Breaking up is hard to do

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Is it really? All you have to do is quit showing up.

Years ago, I wound up leaving a part-time job like that. They didn’t take too kindly to me calling off one day on short notice, so they took me off the schedule until a sit-down talk could be arranged. As one with authority issues (and a larger need for sleep rather than extra cash from a second job) I just never showed my face there again.

Irresponsible? Probably, but I’m sure they had no problems either letting that part-time seasonable position sunset or hiring another minion to work for the next-to-nothing wage I sweated over.

Bad habits, though, take so much more. I’ve battled demons most would consider relatively tame yet sadly common … namely smoking and my all-too-messed-up relationship with food.

So what does it take to change? Well, try as we might, many of us never truly change. We can channel our energies into positive outlets for awhile, but sooner or later those bad habits creep back into the picture. And we end up right back where we started, or worse.

So what makes this time any different? I couldn’t even begin to speculate.

It was about two years ago that I was the picture of health, at least relative to where I had been. I had dropped more than 50 pounds, made a great friend in a trainer at a globo-gym in town and was even asked to do a before-and-after photo they could put on the wall (I said thanks but no thanks on that one). When my sessions with the trainer (read: money) ran out, he gave me a huge hug after our last round of torturous lunges. I even remember saying, “I’ve worked to hard to give up all the ground I’ve gained.”

And yet, here we are. Not quite at square one, but close. And getting closer by the day.

I’m hoping I’ve reached another turning point, this time turning the trajectory upward on this sine curve to climb the mountain again. I’m hoping the following days, weeks and months (years?) are filled with more successes than failures.

One thing I can promise, I won’t be referring to anything as a “journey.” “My weight loss journey!” “My fitness journey!” “My journey to JC Penney!” Yeah, yeah, yeah, we get it.

For now, it’s just my attempt to crawl out of this hole I’ve dug myself into, one burpee at a time.


Promised Land

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So I saw Promised Land today. World’s shortest review: Meh.

(spoiler alert)

I found the ending to be pretty silly. It allowed them to break out the classic plot twist (ohemgee the likable guy from the office is actually the bad twin!) and trot out the tired dogma of the evil, evil corporation.

Like I said. Meh.

Sports and TV: Show me the money

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And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

So the ACC wants to starts its own TV channel. The Big Ten and Pac-12 are already there and it’s clearly where the SEC is heading. Hell, the University of Texas has its own branded ESPN channel (that two years later has yet to be picked up by any major national cable/satellite provider).

I don’t doubt that the folks at the ACC — being tossed about the realignment carousel with Maryland out, Syracuse and Pitt in, and Notre Dame quasi-in — see it as a way to remain competitive financially as the other major college conferences cash in. Of course, they could just be like the Big East and ask for $300 million from ESPN for its unwatchable inventory of games. Might as well dream big, right?

Maury Brown had an interesting take on how mega-TV deals, at least in baseball, might be capping out.

Certainly MLB and college sports are different animals, but they are all in the same jungle chasing the same dollars.

Whether an ACC Network (or any of the other conference channels) has any value to consumers beyond broadcasting college football and certain men’s basketball games is a whole other topic. But it makes sense for leagues with their own networks to expand, if just for the added TV inventory.

But that’s not why these conference channels exist. It’s for money, that much is clear. But they cash in from the sports nerds like me just the same as the five people on your street that have never watched a college football game from start to finish. It’s all about the subscriber fees.

It’s estimated that as much as 40 percent of your monthly cable/satellite TV bill goes directly to sports programming providers, with the largest chunk going directly to ESPN. (Here’s an interesting breakdown of subscriber fees, though it’s from 2009).

