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Don’t Believe the Hype! (we were warned)

In the immortal words of Chuck D and Flava Flav – “Don’t Believe the Hype!” We should have stuck to this advice as we so eagerly awaited the start of another season, but Sun Devil Nation was in awe of what could be.  With talks of a Pac-12 South title, a spot in the first ever Pac-12 Championship game, and even a few whispers of a National Championship, Devil fans around the nation were on the edge of their seats in anticipation for this, possibly, legendary season.  I mean, how could they not be good this year, we were returning 30 seniors! And then, injuries…oh yes, the unthinkable, season-ending injuries of some of our top players began to deplete this team, and deflate the bubble of hope yet again.  Spring and summer practices brought more hope though, as the team began to show depth in the positions affected by the devastating injuries.

The season began with the standard “cupcake” game, and a Devil win.  Week two would record the first Black Out game at Sun Devil Stadium, and a big win against Missouri – could this be a sign of the strong season everyone had been talking about? Nope…It was just the first blip of false hope that had been an ASU tradition for way too long.  Proof of this would be the lack of being able to close out a close game on the road (and a weak secondary), as the Devils lose to Illinois by 3.

The biggest “upset” of the season was the commanding win against USC.  I say this was the biggest upset, because it was the biggest tease to make us think that things could be different for the Sun Devils.  They shut an arguably, overrated Matt Barkley and USC team down, showing other teams that if you can get to Barkley, he WILL crumble (see you in the NFL, kid).  With this win, Devil fans began to feel that this really could be the sign of hope we had been looking for.  With a win over USC, all we needed to do was, at the worst, come in second to them in the Pac-12 South, and we’d be in the championship game – and looking ahead at the schedule, this seemed doable, with the only major road-block being the Oregon game in Eugene – which, in fact, turned out to be our next loss.

At this point, we were still in the hunt of the Pac-12 South title – sitting at 5-2 with the next 5 games being ones where we would definitely be favored.  This “great” season was still within reach – Pac-12 South title, Pac-12 Championship, and even a possible BCS game.  But this was when reality hit, and the wheels fell off.  The hype had run its course, and we lost 4 of those very winnable 5 games.  “Very winnable” is an understatement here; we lost to a Washington State team with a coach who has only won 9 games in his four years at the helm.  We also lost THE game; the one that can cost you an entire season if you lose no matter the final record.

Ending out the season at a measly 6-6 was never a thought for this team.  There was no reason that the Sun Devils should not have won at least 9 games with the talent on this team, and the state of the teams they played.  The hype was just that, hype. As usual, the Sun Devils are placed in a category before the season starts, and are unable to perform.  The sad thing is that each season when the critics talk about ASU and their potential of being a “good” team, it is followed with the thought of being able to live up to the hype.  When the critics take note of the trends that are followed each year, and aren’t able to put much stock in “potential,” there are definite problems.

As I am finishing this post, it was just announced that Erickson will be let go as the Head Coach of the Sun Devils – well, he is “retiring.” (Wonder how that translates into buying out his contract?)  Should it stop with the coach though? What about the AD? Currently, the hype “issue” doesn’t stop with just the football team:

  • The basketball team has struggled for a very long time now.  Although, I truly feel that Herb Sendek is the man for the job; he just needs better backing from the top.
  • The baseball team is still in its appeal process for violations stemming back to Pat Murphy’s wrong doings.

Are we cursed as Sun Devils? Or would putting more money into our facilities, recruiting and coaching staff make things better?  Would hiring a $10+ million coach be the answer? Who knows, but I do know, it is hard to be a Sun Devil, and I will ALWAYS be one!

 

Sparky and I at the ASU Alumni Tailgate at the Utah game

Been a while…

Wow, has it really been over 3 months since my last post?  Not that any of you were losing sleep, wondering what the next “great” thing to come out of my spacey mind would be, but I’m sorry that it has been so long.

