Notre Dame’s “Peacock Exclusive” Game Won’t Be a One-Time Gimmick

Notre Dame football has been in a partnership with NBC for 30 years. In that time, Irish fans have been able to watch home games on their local NBC station, over-the-air and free, even as the digital age began in the last decade. A few games have been put on the soon-to-be defunct NBC Sports Network, and part of the 2020 Clemson game moved to USA when election coverage briefly pre-empted it, but NBC is where you could find most, if not all, of Notre Dame’s home games since 1991.

To begin the 2021 season, Notre Dame’s home opener against Toledo will not be on WPXI-TV in Pittsburgh, KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City, WLWT-TV in Cincinnati and in general, no NBC affiliate will carry it. Instead, it will stream exclusively on NBC’s streaming service, Peacock. This will require fans to download the Peacock app on a digital streaming device or their phone, sign up for its Premium package ($4.99/month) and then be able to watch.

Throughout the week, Notre Dame’s social media accounts have been reminding fans about the Peacock game by using “Parks & Recreation”, a show based in Indiana, on where to find the game…

There are many more posts like this, and if you take time to read the comments, a majority of people are not thrilled they have to pay for something they’ve been getting for free the past 30 years.

While it is not popular, and viewership may drop compared to past home openers, Notre Dame football being exclusively on Peacock for at least one game a season will become the norm.

Take a minute and count the number of streaming services you have. Probably close to a handful, right? Well, with people cutting their cable and as stated earlier, NBC ending its cable channel that was just for sports and moving content to USA or Peacock, streaming will be the norm as people look to save money, especially for sports.

The problem with the Peacock-only game is that you are making people pay $5 to watch a Notre Dame home game, when its normally free on network television. Also, think of the older Notre Dame fans. My grandfather, the patriarch of our big, Notre Dame-obsessed family, passed away at the age of 97 earlier this year, and if he wanted to watch this game, he could not watch it from the comfort of his home. They don’t have WiFi, no smartphones and I guarantee you, a lot of big, Notre Dame families are scrambling to ensure older relatives can watch.

This isn’t the first time NBC has frustrated Notre Dame fans.

The sideline skycam was something NBC Sports tried during NFL Preseason games, and then continued to use it when Notre Dame blew out New Mexico in 2019.

Take a look for yourself…

The angle was widely criticized by fans. It made for a less enjoyable, and sometime inducing experience while watching football. Eventually, NBC scrapped the idea, as it did not catch on the original skycam, which gave us the “Madden” video game angle.

While outcry over a camera ended that experiment, fans commenting that they will skip the game or go looking for an illegal stream online won’t stop NBC from putting at least one home game a season on Peacock.

As bad as it sounds that you have to pay $5 for the game, it’s not the worst deal out there.

When I lived in Oklahoma, I learned that one of the home games the Sooners play annually is a Pay-Per-View event through FOX Sports. The game is normally against one of the weaker opponents, and this year, it is their game this Saturday against Western Carolina. It will cost fans $55.

No wonder they’re fleeing the Big 12 for the SEC.

Like a lot of you, I will probably suck it up, go on the Peacock app and get premium for this game. There’s nothing wrong with Peacock. Compared to other streaming services, you get a lot of content for the monthly price, but when you take something that was free for decades and start charging a fee, you’ll ruffle some feathers. But don’t forget, Notre Dame fans are spoiled. It is a luxury to have your team on an over-the-air network for a majority of their games per season.

Perhaps Notre Dame is willing to bite the bullet and knows NBC will be pushing for more promotion of its sports coverage and to keep this long TV marriage intact, it requires some flexibility as the entertainment landscape changes.

MLB Could Take A Page From the NHL

Reading reactions and seeing the television ratings, there’s no question that Major League Baseball’s plan to channel the legacy and emotion of the 1989 film “Field of Dreams” paid off.

Much like Ray Kinsella plowing through his corn to build a baseball park, MLB did the same adjacent to the farm and field where the movie was shot. They built it, and people came, and so did the television ratings. Close to 6 million people tuned in to watch the White Sox and Yankees play on a diamond erected amongst vast cornfields in Dyersville, Iowa with 8,000 on-hand for the historic game. It is the highest-rated regular season game in 16 years as fans on-hand and viewers were treated to a fun 9th inning with a dramatic finish…

The “Field of Dreams” game and how people reacted to it depends on their relationship with the movie. One of the biggest takeaways is that baseball gets passed down through the generations, and like “Cat’s in the Cradle”, any man who has had an estranged relationship with his father was holding back tears at the end when Ray gets to have a catch with the ghost of his father’s younger self at the end. Even those who don’t have turbulent relationships with their dads get emotional at the end. It hits a little harder the older people get, leaving them with a feeling that they need to make the most of the time they have with their father, because one day, they will not be there.