This is where it gets downright delicious if you’re a TV executive. Since ESPN owns broadcasting rights for every major pro and college sports league (except the NHL), it can essentially charge whatever it wants. How many households would put a dish on their roof if they couldn’t get access to SportsCenter every night? Or NASCAR? Or many of the top college football games every Saturday in the fall? And on and on and on. The real beauty of it is that the content providers collect these large fees from every single subscriber, whether it’s the guy on the corner with a Buffalo Bills flag flying in his yard or the family across the street that thinks sports is a big waste of time. And, since their programming is the closest thing to DVR-proof (meaning large live audiences that aren’t skipping past commercials) in a desired demographic, they get to sell tons of lucrative advertising.

Pretty solid business plan, if you ask me.

College conferences, like the Big Ten and now ACC, want a piece of this action. And who could blame them? By the end of the decade, the Big Ten Network could be proving member schools with $15 million a year, per school!

But I wonder if we’re nearing a breaking point. There are many people already who have “cut the cord” and left their cable provider in the dust because of the ever-increasing monthly bills. Sure, you can stream Netflix and/or Hulu. You can download entire seasons of shows off iTunes for far less than what you might pay Comcast every month (though you’re probably still forking out cash every month to them for your Internet service). But in terms of live programming, unless it’s on a major broadcast network (remember them?) you’re all but shut out.

So, where is this all leading?

With the albeit major exception of the NFL, all of the major professional sports leagues (and many big colleges) have followed Major League Baseball’s lead in selling their regular-season inventory on the Internet. But even that isn’t a panacea, since blackout rules protect home market broadcasts (i.e., if you’re a Yankees fan living in New York, you would be blacked out from streaming any games involving New York teams).

I’d like to think we’re heading to a new era of choice, where consumers will be able to pick customized TV (or streaming) packages based on programming they actually find valuable. But, at least for now, there’s more money to be made bundling, so that’s what we’re stuck with.


OK, so some stuff isn’t easy to admit

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My name is Paul and I’m a carb addict. There, I said it.

I’m also addicted to cigarettes, shitty TV and anything sports (except soccer, not even a junkie like me can stomach that crap).

I’ve also been incredibly lazy and irresponsible over the last six months when it comes to my health. I’m not entirely sure why, but my well of resolve steadily dried up over the summer. A vacation to Las Vegas turned to indifference about working out once I got back. A trip to Massachusetts a month later saw me cave into cigarettes. And, unlike some other “smoking holidays” I’d allowed myself (generally my annual jaunt to Sin City, but every other miscellaneous time certainly involved alcohol) this time it stuck.

Smoking means you can’t work out like you want to. You don’t work out (and eat too much of the wrong stuff) and your weight starts to creep up. The more your weight creeps up, strangely the less you seem to care.

Which is how I managed to get myself into the position where I’m at right now.

Sure, I could blame stress. Since September, I’ve interviewed for a job I really, really wanted, convinced myself I didn’t want it (more like convinced myself I wouldn’t get it), sold my house, moved across the state (to a town where I really don’t know anybody), started the aforementioned job … so I pretty much hit the reset button on everything.

Except for the bad habits.

Because the reset button turned into a crutch. “Well, once the house is sold, I can afford to go back to the gym. But right now I should be conserving money in case the house doesn’t sell for awhile.” Probably sound financial advice, but it’s been disastrous for me. The inertia of laziness has continued.

And so have the bad habits.

I’m putting this all down because I want to be able to look back it in a month, two months, six months, a year and be able to pinpoint when I drew that line in the sand. Or at least recognized the need to do so.

I look at it as a three-pronged approach: diet, exercise and lifestyle.

I bristle at the word “diet.” I don’t mean dropping my calories to some unsustainable level and eating garbage … processed shit, low fat this, reduced fat that. No celery sticks and twigs for dinner, thank you. I mean “diet” more like the dictionary definition. The stuff you eat. Staying away from fast food, terrible snacky foods. Adopting the principles (and practice) of Paleo eating. (If you’ve somehow stumbled onto this corner of the Web and don’t know what I’m talking about, punch “Robb Wolf” into Google). Coke Zero, I will miss you. Dearly. But we both knew this day would come.

