way it's supposed to be when you're talking about backup players.
So what do you do now? What do you do when that guy comes to your team? Do you walk away from it? This same feeling will be in the air somewhere else when Ray Rice gets signed. And trust me, he will play in the NFL again. Somebody is going to get injured and some team is going to be desperate for help at running back this season. And they'll call Ray Rice. What are those teams fans going to say? How are they going to feel? The same confliction Steelers fans are feeling now. I've heard a lot of Steelers fans threaten that they're done being fans and won't watch or support the team, but honestly, most of them will be behind the Steelers when the season starts. They won't burn their Terrible Towels or throw away their jerseys like has been threatened more than once that I've read, heard, or seen. And I won't stop being a Steelers fan either. I'll still root for the team with the same passion I always have. I'm a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, so I cheer and support the logo on the helmet first, not the name on the back of the jersey.
But this feeling of confliction is one I've never experienced. As a football fan I don't want Michael Vick because I think the negative that comes with him outweighs any benefits he'll bring to the Steelers. As a Christian I believe everyone deserves forgiveness if they repent. And with that being said, Vick deserves the chance to make a living in his profession. But as a person I also wish he was making that living on another team. With all of the talk of pre season football being unnecessary and leading to more and more serious injuries to significant players, see Pittsburgh versus Green Bay pre season game last weekend, maybe the answer lies there. I keep telling myself all of the things I've stated above, but is it wrong for me to wish Michael Vick is the next to sustain a serious injury in one of the Steelers remaining exhibition games?
I remember when watching football was simpler. But unfortunately, part of today's NFL is that the off the field stuff is as much of the game day story as the game itself. I just want to watch football and cheer for my team. Without being conflicted.



Injury front: Some preseason injuries had huge ramifications

08/22/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak



With another weekend of NFL pre season games upon us, the biggest concern amongst fans, coaches, and players isn't the outcome of those games. The biggest concern is getting out of those games with no key injuries. Since the concern over injuries sustained in exhibition games seems to get more press each year, let's take a look at some of the worst injuries to ever occur during pre season football.
While the worst injuries most of todays fans think of when it comes to exhibition games are of the season ending variety, the two worst injuries sustained in pre season games occurred a long time ago and much more serious. The worst happening in 1963 when Stone Johnson was paralyzed and ultimately died. Johnson was a sprinter in the 1960 Olympics who was brought in by the Kansas City Chiefs to be a kick returner. He fractured his neck in a pre season game against Houston, was taken to the hospital where he was unresponsive and it was determined he was paralyzed from the neck down. Johnson would pass away from his injuries 10 days later.
In 1978 Darryl Stingley of the New England Patriots had his career ended and his life altered as well in a pre season game. Entering his 6th NFL season, Stingley was hit by Oakland Raiders defensive back Jack Tatum during an exhibition game that compressed Stingley's spinal cord and left him as a quadriplegic for the rest of his life. The Patriots had negotiated a new contract with Stingley prior to the trip to Oakland that would have made him one of the highest paid wide receivers in the NFL at the time. That contract was never signed. Stingley died in 2007 at the age of 55 from pneumonia and heart disease, which was complicated by his quadriplegia.

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In 1972, two time Pro Bowl selection Bubba Smith was injured in a pre season game. It was bead enough Smith was injured in an exhibition game, but the way he was injured made it worse. Smith ran into the solid steel pole that was used as a yardage marker in the NFL at the time. He missed the entire 1972 season and was never the same player he was before the injury.
More recently there were some career altering injuries sustained during the pre season as well. In 1998, Jason Sehorn of the New York Giants, tore his ACL and MCL in an exhibition game against the Jets. Sehorn's career wasn't ended, he returned the next season and played 5 more seasons. But his speed was greatly diminished by the injury and he never put up the same numbers he did beforehand.
Trent Green went down for the Rams, which gave way to Kurt Warner and his Hall of Fame career. Green would go on to play well for the Kansas City Chiefs, but never came close to matching Warner in any shape or form.
Dustin Keller was signed by Miami in 2013 after spending his first 5 NFL seasons with the New York Jets. Keller was expected to play a big part in the Dolphins offense after having led the Jets in receptions in 2 of the previous 3 seasons. However, he would tear his ACL, MCL, and PCL in a pre season game against Houston. Not only did he miss the entire season for the Dolphins, he has yet to return to football since the injury 2 years ago.
Some feel the NFL is playing with fire continuing to have 4 meaningless pre season games, thus increasing the chance of more severe injuries to star players. Not to mention 4 pre season games equals additional contact, which increases the risks players face in regards to sustaining a concussion or CTE.
No matter what the feeling is about the pre season or what changes may lie ahead, here's hoping we don't add to this list of career altering or ending injuries through the remainder of the 2015 exhibition season.



Trophy strife: Are kids coddled to when it comes to awards?

08/17/15 by Rennie Detore



How many of you actually pay attention to news at it relates to celebrities or athletes and how they parent their children?
Probably not often.
Despite the propensity of publications that deal directly in celebrity dirt or athlete undertakings, the general public for the most part takes this type of would be news with a grain of proverbial salt.

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Simply put, we don't care so much how those of privilege parent their children.
But sometimes a story comes across that actually sparks some serious debate and makes you wonder how you'd handle a situation of that ilk or a similar dilemma as it relates to your kids.
In this situation, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison wasn't congratulatory to his sons when they received participation trophies.
In fact, he sent them back.
Harrison responded in tow saying that this isn't about not being supportive to your children, but rather teaching them the value of earning a trophy versus being handed something just for showing up.
Harrison certainly isn't apologizing for this decision, nor should he.
There's nothing wrong with sporting events recognizing kids for participating, particularly kids of a younger age who really aren't as concerned with wins or loses but rather being rewarded for being part of a team.
I get that, and totally agree with that mentality.
But at some point, kids need to understand that you don't always win just for being a participant and actually need to know what it feels like to be disappointed. Far too often parents feel like they have to protect their kids from failure, sadness or being letdown, when in actuality coping with how that feels, being able to return to that same sport or event or job and try again harder to have a better result is the more enviable way of parenting.
What Harrison did was simply give his sons a message that is one all moms and dads should be thinking about cognitively as their kids get older, compete in sports or start their foray into the real world as it relates to college, relationships and most importantly jobs. That message is you don't always win or succeed just by being present and accounted for but sometimes hard work has to turn into harder work and giving it your all still doesn't mean that someone can't be better than you.
That seems heavy for a five year old, and that's fine if you're not ready to broach the subject at that moment, but it is something you'll have to strongly consider as your child gets older. What you may see as hurting or hindering them actually will do them a favor in the long run.



Help me, Ronda: Is Rousey one of the best ever in UFC?

08/03/15 by Rennie Detore



For those who work by the hour, you'd love to be the pace and rate of UFC fighter Ronda Rousey.
She's captivated the mixed martial arts and fighting world with a 12 wins and zero losses record, and now she's gaining even more mainstream publicity after disposing of a so called challenger in a mere 34 seconds.
Yes, half of a minute.

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But that isn't anything new for Rousey who clearly doesn't work by the hour, as she has had few fights that last even a full minute recently. She's about as well rounded of a fighter as you get; if you try to take her down, you'll get popped. When you pay attention to the hands and how she throws them, you'll be on the ground quickly.
So basically, you're in a lose lose situation.
After her win this past weekend in 34 seconds over a seriously competent challenger, Brazilian Bethe Correia, Rousey is starting to find herself on media outlets everywhere, including CNN, MSN and others as being more than just a female fighter that could easily be labeled a novelty in a sport dominated by men.
Now, she's the poster person for Ultimate Fighting Championship.
She's a draw, a legit superstar with enough credibility to carry an entire pay per view with her fight as the headliner. She can be mentioned alongside fight cards with her male counterparts and no one blinks an eye (well, except maybe her opponent here in the next few seconds).
So the debate about Rousey and if she's the real deal hardly is much of a topic of discussion. The answer is an easy yes.
The fact that she's a woman competition shouldn't ever preclude her from being discussed as one of the best in her sport. Yes, she's pretty and in some ways when she's not knocking blocks off in the ring, she's donning sleek, sexy dresses on the "Tonight Show" or doing ESPN's "Body issue" and baring it all.
But Anna Kournikova, this is not.
Kournikova was the teen age dream of tennis fans when she strutted on to the court and the world cared more about her short shorts than her game, which wasn't very good. She was an average player in the sport at best, but her appeal visually gave her career and subsequent spotlight more than it truly was worth.
Rousey is dominant at what she does and isn't showing signs of slowing down any time soon. Like a lot of competitors, she'll get older and lose a fight here and there, but what she's doing now is remarkable and the fans of UFC are reveling in this fighter that is quite simply the talk of the entire sport.
Which is exactly where she should be based on what she's done in the ring.



Iconic presence: Wrestling legend passes away and leaves behind trailblazing legacy

08/01/15 by Rennie Detore



Every decade in professional wrestling has its cookie cutter good guy, the one that kids gravitate toward, sells all the merchandise and wins the matches when it matters most.
Such is the dance that is wrestling as good battles evil for supremacy in storylines crafted once by wrestling experts and now Hollywood screen writers.
But no good guy is complete without his foil, that penultimate bad guy or, as they say in wrestling, "heel," that allows your hero to play the role so perfectly as they work through their on screen rivalry.

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"Stone Cold" Steve Austin had The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) in the late 1990s as wrestling hit its second boom period. Earlier in the mid 1990s, good guy Bret "Hitman" Hart had Shawn Michaels, a defiant bad guy that ushered in the WWE "Attitude" phase with the creation of D Generation X, a heel, anti establishment, PG 13 and then some group.
Simply put, good doesn't succeed if bad isn't better and much more hated.
Hulk Hogan, the now maligned former WWE champion multiple times over, ruled the 1980s and made millions of dollars alongside Vince McMahon, who marketed Hogan as the superhero that flourished during the perfect decade.
The original Hogan craze started with "Wrestlemania" I, but that event, a huge risk for the WWE, wouldn't have succeeded without "The Hulk" being paired up with "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, a heel who only fueled Hogan's popularity by being as bad as possible.
Piper died in his sleep Thursday evening, July 30 and was found dead the following morning. 
He was 61.
Piper was a whiz on the mic, flawless and even had his own in ring and on air talk show "Piper's Pit," a short interview segment where he'd talk to current superstars or managers. The show gave way to countless others of that ilk but never could be duplicated due to Piper's flare and charisma.
As a wrestler, Piper wasn't technically sound nor would you ever confuse him with Ric Flair or other in ring technicians of his day. But Piper didn't need to know much about wrestling. He had a boxing background prior to wrestling and was portrayed as a foul mouthed fighter who did anything and everything to "win" matches and put guys like Hogan in his place.
And it worked perfectly.
Piper cultivated a legacy that makes him more than just a Hall of Fame caliber performer or one of wrestling's icons who left this world way too soon. He created a persona of "Rowdy" that made it hip and cool to be the bad guy, to torment and torture the good guys and get fans surprisingly to back him even though he did everything to turn them against him.
Piper made no apologies. He was outspoken. He didn't care. He left wrestling and went into acting and did fairly well. He returned to wrestling and never seemed to be the type of wrestler that did anything other than on his own terms.
Sadly, Piper is one of many of his generation and within this professional that died too young and most likely that can be contributed to the hard life that is traveling, performing and injuries that define this hybrid of sports and performance.
Piper never really was that guy who uttered or cried "poor me," but simply stayed truly to the "Hot Rod" mentality which was a mixture of the character and sometimes not far off from the real man, Roderick Toombs.
Piper will be sorely missed, but the mark he left on his craft and his sport still can be seen today when you watch the product in the WWE or any other federation. Every heel that swaggers to the ring, talks trash and defies authority does so with a little bit of "Rowdy" in every irreverent word and action.



Off based: Target shirt for women hardly offensive

07/28/15 by Rennie Detore



Ironically, Target finds itself as a retailer coming under fire for a new women's T shirt in what can only be described as negativity that it totally off the mark.
A few weeks ago Target and its new sporty T shirt for women, which simply said the word "Trophy" on the front of it was met with a wide array of criticism for the wording and how it relates to being demeaning to women, suggesting that women are objects and the shirt does exactly what the naysayers believe it to be doing: objectify women by assuming that they're on in the same and only to be viewed as something beyond a one dimensional thing of sorts.
While the word "Trophy" certain has the ability to be misconstrued as more than just a word when it is on a women's shirt, I'll have a hard time buying into it being made into a national news story and thus putting Target in the crosshairs of consumer fire that is a bit off baed at best.

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Yes, the term "Trophy Wife" isn't necessarily viewed as being a good thing, but hardly is the kind of rhetoric worth causing the ruckus that is being brought to light at the expense of Target. I'm certainly not downplaying the negativity that the word "Trophy" can cast upon a woman if used in appropriately or in a derogatory way.
That said, this is a T shirt, and I don't believe for one second that Target viewed this as something more than a silly, harmless tongue firmly planted in cheek T shirt that is more of a joke and jest than a jab at females or treating them as though they're a dime a dozen.
The latter mentality certainly is warranted if that's how you feel as a women or consumer advocate that isn't happy about Target taking the shirt and going public with it. But to call Target out and assume that they're the worst retailer in the world or that someone used judgment that was horrific is taking the English language and going overboard with just how this type of story is classified in the grand scheme of feminism and the perception of women as a whole.
I'm not denying that culturally speaking this shirt could be perceived the wrong way, but that lack of education on the hows and whys of objectifying women has little to do with a shirt being sold by a retailer. That apples versus oranges discussion is something that needs to be discussed but without assuming a shirt is some sort of catalyst to perpetuate misguided thoughts or the negative connotation of the term "Trophy Wife."
I get that it isn't a good term, but women are the ones buying the shirts and they're taking them for what they are: shirts with an albeit silly, stupid saying that they don't necessarily believe to be true about themselves.
Objectifying women isn't funny and certainly has no place in today's society. Wearing a T shirt that says "Trophy" on it isn't going to change the cultural barometer one way or another.



Abbott forming: Why former MLB pitcher is motivation personified

07/24/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak



He was a star on the baseball diamond in high school, so good he was drafted out of high school in 1986. In 1987, he beat out former NBA All-Star David Robinson for the Sullivan Award, which recognizes the best amateur athlete in the country. That year he also won the Golden Spikes Award as the top amateur baseball player in the nation, beating out Ken Griffey Jr. and Robin Ventura. He was the Big Ten Conference player of the year in 1988. He also won a gold medal with the U.S. Olympic team that summer. He was a 6'3, 200lb left handed pitcher and was selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft by the California Angels. Jim Abbott followed the pedigree on the field expected of blue chip athlete. But he did all of this without a right hand.
Jim Abbott was born with a deformed right arm that ended at the wrist where his hand should have been. Despite that, he excelled on the mound. Pitching with basically one arm would seem almost impossible. But Abbott made it look easy. He would place the fielding glove on the end of his right arm, throw the pitch with his left arm, then switch the glove to his left hand to field. If he had to field the ball, he would take the glove and hold it against his chest with the right arm so he could throw with his left. Think about having to do that every time you threw a pitch. Abbott did it so seamlessly that you never could tell he was missing his right hand. He also would field bunts bare handed so he could throw quickly to first base.
Abbott played in the American League in the days before interleague play. Since the designated hitter was used in the AL, Abbott didn't have to worry about batting. But he was surprisingly good at the plate in his amateur days. He batted .427 and hit 7 home runs his senior year of high school.

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As inspiring as he was on the field, Abbott always gave back off the field as well. He was heavily involved in charity work and working with disabled children. He was so involved in his charity work that former New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said he was too involved. Steinbrenner said after the 1993 season, one of two seasons Abbott pitched for the Yankees, that he was over involved in his charity work and it contributed to his poor results on the field. And that Abbott needed to devote 100% of his attention to playing baseball. This despite the fact that Abbott was selected for the Freedom Forums Free Spirit Award that same year for his work with disabled children. Abbott has said he met with at least one disabled child on every road series during his entire MLB career.
On the field, Abbott pitched parts of 10 major league seasons. He had 2 stints with the Angels to go with playing for the Yankees, the Chicago White Sox, and the Milwaukee Brewers. He won 87 games in his career and also threw a no hitter for the Yankees in 1993. Off the field, Abbott remains involved working with children with disabilities. He still lives in California, where he is involved with the Amigos de los Ninos, which is a group that works to help groups that aid children. He is also a motivational speaker and continues to make appearances for various charitable organizations.
One of Jim Abbott's quotes is "Find something you love, and go after it with all of your heart". He did that in baseball, and continues to do it by helping others as well.



Tight squeeze: MLB races stay tight as second half kicks off

07/17/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak



Coming out of the All-Star break, there's definitely excitement due to some very tight division races. First and second place in four of the six divisions are separated by less than 4 games. The gap is less than 3 games in three of those divisions. That should make for some great baseball in the second half of the season. So let's take a look around MLB and see where things are at coming out of the break.
The tightest division race is in the AL West, where Anaheim holds a 1/2 game lead over Houston. A big reason for the Angels lead is the Astros lost their final 6 games heading into the All-Star break, while Anaheim won 7 of their final 10. Another reason has been the hitting of Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, who lead the American League and are tied for 2nd in MLB with 26 home runs each. For the Astros, it's been the rise of Dallas in Houston. Dallas Keuchel is 2nd in MLB and tied for tops in the AL with 11 wins. His 2.23 ERA is 2nd best in the American League as well. The Astros are currently sitting in the 2nd Wild Card position as well.
The AL East is the tightest division in the majors. The New York Yankees have the lead, 3.5 games ahead of Tampa, 4 games in front of Baltimore, and 4.5 ahead of Toronto. Even last place Boston is only 6.5 games back. Mark Teixeira has powered the Yankees to the division lead. Teixeira is 4th in the American League with 22 home runs. His 62 RBI's are tops in the AL and 4th most in MLB.

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In the AL Central, Kansas City holds a 4.5 game lead over Minnesota. Both teams success playing at home is why they're the top 2 teams in the division. Minnesota's 31 home wins are the most in the American League, while Kansas City's 30 home wins are second most. The Royals defense has been MLB's finest and is a big part of the reason why they're in the lead despite not having any major hitting or pitching stat leaders. For the Twins, when they have a late game lead, they've closed it out. Glen Perkins 28 saves are the most in the AL, and are 2nd best in MLB. The Twins right now are also sitting in the top Wild Card spot in the American League as well.
In the National League, the most exciting race is one that wasn't much of a race a few weeks ago. St. Louis held a 9 game lead in the NL Central, but Pittsburgh has cut it to just 2.5 games by winning 13 of their final 16 games heading into the All Star break, including winning 3 of 4 versus the Cardinals in their last series before the break. The Pirates are tied with the second most home wins in the NL and MLB with 32. The Cardinals are tied for third in both the NL and MLB with 31 wins at home. Pittsburgh has some of the best pitching in the majors. Gerrit Cole leads MLB with 13 wins, while Mark Melancon leads all closers with 29 saves. Cole's 2.30 ERA is 5th best in the bigs, while A.J. Burnett's 2.11 ERA is tied for 2nd lowest in the NL and 3rd lowest in MLB. St. Louis has MLB's best record, while Pittsburgh has the 2nd most wins with 53. And the 3rd place Chicago Cubs are sitting in the 2nd Wild Card spot. It's safe to say this is the best division in baseball right now.
The race in the NL East is close as well, with Washington holding a 2 game lead over the New York Mets. The Mets came into the break hot, winning 7 of their last 10 games. They also have the 2nd most home wins in MLB with 32. The Nationals have been led by Bryce Harper, who's .339 batting average is 3rd highest in the majors. Harper's 61 RBI's are tied for 5th most in baseball, and his 26 home runs are tied for 2nd most. Washington has gotten it done on the mound as well, with Max Scherzer's 10 wins being tied for 4th most in MLB. He's also 4th in MLB with 150 strikeouts. Scherzer's 2.11 ERA is tied for 2nd lowest in the NL and 3rd lowest in MLB. Right behind him is the Mets Jacob deGrom, who's 2.14 ERA is 5th best in the majors.
In the NL West, it's Los Angeles in the lead, 4.5 games ahead of San Francisco. The Dodgers 33 home wins are the most in baseball. LA's pitching has been the biggest factor for their success. Zach Greinke leads MLB with a 1.39 ERA, while Clayton Kershaw's 160 strikeouts are the most in baseball. The Giants have been led by the bats of Nori Aoki and Buster Posey. Aoki's .317 batting average is 5th highest in the NL, while Posey's .314 average is 6th best. Posey is also 5th in the NL with 58 RBI's.
With the division races this tight, the rest of the 2015 MLB season is shaping up to have some exciting pennant chases that more than likely will come down to the wire.



Snake eyed: Stabler embodied attitude that was backed by toughness and talent

07/11/15 by Rennie Detore



I wasn't fortunate enough to watch Kenny Stabler play for the Oakland Raiders.
Stabler, who died July 8 of colon cancer at the age of 69, was a tough talking, hard throwing lefty for the Raiders and helped the notorious silver and black attack win a Super Bowl in 1977.
That's two years before I was born.

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None the less, the internet and a father who loved football and was a diehard Pittsburgh Steelers fan in the 1970s was the perfect storm to really get a sense of the kind of quarterback Stabler was in his prime.
Before Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and even Joe Montana and John Elway made fourth quarter comebacks cool, Stabler was the epitome of accepting that his team was down late in the game and putting that squad on his proverbial back to win games when all hope was lost.
His teammates and his legendary coach John Madden all proclaimed Stabler's affinity for winning after his passing the past week. They commented that Stabler had that innate ability to win when it counted.
My dad, who will recall just how wonderful and tough the Pittsburgh Steelers were in the 1970s, a decade that saw them win four Super Bowls, couldn't help but opine about Stabler and laud him for how he'd never back down from those same Steelers and fought back against a defense labeled the Steel Curtain.
Stabler's on field accolades speak volumes for a player that seemed well ahead of his time in how he played and won. But equally amazing was Stabler and how he exuded a coolness about him. I mean his nickname was "The Snake." It doesn't get much better than that. Talk of Stabler and how he was always flanked by female fans or how he'd be hanging out in places that if it were 2015, he'd be on Twitter and Facebook and be caught by a camera phone or video so often that he'd be dominating the pages of NFL.com on a daily basis.
But that decade and generation of football isn't like 2015. Stabler oozed and epitomized Raiders' football during a time when being bad was good. History shows in sports that often the bad guy becomes beloved because he plays by his own rules, and if his personality is such that fans flock to him out of respect and admiration for his passion, toughness, skill and ability than what he or she does when they're not participating in a professional sport is moot.
You can argue that Johnny Manziel, the embattled Browns' quarterback, is one of the more despised figures we have in sports. Manziel hasn't earned anything. His reputation in college was that of someone who reeked of entitlement. He's done nothing on the field to earn anything, so when journalists and broadcasters alike compare Manziel to Stabler in the sense that why was the latter player allowed to get away with being bad and actually revered for it, while the former is chastised, it often is laughable even beyond the fact that the 1970s and 2015 are two completely different time period.
Much like the Raiders' mantra, Stabler just won. Manziel is floundering by his own accord.
A player like Stabler is tough, rugged and appealed to both sexes for a multitude of reasons. Had he not won on the field, he'd be in the same boat as Manziel. I'm not suggesting one is right or better than the other, but often winning soothes all.
Stabler's career is one that is beloved and looked fondly upon because of not only his wins and losses but how he cultivated and carved out his niche by playing on and off the field by his own rules.



Navy blues: Plus size Old Navy customer offended easily despite lack of finger pointing

07/09/15 by Rennie Detore



Have you ever heard the term "fat shaming?"
If you haven't, you've likely heard it now.
That's because a random Old Navy customer, Rachel Taylor, had her fat shaming story go viral when she was offended at the retail store when a daughter and mom poked fun at an oversized tank top that Taylor overheard while she was at the store.

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Taylor was quick to thank Old Navy for carrying sizes that fit her frame, so this story isn't about anything Old Navy did wrong.
This is more about Taylor and her openly stating that she couldn't help but start to cry when a little girl held up this large sized tank top and told her mom that she and someone else could fit in it, to which the mom replied "that thing (the tank top) is huge."
Taylor's story was picked up nationally from outlets such as CNN and Yahoo, and dubbed fat shaming, although that really seems a bit off the mark as it relates to this story specifically.
The issue with Taylor isn't so much taking away or downplaying how she felt. She overheard something that was said by a daughter and a mom that struck a nerve with her, and no one is suggesting that she not be upset by the comment. She's entitled to have that type of reaction if that's how she felt.
If that's the story, then so be it. Taylor goes on to say that people should watch what they say, as comments like the ones made by the daughter and mom are hurtful.
The only problem is no one actually said anything to Taylor directly, nor were the comments geared toward saying anything specifically about someone being "fat" or even "overweight." The mom in the story said the tank top was "huge," never once mention that the person wearing it was obese or overweight. There was an inference to that degree, but saying that a piece of clothing is large could also be perceived as a factual comment.
If the shirt is big, then it is big. And a little girl suggesting that her and someone of her same size could fit inside that aforementioned big shirt also isn't unheard of as far as something that can or would be said at a clothing store by a child.
In no way is this suggesting that Taylor overreacted to the situation; she reacted exactly in the way that the situation struck her. But to call this fat shaming is a bit of a stretch.
Had either the child or mom pointed out Taylor specifically or commented on the shirt as being for fat people, then the comments might have a little more bite to them. Again, Taylor and others offended by what was said shouldn't simply laugh it off or not be affected by those words.
Taking the story and running with it as if it was malicious in its delivery or intent feels overblown.



Champs again: Women's World Cup win a story of perseverance

07/07/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak



It had been 16 years since the United States won the FIFA Women's World Cup. 1999 was the year that Brandi Chastain made the sports bra famous after her title winning penalty kick goal in the overtime shootout lifted the USA over China. The win gave the US women their 2nd title in the 3rd ever Women's World Cup tournament.
Since then, the ladies of the Red, White, & Blue finished 3rd in both the 2003 and 2007 World Cups. Those were both disappointing results, but those results paled in comparison to the disappointment at the 2011 World Cup. In the Finals for the first time since their 1999 championship, the USA fell to Japan the same way they defeated China 12 years earlier, losing in the penalty kick phase of overtime.
Fittingly for the United States, they got a championship rematch with Japan in 2015. But this time penalty kicks wouldn't be necessary. The US scored 4 times in the first 16 minutes of the match. Carli Lloyd took Chastain's spot as America's hero, scoring twice in the first 5 minutes and netting a hat trick in the first half, as the USA rolled to an impressive 5 to 2 win.

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The United States went 5 matches without surrendering a goal prior to the final match. A testament to the team's defense, but also to their goalkeeper, Hope Solo. For Solo, the World Cup win was well deserved. In the team's semi final round loss to Brazil in 2007, Solo was benched in favor of Brianna Scurry, who helped lead the team to that 1999 title. The US were beaten 4 to nothing, and Solo said after the match that then coach Greg Ryan made the wrong decision and that she would've "no doubt made those saves". Solo wasn't allowed to play in the team's 3rd place match against Norway and was heavily criticized by many of her then teammates for her comments. Off the field, things weren't easy for Solo either. Her and her husband, former Seattle Seahawks player Jerramy Stevens, were involved in an incident the night before their wedding that landed Stevens in jail. Charges were never filed, both Solo and Stevens said he took the rap to protect their family members who were actually involved in the altercation that led to Stevens being arrested. Solo was herself arrested last summer after a fight with her half sister and nephew. Charges against her were dismissed earlier this year. For Solo, this World Cup win will hopefully take the focus off of the negative events she's dealt with away from soccer, and refocus the attention to what she's accomplished on the pitch. Solo holds United States soccer goalkeeping records including wins, shutouts, starts, appearances, consecutive minutes played, most wins in a season, and longest undefeated streak. She helped the women's team win gold in both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics and won the Golden Glove award for best goalkeeper at the 2011 World Cup and again this year.
For Abby Wambach it was a way to go out on top in what was her final World Cup appearance. Wambach played for the US team in 2003, 2007, 2011, and 2015 World Cups. She was a part of the Olympic team that won gold in 2004 and 2012. Wambach was named to the 2008 squad, but suffered a broken leg in an exhibition match prior to the Olympics. She is the all time leading goal scorer international soccer for both men and women. Wambach also was named as FIFA's World Player of the Year in 2012.
For Christie Rampone, it's the same ending to a fantastic World Cup career as it is for Wambach. At age 40, she became the oldest player to ever appear in a Women's World Cup match. She played for the United States in 5 World Cup tournaments and 4 Olympic tournaments. Rampone also has the second most caps of any player in United States and world soccer history.



Reboot revelation: Why Jurassic Park worked, and Terminator didn't

07/04/15 by Rennie Detore



So the summer movie season is off and running and has been for the last month, and the audiences have spoken as it relates to the reboot of two noteworthy franchises that started in the early 1990s and are attempting a comeback: Jurassic Park and Terminator.
And what movie goers have to say is good for one and not so reassuring for the other.
Jurassic Park is tearing up the box office with new leading man Chris Pratt, and the movie still is churning along at an epic pace, knocking off one movie after another for total gross numbers and shows very little signs of waning even with other movies, such as Terminator, coming out as new in subsequent weeks.

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On the flip side, Terminator didn't necessarily tank, but fell short of its opening weekend numbers and shows little signs of having much life in the United States. Rather, Terminator, the fifth installment of the movie, seems destined to be on DVD quickly and make most of its $150 something million budget overseas, where once popular genres (like rock music for example) go to truly earn the kind of money they need to in order to be profitable.
Both movies scored rave reviews and wonderful box office receipts in their so called "heydays", so rebooting them in 2015 seemed somewhere between risky and rewarding.
So why exactly has Jurassic World done wonders for that franchise, but Terminator isn't making the kind of headway or news that it once did back in the early 90s?
To answer that question is to look at two key factors: the stars and the story.
Jurassic World features Pratt, who became lovable, desirable and did wonders for his leading man status in "Guardians of the Galaxy." He helped push that movie from laughable to respectability because he channeled his inner Harrison Ford (think Hans Solo and his condescending, swashbuckling mantra) and didn't seem out of place on the big screen.
Keep in mind the last Jurassic Park movie was in 2001, meaning that 14 year absence from the big screen had audiences potentially clamoring for more from the franchise.
Terminator had two wildly original and successful movies, but the third and fourth versions of the franchises, released in 2003 and 2009 respectively, didn't do much to continue the unique storytelling paradox that is Terminator movies. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his star power have waned tremendously since the mid 1990s, and his inclusion in this movie makes sense after "Salvation" in 2009 didn't have him as part of the show. Schwarzenegger reprising the role seems more like a rerun than a reboot. "Salvation" hurt the Terminator legacy quite a bit, even though all the pieces were in place to score big (such as Christian Bale fresh off his Batman success), but the direction and storytelling missed awfully.
Keep in mind that "Salvation" was only six years ago, hardly enough time for fans to want more from the cyborgs.



Free agent frenzy: NHL rosters flip upside down after trading barrage

07/03/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak



You may have heard of the pseudo holiday Christmas in July. Well for hockey fans, July 1st is indeed just that, as that's when the annual free agency signing period in the NHL takes place. This year was considered to be a down year as far as unrestricted free agents go, but there were still plenty of big name players on the move. Let's recap some of the bigger deals done during this year's Free Agent Frenzy.
Two of the biggest moves that took place weren't signings, but were multi player trades. The first big deal made saw the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks send forward Brandon Saad to Columbus as part of a 7 player deal. Saad and forward Alex Broadhurst and defenseman Michael Paliotta were sent to the Blue Jackets for forward Artem Anisimov, Corey Tropp, Jeremy Morin, and Marko Dano. With Chicago up against the salary cap, and Saad a restricted free agent who's price tag was going to be too high for the Blackhawks had another team made an offer, decided to move the 22 year old forward. While Saad is the centerpiece of the trade and definitely makes Columbus a better team while adding to their solid, young core of players, the Blackhawks did get decent return for him. Anisimov has size and could fill Chicago's need for a 2nd line center, while Dano is a promising 20 year old rookie who looked good last season. Morin returns to Chicago after being traded to Columbus last season, and he and Tropp are expected to be depth players who could contend for 4th line roles. The Blackhawks also received a 2016 4th round draft pick in the trade. Both Broadhurst and Paliotta are 22 year old prospects that have only played a combined 1 game in the NHL.
The other big trade saw the Pittsburgh Penguins acquire forward Phil Kessel from Toronto in a 6 player trade. The Penguins got Kessel along with defenseman Tim Erixon and forward Tyler Biggs as a well as a 2016 2nd round draft pick in exchange for forwards Kasperi Kapanen and Nick Spaling, as well as defenseman Scott Harrington, and Pittsburgh's 1st and 3rd round picks in next years draft. Kessel has been durable and has been Toronto's best player since joining the Maple Leafs in the 2009/2010 season. Kessel is 4th in goals and 12th in points amongst all NHL players during his tenure in Toronto. The return for the Maple Leafs is more of a look to the future. Kapanen was Pittsburgh's first round draft pick in 2014. Harrington saw his frist NHL action for Pittsburgh last season. Both should have a chance to make the Maple Leafs roster this season. Spaling played various roles for Pittsburgh last year, but adds bottom six forward depth for Toronto and is best fit at center. Biggs was Toronto's 1st round draft pick in 2011while Erixon was Calgary's 1st round pick in 2009. Pittsburgh will be his 5th team in 7 years.

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As for the actual free agent signings, there were several big name players who will be wearing a different jersey come Fall. Matt Belesky, who had a career year in Anaheim last season, signed a 5 year contract with Boston. Defenseman Paul Martin moved from Pittsburgh to San Jose, signing a 4 year deal with the Sharks. Another top defenseman on the move was Andrej Sekera, who moved from Los Angeles to Edmonton on a 6 year contract with the Oilers. Sekera's signing is another move to bolster Edmonton's defense. Edmonton also signed forward Mark Letestu from Columbus to a 3 year deal.
Detroit made 2 big moves by signing defenseman Mike Green from Washington to a 3 year contract and center Brad Richards from Chicago on a 1 year deal. Colorado was active as well, signing 3 year deals with defenseman Francois Beauchemin from Anaheim and forward Blake Comeau from Pittsburgh. Calgary made another big offseason move, signing Michael Frolik from Winnipeg to a 5 year contract. Toronto continued their roster revamping, signing forwards P.A. Parenteau (from Colorado) and Marc Arcobello (from Arizona) to 1 year contracts. The Leafs also brought back forward Daniel Winnik from Pittsburgh, and signed defenseman Matt Hunwick, both to 2 year contracts. In an effort to reach the salary cap floor, the Arizona Coyotes made a slew of moves. The Coyotes signed forward Antoine Vermette back from Chicago and defenseman Zbynek Michalek back from St, Louis, each on 2 year contracts. Brad Richardson was signed to a 3 year deal, coming over from Vancouver. Arizona also added forward Steve Downie from Pittsburgh and goaltender Anders Lindback from Buffalo on 1 year contracts.
Washington made two moves of their own, one via free agency and the other by trade. The Capitals signed forward Justin Williams from Los Angeles with Williams agreeing to a 2 year contract. Washington then acquired forward T.J. Oshie from St. Louis for forward Troy Brouwer, goaltending prospect Pheonix Copley, and a 2016 3rd round draft pick.
But even with all of the moves made so far, several big names remain on the market. Some of the top forwards left include Eric Fehr and Joel Ward, who each scored 19 goals last season with Washington. Shawn Matthias, who scored 18 goals for Vancouver last season, is still available. Other big name forwards left on the market include Sean Bergenheim, Chris Stewart, and Alexander Semin. The top remaining defensemen include Johnny Oduya , Lubomir Visnovsky, Marek Zidlicky, and Anton Volchenkov.



Birth right: Did school questionnaire cross line with parent?

07/02/15 by Chasity McLeod



Plenty of parents have filled out question and answer paperwork when their child enters school. A Connecticut mom was faced with the same task, but took exception to one question that just seemed to stand out more so than the other customary ones.
The question asked if her son was born through traditional birth or via a C Section, and the mom, Cara Paiuk, quickly responded that the question was no one's business and didn't answer accordingly.
Paiuk stands by the notion that the question is moot and doesn't, as the school indicated, determine whether or not a birth defect is present based on how the child was born, particularly since C Sections have become more commonplace recently.

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The school responded that the form had been standard practice for two decades and no one, until Paiuk, commented on the document or determined that they didn't want to fill it out.
Paiuk brings up a valid point when she contends that it isn't the job of a school administrator to determine if the child has any issue as it relates to birth, but rather than should be put to a doctor or medical professional to make that call.
While Paiuk is certainly within her rights to not fill out the form, that question in particular, the school shouldn't be chastised too heavily for a form that they believed wholeheartedly was perfectly fine until Paiuk made it into news.
Granted, the question itself really seems out of place on an incoming form for a mom to fill out about a five year old. You can understand to some extent why the school wants to know this information but the connection between how a child was born and why they're struggling to learn is a real stretch between points A and B. This one feels more like point A all the way to point Z.
That said, the school may just have let the question stand due to no one questioning it, even though in and of itself, it makes little sense on this type of form. Paid was right to ask why, and the school rightfully is open to reviewing what they're doing and their protocol in response to a mom who took offense to a question that wasn't intended to elicit that kind of reaction.
In this case, you like to believe this is one party disagreeing with a particular inquiry and the second party seeing it as a viable concern that they'll either change or not.
Is it possible that both parties involved are right? 
In this case, the answer is a resounding yes.



Changing Landscape: Big names moved as part of NHL Draft weekend

06/29/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak



While the arrival of such highly touted prospects like Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel highlighted what was a very deep 2015 NHL Draft class, it was the trades that took place over the weekend that stole the show. Let's take a look at some of the major moves that will change the way some NHL teams look heading into the July 1st free agency period.
With the first overall pick in the draft, the Edmonton Oilers did what was expected by drafting Connor McDavid. McDavid is expected to be a generational talent, that even Wayne Gretzky has compared to having the impact that Mario Lemieux and more recently Sidney Crosby made upon arriving in the NHL and that he has the capacity to turn a franchise around. But the Oilers also addressed another need: goaltending. Edmonton acquired Cam Talbot from the New York Rangers for a 2nd, 3rd, and 7th round drafts pick. The Oilers also acquired defenseman Griffin Reinhart from the New York Islanders for the 16th overall pick and a 2nd round pick.
Of course with the second overall pick, the Buffalo Sabres did as expected as well when they drafted Jack Eichel. The praise for Eichel has been high as well, with many saying he would have been taken 1st overall in any other draft had McDavid not been there. Eichel has been compared to John Tavares, and should give McDavid a run for his money for this seasons Calder Trophy. But the Sabres were quite active away from the draft board as well. They started by trading the 21st overall pick to Ottawa for goaltender Robin Lehner and forward David Legwand. The Sabres then made another bold move by acquiring Ryan O'Reilly and Jamie McGinn from Colorado for touted prospects Mikhail Grigorenko, Nikita Zadorov, and J.T. Compher. With the moves, the Sabres, who finished last in the league last season, have upgraded significantly. Buffalo also has about $16 million dollars in cap room to make more moves when the free agency period opens July 1st.

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The Boston Bruins were rather active as well. But unlike the Oilers and Sabres, who added players via the trade route, the Bruins subtracted a couple of big names. Milan Lucic was traded to Los Angeles for goaltender Martin Jones, defense prospect Colin Miller, and the Kings 1st round draft pick. Boston then traded defenseman Dougie Hamilton to Calgary for the Flames 1st round pick and two 2nd round picks. That gave the Bruins 3 consecutive picks in this years first round, which they used to select defenseman Jakub Zboril (13th overall) and forwards Jake DeBrusk (14th) and Zachary Senyshyn (15th).
Anaheim was busy away from the draft board as well. The Ducks traded forward Kyle Palmieri to New Jersey for draft picks. Anaheim then moved Emerson Etem and two draft picks to the New York Rangers for forward Carl Hagelin. The Ducks followed that up by trading defenseman James Wisniewski to Carolina for goalie Anton Khudobin. And in the first round, they selected defenseman Jacob Larsson with the 27th overall pick.
One other notable trade made was Arizona sending Sam Gagner to Philadelphia for defenseman Nicklas Grossmann and defenseman Chris Pronger, who hasn't played a game since 2011. The trade is basically a salary dump for the Flyers to get salary cap compliant, while for the Coyotes the added salary moves them closer to the mandatory cap floor, even though Pronger will not play an actual game for the team. Arizona also drafted highly touted center Dylan Strome with the 3rd overall pick in the draft. The Coyotes also drafted forward Nick Merkely with the final pick of the opening round.
The Flyers also had 2 first round draft picks. Defenseman Ivan Provorov was taken 7th overall, while forward Travis Konecny was taken 24th. Other teams with multiple picks in the opening round were Columbus, who selected defenseman Zach Werenski with the 8th pick, and defenseman Gabriel Carlsson with the 29th pick. The Islanders used the 16th overall pick they received from Edmonton to select center Mathew Barzal and the 28th pick to select forward Anthony Beauvillier with the 28th pick. Winnipeg picked forward Kyle Connor with the 17th overall pick, and forward Jack Roslovic at 25th. The final team with 2 picks in the opening round was Ottawa, who selected defenseman Thomas Chabot with the 18th pick, then used the 21st pick acquired from Buffalo to select center Colin White.
All in all it was a very exciting weekend for hockey fans. The 2015 draft was considered to be one of the deepest talentwise in recent history. Fans can now process all of the moving and shaking done over the weekend, then fasten their seatbelts for buyouts and signings as the annual free agency frenzy begins July 1st.



Dogged days: World's Ugliest Dog competition is mean spirited at best

06/28/15 by Rennie Detore



World's Ugliest Dog Competition, seriously?
I heard about this competition yesterday when a so called winner was crowned. The dog, which one, is a female one with a birth defect that gives her a hump on her back, much like Quasi Modo, which ironically is the dog's name, was crowned as the world's ugliest dog in the 27th year of this beyond silly event.
OK, so I realize this World's Ugliest Dog business is supposed to be funny, a big joke and nothing that should be taken seriously. That, of course, I get quite easily. My issues with a competition like that is two fold: it serves no purpose and is mean spirited at best.