Taking a step back in time is another way to view “Field of Dreams”. The movie is how I learned about “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and the 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandal. Also, getting to see the old uniforms of teams like the Reds, Yankees, New York Giants and Philadelphia A’s in the film was neat. There was a point a decade ago where I was hooked on the Ken Burns Baseball documentary when it hit Netflix.

James Earl Jones as Terence Mann giving the “people will come” speech is something I have had branded in the sports lobe of my brain since I was a kid…

As for the game, the simplicity of playing baseball in a setting that was standard over a century ago is something you do not get in today’s game. The field in Iowa has no entertainment district surrounding it. There are no backdrops of skylines like PNC Park in Pittsburgh has. No cove like in San Francisco and while Wrigley Field and Fenway Park has withstood the test of time and the desire for state-of-the-art venues, they have been modernized for the 21st century over the last decade.

The “Field of Dreams” game provides a unique event that MLB, now knowing how successful it was, should hold annually.

If baseball wants a blueprint of how to do (and not do) this, they could look at the National Hockey League’s annual outdoor game: The Winter Classic.

During the 2007-08 season, the NHL decided to hold the first regular season outdoor game in the U.S., with Buffalo Sabres hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins at then-Ralph Wilson Stadium, the home of the Buffalo Bills on New Year’s Day 2008.

The NHL was at the mercy of mother nature, hoping for an ideal weather day. Luckily, it was the kind of day you expect during a Buffalo winter, as snow fell, creating a “snow globe” atmosphere as the teams wore throwback jerseys, with the Penguins in their original powder blues and the Sabres wearing their original white look, which would eventually make a comeback about a decade later.

What also helped the league was the game itself. It was a 1-1 game that went to overtime, later leading to a shootout.

As the snow picked up, Sidney Crosby, just 20 years of age at the time of the game, got the winner for the Penguins…

And with that finish, an annual tradition was born.

With the exception of the 2013 game being cancelled due to a lockout and COVID-19 stopping the 2021 edition, the NHL Winter Classic continues. The 2014 matchup between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor is the one that rivals the greatness of the original 2008 game. Others have had to endure the weather (too much sun, rain) and not every game gets great ratings, but it is the NHL’s unique event that carries on, and has inspired other outdoor games like the Stadium Series, a revival of the Heritage Classic in Canada, which first came about in 2003 and a game to celebrate the league’s 100th year in Toronto.

The NHL, knowing it could not have a stadium packed with fans due to the pandemic, held two games in Lake Tahoe earlier this year, with a rink being built along with lake with the view of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the background.

It should be noted excessive sunshine paused the first game in Lake Tahoe after the first period, moving the rest of the game to that night, but it was a good concept the league could return to again in the future, knowing what it does now.

Major League Baseball, should it decide to make the “Field of Dreams” game in Iowa an annual event during the regular season, they can learn from the NHL’s successes and shortcomings with the Winter Classic and outdoor series.

Here are a few things.

  • Chicago Blackhawks syndrome: Major League Baseball can put together a lot of great matchups for the “Field of Dreams” game, but should avoid having the same team pop up every few years. The NHL has received criticism for having a team like the Chicago Blackhawks playing in most Winter Classic Games. The Blackhawks have played in six outdoor games since 2009 (4 Winter Classics, 2 Stadium Series).
  • One Game Per Season: The NHL plays two outdoor games per season on average. But, in 2014, the league decided to played six outdoor games, four of which were a part of the new Stadium Series. Two games were played at Yankee Stadium and hockey was played at Dodger Stadium, which showed the technological advancements since the 2008 Classic to keep the ice in good playing condition could allow a game to be played outdoors in a place like southern California. A Heritage Classic game was played in Vancouver. In the end, it was just too much hockey. Simply put, Major League Baseball only needs one game in Iowa.
  • The Unique Setting: The NHL has played at historic places like Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, Michigan Stadium and Notre Dame Stadium and as mentioned earlier, went with a smaller stage in Lake Tahoe. While hockey must choose a different venue every year, Major League Baseball has constructed a simple, 8,000-seat ballpark within an Iowa cornfield, connected to a classic baseball movie, removing the task of finding a place to play this game.
  • The Uniforms: The NHL outdoor games also have new or throwback jerseys that get the fans excited and means apparel will fly off the shelves. The 1919 Chicago Black Sox uniforms looked sharp, especially since that team’s most notable player was highlighted in the film and the Yankees have a such a classic look, it may have been hard to know they were wearing a throwback from that period. Imagine some of the throwbacks baseball could have Nike make going forward should the “Field of Dreams” game become an annual event. Imagine the Dodgers and Giants wearing uniforms that harken back to their days in Brooklyn and New York.
  • Recapturing the Magic of the Original: The 2008 NHL Winter Classic holds a special place in the history of the league. An argument can be made that 2014 game in Ann Arbor matched or even out-did the original, but its hard to out-due the game that started it all. Major League Baseball created an amazing introduction during the “Field of Dreams” game as Kevin Costner appeared from the corn in the outfield, and was followed by the White Sox and Yankees appearing from the cornfield like ghosts of the players in the film, followed by a brief speech from Costner, who asked the crowd if it was heaven, and in response, they yelled “No! It’s Iowa”. Can MLB do a pregame like that every year in Iowa without it becoming stale?