So much has happened over the past 3 months:

  • For starters, we are only 8 weeks away (give or take) from an anxiously awaited addition to the Brooks household, Jacob.  I can’t believe it is going to happen so very soon.  We are excited to finally meet the little ninja that constantly attacks his mother from the inside.
  • Brendan has started the sixth grade!  I can’t believe how fast they grow up.  I mean, it really only seems like not that long ago, he was so excited to start school.  It truly is amazing how fast the time flies.
  • Another school year has begun…not only Brendan has started another school year, I have also.  This really doesn’t mean much since I don’t get the summers off, but this year has been a bear thus far.  Truly seems like summer never even happened.  This is the start of my 5th year at the school, and I have never felt so overwhelmed.  Not sure what that is a sign of, but we’ll see how the rest of the year goes.  Hopefully things will get back to normal.
  • I had one of my photographs entered into my first Gallery along with some of my PikTripper friends.  It is at Buon Giorno Coffee in Grapevine if you’d like to go and see it.  The Gallery will be up through the month of September.
  • Football season has started! After a record-breaking summer, finally, there is a sense of fall in the air and along with that comes another season of college football.  There is just something about the cooler fall air, and meat on a grill in preparation for another great game.  Really looking forward to the hopes of a great season for ASU this year…Go Devils!

I guess that’s about it, but it seems like a lot has happened since we last spoke.  I will do my best to get back into the swing of filling the screen with my random thoughts.  I’m sure that will be easier said than done once Jacob arrives, but then again, he may be just the fuel needed to spark a few more random thoughts.

Hope you had a good summer, and are ready for whatever is next.

There’s “Bandwagon” and Then There’s “Confusing”

Some of my collection: ASU hat, Tigers hat, Red Wings hat, D-Backs hat from Opening Day 1998, 2001 World Series "Official Ball," ASU flag and Suns throw.

Have you ever sat back and really thought about how big a role sports plays in our lives?  I mean think about it, we complain about the millions and millions of dollars these guys make in a year, but we pay millions to see them play.  Cities (and you) pay millions to billions to be able to build the next, state of the art facility for their team or teams to play in.  I remember as a kid, and even still today, when I fly into a city, I’m always looking around trying to see the arenas or stadiums from the air. It’s the only time you get the opportunity to see the whole thing other than a photo.  Sometimes you don’t realize how pivotal the placement of a sports facility can be until you’ve seen it as you descent into a city from the air.

As a guy, you often get the question: “what is your favorite team?” This can often be a tricky question to answer.  If you happen to say a team that is currently playing really well, then you quickly have to justify the answer to not be tagged as a “fair-weather” or guilty of “jumping on the bandwagon.”  There are even times that if you happen to say the wrong team, you could be looking at a fist fight due to the person asking being a die-hard fan of a rival (slightly over-exaggerated, but could happen).

This question has often bewildered many friends of mine through my answers.  I could, at times, be accused of trying to hitch a ride on a couple of wagons, but I can justify all of my answers (at least to myself, and that’s what counts).  You see, growing up in various places throughout this sports-loving nation, it is very difficult to just have one favorite, or be a fan of just one team.  Is it really a crime to be a fan of multiple teams from a few different cities?  Feel free to judge.

When it comes to college that’s an easy one, Arizona State (Go Devils!!!) – You become slightly biased when you’re an alumnus, no matter how good or bad your teams may be.  When it comes to the Devils, not too many people are jumping on your wagon (hoping that 2011 proves to the hype for the Devils in football.  Unfortunately, hype, has never bode well for the Devils in years past).  The Lady Devils just won the softball National Championship and the baseball team is still battling its way to Omaha, but being a fan of the Sun Devils has been very trying over the years (Ahh to be a Sun Devil).  I will admit though, being a member of my wife’s family has also made me a fan of the Irish (fan, not a favorite…is that ok? Oh, and living near South Bend for a few years may have helped this as well).

When it comes to professional sports, it is a much harder story to tell.  My first professional influences came from the NFL.  It all started in the mid 70’s when we lived in Powell, Wyoming, and my father was a sports announcer for the local radio station.  They just so happened to cover the Orange Crush – you may know them better as the Denver Broncos.  I had a little plastic helmet that my dad had painted to mach a Broncos helmet, they were my team….until I heard about the Cowboys.  Yes, I do live in Dallas now and wouldn’t exactly consider myself a true blue Cowboy fan, but back in the day, yes, I was a fan.  Ok, so they were in their heyday (one of them).  Can a five-year-old boy really be guilty of jumping on a bandwagon? The point is, that at the time, living in “the middle of nowhere,” Wyoming, there weren’t any teams to be a fan of.  Looking elsewhere was your only option, even for a five-year-old.

