Sunday, December 31, 2017

Blog in Review: Top Posts of 2017

New Year’s Eve is a time for goal-setting and reflection.  As we’ve done for the past few years, let’s take a moment to look back on the year that was before moving on to something new.

2017 was a successful year on the blog, especially once I started going through the numbers.  This past year didn’t have any super-hits on the scale of 2015’s “The Mystery of Malvern Manor,” but readership was up, often by 50% or more.  Most posts got at least 100 readers and many did considerably better than that.  200 reader posts were once a rarity; now I see them at least once per week.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

#ArmyTop25 Revisted

Let's start by updating yesterday's #ArmyTop25 post.  The list is updated to include:
 -- Yesterday's bowl results
 -- 11-win Troy, left off by accident
 -- 9-win Stanford, who started the week at #13.  At 9-5, I'm not sure they have a legit argument, but their pre-Bowl Week ranking puts them above the line in terms of the screening criteria laid out below.

Friday, December 29, 2017

5 Things on a Friday: #ArmyTop25

Happy Friday, folks.  And Happy New Year!
Happy New Year!
Stay with me today.  This may get a bit involved once we get into some of the math down below.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

#SBRLLR: The Devilfish & the Value of Delusion (Part 1)

The Devilfish & the Value of Delusion

“Wherever I may roam, where I lay my head is home…”
― Metallica, Wherever I May Roam
Midway through sixth grade, Dad got orders to become a ground force liaison to the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point, North Carolina.  Though my father professed that he had not much enjoyed his time at Headquarters Marine Corps professionally, the years we’d spent in and around Washington, D.C., had been a blessing for our family.  We’d had time together, and we’d found a neighborhood community where we’d all felt we belonged.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Star Wars: Looking Forward to Episode IX

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the days since The Last Jedi was released, it’s that looking at a new Star Wars movie with too much expectation is a fool’s errand.  Not because the movie will or won’t be great but because the franchise’s fandom maybe feels a bit too much ownership of decisions over which it has no control.  
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Maybe I’d be disappointed in the new trilogy if I hadn’t already lived through the prequels as an adult.  When they came out, though, I already had a lifetime of Star Wars fandom in the rearview.  Which is why I think the folks who’re disappointed now have maybe lost a bit of perspective.  I remember the hype leading up to The Phantom Menace.  I remember searching in vain for some hint of the spark that once animated the Galaxy Far, Far Away.  Personally, I think the anti-cheese edit goes a long way towards redeeming Phantom Menace, proving that there’s a legitimately great story in there that just happens to be stuck behind a lot of George Lucas’s self-indulgent impulses and (lack of) editing.  Attack of the Clones, however, is God-awful, and nothing I’ve ever seen can save it, not even the last two seasons of The Clone Wars, which I loved.
As it is, I’m just happy that there’s more Star Wars, that it’s fun, and that it looks on track to continue.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

Dear Friends,
Sally, Hannah, Emma, and I would like to wish you and your families a very merry Christmas and a healthy and happy New Year.  2017 was a great year for us, a year of change and joy and growth.  We can’t wait for 2018, and we hope that it will be a great year for you as well.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Quick Thoughts: The Armed Forces Bowl

What a game!

I'll be honest.  I didn't think Army was going to win that game, and I especially didn't think they were going to win it after RB Rashaad Penny broke off that 81 yard run on 3rd-and-18 in the game's very first series.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

College Football Preview: What to Watch When You’re Not Watching Army (Week 2)

First thing’s first: I caught a little flack for doing essentially ZERO research in advance of last week’s post.  Really, I only meant to provide a time and channel guide with a side of snark, but I took Oregon over Boise State, and—like a lot of so-called football experts—I got smoked right alongside the Ducks.
No excuse.  I’m not some paid football expert, but I am smarter than those guys, and I get that you expect me to perform better.
Bowl games!
We’ll be looking at both the betting lines (via Oddsshark) and Football Outsiders’ S&P+ scores this week, and with luck, we’ll get better results.  That said, I refuse to dive any deeper on all of these games.  I just don’t have the interest.
Per last week, all times and channels are via 506Sports.