The simplicity and the connection to a film that moves so many people provides Major League Baseball with an opportunity to do something special every summer, and that is play a regular season game in a flyover state that thanks to “Field of Dreams” director Phil Alden Robinson, Costner and the musical score from James Horner that leaves men sobbing, can become a part of the game. One that is dragged for being outdated and only tending to the older crowd.

Maybe Thursday’s game had younger fans seeking out the film on a streaming platform, especially since the VHS copy their dad has is irrelevant in 2021.

The Reds are Fun. The Pirates Just Make Me Sad(der)

This weekend, I had family come visit me in Cincinnati. Along with taking them to all the spots of note in the city, we went to Saturday’s Reds game against the team I grew up with, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the 11-3 win for Cincinnati was no surprise to me.

In fact, the t-shirt I wore to the game was black with “Sell the Team’ in the font the Pirates use on their home uniform.

The t-shirt and 50 West were almost the same price.

It was a bad omen in the top of the 1st inning when the Reds scoreboard operator wasn’t sure who was getting the start in left field Saturday night…

Turned out to be Anthony Alford, who was just called up from AAA Indianapolis. He had three hits in the loss, and got stuck in a rundown between 2nd and 3rd base that ended with him tagged out sliding a foot or two short of 3rd.

Growing up, being a Pirates fan meant I could not stand the Reds. Brandon Phillips was the worse person in the world and in my mind, Aroldis Chapman just wanted to bean every Bucs batter. Now I am 32, been living in Cincinnati for close to three years and in previous years learned to accept that current Pirates owner Bob Nutting has no desire to make this team a true contender after the playoff stretch from 2013-15 which seem like a distant memory, or the fourth season of “Community” where people claim there was a gas leak and it never happened.

I also learned just how much Cincinnati loves baseball. Almost to the point I’m envious.

Watching Reds fans in Cincinnati is interesting as a Pirates fan. The Opening Day optimism as the Findlay Market parade makes it way to Great American Ballpark to the moments in June and July that have fans wanting the manager and general manager fired, they are passionate. Yes, the Reds have not won a World Series since 1990, but there’s always hope that the oldest pro team in baseball will snap the championship drought that has plagued pro sports in that town along the Ohio River.

Working on the news team on the radio station that serves as the flagship for the Reds, I have gotten to know this Cincinnati roster well and outside of Gregory Polanco and Kyle Newman, the Pirates roster is foreign.

This Reds team is fun. I knew the Pirates were doomed (if not doomed already) when news came that Nick Castellanos and Mike Moustakas were returning to the lineup this weekend after suffering injuries. The starting pitching is great, too. Wade Miley threw a no-hitter earlier this season, Vladimir Gutierrez is having a solid rookie season and Tyler Mahle is also getting it done.

The one complaint I will get from Reds fans is that not enough is being done by the front office to produce a winner. From my perspective, the Reds are doing much more than the Pirates.

The Reds total payroll is close to $126 million, while the Pirates is just under $55 million. So the Reds are willing to spend on guys like Castellanos and Moustakas to strengthen the lineup, but the Pirates are not. Sure, Reds fans would love the front office to make a deal like the Yankees did to get Anthony Rizzo, or the Mets landing Javier Baez at the deadline, but those team’s total payrolls are near or over $200 million.

I knew 2021 would be a throw-away year for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and at 41-71, they haven’t disappointed. Meanwhile, the Reds are giving themselves a chance to make the postseason. Chasing the Brewers will be a constant struggle into September, but they could also find their way into one of the two wild card spots.

When you live and work in a city with a sports team that is on the upswing, or just having another good season, people are in a better mood and for as much as I tease people about Johnny Cueto dropping the ball in the 2013 N.L. Wild Card Game against the Pirates or that the Bengals are Myron “The Bungles”, as coined by the late Myron Cope, I’d like to see the Reds still playing when the weather gets colder and the days get shorter.

2021 could be a good year for both the Reds and Bengals. So if you are a long-time fan of those two teams, enjoy the ride. It could lead to something even better down the line. Meanwhile, the Pirates are doing the “give it five years” grift low-payroll teams do, and the Steelers may not have an offensive line to keep Ben Roethlisberger from being face down in the turf several times a game and have Najee Harris doing twice the dancing the backfield Le’Veon Bell did.

At least Bell had a line to run behind.