Now is when it all starts to really get messy – at the age of 6, I was relocated with my family to Arizona.  Actual years are needed here for clarity, so this would have been 1981/82.  What that means for those of you not in the know, is that there weren’t any professional sports teams in Arizona except for the Phoenix Suns (NBA), but I didn’t really learn of them until a few more years down the road.  We lived in Kingman, AZ, again, middle of nowhere.  Like most families, my family went in different directions.  I lived with my mother and sister, so there weren’t many influences on sports.  I did enjoy playing baseball, soccer and basketball though.  Finally I became more aware of the sports world that was out there.  I began to learn more about professional teams around the nation – again, none in the local area.  I learned of the Phoenix Suns, and to no surprise, they became “my team.”

In 1986, I again relocated.  This time we moved to Michigan, Trufant, Michigan to be exact.  AGAIN, middle of nowhere! (Starting to get the picture?)  By this time, I was really getting into sports.  I knew all the best players on all the best teams in all professional sports, except hockey (more on that in a moment – remember, in Michigan now).  January 1987 was the year that I got to watch “my” Sun Devils down the Michigan Wolverines in the Rose Bowl.  I knew then that I wanted to be a Sun Devil.  I was still a fan of the Broncos (NFL) – even after all of the Elway (still one of my favorite players ever) chokes in the Super Bowls, the Cowboys (NFL), and the Suns (NBA).  Raise your hand if you thought KJ was the man!  I knew all about baseball and its best players/teams, but hadn’t really thought about a favorite team yet.  Again, it was hard to have one when there wasn’t a team nearby to follow; I mean, the Tigers were all the way over in Detroit, a 4-5 hour drive from Trufant.  Many of my friends would follow the Tigers.  It didn’t take long until I began to follow suit.  I also found myself becoming a fan of the lowly Atlanta Braves as we watched them climb from the trenches to go from “worst to first” (OK, maybe this one was bandwagoning, but it was a great story and hard not to follow).  Soon, I became used to the cold Michigan winters, and began to learn of hockey.  I truly fell in love with the sport, and what better place to be than the state of Michigan, home of the Detroit Red Wings (NHL)!  This was definitely a team that was hard not to love.

Ok, just to be sure you’re keeping track: Sun Devils (NCAA), Broncos (NFL), Cowboys (NFL), Cardinals (NFL), Suns (NBA), Tigers (MLB), Braves (MLB), and Red Wings (NHL).  Confused yet? Oh, yes, I’m sure you noticed the addition of the Cardinals in there – even living in Michigan, I still felt a connection to Phoenix/Arizona.  My dad still lived there, and kept me abreast of the latest happenings.  They moved to Phoenix from St. Louis in 1988, so I slowly began to adopt them as one of “my” teams, even though they were horrible for many, many years.  So there I was, now a teenager, all confused with who was my favorite team, and then I graduated HS and made another move back to Arizona.  This time I was off to college, to be a Sun Devil.

I moved to Phoenix in the summer of 1994.  Shortly thereafter, a new team had come into my life.  This one isn’t considered a definite “favorite,” but they are still a team that I will follow.  The Winnipeg Jets had made a move to the desert and had become the Coyotes.  Yes, there was now hockey in the middle of a place that was too hot for anyone to exist let alone play on ice.  It’s hard not to be into a team when you see them grow before you.

Which brings me to the next state of confusion…the Arizona Diamondbacks.  In 1998, the D-Backs franchise joined Major League Baseball.  Again, and even more-so, it is very hard not to be a fan of a team that you get the opportunity to see start from the very beginning.  The 2001 World Series win over the Yankees might have helped a little too (I say this as I look at my “Official Ball” from the 2001 Series that is on my desk).

