Tuesday, December 24, 2013

"Friends", "Family", and Cutting Ties

Over the past few months, I’ve gone through a really rough patch in my life. I’ve lost two consecutive jobs, battled financial problems, dealt with family issues, was forced to live on the street for a period of time, which led to it being damn near impossible to find new employment, and things sort of just spiraled downhill from there. I am a firm believer that there is always a silver lining to any situation, and that when it rains, it pours on the just and un-just alike. All of these hardships have caused me to have more and more reflection on the people that I have called my friends and family for my entire life. These people that I helped in their time(s) of need, yet when I found myself in a similar situation, no one chose to reciprocate those actions on myself. I say all that to reflect on what truly defines a friend? What truly defines a family?

Of course, every person on Earth is given a biological mother and father. This is a necessity in order for the human species to reproduce. That being said, there are several instances where the biological parents of a child are simply not in that child’s life, whether it be a tragic accident, where children were lucky enough to live with an alternate primary care-giver, or they became orphans. As I realize accidents do happen, and any time a parent or parents are taken away from a child, it is tragic, and no more stressful than if a child was voluntarily given up for adoption. However, the purpose of this blog is more to explain how I dealt with friends and family giving up on me when I hit a rough patch in my life, and how I was able to realize that your friends and family are those who care about you, and stand by you through thick and thin, regardless of your blood-relation to them. I want to shed as much light on how I made it through this tough decision / process so that I may be able to help anyone who is going through something similar. Even if just one person is touched by this blog entry, then it was worth it.

Let’s start with family, which to me was the hardest to cope with. For starters, I’ve always had some sort of unexplainable passion to impress my parents; make them proud. Yet, as time went on, I realized that through accomplishment after accomplishment, they were never satisfied, and always told me I should’ve done better. For example, if I achieved a B grade in a class in high school, they would ask why it wasn’t an A. Now, to an extent, this is a motivational tool. However, it quickly crossed over from being a motivational tool to giving me the impression that no matter what I did, it would never be good enough for them, until that developed into realizing that every single time I spoke to my parents, I felt worse afterwards than I had before. In my opinion, your family should be the first people you seek out for advice, or support. Unfortunately, my family members after the first people to offer criticism and judgment. So, the next question is, do I need a break from my family, or do I need to cut ties with them completely. This is a tough question. Every case is different, but you need to decide if your parents make you feel that badly about yourself, would some time off from them be the best scenario, or have things gotten so out of control that you cannot facilitate communication with them any longer. In my case, I took a few breaks from them, and then attempted to re-kindle the relationship, each time hoping that things would change for the better. Each time I was disappointed; nothing had changed. At this point, you need to decide if you want to simply deal with the ridicule and judgment because they are your parents, and you only get one mother and one father, or if you want to cut them out of your life completely. The latter is a much more difficult decision, but sometimes it is simply the best action you can take if you want to truly move forward in life and maximize your potential.

Next, there are “friends”. To me, this is a much simpler situation than the tough decisions that accompany deciding whether or not to speak to your family members ever again. A friend is someone who is there for you, and even on your worst day, can pick you back up, and be there for you. As such, you should do the same for that friend. When the situation turns into your ability to overlook your “friend’s” lack of commitment or willingness to do the same for you as you would for them, then it is quite easy. He/she is not your friend anymore. Now, whether or not you want to specifically tell that person that you want to cut ties with them, and wish them the best in their future endeavors is up to you. The approach I take is to simply stop reaching out to them. The “communication door” swings both ways, and if you stop contacting this “non-friend”, the odds are that they will not contact you either, and then the friendship can slowly terminate over time without any confrontation, or anyone’s “feelings” getting hurt. This approach is somewhat passive-aggressive, but I find that if you’re ready to cut a “non-friend” out of your life, you already do not care enough to get upset and start a confrontation over the situation, so why not let it end amicably and without notice.

None of this should be taken as scripture, or fact. There is no right or wrong way to make these decisions, or the methods on how to implement them. I just know that if I had been able to read someone else’s opinions about what I was going through recently in both of these situations, it might have made it easier on me to know that this happens to other people, that you are not the only one in the world with family or friend troubles, and that you do have the strength to make a tough decision that will ultimately make you a better and stronger person.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Building A Winner, Or Bleeding Fans Dry?