Mix & Match Monday: If Amateurism is Dead, Might as Well Put Tradition Out of Its Misery

With college athletes now allowed to make money off their name, image and likeness (N.I.L.), more money is flowing in. For college football, money matters more than anything.

Oh, wait. You thought I was going to say tradition? You’re adorable!

Traditions in college football have been dying over the last 20-plus years with conference realignment, where teams are jumping to other conferences, abandoning long-time rivalries for more money, as their old conference slowly decays like an abandoned Olympic venue.

Late last week, word came that Texas and Oklahoma were bolting to the SEC, and on Monday, told the Big 12 Conference it would not renew its media rights in 2025.

My work in radio took me out to Oklahoma from August 2016 to 2018, and those people live for the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State rivalry, hate Texas, and for Sooner fans, the expectation is always Big 12 championship, while in Stillwater, Cowboys fans dream of reaching that point.

With the move imminent, this will cause another seismic shift in college football. When Texas and Oklahoma leave, other schools in the Big 12 will try to go elsewhere. Thoughts are some like West Virginia would try to get into the ACC, Kansas into the Big Ten (for the basketball. Don’t be naive) and maybe Oklahoma State goes further west to the Pac 12.

Either way, it is gonna be a mess.

The Big 12 has done very little to keep up with the other major conferences.

Their TV deal is awful. While the SEC and ACC have their own networks through ESPN, the Big Ten has one via Fox Sports. And while the Pac 12 Network isn’t that sexy, the conference at least has a presence. If Texas had any decency, or cared just a little about their current conference, they would have restructured the Longhorn Network with ESPN to become the Big 12 Network.

As the other big conferences expanded, the Big 12 was content to watch Nebraska bolt for the Big Ten, Colorado to the Pac 12, and Texas A&M and Missouri head to the SEC, while doing nothing to fill the void.

Programs like Cincinnati, UCF, BYU and Houston are looking a lot of better after today, huh?

I mentioned the three American Athletic Conference teams because the Big 12 is going in the direction of the AAC. Maybe the impending square dance will see the American crumble as the Big Ten, ACC and Pac 12 try to keep pace with the Goliath SEC.

As a Notre Dame fan, it’s fun to watch the chaos, but the Irish did get a taste of playing football in the ACC during the 2020 pandemic season, and with rumblings of an expanded 12-team College Football Playoff that would work against them, maybe they finally say goodbye to Independence someday?

Here’s your Mix & Match Monday: Week of July 26 Edition

The Summer Olympics are happening, even though they shouldn’t be happening, but they are fun to watch. Sports we only care about every four years (five in this case) re-enter our lives.

Gymnastics always get the eyeballs, along with swimming.

The one event I would never see myself wanting to do is the Triathlon. I watched part of it over the weekend, and it looks painful. Biking, swimming and running.

I’m good. I’ll just eat my $20 pizza and watch them nearly fall over from exhaustion…

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-Why are the “Shrek” movies on every weekend now? Don’t get me wrong, I liked the original as a kid and the second one was good, but I never got into any of the other films in the franchise, but it feels like Viacom’s cable channels are just scheduling “Shrek” marathons each Saturday. One weekend, it is on Comedy Central, then Paramount the next.

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-The NHL Draft was a couple days ago. Watched the first ten picks and then watched something else.

In other hockey news, this guy will look to lead the U.S. to a gold medal in next year’s Winter Olympics…

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-The NFL told its unvaccinated players that if they cause a COVID-19 outbreak, their team could end up forfeiting games? GOOD!

In 2020, there was no vaccine and the league had outbreaks on teams. In that situation, all you can do is change schedules and move games to complete the season. Now that we got a vaccine, that is free and widely available, there’s no excuse for postponements. The league isn’t going to move games to Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Crowds will be back and I am not watching Steelers-Ravens on a Wednesday afternoon again.

Also, this talk of them putting something in their body they’re not sure about. Give me a break. Like they’re not doing that already.

Mix & Match Monday: Release the Kraken!

It’s been known for a while that the National Hockey League was getting a new team in the Seattle Kraken for the 2020-21 season. After the remainder of the 2019-20 season and the 2020-21 season were both impacted by the pandemic, having an expansion draft this week is a sign that the league is getting back to normal for the 2021-22 season.

You gotta give it to the NHL. They beat the NFL, NBA and MLB when getting a franchise in Las Vegas, and they now have 32 team. That is the same number of teams currently in the NFL and two more than the NBA and MLB.

As for the latest team to join the NHL, the Seattle Kraken are not waiting until the expansion draft to unveil their home jersey…

There were a lot of fan-made versions, and most were spot on. It’s not a bad jersey, as its colors do go well with the Seattle area. Perhaps a little darker teal green to match the Seahawks and Mariners would have been nice.

The expansion draft is going to be interesting, especially after watching the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017 make picks and put a team together that made the Stanley Cup Final in its inaugural season. Not only did Vegas have their pick of talent, but for the Seattle expansion draft, they are exempt from it. The Golden Knights are definitely on a heater going into their 5th season.