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And before everyone gets crazy and says things like the dog does't know what's happening or why does the dog care, or why should we? I'm saying, no, you shouldn't care about this competition because, quite frankly, is the epitome of stupidity and cruelty.
I realize animal cruelty is a hot topic and one that is unacceptable, and this World's Ugliest Dog competition, the idea of parading around dogs that aren't cute supposedly, is hardly cruelty to the same degree as we've already defined the world as it relates to animals and pets.
But watching this imperfect dog being placed as a winner of an event that shouldn't have been around for one year much less almost 30 feels ignorant and crude and just plain dumb.
I even cringe at the headline that calls the dog not only ugly but deformed and almost makes light of the fact that he's a mutt who won an award showcasing that having something wrong with you is celebrated.
And that's the issue I take with this dog competition. I'm not suggesting or trying to say that a World's Ugliest Dog contest is going to translate into being assuming that being ugly is worth making light of with a bogus winner takes all event. What I am saying is that this isn't sending across the right message to someone more impressionable, perhaps a child or teen, that ugly somehow deserves to have a label or be pointed out in a way that is condescending and rooted in harshness.
The first kid to call another friend or classmate ugly and tell them they are just as unattractive as the world's ugliest dog is going to get headlines for all the wrong reasons, the same kind of attention this ugly dog event garners.



Rock solid: How Johnson broke through as legit actor after wrestling career

06/21/15 by Rennie Detore



When you hear the words "professional wrestling," what words come to mind?
"Fake." "Phony." "Scripted."
Most likely, all of those are descriptions of how you feel about this unique blend of sport and entertainment. Those not in know assume that pro wrestlers are a hybrid of body builders and actors, with little sports involved. Anyone who has spent time within the professional wrestling business knows just how hard these guys work at their craft and that most of them are talented athletes.

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But still, they struggle to lose the stigma of the "fake" pro wrestler, and they certainly don't have much of a shelf life in the spotlight after their careers are over. Some have attempted to tackle Hollywood with marginal success, such as Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper in the 1980s, and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin in the early 2000s and currently.
Austin is a direct to DVD pioneer, while Hulk and Piper played to the huge contingency of wrestling fans with their roles and thus carved a superbly small niche of the silver screen market.
If those three, two of which in Hogan and Austin, who were mainstream stars in the 1980s and 1990s, respectively, couldn't crack that proverbial glass ceiling in Hollywood, then certainly no one else had much of a chance.
Except one.
"The Rock," better known today as Dwayne Jonhson, wrestled full time for World Wrestling Entertainment for nearly 20 years, and along with Austin, helped WWE reached epic heights in popularity in the late 1990s and retired from full time work in 2002 to pursue an acting career.
And let the laughter begin.
How could Johnson, yet another wrestler with wishful thinking on the brain, break out beyond his spandex tights and over the top wrestling promos? Well, that's exactly what he did.
Sure, his first few movie roles pandered a bit toward the pro wrestling audience, but in 2015, Johnson is a legit superstar, a movie icon who can carry his own flick the same way he carried wrestlers on his back in the ring, or be part of an epic ensemble cast when he's roughing it up in the "Fast and Furious" franchise or "G.I. Joe."
Simply put, Johnson is an established talent, and did it despite of his background as a wrestler. The fact that Johnson persevered isn't surprising if you paid any attention to his career, early on, as a WWE superstar.
Johnson struggled, fumbled and was largely panned by professional wrestling fans as being a flop. His dad and grandfather both wrestled, but Johnson, circa 1996, was a far cry from his predecessors.
He took the hatred the fans had for him as a "babyface," the wrestling term for good guy, and started to hone his craft as "The Rock," a smart mouth, trash talking bad guy who people loved to hate. His popularity soared, and Johnson worked hard to continue to be arguably one of the greatest wrestlers of all time.
He won titles, but more so he had fans hanging on his every word, whether they were cheering or booing him. Those who have met The Rock in his wrestling days will tell you how much passion he has for what he does, and how genuinely humble he remains.
His likability in wrestling translated to movies and, low and behold, the guy can act.
Everything he's done, with the exception of a few swings and misses, has been appreciated by critics.
When Johnson started, those who review movies always said he did well for "a former wrestler turned actor." Nearly 13 years after his first starring role in a movie, they don't talk much if at all about Johnson being a wrestler.
Instead, he's Dwayne Johnson, the actor and a very good one at that.
No longer is he the butt of jokes about wrestlers who can't act unless they're body slamming someone. Today, Johnson is laughing at those who said he couldn't make it as an actor.
The same way he chuckled when he was told that wrestling wasn't going to be his profession, either.
Ultimately, there's nothing fake about Johnson or his passion for success.



Van go: Is Roth ready to split from Van Halen - again?

06/20/15 by Chasity McLeod



Even in their 60s, Van Halen still commands respect.
Guitarist Eddie Van Halen hasn't lost an ounce of the talent that made him one of the greatest players of all time. The band still is touring like they're 20 years old, and even appeared on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and "The Billboard Music Awards" to rave reviews.
Of course, singer David Lee Roth hasn't changed much as age hasn't slowed his demeanor or stage presence, which could be good or bad.

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In the case of Eddie Van Halen, it appears to be bad.
News surfaced that Eddie "ripped" Roth in a recent interview, stating that, essentially, they're not friends and a studio album might be nothing more than a pipe dream since their musical tastes are different these days. Of course, Eddie couldn't help but throw in a jab about how Roth doesn't act his age.
Here's the thing about Eddie and Dave: they've probably never been friends, per say. Some argue that the fact that they're different personally and creatively has been the direct result of the band churning out the kind of music that has made them one of the more popular rock bands of all time.
Talent doesn't always see eye to eye with other talent. Musically, today's rock bands probably have little to no friction or angst between members. That's why rock music in 2015, aside from bands like Van Halen and others that tour from that generation, essentially are carbon copies of one another.
The fact that Dave and Eddie don't get along shouldn't concern the average Van Halen fan. Money trumps all heartache and heartburn singers, musicians and others within the band get when it comes time to hit the stage and perform. Van Halen has experienced a resurgence in relevancy, and the band is making money hand over fist like it is 1984 again.
The only hangup, essentially, is Roth, but little has to do with his on stage antics. Yes, he's a goofball and at 60 something, he could lose the jean jacket and body tattoos. But that is and has always been part of his appeal. What is annoying about Roth is his vocals are getting worse, although they're not as terrible as some make them out to be, simply because they've really never been that good.
As a fan of the group, you want to seem them make another studio album and keep performing as long as possible. They're not embarrassing themselves on stage.
Most of what is embarrassing is the banter back and forth in print that is more prickly than any band related argument.



Show bloating: Is Jurassic franchise more about layoff versus payoff?

06/14/15 by Rennie Detore



The headlines have already started.
Yes, welcome in the dinosaur puns and the tongue in cheek slogans as it relates to "Jurassic World" scoring big at the box office.
Actually, big doesn't really do the opening justice. The fourth installment of the "Jurassic" franchise is set to haul in close to $200 million dollars in one weekend, a staggering figure given the fact that the franchise has been dormant for quite some time.

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So that begs the question, is "Jurassic World" more about the fact that fans are clamoring for their favorite dino park gone bad because they haven't seen a movie with the "Jurassic" tag line since 2001.
Even those who aren't movie experts or executive producers of their own realize that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and even though the last "Jurassic" movie didn't do all that well relatively speaking, fans still remember the franchise fondly and just how groundbreaking it was two decades ago.
Some franchises just have the kind of branding and name value that trumps all, and "Jurassic Park" is one of them. Much like "Star Wars" hardly made any new friends or fans, including alienating the old ones, with the new movies that showed Darth Vader growing into the heinous character and subsequently did well but were met with critical distain, the next "Star Wars" movie set for a 2015 Christmas release is being anticipated with great fervor. The fan base is rabid, no doubt, and even though the movies preceding the 2015 one were downright awful, it won't matter come the end of this year.
"Star Wars" is untouchable. And, so is "Jurassic Park" or, in this case "World." Granted, "Jurassic World" isn't on the same level as "Star Wars" but you can't argue that this massive opening weekend has a lot to do with fans wanting to see their favorite franchise back on the big screen.
The producers and brains behind "Jurassic World," of course, did a lot right. They got Chris Pratt, who is quietly cultivating a career as the next lovable action star and has quite the Harrison Ford slash Han Solo vibe. He did wonders for "Guardians of the Galaxy" and brings that same acting prowess and delivery to this role.
The special effects and story aren't too shabby, either. This isn't to say "Jurassic World" isn't a quality film. It's more about the movie scoring big with audiences that are in full blown craving mode for the next flick in the franchise.



Playing chicken: Chick fil A yet another restaurant chain daring to change menu direction

06/11/15 by Chasity McLeod



Go ahead, call Chick fil A whatever name you can think of, but just steer clear of one word.
"Chicken."
OK, so calling them chicken might sound silly since, well, that's what they serve. They're not in the hamburger and fries fast food business, but that doesn't mean they're not part of a growing trend in that marketplace that is ushering in change as far as menus and making them different from what has been the norm.

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And, Chick fil A certainly isn't afraid or scared to do so, particularly since competitors in the field, such as McDonald's for example, are doing just that in the wake of sagging sales and revenue that isn't trending in the right direction. Chick fil A is better at chicken than anyone else in fast food, topping the once lucrative KFC brand.
Now, Chick fil A hasn't decreed itself on the downward spiral that you'd assume since they're fixing what clearly isn't broken. They're most likely infusing a much needed boost into a menu that isn't bad but could be considered stale.
Included in the new menu is a salad that has kale, a baked potato and a chicken bacon sandwich. The first two items aren't surprising since most fast food chains are keeping healthier options in mind when deciding on what stays, goes or is added. Kale is the trendy, leafy green of choice these days, so the addition of it is equal parts healthier alternatives and marketing, as in jumping on the bandwagon of what is lauded and wanted these days out of a fast food restaurant.
The move to add new menu items is refreshing, simply because Chick fil A seemingly wasn't prodded or prompted to make the moves but rather opted to out of necessity to fill a void in their menu. This move reeks of not buying into complacency as it relates to how the chicken franchise and brand does business. They want to act and think progressively rather than wait for a huge shift of angry customers and lagging sales numbers prompts a move.
Doing it now saves them from looking as though they're reactive but rather working diligently to stay fresh and keep consumers happy, even if in the board room that isn't why this all is being done. While you can speculate about what is motivating Chick fil A to add to its menu, the end result is unknown truthfully.
The kale salad might fall flat or the baked potato could be left out in the cold.
But even if the items added don't sizzle but fizzle, Chick fil A should be applauded for at least having their heads in the right place and, more importantly, the right time.



Celebrity fit club: How to stay fit like the famous

06/06/15 by Rennie Detore



Do you ever wonder how celebrities stay in such good shape all the time?
You may tell yourself it has to do with money, personal trainers and the ability to work out for hours on end throughout the entire day. While most of those play into it, food still is the same, and there is no substitute for hard work in the grand scheme of your health, well being and staying in shape.
Granted, you may never look like "The Rock," Dwayne Johnson, but that doesn't mean you can't increase your quality of life or look and feel better if you pay attention to what they do and pick up up at least a few bits and pieces of their regimen.

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For instance, make it a point to look at some of those fitness articles about some of the more beautiful and fit persons in Hollywood, and what is a common theme. Pick up on those and relay that information into your mental database and follow in their footsteps.
They all mention diet, if you look closely. They'll tell you that they spend a lot of time making good eating decisions. Again, they may all have person chefs at home, ready to prepare the perfect Paleo meal plan or keep Atkins in mind, but at the end of the day the general public still can eliminate fatty foods, limit carbohydrates and increase the amount of proteins, fruits and vegetables they consume.
And enough with the eating healthy is too expensive; the last time anyone bothered to price check an apple, it still was about 50 cents.
Another key component of celebrity success in terms of weight loss and healthy living is simply making time to work out. Now, that doesn't mean you have to do what they do, and that is typically work out with a high priced trainer for 3 to 4 hours per day. That's insanity and not realistic.
But have you ever thought about waking up an hour early before work to hit the gym or perhaps even joining one that is conveniently on the way home from your house. Make it a point to pack that gym back the night before and put it in your car that night, so there's no excuses that you forgot it at home.
You have to set realistic expectations. You're not Kate Hudson or Brad Pitt. You don't have the time or money to do what they do exercise wise but that doesn't mean you can't at least learn something from them en route to achieving your own person fitness goals.



Tattoo blues: Is getting 'ink' really worth the writing on wall

05/29/15 by Rennie Detore



Tattoos make statements. They're in essence a way for your body to tell a story, whether the tattoo is something of a remembrance for a person or a way to pay homage to your ancestors or heritage. In some cases, however, tattoos aren't always that introspective. They can sometimes be just viewed years later as a bad decision.
The polarizing affect of tattoos is easy to see and varies based on the amount that you have. For those who have their entire bodies covered, a passer by or onlooker might view it as excessive or "insane." Those who have the ubiquitous tattoos, such as the barbed wire one for guys or the always popular butterfly on the hip for women, you can assess certain stereotypes about the person just by the tattoos they have on their body.
When you look at some of the more famous tattoos, you see much more conviction behind them. Take for instance, Dwayne Johnson. This Hollywood leading man, known to much of the world as "The Rock," pays tribute to his Samoan heritage with a tattoo that took more than just a day to do as it covers half his chest and left arm. Similarly, you'll see plenty of people, famous and not so much, that have tattoos as walking memorials for friends or family they've lost.

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The varying levels of tattoos and answering the "why" often come with one other important question: Is getting a tattoo really worth the risk? Generally speaking, aside from feeling guilty when you're 70 years old about that aforementioned barbed wire tattoo, you have to consider the medical side affects and possible complications of a tattoo. Yes, redness, soreness and pain is involved, but the risk of infections of varying degrees also is present.
If you have a weakened immune system or have an immune deficiency disease, like Crohn's Disease for example, you have to consult your doctor and make sure that the tattoo over time isn't going to do more harm than good. Your body doesn't heal quickly with immune system issues, so you could experience the short term affects of a tattoo for a very long time.
You have to remember that tattoos and parlors of that ilk aren't regulated, so what is being used ink wise isn't something that has to be audited per say. That's why when choosing to have a tattoo, you want to go by a referral of someone you know who had one and is pleased with no only the establishment but also the cleanliness and overall scope of how they do business.
Tattoos certainly are a strong, bold way to make a statement or they're simply be viewed as a slip up one night when you've perhaps had one too many. No matter the reasoning, you shouldn't enter into one lightly given the heavy potential consequences they could carry with them.



Watchful eyes: NFL needs drastic improvement for players off the field

05/23/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak



Over the past few years, the NFL has worked to improve player safety on the field by enacting rules to protect players on the field. Rules to eliminate head contact and hitting defenseless players have been put in place to reduce head trauma and concussions. Research into the long term effects of concussions have led to new protocol to keep players who may have sustained a concussion in a game from returning to the playing field. But maybe the NFL needs to look more into protecting it's players off the field.
On the heels of the news that Adrian Robinson's death has been ruled a suicide, the NFL needs to find a way to prevent this from happening again. Robinson's death marks the third time in the past 3 years that a current NFL player in his 20's killed himself. In 2012 Jovan Belcher, at the age of 25, killed his girlfriend and then himself at the Kansas Chiefs training facility. 29 year old Paul Oliver, who played 5 NFL seasons with San Diego, shot and killed himself in front of his family in 2013. And now the news has come out that Robinson hung himself at the age of 25.
While head trauma and CTE tends to be the main culprit in the suicide deaths of former NFL players (and it may have played a role in Belcher & Oliver's deaths), there is a deeper problem here. Determining that head trauma was the cause of death is a reactionary approach. It's time for the NFL to take a proactive approach to this. And that is addressing the issues players currently playing are having.

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One of those players is Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns. Gordon led the NFL in receiving yards in 2013 despite missing the first two games of the season after being suspended for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Gordon was suspended for the first 10 games of the 2014 season for violating the policy again. Gordon will also sit out the entire 2015 season for again violating the policy, this time due to alcohol consumption. Gordon will have sat out due to suspension nearly as many games (29) as he has played in (35) in his four year NFL career. His teammate, Johnny Manziel, also has a history of off field issues involving alcohol. The issues started prior to his first season at Texas A&M and followed him through his first season last year with Cleveland. Manziel took the initiative to check himself into a rehab program for alcohol abuse.
That wasn't written to make Gordon or Manziel look bad by making light of their off the field problems. It's being mentioned because it's obvious, especially in the case of Gordon, that there's something wrong here. This is where instead of being reactive, the NFL needs to become proactive and help Gordon get his life together. Gordon is one of the best wide receivers in the league, but is pretty much throwing his career away. Gordon is as well known for his disciplinary issues and off the field problems as he is for his performances on the field. Gordon's story is following a pattern of another former NFL wide receiver who had several off the field issues associated with drugs and alcohol. Chris Henry had lots of talent and tons of potential, but he threw it away because of his off the field issues. The pattern was there with repeated issues and suspensions, but that's all that was done. Henry died in 2009 at the age 0f 26 when he fell from the back of a moving vehicle during an argument with his girlfriend.
The NFL took the concussion issue by the reigns when the severity of the problem was determined. It's time for the NFL to come up with a way to help players get their acts together before it's too late. I want to see Josh Gordon play football. But more importantly, I want to see Josh Gordon get his life together. I don't want to see him end up as the next Chris Henry. Take the reigns again NFL and get players who



Letter grade: Letterman and late night always will be synonymous

05/21/15 by Rennie Detore



Writing wonderful tidbits and memories about David Letterman, longtime late night host most notably on the aptly titled "Late Night with David Letterman," isn't difficult. Saying goodbye to the iconic, prominent entity that is David Letterman is going to be.
Letterman had his final show, and he's saying goodbye to the wee hours of the evening as one of the most revered and lauded late night personalities in the history of the genre. Letterman brought to late night plenty of uniqueness, and he often was touted as the barometer of greatness in his field, an accolade that sometimes didn't pan out in the ratings when he'd lose out to the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno," even though those in the know felt that Letterman consistently put out the better show and product and was light years ahead of Leno in terms of humor and presentation.
I never made it a point to watch late night talk shows and television. I've seen enough of Letterman and Leno, the two heavy hitters in the late night squared circle, to know that the former is far better than the latter. Leno isn't funny; he's corny, campy and his joke telling is terribly passe. Letterman didn't so much live on the edge as a counterpart to his chin and cheeky opponent as much as Letterman was smart, funny, classy and had just enough corn ball in his routine that it wasn't overkill.

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Naturally, for Dave's last show and subsequent lead up shows to his finale, the stars turned out in droves to salute his work and renowned talent as everything from interviewing to joke telling and anything else you'd associate with being a late night talk show host for the ages.
Even though I wasn't a regular Letterman watcher, I always appreciated his self deprecation, wit and charm as a host and ultimately in that role a mediator between guests. His skits and, of course, the "Top 10" list will forever be how future hosts will be judged, and his monologue always was a lights out endeavor.
As Letterman ends his run, the accolades, montages and adulation aren't going to stop soon. And with some celebrities, their name value will ween and memories fade, but Letterman wasn't just a part of his field as a late night, talk show host. He will forever be the one entity, in addition to Johnny Carson, who everyone else is compared to even as Letterman's tenure on "Late Night" will day by day, month by month, become more a part of history and nostalgia.
You can look at Letterman's run with optimism and pessimism in the same breath. No, he never had the opportunity to sit where he belonged, as host of "The Tonight Show," the program that supposedly decides who the real late night kingpin is. Letterman didn't achieve that goal but he did outgrow the legend of that program and cultivated his own legacy without that particular vehicle behind him. That says a lot about Letterman and how he pioneered in the face of disappointment related to "The Tonight Show" shortcoming.
Dave undoubtedly was bothered by it, but it didn't define his career. Laughter did, and that's what we'll all choose to remember most.



Parent trapped: What exactly is considered good parenting?

05/16/15 by Rennie Detore



What is good parenting to one might be questionable to another.
An online video that recently surfaced showed a young boy smashing his Xbox after he brought home a less than enviable report card with failing grades. Dad didn't take kindly to what he saw and concocted a punishment that, depending on your perspective, fit the crime.
Naturally, the video sparked controversy with some onlookers deeming dear, old dad as parent of the year, while others questioned the method of parenting to the point that smashing an Xbox really doesn't address the entire scope of the problem at hand but rather is a reactionary decision by a parent that is only tackling the issue at the tail end of it.

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The latter argument tends to be the one that holds the most water in this discussion if you stop to realize exactly the problem. Yes, the son deserved to be punished for a report card that was poor, but one question that needs addressed is whether dad decided to start the would be award winning parenting too late in the game.
Did dad take an active role in his son's school work earlier?
Was he proactive in addressing the issue by helping his son study or trying to get out in front of any problems he was having?
Seems as though the answer to those questions most likely is "no," given that a tutor or extra help at school may have saved the Xbox but more importantly led to better than below average grades. Good parenting isn't about extreme levels of punishing a child based on the end result, but rather avoiding that end result in the first place.
Maybe dad needed to spend more time with after school homework or helping his son study, rather than see the litany of "F's" on the report card and going extreme with how he reacted. That said, the idea of having a son smash his Xbox or permanently destroy something that he enjoyed isn't all bad but seems a bit much in this form. Perhaps just taking away the gaming system for a time period would suffice but either method really isn't paying attention and attempting to solve the problem. Parents need to tackle the problem head on, while still punishing accordingly. Saying so long to the Xbox works, but not in lieu of dad deciding he'd like to get involved in ultimately getting his son back on track with his school work.
What most can agree upon is the idea of filming his son doing this. Punishing kids isn't reality TV at its finest nor should it be shared to the world. What is the purpose of uploading it online? Would you film yourself yelling at your son or daughter? This video seems more like a "look at me moment" for dad than anything else.
A lot of what the video shows is fitting if you take it at face value. Kids still need some sort of accountability for not performing in school or any other expectation parents put forth. But along the way, dad lost focus on the issue at hand and reacted without understanding that his son may have been just struggling and looking for help the entire time but didn't get the support he needed. Instead, he's one Xbox short and the problem of poor grades still exists.



Idol calling: 'American Idol' canceled after next year but decision comes far too late

05/12/15 by Rennie Detore



"American Idol" finally is no more.
The show, once the darling of reality television in general and FOX specifically, is being canceled by the network after next season, a move that is long overdue. The fledgling reality show got hit with a dose of just that when FOX said so long to one of its more popular and polarizing shows in the history of the network.
Once a critical and commercial success, "American Idol" fell on hard times over the last five years with slumping ratings and general disinterest in what can only be described as a hard to watch, watered down, train wreck at times version of the original.

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The contestants seemed rather average at best over that period of times, and the judges were a far cry from the original three of Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell. The show delivered some ridiculously talented winners (and even non winners), such as Kelly Clarkson, Daughtry and Carrie Underwood, just to name a few. The show had the proverbial Midas touch as contestants ended up scoring huge record deals and churning out one successful album after another.
What the show has become is tired and formulaic. Not much about the show has changed over the last nearly two decades other than the aforementioned judges and the crop of talent that is terribly underwhelming.
The truth is "American Idol" served plenty of good. It changed the scope of reality television in its genre of finding talent in every nook and cranny of the United States. It pulled virtual unknowns out off their suburban homes and gave them a much needed platform to succeed, and for that, the show served its purpose. The original judges also were entertaining, and the show's formula was new, fresh and revolutionary at the time.
But like anything else, it grew old. It failed to adapt, and when a show like "The Voice" came out of the chamber, it blew away "Idol" with a newer, more unique concept. It also didn't hurt "The Voice" that the show lived up to the moniker with much better singers and talented contestants.
You can't discount, too, that "Idol" could never find a judges trio that matched the charisma and level of combative behavior that Cowell, Jackson and Abdul had. Ryan Seacrest also has started to grate on the nerves of the casual fan as well since he's basically everywhere from radio to executive producing just about everything on the E! Network.
The decision to deal "Idol" the cancellation blow is a good one. The show already was forgotten and now it will be gone as well. Much like a professional athlete who competes long past his prime, "Idol" has seen better days and having the plug pulled was a compassionate decision for a show that had long since been irrelevant.



Motherly love: Last minute gifts for Mother's Day aren't always bad

05/10/15 by Chasity McLeod



So you did it again this year, didn't you? You waited until the last minute to think about dear, old mom, and now you're scrambling to find a Mother's Day gift at the proverbial 11th hour.
You're in full blown panic mode. You certainly can come up with a few gifts but they'll hardly be considered what you would call ideal or sentimental.
Here you have mom waiting patiently and intently for a Mother's Day gift that is going to wow her, and all you have planned is a card you bought at a drug store and perhaps a gift card for her favorite restaurant.

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While that doesn't sound all bad, and of course, mom is going to appreciate anything you get her because that is what moms do, you still want to think of something a little better than roadside flowers that you bought literally on the way to her house.
Again, the flowers, card and gift card is all good stuff, but maybe mom could use that Mother's Day card but a gift that isn't so formulaic from one year to the next.
For example, you have old photos of you and mom together, perhaps ones when you were a kid and mom was a little younger. Then, you can pair that with a photo of you and mom present day in some sort of before and after frame that has "I Love You, Mom" written all over it.
Mom certainly remembers the would be glory days when you were younger, so why not celebrate that with something simple yet underscored with sentimentality and happiness that mom certainly will treasure.
You may also assume that practical gifts are out of the question as mom certainly wouldn't welcome a toaster oven or bathroom scale, even if she's been hinting around at any of those things for quite some time. While those gifts would be more like a holiday present, you still might be able to swing a household appliance as a Mother's Day gift, too.
Let's say mom wants something a little less customary, say a juicer, because she's trying to get healthier this year. That's a higher priced product that mom may not be able to afford at the moment, so it works in this situation as a Mother's Day gift.
Mom also may be just getting used to her smart phone, for example, but loves the idea of taking a photos of her kids, grand kids and anyone else at that given moment. How many times have you heard your mom say, "I wish it was easier to print these," because you know mom still keeps those old fashioned albums. A smart phone printer might be something she'll want, even though the idea of a printer sounds rather dull. Mom, however, undoubtedly will like it because it gives her the opportunity to relish in the recent photos she's just taken.
Again, mom isn't going to be super picky and if you've forgotten to put time into choosing a gift doesn't mean the effort has to be lost as well.



Mayweather the storm: Why mega fight felt like massive letdown

05/04/15 by Rennie Detore



After letting the Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao boxing match sink in for the last 24 hours or so, the opinion of the fight hasn't changed at all.
It was a letdown of epic proportions.
About halfway through the bout, this so called contest between icons settled into a pace that felt more like a step aerobics video more so than the splendid sporting contest we all were promised. The fight cost $100 to those watching at home on pay per view, and the number of buys for the show is expected to top the three million dollar mark, a new record for this particular paying medium.

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The fight featured two of the best in boxing but even leading up to the fight, plenty of spectators and sports writers alike questioned if the fight was about five or six years too late. Age and timing aside, Mayweather and Pacquiao failed to generate the kind of excitement as it was happening that most fights of this magnitude do. No one wanted to talk about that left hook, right jab or anything that happened inside the ring.
That's because, quite frankly, nothing really happened. Mayweather danced around and did very little and from the start of the pre show hype for this fight, Pacquiao had the demeanor, look and feel of a fighter that was happy to be there (and to get his $100 plus million payday), more so than a ferocious challenger to Mayweather's titles and subsequent legacy.
The collective groan that took place when the final round ended and the fighters paraded around the ring and the scores were tabulated (although that was a mere formality) wasn't just from the millions of people around the world who are $100 less richer but also a live crowd that barely flinched at the fight in general and looked disinterested after the first few rounds.
Mayweather and Pacquiao should have had a big fight feel that went beyond the actual booking of the match itself. What happened inside the ring was typical of what most fights tend to be in the boxing world or sports events in general: disappointing to say the least.
Yes, this fight was boring, arduous and difficult to watch. And most likely Mayweather and Pacquiao hooked up much too late in their respective careers, which has led some to call Mayweather "cowardly" for ducking Manny until he was almost 40 years old.
But for those of us who have long since come to the conclusion that sports rarely delivers as promised, this was business as usual for a fight that generated hundreds of millions of dollars but couldn't do much to have the kind of Sunday or Monday morning buzz at the water cooler in terms of much positive comments to say.
Mayweather has said he wants to fight one more time and provided he wins stop at a perfect 49 and 0 record, tying the great Rocky Marciano and his identical record. While Mayweather's opponent isn't certain, fans undoubtedly won't learn much of a lesson with "Money" Mayweather hits the ring again and, with it, carries a hefty pay to view price tag.



Busted open: Former picks show

04/28/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak



With the NFL draft upon us, most teams and fans are looking forward to who might be selected to be the future of their franchise. But they're hoping more so that the first round picks they make don't end up on this list. Lets take a look at 10 of the biggest first round busts in recent NFL history.
10) Jamain Stephens/Pittsburgh Steelers (Taken 1996, 29th Overall Pick)
Coming off of their appearance in Super Bowl XXX, the Steelers took a big gamble to draft the big offensive tackle. Stephens was 6'6 and 330lbs coming out of North Carolina A&T, and Pittsburgh looked at him as a player with a big upside, but he ended up just being a big bust. s, Stephens only played 19 games n Pittsburgh before being released in 1999. He'd play 21 more games in Cincinnati over the next 3 seasons before falling out of the NFL following the 2001 season.

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9) Brady Quinn/Cleveland Browns (Taken 2003, 22nd Overall Pick)
A bust at quarterback for the Cleveland Browns? That never happens (sarcasm). Coming out of Notre Dame, Quinn won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award as the top QB in college football, as well as the Maxwell Award for the best player in college football. Quinn also finished 3rd on the 2006 Heisman Trophy ballet. Quinn would only play 14 games for the Browns over 3 seasons before being traded to Denver in 2010
8) Curtis Enis/Chicago Bears (Taken 1998, 5th Overall Pick)
Coming off of 2 stellar seasons at Penn State, Enis had the looks of being a big time NFL star. Obviously looks were deceiving in this case, as Enis couldn't stay healthy, and when he did play, the expected level of play wasn't there. Enis rushed for 1,363 yards and scored 19 touchdowns his final season at Penn State in 1997. He would play only 36 NFL games for the Bears, rushing for a career total of 1,497 yards and scoring 4 touchdowns.
7) Tony Mandarich/Green Bay Packers (Taken 1989, 2nd Overall Pick)
Can you name the only player taken in the top 5 in the 1989 draft who isn't in the NFL Hall of Fame? I guess that's a give away. Mandarich was labeled as possibly the best NFL offensive line prospect ever coming out of Michigan State. He is the biggest draft bust in Green Bay history and one of the biggest busts in NFL history. He was cut by the Packers after 3 seasons and would play 3 more seasons in Indianapolis, starting just 47 games in his brief career.
6) Charles Rogers/Detroit Lions (Taken 2003, 2nd Overall Pick)
After winning the Biletnikoff Award in 2002 as college football's top wide receiver, the Lions selected the in state product of Michigan State with their first round pick. Rogers would "reward" the Lions by playing just 14 games in 3 seasons. Rogers caught only 36 passes for Detroit before being released in 2006.
5) Akili Smith/Cincinnati Bengals (Taken 1999. 3rd Overall Pick)
Smith had high expectations associated with him, coming off of his 1998 season at the University of Oregon where he passed for 3,763 yards and threw 30 touchdown passes. So much was expected of him, that the Bengals passed up New Orleans offer of up to 9 draft picks so the Saints could move up and select Ricky Williams. Smith would play 22 games in Cincinnati over 4 seasons, passing for 1,500 yards less than he totaled in his senior season at Oregon, before being released following the 2002 season.
4) Heath Shuler/Washington Redskins (Taken 1994, 3rd Overall Pick)
Shuler finished second in the 1993 Heisman Trophy race coming off of a stellar college career at the University of Tennessee. Shuler would end up playing only 18 games for the Redskins before being traded to New Orleans following the 1996 season. However, Shuler was elected o the U.S. House of Representatives in North Carolina in 2006, serving 3 terms before retiring from office in 2012.
3) Lawrence Phillips/St. Louis Rams (Taken 1996/6th Overall Pick)
Despite having a red flag attached to his draft stock due to off the field issues at the University of Nebraska, the Rams decided to draft Phillips in the first round and trade Jerome Bettis to Pittsburgh the same day. That move worked out well...for the Steelers. Phillips would only start 20 games for the Rams before being released in 1997. Phillips was arrested several times following his brief NFL career, and is currently serving a 25 year prison sentence in California.
2) Ryan Leaf/San Diego Chargers (Taken 1998/2nd Overall Pick)
Believe it or not, many football analysts thought Leaf was a better choice than Peyton Manning as the first overall pick in 1998. Fortunately the Colts didn't listen to them. Leaf would play in 21 games for the Chargers before being released after the 2000 season. He'd play 4 more games for Dallas in 2001 before falling out of the NFL. Like Lawrence Phillips, Leaf would follow his NFL career by serving prison time.
1) JaMarcus Russell/Oakland Raiders (Taken 2007/1st Overall Pick)
Considered to be a substantial talent with a rare combination of size and arm strength coming out of LSU, the Raiders took him with the first overall pick. Russell's weight ended up being higher than most of his passing numbers in the NFL. Russell would throw only 18 touchdown passes in 3 seasons with the Raiders. He showed up for mini camp in 2010 weighing nearly 300 pounds, and was released before the start of training camp.



Diet popped: Safety of diet pills comes in forefront again

04/22/15 by Chasity McLeod



For years, the safety of diet pills has been ferociously debated. And for the most part, the discussion tends to push toward the side of skepticism, if not out and out negativity.
Trainers, nutritionists and anyone else from the health and wellness sector argue specifically the point that diet pills are not only a quick fix but they're incredibly dangerous to those who take them. Those inclined to defend diet pills argue that they work, only as directed, and that the goal isn't so much to find just any diet pill but rather locate a reputable company that can be trusted in terms of what is safe and what isn't.
The latter argument is one that is hard to digest, particularly given the bad press diet pills receive on almost a daily basis. For instance, a 21 year old British woman accidentally overdosed on diet pills a little more than a week ago. The ingredient that was deemed toxic was DNP, which stands for dinitrophenol. The young lady, identified as Eloise Aimee Parry, took eight pills and was found unresponsive. She died later after her heart stop, and she couldn't be revived.

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Parry isn't the first person to die from ingesting DNP, as reports have indicated up to 60 people have died from the ingredient. Part of the issue transcends diet pills as a whole and focuses more on where these products can be purchased.
Parry reportedly bought the diet pills online, but several news outlets questioned just how reputable the site was where the item was purchased. The trouble with ordering medicine, diet pills included, online stems from the lack of regulation being pushed for these various sites that lack credibility but perhaps offer quick shipping, low prices and certain diet pills that, while highly questionable, remain high on consumers' lists.
Of course experts urge would be diet pill users to either not use them at all and instead opt for better means of weight loss and management, such as personal training or nutrition. If diet pills still sound like your best bet, you always should research the provider and site as a whole to ensure safety is first and foremost.
The real dilemma for most who turn to diet pills is they've probably struggled to lose weight in more traditional ways, mostly because it is hard to drop pounds quickly. That lack of success undoubtedly pushed them toward diet pills as being fast acting salvation that usually disappoints and is, quite frankly, terribly unhealthy for the consumer.
And while some diet pills are FDA approved and could be considered useful for losing weight, you can't undervalue hard work in the gym or eating right as being the only real way you'll get healthier. Diet pills were created to prey on a part of the marketplace that is frustrated, but even the most disgruntled dieter can't ignore the harsh reality associated with this method of weight loss.



Tax (in) time: How to file those last minute taxes

04/15/15 by Jackie Russo



As the April 15 tax deadline looms large, plenty of would be filers haven't even touched a receipt, looked over their W2 or had even the slightest inclination to start thinking about that 1040 form, no matter how easy it might be.
Why exactly do we wait so long to file our taxes, or even prepare them at all?
That question isn't an easy one, since so much diversity abounds as it relates to taxes. Maybe you're in the midst of counting up all the money you made on that 1099 Form and realize that you'll be paying more than just a few bucks this year. In fact, those couple of dollars have turned into thousands, so you're hardly in a rush to start paying that any time before you absolutely have to.

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You also might be inclined to wait just because you can. Getting all that tax information rolling through the mail or in your slot at work in January or February doesn't exactly put the process at the front of your mind. That paperwork probably sits comfortably in a drawer in the kitchen or the office, only to be pulled from the wreckage that is your "junk" drawer some time around April 15.
But if you've waited this long to file your return, don't fret because you are hardly alone. Some statistics indicate that as many as 50% of Americans file on April 15 by midnight.
The good news is that technology and older means of filing accommodate for the procrastination. The former comes in the form of a multitude of tax programs, from H&R Block to Turbo Tax, all of which are inexpensive to buy and incredibly easy to use. They'll allow you to press send by midnight with little worry that it will be received on time.
If you're still interested in filing via mail, the post office is open until midnight, and you'll be pleasantly surprised when you see a line of cars waiting to drop off their payments or returns, so you won't feel totally alone.
But waiting until the very last minute, you also want to make sure you have taken a long, hard look at the return and make sure you've looked for errors or mistakes before you mail it or file electronically. The most common mistake, according to the IRS, is missing signatures or information filled out incompletely. That is going to cause issues, and those were brought on because you're rushing to the post office at 11:59 p.m., or having internet connection issues as you try in vein to file online.
If you can't manage to file some time well before April 15, you might be part of the norm but the process will be anything but normal and smooth. Waiting this long just means you'll have to be extra careful with dotting all the "i's" and crossing all the "t's" in the hopes that you finish up with at least a few seconds to spare.



Troy soldier: Why Steelers' safety redefined position and deserves iconic status

04/11/15 by Rennie Detore



Sports is filled with cliches. It's almost a given that any sort of event, news or occasion with any substance is dubbed as monumental or "once in a lifetime." Players specifically will be referred to as "game changers" or given the status of "legendary" when often times it is more of a knee jerk reaction rather than warranted.
This is particular apparent and frustrating when a player in any sport retires, and they're immediately lauded as being someone that the game couldn't live without, even though as time passes you begin to realize once the newness of the retirement fades that they really weren't the icon once believed to be.
In the case of Pittsburgh Steelers' safety Troy Polamalu, the 12 year pro decided April 10 that he won't be returning for another season with the team that drafted him in 2003 and is calling it a career.

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Troy is leaving behind a signature look that goes beyond the long, black flowing hair that whipped in the wind as he raced up and down the field for more than a decade. He helped anchor a Steelers' defense through his tenure that led the team to two Super Bowl titles and a third appearance.
Anyone familiar with professional football in general or the Steelers specifically know just how superb the defense was in the 1970s, being referred to aptly as the "Steel Curtain" and being notorious for their aggression en route to winning four Super Bowls through that decade.
Troy was a throwback to those teams of the 1970s. He played with such fervor and tenacity that the praise heaped upon him was not only warranted, but he was often compared to players from that original "Steel Curtain" team.
If you ask Troy about that, his play on the field or the success he experienced in his career, he'll undoubtedly, in that uniquely soft voice given the profession he chose, deflect any praise or downplay how he revolutionized the game of professional football and the position of safety.
That sense of humbleness only allowed Troy's lure to grow with every bone crunching tackle or unbelievable closing speed to run parallel on the field and snag an interception seemingly out of nowhere. He was a safety by trade, but you'd often see him roaming the field as a linebacker in the middle of the defense or even on the line of scrimmage ready to rush the passer and create the kind of chaos that drove offensive coordinators crazy and made them completely have to alter their game plan to account for where Troy was at all times.
Part of what makes a player great, like Troy, is when you take a position or craft within the confines of your sport and take the expectation and turn it on its proverbial ear. Troy wreaked havoc and rarely played as a paint by numbers position player, which is the definition of being legendary as what you do.
One sports cliché you'll hear about Polamalu today and in the coming days and weeks is that he "redefined the position." And, again, a lot of times that lingo is overused and rarely means anything given that it is perpetuated in every newspaper, magazine or online story that references the would be player.
In the case of Polamalu, anything said or written about him is justified and deserved. He's a rare breed of quiet confidence, pugnacious work ethic and a style of player that was equal parts engaging for fans to watch and remarkably proficient at his craft.
So, let the cliches flow, because Troy deserves every last piece of it.



Tiger bombed: Once the standard bearer on PGA Tour, Woods watching from outside in

04/10/15 by Rennie Detore



The name Tiger Woods belongs in the same breath as other legendary athletes that ruled their respective sports.
Woods is much like Michael Jordan, Tom Brady and Derek Jeter, the kind of name that goes beyond what is written on a jersey or piece of merchandise. Those athletes aren't just men moving up and down a field or court but rather a brand, a piece of marketability and mastery that is driven by the talent showcased by the statistics they achieve and championships earned.
Brady still is playing at a high level. Jordan stayed fairly consistent in how he performed, as did Jeter although you can argue that both slipped at least enough to notice but hardly to the point where you'd say they teetered on embarrassing themselves or even close to tarnishing the legacy they've built.