I've been a fan of the Buffalo Bills for as long as I can remember, but only old enough, and intelligent enough to realize what I'm watching for the last ten, or so, years. In that time, I've watched my team fail to reach the playoffs each and every season. Maybe one of those teams in the last decade came close to achieving a Wild Card berth, but for the most part, the Buffalo Bills have been a failure for as long as I have been following the team. It would be one thing if the team hit a rough spot for the last ten years, but it gets much worse than that. The Buffalo Bills have failed the reach the playoffs for the last 14 seasons. Yes, that is currently the longest streak in the National Football League. After watching the Houston Texans defeat the New York Jets this Monday night, I find myself asking the question, "Why can't we do that?".

Why can't the Buffalo Bills find undrafted players like Arian Foster, whom in the last five years has led the NFL in all rushing categories, except rushing yards, in which he is in second place behind Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Why can't the Buffalo Bills draft like the Houston Texans? A team that lost their marquee defensive player in the off-season (to the Buffalo Bills no less), and yet they haven't missed a beat. Their first round draft pick from a year ago (J.J Watt from Wisconsin) has filled that hole quite admirably. You wouldn't even know that the Houston Texans lost their best defensive player to free agency, as they trumped the Jets to boost their record to 5-0, one of only two undefeated teams this year in the NFL.

Does the Buffalo Bills front office actually WANT to put a quality product on the field, or are they O.K. with achieving a high bottom-line in their finance book? Buffalo has some of the most loyal fans in all of professional football, yet year after year they are rewarded with a sub-par product on the football field. They signed an average, run of the mill quarterback to a 50 million dollar contract a season ago, and for what reason? I doubt any other NFL team would have offered Ryan Fitzpatrick a blockbuster deal like the Bills did, so why wouldn't they sign him to a modest contract for two or three years and see how things pan out? Why? Because that would just make sense, and if one thing is certain, it is that the Buffalo Bills' ownership has made a number of decisions over the last twenty years that simply haven't made sense. Bad draft after bad draft, hiring a coach who led the Buffalo Bills to three consecutive 7-9 seasons, and then extending that coach's contract for another three seasons. Apart from this season, not doing ANYTHING during the offseason to help make the team better, when holes are presented from years of bad drafting.

I know I sound like a hypocrite, because I'll be there every Sunday with my #99 Marcel Dareus jersey on (one of the few quality draft picks us Bills fans can hang our hat on), cheering my team on like any other loyal fan would, but at some point, something has to get better. This team has got to show myself, and other Buffalo Bills fans around the country that the team is heading in the right direction, and that the last two decades of heartbreak are close to an end. To put it bluntly, I have yet to see that this team is headed in the right direction, and that this franchise is committed to winning.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Major League Baseball and the All-Star Game

I have been a baseball fan my entire life. Not only a fan of playing the sport, but of watching it played at the highest level as well. I started playing baseball when I was three years old, and continued playing through high school, college, and I dabble into wooden-bat adult leagues even now. Because of this, I follow Major League Baseball very closely, and have rather strong opinions about certain aspects of the professional game. For those of you who watch professional baseball, you know that the All-Star game was played last night, with the National League beating the American League for the third straight year, with a final score of 8-0. It was while watching on television and listening on the radio coverage and opinions of the All-Star game, and what it has developed into, that I decided to come off of the fence, and pick a side of a much debated topic. Should the All-Star game mean something concrete, and if so, how should it be accomplished?

For decades, Major League Baseball's All-Star game has been an exhibition game that carried no significance other than the honor that goes along with being selected by the fans as one of the top players in the game for that particular season. Many "baseball pundits" have debated the ongoing discussion of why the game has come to mean less and less as years passed, and why the players care less and less about participating. As a result of these never-ending debates, and the topic constantly rearing its ugly head, Major League Baseball's commissioner, Bud Selig, decided to implement a new rule/feature of the All-Star game, giving what was once a fun exhibition game for the fans huge merit. This rule states that whichever league wins the All-Star game shall be given home-field advantage in that year's World Series. So, if the American League wins the All-Star game, whichever team represents the American League will receive home-field advantage in the World Series.