If you have seen the new Apple TV+ show “Schmigadoon“, this screen grab captures how fans feel going into Wednesday night.

Was I OK when the Penguins put Marc-Andre Fleury at-risk knowing he would go to Vegas? Sure. Am I now, in hindsight, wanting him to come back to Pittsburgh after the success he has had out there and the goalie struggles his old team has had? Well, yeah. Maybe he’ll do the farewell season in Pittsburgh before his retirement.

Here’s your Mix & Match Monday: Week of July 19 Edition

-Going into the first weekend after the All-Star break, Reds fans here in Cincinnati were hungry for a three-game sweep of the Brewers, who coming in, were four games ahead of the Reds for first place in the National League Central. By late Sunday afternoon, Milwaukee left with a three-game sweep, erasing the ground Cincinnati made up before the break.

The Mets are in town this week. Let’s see how that goes.

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-I joined TikTok this past week. I had two-straight days off, I was bored and had to see what all the hype was around it.

I’ve been on Facebook since 2008, Twitter since 2010 and while I downloaded Instagram around 2011, I didn’t start using it fully until a few years ago. After spending some time on Tik Tok and making a few videos for my page from old videos on my phone, I’ve come to realize that while there are some talented people making videos, a majority are just annoying. Also, the thirst traps! ALL THE THIRST TRAPS!

Anyway, my page is “gallagherradio” if you wanna follow.

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-If the Summer Olympics in Tokyo over the next two weeks teaches us anything, it is that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over. It is easy to sit in the U.S. and think “well, everything’s open again so it must be done”. Nope! Cases are up because people continue to dodge vaccinations and the delta variant is infecting them, while other countries deal with the variant and are trying to secure vaccines.

The people who are simply avoiding the vaccine out of ignorance make me angry enough, but the fact that the U.S. secured enough vaccine doses for every resident, and we just let them go to waste while other countries suffer could make me rage.

It’s the old “there are starving people in Africa” line from your parents when you wouldn’t eat your vegetables as a kid. Now, too many people are pushing vaccines aside as people die. Not a good look, America.

Back to the Olympics. Why are we doing this? I understand the notion of these athletes training hard for years to make it to the games, but they will compete in front of nobody in a city where the majority of people didn’t want the Olympics to go on as planned.

Instead of looking forward to the events, we have to hold our breath every day hoping no American athlete gets booted due to a positive test.

If it wasn’t the International Olympic Committee’s greed that destroyed the spirit of these games, COVID is doing it.

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-Ending on a happy note, weather-wise, it is supposed to be nice this week and I won’t feel like I’m melting every time I step outside with lower humidity.

Mix & Match Monday: Hey Now, You’re An All-Star (Sitting out the Game)

Major League Baseball has really been the first professional sports league to return to a pre-pandemic setting in 2021. Stadium are filling up again, there was a slight inconvenience to the schedule early on due to the virus, but everything has been staying on track.

Now, we’ve reached the All-Star break. The Home Run Derby and the game used to be appointment-viewing for me as a kid. As an adult, I still watch parts of them, but with the lack of enthusiasm I had in my younger, innocent years.

There are reasons to be excited for the game on Tuesday night. The biggest is Shoehi Ohtani, who has been a pitching and hitting phenomenon so far this season, as he starts for the American League and will also lead-off at the plate.

Outside of this, the All-Star Game has lost its muster of the years. There are several reasons why I feel this way.

One is obviously the introduction of Interleague play 25 years ago, ending the regular season segregation of the National and American Leagues. Another is cable television, which allows viewers to see the big names that generations before rarely got to see with network television dictating which games were covered. Along with those two reasons, there’s also the reality that players these days make more than enough money where they don’t care about winning the All-Star game, let alone playing in it.

Players like Jacob deGrom, Mookie Betts, Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley and other notable names have decided to sit out. On top of that, the unfortunate ACL tear for Atlanta Braves Ronald Acuna Jr. this past weekend takes him out of the National League starting lineup.

The Home Run Derby is always a fun event to watch, but the All-Star game has lost its competitiveness. Major League Baseball tried the incentive of the winning league’s team getting home field in the World Series to make it better, but it didn’t.

Here’s your Mix & Match Monday: Week of July 12 Edition

-As a Pittsburgh Pirates fans, I wish I could be more optimistic as they held the first overall pick in the Major League Baseball Draft Sunday night. Nothing against Louisville catcher Henry Davis, but just knowing the organization current ownership has no interests in spending money on good players, I fear he and other draft picks that work their way through the minors and make a splash in Pittsburgh will just end up with the Yankees or Dodgers at the height of their careers. Just look at Gerrit Cole.