Exercise, to me, equals Crossfit. In my experience, it’s the most efficient and rewarding regimen I’ve ever come across. I’m no newbie at this, but I’m also not particularly advanced. I think I mentioned it on here before that the hardest thing about Crossfit is walking through the door the first time. This certainly qualifies. New gym, new area, new coaches, new people everywhere. It’s time.

Lifestyle is the third part of this, and smoking certainly falls into this part. It has to go. Period. No matter what. From when I was in college (and beyond) people would give me grief about it from time to time. That is so bad for you! And in my smartass way, I’d respond with something like, “I’m just expressing my faith in the state of modern medicine.” Well, that doesn’t sound so great coming out of somebody who’s 34.

Another aspect of lifestyle is sleep. Sleeping is important, but something I’ve been neglecting. Granted, it’s 5:15 a.m. as I’m typing this, but in fairness I was at the office until 4 (don’t ask).

As you can tell, I have a ton of work to do. Maybe “work” isn’t the right word.

I guess I have a lot of improving to do.

Onward and upward.

Baseball starved

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The other night I watched Game 7 of the 1987 World Series on my phone. Yeah, I was that hard up for a baseball fix.

This is the worst time of year if you’re a hardcore baseball fan. All the major player movements are all but over, your team still stinks and we’re still six weeks away from Spring Training. There has to be a league SOMEWHERE playing right now, right?

I’d even settle for more classic replays. Hear me, MLB Network? It would be better than the never-ending list shows. And it sure as hell would be better than the Hall of Fame hand-wringing that’s going on right now.

Hey, hockey is back!

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Looks like there will be some semblance of labor peace in the NHL. Yay.

There is a silver lining. Like most pro sports, the hockey season is far too long. Outside of division games, the schedule will be very limited, and that’s not a good thing.

But, otherwise, playing an abbreviated schedule won’t be all bad. To the good, there’s a shorter wait to get to the playoffs, and that’s really about the only time the NHL is truly interesting.

Plus, Raffi Torres still has to sit out 21 games for his ridiculous cheap shot on Marian Hossa. So that thug will miss about half the regular season, and that’s definitely a good thing.

So long, Lovie Smith

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I posted something yesterday that being a Chicago Bears fan is a mental disease. And, yes, it is maddening.

I’ve grown tired of the Lovie Smith regime over the years. It’s not that Lovie isn’t a good football coach. There’s no doubt he’ll catch on somewhere in the NFL and have success. It’s not that he isn’t a winning coach. He’s not bad to the media, bad to the fans and the players seem to all love him.

But it’s become painfully clear that Lovie Smith was never going to “win big” in Chicago. Mainly because his charges couldn’t beat teams in their own division, specifically Green Bay.

So while it’s certainly unorthodox for a franchise to fire a coach after a 10-6 season, I do support the move. I think eventually it could turn out win-win for all involved. I say “could” because Lovie will certainly win wherever he goes, but the fate of the Bears depends on what direction they take with this coaching search.

There are plenty of cautionary tales about firing even moderately successful football coaches. Phil Fullmer was more than moderately successful; he was one of the best in the business at Tennessee. And the Vols tanked after they fired him. Ditto with Frank Solich at Nebraska, though no one has ever adequately explained the thought process behind replacing him with Bill Callahan.

Fullmer hasn’t coached since, but Solich has done what I consider to be a masterful job at Ohio over the last decade.

And while things don’t typically translate between the college game and the pros, there is still a lesson worth learning there. For every time you hire and later sack a Dave Wannstedt — even if it’s the right move at the right time — there’s always a Dick Jauron waiting right around the corner to usher in a new era of mediocrity.

Like most things in football (or otherwise), it’s not the sins of the past or the stink of failure still in the air… it’s how we respond to them going forward.

And, as the late Larry Smith used to say far too often, therein lies the dilemma.

As fulfilling as it might be today to declare that the Bears are better than what they’ve shown… that the franchise won’t accept simply “above average” … that it’s time to chase championships …

One head-scratcher of a hire here and Bears fans will be wishing they still had Lovie. Even if his new team is limping into the playoffs at 9-7.

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