This was such a terrible move by Bud Selig, that I could write forever about how awful of a decision this was, and why the All-Star game should have remained the way it was, and how this impacts Major League Baseball in a negative fashion. However, since I don't have forever, and you certainly wouldn't be reading forever, I'll focus on the main reason why this move was heinous. Essentially, it is the luck of the draw for whatever teams make it to the World Series. A team's previous record in the regular season, or in the playoffs is worthless. There is absolutely no correlation between the teams that made it to "The Show", and whether or not they boast home-field advantage. Actions performed by players for teams that might not even make the playoffs dictate which team gets an extra game at home, despite that team's accomplishments which ultimately led to their being at the World Series. For example, last night, Melky Cabrera was voted the All-Star game's Most Valuable Player, based on his strong night at the plate, going 2-3 with a 2-run home-run. Melky Cabrera plays for the San Francisco Giants, a team that has struggled mightily this season, and unless something drastic happens, will most likely miss the playoffs. That's right, a player on a team that won't even sniff the playoffs is the reason for whatever National League team DOES make the World Series will receive home-field advantage over their American League opponent.

It may seem like I'm beating a dead horse, but that's how little sense this change to the midsummer classic makes to me. Teams and players that have no business deciding which team should receive the extra game at home (which should be decided based on a team's regular season, playoff, or combined record) are deciding that outcome. Bud Selig has been Major League Baseball's commissioner for several years now, and it seems as though he feels he is entitled to make whatever decision he sees fit, whether the fans agree or not. He has been questioned about this very topic several times in numerous interviews, and every time he either dodges the question, or chalks up some extremely weak answer as to why this change was made, and why it will stay this way. The All-Star game needs to go back to its traditional value. A venue where players are recognized for their exceptional performance, and nothing more.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Buffalo Bills Sign Mario Williams

Hello to the extremely small viewing audience, if any audience at all, that I have accrued while starting my very first blog ever. It has been a while since my last entry, as I've had a lot of changes recently in my life. However, I'm sure this blog is boring enough as is, so I won't worsen it by discussing my life's details. I've chosen to focus this particular entry on my favorite NFL football team, the Buffalo Bills, and one of their most recent activities during this off-season; the signing of the top free agent available, and arguably one of the best players in the National Football League, Mario Williams.

If you follow the NFL, then you needn't any explanation in regards to Mario Williams, however, I'm going to assume that there will be at least one person who visits this blog that doesn't know about the NFL, or sports in general, so I'll tailor this explanation for those individuals. In today's NFL, rushing the quarterback has become one of the most important facets of a team's defense. Being able to get to, and sack the opposing team's quarterback is essential to disrupting the opposition's offense. The more you can disrupt the timing of their offensive unit, the more it rattles the quarterback, which ultimately leads to less time that the other team possesses the football, and less points that they score. Obviously, football is a team sport, so no single player can do it by themselves, but the most important position when it comes to rushing the passer is Defensive End. A defensive end (or DE) is responsible for stopping the run at times, but more importantly to get past the offensive tackle that is trying to block him, and sack the quarterback. Naturally, if rushing the quarterback is a cornerstone to creating a successful defense, and the most important position relating to this goal is defensive end, then obviously DE's are highly sought after, and stand to make a great deal of money.

Mario Williams was the #1 overall draft pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, selected by the Houston Texans. Through six season with the Texans, Williams racked up 241 tackles, and 53 sacks. He became a force to be reckoned with on the defensive line, and blossomed into one of the, if not the best DE in the National Football League. After his sixth season with the Texans, his contract was up, and he decided to test the waters of free agency. Williams' first stop was Buffalo, and the Bills front office apparently did such an amazing job of recruiting him, that he never left, and signed a 6-year, $100 million dollar contract with the Bills. Now let's focus on why this is such a huge deal for the Bills.

First and foremost, the Buffalo Bills added a premiere pass rusher to their defensive unit. A unit that had a great deal of trouble sacking the quarterback in their previous year, proving to be one of the worst in the league in regards to number of sacks. However, the immediate talent that Williams brings to the table is only one of the many great things that his signing will add to the Bills for years to come. In a small-market city like Buffalo, it has been extremely difficult for the Bills to sign big-name free agents like Mario Williams, because for one the team has stunk for the last decade, and for two Buffalo doesn't exactly scream popularity like the cities of Miami or San Diego might. For those two reasons, the Bills haven't signed a big-name free agent in several years. However, now that one of the best players in the NFL has signed with Buffalo, it provides incentive for other players to follow suit. If Williams will sign with Buffalo, why not other players as well? Believe it or not, with a huge signing like Mario Williams, it has a huge impact on other players around the league. This is immediately supported by the second big signing of the Buffalo Bills this off-season, which was Mark Anderson, another DE, who played with the New England Patriots last season and racked up 10 sacks (definitely above average numbers). 