Excuse me while I dump cold water on the Pirates draft, so far…

The Pirates have only made the playoffs three times since their NLCS appearance in 1992, and that winning period between 2013 and 2015 made me less cynical about the team, but once the 2015 squad lost in the N.L. Wild Card game, they blew the team up, doing its version of wash, rinse, repeat, which means several years or rebuilding and possibly making the postseason again at some point. The Pirates are not the only team that operates like this, but my distaste for Bob Nutting results in tunnel vision.

Also, the Major League Baseball draft is trying to hard to be like the NFL Draft. The concept that you hold the draft mid-season doesn’t make sense.

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-The Tampa Bay Lightning, as expected, won the Stanley Cup for the second-straight season, becoming only the second team to win back-to-back titles in the National Hockey League’s post-lockout era. The other being the 2016 and 2017 Pittsburgh Penguins.

In my opinion, the Penguins back-to-back titles is slightly more impressive. I would argue that because they had to play a full, 82-game season both years makes its more impressive, especially with the wear-and-tear the game has on teams.

If you want to make the argument the Lightning’s consecutive Cup wins is more impressive, you have a pretty good one. Dealing with a pandemic, winning inside a bubble with no fans in October 2020, and then having a shortened 56-game season with altered divisions.

The main argument: Which scenario was tougher?

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-After the events of the Euro 2020 Final, I had a mixed reaction. The first was feeling bad for England, at their 55-year International title drought continues, but also, the terrible reality that there would be some racists English fans who would direct their anger at black players Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho, after all three failed to score during penalty kicks, which decided the championship, and it happened.

Racism in European soccer isn’t anything new, and while FIFA and other organizations have pushed to end it, some use it as a weapon to express their anger and disappointment after a major loss like the one England experienced Sunday night.

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-It took forgetting black trash bags the fourth-straight time for me to start writing things down that I need at the store. Over the past week or two, I left the store without something I originally went in there to get. I got coffee beans, but forgot to get Stevia. I bought aluminum foil, but forgot the garbage bags. Getting old sucks.

Mix & Match Monday: “But Look, I Made You Some Content”

I think in last week’s post, I made the comment that there was nothing good on Netflix right now. It turns out I was wrong.

Bo Burnham’s new special “Inside” was highly-recommended by friends, co-workers and the podcasts I listen to.

On Sunday night, I finally watched it and really enjoyed it. Along with Burnham’s clever song-writing, the editing caught the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on people’s mental health, as Burnham shared his own battles with it in the past.

I think I’ve listened to his songs “Content” and “White Woman’s Instagram” about a dozen times since watching the special.

When he gets to the chorus in “Content”, it cracks me up. In the special, he’s in the dark, wearing one of those flashlights coal miners wear on their helmets around his head, pointing it up at a disco ball, creating the “content”. Burhman is saying “I know you don’t care that I’m depressed and you content junkies just need something shiny to look at!”.

While there’s no good video of the opening song “Content”, there is one for “White Woman’s Instagram”…

Well, as Burnham would say, “Look, I made you some content”…

Here’s your Mix & Match Monday: Week of July 5 Edition

Did you have Monday off? Well, lucky you! You needed that third, extra day to drink yourself silly and shoot fireworks. But seriously, good on you for having a profession where your work is not essential during national, religious or federal holidays. You’ve made it!

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-I would imagine most dog owners have not made it to a fireworks show on the 4th of July in years. Not all dogs, but most dogs I’ve come into contact with hate this holiday because of the noise fireworks and other explosives make. It’s hard to watch them pant at a fast rate and do circles knowing all you can do is try to comfort them until your neighbors runs out of stuff to blow up or scream in agony when they blow their fingers off and have to go to the hospital.

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Joey Chestnut continues to remind us that nobody overrates on a holiday like he does. He ate 76 hot dogs during the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest Sunday. He’s a competitive eater, but I feel for the bathroom that gets a visit from him the hours and day or two after the contest.

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-I learned this weekend that I inherited something from my father: his attitude while trying to move a couch through thresholds and up stairs. My girlfriend asked if I could help her move her old couch, and of course I said “Yes”. The challenge was getting it through a narrow threshold and up a narrow staircase. After some time, I got irritated and wasn’t very pleasant to be around, leading to a couple of apologies from me to her. “It’s not you I’m mad at, it’s the f***ing couch”, I said.

The couch wound up in the basement.

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-The NHL’s time on NBC will be ending at some point this week with the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Final after being the U.S. television carrier for the league since 2005. As a long-time hockey fan, I still remember watching games on the Outdoor Life Network, which later became Versus, then NBC Sports Network. I remember growing up in Pittsburgh being in anguish when the Penguins were on OLN or Versus only and our cable company didn’t have it yet. My dad mocked it saying during the Outdoor Life Network year, there would be cows grazing behind the studio hosts.

It has been announced that NBC Sports Network will cease to exist come 2022, as sports content moves to USA Network and Peacock. This cable channel during its run with hockey had a shorter life than Brood X Cicadas.