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Woods, however, feels different. His recent slide from golf's golden child to a PGA player that is having trouble even making the cut at various events borders on sadness when you consider just how far he's fallen in the last few years.
Every fan understands that athletes are a two fold entity. The desire and determination typically never wane or becomes broken. They'll always truly love the sport that made them famous and, in turn, what their performance did for the sport as well. The athlete's body is what ultimately fails them over time. They physically can't do what they did years before or when they were younger. You'll see flashes of that old form but the brilliance and athleticism no longer is on par with what the audience expects.
Woods' situation seems a bit askew from that mentality. Yes, Tiger is and has been battling injuries for quite some time, and that has undoubtedly played into his game or lack thereof. He doesn't resemble the player he once was as far as skill and talent goes, and that is reflected in his inability to play on Sunday when it matters.
Woods hardly would be considered old by golf standards, but what really pains the masses and fans of golf in general and Woods in particular is that he seems lost, devoid of passion and essentially going through the motions as far as his demeanor. Woods was never an animated, overly charismatic individual on the course but rather came across as a cerebral assassin of sorts that was almost robotic and of the ilk of a Terminator content on wiping out his competition.
Now, he's barely able to compete himself. Losing your ability is one thing, but Tiger is lost in ways that go beyond just not being able to play at a high level at his trade.
There's nothing that says Woods can regain the form and poise that positioned him not that long ago as the number one player in golf. Getting back to that point, however, seems like quite the hurdle and subsequent journey for the soon to be 40 year old golfer.
And finding his spot again will have little to do with a new coach, swing or hitting the fairway on a consistent basis. Climbing back to respectability will have everything to do with channeling the heart that made him legendary.



Super sized: McDonald's goes big with burgers again, but why exactly?

04/08/15 by Rennie Detore



Bigger might be better, but in the case of fast food and hamburgers, that isn't the always the case.
The fast food industry has had more than just a black eye, let's call it an out and out shiner, as it relates to the image of this type of delicacy and its relationship to obesity and the epidemic that is the masses struggling with losing weight.
In recent years, the heavy hitters of the fast food industry, namely the McDonald's, Wendy's and Subway, have entered into more of a slimming showdown rather than an out and out buffet busting brawl, and have made it a point to introduce healthier options for their menus, even if their bread and butter (particularly for the burger chains) is beef, beef and more beef.

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Where's the beef going if salads and grilled chicken are all the rage? Well, for most burgers still rank as the most popular item, but public relations and image suggest that salads and other health conscious foods are more about hamming it up for the general consumer rather than actually caring about keeping the menu healthier.
Case in point is McDonald's bucking the trend of trim and introducing super sized burgers of epic portions for all to see and, hopefully for McDonald's, consume. These massive hamburgers can't help but draw at least a bit of a crowd, and even catch the attention of those healthy eaters who are dropping salad forks across the country to take a glimpse at these crowd pleasing sandwiches.
So why is McDonald's deciding to bring big and sexy back as it relates to its burgers? Chances are, the time is right for the burger chain to break the chains off its lettuce and yogurt ways over the past few years and start reliving its past glory when hamburgers were judged as the greasier, the better.
Those Golden Arches are starting to rust as McDonald's is experiencing a serious downturn in sales, suggesting maybe that consumers aren't necessarily enamored with what the menu has to offer, whether it is the same Big Mac, French Fries or breakfast foods that seem incredible stale and predictable.
With that, McDonald's is busting out the sirloin burgers, which are delicious and pricey, another concern for the company and its lagging sales numbers. Will consumers want to pay a premium for a burger that is busting out at the seams?
McDonald's is banking on its or else Ronald and company are going to have to go back to the kitchen and cook up another idea to revolutionize the fast food industry.



Two for the money: NCAA Tournament down to championship two

04/06/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak



And then there were two. From a field of 68 two and a half weeks ago, the last two teams standing will battle for the 2015 NCAA Basketball Championship, and neither of them are named Kentucky to the surprise of many. Wisconsin ended what seemed to be a season of destiny for the Wildcats, while creating the opportunity for a new destiny of their own. For Duke, it's a return to the "big dance" and a chance to win their first national title since 2010. So who's going to win? Let's take a closer look at the Badgers and the Blue Devils.
Duke comes in with a record of 34 and 4. The Blue Devils were the top seed and the champions of the South Region. Duke has been impressive in their five tournament games, outscoring their opponents by an average of 17.6 points. The key to the Blue Devils tourney success has been their defense. In those five wins, the Blue Devils have not allowed more than 62 points in a game and have held their opponents to an average of 55 points per game.
Wisconsin comes in at 36 and 3 overall. The Badgers were the #1 seed and champions of the West Region. The Badgers have taken the opposite approach to Duke's way of winning with defense. Wisconsin has just outscored their 5 opponents, averaging 78.6 points per game in the tourney. The Badgers have scored over 70 points in the three of those games, and 85 or more in the other two. On defense, the Badgers are giving up an average of 70.2 points against in their five tourney games, and ironically, the least amount of points they've given up were 64 in their Final Four win over Kentucky. Besides their 14 point win over Coastal Carolina in the opening round, Wisconsin has won their past four games each by 7 points.

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Duke has been led by Justise Winslow and Jahlil Okafor. Winslow's averaged 15 points and 9.4 rebounds per game in this years tournament, while Okafor is averaging 16 points per game. Wisconsin has been led by Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker. Kaminsky has averaged 22.2 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, while Dekker has averaged 20.6 points per game. Tyrus Jones has also averaged 11 points per game for the Blue Devils, while Nigel Hayes is averaging 12.2 points per game for the Badgers.
The key to victory for Duke will be three point shooting. The Blue Devils have been great from outside the arc in this years tourney, shooting 39.7 percent. Duke shot 7 for 12 from three point land in their 10 point regular season win over Wisconsin. The Badgers also had a hard time with Kentucky's big man, Karl Anthony Towns, who scored 16 points and had 9 rebounds in their Final Four matchup. Okafor could pose the same kind of problem for the Badgers down low. Rebounding has been the key for Wisconsin, especially in their past two games versus Arizona and Kentucky. If the Badgers are as impressive on the glass as they were in those two games, and can find a way to defend Duke's three point shooting, they could win their first national championship since 1941.
The concern for Wisconsin could be that they are coming off of too big of a high after upsetting Kentucky. While most of the talk has been about Wisconsin's Final Four win, Duke was just as impressive, blowing out Michigan State 81 to 61. When it comes to coaching, this is Bo Ryan's first championship game appearance, while Mike Krzyzewzki will be looking to lead Duke to their 5th NCAA title.
This has the makings of being a great national championship game.
My prediction: Duke 71, Wisconsin 65



Grandest stage: 'Wrestlemania' not quite the same but still has big show feel to it

03/29/15 by Rennie Detore



The inception of the WWE Network has taken some serious steam out of the pay per view business as it pertains to professional wrestling, namely the monthly shows that once cost $40 per month and now are included with the $10 per month subscription service.
The majority of the WWE pay per views haven't done all that well in recent years as wrestling's popularity has waned in the last 15 or so years since the likes of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and The Rock graced the squared circle on a full time basis.
That "attitude" era has given away to a more kid friendly product, which still produces about four million viewers each week on their Monday show but nowhere near the numbers in the late 1990s. That also has trickled down to the pay per view business with buy rates in the neighborhood of a few hundred thousand customers on average on a monthly basis with spikes for larger scale shows.

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"Wrestlemania," however always was the one caveat in the deal as the show typically retailed for $70 to buy with around one million or so people taking part in the monthly, spring time extravaganza.
With the network, "Wrestlemania" is now part of the $10 per month package, which is highly questionable given how well the show always performed in recent years.
This year's show lacks a bit of the luster the event was did since it is the second year in a row it is part of the network lineup rather than its own entity. The matches have some star power, such as Sting, the long time WCW wrestler who finally is stepping foot in a WWE ring, to wrestle the part time wrestler slash Chief Operating Officer, Triple H.
Brock Lesnar, easily wrestling's biggest draw, is defending his WWE Championship against Roman Reigns, an up and coming superstar who has drawn boos from the crowds because he's being pushed as the next greatest thing and he's clearly not ready.
Both of these matches will have clear cut winners, although the title match wasn't so much the case. Lesnar just re signed with WWE for three years, which makes his victory almost a certainly. Sting beating Triple H is the feel good ending we all want to see as fans as well.
The other noteworthy moment is The Undertaker, who has been a fixture with the WWE since 1990, against Bray Wyatt. Undertaker coming back means little as he was defeated last year by Lesnar and thus ended his 30 wins 0 losses streak at "Mania."
Wyatt, in the meantime, is one of WWE's gems of a younger talent and desperately needs this win, but it won't happen. Undertaker isn't coming back to lose two years in a row.
While most of what occurs tonight at "Mania" won't feel quite the same as it has in recent years, WWE has put together its best card of the year clearly and that should translate into a few new subscribers, but you have to wonder if some within WWE aren't wishing the pay per view model had stayed put for "Wrestlemania."



Rock of aging: Why Van Halen concert reek of repetition

03/26/15 by Rennie Detore



As much as I love Eddie Van Halen and the band that is his namesake, I'm having a hard time getting overly excited about the announcement that a tour is imminent.
Yes, Van Halen, arguably one of the greatest rock bands of all time, came out of hibernation after six or seven years and decided it was time to resurface and release a live CD, and begin the media tours to promote an upcoming tour.
They'll play the "Ellen" show in a week, and they'll be on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on Monday, and longtime fans of Eddie Van Halen, the greatest guitar player of all time, and the rest of the band, including son Wolfgang Van Halen on bass (who's been there since 2008) undoubtedly will be fawning all over every note, cord and lyric the band serves up en route to hitting the road.

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Except this one.
I am a massive Van Halen fan, and truly marvel at the showmanship of front man David Lee Roth and, of course, the sheer talent of Eddie Van Halen and the brutality and crispness of the often overlooked drummer, Eddie's brother Alex Van Halen.
But if I'm being honest, this tour isn't really much to anticipate if you truly take a longer, harder look beyond your starstruck eyes and the propensity to embrace nostalgia.
Van Halen is touring after releasing a live album. Honestly, so what? Yes, Van Halen is one of the greatest live bands on all time, but anyone who has taken a listen to this new disc simply can't get past how dreadful Roth's vocals are on this album. He never really was a fantastic singer; his charisma at the height of his Van Halen run often took precedent over being an average tune carrier.
Roth is downright bad on this live CD, to the point that it's actually hard to listen to as he struggles to hit high notes and talks through most of the lyrics. The 2008 tour, after the release of "A Different Kind of Truth," released in 2012, featured Roth's not so spectacular vocals but at the time they were at least adequate. Now, they're flat out bad.
And speaking of that 2012 release, where is the new music Eddie always speaks of? Any time Eddie is interviewed, he always seemingly talks about how much music he's written or that he is constantly writing. So, where is it?
I'm a big proponent of tours being scheduled and put together as part of the release of new music. Van Halen has nothing new to offer fans that already watched them tour on two separate occasions when they first got back to together with Roth seven years ago (again, without any new music, but that can be forgiven based on Roth being brought back for the first time since 1984, and no the 1996 faux reunion doesn't count) and again when "Truth" was released.
Both instances can be forgiven and forgotten for the reasons listed, but there's no plausible explanation why the band is touring to support essentially a live greatest hits album.
Van Halen enthusiasts will show up in droves to support the legendary band, and that's perfectly fine. They'll argue that this may be it for the band, and they don't want to miss that swan song of a tour. For my money, I'll simply recall the 2008 tour fondly and be perfectly fine if that's the last time I saw them perform live.



Recycle route: Why NFL coaching changes rarely mean much

03/06/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak



The effort in the world today is to "Go Green" and preserve and enhance the earth and our environment, specifically through recycling and re use. If that were the case in professional sports leagues, the NFL would be the greenest, as nobody seems to "recycle" more than the NFL when it comes to coaches. Every year there are coaching changes, and every year it seems like its the same guys wearing the headsets, just with different team colors on. So before we move into free agency, trades, the 2015 Draft and all other things NFL off season related, let's recap the coaching carousel since the end of the 2014 season.
The biggest surprise had to be the decision Denver made to part ways with John Fox just a season after leading the Broncos to the Super Bowl. To replace him, Denver hired Gary Kubiak. Kubiak formerly coached the Houston Texans, before going to Baltimore last season to be the offensive coordinator.
But don't feel bad for Mr. Fox, as he was hired by the Chicago Bears to be their head coach. Fox replaces Marc Trestman, who moves on to take Kubiak's old job as offensive coordinator for the Ravens.

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In New York, the end had come for Rex Ryan. Well with the Jets at least. But he'll stay in the same division, and the same state, as new head coach of the Buffalo Bills. Ryan replaces Doug Marrone, who opted out as coach after just 2 seasons because of disagreements with the team's ownership regarding extensions for himself and his coaching staff. Marrone will be coaching in Jacksonville in 2015 as an assistant head coach and as the offensive line coach.
Jack Del Rio is back as a head coach again, this time for the Oakland Raiders (don't leave any axes laying around in the locker room). Del Rio previously coached in Jacksonville as HC before landing in Denver as the defensive coordinator for the past 3 seasons. Del Rio's old job was taken by Wade Phillips, who has been around the coaching carousel more than once, and most recently was defensive coordinator on Gary Kubiak's staff in Houston.
There is some new blood in the head coaching fraternity this season though. Dan Quinn will take the reigns in Atlanta, as the now former Seattle defensive coordinator replaces Mike Smith. The New York Jets hired former Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to replace Rex Ryan. And Jim Tomsula was promoted to head coach in San Francisco, replacing Jim Harbaugh, who moved on to coach at the University of Michigan after his divorce, I mean mutual parting ways decision, with the 49ers ownership.
The slogan to promote re use is "recycling works". And that sure seems to be the case in the NFL...again.



Pushing the envelope: NHL trade deadline could decide Stanley Cup contenders

03/05/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak



With the push for the playoffs underway in the NHL, those teams in contention tried to strengthen their post season chances with deadline deals. It's an exciting time for fans, and a nerve racking time for players. Let's see who did what heading into the stretch run of the this season, as we take a look at some of the bigger deals made at the trade deadline.
The first big move came before the trade deadline weekend, with Nashville acquiring RW Mike Santorelli and defenseman Cody Franson from Toronto. The Predators are trying to load up for what they hope will be a Stanley Cup run, and improved their team by adding a solid forward and a defenseman who logs a lot of minutes. Both Franson and Santorelli had previously played in Nashville. To get them, the Predators gave up a 1st round draft pick, prospect Brandon Leipsic, and NHL veteran Olli Jokinen, who the Leafs would trade later. How Leipsic ends up turning out as a player and what the Leafs end up getting with Nashville's pick this summer will determine the long term cost of this trade. But the Predators believe they have a chance to win now, and were willing to pay to do so, especially since both Franson and Santorelli are unrestricted free agents after the season.
Montreal was major player at the trade deadline as well, making several moves. The first was sending Jiri Sekac to Anaheim in exchange for Devante Smith-Pelly. In this swap of 22 year old wingers, the Canadiens sacrificed scoring potential to add some needed size and physicality to their bottom six forwards. The Habs then added forward depth by acquiring Brian Flynn and veteran center Torrey Mitchell in two separate trades with Buffalo. They gave up a 5th round pick for the versatile Flynn, who can play center or wing, and a 7th round pick plus a minor leaguer in exchange for Mitchell. The Canadiens also upgraded their defense, by getting Jeff Petry from Edmonton for a 2nd round pick and conditional 5th round pick. Petry gives Montreal a top four defenseman now without sacrificing too much in the future, since Petry is a UFA after the season. These moves definitely make Montreal a stronger team a possible favorite in the Eastern Conference.

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St. Louis was also active at the trade deadline, making three trades. The Blues acquired defenseman Zbynek Michalek from Arizona for prospect Maxim Letunov. Michalek gives the Blues a top four defenseman who can play 20 minutes a game once he recovers from a concussion. The Blues then added some size to their blue line when they traded defenseman Ian Cole to Pittsburgh for Robert Bortuzzo. Bortuzzo gives the Blues additional toughness on their 3rd defensive pair, as well as the right handed shooting defenseman the Blues were looking for. St. Louis also added veteran forward Olli Jokinen from Toronto for Joakim Lindstrom. Jokinen has had a down season, but adds playoff experience for the Blues.
Pittsburgh made a trio of moves at the deadline as well. Besides swapping Bortuzzo for Cole, the Penguins acquired forward Daniel Winnik from Toronto. The Penguins gave up a 2nd round pick in 2016, a 5th round pick this year, and forward Zach Sill to get Winnik. Winnik gives Pittsburgh an upgrade to their bottom six forwards, as well as some size and is also an excellent penalty killer. Cole gives the Penguins a change of pace on the blue line from Bortuzzo, who has been the Pens 6th or 7th defenseman most of the season. The Penguins then traded defenseman Simon Despres to Anaheim for defenseman Ben Lovejoy, who played for the Penguins before being traded to the Ducks in 2012. This deal is kind of a head scratcher for Pittsburgh, who traded their two biggest and most physical defensemen in Bortuzzo and Despres. Lovejoy is a serviceable defenseman, but is 31 years old and doesn't have the size or upside the 23 year old Despres does.
Anaheim was also very active at the deadline. Besides the Sekac for Smith-Pelly trade and the Lovejoy for Despres trade, the Ducks made two other deals. The first was acquiring defenseman James Wisniewski from Columbus in exchange for forward Rene Bourque and forward prospect William Karlsson. Wisniewski gives the Ducks a top four defenseman who can play physical, but also play on the power play. Anaheim also added forward Tomas Fleischmann in a trade with Florida that sent a 3rd round pick and forward Dany Heatley to the Panthers. Sekac and Fleischmann give Anaheim some more scoring potential than what they were traded for (Heatley was playing in the AHL). Despres also gives t Ducks a bottom six defenseman with size and skill, with potential to be on one of the top two pairings in the future.
The New York Rangers made a big move at the deadline to bolster their position in the Eastern Conference by acquiring defenseman Keith Yandle from Arizona. To get Yandle, New York gave up defenseman John Moore, 19 year old forward prospect Anthony Duclair, a 2nd round pick this year and a conditional 1st round pick in 2016. Yandle is solid offensive defenseman who won't have to log as much ice time as he was in Arizona. He'll give the Rangers an immediate upgrade at the point on their power play too. Yandle is also signed through next season, and the Coyotes are retaining half of his salary. The Rangers also got defenseman Chris Summers and a 4th round pick in the deal. Summers gives the Rangers additional depth, but is at best a 7th defenseman in New York.
Other trades of note:
Washington gets forward Curtis Glencross from Calgary for 2nd & 3rd round draft picks. Glencross is a UFA after the season, but gives the Capitals an upgrade to their top 9 forwards and has the potential to play in the top six.
Chicago made a pair of moves, acquiring forward Antoine Vermette from Arizona for a 1st round draft pick and defense prospect Klas Dahlbeck. Vermette will immediately play on one of the top two lines for Chicago, who are hoping he will help to offset the loss of Patrick Kane due to injury. The Blackhawks also traded a 2nd round and conditional 4th round pick to Philadelphia for defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who has missed all of this season due to blood clots, but has been cleared to play again. If he's healthy, Timmonen could be in the top four on the Blackhawks blue line.
The defending Stanley Cup champion LA Kings added defenseman Andrej Sekera from Carolina for a 1st round pick and defense prospect Roland McKeown. The Kings gave up a lot for Sekera, who's a UFA after the season, but fill he's the missing piece of the puzzle that could psh the Kings into the playoffs and on another run to the Cup.
Winnipeg added forward Jiri Tlusty from Carolina in exchange for a 3rd round pick in 2016 and a conditional 6th round pick this year. Tlusty gives the Jets another scoring threat on their second line to replace Matthieu Perreault as Winnipeg pushes for a playoff birth.
Florida, who's battling with Boston for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, added veteran forward Jaromir Jagr for a 2nd round draft pick and conditional 3rd round pick in 2016. It's a steep price to pay for a 43 year old, but Jagr gives the Panthers an upgrade to their top 6 wingers due to Jagr's puck possession abilities, and also another scoring threat on the power play.



'Bird' on a wire: Keaton shows poise in lieu of losing at Oscars

02/25/15 by Rennie Detore



Michael Keaton made a remarkable comeback at the age of 63 when he starred in the film, "Birdman," which was met with critical acclaim as a film but more so for Keaton as the star.
Keaton plays the lead in the film to perfection. That character, a washed up super hero star, is eerily similar to Keaton and his post "Batman" career. If you remember, Keaton played Bruce Wayne slash "Batman" in the 1989 installment from Tim Burton and again donned the rubber suit for "Batman Returns" a few years later.
Keaton passed on a third "Batman" and instead went on to star in a handful of forgettable films, and he eventually disappeared basically from the Hollywood spotlight. Keaton returned to form in "Birdman" and Oscar buzz for him was much deserved. Finally, Keaton was taking center stage and being lauded for his talent as an actor.

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Unfortunately this past Sunday at the Oscars, Keaton failed to capture the Oscar for Best Actor, and his would be acceptance speech was caught on tape. Keaton is seen pulling out his speech as the winner was being announced, only to put the paper back in his suit jacket after his name wasn't called. Those who posted and reported on the video noted that Keaton was visibly upset and dejected after the misstep on his part.
Naturally, Keaton was disappointed after so many assumed he was the logical choice as the winner. The idea that the video is being posted and visually prodded online is laughable and hardly would qualify as news. Keaton didn't make news by stuffing a speech back into his pocket after not winning an award. That undoubtedly happens on every award show, but this time someone happened to catch it on video.
The real newsworthy piece isn't Keaton sheepishly putting his speech away but rather being the consummate professional after the fact and continuing on throughout the night in a manner that shows just how much of a class act he is.
Now, you can argue that part of the job of being an actor is to play the part of gracious loser. But this one feels a little different since Keaton was caught on camera at the moment he realized he had lost. That isn't exactly one of the perks of being a celebrity, knowing that the camera could always be on and watching, but Keaton fluffed it off and made his media rounds without so much as batting an eye.



Murphy's law: Why Eddie bailed on SNL 40 only confirms he's lost his edge

02/22/15 by Rennie Detore



Chris Rock took the stage at the 40th anniversary of "Saturday Night Live" and delivered an appropriate and stirring tribute directed at Eddie Murphy, one of the key ingredients that helped the sketch comedy show live beyond the 1980s and actually have the ability to celebrate four decades of success.
Murphy is arguably the most important cast member in the show's history as Rock stated because the show was starting to turn for the worse, and then Murphy saved the day with his humor and star power.
That same star power sadly was missing from Murphy's appearance on SNL 40 as the long time funny man was anything but that. He graciously accepted the adulation from the crowd and actually made a joke (that many missed) when he started clapping and walked toward Rock and said, "let's keep it going for Eddie Murphy."

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Yes, that was moderately amusing, but then Murphy told the crowd how much he appreciated the show and what it did for his career, then basically ran out of things to say as the show oddly went to commercial break.
In days following the awkwardness that was Murphy, critics questioned why the "Beverly Hills Cop" star didn't do more than take praise and then leave. Comedian and fellow SNL alum Norm MacDonald shed a little light on Murphy's speech when he revealed that Murphy turned down a chance to poke fun at Bill Cosby as part of the "Jeopardy" skit.
Murphy said he didn't want to "kick a man when he's down" referring to Cosby and the plethora of allegations against the iconic TV star as it relates to his altercations with women that date back several decades.
Oddly, Murphy's holier than the joke approach isn't so much surprising when you consider his career path. Murphy isn't the same guy from "Beverly Hills Cop" or his stand up act. He's become part of the Hollywood machine that churns out PG friendly fare that typically is received with lukewarm box office numbers and tepid reviews from critics.
Murphy isn't a draw at the movies quite frankly, and his decision to turn down the Cosby spoof shows that his once edgy persona is no more. Granted, no actor of Murphy's ilk can simply keep doing the "Trading Places" and "Coming to America" type movies forever; he's supposed to grow as an actor as his gets older.
And that's what Murphy has done with little to no fanfare as far as ticket sales. That's his choice, and he's probably fine with that decision. The real joke, however, is Murphy acting as though he's too important or classy to poke fun at Cosby. If that's the case, why didn't he recreate "Mr Robinson's Neighborhood" or his Stevie Wonder impersonation? Seriously, Adam Sandler returned as "Opera Man," and he has made more money than Murphy over the course of his career. Bill Murray is a full fledged movie star but that didn't stop him from doing his Nick Ocean bit.
The truth is Murphy isn't funny anymore, and what happened on SNL 40, that terribly bland showing, only proves that point. Murphy didn't say anything but he has nothing relevant to say, and perhaps can no longer be funny on cue in front of a live audience.
Stick to the movies where you play five characters at once, no one goes to watch and even less are laughing. That's Eddie Murphy today, and expecting anything more at the SNL 40 reunion was remarkably optimistic.



Class clown: Teacher bullies student in Illinois in classless, shameful act

02/19/15 by Rennie Detore



Bullying is no stranger to headlines. This one, from a high school in Illinois, reads a little different than the norm.
A 15 year old student, Stephen Davis, at Streamwood High School found himself the butt of jokes among his classroom when a student drew an unflattering picture of him on a dry erase board. Being made fun of about his weight and appearance is nothing new for Davis, who freely and bravely admits he's been getting picked on since grade school but admirably shrugs it off as best he can.
That student may have started yet another day of bullying directed at Davis, but the substitute teacher in that day finished it. He continued to abound on the drawing from the student and added antennas to the cartoon face of Davis on the board and added a few ignorant words to further punctuate his insensitivity and idiocy.

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How exactly did the rest of the world hear about this or see it happen? The video was recorded by Davis when he saw the teacher actually join in on the so called fun that the entire class was having. The school didn't respond to any inquiries put forth by national media as one would expect they're trying to speak directly to the substitute teacher at fault, along with formulate some sort of public relations rhetoric to tell the world "how they don't condone this act."
The school undoubtedly doesn't agree with this heinous act of bullying put forth by an adult nonetheless, but this act shows two things quite clearly: bullying isn't just about unacceptable student to student behavior, and more needs to be done without the schools.
Davis is the victim here, without question. You have to assume that Davis spoke up at least a few times to someone within the school that the bullying was hurtful and perhaps incessant and consistent. He needs to say something to a principal, teacher or counselor to help keep the school aware of what is happening, right?
Turns out, according to Davis' sister, he's done that several times but hasn't seen the kind of action that you would assume happens given how so much work and spotlight has been devoted to bullying nationally.
And with that, Davis decided to take his bullying into his own hands by videotaping what was happening with his cell phone in a modern, technological vigilante moment of strength. Telling someone first is preferred, but you have to wonder aloud just what that would have done had Davis accused a teacher of doing something so pathetic like this.
The teacher undoubtedly saw their career aspirations of being a full time teacher just about anywhere receive permanent detention as they'll be looking for another employment avenue and field completely as soon as possible. But being banished from being a teacher shouldn't be the only adverse action to fall upon this adult. Kids and young adults shouldn't be excused from bullying; you can argue that educating them on how wrong and hurtful bullying is should conceivably be a first step toward them growing up to be a smarter, sincere adult.
The fact that an adult teacher actually bullied a 15 year old high school student shows just how far the anti bullying campaign has come, suggesting that there is much work to be done. A public apology is place to start, but that isn't going to solve a bullying problem that clearly needs to be addressed with a little more fervor than presently being done.
Of course, you can't account for notion, which the school is most likely going to use in its addressing of this issue, that this person acted on their own, and they'll be promptly dismissed. That's all well and good but it totally overlooks fixing the problem at the core. Yes, they'll always be stupid people, and you can argue that you can't fix "stupid."
But all the bullying ads and celebrity campaigns can't show what Davis caught on his cell phone at school. That's bullying at its worse, and that reality is what needs to be seen so real progress can be made.



Blocked View: The View might want to consider closing the shades

02/08/15 by Chasity McLeod



Rosie O'Donnell is leaving "The View." You have to think that the rest of the panel of personalities might want to consider doing the same thing.
O'Donnell is telling the public that her reason for leaving is due to her separation from her wife, who she had been with for three years. O'Donnell also had a heart attack three years ago and also eluded to wanting to spend more time with her children in lieu of the split.
The reasoning behind O'Donnell leaving makes perfect sense, and one would believe that all of those contributing factors play primarily into her choice to leave the show. You have to wonder, despite O'Donnell denying the claim, if the lack of cohesion and comfort exuded by the all "The View" hosts could have had at least a little something to do with her opting out of staying.

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The reformed show included O'Donnell, actress Rosie Perez, Nicole Wallace and Whoopi Goldberg, who has been on board since 2007. The odd, mismatched lineup had plenty questioning how the producers came up with this lineup and whether they could pull together enough camaraderie to increase ratings or convince viewers the show hasn't seen better days.
Thus far, the reviews for "The View" have been lukewarm but mostly poor. O'Donnell and Goldberg are both strong personalities that essentially for that reason shouldn't be on the same four person panel. O'Donnell is controversial, and that is one of the reason when she was originally selected for the job most skeptics believed she wouldn't get along with the rest of the cast.
The inclusion of Wallace and Perez seemed like odd choices from the start, and the announcement of them only served to confuse viewers and further prove that the show was trying to grasp on to whatever it had left.
Truthfully, the show, with O'Donnell leaving and facing yet another change in cast, might want to consider boarding up the windows and putting the concept as a whole in the rear view. "The View" critically is panned, although for the purposes of day time television wasn't always terrible. The show and some of the original cast proved to have at least a modicum of moments worth noting.
The 2015 version of the show feels more like a professional sports team trying to rebuild with rookies and past their prime veterans assembled and thrown out there to see if they can at least put a respectable product on the field. "The View" hasn't been able to do that with O'Donnell and Goldberg, both of whom haven't been relevant in years.
Unless producers have someone in mind that can add serious drawing power to the show, the future of "The View" seems to be cloudy at best.



Shacking up: Radio Shack joins bevy of struggling retailers that finally file for bankruptcy

02/06/15 by Rennie Detore



Radio Shack, despite efforts to recreate their image and rebrand a fledgling franchise, finally filed for bankruptcy. The move hardly would be considered shocking but rather yet another retail casualty.
Exactly why Radio Shack will sell off its remaining stores can be debated feverishly by industry experts or the casual consumer. Based on the revenue of Radio Shack in recent years, the company had been losing millions every quarter and year, customers haven't exactly taken to recent marketing efforts or the store trying to infuse some level of relevancy in recent years.
Remember Radio Shack harkening back to the 1980s for a series of TV commercials? They also signed on "Weird" Al for one of his catchy, amusing songs, although that failed to catch on as well, despite the best efforts from the creative minds behind "The Shack."

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Cute slogans or Radio Shack trying to repackage the way they present themselves to the public couldn't change the fact that the retailer simply failed to stay relevant sooner than later. The electronics marketplace is equal parts picky and frugal. Even electronics giant Best Buy isn't the juggernaut it once was when it comes to selling any and all things flat screen TVs, tablets or laptops.
Part of the problem is consumers have taken to the internet and thus the lowest bidder when it comes to finding what they want at a price they determine (or least search for until they find it). Amazon immediately comes to mind as the destination for buyers, as Best Buy and other brick and mortar locations have become showrooms that ironically allow consumers to check out or even play with various devices and gadgets but turn around and buy them online.
Best Buy has thus started to push its online pricing and buying, but that move simply wreaks of panic. Radio Shack never even got to that point, however. They remained steadfast in growing their traditional stores, and that mentality made the long running retailer highly disposable in an already competitive marketplace.
Radio Shack certainly seemed competitive but rather misguided. Instead of pouring their hearts into advertising and humorous jingles and promotions, they needed a basic class on how to reposition your business in the marketplace.
Or, at the very least just the will and wherewithal to just pay attention to how their sector of consumerism was shifting. Radio Shack, instead, stood pat in its philosophy and that hard edged approach produced soft revenue numbers and eventually led to the retailer shutting down for good.
Any time competition is eliminated, you can't help but believe that hurts how the remaining players do business and could essentially hurt customers and their ability to have an alternative when it comes to purchases.
For Radio Shack, however, they hardly were viewed by the end as competition but rather an stubborn, outdated entity that never truly engaged in the idea of changing.



Curve ball: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition features first plus sized model, but what took so long?

02/05/15 by Rennie Detore



The internet and social media began buzzing when Sports Illustrated, more specifically the much lauded and iconic "Swimsuit Edition" announced the inclusion of Ashley Graham, a 27 year old model as part of a new line of swimwear dubbed swimsuitsforall.
As much as that sounds like business as usual at Sports Illustrated as it relates to their swimsuit issue, Graham will be the first plus sized model to be featured in that particular issue, even if it is part of an ad that was purchased as part of the magazine.
Still, Graham's appearance in the "Swimsuit Edition" has been met with a slew of positive feedback given that Sports Illustrated and its bathing suit piece typically features the more "traditional" models who sports sizes that remain in the single digit category.

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I'm not inclined so much to give credit to Sports Illustrated or shake the hands of the editors who ultimately determined that giving Graham a spot in the magazine, albeit a paid one, was some sort of noble or groundbreaking act of feminism that should be met with some sort of parade or adulation that borders on pandemonium.
No, the question I have is what exactly took so long to finally have what is dubbed a "plus sized" model to appear in the coveted "Swimsuit Edition." Graham is a beautiful, stunning young woman who embraces her body type as her own and, rightfully so, isn't ashamed that she is "curvy." If you listen to her talk about her physique, she speaks highly of not only how she feels about herself, but the fact that she's empowered to reach out through her photo shoots and words to younger, teenage girls who might be conflicted as to what they should look like, or at least what they're subliminally being told.
Magazine covers, television, print and social media make a mockery of body image for both men and women. You could argue that the latter sex is more affected by what they see and hear in terms of what is deemed fat, skinny or normal. What is typically sold as the standard of which perfection is judged is shameful and leads to influencing impressionable girls and boys who believe that if they don't have abs or toned legs that they'll somehow not be part of society.
If you believe that sentiment is somehow overly dramatic, you haven't paid much attention to the increase in body image and eating disorders that have become prevalent as a result of this new norm. Parents play an integral part in the explanation of real versus what can only be called make believe within the pages of these magazines or anything found online of this ilk. Moms and dads undoubtedly heap praise on their children in this regard in the hopes of pushing self esteem in the direction that easily trumps anything their kids see or hear that is contrary.
Parents, however, are not the trump card that most believe them to be. They can have an impact for certain, but to what degree they're effective really hasn't been determined or verified as moving the proverbial needle on body image or how their teens believe they look versus reality.
I can say that Graham being featured in Sports Illustrated as part of the "Swimsuit Edition" certainly can be viewed as a step in the right direction, but let's call it what it is: a baby step. Models like Graham always belonged in the "Swimsuit Issue," particularly in recent years, and editors suddenly having a change of heart hardly feels like a page turner it would have been a decade or so ago.



Truly Super: NFL product on the field shines bright at Super Bowl

02/02/15 by Rennie Detore



If you watched the Super Bowl only for the halftime show or commercials, you certainly missed one monumental game between two evenly matched, top seeded teams from their respective conferences.
The commercials ranged, as usual, from memorable to modest, and Katy Perry and her special guests performed admirably, but center stage belonged to the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks. The 2015 version of the Super Bowl truly was remarkable from start to finish with everything you want out of a big game: controversy, superb catches, lead changes and a finish that left certain fans stunned and others equally amazed.
The final play saw a rookie Patriots cornerback step in front of a pass from Seahawks' quarterback Russell Wilson, who inexplicably was throwing a slant pass on second and goal while their beastly and brutal running back Marshawn Lynch was nowhere near the play.

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Seattle was trailing 28 to 24 at that time with about one minute left to play in the game when Seahawks' head coach Pete Carroll outsmarted himself and instead of running on second and goal from about the two yard line, he opted for a pass that backfired.
The Patriots win hopefully quells (although it won't of course) the notion that they didn't belong in the big game after being accused of deflating footballs in their AFC Championship win over the Indianapolis Colts 45 to 7 two weeks ago. This Patriots regime also finally captured that elusive fourth NFL Championship, and so did Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, arguably the most successful quarterback and coach combination of all time.
Brady set new Super Bowl records for total touchdowns thrown, passing Joe Montana. Brady's 12 TDs goes nicely with his now 3 Super Bowl MVPs and the title of greatest quarterback of all time, even in the face of controversy such as "deflate gate" and "spy gate" years earlier.
On the larger scale, much beyond the Patriots proving doubters wrong by winning a game where the footballs were accurate as far as pressure goes, the NFL once again proved its naysayers wrong when you take a long, hard look at the product on the field. That sentiment goes far beyond getting a few million dollars for a 30 second Super Bowl commercial or having a halftime show that rivals any $100 per ticket concert you'll see on the market.
No, this is about the NFL constantly being mired in off the field issues and what, for most entities, are revenue threatening, public relations black eyes, yet still emerging as the most popular sport in the United States in spite of it all. Ray Rice, Adrian Pederson, domestic abuse, child abuse and anything thrown at the NFL doesn't seem to slow down the juggernaut that is professional football. That isn't to suggest the Rice or Pederson stories aren't appalling and awful. They're hideous acts that the NFL needs to deal with beyond public service commercials but rather with the heaviest of hands.
This is more about the on the field competition that never seems to slow down but rather only get better as the season progresses, culminating with a Super Bowl that lived up to the hype and beyond. The NFL isn't perfect, hardly in fact. The league has a lot to do to clean up its image off the field. On the field, however, the game is thriving.



Fan based: Does the Super Bowl really draw actual fans of NFL?

02/01/15 by Rennie Detore



Super Bowl Sunday brings with it a myriad of emotions for fans of the "big game": trepidation, angst, excitement and camaraderie.
And that's just for the people waiting to see the halftime show, the slew of commercials or just enjoy throwing a party.
The truth behind the Super Bowl is a dirty secret the NFL surprisingly doesn't shy away from. The league doesn't care why you're watching the game, tonight's battle between the AFC Champions New England Patriots and the NFC title holders the Seattle Seahawks.

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A recent statistic centering on just who comprises the audience of the Super Bowl, easily the most watched event every year, shows that the majority of viewers don't care about the game, less than half to be exact. The real spectacle for some 53% of Super Bowl viewers is the aforementioned ads that air throughout the game or the halftime performance, this year Katy Perry.
But even beyond the commercials and center stage halftime act, most Super Bowl viewers are just casual viewers who were invited to a so called Super Bowl party, but really don't care much at all about the game being played. Instead, they'll buy a random Patriots or Seahawks jersey, make their famous taco dip and head to someone's house to enjoy the fanfare, without actual being a fan.
As much as pundits of the NFL like to dangle that 53% statistic over the NFL's head as a way to show that their Super Bowl really isn't what it is cracked up to be, the tally is hardly sending the brass at the NFL front office into a state of panic.
If anything else, Roger Goodell and company are in their glory. You see, anyone who has paid attention to Goodell and his mantra regarding his "baby" that is the NFL is growing the revenue of the league from a few billion to a few hundred billion in the next 10 years. He wants the NFL to be more than men ages 18 and up watching on a beat up sofa on Sunday afternoon and instead wants to incorporate as much as he can to bring in viewers that aren't necessarily NFL fans.
Why else would Katy Perry be the halftime show? Not sure, but the safe bet is that the guy scarfing down the chips and chugging the beer doesn't have any Perry CDs in his car or songs of hers on his iPod. The real crown jewel in this discussion is the NFL securing close to 5 million dollars for a 30 second commercials and selling that time by assuring those would be buyers that more than just guys of a certain age are going to be watching the game, which would give the commercials a distinct look, feel and only appeal to certain advertisers.
Today's NFL has commercials that go far beyond one segment of the population. The game ironically enough is touted as the biggest sporting event in the United States but theoretically could be called nothing more than a backdrop.



Bang or bust: Mixed feelings abound about new all female `Ghostbusters` cast

01/29/15 by Rennie Detore



After more than a decade of speculation centering on a new, third "Ghostbusters" movie coming to fruition, fans of the iconic movie finally have their answer about the future of the franchise and if another film actually would ever happen.
It just might not be the response or news they were expecting.
The new "Ghostbusters" cast was announced, and there's no sign of Bill Murray or Dan Akroyd for the third installment but rather a new, fresh cast to take over where those aforementioned comedy legends left off, with a slight twist.

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The new "Ghostbusters" is an all female foursome, consisting of three "Saturday Night Live" cast members, two present and one past, along with an established TV star and budding movie one. Kristin Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones are your new "Ghostbusters," and news of recast was naturally met with mixed reviews.
McKinnon and Jones aren't movie stars.
What happened to Murray and Akroyd returning to the roles that made them famous?
More importantly, is anyone going to buy the four would be leading ladies as competent heirs to the "Ghostbusters" throne?
That final question is the real deal breaker in whether this movie is going to sink or swim at the box office. Trying to follow up on the original actors from "Ghostbusters" is no easy task, particularly for McKinnon and Jones, who are currently SNL cast members with questionable big screen acting chops and presence.
Truthfully, Wiig and McCarthy, who acted alongside one another in the smash hit "Bridesmaids," can easily carry this movie in the form of name value and star power even if McKinnon and Jones are rookies at this whole movie thing. Anyone who is a fan of SNL knows just how talented McKinnon and Jones are, particularly Jones who burst on as a cast member and has quickly cemented herself as memorable with all she does. McKinnon arguably is the most well rounded and talented cast member and anchors the show alongside Taran Killam.
Despite backlash initially with this announcement, "Ghostbusters" actually is in more than capable hands. Director Paul Feig, who also did "Bridesmaids" with Wiig and McCarthy, is going to do the "Ghostbusters" franchise more than just some justice. You have to think he'll hit this one out of the park. The cast is flat out talented, especially at the top of the marquee with McCarthy and Wiig.
The fact that they're females shouldn't and doesn't matter. At the end of the day, they're hilarious, comedic actors who aren't going to take strapping on the proton packs seriously, while still making the movie funny.
Fans who have issues with this movie are naturally clinging to what they know, the 1984 version of the movie. Not one of these female cast members or the director is trying to duplicate the original "Ghostbusters," but rather offer a unique twist on the film. Even Akroyd, one of the originals, called the cast "magnificent." You'd like to think that blessing is enough to bestow confidence on the film's fan base.
If it's not, then so be it. If you're willing to give the repackaged "Ghostbusters" gals a chance to shine and do what they do best, you'll not only not be disappointed but leave the theater knowing that all parties involved in the newest movie more than just a little content.



Growing concern: Why are obesity rates still on the rise despite all we know about healthy living?

01/28/15 by Rennie Detore



The latest obesity numbers are in, and with the increase in awareness about exercising, eating right and losing weight, you'd assume that the results and rates are on a downward swing.
Fat chance.
In actuality, the obesity rates are on the rise yet again, which means the United States hasn't made much in the way of progress as it relates to choosing the right foods or making time to break a sweat before, during or after your work day.