In summation, the Buffalo Bills definitely hit a home-run this off-season by signing Mario Williams, among other key free agents. His impact will be felt immediately with his talents on the football field, as well as long-term with his signing providing influence for other free agents to come to Buffalo as well. Naturally, with better talent, you would imagine that the Bills will put together a winning team, and with big-name players already on the Bills, and if the team starts winning and making the playoffs year in and year out, this will provide leverage for the team to sign more free agents, and lead to a winning frame-of-mind, and satisfaction for this long suffering Bills fan.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentine's Day - The Made-Up Holiday

There are a number of "holidays" in the calendar year, many of which America recognizes, and allow several working class citizens a day off from work, excluding retail employees of course. There is Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, etc. All of these "holidays" are celebrated, and as I said before, usually correlate with a day off from work. Then, you have other days that are considered a "special day", not like any other, but they don't necessarily equate to a day off from work. In the context of days like that, generally the first one that comes to mind is Valentine's Day. It is generally recognized by the American people as a "significant day", it comes with its own unique set of decorations, festivities, and traditions, and you won't find anyone missing work due to the occasion. 

With most holidays, people can choose whether or not to celebrate/recognize the day at their own discretion. Why is it, then, that there is such a huge build-up to Valentine's Day, accompanied with insane amounts of pressure? You'll start hearing about Valentine's Day, along with all of the special pricing on flowers, chocolates, and jewelry starting in early January! You'll be pressured to buy extravagant things for your significant other, or even just small cards or candies for your friends and/or co-workers whether you choose to recognize Valentine's Day or not. This is unlike ANY other holiday. You certainly wouldn't find people pushing you to recognize Christmas. Granted, that holiday is associated with a particular religion, but even holidays like Thanksgiving or President's Day aren't laced with the same level of peer pressure, or expectations. Those two holidays are directly associated with our country, yet you don't feel the same level of guilt if you were to not participate; and why?

Valentine's Day is double-edged sword. Obviously, I'm speaking from a man's point of view, so this is slightly biased. Women are generally expected to get something small for their boyfriend/husband, but the expectations are much, much greater for men. A man is expected to get the usual flowers, chocolates, and a sentimental card expressing his undying and unconditional love for his girlfriend/wife. Flowers are NOT cheap, by the way. Browsing for flowers online this year, I found that two dozen roses were selling for as high as $75.00 with a delivery date of February 14th. These prices were a direct result of Valentine's Day, because when I changed the delivery date to the 13th or the 15th, the price of flowers was cut in half. Now, after the man has purchased the basics, he is also expected to purchase some type of jewelry. In a lot of cases, he could probably get away with giving a very nice designer bag, but for the most part, jewelry is the preference of the receiving lady. Now, on the other end of the spectrum, a man could be single. This fact would certainly be great for his wallet, however, seeing endless ads on television, and witnessing the chaos around him for this retched day, he will start to reflect on his life, and consider himself worthless for not having anyone to give these ridiculous gifts to. He will drown his sorrows in a bottle of Jack Daniels, and attempt to forget the fact that nobody loves him.

Any way you slice it, Valentine's Day is extremely over-hyped. I have never been able to bring myself to understand why there is so much hype, and so many expectations for what is essentially a made-up "holiday". My tips for future February 14th's would be to keep it reasonable. Men with girlfriends/wives, there is nothing wrong with a nice card, some chocolates, and a small gift. I would also recommend ordering your flowers a week or two ahead of time. This will end up saving you A LOT of money. Men who are single, don't get swept up in all of the bullshit that surrounds you on this "holiday". Remind yourself that this is a made-up "holiday", and that it is essentially pointless. If you need help with this, come back to my blog next year. I'm sure I'll have another entry about how stupid Valentine's Day is.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Viral Video // Seven Teenagers Jump One Kid

I'm sure a number of you have seen and/or heard about this video, that has gone viral recently, about seven teenagers beating the ever-loving shit out of another teenager. They stomp on him, punch him in the face, and shove him into brick walls. Then, when he falls, they stomp on him, kick him in the head, kick him in his mid-section, and many other forms of assault and battery all at the same time and without remorse. If you haven't seen this video, you can watch it here. Please keep in mind that this video is extremely violent, and can be a little disturbing. You'll be watching one kid desperately trying to protect himself, and get away from the severe ass-beating he's being issued.