Friday, December 22, 2017

5 Things on a Friday: Still Talking The Last Jedi

Happy Friday, folks!
"The beatings will continue until morale improves!"
Promotional image for Star Wars at Disney World.
Programming note: a couple of this week’s articles are about Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  These may contain spoilers.  Proceed at your own risk.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

#SBRLLR: Some Things You're Just Born to Do (Part 4)

For better or worse, my parents hadn’t had any idea at all what to expect from my first swimming race.  I biked to the pool every day for practice and playtime and to my friends’ houses for our various summertime activities.  My mother hadn’t seen me swim since that first abortive tryout more than a month prior.  My father had to that point never seen me swim.  They hadn’t witnessed the weeks of hard work I’d been putting in with those bamboo sticks, nor were they thinking about the changes that four weeks of constant swimming, cycling, and summer activity can have on a dedicated ten-year-old’s body.  They probably thought I’d be lucky just to finish.  When I got third, they were blown away.  My sudden success blindsided them.  Decades later, my mother still talked about the time I got third place in my very first swimming race ever.  
Out of four swimmers.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Army Football Preview: Armed Forces Bowl

Though a lot of Army fans expressed disappointment when the team committed to the Armed Forces Bowl (AFB) back in October, the truth is that things have worked out beautifully for the Black Knights.  This year’s AFB features two good teams, both with something to prove.  San Diego State (SDSU) went 10-2 this year and set its sights on a New Year’s Six bowl, but its hopes were dashed when Ohio State knocked Wisconsin out of the College Football Playoff, pushing pretty much everybody else in the nation down a spot.  By the time the smoke cleared, SDSU was headed to Amon Carter Stadium in Ft. Worth, Texas, to face Army.  
By comparison, the Black Knights of the Hudson sit at 9-3, own the Commander-in-Chief’s trophy for the first time in a very long time, and would very much like to find a way to establish themselves as a legitimate national-level program after decades removed from the spotlight.  Depending on how the rest of this year’s bowl season shakes out, the winner of this contest could very easily find its way into college football’s Top 25.  For Army, that’s the program’s last unfulfilled goal in an otherwise magnificent season.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Quick Thoughts: The Last Jedi

Hannah, Emma, and I finally saw The Last Jedi (TLJ) on Sunday, and for all that it has been hyped up, trashed, and spoiled online, we really liked it.  I’d probably give it four stars out of five, and that’s on first viewing.  I liked The Force Awakens (TFA) much more on second viewing because I noticed a lot of little things that I hadn’t seen the first time through.  I’ll never be the same ten-year-old boy I was when I experienced The Empire Strike Back (ESB) for the first time, but I’ve still really enjoyed both installments of the new trilogy.  I like them more, for example, than I liked Rogue One.  Both movies took us into uncharted territory, but that’s doubly true of TLJ, and that’s something that we badly needed.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
My initial thoughts on the movie are below.  These include detailed spoilers.  You have been warned.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Advertising Update

Made a change to the blog's advertisement allowances.  I'd previously allowed anything (read: sports betting and various adult "dating" sites) on the theory that a) my audience is mostly adults, and b) even if they aren't, I'm still basically in favor of the corruption of the innocent.

Especially if it earns me a buck.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

College Football Preview: Dear God, Not Another Weekend Without Army Football!

Am I right?
Alas, we must soldier on.  Despite the lamentable fact that the Brave Old Army Team is even now taking Term End Exams, life continues.  Outside of Star Wars, I don’t know what to do with myself.

It is perhaps worth noting that ESPN/Disney now owns and operates a goodly portion of the college bowl infrastructure.  I’ve listed the networks here, but *Spoiler Alert* they’re mostly all on ESPN.  A few are on ABC or CBS Sports.  
All betting lines per Oddsshark.Com.  Schedule per 506Sports.Com.

Friday, December 15, 2017

5 Things on a Friday: The Last Jedi Awakens

It’s finally here, am I right?

I mean, seriously, this is two perfect weekends in a row.  Army-Navy and now The Last Jedi.  How cool is that?