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What hurts the most about this number is that there is so much literature and information about the negative effects of being overweight or obese, whether it is concerns about various types of cancer, heart disease or diabetes, all of which are directly linked to carrying around too much weight.
Some encouraging news out of this study showed that the younger crowd, from 18 through 29, only increased by a fraction versus the numbers taken seven years ago. But even that is hard to get too excited about, even if it modestly suggests that certain demographics that define our future are heading in the right direction.
So how exactly with so much out there to read or watch that centers on how important exercise and diet is have we not seen improvement as it relates to growing waistlines? Some who understand how these statistics are created point adamantly toward just how the final results are tabulated. For instance, obesity charts center on your body mass index (BMI) and if you hit a certain number based on the criteria (height versus weight), you are labeled overweight or obese.
The one caveat in the discussion is muscle mass and how that alters the obesity charts in the wrong direction. If you're 240 pounds and carry around mostly muscle (let's say a body fat of about 12-18%), but you're only about six feet tall, you technically aren't going to have a favorable BMI, thus putting you technically on the obese side of the fence.
That group, however, probably isn't going to sway those numbers so much so that they've accounted for the upswing in obesity figures. What often isn't talked about openly is the factors that negatively affect getting to the point that exercise is commonplace. Talking about health and fitness in an overall, general way isn't enough to get the average person to the gym more than a few times per month. You have to educate the would be exercise consumer about tips and tricks to stick with it, like exercising with a friend, finding a place to work out that is convenient or close to your home or setting realistic goals rather than assuming that a little exercise is going to produce a lot of results.
Eating is the same, too. Everyone knows that have to eat better, but the real question is how? Learning to find the right foods starts with prepping, making dinners at home the night before or packing a lunch rather than ordering food that most likely doesn't fit in with your game plan to lose weight.
One aspect of obesity that often is overlooked is status, closely followed by income. The lack of money often is directly related to being overweight or obese, citing the expense of healthy food versus spending a fraction of your hard earned dollars on microwave dinners and fried foods.
All of that is part of the continuation that needs to occur if a true dent is going to be made in those obesity numbers. Until we move past the simple "eat better, exercise more" philosophy, we'll continue to flounder when those obesity figures find the light of day.



Crown royalty: Despite downturn in business, "Rumble" remains popular WWE event

01/25/15 by Rennie Detore



From 1998 to about 2002, you'd have a hard time finding another form of sports or entertainment that was as popular as World Wrestling Entertainment. The television ratings for their Monday Night "Raw" show rivaled that of Monday Night Football, and their pay per views, aggressively priced at between 40-60 dollars per month would often secure half a million or more buys from rabid, relentless fans who loved the product.
Fast forward to 2015, and the WWE isn't nearly as popular as it once was. Sure, the ratings on Monday's are respectable but a shell of what they were in the peak years that were dubbed the company's "Attitude" era.
Today's WWE centers around a struggling network, a streaming service that now offers all of WWE's once pricey pay per views for a monthly subscription fee of $9.99. The early numbers for the network haven't been overly positive and, of course, the total number of traditional pay per views bought is around the 100,000 mark at best.

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More alarming for the company, run by kingpin Vince McMahon and his daughter and son in law Stephanie McMahon Levesque and Triple H, respectively, is that overall interest just isn't there. Fans and experts alike have their reasons for the downturn in business: no new stars created, bad storylines or a shift from a more adult oriented themed product to more of a kid friendly brand.
Even with all the negative, WWE still has a few aces up their collective sleeves in the way of pay per views that still generate interest from a disgruntled and uninterested. One of those happens tonight in the way of the "Royal Rumble," a match part of a pay per view of the same name that has 30 WWE superstars vying for a shot to go to "Wrestlemania" in two months to earn a championship match. The interest that the "Rumble" draws is palpable and passionate since the match has produced winners that include the names "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan, all of whom are top tier talent in the company's rich legacy.
Regardless of the fact that WWE is a scripted form of entertainment where winners are known weeks or months ahead of time, fans love the passion and excitement generated by this particular, annual January show. The "Rumble" match always features surprise entrants into the match that comprise those 30 wrestlers that appear as part of the overall show. This year is no different with various names from the pasts being thrown around to be included as part of the 30 men, including everyone from legendary performer "Goldberg" to one of the more celebrated and decorated teams in the company's history, The Dudley Boys.
The "Royal Rumble" pay per view also signals the beginning of WWE's highest point of the year as they head into "Wrestlemania," the company's marquee event that is seen by millions of fans each year and often draws anywhere between 60,000-80,000 people as part of the live event. The months of January through early April is the time when WWE seems to show more interest in the type of product they're putting out and come across as particularly focused to detail and devising better writing for the television shows as it relates to their on air personalities.
Despite not being nearly the revenue juggernaut it once was, tonight's show begins the yearly time period where the renewed interest spikes and fans once again take the WWE product a little more seriously. Most of that is thanks to the "Rumble," a pay per view that is treated as royalty among fans and WWE wrestlers and executives alike.



Forceful exit: Lucas' 'Star Wars' rejected and with good reason

01/22/15 by Rennie Detore



George Lucas was the mastermind behind "Star Wars," a movie franchise that arguably is the most famed, innovative, loved and passionately followed than any other one in the history of movies.
The key word, however, is "was."
Lucas sold of his LucasFilm to Disney for a sizeable amount of cash a few years ago and with it the rights to his beloved "Star Wars," a series of films that christened Lucas a genius and mastermind but also an out of touch, hack who had no business writing anything other than a grocery list.

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You see, Lucas' first three "Star Wars" movies some 30 plus years ago changed science fiction films for the better. The characters, modest budgets and non CGI related action scenes, along with scripts that were well written, transformed "Star Wars" from a pet project of Lucas to a billion dollar brand that is beloved by millions.
And then, "The Phantom Menace" happened in 1999, and Lucas' golden ticket and Midas touch turned sour quickly. His next three "Star Wars" movies beginning with "Menace" took a serious chunk out of Lucas' mastermind moniker. The movies were bad, the acting worse and those characters and well written dialogue that once defined "Star Wars" became laughable, campy and devoid of any originality.
So given Lucas' latest escapades as a writer and director, it's not surprising that the creator of "Star Wars" was snubbed for the latest round of movies, the first of which begins in December 2015. Lucas had plenty of ideas for a new "Star Wars" movies and in fact started writing the seventh movie. But when Lucas sold off his studio to Disney, his ideas were left behind for a new "Star Wars" movie.
Lucas is saying he doesn't have any idea about what the new "Star Wars" movie is going to be about since his ideas were "rejected" by Disney. To Disney and anyone else that isn't letting Lucas anywhere near "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," thank you.
So this isn't about bashing Lucas and his last attempt to resurrect the "Star Wars" franchise, but he simply doesn't have that same creativity and zest for screen writing that he once did when he churned out the first three "Star Wars" movies. Everything after "Phantom Menace" made money but also exposed Lucas as a shell of his former self. Now, to Lucas' credit, he is the mastermind behind one of the biggest cash cows, "Star Wars," in cinematic history. But living off your laurels and the past is exactly what Lucas would have been doing if he'd had anything to do with the next "Star Wars" movie in 2015.
He had his chance to in 1999 and beyond with Episodes 1, 2 and 3, but he failed. And that's OK. He built up enough equity with his original movies to have three follow ups that were anywhere between awful and average in everything from casting to writing. But to give Lucas the keys to the castle again after he's sold off his film studio is bad business for Disney, and they know it.
That's why Lucas is being left off this next "Star Wars," and ultimately that is a hard, albeit the right, decision.



Rainn man: Can Wilson do what most TV actors can't and succeed after success?

01/20/15 by Rennie Detore



Rainn Wilson probably doesn't shy away from the success he had on "The Office," specifically as the Dwight Schrute character that became one of the more memorable in television history.
But now that "The Office" is done, you could argue he might want to move past it.
Wilson is one of many television stars who is attempting to find success after success as he moves past his Dwight Schrute role and into a new vehicle, "Backstrom," which is set to premiere on FOX. In the show, Wilson plays a brooding, frowning detective that isn't afraid to speak his mind, which obviously goes against conventional private eyeing, of course.

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For Wilson, the role obviously is a departure from the Schrute character is many ways, aside from being overly sarcastic with his comments as "Backstrom," most of which will probably sound a lot like the snarky words written for Dwight Schrute.
The bigger issue facing Wilson, aside from comparisons between the "Backstrom" character and Schrute, is trying to move past his role on "The Office" and find something else he can sink his acting teeth into that won't be panned or ignored because, well, it isn't Dwight Schrute.
That's the irony with actors like Wilson, Michael Richards or Matthew Perry. They played such iconic roles on successful television shows that anything they do after that is always going to be met with a tremendous hurdle as far as convincing viewers that the actor behind the characters they love can be more than just that sole on air personality they grew to adore.
Most of the time that just doesn't happen. Richards, who played Kramer on "Seinfeld," gained notoriety and fortune for the role, but everything he did after that bombed (including his ill fated stand up meltdown). Perry struggled after playing Chandler on "Friends," and has had a string of monumental misses in various attempts to return to television. He is set to star in a remake of "The Odd Couple," that honestly has disaster written all over it.
Richards, Perry and Wilson made plenty of millions for their famed roles in their respective shows, so no one is going to feel sorry for them if they can't find another series that matches that kind of success. Truthfully, the goal of these actors isn't so much to equal their previous triumphs but rather continue working and doing the kind of shows that at least keep them relevant in Hollywood.
The news isn't all bad of course. Richards' "Seinfeld" co star Julia Louis Dreyfus has done well for herself with "New Adventures of Old Christine" and in a few movies since "Seinfeld" left the airways. The same can't be said for the series of flops from not only Richards but Jason Alexander ("George").
You can argue that Matt LeBlanc stumbled a bit out of the gate after "Friends" with "Joey," but he is doing well with his new Showtime series, "Episodes," where he plays himself almost perfectly (at least you'd hope he could do that). Courtney Cox and her "Cougar Town" also has done moderately well since finding a home on TBS.
So for Wilson, his "Backstrom" isn't necessarily doomed to fail. It is destined, however, to be compared to what made Wilson famous in the first place.



Super weekend: A trip to Super Bowl on line as division champs square off

01/18/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak



We're down to the final four in the NFL. Call it championship weekend, but in reality this is a rematch of games that already took place this season, with the outcome in favor of Seattle and New England, which is most likely the matchup fans and the NFL want out of these particular championship games.
Four division winners will do battle in these conference championship matchups with a Super Bowl birth on the line. Lets preview the AFC and NFC title games.
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP: GREEN BAY AT SEATTLE

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This is a rematch of the season opener between these teams. Both come in with 13 and 4 records, with the Seahawks the NFC West champions and the Packers the NFC Central champ. Green Bay boasts the top scoring offense in the NFL, averaging 30.4 points per game. They'll face the top scoring defense in the league in Seattle, who gives up an average of 15.9 points against. In the first meeting between these teams this season in Seattle, the Seahawks rolled the Packers 36 to 16. Marshawn Lynch rushed for 110 yards and scored 2 touchdowns in that game, while Russell Wilson passed for 191 yards and threw 2 TD passes. The Seahawks defense held the Packers in check as well. Aaron Rodgers threw for just 189 yards, was sacked 3 times, fumbled once, and threw an interception. Eddie Lacy was held to 34 yards rushing as well, as Seattle outgained Green Bay 398 to 255 in total yards. Seattle will have to try and shut down Rodgers again, who's passed for 4,381 yards and thrown 38 touchdowns versus just 5 interceptions. His top targets have been Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Nelson has caught 98 passes for 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns, while Cobb has 91 catches for 1,287 yards and 12 TD's. On the ground, Lacy has rushed for 1,139 yards and 9 touchdowns. Seattle's offense is led by Lynch, who's rushed for 1,306 yards and scored 13 TD's. Wilson has thrown for 3,475 yards and 20 touchdowns, and rushed for 849 yards and scored 6 TD's on the ground. The biggest factor in this game may be if Rodgers, with an injured calf, can hold up against the Seahawks defense. Green Bay is 4 and 4 on the road this season, while Seattle is 8 and 1 at home. The Seahawks have won 25 of their past 27 home games as well. Seattle is looking to become the first team since New England in 2003 and 2004 to reach back to back Super Bowls.
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP: INDIANAPOLIS AT NEW ENGLAND
This is another rematch from earlier this season. The 13 and 4 Patriots are the #1 seed in the AFC and the champions of the AFC East. The 13 and 5 Colts won the AFC South, and as the fourth seed will be playing their 3rd playoff game. In the first meeting of the season at Indianapolis, the Patriots cruised to a 42 to 20 win. The Patriots racked up 503 total yards in that game, and outrushed the Colts 246 yards to 19. Jonas Gray rushed for 201 yards and scored 4 touchdowns for the Pats. Tom Brady passed for 257 yards and threw 2 TD's, but was also intercepted twice. Andrew Luck threw for 303 yards and 2 touchdowns in the loss. TE Coby Fleener caught 7 passes for 144 yards for the Colts. Luck leads the way for the Colts, passing for 4,761 yards and 40 TD's. T.Y. Hilton is his top target with 82 catches for 1,345 yards and 7 touchdowns. New England is led by Brady, who passed for 4,109 yards and 33 touchdowns. Rob Gronkowski has 82 catches for 1,345 yards and 12 TD's, and Julian Edelman led the team in receptions with 92 for 972 yards and 4 TD's. These teams met in the playoffs last year as well, and it was another Patriots rout. The Colts were beaten 43 to 22, as New England rushed for 234 yards and scored 6 rushing touchdowns. The Colts defeated Cincinnati at home in the Wild Card round, then went on the road to defeat #2 seed Denver last week. The Patriots came back twice from 14 point deficits to defeat Baltimore at home last week. The Colts will be without their leading rusher, Trent Richardson, who is out with an injury. The Patriots are 8 and 1 at home, while the Colts are 6 and 3 on the road. New England has won the past 5 meetings between these teams.



Big Mistake: Why the 49ers will end up paying for letting Jim Harbaugh go

01/16/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak



44 wins. 19 losses. 1 tie. That was the San Francisco 49ers record in the four seasons Jim Harbaugh coached them. 3 appearances in the NFC Championship and one trip to the Super Bowl happened in those 4 seasons as well. 46 wins. 82 losses. That's the 49ers record over the 8 seasons before Harbaugh arrived. No playoff appearances from 2003 through 2010. Yet two years after leading the team to it's first Super Bowl appearance since 1995, Jim Harbaugh is out as coach of the 49ers.
It's a pretty well known fact that in professional sports, the position of head coach for most franchises is a revolving door. Some places seem to change every year (I'm looking at you Cleveland) because of perennial losing on the field. But Jim Harbaugh moving on from the 49ers has nothing to do with on field results.
It seems the biggest problem in San Francisco was that Harbaugh didn't see eye to eye with and couldn't get along with GM Trent Baalke and CEO Jed York. Most reports have stated that Baalke and York had total control over player personnel decisions and that Harbaugh had very little authority in that area and that he wanted more. It's been reported that Harbaugh felt like he couldn't control what his players were doing off the field, and there was a great divide between Harbaugh and the front office on how to handle players who had gotten in trouble with the law. But the relationship between Harbaugh, Baalke, and York really soured when the news came out last February that the team actually considered trading Harbaugh to the Cleveland Browns. Wait, what's that? A team trading the coach? I didn't think such a thing could even happen anymore.

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So who is Trent Baalke first of all? Prior to being GM of the 49ers, he was a scout for the New York Jets and Washington Redskins from 1998 through 2004. Two teams that haven't exactly set the world on fire in the last decade as far as football success goes. He was hired as a scout by San Francisco in 2005 and worked his way to VP of Player Personnel before being hired as GM, ironically, so he could lure Harbaugh away from Stanford. And what about Jed York? Well he's 34 years old. His uncle, Edward DeBartolo used to own the 49ers. And his parents, who currently own the team, appointed him to the position of CEO. Prior to that appointment he had experience doing absolutely nothing that would justify him being an executive of a professional sports team. It's also been mentioned by some media outlets that cover the 49ers that York and Baalke "leaked" a lot of what was going on regarding the deteriorating relationship between them and Harbaugh to the media, to further undermine the coach. York also took to Twitter after the 49ers loss on Thanksgiving to Seattle to "apologize" to their fan base for the teams performance.
There are and have been some NFL owners who can't keep out of the teams business, and in turn, harmed their team by doing so. The late Al Davis tops the list. Jerry Jones would make that list. So would Daniel Snyder. But I doubt any of them would stoop to that level to make their coach look bad and start rumors that he's losing the team BEFORE the season starts when that team is considered a potential Super Bowl team. Who does that? Not to mention that even after it was obvious that Harbaugh and team would be parting ways, and even with the 49ers eliminated from playoff contention, the team that supposedly "quit" on their head coach, played hard the final two weeks of the season when they could have (and if they quit on their coach would have) mailed it in.
Here's what it comes down to now. Jim Harbaugh has moved on to coach his alma mater at the University of Michigan. The odds are pretty good that he'll be successful there because whether you like him or not, Jim Harbaugh has won wherever he has coached at. The 49ers have promoted Jim Tomsula to take Harbaugh's spot. And don't get me wrong, I wish nothing but the best to happen for Tomsula, we're from the same hometown. Plus he's paid his dues and earned the opportunity to be a head coach in the NFL. But it seems to me he's walking into a disaster. How much pressure will be on Tomsula to be successful right away? Despite his experience, he has never been an NFL head coach. But the expectations will be way more than what any rookie coach should have to face. What if the 49ers start slow next season? What if they miss the playoffs? What if they finish worse than they did this season with Harbaugh? What happens when the fan base realizes that management made a mess of what was again becoming a great franchise?
Because what York and Baalke need to realize is that the 49ers really aren't that good. Their core players are fading (Frank Gore and Vernon Davis). Their once vaunted defense is getting older and doesn't look as intimidating as it once did. Their future cornerstones (Colin Kaepernick and Michael Crabtree) just might not be as good as some thought they were. So what happens if the 49ers fall apart next season?
Maybe Mike Singletary can come back and teach Tomsula how to drop his pants at half time when his team is laying an egg on the field? Good luck 49ers, you're going to need it.



Calling plan: Why customers continue to win as cell phone providers battle it out

01/08/15 by Mike Catania



Seems like almost every week without fail, T Mobile delivers some sort of pricing or data plan that puts that much more pressure on its competitors, namely AT&T and Verizon.
Whether T Mobile is touting family data plans, unlimited everything or free streaming music, the cell phone provider isn't excepting its standing as the third best company in their marketplace. Instead, they're trying to win over customers and perhaps lure at least a little new business away from their competition.
Although T Mobile probably isn't moving the proverbial needle as it relates to putting a dent into the empires of Verizon or AT&T, but their progressive thinking and marketing acumen has done something even more important for not only customers but the cell phone industry as a whole.

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It has ushered in the kind of change that ultimately benefits customers and has even forced AT&T and Verizon to change how they think.
The latest T Mobile idea is allowing customers to roll over data that they don't use from month to month. Of course, T Mobile has certain restrictions as far as the plan goes; you have to have at least 3 GB of data on your plan to qualify, but the idea of rolling over data is another refreshing alternative for customers, especially since customers are gobbling up data promotions any chance they get given the amount of time spent on aps, online or with streaming video or music.
Even more important, AT&T followed in the footsteps of T Mobile by recently accounting that they'll also offer the data rollover option. The move by AT&T is surprising in some ways and, in others, not that shocking. When a company like T Mobile, who is trying desperately to gain more market share in their industry, continues to push the creative envelope as far as what they offer from a pricing, data or minutes standpoint, which forces the hand of AT&T and Verizon to pay attention and, in this case, do the same thing.
That suggests that AT&T and Verizon pay closer attention to the likes of T Mobile and Sprint than you might believe, even if they don't consider them realistic competition. Moreover, customers of AT&T and Verizon win even bigger since they can revel in and enjoy the same aggressive pricing and data plans the so called lesser carriers are offering, without sacrificing what they believe is better cell phone coverage nationwide.
For T Mobile and Sprint, they really have nothing to lose and pretty much can continue developing and devising various promotions, plans and upgrades. If AT&T or Verizon choose not to copy them, then that means they'll get more eyes on what they're doing, which is their goal.
It just so happens they've also accomplished in giving customers the kind of variety that they deserve.



Back to bowl: College games resume as action heats up

12/29/14 by Matthew S. Vandriak



After taking a break for the final day of the NFL season, college bowl season is back in full swing with 3 matchups to kick off the week leading into the first ever College Football Playoff. Let's see what's in store for Monday.
Liberty Bowl
Texas A&M vs West Virginia Dec. 29th @2pm

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There could be fireworks in this matchup of 7 and 5 teams. Both WVU and Texas A&M average over 30 points per game on offense and over 300 yards passing per game as well. And both teams defense give up more than 25 points per game on average as well. The Mountaineers will be without starting quarterback Clint Trickett, who decided to retire from playing football due to multiple concussions sustained over the past year. With that, WVU loses 3,285 yards passing and 18 touchdown passes. In his place Skyler Howard will start. A big advantage for Howard will be that he will have the Big-12 Conferences leading receiver to throw to in Kevin White. White caught 102 passes for 1,318 yards and 9 TD's in 2014. After starting the season 5 and 0, Texas A&M lost 5 of their final 7 games. WVU finished cold as well, losing 3 of their final 4 games.
Russell Athletic Bowl
#17 Clemson vs Oklahoma Dec. 29th @5:30pm
This matchup will pit a high powered offense against a tough defense as the 9 and 3 Tigers take on the 8 and 4 Sooners. Clemson is #1 in the FBS in total defense, third in passing defense, and #7 against the run. Oklahoma is led offensively by the duo of RB Samaje Perine and returning QB Trevor Knight. Perine has rushed for 1,579 yards and scored 21 touchdowns, while Knight comes back after missing three games due to a neck injury. He's passed for 2,197 yards and 14 TD's so far in 2014. Clemson finished 2nd in the ACC's Atlantic Division behind conference champion Florida State while Oklahoma finished 4th in the Big 12. Both teams can put points on the board, as the Tigers average 30.1 points per game and the Sooners average 38.9 points per contest. This is the first meeting between these teams since the 1989 Citrus Bowl, which Clemson won 13 to 6.
Texas Bowl
Arkansas vs Texas Dec. 29th @9pm
This matchup features two former rivals from the old SWC as both teams come in with 6 and 6 records. Texas will have to find a way to slow down the Razorbacks rushing tandem of Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams. Collins has rushed for 1,024 yards and scored 12 TD's so far this season, while Williams has gained 1,085 yards and scored 11 times. Texas is led by WR John Harris, who's caught 64 passes for 1,015 yards and 7 TD's. Arkansas will have to try to contain Harris without two starters in their defensive backfield. Both cornerback Carroll Washington and safety Rohan Gaines are suspended for the game for violating team policy. These teams last met in 2008, with Texas blowing Arkansas out by the score of 52 to 10.



Super Saturday: Slew of bowl games keeps college football Saturdays alive and well

12/27/14 by Matthew S. Vandriak



With 5 games being played, December 27th could be called "Bowl Mania Saturday". Lets take a look at the matchups.
Military Bowl
Cincinnati vs Virginia Tech 12/27/14 @1pm

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Cincinnati comes in as one of three teams to share the American Athletic Conference regular season title, while it took Virginia Tech until the final Saturday of the regular season to become bowl eligible. The 9 and 3 Bearcats average 35.4 points per game, and will face a tough Hokies defense, that ranks 17th in the country giving up 20.4 points against per game. That defense will be challenged by Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel, who passed for 3,010 yards and 30 touchdowns, which were the most TD passes in the AAC. Michael Brewer led the Hokies on offense, throwing for 2,598 yards and 17 TD's. After starting the season 2 and 3, Cincinnati won their final 7 regular season games. Virginia Tech lost 4 of their final 6 regular games, to finish at 6 and 6 overall. These schools last met in 2012, with Cincinnati winning 27 to 24.
Sun Bowl
#15 Arizona State vs Duke 12/27/14 @2pm
Point could be a plenty here, as both of these 9 an 3 teams bring the offense to the Sun Bowl. Arizona State averages 37 points per game, while Duke averages 32.5. The Blue Devils defense has been pretty good as well, giving up an average of 20.6 points against per contest. Both teams also have a big time threat at wide receiver as well...Duke is led by Jamison Crowder who finished 2nd in the ACC with 78 catches. Crowder put up 942 yards receiving and scored 6 touchdowns. The Sun Devils are led by Jaelen Strong, who had 75 receptions for 1,062 yards and 10 TD's. Duke's Anthony Boone passed for 2,507 yards and 17 touchdowns, and rushed for 346 yards and scored 5 more times on the ground. Arizona State running back D.J. Foster rushed for 1,002 yards and 9 TD's. This will be the first ever meeting between these schools in football.
Independence Bowl
Miami vs South Carolina 12/27/14 @3:30pm
Two teams with high preseason expectations that ended with disappointing regular seasons will clash here as the 6 and 6 Hurricanes meet the 6 and 6 Gamecocks. Miami lost their final 3 regular season games, while South Carolina dropped 3 of their final 5 games. Both teams also posted sub .500 records in their respective conferences, with Miami going 3 and 5 in the ACC while the Gamecocks put up the same mark in the SEC. Two good quarterbacks will be on display in this one in South Carolina's Dylan Thompson and Miami's Brad Kaaya. Thompson passed for 3,280 yards and threw 24 touchdowns, while Kaaya passed for 2.962 yards and 25 TD's. The Gamecocks gave up an average of 31.2 points against per game on defense, and besides Kaaya will have to deal with Hurricanes RB Duke Johnson, who rushed for 1,520 yards and scored 10 times. South Carolina is looking for their fourth straight bowl win, while Miami is looking to win a bowl game for the first time since 2006.
Pinstripe Bowl
Boston College vs Penn State 12/27/14 @4:30pm
The 6 and 6 Nittany Lions return to the post season for the first time in 3 years, making their first bowl appearance since before the Jerry Sandusky scandal that ravaged Penn State's football program. At 7 and 5, the Eagles had a better road record (4 and 1) than they did at home where they finished 3 and 4. Unlike some of the other bowl games, this one looks like a defensive struggle. Penn State has the 2nd best defense in college football, while the Eagles boast the 12th best defense. Boston College is led by QB Tyler Murphy, who put up over 2,600 yards in total offense (1,526 passing/1,079 rushing) and accounted for 21 touchdowns (11 passing/10 rushing). These schools meet for the first time since 2004, when the Eagles defeated the Nittany Lions 21 to 7.
Holiday Bowl
#24 USC vs Nebraska 12/27/14 @8pm
Two quarterbacks coming off of great regular seasons will highlight this matchup. 8 and 4 USC is led by Cody Kessler, who passed for 3,505 yards and threw 36 touchdown passes, versus just 4 interceptions. Nebraska's Tommy Armstrong Jr. can get it done on the ground and through the air. Armstrong passed for 2,314 yards and threw 19 TD passes, and rushed for 664 yards and 5 touchdowns. Both teams have big time running backs as well. The Trojans Javorius Allen rushed for 1,337 yards and scored 9 TD's, while the Cornhuskers Ameer Abdullah ran for 1,523 yards and scored 18 times. Abdullah however has been battling a sprained MCL the last four games. Those offensive stars are a big reason this game could be a shootout, as the Trojans average 35.1 points per game, while the Cornhuskers average 37.4 points per contest. Nebraska will be coached by Barney Cotton, who replaces the fired Bo Pelini before Mike Riley takes over the program next season. This is the first meeting between these schools since 2007, when USC defeated Nebraska 49 to 31.



Return the favor: What exactly constitutes a terrible gift?

12/23/14 by Vanessa Evans



Only two days left in the shopping season, and plenty of consumers are going to hit the ground (and mall) running in the next 48 hours looking to either do all of their holiday buying or pick up a few stocking stuffers or last minute gifts.
The latter category is particularly interesting given that last minute gifts typically come as a result of someone else buying you a gift and you having to turn around and return the favor. That usually is a recipe for disaster in the form of the proverbial "bad" gift, the one that you open and instantly realize that you don't want but have to respectfully accept even though it might be low on your list of wants.
Granted, the old adage of "it is the thought that counts" still applies; any gift should be appreciated in some for or fashion but that doesn't mean it has to be considered anything more than adequate at best. So, what exactly is a "bad" gift?

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You can easily point to the obvious to determine the bad. The holidays certainly have their staples. From the ubiquitous tie for dad or that ridiculous sweater that hasn't been fashionable given to you from a distant cousin or aunt, you most likely are going to make December 26th an equally busy shopping day in the form of returns.
Despite the obvious, aforementioned presents like ties, socks, underwear and, yes, that sweater strive to be on the list, but perhaps the worst gifts are the ones that feel like they have nothing behind them in the form of meaning, almost as if you're opening it you realize this person either doesn't know you at all or bought the gifts because they felt obligated.
Let say you haven't worn dress clothes to work in decade, but someone is giving you khaki pants and plenty of other business casual duds as gifts. My dad works in construction and hasn't worn a tie in decades, nor does he own more than one pair of suit pants or that lone blazer; so no, a Men's Wearhouse gift card isn't in his future.
You'd be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn't love a gift (that is until they open it) but what really can be considered questionable at best in the entire process isn't the actual, tangible product but rather just how truly thoughtful this gift is and the person who is giving it t you.



Johnny Failure: Manziel misses mark in first start but are you really surprised?

12/18/14 by Matthew S. Vandriak



It wasn't a matter of if, it was a matter of when. When would Johnny Manziel make his first start for the Cleveland Browns? That was the question all the way back to when the Browns drafted him last spring. With all of the hype and all of the expectations, many thought that "Johnny Football" would be under center when the 2014 season kicked off. Except he couldn't beat out Brian Hoyer for the starting job in the pre-season.
But surely he would start once the regular season started. It's the Browns and Hoyer is a journeyman quarterback who's just keeping the seat warm for Manziel. Except the Browns were one of the surprise stories of the NFL, at one point sitting in first place in the AFC North, the first time the Browns were in first place since 1995. With a record of 7 and 4, Cleveland was battling for the division title and were right in the thick of the playoff mix. Then the bottom fell out. The Browns lost their next two games, and Hoyer threw 7 interceptions in those losses. So at 7 and 6, it was time for "Johnny Football" to salvage the Browns season.
Except his debut was awful. Cleveland was pummeled by Cincinnati 30 to 0. Manziel passed for 80 yards and threw 2 interceptions. He was sacked 3 times. The Browns only gained 5 first downs the entire game...the Bengals had 24. Cleveland had 107 yards in total offense. Manziel was harassed all day, both by the play of the Bengals defense, and by the Bengals players who repeatedly mocked Manziel's "money fingers" gesture. The Browns were shut out for the first time since 2009, and ran their fewest offensive plays (38) since the first game the reincarnated Browns played back in 1999 versus Pittsburgh.

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I know, it's just one game. Many great college players have struggled in their first NFL start, it's part of being a rookie. Troy Aikman was shut out in his first career start for the Cowboys. The odds are good that Johnny Manziel will turn out to be a pretty good NFL quarterback. So why is this one game and a bad debut performance by a rookie quarterback such a big deal? Because Johnny Manziel was surrounded by so much hype and expectation. Some of which he brought on himself. But some of it was because for Browns fans, he was their hope. He was going to be the end of the QB carrousel that has been Cleveland the past 15 years. "Johnny Football" was something to believe in for Browns fans who have suffered through so much bad football.
Sure, it was just one game. Sure, Johnny Manziel may just live up to the hype. But you know Browns fans have to feel that little bit of doubt that maybe he's going to be another Tim Couch. Or Brady Quinn. Or Colt McCoy. Or...well you get the drift. Because even with all of the hype and potential, Johnny Manziel plays quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. And that hasn't been a very good position for anyone to be in. Just ask the other 21 guys who have started at quarterback before him.



Price gauging: Amazon heightens its appeal with new pricing strategy

12/16/14 by Vanessa Evans



Ask any customer what they think of Amazon as it relates to describing their buying experience, and most will argue that the online entity is a bevy of breathtaking products and pricing that is highly competitive, particularly when you consider the diversity of the items being offered.
Furthermore, Amazon doesn't just compete with the brick and mortar retailers such as Target, Best Buy or Wal Mart but rather has been a major reason why those stores have struggled recently. Amazon not only delivers the same products right to your front door but also does so for less money more often than not.
Even though Amazon seems to be a step ahead of the competition, they're not resting on the laurels. They're actually upping the stakes even more so with a new pricing structure that is destined to create even more buzz behind their brand.

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Amazon is ushering in a name your own price type model, which this holiday season will allow customers to "make an offer" on thousands of products, hoping to catch the eyes of consumers who love the back and forth thrill of shopping online, the same group that loves to believe as though they're finding a deal and want to find the absolute lowest pricing.
Kudos to Amazon for taking what already is a stellar, savvy business model and making the large scale, giant retailers that much more nervous around the busiest shopping time of the year. Amazon already has forced those same stores to rethink just about every aspect of how they do business, so it would only seem appropriate that the online shopping spot is changing the game of how things are bought once again.
Negotiating, one could argue, was the element of Amazon that realistically was missing altogether. The goal behind this move, you'd assume, is to gain market control of the buyers who love online spots like eBay, where you're bidding on items more so than just outright buying them (although eBay still does its "Buy it Now" program). The other aspect of eBay that is intriguing to customers is the "Make an Offer" portion as well.
Amazon, to a degree, has taken a page out of the books of eBay. The difference is they already have a large clientele that loves their low pricing. Adding the thrilling element of making an offer on a product furthers the portfolio of Amazon and how they do business. It also gives sellers on Amazon a chance to communicate with potential buyers, an element of the web site experience that was sorely missing at Amazon.
The real winner in this bold move is the customers who already adore Amazon and how they do business but now can add another level of buying to their experience. Of course, you'd be hard pressed to not tab Amazon as coming out of this deal somehow looking better to the general buying public than they already did beforehand.



Crunch time: Crowded AFC playoff race only gets dicier this week

12/14/14 by Matthew S. Vandriak

Just three weeks remain in the 2014 NFL season, and there is still a lot to be decided. Some teams are looking to lock up their division titles, while others are battling for their playoff lives. Here are 5 of this weeks biggest matchups.
Miami at New England
With a win, the Patriots will clinch the AFC East title. But besides the division championship, at 10 and 3 New England is trying to gain home field through the AFC playoffs as well. At 7 and 6, the Dolphins are trying to keep there playoff hopes alive. With 7 other teams besides the division leaders holding the same or better record, Miami will likely need to win out to reach the post season for the first time since 2008. The Dolphins won the first meeting between these teams, 33 to 20 in the season opener. In that game, the Dolphins held the Patriots to 89 yards rushing. Miami rushed for 191 yards, led by Knoshon Moreno's 134 yards. Moreno however, is now on IR. Miami boasts the NFL's 3rd best passing defense, and will have to come up big against the passing combination of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. Brady has passed for 3,560 yards and thrown 30 TD's, while Gronkowski leads the team with 997 receiving yards and has scored 10 times. The Patriots have won 8 of their past 9 games, while the Dolphins have lost 3 of their last 5. New England is a perfect 6 and 0 at home this season, while Miami is 4 and 3 on the road.


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Green Bay at Buffalo
At 10 and 3, the Packers remain one game ahead of Detroit in the NFC Central race. Green Bay is also tied with Arizona for the best record in the NFC. At 7 and 6, the Bills are battling with 8 other teams for one of the 2 AFC wild card spots. The Packers come in on a 5 game winning streak, while the Bills come in having won 2 of their past 3 games, and winning their last 3 home games as well. Buffalo will need a big performance from their defense, which ranks 5th against the pass and 8th against the rush. Green Bay ranks 6th in the NFL in passing yards per game, led by Aaron Rodgers, who has thrown for 3.562 yards and 35 touchdowns. The Bills will also be without starting safety Da'Norris Searcy. Green Bay won the last meeting between these franchises in 2010, but the Packers have never won in Buffalo.
Denver at San Diego
With a win, the 10 and 3 Broncos can wrap up the AFC West for the fourth straight season. At 8 and 5, the Chargers are in the middle of the crowded AFC wild card race. Denver won the first meeting between these teams in Week 8, by the score of 35 to 21. Peyton Manning passed for 286 yards and threw 3 touchdown passes in the win. The Broncos passing game may get a big boost this week as well, as TE Julius Thomas is expected to return after missing the past 3 games. The Chargers will be without punter Mike Scifres, who was injured last week. Mat McBriar was signed to take his place. They may also be without RB Ryan Matthews, who remains questionable due to an ankle injury sustained last week. San Diego is 5 and 2 at home this season, while Denver is 3 and 3 on the road. Denver has won the past 3 games played in San Diego.
San Francisco at Seattle
The 9 and 4 Seahawks remain one game behind Arizona in the NFC West race. At 7 and 6, the 49ers are hoping to remain in the hunt for one of the NFC's wild card spots. The Seahawks have won 3 in a row and 6 of their past 7 games. San Francisco has dropped their last two games, including a 19 to 3 loss at home versus Seattle on Thanksgiving. The Seahawks dominated the 49ers in that game, outgaining them 379 to 164 in total yards. Seattle is 5 and 1 at home this season, while San Francisco is 4 and 3 on the road. 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick has struggled against the Seahawks. He has lost 4 of the 5 games he's started against Seattle, and thrown 9 interceptions against just 3 touchdown passes. Seattle leads the NFL in rushing yards per game, and Marshawn Lynch ran for 104 yards in the first meeting between these teams. The Seahawks have won the past 3 games played in Seattle.
Dallas at Philadelphia
First place in the NFC East is on the line in another Thanksgiving Day rematch. Both teams come in at 9 and 4, but it was the Eagles who defeated the Cowboys 33 to 10 in that first meeting. At 3 and 0 in the division, Philadelphia holds the edge over Dallas, who is 2 and 2 in division games. The Eagles racked up 464 yards in total offense in the first meeting, with 256 of those coming on the ground. Philadelphia held the NFL's leading rusher, DeMarco Murray, to just 73 yards rushing, and Tony Romo to 199 yards passing and 2 interceptions. The Eagles are 6 and 1 at home this season, while the Cowboys are perfect in all 6 of their away games. Dallas has won the past two games played in Philadelphia.



Gheorghe of the jungle: Muresean carved out decent career on hardwood

12/13/14 by Andrea Arden



At 7'7, Gheorghe Muresan still remains the tallest player to ever play in the NBA. (Manute Bol was also listed at 7'7, but is listed at 7'6 and 3/4 inches in the Guinness Book Of World Records). Born in Romania, Muresan weighed in at 315 pounds to go with his towering height. He played college basketball at Cluj University in Romania in 1991 and 1992 and also for the Romanian national team before joining the professional ranks in France. Muresan was a spectacle and was wildly popular because of his size. That forced NBA scouts to take notice, and after just one season playing for Pau Orthez, the big man was drafted by the then Washington Bullets in the 2nd round of the 1993 NBA draft.
Muresan played 5 seasons in the NBA from 1993 through 2000. He played from 1993 through 1997 with Washington, but played only 1 game in the next two seasons due to injury. He finished in the 1999/2000 season with New Jersey. The back injury, which plagued Muresan for most of his career and kept him from playing in 1997 and 1998, led to his retirement from the NBA in 2000. Muresan played one more season for Pau-Orthez in France before retiring for good from the sport. For his career, Muresan averaged 9.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. He was named the NBA's "Most Improved Player" after the 1995/1996 season where he averaged a career best 14.5 points per game and 9.6 rebounds per game.
His best known venture after basketball is for his starring role in the 1998 film "My Giant". Muresan co starred alongside Billy Crystal in the movie. He also appeared in Eminem's music video for the song "My Name Is" and has appeared in commercials for ESPN and Snickers as well.

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Muresan now lives with his wife and two teenage sons near Washington D.C. He still does some promotional work with the now Washington Wizards. He also founded the Giant Basketball Academy which conducts basketball camps and leagues year round in the Washington D.C. area. The GBA as it's called, is devoted to teaching the proper fundamentals of basketball to boys and girls of all ages. Muresan has also co-authored two books about health and fitness for young adults.



Fight clubbed: How UFC was duped by the CM Punk star power angle

12/12/14 by Rennie Detore



CM Punk, the former heavyweight champion and superstar with World Wrestling Entertainment, signed this past week with the UFC and is about to embark on transitioning from the world of sports entertainment to just plain sport in the form of mixed martial arts, wrestling, striking and every other element within the confines of the octagon.
The move was preceded by Punk taking to the internet and bashing his former employee, WWE, for everything from unsafe working conditions to wrestling and performing injured despite desperate pleas from him to take time off from his job.
The signing of Punk with UFC put an exclamation point on his wrestling career and garnered plenty of mainstream publicity for both Punk and UFC. Punk is making the rounds both within the mixed martial arts media world but also has found his way into national fame, which is essentially, if you pay attention to his podcast about his WWE tenure, exactly what he wanted from his former company: a chance to shine on a larger stage beyond the squared circle wrestling ring.

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Punk popping over to the UFC undoubtedly will accomplish what UFC President Dana White hopes from the signing: more eyes on his product. Wrestling fans and longtime Punk supporters will waste little time ordering the first pay per view that Punk will fight on, even if it is, as White said, an entry level bout.
Punk has star power. He was given a platform to succeed on a national level with WWE, whose weekly "Monday Night Raw" program is seen by nearly four million viewers weekly. Punk was one of WWE's top stars and he left the company so abruptly that fans have been clamoring and begging for him to return to wrestling.
They got their wish. Sort of.
UFC certainly was wise to capitalize on Punk's wildly popular podcast on Thanksgiving Day and the buzz that it created. He value couldn't be higher, and UFC bought into the hype of inking Punk to a deal, even though his forage into fighting is more media stunt than the legitimate arrival of a UFC superstar and champion.
Some will argue that Punk can overcome being 36 years old and starting from scratch, even if he has somewhat of a background in martial arts and wrestling. Punk, from his WWE days and work as a wrestler on the independent wrestling scene, has the look and feel of a guy who works diligently to succeed. He was one of the few WWE wrestlers that didn't fit the muscular, Hulk Hogan like build of the majority of stars that the company churns out year after year.
He was different. He wasn't handed opportunity in WWE. He earned it and carved out a superb career. The difference, however, is that was Punk's chosen profession. UFC and fighting isn't.
Punk himself has openly admitted he might get a wake up call and knocked out. Chances are, White and UFC isn't going to let that happen. They'll feed Punk a few fighters with a zero and zero record or something below .500 as far as wins and losses.
They'll have to do just that to protect their investment, one that arguably was bought into out of haste and a willingness to want to make a public relations splash even though it eventually will turn into barely harmless ripple.