The NHL’s years on NBC have been good overall, with the network giving the league a home as it came out of a lockout that wiped out the entire 2004-05 season.

ESPN and Turner Sports have coverage the next seven seasons, and based on their reputations, the NHL, on far-better ground now than it was 16 years ago, is in great hands, but has NBC to thank for helping them grow the game.

Mix & Match Monday: Is this How A Team From Canada Finally Wins a Stanley Cup?

There is a lot that can be said about the 2021 NHL season. For the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it hasn’t been dull.

This season, four different divisions were created, with all seven teams in Canada in one due to COVID-19 issues, and teams just played the ones within their divisions all season long and through the second round of the playoffs.

Somehow, the Montreal Canadiens made good use of the system. They were the 4th-seed in the North Division, and found a way to come back against Toronto, sweep Winnipeg and send the Golden Knights packing, landing in their first Stanley Cup Final since 1993, which also marks the last time a team from Canada won it all.

On paper, Tampa Bay should win this Final in five games, but with Montreal on its current hockey heater, you can’t rule them out. I’ve done it all spring and have looked foolish each time.

Here’s your Mix & Match Monday: Week of June 28 Edition…

-My future brother-in-law’s bachelor party in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland was a good time. Very low-key, several games of cornhole with a lot of beer drinking. Played “hot potato” for the first time ever. Everyone is in a circle tossing around a beer that’s been shaken up. You drop it, you chug it. I lost three or four times. The first two go down easy, but after that, your stomach is fighting off the IPAs you drank earlier, along with the burgers, hot dogs and junk food. At 32, I was the second-oldest person there. My other brother-in-law saved me by being older by about 1.5 years.

As a Pittsburgh native, that was my first trip to Deep Creek, which is only a two-hour drive, and I wish I made more trips there in the past. Currently living in Cincinnati, the drive was about five hours. It was an excuse to put in a good-sized Sheetz order at the Triadelphia, West Virginia location off the interstate.

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-On Thursday night, my girlfriend and I attended the Reds-Braves game, and it turned out to be a good time and good game. We didn’t get there until after first pitch since we got caught up in the new DORA at the Banks. There’s nothing like going to a baseball game, especially after we couldn’t go at all last season.

You can’t beat the view from the 400 level behind home plate at Great American Ballpark.

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-I‘ll be honest, I know who is in the NBA Playoffs still, but I’m not really following it. I guess I will pull for the Phoenix Suns.

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-Last week, I talked about it being “air conditioning” season, and its out in full force. The first bill for the summer is $51 for my one-bedroom apartment. I’d try to live without it, but the humidity has me surrendering to the conditioned air and higher bills.

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-Netflix needs to step up its game. I’m not too thrilled with the latest selection. On Sunday night, I tuned into “Fresh, Fried and Crispy”, a traveling food show hosted by Daym Drops, the Grandfather of Food Reviews on YouTube, where he is eating a lot of fried food around the country.

Now, all that food he eats looks amazing and anything that is fried is delicious, but I also remember that I’m someone who tries to avoid eating a lot of fried foods, so while watching this show, I’m also thinking about what this stuff is doing to his arteries.

This is where I’ve landed while waiting for the next season of “Big Mouth” to drop.

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-I have been taking advantage of my free year of Apple TV+.

I just finished season 2 of “Mythic Quest”, started season 2 of “Central Park” (if you like “Bob’s Burgers”, you’ll like that show) and “Physical” which just premiered over a week ago. The one I am really excited for is season 2 of “Ted Lasso”. This was the kind of show people needed during the pandemic and this season (and the 3rd season already ordered) should be great, too!

How Long Before First Pitch Do You Go into the Ballpark?

For the first time since 2019, just like almost everyone else in the country, I’m going to a baseball game this week. My girlfriend and I got tickets to the Reds-Braves game at Great American Ballpark Thursday night, and I am really looking forward to it. I’m not a fan of either team, but it’s a sporting event and I only went to one of them during the pandemic (Bengals game in December against the Cowboys), so seeing a sport played in-person is welcomed. I’m also hoping to see a pitcher temper tantrum when they get randomly checked for sticky substances. Maybe one will drop their pants?

A couple of days ago, the two of us discussed what time we would go down to the Banks and where we could grab dinner and a few drinks before going into the stadium. The conversation also included a game in August I bought tickets for that day, as my parents and a few others are coming in from Pittsburgh when the Reds play the Pirates. I mentioned to my girlfriend about what the plan was for that day before the game and included when we’d go into the ballpark before first pitch that night.

Long story short, my girlfriend is that person that shows up right as the game starts and I’m insane for going through the gate any earlier than that.

I did throw out to her that there are different scenarios that determine when you go into the stadium.