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Crunch: Journey before Destination

I read Oathbringer last week, the third book in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archives.  Though a best-selling author in his own right, Sanderson is most famous for finishing Robert Jordan’s magnum opus The Wheel of Time.  But where Wheel of Time is concerned mostly with destiny and the cyclical nature of historical events,Stormlight Archives anchors itself in individual growth.  To this end, its heroes, the so-called Knights Radiant, have a saying by which they summon their godlike magical powers:
“Life before death, strength before weakness, journey before destination.”
Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson.
Every time I read this, I am reminded of the sport of triathlon.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

#SBRLLR: Some Things You're Just Born to Do (Part 3)

Time passed, school let out, and we soon settled into a routine.  I was up in the morning at dawn, onto my bike, down the hill and back up—about a half-mile to swim practice.  We swam for ninety minutes or so, and then I was back on my bike.  Mom made pancakes most mornings.  Sometimes I ate cereal.  Soon enough I was back on my bike, heading back to the pool to meet friends, as often as not still wearing our Speedos.  Chicken fights, Marco Polo, tag, touch the bottom of the deep end, diving contests, and “who can splash the lifeguard?”  These things were our lives.  We had sleepovers, got addicted to the Eddie Murphy edition of Saturday Night Live, and taught ourselves to play red box Dungeons and Dragons.  We watched movies and threw ninja stars at a cut-out target that somebody set up in their garage.  
We were kids.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Quick Thoughts: Army-Navy

That was some game, folks.  Maybe not Army's best game of the season, but the defense did just enough to keep the team in it, and then the offense -- finally -- managed to string some drives together in the second half to not only put points on the board but also rest that defense for the final push.  Then mistakes caught up to the Midshipmen for a change, and that was your ballgame.

I wouldn't say that the game went as advertised, exactly, but if you read this week's preview, I think a lot of this game came as expected.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Army Football Preview: Beat Navy!!!

What a year this has been for Army Athletics.  Last year’s performance in Baltimore seemed to spark something in the Corps of Cadets, and indeed, it’s now been nearly eight months since Navy has beaten Army… in anything.

Alas, that streak is almost certain to end with the women’s swim teams tomorrow night, but this has nevertheless been one Hell of a run for Army Athletics.  When the football teams meet on Saturday, it will cap one of my favorite all-time seasons of Army sports.
But though momentum seems to be on the Black Knights’ side, make no mistake.  This will be a very close, very hard fought contest.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

#SBRLLR: Some Things You're Just Born to Do (Part 2)

That night, Mom sat me down for another Serious Talk.  This time she sat on my father’s leather chair while I sat on the couch.  The cloud of failure hung heavy in our den.  Thankfully, Dad himself was not yet home.
“Why don’t we quit the swim team?” my mother said seriously.  Then: “I think we should quit.”

Monday, December 4, 2017

Army-Navy Week!

The preliminaries are out of the way, and it is at last time for the biggest game of the year.

"Bring on Navy!" said everyone on the Army football team after winning at Air Force.  Now, finally, Navy Week is here.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

College Football Championship Saturday!

 What a wild week of college football!  Former National Championship coach Phillip Fulmer is your new AD at Tennessee, and he will (presumably) name USC OC Tee Martin as his head football coach and principal understudy soon.  USC won the PAC 12 just last night in fine fashion, so on any sort of merit basis, this looks like a fine hire.  Nevertheless, I heard folks on ESPNU radio yesterday talking about this like it was some kind of nefarious conspiracy.  They managed to make new AD Phillip Fulmer sound like the Lord Voldemort of Tennessee football.
"Good ole' Rocky Top..."
The program has long since gone off the rails.  Why not look to your own rather accomplished lineage to get it back on track?  That makes sense to me, and it ensures that the people you bring in will be bought in to the program.  That's kind of important right now, especially at Tennessee.
Meanwhile, we have games today!  Championship games!!!
All times and channels courtesy of

Friday, December 1, 2017

5 Things on a Friday: The Saga of Greg Schiano

As a cadet, I at no time expected that it would ever be easier to be a fan of Army Football than it is to be a fan of the Tennessee Volunteers.  But here we are.

Honestly, I'm glad that my father did not live to see the destruction of his beloved Vols, but I also kind'a wish that I could rub it in, too.