Fat chances: McDonald's new menu in 2015 might be just what the doctor (and customer) ordered

12/11/14 by Rennie Detore



McDonald's is finally admitting what we already know: they're fat.
At least the menu is.
So the fast food giant isn't exactly telling you that its food is going to make you fat but rather suggesting the menu is bloated and sales are slumping. Reports indicate that McDonald's hasn't really seen much of an upswing in sales since late 2013, nearly one year, and that has prompted the higher ups in this food chain to start rethinking the menu and just exactly who they're trying to lure into their fast food stores.

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The movement to eating healthier, perhaps fluffed off by McDonald's a decade ago, hasn't gone away quietly, and poor sales numbers may indicate that former or would be visitors the to famed "Golden Arches" have decided to forgo those famous French fries and instead are searching out healthier alternatives.
In addition, anyone who has been to a McDonald's lately at any time of the day is absolutely overwhelmed with the choices. What started as a mere and modest handful of "Extra Value Menu" meals has turned into what seems like a few dozen. A lot of it has to do with McDonald's refusing to say so long to menu items for fear that they might alienate a few loyal customers in the process if the Big Mac never saw the light of day again.
Any thriving business or one that is growing will tell you that you can't be all things to all people, and sometimes addition by subtraction often is a principle they'll use forever.
McDonald's looking to cut back on menu items or perhaps simplify how they do business from a marketing and menu standpoint is refreshing coming from a brand that could easily rest on its name value and continue to do fairly well to very good without doing much of anything aside from those few times during the year that the McRib rolls into town.
McDonald's also is looking into cutting back on its dollar menu and adding a twist to how it does toppings; it will allow customers to create their own sandwich to a degree, perhaps taking a page from Subway and its interactive ordering process.
Fast food is hard to pass up since it is remarkably convenient, but today's consumer isn't just being wined and dined on how easy it is to get food through a glass window and into their car.
They want options, healthy ones preferably, and McDonald's finally seems to be getting on board with the movement, albeit a little late to the party. In any event, McDonald's is at least taking steps to dismiss the stereotype that its food is fatty patties and fried food personified.
The slimmed down version of McDonald's, if nothing else, is going to get more than its fair share of second looks.



Retailer curtailing: Some stores seem destined for post holiday doom

12/08/14 by Rennie Detore



The holiday season isn't always overflowing with cheer, joy and jubilation, particularly if you're a fledgling and floundering retailer that is failing miserably to gain traction in the marketplace and attract the attention of consumers who are already pinching pennies with their gift buying.
Granted, no store really scored big on "Black Friday" aside from retailers that dabble in a little bit of everything or already are considered discount spots that went over and above their already low prices (think stores like Dollar General for the latter and Kohl's for the former).
But some stores truly are hurting badly and in some cases it can be traced to a sluggish economy and perhaps a more prudent and mindful consumer base that isn't overspending this year and is paying closer attention to their budget.

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The flip side to saddling poor sales on people just not spending much is pointing the finger squarely at retailers that seemingly haven't done much to distinguish themselves from other stores and brands, or seem archaic and irrelevant due to a lack of changing with the times or developing some sort of marketing or advertising campaign that catches the attention of the masses.
Think re branding meets re imagining with the end result being driving sales and revenue.
Stores like Sears, Radio Shack and K Mart come to mind almost immediately if you're going to start listing your biggest offenders as it relates to a lack of change. These retailers have done very little to differentiate themselves from other, more versatile corporations like Wal Mart, Target and Lowes, for example.
A closer look at the aforementioned stores that are struggling shows a lack of direction and honestly a hodgepodge of products with no real sense of expertise in one area. When consumers think of the "do it yourself" mentality, appliances or anything home related, they think Lowes. The branding and marketing of Lowes and their simple yet effective "Let's Do This" tag line spawned an entire new customer base that felt empowered to fix, remodel and paint just about anything.
Sears doesn't have that "wow" factor, but rather does a lot of little things on an average scale. They hae exercise equipment but their no Dick's Sporting Goods; the TVs are fine, but Best Buy, Target and Wal Mart often have better prices and just as much of a selection. Appliances are a hand's down Lowes or Home Depot division; no one really thinks of Sears in that regard.
And as far as K Mart, they're the equivalent of Wal Mart and Target lite. Very lite. The electronic section alone in most stores looks less impressive than what most people have in their game rooms or man caves.
While resurrecting these retailers typically is difficult, it doesn't have to be impossible. Plenty of stores around the country will close so that the corporations that run Sears, Kmart or Radio Shack can recover somewhat financially but that mindset of cutting expenses only lasts for so long before bankruptcy becomes the new battle cry and subsequent marketing slogan.
To truly fix these stores, the answer comes from within, whether that is scrapping the look of the stores, devising a new logo or catch phrase or just finding enough creativity and aspirations to find purpose to open the doors of these places on a daily basis.



Bowled over: Championship weekend arrives as playoff and bowl bids heat up

12/06/14 by Matthew S. Vandriak



Before the College Football Playoff plays out and before Bowl Season begins, there is Conference Championship weekend. Let's take a look at some of the conference title clashes, which may play a role on who gets to play for the National Championship.
SEC Championship
#1 Alabama vs #16 Missouri

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The 11 and 1 Crimson Tide control their own destiny. Win in the SEC title game, and they'll keep the top spot heading into the College Football Playoff. For the 10 and 2 Tigers, it will be their second appearance in the championship game in the past three years. Both teams come in hot as well, with Alabama winning their past 7 games, while Missouri has won 6 in a row. Both of these teams rank in the top-15 in the nation in scoring defense. The Tigers rank 13th, giving up an average of 19.7 points against per game, while the Crimson Tide's 16.9 points against average ranks 5th. Alabama has the edge in scoring offense, averaging 36.7 points per game versus the Tigers 28.6 points per contest. This game will be played at a neutral site, the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Missouri is a perfect 5 and 0 away from home in 2014. Alabama can it done on the ground or through the air on offense. Blake Sims has passed for 2,988 yards and 24 touchdowns, with his main target being Amari Cooper. Cooper has 103 catches on the season for 1,573 yards and 14 TD's. Cooper has more catches and yards than Missouri's top two receivers do combined. Bud Sasser and Jimmie Hunt have combined for 99 catches for 1,433 yards this season for the Tigers. Alabama also features the running back combination of T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry. The duo has combined for over 1,600 yards on the ground and 16 rushing touchdowns. Missouri is led by Maty Mauck, who has thrown for 2,279 yards and 22 scores. The Tigers running back tandem of Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy have also combined for over 1,600 yards rushing and 13 TD's. This is the first meeting between these schools since 2012, a 42 to 10 Alabama win.
ACC Championship
#4 Florida State vs #11 Georgia Tech
28. That's where the Seminoles winning streak sits at heading into the conference title game. 6. That's the number of games Florida State has won by single digits this season. 5. That's the number of games Georgia Tech has won in a row. 17. That's the number of turnovers the Yellow Jackets defense have forced in those 5 games. On paper, these teams are pretty even. Florida State averages 34.6 points per game and gives up 22 points against. Georgia Tech averages 37.2 points per game and give up an average of 24.1 points against. The Yellow Jackets defense will have to deal with the tandem of QB Jameis Winston and WR Rashad Greene. Winston has passed for 3,250 yards and 21 TD's. Greene has 86 catches for 1,183 yards and 5 scores. The negative is Winston has also thrown 17 interceptions this season, which could be a problem against a Georgia Tech defense that is on a roll in the turnover department. For the Yellow Jackets, the offensive strategy is much more ground based with a triple-option attack. Georgia Tech averages 333 rushing yards per game, and Justin Thomas, Zach Laskey, and Synjyn Days all have rushed for over 600 yards this season. For the Seminoles on the ground, Dalvin Cook and Karlos Williams have combined for over 1,300 yards rushing and 17 TD's. These teams last met in the 2012 ACC title game, which Florida State won 21 to 15.
Big Ten Championship
#5 Ohio State vs #13 Wisconsin
The Buckeyes remain on the outside looking in on the CFP. And they'll be trying to get in with their 3rd string quarterback under center in the championship game. With J.T. Barrett being lost for the season in last weeks win over rival Michigan, Cardale Jones will get the start at quarterback. The loss of Barrett is a huge loss for the Buckeyes, as he had passed for over 2,800 yards and 34 touchdowns. He also rushed for over 900 yards and scored 11 rushing TD's. Jones will face a Wisconsin defense that ranks 4th in the country in points against, giving up an average of 16.8 points per game. Since losing to Virginia Tech in their second game of the season, Ohio State has won 10 in a row coming into the title game. Wisconsin also comes in on a roll, having won their past 7 games. The Buckeyes defense will have to deal with trying to stop Heisman Trophy candidate Melvin Gordon. Gordon has rushed for a Big Ten record 2,260 yards and 26 touchdowns. These teams met in the regular season last year, with Ohio State winning 31 to 24. But more impressively, the Buckeyes held the Badgers to 104 yards rushing in that game.
#3 TCU vs Iowa State
The Big 12 doesn't have a conference championship game, but TCU will be looking to hold onto their spot in the CFP in their season finale against 2 and 9 Iowa State. TCU ranks third in the nation in scoring, averaging 46.1 points per game. That doesn't bode well for the Cyclones, who rank 115th in the nation in points against, giving up 37.4 points against per game. The Horned Frogs also rank 3rd in passing yards per game, and are led by Heisman hopeful Trevone Boykin. Boykin has over 3,800 yards in total offense this season, and has thrown for 26 TD's and rushed for 8 scores. Iowa State is 0 and 8 in conference play and have lost their past 5 games, giving up 34 or more points in each of those losses.



Flat Friday: So 'Black Friday' bombed, but is anyone that surprised?

12/03/14 by Rennie Detore



Money is tight no matter where you look or who you talk to about their financial standing.
And not even the great economic equalizer that is "Black Friday" could rescue the retail giants and online moguls from declaring this year's busiest shopping day of the year to one of quieter and more disappointing in recent memory.
Sure, you can look at the numbers alone, and the conversation would end before it began.

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Sales from Friday and the subsequent weekend of shopping are down more than 10% versus last year, and although online sales increased by nearly 10%, it still fell short of last year's total and overall expectations.
Financial experts and those within the companies that aren't counting as many receipts as they thought they'd be are left to dissect and opine over exactly what went wrong or, in the case of the latter, wonder within groups or aloud if they could have done more to elicit a strong turnout and sales compared to the business they actually did.
Truthfully, you might be more inclined to save the analysis from within and instead take a long, hard look at the financial climate from one household to the next. You could argue that money isn't flowing as freely as it should be, even with the holiday season upon us. Individuals and families alike most likely are trying to spend as much as they can while still keeping saving money in more than just the back of their minds.
Most of the store that took the bigger hits are of the clothing variety, while electronics did a little better based on priorities of what shoppers want: a deal that they just can't pass up. The same report regarding "Black Friday" said more "discount" stores did well because their regular priced items already are marked below what you'd expect, so consumers in turn took to these stores and their over and above mentality on pricing items even lower.
Notwithstanding the stores in question, whether it is the few that did well or others that are wildly disappointed with the results, you have to side with the ailing consumer on this one and their restraint to put aside the sale prices and heavy duty marketing, and resist the urge to splurge.
Instead, the final tally of sales for "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday" show that the general public is poised to enjoy their holiday without visions of overspending and massive amounts of debt running through their minds and shredding their wallets.



Boiling Rice: Embattled NFL star should never see field again

11/30/14 by Rennie Detore



So that's it. Ray Rice wins his appeal, and his ban from playing in the NFL is lifted.
Everything about the entire Rice saga from beginning to end plays out like a bad made for television movie, where no one can seem to get anything right on the first try.
The NFL banned Rice initially for two games, then changed to it the lifetime sentence from the league. The judge who heard the case of the embattled, former Ravens' running back concluded that Rice never lied about what happened, and the NFL exercised "abuse" of power when they took his two game suspension and thus made it one that lasted forever. The NFL and equally scrutinized and polarizing commissioner Roger Goodell claim the two game suspension was a result of being "misled," but that isn't how the judge saw the chain of events playing out, and thus made Rice available for immediate employment.

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The Rice situation and what happened inside that elevator some months ago is horrendous, appalling and cannot be justified on any level. Rice did something overtly heinous and reprehensible, and the idea that he's in a position to return to an NFL field and start earning millions of dollars again is equal parts ludicrous and sad.
Rice doesn't deserve to play this year. In fact, you can argue that he doesn't deserve to play again any time soon. Don't his elevator actions and act of aggression suggest that counseling, community service or some sort of rehabilitation should be more than just empty rhetoric and night school like classes that Rice has to attend.
No offense, but you have to wonder if Rice is going through the motions and quietly is rolling his eyes behind closed doors and just waiting patiently for two things to happen: enough time to pass between this incident and his next NFL job or when a team becomes so desperate at running back that they'll have no choice to at least bring Rice in for a tryout.
What really needs to happen in this situation is for 32 NFL teams to truly stand their ground and make an example out of Rice, the way they couldn't or didn't want to with the likes of Mike Vick and Richie Incognito. Both Vick and Incognito had their off the field issues; Vick is a starter for the New York Jets after his ring of dog fighting and abuse came to light. Incognito apparently harassed and threatened a teammate of his in Miami; he's since been given tryouts by teams who are thin on the offensive line and thick headed to think signing Incognito is in any way prudent.
In case you haven't noticed during this season, the NFL has produced videos that include players to raise awareness about domestic violence as it relates to the league and no longer assuming that this type of action is acceptable.
The ads are done well, but what do they really mean if Rice is standing on a sideline or practice field within a few weeks or even months after his lifetime ban has been lifted. The real issue is the NFL is so big and so powerful, and makes so much money, that it sometimes gets the proverbial "free pass" when it comes to adhering to common sense and morals.
NFL apologists and those justifying a situation like Rice being signed by another team will argue that it's just business on the field and about winning football games.
Maybe this time the NFL will, like any super hero, use its power for good and stand pat against Rice being welcomed back as if nothing ever happened and his five yards per carry average or ability to catch passes out of the backfield for a potential playoff team somehow outweighs his stupidity and obvious character flaws and temper as it relates to abuse of women, in this case his would be wife.
NFL teams, coaches, general managers, owners and brass always are laying down challenges to each other or within the confines of a locker room, mostly as it relates to playing against a rival or winning a big game.
If the NFL wants a real challenge, wash your hands of Ray Rice for good even if he's not suspended and hope that the teams that comprise your league will do the same since ultimately that move not only is best for business but sends a message that winning and championships should never trump standing pat against the inexcusable.



Star power: 'Star Wars' trailer doesn't show much but still plenty to whet appetite

11/29/14 by Mike Catania



Any time you hear the phrase "teaser" trailer, you immediately understand two things.
It's going to be short, and you're not going to see more than just a few flickers of images for a would be blockbuster movie you've simply can't wait to see.
What makes the announcement of a pending teaser trailer even more lucrative and exciting is when the movie is a brand that has tremendous credibility and a following that is decades in the making.

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Perhaps nothing fits the mold of that description better than "Star Wars," which released its first trailer for the 2015 release "The Force Awakens," Episode VII.
The long anticipated teaser trailer for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" debuted on November 28, 2014, and not much about the movie is revealed, but the trademark music and scenes, flying machinery and everything else that is "Star Wars" was there, although we didn't see any main, titular characters as part of the sneak peak.
Fans of "Star Wars" undoubtedly will rabidly watch and opine over every second of the 88 seconds of trailer, rewinding and studying every scene or hang on to the few words said throughout. That is the beauty of "Star Wars" and others of that ilk (although there are few with that kind of following) when it comes to how movie trailers tend to whet the appetites of their star struck fans in a way that doesn't need to be anything more than another small piece of the puzzle that leads up to that December 2015 release date.
For those associated with the movie, such as directors, stars, producers or even George Lucas and Disney themselves, the teaser trailer is calculated business as usual. The "Star Wars" faithful see the trailer as another reason to amp up their excitement and preparation for a movie they'll wait in line to see, just like they did for the first "Star Wars" in 1977 and even the rather disappointing prequels starting with the "Phantom Menace" and ending with the final chapter of the Darth Vader saga.
As more photos, information and a full length trailer comes to fruition, the fervor and passion around "Star Wars" will continually build toward that day in December next year for a movie that is nearly 40 years in the making.
And the teaser trailer did its job as part of this marketing process: give away just enough to keep everyone equally at bay and begging for more.



Friday night hype: Why 'Black Friday' is all talk and very little action

11/28/14 by Rennie Detore



So "Black Friday" is here, and you'll undoubtedly see your fair share of consumers huddled in a line, pushing and shoving, just to hopefully get their hands on a television, video game console, surround sound system or even a new dishwasher that is priced to sell on easily the biggest shopping day of the year.
A closer look at "Black Friday" reveals that the so called epitome shopping day of the year, the true customer cathartic experience, really has morphed from into a weekend of buying that now begins days before Thanksgiving and includes that day and the entire weekend through the now famous "Cyber Monday."
Simply put, "Black Friday" is more marketing blitz and sizzle than actual product in hand savings that some believe it to be. The more savvy shopper is buying online; they can get comparable deals versus having to battle a mass of humanity to retrieve would be gifts by braving not only the crowds but weather, driving and the annoyance of leaving your home only seconds after that last bite of mashed potatoes.

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Most of the in store, wait in line specials end up having some sort of limit as far as how many you can buy and getting their on time doesn't always mean you'll get what you want. Some stores, like Wal Mart, have started the "in stock" guarantee, but even that doesn't always sit well with customers who end up standing in line, thinking they're first when all you're left with after your hours of waiting is a ticket voucher saying you'll get their product but in no particular order.
Sounds more like a "Black Friday Bummer" than anything else.
What else equally takes the wind out of your shopping sails is the retail community splitting time and sale items between two days, including Thanksgiving. Stores slowly in the last few years started to open their doors on the holidays simply to push more products on different days or perhaps to avoid large scale crowds on just "Black Friday."
Chances are, from an economic standpoint, the former is most true.
Truthfully, the reason "Black Friday" is rather disappointing these days is due to a lack of items actually available and stores setting limits on what you can buy anyway. You also can toss in the online ordering as a reason "Black Friday" is more smoke and mirrors than actually moving the needle as a shopping day of epic proportions.
That doesn't mean the crowds and craziness won't be out in full force but the days of getting overly excited about that lone shopping day have since passed.



Turkey play: Thanksgiving and football always the perfect tandem

11/27/14 by Matthew S. Vandriak



I don't know what it is, but there is just something special about football on Thanksgiving Day. I'm not sure when or why this combination was created, but I'm certainly glad that it was.
As far as I can think back, football on Thanksgiving has been a part of me. I remember being a kid and waking up to watch the Macy's Parade with my brother. But both of us couldn't wait until noon, when it was time for the annual Detroit Lions game on Thanksgiving. It didn't matter who they were playing, or the fact that the Lions were a really bad football team during my childhood years in the 1980's, we couldn't wait to watch football. And even though we're both die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fans, the same excitement was there for the Dallas Cowboys in the second game on Turkey Day. It didn't matter who was playing, it was Thanksgiving football, and we loved it.
As I got into high school, the excitement for football was less for what was on television, and more for what was going to be played at one of the local fields. At age 15, I was introduced to my first "Turkey Bowl". Well in my hometown, the game we played in was actually called the Toilet Bowl and we played for a gold painted toilet seat. Sure, we played football on the weekends regularly, but there's just something about playing on Thanksgiving that made it better. For whatever reason, whether it was the golden toilet seat or just being able to brag that your team won on Turkey Day, playing football on Thanksgiving morning was something special. Even into my 30's, I still played flag football on Thanksgiving. I don't know why getting up early (which was a lot tougher once I started to partake in the big night of partying Thanksgiving Eve is), playing often in the cold of a Pennsylvania November, and being sore the rest of the day (or the entire weekend in your 30's), but it was worth it because it was football on Thanksgiving. And I know that feeling is shared by those who will be playing in the thousands of Turkey Bowls that will be going on across the country this year.

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A few years ago I came up with the "3 F's" of Thanksgiving...Food, Football, and Family. And I think that's the real combination that makes it special. The smell of the turkey and all of the fixings that Mom is preparing in the kitchen while watching the early game is something I still look forward to. Of course it smells so good that you feel like you're starving by the time dinner is served right around the start of the second game. And of course after eating, a nap at half time of that second game is a tradition that thousands of others partake in as well.
I think it's just being in the company of family and friends while watching the Thanksgiving games that make it special now. But looking back, that was really what made it special all along. So wherever you are this year, I hope you have some of the same great Thanksgiving football memories that I do. And I hope that you enjoy the "3 F's". But most of all, I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving.



Strategy obsession: Why your holidays can't survive without structure

11/25/14 by Vanessa Evans



When you think about the holidays, stress typically goes hand in hand with this time of the year.
But did you ever stop to wonder why that is?
You can argue that the shopping, planning and perhaps travel often is too much to handle, thus leading to being overwhelmed with too much on your holiday plate. No one can argue that there is, quite frankly, more to do during the holidays.

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Out of town family stays that way except for this time of year. And during no other time do you make it a point to buy a barrage of gifts for everyone you know.
But what you have to take a closer look at is the planning stage of the holidays, more specifically if you're setting the bar too high or not taking the time to really think through all you have to do and instead work on a whim and prayer in the hopes that it all gets done in an organized fashion.
Part of the stress that is the holiday season centers on money, particularly the aspect of spending a large chunk of it. Ridding yourself of the stress that is money related during the holidays can be done with the inception of a budget.
And before you comment that a budget really isn't "fun," you should consider that the idea of writing down what you're buying, who you're buying for and, most importantly, how much money you have to spend will allow you to not only have a plan in place but that you won't be spending the better part of your New Year's Resolution trying to save money or get out of debt.
A lot of what ails you isn't so much the gift itself but you worrying that what you get a particular person on your list just isn't going to cut it. That lies squarely on your shoulders, so worrying and agonizing about every gift you buy is going to extend that optimistic one day holiday shopping trip into painstaking days and weeks wondering if you bought the right gift or are giving someone on your list enough.
Part of overspending is setting expectations within the holiday planning that no one, yourself included, can possibly attain. You can't look at the holidays as just another day but putting the time period on a pedestal is only going to add not only stress to you but also keep you from enjoying yourself, your hard work and the subsequent festivities. Having a modest holiday won't matter much to the guests; instead they'll enjoy the time together and each other, and that is exactly the mindset you should adopt.
Worry about the basics, and leave the fine points to work themselves out on their own.
Stress and guilt go hand in hand, so some good advice during the holidays is to hold off on too much food and drink indulgence and instead practice a penchant for moderation. Eating and drinking too much often can lead to feelings of regret and lethargy as it relates to saying so long to your year long diet and essentially eating what you want for the next month.
Having a sweet and sugary snack is advisable, but if you're someone who is going to agonize the next day that you ate or drank too much, your holiday spirit is going to suffer immensely.
You always have to keep in mind that the holidays can be simplified to a sum that is much less than what we're doing at the moment. Sometimes the simplest and easiest holidays are the most enjoyable. Sure, they might not have all the trimmings of a lavish holiday, but they'll be long on something much more valuable: having fun.



Cuddle fine: Professional cuddling sounds odd but scores big

11/24/14 by Holly Clifford



The Samantha Hess might not mean much to you now.
But it will if you're feeling restless, maybe as if you need a little "cuddle."
No, Hess isn't going to stop by and give you a big, old hug and make your nap time that much more relaxing. Instead, Hess had the brilliant idea to open up a professional cuddling service in which she charges $60 per hour.

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As silly and expensive as that proposition sounds, Hess and her newly found business is thriving. The brand, "Cuddle Up to Me" according to reports has more than just a handful of sleep and restless customers. Instead, there are about 1,000 customers of "Cuddle Up to Me," which isn't too bad considering the newness of the business and the odd entity that it truly is.
Think about this for a minute: you're going to pay someone from "Cuddle Up to Me" to lay and cuddle with you. Hess assures potential customers that everything about her business is equal parts on the up and up and platonic. Hess sets a series of ground rules for her clients, and her cuddling is done on her terms and with plenty of security in place to assure safety for Hess.
With Hess' safety no longer being an issue, you have to wonder if "Cuddle Up to Me" is going to cool off as far as popularity is concerned or if this new wave of, as Hess points out, "mental message" truly can be the wave of the future in terms of human interaction and relaxation.
Hess certainly believes so, and it is hard to argue with the initial numbers that she's producing from both a client standpoint and how it relates to her revenue.
You can argue that the idea of paying someone to cuddle is anything from asinine to dangerous and everything in between, but the principle behind it certainly makes plenty of sense. The service more is rooted about helping those who don't have ready access to the kind of interaction that is necessary for functionality. According to Hess, most of her clients are guys who struggle with diseases or disabilities. In that vein, Hess and "Cuddle" aren't doing anything more than offering an at need service for a segment of the population that need it. The price point might be of some issue for those who are ready to christen "Cuddle" as a charitable effort.
Hess, like any business person, is interested in growing a business.
That's doesn't mean it can't have a little bit of heart, too.
And, in addition to the heart, a shoulder to rest your weary head on as well.



Pizza halt: Can 'new look' Pizza Hut slice through old branding?

11/11/14 by Rennie Detore



The top brands in the world never bother to rest on their laurels as it relates to constantly trying to reinvent how they do business from top to bottom.
Call it reinventing the wheel, even if it works perfectly fine as it stands.
In the case of Pizza Hut, one of the more renowned and recognized companies in the world, let's just say they're on kind of wheel specific to them.

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Enter the "new" Pizza Hut, complete with pizzas that look nothing like what you'd expect from the pizza chain.
And in this case, that seems like a good thing.
Pizza Hut always has been competitive from a price standpoint but rarely do you see much from them that grabs your eye or is considered a monumental change in business as usual. Perhaps a $7 medium pizza deal or adding wings to their menu could have sufficed as modest change at the moment, but this time Pizza Hut isn't sugar (or would it be sauce?) coating its intent of taking what they do and adding another dimension to everything that goes on in and out of the kitchen.
As it stands now, Pizza Hut is just there. Granted, their name value alone generates revenue and has accounted for billions of dollars alone, but does anyone really believe that what Pizza Hut does from a presentation, taste or innovation standpoint really stands out in a crowd and in comparison to local pizza shops that dare to be different?
Pizza Hut is the status quo that makes money because they market aggressively and don't price themselves out of the marketplace when it comes to appealing to a wide array of consumers. Pizza Hut is the place that you call when you don't want to spend $20 on a specialty pie but have a craving for pizza.
This would be version of Pizza Hut wants to be all things to all people, an often difficult trajectory and path for companies that look for points of differentiation and stick to them.
For Pizza Hut, they want to continue their reign as a pizza giant but also want to begin to evolve its business plan and subsequent menu. The new look Pizza Hut pizza's and the variety of sauces they've listed as in the works sound outstanding, and the pictures make the rudimentary and rather bland pizza empire seem on the cusp of what customers want out of their pizza: taste.
Nothing about the infusion of new items at Pizza Hut screams boring, particularly the bevy of crusts to select. Granted, Pizza Hut isn't going to get out of the pepperoni and cheese business, but the brains behind the brazen move are clearly interested in appealing to a clientele that wants a side of gourmet with tonight's dinner pizza.
The biggest hurdle, aside from how the new pizza concoctions will taste, is Pizza Hut being able to shake its old image of being the pizza you know but never really describe as anything more than average.
By the looks of the new pizza, Pizza Hut has all its pies in a row and is ready to come out swinging. Whether they hit their target audience ultimately won't be from a lack of trying but more about pushing past their old norm.



Playoff bound: Middle of the pack teams hopeful to start pulling away

11/09/14 by Andrea Arden

It's already Week 10 of the NFL Season. Lot's of matchups this week with teams battling for playoff spots. So let's get started:
Kansas City at Buffalo
Two 5 and 3 teams in the hunt for the lead in their respective divisions clash in this one. Kansas City trails Denver by one game in the AFC West, while Buffalo is tied with Miami for 2nd in the AFC East, both behind 7 and 2 New England. Both teams come in hot as the Bills have won 3 of their past 4 games, while the Chiefs have won 5 of their past 6. Led by Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis, Kansas City boasts the NFL's 6th best rushing attack, averaging 136.9 yards per game. They'll meet a strong Buffalo run defense, which ranks 8th best in the league giving up just 92.3 yards per game. The Bills recent run of success has come with a change at quarterback, as Kyle Orton has been the starter during the Bills recent run of success. Orton will be facing the NFL's top passing defense, as the Chiefs give up just 199.4 passing yards against per game. The Bills will be without running back C.J. Spillar, who's out for the season. They'll also likely be without his backfield mate, Fred Jackson, who's still recovering from a groin injury. These teams have met each of the past six seasons, with Buffalo winning 4 of the 6 games.


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Miami at Detroit
The NFC Central Division leading Lions will host the 5 and 3 Dolphins who are batting with Buffalo and New England for the AFC East lead. The Lions are 3 and 1 at home on the season, while the Dolphins boast a 3 and 1 road record. Two of the top defenses will be on display in this game as well. Miami has the 2nd best passing defense in the NFL, while Detroit ranks 5th in passing defense and is 2nd against the rush. Mattthew Stafford and the Lions will test the Dolphins passing defense, as the Lions rank 9th in the NFL in passing yards and are expecting Calvin Johnson to return. Johnson has missed the past 3 games with an ankle injury. The Lions also are expecting RB Reggie Bush back for this game as well. An ankle injury has sidelined Bush for 2 of the past 3 games. Detroit's run defense will be tested by the Dolphins and Lamar Miller. Miami ranks 4th in the NFL in rushing yards per game at 137.3 yards per game. Miller has rushed for 518 yards this season, which is 4th best in the AFC. These teams last met in 2010, with Detroit winning that game. However the Dolphins won the last time they played in Detroit, back in 2006.
San Francisco at New Orleans
These former NFC West rivals both come into this game with 4 and 4 records. At 4 and 4, the Saints lead the NFC South, while the 49ers are stuck in 3rd place in the NFC West. These teams come into Week 10 on opposite streaks as well. The 49ers have lost 2 in a row after winning their previous 3 games. After starting 1 and 3, the Saints have won 3 of their past 4 and 2 in a row. New Orleans have the 3rd best passing offense and the 7th best rushing offense in the NFL. They'll go against the league's 3rd best passing defense and 5th best rushing defense in the 49ers. The Saints have won 11 consecutive home games, and the 49ers have lost 7 of the past 8 games played in New Orleans. San Francisco is hoping LB Patrick Willis will be able to play this week, after missing the past 2 games due to a toe injury.
Chicago at Green Bay
This is a key NFC Central Division matchup for these two long time rivals. At 5 and 3, the Packers are one game behind division leading Detroit, while the 3 and 5 Bears are trying to keep their playoff hopes alive. Both teams come in off of a bye week, with Chicago losing 4 of their past 5 games and giving up an average of 36.7 points against in those losses. The Packers saw a 4 game winning streak snapped in their last game, but have won all 3 home games this season. The Packers won the first meeting of the season at Chicago by the score of 38 to 17. Aaron Rodgers passed for 302 yards and tossed 4 TD passes in that game. Both Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb had over 100 yards receiving and scored 2 touchdowns each as well. Despite the loss, the Bears put up nearly 500 yards in total offense in that first meeting. Matt Forte racked up 171 total yards while TE Martellus Bennett had 9 catches for 134 yards. Bennett however is questionable for this weeks game due to injured ribs. Green Bay has won 8 of the past 10 matchups between these teams.


Carolina at Philadelphia
At 6 and 2, the Eagles sit on top of the NFC East. At 3-5-1, the Panthers are trying to right their ship after winning their first two games to start the 2014 season. The Eagles have scored 30 or more points in 5 of their 6 wins, while their two losses came by a combined 9 total points. Philadelphia has the NFL's 5th best passing offense and 8th best rushing attack. They'll face a Carolina defense that ranks 18th against the pass and 20th against the run. The Panthers offense has had a hard time scoring lately. In their past 3 losses, Carolina has only scored 36 total points in those games. Mark Sanchez will make his first start since 2012 for the Eagles with Nick Foles out due to a broken clavicle. Sanchez passed for 202 yards and threw 2 TD's in relief of Foles in last weeks 31 to 21 win over Houston. Philadelphia is looking to remain perfect at home, winning their first four home games. The Eagles have also won 3 of the past 4 games between these teams, but Carolina won the last matchup back in 2012.



Idol idling: Why 'American Idol' is singing to an empty arena

11/06/14 by Rennie Detore



Right around the first week in November, FOX Network starts its push toward "American Idol" season, which begins every year in January.
Sleek promos and television commercials begin hitting the airwaves of the network, but as the 14th installment "American Idol" is in the works, you can't help greet the anticipation with anything less than a quick glance and subsequent shoulder shrug.
Everything about "American Idol" screams rerun and rehashed, aside from the three panelists of judges on the show. That revolving door started when Randy Jackson, one of the original judges, finally bid the show a fond farewell and gave way to a slew of replacements, some better than others (didn't mind Steven Tyler or even Jennifer Lopez; Mariah Carey, not so much).

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But the show never fully recovered from losing their savvy and sometimes cranky judges, and "American Idol," one the bench mark for reality television as it relates to competition shows now is struggling to remain competitive with other shows of the same ilk.
More importantly for the sake of the show and the network, "American Idol" is having a hard time retaining viewers, and the dwindling ratings in recent years supports the notion that fans have had their fill of this show.
What "American Idol" is experiencing is nothing different than other shows that have run their course and now are just running of fumes; the entertainment word for that is "nostalgia." Reputation isn't going to be enough to push Idol back into the spotlight as being a relevant piece of television in 2015. The new judges are fine, and Ryan Seacrest is forever a constant on the show but the premise, execution and talent searching is tiresome, boring and, honestly, hasn't yielded the kind of talent and superstars the show had been accustomed to producing.
The last few seasons in particular, even when you whittle the competitors down to the top 10 or the final five, haven't really had the kind of contestants that have blown away audiences watching at home on television. You almost get the impression watching the show that the Idol judges painfully attempt to gush over mediocrity, like they're critiquing a performance in a bubble that is one more season potentially away from bursting, if it hasn't already and no one is bothering to acknowledge that it has happened.
The lack of viewers obviously isn't going to do the new "American Idol" champion any favors as far as record sales or tunes downloaded, either. Idol is in the midst of storm that is hardly perfect. The show is old, the talent is missing and the format feels like you're watching reruns.



4 Things That Truly Frighten (Annoy) us on Halloween

10/31/14 by Rennie Detore



Everyone who partakes in the festivities that are Halloween know the holiday of sorts is one that is mixed with fun and fright, such as kids dressing up in their favorite costumes for school and the subsequent trick or treating or perhaps visiting more than just one haunted house as part of your Halloween itinerary.
But as much as fear plays a paramount role Halloween, being scared runs a fine line with being annoyed with this spooky holiday. Some aspects of Halloween just aren't that enjoyable, but they seem like staples every year that we've grown to either accept or swear off October 31 every year. Now for some of us, these aren't enough to deter our love of putting our kids in costumes or scarfing down as much candy on a day (and weeks following) that it is totally acceptable.
You can't, however, ignore these tricks and treats that are Halloween's most unwanted.

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1. "Kids" in costumers: Every year, you see certain so called "children" standing at your door wanting candy and ultimately taking too much. That's because their hands are the size of an 17 or 18 year old, and you start to wonder why they're out trick or treating, when this is an event mostly for little kids. What's worse is that same age group not even putting a modicum of effort into their costume and instead showing up with a lame white sheet with the eyes cut out or wearing exactly what they wore to (high) school that day only with a ubiquitous "Friday the 13th Jason" mask on or the always popular and lazy Michael Myers getup. Let's be clear: this isn't the parents who take their kids from house to house and put on a costume to get into character. They're not after candy. The other, old kids; that's another story altogether.
2. Vandalism: This is a hit or miss aspect of Halloween as some of the older crowd might skip staying in or walking from house to house with an younger brother or niece and instead decide to do something they shouldn't. Granted, the vandalism doesn't reach epic proportions typically but that doesn't mean you might not be pulling some toilet paper out of your front yard trees in the morning.
3. The candy: So you decided a week before Halloween that you were going to start your pre holiday diet and now your house and work are flooded with the always irresistible mini candy bars such as Hershey's, Kit Kat or the dreaded Reese Peanut Butter Cups. The idea that your diet starts before Halloween is admirable but rather dumb. You might want to consider at least enjoying a few chocolate treats and then starting the diet once the Halloween candy starts to disappear over the next few weeks.



Costume fall: Walmart once again angers consumers but what else is new?

10/28/14 by Rennie Detore



No one ever accused Walmart of having much of a conscious. But what about a brain?
This retail giant is the largest in the world but that doesn't mean their success affords them a free pass as it relates to putting their proverbial billion dollar foot in their mouth from time to time.
The brain trust that is the Walmart brass and higher ups managed to mess with the one holiday that typically is devoid of controversy on the retail level: Halloween.

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Buying candy, sitting out and waiting for Trick or Treaters or scouring the internet and your favorite stores for just the right costume typically is the general summary and synopsis of Halloween.
Only Walmart could manage to take scare up the kind of publicity that is equal parts ludicrous and laughable in preparation for Halloween.
Walmart sells Halloween costumes, which isn't exactly a revelation given they're one of the few stores where you can get eye classes, a hair cut and an oil change all in the same super store (let's just hope not by the same person).
But this year, Walmart made a mess of Halloween when they classified a section of their web site with costumes dubbed "Fat Girl Costumes." One can only assume that Walmart was trying to guide women to costumes that were larger in size, but their marketing savvy and subsequent rhetoric not only shows a serious dose of insensitivity but downright deplorable editing and proof reading from someone that deserves to be not only reprimanded but released from their duties as a result of this public relations slip up.
In what some would call typical Walmart fashion, the company responded to a customer who noticed this on the web site and called Walmart out on their blunder with one of the weakest, scripted lines you would ever hear, something about the customer and her comments are important to "us," which basically sounds like a generated, automatic response you'd get if you emailed a coworker who was "out of the office" at the moment.
You get the impression that Walmart feels so protected by its retail fortune that calling a section of its web site for women "Fat Girl," even if it is Halloween, isn't a big deal to them. The phony, PR response via Twitter should be proof of that alone.
Naturally, Walmart changed the "Fat Girl Costume" section of its web page to "Women's Plus Size Costumes" since the mistake was pointed out by the concerned and offended consumer. Does Walmart really feel badly about this or are they just covering their tracks to appease those troubled by what they did.
This reminds you of an athlete that reads a statement about how sorry and ashamed they are about what they've done but you can't pick up on one sincere bone in their body. Someone else wrote the speech, and they're saying it not because they're sorry but because they got caught.
Walmart got caught, and now they're playing the good citizen by grabbing that eraser at the end of their pencil and wiping away a huge goof, even though you distinctly get the impression that this company writes in permanent ink every chance they get, regardless of what or who they have to deal with at any given moment.
Smart? Not really. Smug? That's more like it.



In the cards: Wild card teams make bid for Series crown

10/21/14 by Matthew S. Vandriak

Trailing 7 to 3 against Oakland in the bottom of the 7th inning, it looked like the season was over for Kansas City. Until the Royals battled back for a 9 to 8 win in 12 innings. And the Royals still have yet to lose in the post-season. Kansas City swept the L.A. Angels in three games in the division series and then the Baltimore Orioles in four games to win the American League Championship Series.
For San Francisco, Brandon Crawford's fourth inning grand slam turned a pitchers duel in Pittsburgh into a blowout, as the Giants won their wild card game 8 to 0. The Giants were almost as impressive as the Royals in getting to the World Series, eliminating the Washington Nationals in four games in the division series, then taking out St Louis 4 games to 1 in the NLCS.


The Giants and Royals combined 16 and 2 playoff record is the best combined record for World Series teams since the Wild Card was introduced in 1995. Kansas City finished the regular season 89 and 73, finishing a game behind Detroit in the AL Central. San Francisco finished 88 and 74, which was good for second in the NL West. Therefore, the Royals will have home field should this series go seven games.

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For the Royals, this is their first post season appearance since 1985. For the Giants, this is their third World Series since 2010. Sixteen players on the Giants roster have World Series experience, and 8 of those have been a part of all three of those previous teams. Only 3 players on Kansas City's roster have played in the World Series.
Kansas City's Eric Hosmer has been on fire in the 2014 post season. Hosmer comes into the World Series, batting .448 with 2 HR's and 8 RBI's. Mike Moustakas has a post season leading 4 home runs, while Alex Gordon leads the post season with 9 RBI's. Travis Ishikawa's 7 RBI's lead the Giants, while Brandon Belt has batted in 6 runs this post-season. Pablo Sandoval leads San Francisco in post-season batting average at .326.


As for pitching, San Francisco's Madison Bumgarner is 2 and 1 in four starts with a 1.42 ERA. He has pitched at least 7 innings in each of his starts, and has 28 strikeouts in those four games. Santiago Casilla is a perfect 4 for 4 in saves and has yet to surrender an earned run in 6.2 innings pitched for the Giants. Kansas City's relief pitching has been stellar this post season, as Wade Davis and Jason Frasor each have two wins. Frasor has yet to allow a run this post season, while Davis has a 0.96 ERA. Greg Holland, who was 2nd in the American League with 46 saves during the regular season, is 6 for 6 in post season save situations.
If this series is anything like these two teams post season runs have been, the 2014 World Series will indeed be, a Fall Classic.