There is the one I have this August: The Visiting Friends and/or Family…

These people have likely never been to the city they are visiting you in, so you want to be a decent tour guide. For me, taking the knowledge I have of that place after living there for some time, while bullshitting part of the way through. This scenario, you go in 30 to 45 minutes before the first pitch so they can see the ballpark, walk around and see everything. My dad and I did the same thing at RFK Stadium when the Washington Nationals were there. It was a dump, but we had never been there. My dad probably watched the Washington Football Team on T.V. when they were winning Super Bowls there in the 1980s. We did the same thing at Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, Camden Yards and other ballparks we visited in years past.

The Get-Together with Local Friends

Oh, how I’ve missed this over the past year!

This is the group that you hit the bars with before the game. The Banks in Cincinnati, the area where Great American Ballpark sits, has several bars and restaurants and recently, a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area, or D.O.R.A., was set up to help those places as we comes out of the pandemic. You drink the gameday discount pounders at those establishments because a pounder is near or more than $10 at the stadium these days.

You roll into the ballpark about 10-15 minutes before the game. This allows buzzed you to figure out which way your section is, stop in the bathroom, get that marked-up beer and slide into your seat as the mangers exchange lineup cards.

The Solo Trip to the Ballpark

If you haven’t done this, do it at least once in your life.

Get a ticket and go to a baseball game by yourself. You make your own schedule, you decide when you go into the stadium and can check out different sight-lines from different parts of the park. I could easily go to hockey games by myself each and every time, but baseball is slow and you need that person to chat with. That’s why this is a one-time experience.

The Full Experience

I’ve never really fallen into this category, but there are those who go in right as the gates open, take in batting practice, attempt to catch a few home runs and truly enjoy the full price of the ticket. For ballparks not located around an entertainment district, this make a lot of sense.

I do remember years ago going to Camden Yards early and witnessed the large number of people in the right field seats and concourse where the warehouse is, watching Vladimir Guerrero just destroy balls during warmups.

The “So What Time Does it Actually Start?” Game

(See the second paragraph of this blog post)

How many minutes until first pitch do you go into a baseball stadium?

Mix & Match Monday: Woops! Forgot Last Week

Well, I broke a rule I set for myself. I missed doing a blog post last Monday. It was part laziness and the other part exhaustion from a different work schedule. It was also the day of my birthday, so I get a pass, right? Right?

Anyway…Here’s your Mix & Match Monday: Week of June 21 Edition…

-I turned 32 last week and really didn’t do anything for my birthday. Birthdays after a certain age are no longer celebrated the same way each year.

I think Patton Oswalt put it best…

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-My plan to get rich quick by winning the Ohio Vax-a-Million lottery appears to be failing. There is one last drawing coming up today and the winner will be announced on Wednesday night. I’ve learned that the winner of the $1 million prize has some kind of interaction with the Governor. The most recent winner FaceTimed with him.

If I do win, just text me a couple of money bag emojis.

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-I don’t know if an Islanders-Canadiens Stanley Cup Final would be good on paper, but might be better for television ratings. Nothing against the Vegas Golden Knights or defending champion, the Tampa Bay Lightning, but New York and Montreal, two teams nobody saw making it to the Stanley Cup Semifinals in a season unlike others in the past, are peaking at the right time.

Both semifinal seres are 2-2 as of this post, so they have at least been entertaining.

It is still strange to see Vegas, Tampa and New York all back to full capacity crowds and Montreal is still limited to around 3,000 fans. Come on, Trudeau! 75 percent of Canadians have at least one vaccine dose, and two out of ten are fully vaccinated. Just give the second doses out at Tim Horton’s or something.

Maybe get Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews to help out like when Sidney Crosby and Nate MacKinnon worked at a Tim Horton’s drive-thru several year ago.

McDavid and Matthews have had a lot of downtime the past couple weeks…

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-We are at the start of air conditioning season, and that means the electric bill will experience its annual summer bump. Having an apartment means the electric bill is reasonable, but from June thru August, it doubles, and almost tripled two summers ago.

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-Later this week, I’m heading to Deep Creek in Maryland for my future brother-in-law’s bachelor party. For as hot as it has been, it will feel more like spring while we’re there. The latest weather check had temperatures in the 70s on day one, with a high of 69 the second day. Maybe I won’t need all that sunscreen, after all. That’s a lie, I burn easily.

UPDATE: Both days will be in the upper 70s now. Gotta love when a forecast 5 days out changes for the better.

Earlier this year, I think Saturday Night Live wrote the unofficial anthem for bachelor parties…

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-I will be attending my first Reds game since 2019 this Thursday night and I’m really looking forward to it. Although, my girlfriend and I had a debate going Sunday night when making plans for what to do before the game while in the Banks, the area around Great American Ballpark that has bars, restaurants, etc. That debate is “How long before first pitch until you go into the ballpark?”

Chew on that for a bit. Another blog post is coming this week about that.