This entire situation makes my blood boil. It is being reported that this incident took place over a scuffle that occurred between the victim and some of the perpetrators; an incident that took place BACK IN OCTOBER! There is one girl in the video, whom police say lured the victim into a back alley, where the attack took place. If you haven't seen the video, the perpetrators have him cornered, and there is literally nowhere for him to go. After two to three minutes of being beaten senseless, the perpetrators stop for some reason, possibly to catch their breath. During this brief period, the victim tries to talk/reason with the perpetrators, but to no avail. They start to resume the attack, and that's when the victim sees an opportunity, and he makes a run for it. Thankfully, even after being beaten almost to the point of no return, he is strong enough to break into a full sprint, and fast enough to outrun everyone by a landslide to safety, but not before his shoes, wallet, and $180.00 in cash were stolen from him. He also suffered a laceration to his lip, and dozens of bruises and abrasions.

The main name that's being attached to the attack belongs to one of the perpetrators. His name is Raymond Palomino. Raymond's father, Michael Palomino, is a 30-year veteran of the police force. He chose not to "protect family", but to do the right thing. In this case, the right thing was to turn his son in to the authorities. Raymond was charged as an adult with one count of robbery, and one count of aggravated battery. His bail was set at $100,000. Since neither Raymond himself, or his father can either afford the bond note for his release from jail, he will remain there until his court date. I try not to wish harmful things upon other people, but I am GLAD this piece of shit is in jail. I wish all other six perpetrators were charged as adults, but unfortunately the others received the same charges as Raymond, only as juveniles rather than adults. Hopefully some time in jail will make Raymond Palomino realize how cowardly his actions were, and manage to pull his head out of his ass.

There is just no reason at all for seven people to attack one kid. They went above and beyond the point of just getting their message across. The kid endured several minutes of what seemed like an endless ass-whipping. The victim was in the fetal position on the ground, trying to cover his head and his mid-section at the same time while he was being kicked and stomped on at the same time. I know that if I was the victim, I would have been throwing punches at each and every one of them until I was knocked unconscious, or the attack ended. However, that's the problem. Not everyone can or would approach the situation like I would. The victim in this case is far smaller than I am, and he probably didn't feel like he could defend himself. All I can say is that I hope the justice system actually comes through this time. This is receiving insane amounts of national media attention, so I hope our judicial system comes through, and sends a message to any other punk kids out there who want to pull a stunt like this one. Let's hope that Raymond and his worthless friends receive a just punishment, and as I said before, make a solid attempt at dragging their heads out of their asses.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Ultimate Act of Kindness

An act of kindness by a complete stranger goes a long way, and should never go unappreciated. Whether it is opening the door for someone, holding that aforementioned door for someone when they are leaving, saying "Hello", to a complete stranger, or simply wishing someone "God bless you", when they sneeze, random acts of kindness say a lot about who someone is as a person, and it can really brighten up someone's day. That being said, these acts of kindness, compared to what I'm talking about, all fall short. I'm talking about an act that could end up saving you hundreds of dollars. I'm talking about an act in which the person performing it is risking trouble with law enforcement. I'm talking about an act that can unite drivers across the country. That's right, I'm talking about flashing your brights to warn fellow drivers about a speed trap.

First off, let's talk about how revolting, and downright wrong the concept of a speed trap is. Generally, they are set up in situations where people are more likely to speed, such as at the bottom of a hill, where the laws of nature say you will have an increased speed in relation to your current traveling velocity. They also negate the context an officer would have if he or she were cruising and caught you speeding. You are essentially at your worst possible moment, whereas if an officer is cruising, he or she could tell that you were going 10 MPH over the speed limit because you were approaching a steep incline.

I salute all of you that flash your brights to warn others of the complete and total atrocity, known as the "speed trap", that awaits you. Those of you who have been on the receiving end on such a gracious act by a fellow driver should stop and say small thank you for all of the trouble that kind person has averted you. The next time you make it passed a speed trap undeterred, I expect you to flash your brights to warn someone else who might not have been so lucky otherwise.

Some of you may think that I'm encouraging you to break the law, or that I'm a terrible person because of how I'm bad-mouthing speed traps. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, so I will refrain from calling those people idiots. However, I would bet an exorbitant amount of money that the next time you get pulled over, you will be wishing someone would've flashed their brights at you.