Picture imperfect: FSU's Winston epitome of what's wrong with sports

10/15/14 by Rennie Detore



When is enough going to be enough? In the case of Jameis Winston, it seems like never. And unfortunately, this casts more than a negative light on Florida State University. It casts a negative light on the NCAA, the NFL, and sports in general. Why? Because by allowing Jameis Winston to continue to play this season, and that he will likely be drafted into the professional ranks in the spring, show it doesn't matter what you do off the field. As long as you excel at a sport, it will be overlooked.
Let's take a walk through the brief history of Jameis Winston off the field. In 2012 he was accused of sexual assault. This past spring he was suspended from the Florida State baseball team after being cited for shoplifting. He was suspended from the football team in September for one game after standing on a table outside of a university student union and yelling sexually charged expletives. Now a report by Fox Sports says that Florida State officials and local police covered up the 2012 sexual assault. Winston was cleared of any criminal wrong doing, but now university officials are bringing in an independent arbitrator to hear the case and determine if Winston violated the student code of conduct. And now questions are arising about Winston signing autographs for money for the same company that suspended Georgia running back Todd Gurley allegedly signed autographs for pay for.
Now lets look at what Jameis Winston has done on the field. He's won a National Championship. He's won the Heisman Trophy. And that's enough to keep him on the field at Florida State despite all of the above. And because he is an immensely talented athlete, one of the best players in all of college football, he will more than likely be wearing an NFL jersey next season. And despite talk about his "draft stock dropping", it doesn't matter. Even if his "draft stock" drops him all the way off the board, some team will bring him in and give him a chance.

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That's pretty sad, isn't it? This is the picture of what is wrong with the sports. No matter how much ridiculousness Jameis Winston pulls off the field, he's still putting his uniform on this weekend because Florida State has a showdown with #5 Notre Dame. But even if he was suspended, what kind of punishment is that? How does that hurt Jameis Winston? It hurts his team and his teammates if he doesn't play. But how much did sitting out the Clemson game after his profane table dance hurt him? It didn't. He was actually suited up for pre-game warm ups because he supposedly didn't know he was suspended. He was on the sideline the whole game and as visible as any of his teammates that were actually playing.
This is also a picture of what's wrong with the NFL if Winston is drafted with a high pick, as expected, in the 2015 Draft. After all of the domestic violence issues the NFL has dealt with recently. After the Ray Rice incident and the Adrian Peterson accusations, this is a chance for the NFL to make right. It's golden chance for the NFL to make a statement that a player, or potential player's conduct off the field is more important than what he can do on the field. But more than likely, that statement won't be made. Because sadly in the eyes of big time college athletic programs and professional sports, what a player can do on the field outweighs everything else. And that's a shame.



Fight club: There's room for fighting in NHL

10/14/14 by Matthew S. Vandriak



I've been a sports fan for a long time. And I'm getting tired of professional sports getting sissified. In the NFL, guys can barely play defense because everything from the way you play coverage to the way you make a tackle can be a penalty. I'm all about making sports safer, but this is being taken way overboard now in the name of safety. The NFL has been softened so much that it seems like it won't be long until it becomes the NFFL (National Flag Football League). So when it comes to the NHL: let them fight.
Here's the first thing in regards to fighting in hockey. It's part of the game. It's always been part of the game. And guess what? The fans like it. I attended the season opener between Pittsburgh and Anaheim. The Penguins scored 6 goals. And you know what got as loud of a reaction (or louder than some) from the home crowd as any of those goals? The 3rd period fight between Clayton Stoner and Zach Sill. Nobody got up and left in disgust. Nobody booed. The crowd went nuts. And it's like that everywhere across the NHL. The crowd is on their feet and out of their seats when there's a fight. So if you're selling hockey and part of the buying appeal to the audience is fighting, you don't take it away.
Here's the next thing: In response to fighting being "dangerous" and banning it being a way to make the game "safer" let me ask you this, should body checking be banned too? Hockey is a dangerous sport. It's a fast paced game played on ice by large men who can skate fast, shoot a puck hard, and hit hard. What causes the most injuries in the NHL? What do players fear the most? A fight? Or getting checked from behind head first into the boards? So if taking fighting out of the game will make it "safer", why not get rid of body checking? Maybe instead of shooting a frozen rubber puck they can shoot a rubber ball that won't hurt anyone? If you the NHL wants to make the game "safer" here's where you start. Expand the rink to Olympic size. Players are bigger and faster than ever, the collisions are harder and higher impact because of that. So if you gave the players more space, you'd reduce the high impact collisions which would in turn reduce injuries, which makes the game safer, right? But the NHL would never do that because to expand the rink they'd have to take away a few rows of the most expensive seats in the arena. If the NHL wants to make the game less dangerous, they need to regulate the equipment. You have guys who feel invincible because the equipment they're wearing is practically a suit of armor. Players in the '80s and '90's have said that it hurt them to throw big hits because the gear they wore wasn't overly protective. Since a player throwing a hit felt it, he thought twice about running a guy into the boards. The gear players wear now allows them to feel no fear when going for a big hit. Players now have hard shelled shoulder and elbow pads that are like weapons when they connect with another players head. Reduce the equipment, and guys start thinking twice about making that potentially dangerous hit, because they're going to feel it too.

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Fighting also held players accountable for their actions. You have guys now that are deemed "pests", who take little cheap shots and hacks and whacks at opposing teams star players. These "pests"take it a little further every season it seems. Why? Because there is no fear of retribution. When a player knew he would have to answer for his actions, he would be more hesitant to cross the line. You might be a little more reluctant to slash someone if you knew you would have to fight him. Whether it be a case of fear or respect, fighting creates that buffer that makes players think twice about their actions. If you have to answer for your actions, how far you're going to cross the line and be a "pest" changes. Now I'm not saying I want to see the "goons" who could barely skate and played 2 or 3 minutes a nice square off like dancing bears because they're supposed to fight. I don't want to see line brawls or bench clearing brawls or anything like hockey of the 1970's. Hockey is a great game of skill that doesn't need to be tarnished by "enforcers" who's only reason for being on the payroll is to drop the gloves with the other teams designated tough guy. Hockey is also a very intense and emotional game and when a spontaneous fight breaks out, it's between two guys who want to fight because they've pushed each others limits.
I've also heard about the effects that a career of being a fighter can have on a player. I know what happened to Bob Probert and more recently Derek Boogaard. But to blame that solely on fighting is ridiculous. Probert was once banned from playing in Canada after trying to smuggle cocaine across the border from the U.S. He had a reputation off the ice of living hard and partying harder than some rock stars. That kind of lifestyle will catch up with anyone, and it wasn't fighting that made him live that way. He choose to live that way. As for Boogaard, he died from a drug overdose, and it's a shame that he passed away so young. But there are a lot of other guys who were "enforcers" that didn't get addicted to pain medications and didn't overdose. To solely blame fighting as the reason for what happened is ridiculous. Because it comes down to this. Derek Boogaard made a lot of money as the NHL's top tough guy. "The Boogey Man" got paid a lot to do what he did. And if it wasn't for his size and ability to fight, Derek Boogaard would have never played in the NHL. And he did so willingly.
And finally, in 2012, a poll of 250 NHL players showed 98% wanted to keep fighting in hockey. So if the guys who play the game want fighting in it, where does any outsider have any right to call for it to be banned? In the case of Derek Boogaard or Bob Probert or anyone else who plays professional hockey, they are choosing to do so. They know the risks involved. They willingly participated in the sport and were paid handsomely for it. Nobody forced them to play professional hockey. And nobody forced them or anyone else to fight. If being a fighter was the only way for these guys to play in the NHL, it was there choice to do so. They could have walked away and done something else, but they didn't. And just because fighting is still part of hockey today, nobody is forcing anybody to fight. If a guy doesn't want to fight, it's pretty simple, don't do it.
Fighting is as much a part of hockey as a blindside block in football or a hard slide into second base in baseball. It's part of the game. It's always been part of the game. It's exciting to fans and accepted by the men who play the game. So leave it alone. If you don't like it, don't watch. The NHL is a billion dollar business, it's going to go on if those who don't like fighting don't want to watch the NHL anymore. The media and outsiders have sissified American sports under the guise of "safety", please don't sissify the great Canadian game of hockey. Leave the game the way it is, and let them fight.



Risky business: Is Amazon tempting fate with physical store?

10/10/14 by Rennie Detore



Amazon, the online marketplace that has made life miserable for tangible, physical stores like Best Buy, Bed Bath and Beyond or Macys, has finally decided to take its business and retail acumen from the world wide web to an actual, in person storefront.
So Amazon has already essentially beaten the competition, so now they're deciding to join them?
That decision fans the flame of both questionable decision making, as in why mess with a good thing, and a logical next step for an entity that has already conquered the online world of retail.

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The real question Amazon must ask itself has little to do with inventory, pricing or how the competition is going to react now that they're getting into the store business.
Are customers going to react accordingly?
Granted, this is only talk of one store, rumored to be in New York City, which as sources reported would be a warehouse that would allow customers to buy online and perhaps pick up the same day. The idea of picking up a product in the store or having same day delivery is another reason Amazon is opening this test market of a store to see if the consumer responds or if what they do best is better left behind the security that it a computer monitor or tablet.
Amazon opening the lone store in New York City really is more about testing the water than making a one fell swoop splash into the retail world that includes physical stores. Amazon is a brand that delivers better pricing and expediting shipping to customers, thus being a worldwide leader in keeping those same customers happy, content and better suited to have a few extra dollars in their wallet.
If Amazon can bring that same mentality and business savvy to an actual store without the threat or fear of a letdown now that the great and powerful Oz that is Amazon has emerged from behind its proverbial curtain, then more power to them.
For Amazon, the physical store isn't about changing what they do well but rather branching out its marquee to go above and beyond its current list of accomplishments. If the store works, more undoubtedly will pop up. If not, the idea will quickly be dismissed, and truthfully Amazon or its rain makers won't miss a beat.
The online retailer can easily survive a flop that is a brick and mortar store, because their online prowess is both well documented and somewhat bullet proof. So if they get a blood on their hands with an idea (the physical store) that doesn't work so well, Amazon will simply wash off the misstep and continue doing business as usual.
And for that reason, testing the marketplace with this idea isn't a deal breaker but rather could blossom into a handshake agreement between customers and Amazon that suggests customers will agree to follow Amazon wherever the next idea may take it.



Poster childish: Why the media plays paramount role in body image

09/23/14 by Krystin Olinski



I am not a fan of any of the Kardashians clan in any form or fashion, their television shows or pretty much anything they do that is deemed newsworthy or entertaining but in reality ranks somewhere between inconsequential and highly nauseating.
They're the poster family for celebrities that have been born and bred out of literally doing nothing but somehow finding fame with little or no talent. Let's call it famous just for the sake of being famous, mostly because television has transformed into an open forum for just about anyone to find success in the reality genre.
When the Kardashians have their faces plastered over magazine covers with stories about relationships, who is dating whom or what marriage is "on the rocks" or "over," I don't feel sorry for this negative publicity.

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That's part of the deal they signed on for when they decided to embark on a reality television show and take cameras into their homes to show the world just how talentless and annoying the entire family is.
But what isn't acceptable is magazines perpetuating the notion that someone like Kendall Jenner, the 18 year old daughter of Bruce Jenner and Kris Jenner who is working as a model, is somehow overweight or too fat to be dabbling in her chosen profession.
An Australian tabloid "Famous" shows the 18 year old Kendall on the cover and suggests she's, as the headline puts it, "too fat for the runway." There is even discussion and finger pointing toward the magazine that they airbrushed fat and cellulite on to Jenner to reaffirm their cover story and subsequent headline.
So let's start with the obvious: Kendall Jenner is not fat. That simple fact truly makes what this tabloid magazine did a true disappointment and openly pathetic. Body image, particularly in young women, isn't quite an epidemic but is something that raises plenty of concern for parents, friends and family of those who struggle with eating disorders.
The media plays more than just a small, inconsequential role in this dilemma, even though they'll have you believe that they're just reporting on the news their readers want. Journalistic integrity and having some semblance of awareness when it comes to the influence the media has on a younger, more susceptible generation of children and young adults that might look at Kendall Jenner and think "if she's fat, then what am I?"
This isn't to suggest that younger girls should be using Jenner as a role model; that job belongs to parents, not celebrities. But to think that the same audience, younger girls, don't catch wind of that cover photo and not think twice about their own physique is short sighted and ignorance personified.
That's why the media must enter into what they're printing with more in mind than just selling magazines.
This isn't about defending Jenner or the Kardashians but rather pleading with the media and photographers alike to realize they tote around more influence than any of the Kardashians ever could. If magazines like "Famous" want to feature the plight of the Kardashians and other celebrities of that ilk, that's fine. The irony is these magazines are the ones who only add to the fame that reality stars have attained.
But certain issues and topic should be left alone, and body image is at the top of that list.



Football follies: NFL perks up regarding its recent flubs but for the wrong reasons

09/19/14 by Rennie Detore



The NFL truly screwed up the Ray Rice situation.
Between lost videos or packages arriving (or not arriving) at NFL headquarters to a clueless commissioner claiming he had never seen footage that you would assume someone of his ilk would have been privy too, the National Football League and its propensity for indecision, inconsistency and head scratching decisions is starting to crack.
The once seemingly untouchable and nearly impervious sports league is starting to see the error of its ways and is coming to the realization that it has a huge problem on its hands.

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For those of you who believe that "problem" has to do with Rice, Greg Hardy of the Carolina Panthers or Jonathan Dwyer of the Arizona Cardinals, all of whom have been in the headlines for domestic violence in one form or another, you are sorely mistaken.
The real issue the NFL and its bumbling commissioner Roger Goodell is their lack of discipline and consistency that has led to these highly publicized off the field issues is starting to irk the one audience the NFL cares about the most.
The advertisers.
From Pepsi to Anheuser Busch, the heavy hitters that pay plenty to have their brands plastered on NFL broadcasts around the world are starting to rethink their partnership with the now reeling football league. Now, let's get one thing straight: the NFL and its ratings still remain more than just strong but rather exceptional. Advertisers see those ratings and use them as a barometer to determine how much to spend.
Simple enough, right? But the NFL and its ineptness recently as it relates to punishments or players going off the proverbial deep end is complicating their once smooth sailing that was the almighty advertising dollar.
In case you're just tuning in, Rice, the star running back for the Baltimore Ravens, was suspended indefinitely from the NFL and released by the Ravens after a video tape emerged of him hitting his girlfriend in an elevator a few months ago. Before the video tape inside the elevator emerged, the NFL slapped Rice on the wrist with a paltry and pathetic two game suspension, even though Rice admitted to hitting his girlfriend in the elevator.
The tape was relatively a moot point given that everyone sort of, kind of already knew what happened in the elevator. Seeing it was apparently enough for the NFL to realize that they didn't handle the situation correctly from the start. To make matters worse, sources reported that the NFL had the ability to watch the video game months ago and some even said the tape was at the NFL offices, but no one in power, namely Goodell, claimed to see the tape until TMZ, the online news outlet, made it available.
To make matters worse, Hardy and Dwyer also have been involved in domestic disputes recently, leaving fans, the general public and advertisers wondering if the NFL is now out of control.
What is truly sad about the situation is the NFL and the real powers that be behind the league most likely assumed that they could bury the Rice situation even after they flubbed it badly because they're the NFL and that's what this powerful entity can do if it so chooses. The recent string of domestic violence cases, and the Adrian Peterson child abuse issue and story on top of it all, is just too much for even the NFL to ignore.
And with that, the league seems to want to dish out heavy doses of punishment, along with owners and coaches alike trying to do the same. You have to wonder, however, how revenue from advertising plays into this suddenly stern hand the NFL is trying to wield.



View from the bottom: Why 'The View' looks rather bleak for upcoming season

09/13/14 by Rennie Detore



I don't watch "The View," in the sense that I don't make a habit of sitting down to watch the program. Based on the makeup of my household, more specifically my wife running the household and the DVR remote, "The View" makes it on to my recorded shows every day without fail.
And occasionally while we're catching up on television shows, she'll whip through the shows and part of that routine and repertoire is watching past episodes of "The View," mostly on fast forward.
The latest "View" incarnation, which included Jenny McCarthy and Sherri Shepherd, along with Barbara Walters, the show's visionary.

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Walters has retired, at least from on air work, and McCarthy and Shepherd left the show after one and seven years, respectively. As a not so avid fan of the view, I liked what I saw from McCarthy. She seemed to breathe a little life into the staleness that was "The View."
She didn't bicker.
She didn't try to be the star of the show, but was a notable player, even if it was only short lived. The host slash moderator, Whoopi Goldberg, is enjoyable in spots but her act is tired, jokes stale and, ironically, perfect for day time television.
So now, Whoopi is still standing, but Sheppard and McCarthy will be replaced for this upcoming season, and the verdict about the new "Viewers" is anything but compelling. Rosie Perez, Rosie O'Donnell and Nicolle Wallace are joining Whoopi, and while the show's producers might be trying to spin this as a winning ensemble and formula for success, it feels more like someone is going to be airing day time reruns once the season premiere rolls around this Fall.
The interjection of the two "Rosie's" is a television train wreck ready to happen. Rosie Perez is going to grate on the nerves of viewers since she hasn't been relevant since "White Men Can't Jump." Just in case you're counting that movie is more than two decades old.
And adding Rosie O'Donnell is risky at best, since she's remarkably polarizing of a figure. The producers of "The View" probably view that trait as a positive characteristics that could equal ratings, predicated on the "what is she going to say" premise. There's also a large group that know already that they don't like O'Donnell and aren't going to watch.
Those in the middle might check it out and once she puts her foot in her mouth (probably within a few shows), turn the channel for good. O'Donnell, much like Perez, hasn't done anything recently to warrant this type of spotlight. Truthfully, she had tremendous success with her own talk show as more of a one woman show. Sharing the screen with three others could prove difficult for O'Donnell and her large ego.
And then there's Nicolle Wallace, a political piece of the puzzle gets to go toe to toe with comedians when they all feebly attempt to tackle real issues.
So ABC can trot out all the promotional pics of this foursome hugging and smiling, but the reality is the "cast" isn't going to create the buzz the network thinks.
I'm sure "The View" isn't going to be leaving my DVR any time soon (mostly because my wife won't want to change the settings). Only this year, the fast forward button might be replaced by one delete after another.



CV Less: Why less is more for the convenient store

09/04/14 by Krystin Olinski



Say hello to the new face of drug stores forever. At least that is what the CVS brand is hoping for with its latest pledge toward health and wellness.
CVS, also known as CVS Caremark, is about to lose roughly two billion dollars annually. In turn, they're gaining a new name and a lot of respect.
CVS Caremark is switching its name to CVS Health, a change that isn't so much for marketing purposes as it is a reflection of a new mentality from the brand. CVS Health is cleaning house, and the name change is only the tip of the iceberg.

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CVS Health is stopping sales of tobacco and instead has opted to take a more proactive approach to help people quit smoking rather than perpetuate the existence of this habit. Gone are cigarettes and in their place is everything nicotine gum and anything else that will help with kicking smoking for good.
CVS also is playing catch up of sorts to other convenient stores of the same ilk by moving in the direction of offering in store preventative services like flu shots and vaccines that aren't yet staples at the now christened CVS Health.
Whether you look at the CVS rebirth of sorts as more publicity stunt or actual heartfelt notion, it's hard to argue that CVS is simply going through the motions. They've changed their names and taken a huge revenue hit by saying so long to tobacco products.
Other convenient stores like one that are similar to CVS Health promote themselves as health conscious but haven't quite made the same statement that CVS is. The idea of stopping the sale of tobacco products is rather insane when you consider how that might affect any store, particularly ones like CVS or others such as Walgreens, Rite Aid and others.
Kudos to CVS for doing something that is not only going to hurt their bottom line but make the kind of statement that is going to set the standard for these big box convenient drug stores moving forward. There's no guarantee that other similar brands and companies are going to follow the lead of the new CVS Health, but at the very least this is a true example of an organization trying hard and working diligently to live up to their namesake.



Labor play: Why Labor Day possibilities are limitless for the masses

09/01/14 by Rennie Detore



Today is Labor Day and for most of you that means the third of a three day weekend but could also translate into not only an extra day off but perhaps the opportunity to enjoy a multitude of other activities that range from family gatherings to savvy shoppers in search of the best deals of the day.
Labor Day is one of those eclectic holidays that dabbles in plenty of different options but arguably one of the more noteworthy excursions on this day is to the malls and retail stores to find, not surprisingly, sale prices on anything from new cars to furniture.
Plenty of reputable stores across the country will be touting zero interest financing or 50% off closeouts on a number of different products, and the consumer certainly will respond accordingly on a day that should be reserved for relaxing and rest but rather could easily be spent driving from one store to another in search of savings.

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For those who aren't shopping, you may be in the midst of a vacation or getaway as part of Labor Day. Battling traffic or hitting the beach for one last time are Labor Day traditions, but so is being able to buy your next vacation at a fraction of the cost. Again, this plays into the sales aspect of the holiday but adept travelers know that various web sites come to play on Labor Day with their best deals of the year on flights, rental and hotel room rates, ironic of course since Labor Day typically signals the end of the travel season. That fact isn't lost on the industry staples that depend on visitors and travelers for their revenue, thus the impetus to start buying your next trip or vacation before the current one concludes.
Those of you who choose to spend Labor Day at home relaxing shouldn't be made to feel bad about that choice, either. Perhaps that relaxation also includes time well spent with the family since you're working most of the time or having a few friends, neighbors, relatives or co workers over for an impromptu barbeque to say so long to summer and embrace the aroma that is outdoor grilling as summer comes to a close.
And then of course, Labor Day also has its fair share of people who work on this day. Someone has to man the cash registers or sell those aforementioned cars but Labor Day signifies other types of working, too. Some choose to work around the house and finish that last little bit of painting or renovating, or perhaps a little spring cleaning a little later than expected. If your job allows you to get work done from home, you can always get a jump start on Tuesday morning to make that transition back to work that much easier.
No matter how you spend your Labor Day, the important element of the day is that you choose whatever moves you at the moment and that you are enjoying your time off on your terms.



Franchise lag: Actors take solace in roles that made them stars

08/07/14 by Rennie Detore



Arnold Schwarzenegger is back in the spotlight, only after he returned to the role that made him a household name.
Schwarzenegger announced recently the new name of the latest "Terminator" movie in the franchise, the fifth installment and fourth with Schwarzenegger attached to it.
"Terminator Genisys" is the tag line of the latest movie in the series, but the real news goes above and beyond the name itself. Schwarzenegger once again finds himself as the centerpiece of what promises to be a major Hollywood blockbuster, something he hasn't been able to say since his return to acting after serving as governor of the state of California.

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"Terminator Genisys" hits the theaters in July 2015, but Schwarzenegger already is diving head first into publicity and promotion for the movie event next year, which shouldn't be surprising since the man who once dominated the movie scene in the 1980s and most of the 1990s has flopped to epic proportions with his latest movie offerings.
Schwarzenegger scored meager, porous reviews for "The Last Stand" and "Sabotage," and neither earned much in the way of fanfare or dollars at the movie theaters or even in DVD sales. Not even the overseas revenue, which is typically counted on for movies that bomb in the states, could save either of these two flicks for Arnold.
He had a small role in the second "Expendables" movie, and even his teaming with Sylvester Stallone in "Escape Plan" couldn't drum up any interest at the box office.
And with that, Arnold does what most actors of his generation who are struggling to stay relevant do: go back to basics, namely movies that are sure fire winners no matter how much a particular actor has fallen out of relevancy.
For those who shame or make jokes about Schwarzenegger headlining another "Terminator" movie at almost 70 years old, you shouldn't. Granted, his stature and mystique is all but gone, but he won't be the first actor to find solace in a show or movie that makes them feel important again.
Call it a quick pay day or an infusion to the ego, but for Schwarzenegger, Stallone or anyone else who portrayed an iconic character as part of a memorable movie, it's a chance to have one last dance (or maybe two or three depending on how many installments come afterward).
When Johnny Depp decides to don the Jack Sparrow garb for another "Pirates" movie, you shouldn't shake your head in disapproval but simply enjoy the ride that is Depp, Schwarzenegger or Stallone taking the shape of an onscreen superstar that made them famous.
You know that Schwarzenegger and his counterparts are doing just that, too.



Deadline deal: Is trading the future ever worth short time payoff?

07/30/14 by Mike Catania



Sports is a funny business.
Franchises spend millions on not only the players on the active roster but to ensure that they're developing talent on a smaller scale, such as the minor leagues, or are equipped to make the most prudent and potent decisions when it comes to the draft and bringing in rookies that hopefully will transform into long term staples with their teams..
Despite all the work that goes into this process year after year, one event can conceivably throw the proverbial wrench into all that hard work.

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It's called the trading deadline.
No where is this more apparent than in Major League Baseball. The trading deadline comes and goes each year, and teams that are division leaders and within a few games of the wild card are referred to as sellers, while the ones that are cellar dwellers find themselves as, you guessed it, sellers.
As transactions are mulled over, one question, particularly for the smaller market teams, looms large.
Is mortgaging the future by trading away high level prospects really worth nabbing a high profile free agent for the final months of the regular season?
For the smaller MLB squads, the answer typically is no chance. Those teams live and die by their minor league system and fostering young talent to keep replenishing their major league roster when their latest crop of talent decide to pursue large, million dollar deals that these teams simply can't afford.
In rare instances, however, these small teams are poised for a playoff run and are forced to fill weaknesses in the hopes of making the postseason but also have to compete with payrolls that are more than 150-200 million dollars. Consider that their payroll typically is less than half of that.
And with that, the minor league talent and handing it over to other "sellers" is the only way these smaller clubs can compete with the Yankees and Dodgers of the world.
The truth is most MLB general managers have to really analyze how deep their minor league talent pool is and if losing a high level prospect is going to set them back one year or several. Also, the smaller teams must look at the player they're getting in exchange for one of their minor league guys. Do they have control over his contract and options beyond this season? And if so, is his asking price after the season out of the smaller team's ballpark?
The idea of incorporating what is referred to as "rental players" never works out the way it is ultimately planned. Kudos to the small market General Managers for taking a leap of faith to grab these for hire players, but those moves only should be made if they're at somewhat of a bargain and keep in mind that the future for most of these less rich ball clubs hinges on how well they groom talent.
Not just the act of going out and buying it. Buying into that mentality isn't going to make anyone chuckle on these smaller market teams but rather question why they got into a bidding war that they'll almost never win.



Out of the Woods: Why Tiger needs to take more than just a step back

07/21/14 by Rennie Detore



No one can argue the facts when it comes to the legendary golfer who is Tiger Woods.
He sells tickets.
The ratings for PGA tournaments always gets a boost when Woods is playing.

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Advertisers of the PGA Tour love him and certainly don't mind hitching their products to his star power.
But even though Woods name value still remains, he's not exactly setting the golfing world on fire on the course. He's been battling injuries, granted, but his game is way off, and his play is getting to the point where even Woods has to question how much longer he wants to play as a shell of his former self.
Athletes within any sport typically are the last ones to realize or come to the conclusion on their own that their best days are behind them. A lot of what ails them truthfully is the love they have for their profession.
A bumbling Willie Mays might not be what fans and viewers alike want to see, but he undoubtedly loved the game of baseball to a fault. Watching Joe Montana play for the Kansas City Chiefs in the mid-1990s running for his life and suffering a concussion in the 1994 AFC Championship game against the Buffalo Bills isn't exactly the defining moment of his career, either.
Montana and Mays, of course, walked away from their respective sports, but golf takes a bit of a different perspective given its relatively demure nature and slower pace. Hanging around the links and living off what you've done is a lot easier at an advanced age.
But here's the dilemma about Woods: He's not exactly an old man, even in golf years. His arrival on the PGA Tour at such a young age almost makes the masses forget that he's not 50 years old and realistically shouldn't be on the downside of his career.
The thing is, however, that he just might be at that point. Woods is playing as though he's winding down when in actuality he should at least be playing competitive golf. At the moment, he seems lost, out of sync and hardly the guy the entire fielder of golfers once feared to face.
Chance are Woods will at least find his form to the point that he can put a charge into a career that deserves a better ending then the one he's headed for at the moment.
When the marquee says Woods will be playing, everyone will continue to take notice.
As time passes and if his play continues to erode, the luster and love affair with Woods will wane.



Kicking the habit: Kudos to Major League Baseball for finally attempting to ban tobacco use

07/17/14 by Rennie Detore



The story on July 15 at the Major League Baseball All Star game was the swan song of Yankees shortstop and first ballot Hall of Fame superstar Derek Jeter, who is retiring at the end of the 2014 season.
Jeter had two hits, and the crowd showed him remarkable respect and admiration with one standing ovation after another, making his transition from active player to retiree that much easier to swallow.
The images of Jeter waiving goodbye to a sea of fans in his last All Star game was surreal.

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The following day, Major League Baseball and its players turned to another, very real story: tobacco use.
Legendary San Diego Padres player Tony Gywnn passed away June 16 after battling oral cancer, which Gwynn himself attributed to using chewing tobacco as a player for years. Major League Baseball and its players, perhaps moved by the emotional goodbye the game said to Gwynn, one of the most prolific hitters and likeable men to ever play the game, are not only kicking the habit of using tobacco but also kicking around the idea of banning chewing tobacco from the game in 2016.
Truthfully, chewing tobacco not only is unhealthy and unsafe for players, not to mention the general public who partakes in this habit, but incredibly passe and wreaks of decades gone by when perhaps the information on what tobacco did to your body weren't truly understood.
Watching players in the 70s and 80s, and even the 90s to some degree, spit chew out of their mouths while they're taking a few practice swings was commonplace, along with seeing that protruding, wad of tobacco in just about everyone's bottom lip in Major League Baseball.
As more awareness started to come to the forefront about the negative effects of tobacco use,, oral cancer and gum disease players gradually started turning in their tobacco for gum or sunflower seeds, and not many baseball stars can be spotted these days with chewing tobacco in their mouths.
Of course, the slate isn't completely clean when it comes to tobacco use in baseball, but it appears the governing body of the sport and the players are banding together to rid this from the game altogether, a movement that is long overdue.
Unfortunately, it took the death of one of the more marquee athletes within the sport to get everyone's attention, which typically is the type of "hitting close to home" moment that spurs these types of radical changes.
Gwynn always will be remembered for his uncanny knack for clutch hits, uncanny hand, eye coordination and being one of the lone bright spots in an otherwise mediocre Padres' era when he was in his prime.
But his legacy may very well be defined as part of a much bigger, more dramatic picture: as the face of baseball and the league turning the corner in the right direction when it comes to tobacco use among its players.



Prince of whales: Fielder deserves criticism but not for his body type

07/13/14 by Rennie Detore



Prince Fielder donned his birthday suit for the latest edition of the annual ESPN The Magazine's "Body Issue," but no one seems to be celebrating his bold move.
Fielder doesn't boast the prototypical body type for professional athletes. He doesn't have a six pack set of abs or appears as though he is chiseled from granite. Instead, Fielder sports a physique that seems ordinary, aside from his massive, muscular thighs, rather under the bright lights of the national spotlight that is Major League Baseball, or any other league for that matter.
Fielder isn't apologizing for the photo shoot and has admitted that some of his teammates have given him a little "good natured" ribbing for his pictures within the magazine. But what is more shocking than Fielder appearing naked on the cover of a national magazine is the outpouring of negativity from fans and readers alike who are quick to poke fun at Fielder's frame and using harsh, unbecoming words to describe him.

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Fielder undoubtedly is used to criticism as a professional athlete. There's no doubt that his move from the Detroit Tigers to the Texas Rangers has been a bust for the latter team. Fielder is hurt now, and he's rehabbing his neck after surgery. The 2014 season will go down as a disappointment for Fielder and Rangers' fans who expected more out of the hard hitting, home run socking Fielder. The criticism for Fielder on the field is totally justified.
Lashing out at the first baseman for how he looks is misguided angst and venom that centers on a topic that is remarkably touchy. Body image plagues plenty of people, both men and women, and concerns about appearance tend to lead to other, more serious ailments such as anorexia or bulimia or general self esteem issues, particularly in young women. Recent studies have shown that men aren't impervious to feeling ashamed about how they look and thus shouldn't be excluded from concern for this growing trend.
Someone like Fielder, a multi million dollar athlete, will likely fluff off the jokes and mean spirited chatting. The overall message being spewed in his direction, however, shows that society still isn't culturally embracing any and all types of bodies, regardless of their size and weight.
Those who want to argue that there is an obesity and overweight epidemic in the United States certainly bring up a fair and just point. That segment of the population is a danger to themselves from a health, fitness and wellness standpoint and often are taken to task. The difference is the message dealt to the overweight community is one of statistical reporting, often underscored with ways to combat it.
What Fielder, and undoubtedly others like him who operate in a much smaller spotlight, received was pure venom. He's a celebrity. He can take it.
But what about someone who hears that type of anger and hostility and doesn't have a 10 million dollar mansion to retreat to? Do you think those words might stick with them?
Of course.
Truthfully, the pictures of Fielder are just fine. He looks normal. And instead of society lauding normalcy when it comes to bodies or healthy frames, it tends to make average seem irregular. That mentality hardly deserves to be justified.
It's cruel, hurtful and only serves to perpetuate the stigma that carrying around and average build somehow makes you fat.



King of swing: LeBron leaps back to his roots in Cleveland

07/12/14 by Rennie Detore



LeBron James jilted legions of Cleveland Cavaliers fans years ago with his decision to pick up and leave for the bright lights, big city and better NBA Championship odds in Miami, alongside Dwayne Wade and free agent acquisition Chris Bosch.
The idea of James leaving his hometown to play with the Heat wasn't quite the knife in the back moment as much as it was the way James delivered the news, as part of a cable television special that made it seem more like a Presidential State of the Union Address then a basketball player becoming a free agent and signing with another team.
James' "decision" is now ancient history. He's won championships in Miami and is the face of the National Basketball Association. But even though he's decided to return home, two questions loom large: Is this a pity return and are the Cavs' fans ready to welcome back "The King" to his court with open arms.

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Chances are the latter will happen relatively seamlessly and with great excitement and anticipation. After James left, the Cavaliers actually pieced together more than just an average team, quite reputable in fact, and James' return might be the final piece to putting Cleveland back on the map as a sports town with real championship pedigree, rather than the butt of plenty of jokes as far as towns that can't muster up a winning franchise in any league.
Plenty of NBA free agents and potential draft picks have perked up with the news of James jettisoning back to Cleveland and that city now being a realistic landing spot to win titles and play with arguably one of the best players in league history.
Fickle fans that jeered and panned James for all his pomp and circumstance years prior before leaving for Miami are the same ones that openly took to social media to revel in the return of their hometown hero. Winning, or the idea of it, soothes sports wounds rather quickly, and if the Cavaliers start the season rolling along and seem poised for a playoff run, fans won't bother recalling how James left but rather focusing on the fact that he's returned the hero.
Local and major news outlets have had a field day showcasing Cleveland fans of all ages donning the No. 23 James' jerseys in public the moment the news of him returning became public. In fact, just the news of James potentially returning had a positive effect on ticket sales to the tune of 1 million dollars worth sold within no time.
The Cavaliers aren't going to raise ticket prices this year, which is an admirable move for a franchise that has new life, a sense of purpose and its hometown boy back in the fold. James is saying all the right things above his encore performance in Cleveland and isn't treating this stint as a pity party for the city since he's been gone.
James became an elite player in Miami, and he's got the championship hardware to prove it. As much as fans moaned and complained about James leaving for the Heat, the move almost was a necessity to end up where he is today.
Back in Cleveland to help his hometown team take care of business he started more than a decade ago.



Figure hate: Are overweight people actually happier than skinnier ones?

07/06/14 by Rennie Detore



Not that long ago, the overweight and obese segment of the population were referred to as "jolly," and phrases like "body image" and "body mass index" weren't part of the health and fitness lexicon.
Fast forward to 2014, and obesity and being overweight has transformed from being culturally accepted to nothing short of an epidemic. More than 50% of the population is overweight and the obesity numbers are climbing as well. Health care costs have risen immensely and more companies and corporations are pushing their employees to start exercising to help them save a few hundred million on claims.
But even with the focus on fitness and more information become available and prominent about obesity and how it is linked to heart disease, cancer and other physical and mental issues, some who fall under the category of being clinically overweight don't seem to think their excess fat, sagging skin or poor diet habits are a problem.

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Time Magazine recently published a study done in Dallas County that found almost 10% of people that are overweight believe the ideal body type is the one their currently toting around each and every day. The study took that information and deduced two things: overweight people are happy in their own skin and there may be a lack of understanding as far as what being obese truly means in the grand scheme of your overall health and wellness.
The latter hypothesis seems a little bit of a stretch. No one who is 50, 100 or 200 pounds overweight truly believes that their body is ideal. They undoubtedly don't feel their best, nor look it, and you'd venture to say they have at least a few health problems.
If they don't, then they're the exception to the rule.
But just because they aren't inclined to lose weight, however, doesn't mean they lack in the self esteem category, either. Being overweight often is embraced as perfectly acceptable. This group of people are content eating what they want, not exercising and, in turn, not making excuses for their lack of effort when it comes to their body.
There may be a modicum of truth to that, even if it isn't the desirable way of thinking. Overweight people will argue that skinny people are angry, moody and stressed since they're restricting their diet and not eating the foods that would be described as "comfort," thus making their every day existence of celery and bread crumbs the constant struggle.
Stress, as much as poor diet and a lack of exercise, play just as big of a role in sickness and health related diseases. The media hasn't done the obesity and health craze much of a favor when you truly look at the messages being broadcast to the mainstream. The covers of magazines only talk about skinny and beach bodies and suggest starvation is the means to achieve those results.
That said, obesity trumps all when it comes to the difference between being unhealthy and not. The strong push of popular culture from an information and medical standpoint is too strong to ignore. The general population knows too much about obesity to ignore the symptoms that go along with it.
If you fall into the obesity or overweight category and don't care about the vanity aspect of your appearance then kudos for not being influenced for the wrong reasons. To say that you're not interested in changing your body for the betterment of your health is ludicrous and shows more ignorance than the bliss when it comes to accepting your body type.



Sapp to it: Is it ever polite to not tip a waiter?

07/03/14 by Rennie Detore



Warren Sapp no longer revels in the bright lights of NFL stadiums, the adulation of thousands of people watching him play on Sundays and the multi million dollar contracts that players of his ilk typically draw.
And, he has the receipts to prove it.
Sapp, a Hall of Fame defensive end most notably for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, made headlines recently when he visited a restaurant and stiffed his waiter on the tip, as in leaving zero dollars on a bill that reached nearly $70.

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Sapp, who has had his own personal money and financial woes in recent years, quickly defended his actions on Twitter, basically saying that the service, food and the entire experience deserved a zero dollar tip, and he's only receiving backlash because of his name.
While Sapp might have a point as far as why a lack of tip at a restaurant has garnered mainstream publicity, but his decision to not leave a tip at all actually brings up quite an interesting question.
Is it ever OK to not tip a waiter or waitress?
Most of you probably would argue that writing a big, fat zero on the check to denote your dissatisfaction isn't really a reasonable alternative in your eyes. You may feel sorry that your waiter or waitress makes a meager $4 per hour and, despite service that is less than satisfactory and food that you wouldn't eat twice, you are inclined to at least leave a few dollars, and no less than the modest 10% tip on the total bill.
Truthfully, tipping should be directly related to the service, not so much the meal. If you have an issue with the taste, texture or aroma of what's put in front of you, that's something a general manager or supervisor should be made aware of and not cost waiters money out of their pockets.
Far too often, consumers hold the waiter responsible for poor food since they're really the only person they have contact with throughout the meal. That really isn't a fair assessment of how the waiter delivered the food, took your order or maintained an overall pleasant demeanor.
If they hustled, tried hard and listened to your concerns, they've done their job and thus deserve a fair tip. The flip side to that is a waiter that isn't interested in being attentive or helpful and really fails to engage the customer in any sort of welcoming, nurturing tone as part of the visit.
That, in conjunction with cold food, which suggests the waiter left your dish sitting, and lots of eye rolls from the server directed at the customer, is grounds for what Sapp did. But if Sapp, or any other customer for that matter, takes the servers to task for something that they have little or no control over, then here's a tip for him and the others.
Don't kill the messenger, who in this case is your server.



Roaring back: Tiger announces he's returning, and PGA couldn't be happier

06/22/14 by Rennie Detore



Tiger Woods no longer is the feared golfer he once was. He's not a dominant player, and golfers who once feared his presence perhaps see him now as nothing more than an above average player who shows flashes of brilliance sporadically, and can win the occasional tournament and look like his former self.
Even though his fellow PGA pals aren't scared of Woods on the golf course anymore doesn't necessarily mean they're glad he's not playing on a weekly basis. Woods announced he'll be returning from a back injury that has kept the iconic golfer on the shelf for quite some time.
Woods makes his return this Friday at Congressional in the Quicken Loans National. While this tournament hardly is The Masters or British Open, it's always nice to see Woods back on the greens and battling the fairways, his fellow competitors and the droves of reporters and media who still clamor to get a glimpse of this would be hall of fame golfer.

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And that's why other golfers really don't mind seeing Woods walk back on to the course after being absent for so long.
Woods still draws fans and television ratings. He's a name, and often name value isn't given its just due. Woods is a superstar in his sport, an iconic presence in his profession and the kind of athlete that you can't help but keep your eyes on, no matter how far past his "prime" he might be. Granted, Woods still is a young man, but injuries and off the course, personal headlines have derailed the momentum that allowed him to gain notoriety so quickly within golf.
The PGA also is grinning from ear to ear with the announcement that Woods is on his way back to the course. The PGA is devoid of a draw. In the years that Woods has started to decline a bit, no one has stood out as the next big thing. The fact that not one golfer has assumed the "torch" from Tiger suggests that cultivating superstars in golf isn't something that comes easy, so the PGA is tickled that Tiger is teeing off again in the not so distant future.
Woods probably won't do much next week at the Congressional in the Quicken Loans National. He's feeling a little "rusty" as he puts it, and his back undoubtedly is going to need at least a few tournaments to get back to professional form before talk of winning a tournament starts to permeate through the PGA Tour.
Even at 50% and feeling average, Tiger never will be mediocre when it comes to how he's perceived by fans on a multitude of levels. A true force in the world of sports is equal parts winner and has the innate ability to pull in the casual fans who might not be golf diehards but still have to at least take a peak at what Tiger is doing.
It's that sentiment that makes him invaluable to his trade and to the sport he's helped grow since he first started as a teenager. And for that reason, the PGA and golf in general is going to hold on to Woods and his legacy as long as he's able to at the very least swing a club.



Barbie wired: Mattel makes push for 21st century Barbie

06/21/14 by Rennie Detore



Barbie is no stranger to changing careers. Her latest occupation may not be the flashiest or most fun of her toy tenure, but it may rank as the most popular across the board.
Mattel is repacking Barbie yet again, this time ditching the swimsuits, surf boards and shopping for something that most critics agree is long overdue: ambition.
Mattel announced that its latest Barbie is going to be titled "Entrepreneur Barbie," and she'll come complete with everything the working girl needs to be successful, including her power outfit and clothing ensemble, along with today's gadgets every important executive needs: cell phone, tablet and, of course, the briefcase.

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Entrepreneur Barbie still is sporting a slim and what some would argue is an unrealistic figure, but Mattel at least addressed concerns some pundits had that Barbie wasn't the type of role model that her core audiences really needed. Young, impressionable girls that idolize Barbie, buy her toys and are influenced by them at least in some form or fashion now have something to sink their pre teen teeth into that is focused on having a career instead of cars, clothes and scantily clad bathing suits.
Mattel made negative waves a few months ago when the Barbie Doll was given a spot in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition of the magazine, furthering the notion and belief that Barbie is bad for girls and sets expectations that no girl can ever emulate. From the blonde hair to what you'd think is a size 2 body type, Barbie isn't just a toy to some but rather a measuring stick that sets the bar way too high for girls that see her as the "perfect girl."
Mattel didn't flinch when Barbie received criticism this past spring, but their newest incarnation of the doll suggests that a change was in order from the status quo as far as the fictional Barbie character and her ambition is concerned. Mattel might get a few pats on the back from outside the walls of their corporate offices in the form of a few parent groups or watchdogs for the betterment of society.
But in the end, Barbie isn't to blame for how she's portrayed, and neither is Mattel quite frankly. Barbie has been around for 50 years, and to suggest that she's suddenly the scapegoat for all of our woes as far as the young girl or women is concerned seems a little ill timed and a bit of a stretch.
It's nice to see Barbie ditch the party persona this time around with Entrepreneur Barbie looming large on the horizon, but if she goes back to being a fun loving doll after her stint as a business professional ends, that shouldn't signal the end of society as we know it.



Life changer: Can new Coke 'flavor' breathe life into brand?

06/18/14 by Rennie Detore



The old adage and marketing campaign that decreed "Coke is It" might need reworked just a bit.
Coca Cola is nowhere in danger of going bankrupt by any means, but the company undoubtedly is always looking for the "next big thing" to stay current with not only its fellow soda contenders but also the myriad and multitude of flavored waters, energy drinks and anything else that pushes and shoves within the confines of the crowded beverage marketplace.
With that Coca Cola isn't about to rest on its laurels or name value and instead is always looking to add life to its product line any chance it gets.

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And this time, they mean that literally.
Coca Cola is reportedly been testing a new product, the aptly titled "Coke Life," overseas and in other countries, although the company isn't ready to have this new version of Coke, and its hard to miss green can, in the United States.
Coca Cola is staying relatively mum on the new Coke Life, although you have to wonder if the public relations team isn't enjoying that pictures of the new Coke can are surfacing on the internet and leaking to other mainstream media outlets.
Coke Life actually seems poised to breath new life into Coca Cola and, if nothing else, address two concerns consumers have when it comes to regular soda and diet options. Aspartame, the artificial sweetener found in most diet drinks, has long come under scrutiny for its questionable genetic makeup and if it ultimately causes cancer in the long term and actually leads to weight gain in the shorter term.
Coke Life is sweetened with Stevia, marketed as a natural sweetener to the masses.
In addition to Coke Life being sold to customers as an alternative to artificial sweeteners, the new product also has less calories than its original Coke predecessor. This is especially paramount to parents when it comes to kids and sugary beverages, in addition to adults who are trying to cut back on calories but aren't interested in diet drinks, either.
Those behind the trademark red and white Coca Cola colors, and now green apparently, will make sure Coke Life is tested and then tested again before it hits the always coveted United States market so that the new drink is poised to succeed, rather than quickly become an afterthought or botched attempt at creativity (yes, remember Crystal Pepsi).
For now, the thought of a Coca Cola product that addresses health concerns without sacrificing taste seems like a recipe for an already successful operation.



World champions: How soccer and the World Cup finally won over America

06/17/14 by Rennie Detore



World Cup fever has arrived. The question remains, however, does anyone in the continental United States even care?
That may seem like an obvious answer to those who bleed red, white and blue World Cup soccer or any soccer played within the confines of this tournament, which is being held this year in Brazil. They'll make it a point to watch every game, even if that means setting their alarm and waking up at two in the morning on Wednesday night.
To that group of fans, the World Cup is their World Series, Super Bowl and Daytona 500 rolled into one energetic and palpable sporting event that has no equal. For some, the World Cup is noteworthy and not much else. Soccer really has never been fully embraced by the masses that love their NFL, MLB and NBA as a sport Americans are chomping at the bit to watch and ultimately sink their teeth into.

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Consider the dynamic when you're out at a bar or restaurant that has the games playing on the accompanying televisions. About half the room is intently watching, yelling and following every move each player on the field makes. The other half isn't so much enthralled with what's on television, other than a nonchalant glance when the other 50% cheers just to see what's happening. Aside from that quick peek, they're not overly concerned with soccer on this level.
The balance of power and that proverbial needle that is World Cup soccer seems to be shifting, at least as far as the 2014 version of the tournament is concerned. Some news and media outlets are reporting that the United States has brought more fans to Brazil for this year's World Cup than any other country, suggesting that the masses might be starting to take notice of soccer more so than they've had in the past. You'd have to assume that statistic only will lead to increased television ratings, spikes in advertising revenues for the networks and perhaps the type of casual viewing that the World Cup wants so badly from the United States fan base.
The general feeling is the World Cup specifically and soccer in general is growing in popularity, and that can perhaps be traced to more kids taking up the sports in lieu of football or hockey. A lot of that might have to do with concussions and the subsequent stories that the professional sports are making seemingly every day with headlines that scare parents away from pee wee football and ice hockey. That's not to suggest that soccer isn't a difficult, contact sport, but it doesn't have the repetition that are the collisions in hockey and football.
Whatever the reason behind the World Cup turning the corner as far as popularity in the United States, it appears soccer and this event in particular is finally sweeping the nation the way it was originally intended. For long time fans, this is nothing new or groundbreaking. They've been here the entire time, and can only ask why everyone else is so late to the party.
The new fans of soccer can't help but get wrapped up in the athleticism, showmanship, competition and patriotism that is the World Cup. Those attributes make this arguably one of the greatest sports tournaments in the world, and it appears that the sport itself is getting the recognition it so rightfully deserves.



Report guarded: TMZ makes mockery of what news should be

06/13/14 by Rennie Detore



Anyone who has watched the news on television or flipped electronically through the myriad of web sites that report on the happenings of sports, entertainment, celebrity gossip or politics watches carefully but carries with them at least a little bit of skepticism or bias depending on which network or reporter they're watching.
Then, there's TMZ.
This incredibly sensationalistic take on "journalism" combines the credibility of the National Inquirer and their 308th story about a "bat boy" that is real and adds just the tact and taste of paparazzi type reporting into a hodgepodge web site and laughable weekend syndicated show.

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In a phrase, TMZ is to journalism and integrity what professional wrestling is to sport. At least professional wrestlers, however, are athletes. Calling a TMZ reporter a journalist or what they do on their web site as anything more than gaudy is a gross overstatement on what they do on a daily basis.
Sadly, TMZ caters to a group of people who like their news splashed and without the proverbial net. News to TMZ isn't so much about telling the masses what's happening as it is to make sure they belabor the point to unsightly and unsavory levels.
TMZ likely doesn't care what anyone thinks of how they do business, especially given their tumultuous track record of printing photos and streaming videos that leave little to the imagination. Open caskets, fiery car wrecks or corpses hardly fazes this gaggle of this greatly overexposed web site that has the look and feel of something that was put together in someone's basement through a rudimentary web site template.
The latest target of TMZ is Tracy Morgan, the "Saturday Night Live" and "30 Rock" star who was critically injured a week ago when his bus flipped several times. Morgan remains hospitalized due to a multitude of injuries.
TMZ reported the news. Then, the added their highly questionable twist to the story.
That "twist" was a video from the night of the crash showing paramedics working feverishly to attend to the scene. Celebrities have pleaded, begged and demanded TMZ to take the video down, but as of June 12, 2014, it remained on the site.
You have to think TMZ feels that it's doing little if anything wrong. Celebrities are public figures, and, in the world of TMZ, all bets are off when it comes to this group of people. While it is true that celebrities understand that being famous comes with the good of being filthy rich and bad of being followed into an Arby's by photographers, some things should be labeled off limits regardless of your notoriety.
What happened to Morgan, and, for example, Paul Walker before him, is tragic, sad and terribly unfortunate for the friends and family of both individuals, particularly Walker who died in a car crash. TMZ clearly doesn't care much for decency, and obviously for those who were affected by what happened to these two men. TMZ might argue that what they're posting is no different than the shots you see on your local or national news channels. TMZ takes that mentality and takes more than just a few steps beyond that point.
Decent human beings don't want to see anyone, celebrities included, being pulled from car wrecks while they're unconscious. TMZ begs to differ, and isn't about to change its business plan any time soon.
TMZ most likely isn't going anywhere any time soon since apparently there's enough of an audience for the inane and tasteless. If TMZ had any decency or integrity, they'd at the very least pull back on the photos and videos that are gratuitous and unnecessary and simply dabble in the celebrity element of news, minus nothing is off limits mindset.



Glasses half full: Is Google's take on eye wear more flash than substance

06/07/14 by Mike Catania



Technology has a way of consistently wowing its intended audience with just above every product. It isn't until you actual use the product in question where the newness and novelty wear off.
Classic blunders when talking about technology aren't hard to come by, and you can look no further than the 3D television as an idea that hit the ground running but stalled quickly once consumers got a taste of the tangible, not to mention wearing those annoying 3D glasses every time they watched their TV.
Speaking of glasses, Google Glass falls under the moniker of latest and greatest as glasses that essentially double as a computer slash smart phone slash tablet slash everything you could ever want at your disposal in the form of glasses.

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Anyone who has seen a demo or actually used Google Glass knows just how sleek and superior this idea and subsequent product truly is. This invention could easily change the technological landscape moving forward, thus rendering your phone, tablet, PC or Mac relatively useless with the Google Glass rolling all of what you want from those devices into something you wear.
The success of Google Glass, much like other wondrous ideas that either yielded tremendous success or slowly fell into obscurity, depends on how the consumer takes to it and if it's practicality proves tangible enough to translate into sales.
The nuts and bolts of the Google Glass technology seems to have all of its bases covered, from its voice control to literally turning everything you see and adding relevant information as part of what you're seeing. For example, directions no longer are pulling up Mapquest on your tablet but rather visualizing the map right before your eyes. The weather isn't about finding the right application on your phone but rather taking a quick glance into the sky and having Google Glass pull up what you're looking at that very moment and telling you what to expect throughout the entire day.
And what about that picture you're trying to snap with your phone?
Google Glass takes that mentality to the next, and perhaps last, level by allowing you to snap a picture at exactly what you are looking at through those glasses.
The only downside to Google Glass might be the idea of having to wear glasses all the time to truly take advantage of the product to its fullest extent. That, coupled with the price tag, could prove too daunting of a hurdle for even Google and this ridiculously remarkably product to overcome.
That price point, around $1500, isn't going to make Google rich off the Google Glass any time soon since the general public doesn't have that kind of cash on hand, and they're not lining up to buy one.
If Google Glass stays around long enough and the price point gets down somewhere that is deemed realistic, there's no doubting just how well this technology will flourish. Getting to that point might be the hardest part of Google Glass seeing a bright future.



College try: Memo to the media, leave college athletse alone after school

06/03/14 by Rennie Detore



From Tim Tebow to Johnny "Football" Manziel, college football continue to give it the old, college try even in the midst of controversy on and off the field. Some of it is certainly deserved, especially while they're still in school.
But what about after graduation when they leave the football field at their respective universities and colleges and head for the bright lights of the NFL; does the media still get a say in what they do?
Take Manziel for example.

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Much like Tebow before him, Manziel is the poster boy for polarizing. He was shrouded by negative chatter for the way her carried himself as a college student and athlete. Manziel plays with plenty of heart, determination and desire, despite his less than ample and adequate frame for a quarterback (shorter than 6 feet tall and probably nowhere near 200 pounds).
But all of his on field leadership qualities paled in comparison to everything Manziel did off the field, at least if you ask the reporters who lauded him for his long touchdown passes and tore him down for just about everything else.
Manziel deserves his fair share of criticism, but that talk should have been tamed the second Manziel walked out of the doors at Texas A&M and set his sights toward the NFL and the draft. Manziel ended up being drafted much lower than expected, and that was the story of the NFL Draft.
At least for a few days.
Manziel is in Cleveland now, playing for the Browns franchise but the attention surrounding the former college football standout centered on his post NFL Draft vacation to Las Vegas. Reporters couldn't wait to blast the new Browns' quarterback for enjoying his newly found fortune and fame as an NFL ready player.
But why exactly is where Manziel chooses to celebrate news?
He's no longer in college, nor does he answer to the so called "rules" enforced by the arguably hypocritical and asinine governing body that is the NCAA. If Manziel wants paid for an autograph session while he's at Texas A&M, feel free to come at the quarterback with guns blazing.
But targeting the post college Manziel for going to Las Vegas is sad, unnecessary nitpicking on the part of those who truly envelop the phrase "slow news day." Any columnist, reporter or journalist is free to report on Manziel heading to Las Vegas; that point isn't arguably.
The idea of choosing that as a legitimate story leaves plenty to be desired, and feels more like something you'd read on a tabloid at the grocery store rather than a reputable news or feature story outlet.
Manziel seems like the type that knows exactly how to play the media, while sitting back and enjoying the fanfare. He also seems like he loves football, competition and success. That's what he'll chooose to focus on in the fall.
Let's hope those following his career do the same.



Happy lobster trails: So long Red Lobster, we probably won't miss you

05/22/14 by Rennie Detore



The once popular restaurant chain, Red Lobster, is barely staying afloat, and that distinction, coupled with sagging sales, has the brand on the selling block.
Darden Restaurants owns Red Lobster, and the company is no longer interested in keeping the once promising restaurant and instead sold it off to Golden Gate Capital for a little more than two billion dollars, reportedly just enough for Darden to pay off its debt from years of stagnant revenue from Red Lobster restaurants.
Unless you had access to the profit and loss information of Red Lobster, you could easily make the incorrect assumption that Red Lobster was doing just fine. Plenty of colorful, energetic television commercials masked the problems the restaurant chain had been having, including appealing to more of an older crowd and failing to capture the feel of a family style eatery.

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Another restaurant chain owned by Darden, The Olive Garden, is doing better than its seafood counterpart, and a lot of that has to do with how the Italian restaurant is promoted and marketing versus Red Lobster. The Olive Garden is sold as a place for families as well as the ubiquitous all you can eat bread sticks and salad to get consumers through the door.
Red Lobster failed to create a niche for itself beyond all you can eat shrimp, which arguably isn't as all encompassing as a full course Italian meal, salad and bread. Olive Garden also hit a nerve with customers by centering its efforts on price points that appealed to families, such as pasta bowls for under $10 bucks.
Conversely, Red Lobster is selling its expensive seafood menu for close to $20 per plate.
But perhaps the hardest aspect of Red Lobster to swallow and the one part of the chain that failed to keep it current isn't so much the fault of the restaurant but rather a sign of the times as far as how we eat.
Darden is telling anyone who will listen that Red Lobster or any sit down restaurant for that matter struggles against the likes of higher end fast food spots like Five Guys, Chipolte or Panera Bread. These places offer a quicker, equally scrumptious alternative to sitting down and paying double.
That point certain seems valid, but Red Lobster became lost at sea from a sales standpoint years ago with failing to change its image or do anything to garner new customers. Showing food being made or touting shrimp isn't going to come up big enough for any chain, most notably Red Lobster.
Also, Red Lobster again is already fighting an uphill battle as being pigeon holed as being a place for seafood lovers. Anyone ever order a steak or chicken at Red Lobster? Probably not.
That's why Darden still is drooling over its Olive Garden and Texas Longhorn chains since they're more universally appealing than Red Lobster. Those places also are struggling but not as badly and offer a little more of an eclectic mix of food choices.
Red Lobster certainly had its moments but the combination of lesser expensive spots and zero new customer growth means the once lauded lobster shop won't be around much longer.



Bye, Bye Barbara: Like it or not, Walters' staying power is impressive

05/18/14 by Krystin Olinski



I've never been a fan of Barbara Walters. I know she's been doing television for years, but I've always thought of her unique voice and unconventional delivery as distinct, albeit corny at times, almost as if she's trying to make a 20/20 news feature seem much more important than it really was.
From the "Saturday Night Live" parodies over the years to countless impersonations and jokes at her expense, Walters probably seems more like a character to some than an actual news woman, especially given her most recent work on "The View," hardly the kind of hard hitting news a legendary television journalist would put on their resume.
But despite the light, fluffy nature of "The View" or the crazy, ubiquitous inflection of Walters' voice on countless broadcasts, she's managed to carve out more than just a piece of history given her incredible staying power and how she's a person sought after when it comes to getting the one on one celebrity interviews and sit downs with world leaders that matter most.

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That fact means Walters won't be forgotten, even if she's announced that she's going into pseudo retirement from television, with the exception of a few special appearances. Undoubtedly, Walters' appearances will be few and far between at the age of 84, but whether you liked her style or didn't, she deserve adulation and credit for remaining relevant for so many years.
You can argue that she hasn't been that important to television in years, and that vehicles like "The View" were more pomp than circumstance as far as hard hitting news, and that her best journalistic years are well behind her.
But that sentiment isn't necessarily accurate. Walters still is perceived correctly as carrying credibility and name value when she's mentioned in the same breath sitting across marquee guests as part of a sit down special promoted by the network. She still can pique the interest of an audience, much the way Oprah Winfrey immediately commands attention and still garners ratings. Some call the likes of Walters and Winfrey overexposed, but the more accurate description is legendary and lauded for the work they've done in television.
Walters might not have the hard hitting, swagger of some on air personalities but she's asked her fair share of tough questions, and earned the respect of legions of fans who certainly appreciate what she's offered to the business for so long. Longevity often is overlooked or just deemed accidental when discussing the duration of one's career. Pundits point toward celebrities that have overstayed their welcome and aren't nearly as important in the grand scheme of their profession.
Walters isn't on that list, even if you can take her or leave her. There's just something about Walters attaching her name to just about anything that gives it the kind of drawing power that very few in television have, and certainly not for nearly as long as her.



Disciplinary reaction: Is spanking kids still considered acceptable discipline?

05/17/14 by Rennie Detore



To spank or not to spank, that is a question posed to parents, one that seems relatively simple in theory but raises more than just a few concerns depending on how you answer.
Spanking children often is viewed as a way of discipline that is antiquated, outdated, harsh and unnecessary. Spanking may have been something your grandparents or even parents talked about having done to them as kids, with varying levels of intensity depending on the generation. If your mom and dad were kids in the 1950s, spanking may have been more than just a quick, light tap to your backside, for example, compared to the form spanking has taken today.
And that sentiment brings up a stirring, poignant question as to whether today's parents actually even implement spanking as a way to correct kids from doing wrong. You'd like to think that moms and dads in the year 2014 see spanking as something that is widely panned and disregarded as a realistic way to teach the difference between right from wrong.

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Of the parents who still believe in spanking, most would argue that the "time out" or other verbal reprimands are weak and lack the kind of vigor and impact that resonate with kids. That mentality walks a fine line, however, between a simple spank to what could be considered child abuse, which is why spanking is a topic of conversation that is entered into lightly and isn't universally lauded as satisfactory but nor is it totally panned as out of the question.
That brings you back to the original question: Is spanking still part of the at home correctional process?
Notoya Green is a parenting and family law expert, who worked at the Administration For Children's Service (ACS). Green left ACS when she became a mom of triplets and now shares her trials and tribulations of parenting on her own blog: www.tripletsintribeca.com. She believes that parents spank their kids, but that the act is in the minority.
"Some parents refer to it as a 'pow wow.' Most parents believe hitting hard or aggressively is wrong, and most don't do that," Green says. "There are some parents out there that still spank on the butt."
Elaine Taylor-Klaus is the co founder of ImpactADHD, and is a respected and renowned certified parenting coach, writer and educator and, most importantly, a mother herself. ImpactADHD helps to endow moms and dads who are having a tough time with parenting. ImpactADHD works as a coach that supports parents in their journey to empower their children.
Taylor-Klaus concurs with the sentiment that spanking hardly is the first form of punishment sought after by parents, but that doesn't mean it is non existent or parents don't do it at all.
"Yes, they do," she said, regarding parents and spanking, suggesting that it still is used as a form of punishment. "They still believe in the value of blind obedience; there are still parents who believe that the way to motivate and inspire their kids to behave is through threats and punishment. The motivation is the threat of getting caught and punished, instead of motivating them for intrinsic value of behaving well."
Taylor-Klaus hits on an intriguing and pertinent topic within her answer, particularly the part when she mentions motivation as a means to get kids to behave correctly and replacing that with outright fear. Motivation directly correlates to communication and how well parents do it. Moms and dads who utilize fear over their words often lean on spanking as an easier, less effective way to coerce kids into behaving.
In short, spanking is the diet pill of parenting, an easy out or crutch for parents who can't communicate well with kids or clearly and concisely get kids to adhere to certain rules.
"I completely agree," said Taylor-Klaus regarding spanking being easier than communicating. "Parenting is difficult and especially in the modern age. Parenting requires strong communication skills with kids, including the school environment and other kids (everything is intertwined with everything else). If you don't have well developed communication skills, the easy way out is to demand and to step into a situation and demand authority as a parent."
What Taylor-Klaus is saying is kids are exposed to a lot more, and communication between adults and kids is different than it was 30 years ago. Kids have more distractions and temptations than, for example, in the 1950s so ruling with fear and spanking doesn't translate the same way it would in 2014.
Green also isn't a proponent of spanking, nor does she believe it is a viable means of parenting. She cites her experience personally along with the long term effects on kids and how they respond to the form of parental violence.
"I think it is wrong. I was spanked as a child, and I know personally what it does. It makes kids fearful of their parents, and that's not healthy," Green says. "I've chosen not to spank my children. Studies show that spanking is linked to depression and hurts development or makes them aggressive. It is definitely a negative. Parents ultimately struggle on what to do with discipline."
Green's point is valid as far as parents struggling. Earlier, communication was cited as part of that tug of war as far as parenting, but you also have to factor in the notion that some parents simply don't now how to parent as a whole. They may want their kids to trust them wholeheartedly and instead of fostering a parent child relationship built on respect and realistic disclosure, some parents may try to befriend their child.
This practice is common but doesn't work well at all.
"To be a good parent, you have to be willing to set clear expectations and to hold kids accountable," Taylor-Klaus says. "Ultimately, parents don't trust their own security or ability. They show a discomfort for the natural give and take of parenting and negotiation skills."
Those shortcomings exuded by mom and dads then turns to panic, thus prompting violence or spanking as an alternative that comes more naturally, even if it isn't correct.
"The idea that we are going to teach by threatening violence doesn't make a lot of sense to me. I have parents (I work with) who were spanked and beaten as kids and as parents they want to handle it differently. Blind obedience or asking for permission from your kids; somewhere in the middle is good parenting and setting expectations that are clear."
"That requires work and having a spine," Taylor-Klaus.
Green is on the same page when it comes to parents as friends first as not being a smart option. Then again, she says, neither is violence or spanking in its place.
"There is a silent epidemic; that parents aren't disciplining their kids, and parents are afraid of discipline, and kids are then acting out at home and school and parents are losing control," Green said.
That loss of control Green speaks up gives way to spanking.
"Some parents may think fear is good and keeps a child in line, but it destroys the relationship between parent and child. A child doesn't feel home or being around a parent is safe. It's about being an authority figure and creating discipline in the home without spanking."
Eliminating the spanking or fear isn't easy for all parents. Unfortunately, some parents rely on that in place of explanations, heart to heart talks or simply outlining rules that must be followed. Call it a lack of organizational skills or simply too difficult for some to follow, but that gap is directly related to whether spanking exists within the home as a form of teaching right and wrong. What parents often do is choose complete opposite ends of the parenting spectrum: they either use spanking or the fear of it versus being a total pushover. The question is why can't the simple art of talking to your kids be pushed to the parenting forefront?
"Spanking is not the long term answer but a short term fix. I believe that spanking today, you get immediate results but it can become a default response," Green argues. "I try to reward good behavior; it's effective. These are things like listening and following instructions."
Those tools Green discusses are forms of communication and teaching tools that should supplant spanking or violence ten times out of 10.
"It (parenting) requires complex communication and negotiation skills on every front," Taylor-Klaus urges. "Our goal is to raise independent thinkers, and people who can become independent as a result of parenting. In order to do that, you have to teach them how to make decisions and how to take action and have accountability and responsibility for their actions."



Game buoyed: Is it time for everyone to abandon the sinking Nintendo ship?

05/16/14 by Mike Catania



Once heralded as an innovator in its field, Nintendo is struggling to stay super.
The video game giant is having a hard time staying relevant, and that act is supported by its financial difficulties over the past few years, and failure to keep pace with PlayStation and Xbox as far as longevity is concerned.
The Nintendo Wii did well but is nowhere near the level of the aforementioned gaming systems in terms of popularity and overall sales. The Wii struck a chord initially with its interactive game play but consumers apparently could only take so much bowling, tennis and boxing on the console and decided it was too difficult or annoying to play their favorite games through this gaming system, and instead sought shelter and sales elsewhere.

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Nintendo and their aptly titled Nintendo DS also was met with relatively strong sales, but you have to think that the downfall of the DS is the arrival of cell phones and tablets that have gaming capabilities with better screen resolution and perhaps come cheaper through various app stores.
The most recent Nintendo information is hardly encouraging as the president of the company, Satoru Iwata, announced that the company lost money for the third straight year, hardly the sign of a frontrunner in their field or an organization on the cusp of breaking out of their slump.
But Iwata strongly suggests that the Nintendo brand will get the much needed makeover and inspiration it desperately needs.
Has the proverbial ship already sailed for Nintendo, and is it too late to save the fledgling video game flagship?
Chance are, Nintendo, its president and those who work within the company have already started tossing ideas off the wall and hoping that something sticks. They're talking about perhaps turning the Wii into more of a modern day platform system, one that works like PlayStation and Xbox with streaming and sharing capabilities.
That revelation hardly is such, as that "news" is more like Nintendo trying to play catch up with its competition more than reinventing their image or coming to the table with something new, groundbreaking or unprecedented.
Nintendo also is looking into integrating with smart phones and tablets, but even that info hardly resonates with consumers and feels as though it should have been announced quite some time ago.
But alas, Nintendo still has name value left, and that could equate to picking up some much need steam and publicity with whatever they do. Let's hope that the Super Mario and the cast of Nintendo characters have more than just the status quo left up their sleeve.
Otherwise, the Nintendo trajectory will continue its downward spiral.



Flip to be tied: Is bat flip in baseball really grounds for such commotion

05/15/14 by Mike Catania



A brawl a few weeks ago between the Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates and, more recently, a solo home run by Yasiel Puig has Major League Baseball buzzing about something that at first glance doesn't seem like that big of a deal.
The bat flip.
The Brewers' Carlos Gomez gained notoriety during a game with the Pirates when he hit what he thought was a home run but instead turned into a very long triple. Upon hitting the towering triple, Gomez flipped his bat, much to the dismay of Pirates' pitcher Garrett Cole.

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Cole was quick to confront Gomez with undoubtedly a few choice words, which prompted a huge brawl.
The situation with Puig was a little different since no brawl ensued and his hit actually cleared the home run fence. But the pitcher that served up the home run for the San Francisco Giants didn't care much for Puig noticeably flipping his bat and posturing around the base paths.
Baseball purists and writers everywhere are completely turned off by Gomez and Puig disrespecting the sanctity of the sport. Baseball is pastoral, demure and nostalgic and always harkens to its rich history as reasons why players like Puig and Gomez get the proverbial eye roll when they act inappropriately.
Puig and Gomez might be two of the more unlikeable figures in Major League Baseball, so bashing them for their overt showmanship is easy and has a lot to do with their popularity being virtually nonexistent.
Gomez and Puig easily would be considered incredibly polarizing figures within baseball, but is the venom being pushed in their direction really about flipping a bat during a home run or the fact that neither are well liked? Puig also caught flack for slowly rounding the bases after his home run.
The idea that flipping a bat after hitting a home run is grounds for jawing back and forth between players or outright brawls seems a bit much, even considering the sanctity of baseball. Baseball isn't the most exciting sports, but it's rich tradition often takes over when anyone steps outside the box and acts in a way deemed too eccentric for the diamond.
Puig and Gomez aren't the first players to ever employ over the top, machinations after crushing a ball into the seats, and they certainly won't be the last, either. Carlton Fisk, in one of the more memorable home runs of all time, bounced up and down and tried and pointed for the ball he just hit to go fair.
What about Kirk Gibson and his pinch hit home run several years ago when he was pumping his fist back and forth? Does someone want to call Gibson out for showing up the pitcher?
Granted, that was pure emotion and adrenaline within the sport, and you could argue bat flipping is more of a "look at me" type maneuver. But, in the end, sports are equal parts competition and entertainment. What Puig and Gomez did might have been annoying and immature to some, but it hardly qualifies as catastrophic to baseball.



Not so happy: NFL cheerleaders championing for realistic wages

05/12/14 by Rennie Detore



For a profession with the word "cheer" in the title, these ladies are far from content.
A bevy of NFL cheerleaders from a variety of teams aren't too pleased with what they consider ridiculously low wages, and they're finally tossing aside their pom poms and ditching the scantily clad outfits in exchange for lawsuits and what seems to be, at first glance, a legitimate argument directed at NFL owners and teams.
The Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills and now N.Y. Jets are facing lawsuits from their respective cheerleaders, citing an unfair pay scale that is around $3 per hour for working the sidelines and drumming up enthusiasm for a four hour football game. That dollar amount also factors in time spent practicing, prepping but doesn't include expenses put forth by the cheerleaders that isn't reimbursed. Items like makeup and hair are the responsibility of the cheerleaders, not the league, a fact that is equal parts stunning and absurd.

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The cheerleaders aren't necessarily an integral part of the game itself, but if a city or team chooses to employ these women as part of the presentation, then all things associated with them needs to be equal. That includes salaries for the work put forth, expenses paid as part of job and being treated as more than just eye candy and an afterthought.
Teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers choose not to have cheerleaders on the sidelines, so this discussions for them is a moot point, but for the majority of the league it is an issue and conversation they can't ignore, even though it appears to be something they aren't treating as pertinent. Proof of that comes from the fact that the NFL is implementing the silent treatment with no real response to these lawsuits at this time, using the highly annoying and obligatory "no comment" tag line.
The NFL might be able to hold off this looming issue at the moment or perhaps fluff it off behind closed doors as nothing more than fodder for newspaper headlines and something they can fix, but only if they feel like it. The truth is the NFL is a billion dollar industry, and they have a decision to make when it comes to the cheerleaders working diligently on the sidelines.
Pay them more or get rid of them.
Those are the only two options on the table, because moving forward under the current pay scale is nothing to be happy about at the moment.



Tatto parlayed: Are tattoo ads wave of future in marketing?

05/11/14 by Rennie Detore



Even if you're not a NASCAR fan, you have to marvel at the cars whipping around the race track at 200 miles per hour and the outfits worn by the drivers.
They're racing and walking billboards, respectively. The one piece jump suits or uniforms you see on the drivers are littered with patches, logos and anything else that helps raise awareness for a particular sponsor.
If you can catch a glimpse of the cars, they're more of the same.

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Advertising with NASCAR typically is reserved for the retail heavy hitters like Tide, Goodwrech, GEICO, FedEx and McDonald's, and sponsorship often can tip the scales in the millions of dollar range.
That's small potatoes for those aforementioned companies, but what if prospective businesses took the NASCAR approach when it comes to how they market their products? How exactly would they go about touting their brand, what they do and how they can help consumers?
And, more important, what if they took that mentality from temporary to permanent?
When you think marketing and advertising, rarely does the word "tattoo" come into the equation, but that changed recently when a story broke about a 20 year old girl, Nikkole Paulun, who got a tattoo of the name of a local tanning salon in Michigan on her arm. She sent a picture to Twitter and commented how the tattoo gave her free tanning "for life" at this location.
Paulun gained notoriety for being one of the cast members of "16 & Pregnant."
As inane and shocking as the idea of tattooing a logo of a store or retailer on your body is, you can to ask whether this sentiment might turn from sporadically done to commonplace. You have to think that the actual merchants, especially those that are considered reputable, aren't going to seek out prospective customers to go through this medieval form of marketing.
Could you imagine Target telling the 100th customer that they'll get a free TV if they get the trademark bull's eye on their chest? What about Apple encouraging its following that the apple logo would look great if it was permanently on their neck?
That isn't going to happen, but that doesn't mean some won't take bad, individual decision making to a level that is laughable and highly ill advised. Take the Lexington, Kentucky, man who got a KFC tattoo to express his admiration for a chicken sandwich, the "Double Down." The ad is part of a KFC commercial, and one has to wonder if KFC concocted this idea within their advertising kitchen or if the man found them.
Let's hope it's the latter, for the sake of KFC and its image as it pertains to marketing.
That said, if KFC decided to go this route on their own accord, they might be the first in a long line of national brands that initially balk at the idea of tattoos on customers as advertising, then begin to soften their subsequent stance.
What might start out as a cute trend will most likely transform into troublesome.



4 real life power couples that sizzle on screen

05/07/14 by Vanessa Evans



Call it a range between nepotism and instant, on screen spark, but certain real life couples make it work at home and on the silver screen to the delight of fans around the world.
Maybe the idea of a husband and wife power couple sharing the screen has more to do with self serving intentions and interests rather than what's best for the movie or television show, but a lot of times that discussion is a moot point.
These duos exude star power individually so putting them together only adds to the excitement and anticipation for the given product. For some couples, the chemistry on screen is palpable and creates a film that exceeds expectations just because these two are feeding off true emotion in addition to the created script.

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Not every couple gels the way you'd hope (see Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck), but for the most part the on screen success and interaction is undeniable. Here's three of the best there has ever been.
1. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie: These two met while filming the movie "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," and the rest they say is history. Pitt said so long to Jennifer Aniston, and Pitt and Jolie have been making headlines since, mostly for the ins and outs of the their personal life. But the "Brangelina" freight train and their power couple status can be traced back to "Smith" all those year ago. Rumor has it the two are teaming up again for another film, which undoubtedly will carry the same kind of buzz that "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" had nine years ago.
2. Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner: Yes, the two starred in "Daredevil" in 2004 and that on screen relationship led to a marriage soon thereafter. They have yet to collaborate since then as far as movies or television go, but it's nice to know that if they did, people probably would be affectionately lined up to see the project. The same couldn't be said for Affleck and his relationship with Lopez, which produced a campy, laughable music video and movies that were just, plain awful.
3. Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell: These two belong on this list for no other reason than sheer longevity. They've been together (not married) for nearly 30 years, yet only have one notable movie together, 1983's "Overboard." The silly, fish out of water comedy is a cult favorite, but won't be remembered as the most prized work of art for Hawn or Russell, but it did create a relationship on screen that was fun to watch and an off screen partnership that goes against the Hollywood tradition of not being able to stay together over the long haul.
4. Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith: These was seems like a no brainer. They're always happy, they have successful kids and when the hit the big screen, the results are equally epic. You can tell in the few moments they shared in the movie "Ali" that they're connection isn't manufactured or the result of a casting director capturing lightening in a bottle with two strangers. They had already been married well before "Ali" hit theaters and you can see that wedded bliss shine brightly between the two.



Bumped back: Was Planet Fitness wrong for booting pregnant member?

05/05/14 by Rennie Detore



Planet Fitness stresses in its business plan and throughout all of its locations that it wants to promote a "non intimidating" atmosphere. Apparently, that doesn't only pertain to muscle heads or the member that is sporting washboard abs.
It also includes would be moms.
Planet Fitness recently asked Melissa Mantor, who is 18 months pregnant, to leave her local health club in Charleston. This is according to Mantor, who made waves nationally thanks to the incident with Planet Fitness. Not surprisingly, Planet Fitness is telling anyone who will listen that they didn't ask her to leave but rather offered her a T shirt to cover up her top.

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In fairness to Planet Fitness, they appeared to only be adhering to their rules and not necessarily singling out Mantor because she was with child. Planet Fitness has a niche when it comes to how their members look and act. The acting part prohibits members from grunting, yelling and slamming and dropping weights.
As far as the dress code, Planet Fitness prohibits spaghetti straps as far as tops are concerned and doesn't allow stomachs or midriffs to be shown. You would have to think that the manager or employee that approached Mantor most likely because of how she was dressed and offered a solution that seems reasonable. The fact that she was pregnant probably wasn't the issue at hand, but rather an employee simply doing what he or she was told.
That said, the picture that is surfacing of what Mantor was wearing at Planet Fitness hardly seems like the attire that the fitness chain was thinking of when they penned their club rules. Mantor's top hardly exposes anything that would be described as a midriff, although her shirt clearly does sport spaghetti straps.
The issue itself is remarkably polarizing, even thought it seems to be just an open and shut case of a rule being broken, hurt feelings and a customer being asked to leave for that reason alone. Obviously, you'll never know exactly what was going through the mind of the employee at Planet Fitness when they approached Mantor and if their motivation was more about the so called inappropriate shirt or her baby bump.
That question looms large but perhaps an even more intriguing storyline is not so much why the Planet Fitness employee approached Mantor but how the conversation was handled. You have to wonder if this gym employee implemented a shred of professionalism or made somewhat of a scene when he asked Mantor to leave or put on a T shirt, whichever side of the story is correct.
Let's hope the Planet Fitness employee exercised some restraint and casually pulled Mantor aside and thoroughly explained their reasoning for the decision, and that this person truly did offer a T shirt rather than asking Mantor to leave.
If that actually happened, it's hard to rally behind Mantor in this instance. She has every right, however, to believe she was singled if Planet Fitness unlawfully flexed its muscles verbally and made Mantor feel like she didn't belong.



Star struck: Star Wars fans not quite ready to jump ship

05/01/14 by Rennie Detore



This "galaxy" isn't so far away anymore.
After the initial announcement from Disney that a new Star Wars movie was in the works, fans of the movies instantly embraced the news, and further proved that certain brands simply are untouchable.
And tops on that list is "Star Wars."

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More recently, Disney and Lucasfilm decided it was time to reveal the casting of the pending movie, "Star Wars: Episode VII" as the anticipation builds for a movie that isn't set to hit the big screen until December 2015.
The date is a moot point, as is last three movies put forth by Star Wars creator George Lucas, the now infamous Episodes I-III. Lucas cashed in on these prequels but hardly left his legions of fans captivated or satisfied with these installments, especially the first two.
The movies were underwhelming at best but still made Lucas and his franchise even richer when it was all said and done. Even with Lucas' creative slip up on Episodes I-III, the revelation that Episode VII is happening instantly makes the Star Wars faithful forget just how bad the last round of Star Wars films truly were.
You could argue that Disney and Lucasfilm did their part first and foremost by attaching J.J. Abrams to the project as the director. He's lauded and renowned as a creative juggernaut that brought to life other brands that seemed virtually dead; "Star Trek" immediately comes to mind. He also took over the producing reigns of the "Mission Impossible" movies and managed to make these flicks fun and relevant again.
The inclusion of Abrams helps immensely, and his presence adds credibility to the project more so than if Lucas was the one pulling the droid strings this time around. But as crucial as Abrams is to the equation, along with the returns of original stars Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, the cast and director won't make or break Star Wars.
Truthfully, aside from Lucas and the "Star Wars: Episode 4," the box office results and subsequent success really has always been a given. Episode VII likely will follow the same path as its predecessors: long ticket lines at the midnight showing on opening night, fans gathered in droves dressed like Darth Vader and breaking box office records before Episode VII is barely a few weeks old.
That's the benefit Disney, Lucas and Abrams have when you attach yourself to a proven commodity. The addition of Abrams and Disney adding its wondrous touch serve as a backdrop of sorts to the notion that Star Wars and its legacy won't waver no matter what movies in the storied franchise we loved and ones that we hated.
On opening night in December 2015, all of negativity will fall by the wayside as adults who watched the original film as children in the late 1970s will return to see how it all "ends," while perhaps introducing their kids, an entirely new generation, to characters that are timeless and a story, despite muddled at time, is priceless.
Amidst it all, Star Wars stands tall, commands attention and ultimately will continue to define a legacy that indelible is linked to iconic status. If you still don't believe it to be true, wait for Episode VII to arrive and even if you hear a few pundits put down the movie, you can rest assured that when Episode VIII rolls around before 2020, the crowds won't die down, the fever pitch in preparation for the movie won't wane and legions of faithful followers will find their way to the theater multiple times.
That is the mark of a movie franchise that is impervious.



Rough draft: Why is NFL Draft so popular?

04/28/14 by Rennie Detore



Hours upon hours of coverage that spans over the course of days and includes expert panelists, analysts and round the clock reporting might sound a little excessive, unless of course you're talking about a breaking news story.
But what sounds like the exact description of something you'd find on CNN actually defines what fans of professional football fans are treated to every spring when the NFL Draft hits the airwaves. Thirty two NFL teams begin to jockey for position, and coaches spend countless hours reviewing tape on just about every college football prospect you could imagine.
Turns out, the NFL fans pretty much do the same.

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The NFL Draft has transformed from an afterthought a decade ago to an event that sees fans of the sport congregate to watch every, waking moment. From the very first, No. 1 overall pick to "Mr. Irrelevant" (the pseudonym given to the player picked dead last in the draft), the NFL Draft draws millions of viewers and consistently performs better than most of what is offered on cable as far as ratings are concerned.
Anyone who has watched what the NFL Draft is all about could easily wonder aloud just what makes it so popular. It's a lot of talking and canned college football highlights, along with plenty of down time between picks that usually is filled with plenty of banter back and forth between draft experts employed by ESPN.
Personally, the draft never seemed like more than television filler or an event that was geared toward the men and women that live and die by their NFL teams and probably spend the football off season plotting and planning the following year's fantasy football team. For the sector of sensational, exuberant fans that stay glued to their TVs for the weekend that is the NFL Draft, then so be it.
Those super fans certainly are what make the NFL a billion dollar business. They're the ones that buy a jersey for every team, purchase the NFL Ticket for a few hundred dollars each year so they don't miss a game and probably even venture out of their man or woman cave to catch a live game.
And, they're most certainly the same football clientele that are in the process of planning their NFL Draft day party, second only to the Super Bowl, of course.
One of the main reasons why the NFL Draft connects with so many fans these days is the population and their need for information at their fingertips. The draft is the closest thing to a live action app that constantly updates on your smart phone.
Picks, analysis, opinions, updates. Then, repeat the process. The slew of information put forth by the NFL Draft is consistent, timely and everything the masses wants from their news outlets. And ESPN is adept at not giving those fans watching a moment to look away. The production is top notch, the graphics are out of this world, and the marketing leading up to NFL Draft day makes your assume that you simply can't miss any of it.
Given the millions of people that watch every year, it's hard to argue against skipping it.



Slam funk: New Jordan shoes are stellar but too pricey

04/24/14 by Rennie Detore



Years after his retirement, the Michael Jordan name still is a cash cow.
The Jordan brand brings instant credibility and revenue to anything he attaches himself to, whether he's making special appearances for the NBA or touting just how great tag less shirts are for Hanes.
But Jordan's greatest achievement off the court is his contribution to creating shoes that, despite hefty price tags, always are hot sellers and highly anticipated.

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Since his days with the Chicago Bulls and into retirement, Jordan and his shoes have stood the test of time and remained popular with a new generation of kids who never even saw Jordan shoot one basket during his career. It doesn't hurt Jordan and his marquee that he's widely regarded as the greatest basketball player of all time, who just happens to lend his name to the most famous sneakers in the his famed footwear.
The latest set of shoes are the Air Jordan XX9 from Nike, which certainly looks stunning, dazzling and something that a modern day Jordan would be wearing while driving to the hoop and steering a team to the NBA Championship.
The new Air Jordan's include a sleek look and technology that Nike says afford customers the feeling of every shoe tailoring itself to the size and shape of your foot. All this sounds too good to be true, until, of course, you get glimpse of the price.
The Air Jordan XX9 shoes are priced at $225, but Nike and everyone involved in the creation and marketing of the shoes probably aren't overly concerned about that price point.
And why would they?
Any and all things "Air Jordan" will fly off the shelves the same way Jordan soared from the foul line to rim for his illustrious career. That thinking might be true to an extend, but given the nature of the economy and a serious shortage of expendable income, Nike really is relying heavily on the nostalgia and name value of Jordan.
Even for the likes of Jordan, no matter how great he was, how many championships he won or current players he influenced, this is a tough sell in 2014. Being "like Mike" might not be possible for the masses, who might want to use that extra $200 for bills, car loans or mortgage payments in lieu of gifting their kids shoes that they'll either grow out of or, at some point, ruin.
Today's parents seem a little more cost conscious and savvy when it comes to money and spending it frivolously, especially on something as rudimentary at shoes. That's not to say that some moms and dads might shell out that kind of cash for their son if they're of the belief he's NBA bound or want to do something incredibly special for the holidays.
But for Nike to assume that $200 shoes and selling them won't be a problem seems more like an air ball than a slam dunk.



The flix is in: Will Netflix price hike really matter?

04/22/14 by Mike Catania



No one is going to argue that Netflix is easily the best value in entertainment with a price point that is less than $8 and is wildly popular among customers that want movies, television and first run programming for a stellar price.
The real test and debate is going to be just how loyal those same customers are going to be now that Netflix has announced that they're going to be raising their prices at the end of the year. According to Netflix, the streaming sensation tested a price hike in their other markets overseas, and the modest increase went relatively unnoticed by current customers. With that Netflix feels confident that a price jump won't cause the masses to jump ship.
Chance are, they're right on the money, and not much will change in the United States when Netflix finally pulls the trigger. Truthfully, raising the price, rumored to be $8.99 or $9.99, seems like a natural progression for Netflix, rather than a price increase just for the sake of doing so.

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Keep in mind a few things before you begin throwing a fit over a few dollars.
Netflix has done plenty in the past few years to add first run programing to their docket as well as increasing the number of television shows and movies that are well known flicks as opposed to films no one knows or wants to see.
Some true pessimists may point to Netflix and their recent partnership with Comcast as proof that Netflix is turning from a customer friendly business into a corporately driven company that most likely will continue to increase prices. Price increases over the next decade might come to fruition but for now it's hardly worth discussing and seems a bit too premature.
And even if the Netflix price point eventually hits the $13 or 14 mark, you'd like to think that the increase will come with more original series from the company and first run programming that continually adds to the already impressive library.
Given the rising cost of cable and the questionable contracts from satellite dish companies that start at a reasonable price but change drastically, Netflix has crafted a niche in the marketplace that has some customer even going as far as canceling cable altogether and relying solely on streaming entertainment, led by Netflix.
It's hard to imagine a shift so great that Netflix all of a sudden won't be sought after as a viable choice when it comes to television and movies.
And a few dollars certainly won't be a deciding factor.



3 reasons why you love rockers AC/DC

04/20/14 by Rennie Detore



The recent news of AC/DC member Malcom Young taking time away from the band due to an undisclosed illness has the hard rock community questioning whether the iconic band is about to embark on retirement and call it a career after more than 40 years in the spotlight.
Remaining band members, including Malcom's brother and renowned guitarist Angus Young, are quick to dismiss rumors of the band calling it quits, despite the 61 year old Malcom leaving temporarily to take care of personal matters.
But even though the band is telling anyone who will listen that they're not going anywhere, any time soon, there's no guarantee that the band will ever release any new music or tour the world once again.

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That thought isn't exactly what hardcore music fans want to hear, but it certainly could happen given the age of the band members and Malcom's situation specifically.
You know you love AC/DC, the music, the showmanship and the true talent of a band that changed singers but never really lost its love for music and broad audience that made them successful. Whether this is the end of the line for AC/DC is debatable, but their legacy never will be, and here's why.
1. Survived tragedy: Often this is the storyline that defines whether a band is poised for rock god status or will simply become an afterthought. When tragedy strikes a band, they ultimately reach a cross roads of sorts. Do they pack it in? Do they move on and only sound and perform like a shell of themselves? In the case of AC/DC, they did neither, and one could argue when front man Bon Scott died in 1980 after creating and cultivating the AC/DC attitude alongside the other members, the band somehow managed to not only pick up the pieces but pound out commercial success in light of Scott's untimely drug overdose that year. The band hired Brian Johnson and released "Back in Black" that same year, and all that album did was sell 50 million copies worldwide since its release 34 years ago.
2. Angus, Angus, Angus: The guitar legend ranks right up there with the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen as far as being the face of their respective groups and devising scorching and memorable guitar rifts that are immediately identifiable. No one is going to argue that Angus was pure talent personified, but he also exuded charisma and ferocity on stage that made his act timeless. The school boy uniform look also became synonymous with his performances as well.
3. Sound quality: No, this has nothing to do with the quality of their instruments or how much talent the band collectively has but rather the fact that AC/DC really never changed their sound, intensity or fervor for the sake of radio play. "Back and Black" was a commercial success but never really felt like the proverbial "sell out" album in the same vein as Metallica and the "Black Album." Metallica caught flack for changing their sound and succumbing to a more radio friendly mold to make money. AC/DC pretty much stayed true to the origins of their sound, and fans spoke louder than any radio executive when it came to making the band wildly popular regardless of lyrics or how heavy the music was.
Whether Malcom and company return to form and regain their swagger and moxie that made them rich and famous still is yet to be determined. If AC/DC is done, the band won't have any regrets and doesn't have to apologize for saying so long to a career that spanned four decades and produced 200 million album sales.
Knowing AC/DC, however, you can probably assume that going quietly into retirement hardly is their style, and they'll have at least one more swan song as a salutation to a sensational career and much deserved fan base that never waivered.



No bull: Sentencing for Ohio man seems all too appropriate in bullying case

04/17/14 by Rennie Detore



Edmond Aviv undoubtedly will never bother anyone in his neighborhood again.
That's because Aviv, who lives in Ohio, was ordered by a judge in a disorderly conduct case to sit outside for five hours with a sign that declared him a bully. The ruling comes from an argument between Aviv and a neighbor, a woman who said he bullied her and her children, who are disabled.
Aviv quickly declared that he wholeheartedly feels the punishment was wrong, and actually used the word "destroyed" to describe how he felt the sentencing made him look. The sign said "I AM A BULLY" in a all capital letters, among other words, as ordered by the judge.

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The 62 year old Aviv also had to write a letter of apology to the family he allegedly harassed and bullied, but the real story was the sign that he had to tote around and hold up for all to see for five hours.
It's actually laughable that Aviv is essentially assessing blame to a judge for destroying his reputation, given that court records showed he and his neighbor had been battling back and forth for more than a decade. The judge made a decision based on information put forth, and Aviv had to answer for his behavior in a unique way that the judge thought would be just.
Kudos to Judge Gayle Williams Byers and her foresight, honesty and creativity when dishing out a punishment to Aviv that fit the crime. If Aviv harassed and bullied these disabled neighborhood kids, one can assume that a fine might not have resonated with him at this point, given that this has seemingly been going on for years.
Aviv also was ordered by the judge to attend anger management classes and serve 15 days in jail. But Aviv pointed to the sign that declared him a bully of young, disabled children as the worst part of his sentencing.
And, it should be.
Bullying shouldn't be shoved under the proverbial rug or dismissed as anything less than hurtful and unnecessary. And it certainly isn't just reserved for kids in school. As Aviv illustrated, bullying knows no boundaries, and can occur from one adult to another or, in this case, from adult to child.
Having Aviv hold up a sign that declares him a bully may seem harsh or over the top in some circles but it also might be just the right temperament to deter Aviv from doing this again or others from following in his same footsteps.
For that reason, the punishment fits just fine. If anyone, Aviv included, wants to avoid the shame of being publicly called out for being a bully, the answer to that dilemma is easy.
Just don't do it in the first place.
Had Aviv followed that rudimentary advice, maybe his day wouldn't have been filled with honking horns and having his character questioned and exposed.



Juiced up: Did steroids actually save baseball?

04/15/14 by Rennie Detore



Bruised, battered and beleaguered, baseball was teetering on the brink.
The entire 1994 season was wiped out due to a strike between the players union and owners, a true farce of an argument in the eyes of fans across the nation. Players making millions battling owners, most of whom were likely worth billions of dollars.
All the while, fans who made in the thousands were left without the national pastime for an entire summer and season.

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Those same baseball purists quickly transformed into pundits and boycotted games once play eventually resumed the following season. The strike left a bad taste in everyone's mouth, and you could easily hear a plethora of disgruntled fans call out in unison that they'll never watch baseball again and that those same owners and players "owe us a World Series."
Fast forward to 2014, and baseball is in full swing and bottom lines and revenue couldn't be better. Even payrolls of the so called small market teams, thanks to television deals through revenue sharing, are reaching the unbelievable 100 million dollar mark. Owners are reaping in tons of cash thanks to television, and players are being paid almost as handsomely as a result. Miguel Cabrera and his 280 million dollar contract as plenty of proof that baseball is flourishing.
So how did the game that everyone despised 20 years ago turn into a profitable and potent money for owners and players and a source of remarkable entertainment for fans again?
The answer to that question is irony personified. Everyone associated with baseball in 2014 is doing everything possible to diminish, deter and eventually eliminate steroids and performance enhancing drugs from their sport.
Alex Rodriguez is currently serving a full season suspension, and plenty of so called superstars like David Ortiz and Ryan Braun either were implicated or admitted to using performance enhancing drugs. Baseball isn't interested in mitigating this behavior and isn't showing signs of wavering or excusing anyone, even if you are one of the faces of the game like Rodriguez.
But before baseball started to pay closer attention to steroids and PEDs, the sport piggy seemed to indirectly endorse it in 1998 when herculean heavyweights Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire teed off throughout the entire season and became entrenched in a home run duel that captivated fans, raised attendance and renewed interest in the sport.
Did baseball and its hierarchy look the other way in 1998 when Sosa and McGwire clearly were genetically enhanced with every towering blast? Given that people packed ball parks to get a glimpse of Sosa or McGwire, and the sport started to crawl back into the good graces of fans, it's hard to argue that point.
Anyone who caught a glimpse of McGwire's bulging biceps or Sosa's hulking forearms knew something seemed a bit off. Sure, McGwire was one half of the highly touted "Bash Brothers" in Oakland alongside Jose Canseco, but neither he nor Sosa ever looked like bodybuilders until their polarizing run of home runs in 1998.
Baseball didn't mind the back and forth competition between Sosa and McGwire. And the sport certainly didn't want to quell this friendly fire between the two sluggers since those two men may have saved baseball four years after the strike sent baseball into a popularity tailspin.
Now, baseball is back, and McGwire and Sosa are afterthoughts or the butt of jokes when it comes to PEDs and steroids. Neither of them seem destined to reach the Hall of Fame, while baseball is booming.
You almost feel sorry for McGwire and Sosa to some degree, given their friendly rivalry rekindled fans' love of baseball, but their lure and luster quickly vanished once their marquee names began surfacing on reports linked to steroid and PED use. Baseball hardly backed these two and didn't really care so much about either McGwire or Sosa and their subsequent legacies becoming tarnished.
Baseball already had its fans back, and didn't need Sosa or McGwire any longer. This isn't to suggest that baseball is the root of all evil. McGwire and Sosa knew what they were doing, although Sosa still denies the claims of PEDs, while McGwire admitted he had used them throughout his career, and they'll have to live with the bad decisions they made during their playing careers.
Maybe they don't care. Maybe they should. Or perhaps the money and notoriety they earned at the time is enough to satiate any ill will or negative feelings that were projected onto them in the years after their then heroic home run chase.
But baseball should care, and not look at the 1998 season as a black eye for the sport as it seemingly does. That season saved baseball, even if it isn't necessarily worth remembering after the fact.



Mobile solution: Is paying with your smart phone a bright idea?

04/12/14 by Mike Catania



Your smart phone already does plenty for you, so why not include paying for merchandise to that list?
So maybe the actual technology behind setting up a mobile marketplace of sorts as a means to skip the experience of handling cash, credit cards or debit cards is more about retailers creating these apps, rather than the phone itself.
Still, the idea of being able to simply swipe your phone or have it scanned at a retailer register certainly sound appealing to those who aren't afraid to flash to tout just how savvy they are when it comes to electronics.

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For those who, for example, were burned by the Target data breach or have had issues with fraud or identity theft might be a little more skeptical and skittish moving forward with this idea. You also would have to consider an older demographic as well, one that may either not have a smart phone or would scoff at the notion that their phone is nothing more than a means to make calls.
That isn't the particular group these retailers are honing in on, but rather planning for what certainly feels like the future when it comes to making purchases. The question remains, however, is whether or not the masses are going to ultimately buy into this concept initially?
Plenty of big box retailers are cultivating a game plan for the not so distant future that would include this concept at the majority of their stores These major players include the likes of Wal Mart, Target and Best Buy.
The thinking is retailers can convince the majority of consumers to latch on to this innovative technology through special promotions and offers that only would be available upon using the smart phone software. The retailers will preach everything from efficiency to convenience when promoting this idea, and most of what they're saying will be true, even if it is rhetoric pieced together my a marketing or public relations whiz.
Truthfully, retailers understand that fees associated with purchases could easily be eliminated with this type of service, plus one has to wonder if every store is going to have their own application, are consumers really going to want to have them all cluttered on their phone, and have to open a new app for every new store?
One has to wonder and assume that some retailers might piggy back off one another and share some sort of application that is universally accepted and thus approved by consumers who were promised convenience and instead spend most of their time in the checkout line sorting through their smart phone to find the right retailer based software.
At some point, either a retailer is going to go rogue and create their own app specifically for their brand or a few will come together and deliver this technology. In other words, it's not so much how this is going to come to fruition but rather when.
This inevitable game changer as far as how we shop at stores is coming in some form or fashion regardless of the specifics. Whether or not it will be welcomed with open arms could be determined by how seamless or clunky the transition is from wallet and debit cards to a smart phone only shopping experience.



Passing grade: Does 'No Child Left Behind' actually serve its intended purpose?

04/10/14 by Rennie Detore



In theory and on paper, the No Child Left Behind Act was enacted and put together to bridge the educational gap between children in public schools and ensure teachers earned equally high marks for their performance. What it actually does beyond that mission statement and what was originally intended for is highly debatable.
The No Child Left Behind Act, or NCLB, was immediately flanked and shrouded with controversy upon its inception in 2001. What was supposed to create an even playing field when it comes to students of all race and color, raise test scores across the board and truly hold teachers to a higher standard, has transformed into a polarizing topic even 13 years later that has left educators, teachers and parents scratching their heads rather than affirmatively shaking them.
And one question seems to be at the center of the back and forth discussion in regard to whether NCLB truly is anything more than rhetoric that sounds and looks the part but fails to deliver the tangible, all encompassing educational experience students ultimately deserve.

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Is NCLB really cultivating an atmosphere that preserves learning and education underscored with creative thinking and learning, or are teachers simply perpetuating stale, bland lesson plans geared toward a particular test? In other words, between the positives and negatives of NCLB, where exactly does this act fall?
"I think there are several positives. NCLB fosters educational growth and achievement of students," said Teri Martinez, a NCLB and School Improvement and Reform expert. She also is currently a University of Arizona PhD Candidate (Educational Law & Public Policy), and a member of the Arizona education community.
Make no mistake, Martinez isn't championing NCLB or rallying behind it wholeheartedly. But as a renowned and respected educator, she'd be doing a disservice to the parts of NCLB that work, namely the aforementioned accountability for students and teachers, or lack thereof.
"There was no accountability as teachers. We went out and taught. Got books, and it was random acts of sharing knowledge," Martinez says. "Now there is a level of accountability. The other piece that is important is standards set for teacher qualifications. Highly qualified vs. not qualified. NCLB requires schools not achieving improvement to implement research methods of teaching."
Dr. Richard Greggory Johnson III is an Associate Professor and Fulbright Scholar at the University of San Francisco. He's an author, educator and centers his studies on social equality and human rights within the public policy and administration. He's also one of many that sees the good and bad when it comes to No Child Left Behind, but weighs heavily on the notion that it just doesn't seem like the complete educational package it should be.
"My assessment of No Child Left Behind; there are just a host of issues that complicate the implementation of the policy," Johnson says. "Statistics tell us that we have seen the test scores in communities of color rise during the first part of the implementation. But issues, for example, include failing in school. Most people understand failing or dropping out, however, there hasn't really been a reasonable mechanism for determining what schools are failing (for)."
Johnson brings up an interesting point as far as No Child Left Behind and how the overall spectrum of the classroom has been altered thanks to this policy. The blanket statement when it comes to NCLB is that teachers don't actually "fail" students in the traditional sense. Realistically, if teachers have relegated their teaching tendencies around a lone test, the idea of failing becomes less about actually learning and more about memorizing answers to a test.
Once teachers begin adopting the mentality of teaching to a test, not to the students, NCLB begins to show cracks in its foundation and more questions abound regarding its validity and competency as it relates to the educational system.
"The criticism (of NCLB) is testing. It's supposed to be a mechanism by which students are all tested using same standardized exams," Johnson says. "That is the issue because teachers aren't teaching creativity or analytical skills... This is a huge issue (teaching to a test) for any K-12 teacher, particularly the ones trying to make a difference."
Martinez feels that specifically the teacher, rather than condemn or complain about the shortcomings of the policy, must rise above its limitations and truly embody their craft.
"I've seen where, yes, teachers are confined to teaching to a test. That is exactly where American public education is today. However, how I accomplish that task is up to me," Martinez says, suggesting teaching can be subjective even in the face of a standardized test. "I can do it as creative and pro active as possible and still focusing on Common Core Practices."
The flip side to that mentality is one that Martinez doesn't want to see permeating through the thoughts of teachers as a whole.
"Or, I can be reactive and consistently dwell on myself, that I don't have what I need, and my kids aren't learning. I am not a proponent of standardized testing, but I am a proponent of good teaching."
Johnson concurs with that assessment in terms of teaching as it relates to its limitations as part of NCLB. His contention is that teaching within the NCLB is linear at best, and takes it a step further.
"I know as a university professor that not all students learn the same way," Johnson says. "Certainly, as a professor with a doctorate or masters degree, I don't learn the same way. My other colleagues don't, either. And that is where the 'No Child Left Behind' becomes problematic."
The irony of "No Child Left Behind" is that the premise and namesake goes against exactly what it pretends to do. Think of it realistically for a moment: the goal of NCLB is to make sure that children and students alike don't fall behind in the classroom. But teaching based on one test or in a way that is formulaic will do exactly that.
That mere aspect of NCLB, for some, render it quite obsolete in the grand scheme of education.
"There is a segment of population that is only going to learn one way that will pass a test," Johnson says. "The others will be left behind, if they don't understand the policy. "Education should be progressive, one where the students are learning and enjoying the process. No Child Left Behind; there really isn't a sense of enjoyment for anyone; they have to focus on the skill set to pass a test."
One has to wonder if the enjoyment is missing because the person delivering the lesson plan doesn't really believe in what they're saying. Teaching inside of a box doesn't have to define No Child Left Behind. Often, however, that is the case.
"As good teachers, we learn to differentiate style of teaching. I have students who have muscular dystrophy and mental issues, and I differentiate with my instructors," Martinez says. "There are ways to teach and extend the learning. So, the way I teach, I never had a class of students that all speak the same language or don't have special needs."
Martinez continues, "so you can teach all students. We are American public education; I don't care what the students has, I can teach them. It might take a little longer but myself and team of teachers have been very successful."
You have to wonder if what Martinez is describing is the exception, rather than the rule. If that is the case, kids exposed to the ins and outs of No Child Left Behind, and thus uninspired teachers, will proceed from one grade to another and eventually make their way through middle school and high school only fixated on grades and memorization, rather than actually retaining the information they're learning. In that regard, NCLB may have the proverbial ripple effect across the entire educational gamut.
"I have great students, but so many of them are interested in the grade," Johnson said. "I gave a graduate student a 'B' on a paper yesterday; this student was so upset, wanted to know how she could get an 'A.' "They should want to enjoy the information not for the sake of a grade but for sake of living a life that can utilize these cognitive skills wherever they go."
But the true definition of teaching and learning is about application not regurgitation. That fact is somewhat of a lost art at the public school level in the midst of preaching and practicing NCLB.
"I think private schools have it right for the most part. Public schools have their hands tied and its a tragedy. We live in a society where a lot of folks can't attend private schools but still appears to me that there are truly some good public schools," Johnson concedes.
"But they can't be as great as they could be."
That greatness, it seems, must come from within and in spite of No Child Left Behind and in the form of teachers taking back the classroom for the better.
"I am not a proponent of NCLB," Martinez says. "I am in favor of being a strong teacher and using energy, vitality and creativity that is amazing."



No Tiger, Oh my: Woods absence at The Masters make for lackluster TV

04/09/14 by Mike Catania



Tiger Woods no longer strikes fear in other golfers as he strides to hit his tee shot. The field of competitors at tournaments, both major and minor, always kept a close eye on Woods' score and where he sat on the leader board.
That isn't so much the case these days with Woods, at least not with his piers on the golf course.
No, Woods still is a force on the PGA Tour, but his staying power isn't so much derived from thrilling victories or long, remarkable putts on the green in a one hole playoff.

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Today, Tiger is about ticket sales, television ratings and live attendance at golf tournament events. As The Masters begins April 10, Woods isn't part of the illustrious field due to back surgery that will keep him out well into the summer months.
Those at CBS, the network broadcasting The Masters, collectively groaned when they heard Woods wouldn't be competing this year. Their concern isn't so much whether or not Woods would make a run at the title but rather assuming that this year's ratings, and thus their advertising dollars as a whole, would suffer immensely.
History suggests that when Woods watches from the sidelines, everyone involved with the sales, promotion and marketing of subsequent events cringes at the idea of selling a tournament minus a name.
The odd aspect of Woods as it relates to live attendance and television viewership is that his career hasn't been the same since his off course, personal trials and tribulations that forced him into a whole different kind of limelight, one that had nothing to do with golfing.
Even as Woods returned from his personal plight and resumed his career on the PGA Tour, he never really recaptured the essence, swagger and on course game that made him the mega star he is today. But Woods is one of those rare figures in sports that is equal parts legendary and polarizing. It's no different than watching skaters blow by Wayne Gretzky or the game on the field passing by the likes of Joe Montana.
Their presence alone is enough to sell the masses that this particular sporting event is a can't miss endeavor. It also doesn't help golf in general that no one has really emerged from Woods' shadow as the new poster boy for golf. There's been a few like Sergio Garcia that have tried in vein to fill those golf spikes to no avail.
In essence, golf needs Woods, even if he doesn't necessarily win the "big one" anymore. CBS no doubt would take Tiger at 50% rather than not having him on the marquee at all.
Now to suggest that Woods is finished and will never reclaim his past glory is somewhat ridiculous, given that he's not even 40 years old. He's had his share of injuries recently, and some have already written the Woods' golfing eulogy as though he's on the brink of retirement.
Woods, at this moment, no longer is dominant. At one point in his career, him being on the course alone would leave the rest of the field wondering who is going to come in second place. Those discussions are diminishing with each missed tournament or nagging injury Tiger has to tend to during the season.
Woods surging back to the front of the pack at some point, however, in the hopes of challenging Jack Nicklaus' record of most wins at major tournaments, isn't as far fetched as most pundits predict.
Certainly, golf as a whole would welcome that feel good story courtesy of Woods. It would be good for golf. More importantly, it would be even better for business.
Then again, you could say the same about Woods in any form or fashion when it comes to truly creating a buzz that often is devoid without him.
The Masters, even with all its heritage and history, won't be any different.



Top 4 replacements for David Letterman on 'Late Show'

04/06/14 by Rennie Detore



The late night landscape already has drastically changed. Now, thanks to David Letterman, it is getting a complete overhaul.
Letterman, host of the "Late Show" on CBS since 1993, announced this week that he is retiring from his post at the end of his contract in 2015. Letterman is following Jay Leno, who finished up on "The Tonight Show" this past February and turned the reigns over to Jimmy Fallon.
Fallon, who hosted "Late Night" prior to replacing Leno, is receiving plenty of adulation and praise as the new "Tonight Show" host, and the ratings have been some of the best for the show in years, suggesting that Leno had badly overstayed his welcome and a change was long overdue.

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Letterman, even after more than 20 years on the "Late Show," never really exuded that same vibe with the audience and his ratings and appeal still strong. He's been consistent, entertaining and always garnered higher praise for funnier, smarter shows in comparison to Leno, his late night adversary at the time.
You have to assume Letterman feels as though he's achieved a certain status that walking away feels like the right thing to do, in addition to the late night scene turning into a young man's game so to speak with the likes of Fallon, Seth Myers, who took over for Fallon on "Late Night," Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O'Brien.
In essence, Letterman leaving for retirement is the end of an era.
Letterman undoubtedly influenced plenty of those aforementioned hosts and certainly will be missed given his iconic status on the "Late Show."
Now, the question remains, who actually can replace him?
Speculation likely has already begun running rampant seconds after Letterman uttered the word "retirement" as to who has the proverbial big enough shoes to move into that coveted, CBS 11:30 pm time slot opposite the "Tonight Show."
CBS had plenty to ponder over the next year as far as who they'll choose to go head to head with Fallon on "The Tonight Show." For now, it's never too soon to start throwing at least a few names into the mix.
1. Conan O'Brien: There has to be a part of O'Brien that would love to stick it to NBC and go head to head with his old employer, the same company that handed over "The Tonight Show" to him, only to pull the rug out from under him after only eight months at his dream job. The animosity would especially be remarkable if Leno still was manning "The Tonight Show," given the history between the two. O'Brien wished Fallon well with "The Tonight Show," so O'Brien probably isn't interested in hurting Fallon as much as he would like to prove to himself that he belongs on network television at 11:30 at night, even though he has a pretty nice deal with his show "Conan" on TBS.
2. Steven Colbert: He's come under fire recently because of a Twitter message that bordered on racism, even if it was meant to be a satirical joke. Before this tweet hit social media, Colbert was widely regarded and lauded as the most "likeable" television host on the market. Letterman is leaving in 2015, and if Colbert can clean up this Twitter misstep, he is a logical choice who would easily be on the CBS short list for the "Late Show."
3. Jon Stewart: The longtime "Daily Show" host on Comedy Central would be a can't miss choice for CBS, although his buddy Colbert might have something to say about Stewart usurping him as the new host of "Late Show." Given his tenure at his current job, he may be the most logical option for the CBS job.
4. Tina Fey: She is incredibly sharp, witty and loveable. She proved her presence with her hosting of "The Golden Globes." She was amazingly comfortable in that role, and before that, she breathed new life into the update desk on "Saturday Night Live," and the show in general, as one of the lead writers. The late night scene could finally use a female host. If nothing else, it might put Joan Rivers at ease. She was one of the favorites to replace Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show," but she never made it to that seat. In fact, she was banned from the network.
CBS and the network executives have plenty to mull over before the clock strikes midnight on Letterman's amazing career. Replacing Letterman won't be an easy task for CBS or the person who ultimately takes the helm at "Late Night."
But, the show must go on. The hope is the next host of "Late Night," however, doesn't have viewers reaching for the "off" button.



Married to divorce: Does anyone still believe in happily ever after?

04/05/14 by Rennie Detore



When exactly did the mantra of marriage turn from "living happily ever after" into sadly, another would be love story that ends in divorce?
Divorce rates hover around the 40-50% mark for first marriages, a statistic that doesn't bode well for the segment of the population that still believes in love, marriage and finding their soul mate.
Nancy Irwin is a doctor of psychology, author and specializes in clinical hypnosis and is a coach and counselor to struggling couples. She concurs that marriage, in and of itself, isn't necessarily broken. In fact, she suggests, that is hardly the case.

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"Marriage is here to stay; it's shifting and changing," she said. "Human beings are gregarious and social creatures and love to be with someone; marriage is going to be here for a long time."
Marriage might not be going anywhere per say, but that doesn't change the fact that the bond of matrimony is just not lasting like it once did.
There is, however, little doubt, based on the popularity of social media and online dating sites that love and marriage still is something the masses want, but it just seems like when they finally get it, they don't know exactly what to do with it.
Deciphering why marriage no longer works for some can be just as arduous and taxing as the relationship itself, but one has to wonder what happened to celebrating 50 year wedding anniversaries or marrying your high school sweetheart, much the way your parents or grandparents did.
Some will argue that money or financial instability contributes to divorce. Others will say that today's generation is surrounded by too much temptation (i.e. social media) and that, coupled with short attention spans and a fickle sense of romance, creates an atmosphere that discourages long term relationships and marriage. And how do kids factor into a marriage as far as stress on the couple? And what about those people who decide that marriage is a fantastic idea, even after only a few weeks or months of dating?
Those aforementioned proposals all make perfect sense but feel more like excuses or ancillary issues that only contribute to the larger scale contents that surround divorce: how you were taught to view relationships, communication and complacency.
"We form our opinion of marriage, and a blue print is based on how we are raised," Irwin says. "Your daddy is (prototype of) your first boyfriend; mommy is first (prototype of) girlfriend. We grow up and form relationships in our subconscious. It takes a Herculean effort to break those habits."
You would assume that most men and women don't draw back to their childhood as grounds for why they struggle in marriage specifically or relationships in general. Chalking up their woes to "picking the wrong" person is way too generalized of a statement to truly hold any real meaning and feels more like empty, generic rhetoric.
As Irwin stated, maybe those bad habits don't ever get broken, but rather the general public is attempting to push the proverbial square peg into the round hole when it comes to marriage and is relegated to forcing the issue with hope as the only emotion in the equation.
That mentality might lead to initial struggles and eventually turn into deeply rooted problems in the future that fuel the fire of poor communication and, eventually, barely speaking to the person.
In other words, choosing the wrong person isn't like missing a multiple choice question on a test. You don't just get docked a point when it comes to marriage but rather this misstep has the potential to manifest into a marriage that just doesn't work well.
As for communication, that facet of the relationship seems tied at the hip with complacency as far as explaining why marriages are ending in divorce.
For some men and women, marriage isn't the start of a new chapter of a relationship but rather an end point. The initial meeting, the dating and subsequently watching your relationship grow while relishing in every last moment you spend with the other person is exciting and intoxicating.
Everything about the relationship is new or uncharted, and both parties involved seemingly make it a point to put their best proverbial foot forward. In other words, you really never stop trying to impress the person.
Then, it would seem, marriage happens and comfort and complacency tend to wash over the relationship, and the luster, romance and companionship begin to dissolve.
Out come the sweatpants, weight gain and a penchant for no longer making the relationship a priority.
So why is the tilt from dating to marriage such a drastic one?
"I think there's a lot of pressure in our society for females especially to get married," Irwin says. "OK, now I can check it off the list and relax, and let yourself go and feel like the pressure is off, and you hit your home run."
Men usually follow a similar pattern after marriage, too.
"Guys are sometimes the same way: they bought the ring, showed up and are settling down. Certainly that aspect exists."


But Irwin is quick to point out that savvy, intelligent couples who fully understand that something as monumental as marriage shouldn't be entered into lightly have already begun planning, talking and discussing what each of them expects marriage will be like before any surprises abound.
"Wise couples, and this is what I advise couples, I think it's smart to share your vision and what kind of marriage do we want. What wife do I want to be, what do I need from you (my spouse). The more you share, the less surprises," Irwin says.
However, this sit down shouldn't turn angry or into misguided finger pointing. Rather, the goal is to combat potential problems in a way that is lovingly and attempts to curtail resentment before it destroys a relationship.
That, in turn, fosters open lines of communication right away, making it clearly known that talking to one another is going to be a building block of the relationship for the long haul. For a majority of couples, however, communication is a struggle and contributes to divorce, but sadly seems so avoidable when you think about it.
The lack of communication probably stems from either not knowing what to say but also how to say it correctly or in the right tone. Instead, ignorance leads to silence or communication breaking down before you decide to break up.
Irwin feels that communication is key and, despite what some may believe, can be taught, nurtured and fine tuned to the point that everyone in the relationship feels comfortable emoting. She also is quick to point out that part of knowing how to communicate is staying focused with your thoughts and finding composure once you feel a tangent is about to strike.
"It's helpful if people can express authentically in a mutually safe setting and know they'll be heard. That's the number one thing that is missing. They get off track," Irwin says.
She also strongly believes that just sporadically altering a few pronouns and how you frame the sentence will do wonders for the person on the other end of the conversation, even if communication isn't something you're adept at doing.
"It (communication) is a skill that can be hard after 30 or 40 years of not expressing yourself," Irwin correctly points out. "That tends to be men; women want to talk more, but that is something (communication) that can be learned, getting in touch with your feelings and starting with an 'I' statement on how you're feeling, instead of 'you never this, you never that,' etc."
Far too often in a marriage, communication is broadly viewed as spouting off one complaint after another in the hopes that someone tires out first before the other. But good communication with your significant other goes far beyond raising your voice, yelling, screaming or ranting. Instead, verbal altercations between married couples should center on respect, listening and honesty in not only choosing the words but how they're delivered.
"Anytime you have a complaint, turn it around. Flip the complaint into a request" Irwin suggests. "That's how you elicit someone's attention. 'I request you call me when you're going to be late,' as opposed to yelling 'why are you always late.' The more you say it authentically , the more it works."
In the heat of the moment, it is partially understood how a passionate, important argument can lose its direction and fall by the way side. A lot of these arguments, Irwin points out, can be avoided by implementing specific times and days to talk.
Call it a relationship check in for a check up.
"I always tell couples to set up a check in session, maybe once per week or once per day. Some only need once per month. It's just a chance to check in and actually rate your relationship. Like 'on a scale of 1-10, where are we?' "
No matter where you are, the relationship starts with you, the individual, and knowing what you want, how to find it and, finally, fostering the relationship from infancy all the way through and including marriage. Marriage will never be an exact science, but that doesn't mean you should enter into that union deaf, blind and especially dumb.
"Knowing yourself and what is important to you is key," Irwin says. "It depends on the couple, some people having a really great passion and are more visual, and others want to get married for the values of children, home, reliability and friendship. There are many paths to happiness and a fulfilling relationship, and you can't say one is better than others."
But what you can say with some certainty is couples who are cognizant or self aware of their surroundings and how they interact with one another seem to be the ones that make it work better than most.



Ham burglar: Burger King steals some McDonald's thunder

03/30/14 by Rennie Detore



The burger war between Burger King and McDonald's has been waged for years, and ironically the company that isn't know for wearing the crown typically has their hand raised as victory.
McDonald's always has been considered the premier fast food chain, and Burger King has always been a few steps and ideas behind their fiercest rival.
Burger King couldn't match McDonald's in the breakfast world. Burger King repackaging their stores, adding new furniture and updated flare fell flat, and even marketing the actual, larger than life Burger King and its creepy "King" couldn't move the needle much in BK's favor.

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But the recent creation of Burger King's "Satisfries" seems to have garnered the type of positive attention that the restaurant chain has sought after in its chase to gain more market share from McDonald's.
Truthfully, McDonald's stranglehold on the top spot when it comes to fast food restaurants isn't ready to crumble just yet, but Burger King clearly wants to reestablish themselves as a major player once again.
The "Satisfries" certainly is a step in the right direction, and goes in a direction that often is overlooked by most fast food stops: healthy eating. The "Satisfries" are promoted as being 40% less fat than traditional fries and 30% less calories.
This change in philosophy for Burger King bodes well for them, given the overweight epidemic in the United States, mostly due to poor eating and diets that are debacles. The real eye opener is overweight kids, and Burger King would serve its renewed business plan and acumen well with its fries that are less in fat content and thus more appropriate of a choice for kids.
Even the most frantic and stressed parents will pay attention to French fries that are a healthier alternative for their kids. If moms and dads absolutely don't have time to make dinner and have to choose fast food, why not at least select an option that is trying to be healthier?
That's probably the logic Burger King is banking on to perhaps finally put McDonald's in its place. The iconic "Golden Arches" aren't exactly ready to throw in the towel, but they'll have to continue to think on their feet and continue to reinvent themselves with new menus items or at least paying attention to the hot topic of obesity. No one expects McDonald's to reinvent their business plan or change the landscape of hamburgers or what they do. At the very least, however, it wouldn't hurt to show that they're beyond consumer related complacency.
Otherwise, there's another "King" waiting to take McDonald's throne.



Food for thought: Will new nutrition labels actually make difference?

03/29/14 by Rennie Detore



The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently suggested a bevy of changes to the food labels that adorn what what eat in an attempt to highlight the good and bad of what we're ingesting and putting into our bodies.
Those proposed changes would include a more user friendly label that is easier to navigate through and includes the addition of some information and eliminating what the FDA believes is the proverbial elevator music; no one is paying attention anyway, so let's just get rid of it.
A few of the more notable changes are making the font for the total calories much bigger and easier to see. The percentages that make up the likes of total fat, carbohydrates and proteins also is much more discernible as they're listed on the left hand side of the food label. The old version had them on the right side, thus going against the logic that people read from left to right.

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Also added are Vitamin D and potassium, both of which are rapidly becoming a concern for the masses as far as being deficient in either one or both. Perhaps the most important addition is "added sugars" to the food labels, so individuals, couples and families alike have a better understanding of total sugars within the food or drink.
Gone from the label is calories from fat; the FDA is telling health conscious consumers to focus on saturated fat more so than calories for fat as the former is much more paramount in deciding what to buy.
These proposed changes have the look and feel of alterations to the labels that are deeply rooted in logic and filled with the best intentions. The FDA and those behind the new food labels aren't oblivious to the obesity epidemic. They are implementing changes they feel will act as a catalyst for consumers to buy accordingly, with health, fitness and diet in mind.
Fat chance.
As much as these changes sound rational, the onus still lies with the general public. You can use 100 point font and have a person stationed between them and the potato chip aisles but you can't force the hand of the masses to think more waistline than taste buds.
Do you think making the calorie count bigger might change the landscape of obesity? Maybe a little but it's hard to imagine a complete reversal in the mentality of the men and women that struggle mightily with being overweight and can't break their bad habits.
The FDA may be privately accepting a more realistic outcome, such as if they help a handful of people with these changes, then that's better than it was previously. Altering the food labels is simply the FDA doing its job and truthfully wanting to instill the kind of changes that make a world of difference.
But it probably will end up being more of a first step for the FDA, rather than a giant leap from starting point to exactly where they ultimately want to end up.



American idle: Stagnant ratings means it's time to retool or rethink show

03/28/14 by Rennie Detore