Now I find myself living in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Now, as you may recall, the Cowboys were “one” of my original favorite teams, but I truly don’t follow them in the same way.  In fact, I honestly find this current team to not fit into any class that earlier Cowboy’s teams have.  Romo just won’t ever be the leader that Staubach, White or Aikman were.  As for the other teams here: I don’t have any plans to ever follow the Stars for the Wings had my heart long ago; it was fun to see the Rangers go to the World Series, and I enjoy going to a game now and then, but the Tigers and D-Backs are enough for me; and lastly, yes, the Mavs are currently in the Finals, and I do honestly hope they win, but not as a fan, more as being not a fan of the Heat and the egos of Wade, Bosh and that other guy…oh yeah, the “King.”

So, would you consider my choices of “favorites” a sign of bandwagoning? I’m sure some could argue a few of them, but I feel that my mobility through life from town to town and the confusing nature of some of my locales has legitimized my choices.  When it comes down to it, I’m a fan of sport, of competition.  I am one that will watch a game, because I know it will be a good one.  Not caring who will win, just wanting to watch some good competition.  Maybe some of my “favorite” choices are because of this i.e. Atlanta in the 90’s, but that’s ok to me.

 

Customer Service: Not Lost, Just Harder to Find

In an age of “I need it now,” customer service has taken a back seat to mediocrity.  People have learned to no longer expect “good” customer service, but to rather settle for customer service that is better than “bad.”  How many times to you choose a restaurant or business based on its great customer service? More than likely, it’s not very often.  But on the flipside, how many times to you choose where NOT to go based on how bad the service is? I’m not going to go into a huge lecture on how we’ve lost our sense of what great customer service really is, that is for Seth Godin to do – and he’s really good at it.  What I am going to do though, is fill you in on a place that knows what it means to stand out as a company with good, nay AMAZING customer service.

I understand that not many of you out there may be runners, but we all need shoes.  And more often than not, running shoes are what people end up getting because of their comfort.  Many of us, me included, are bargain shoppers and stray away from the stand-alone stores for fear they will have jacked up the prices.  There is a place that I’ve been shopping for the past couple years for things for my wife.  Luke’s Locker in Colleyville is where I do my shopping for Megan when she is in need of some new running gear.  As I said, I have been shopping here for the past couple years, and the salespeople are great and very knowledgeable about running and gear, for they all run, themselves.  Their prices are right in line with anyplace else you’d find similar gear, even the chain stores, so I was more than happy to shop here without worrying about paying too much.  Now, I didn’t have a bad perception of this store at all, but I never realized how GREAT this place really was until I shopped there for myself.

I found myself in need of a new pair of “tennis shoes.”  If any of you know me, and as I have already mentioned above, I am a very frugal shopper.  Hell, I seriously can’t remember the last time I paid full price for a pair of shoes, let alone any clothing.  But as many of you can attest to, the older we get, the more important a really good pair of shoes is, so I made my way to Luke’s Locker.  I knew that they would actually tell me what kind of shoe my feet really needed, and not just put me in the next best thing. I went into the store one day after work, and Ed was my salesman.  This man was so very helpful.  He knew exactly what to look for in what my feet needed.  He made me walk a line so he could actually see how my feet moved and reacted with each step.  He then came out with 3 different pairs of shoes for me to try.  The thing is, he knew which shoe I was going to leave with, but he wanted to give me options.  This man took the time to learn about me and what my intentions were with the product, so that he would be able to provide me with the best solution.  Seems so “Business 101,” but when was the last time someone gave you this kind of service when you shopped? I was truly happy with the service that I received from Ed and everyone else at Luke’s Locker.  I wouldn’t be taking the time to share this blog post if I wasn’t.

My point is that we shouldn’t get as excited as I was about a good experience.  We should expect it.  We have been so desensitized to mediocrity that we don’t care about what good service should be.  Yes, this was a great experience, and yes, they have earned my loyalty as a customer – but it’s a shame that other businesses can’t do the simple task of listening and truly observing their customers like the staff at Luke’s Locker.

 

The “Big Game” in the Big “D” – Weather Permitting

Someone left their sprinkler on...oops! (and no, it wasn't me) - photo by Kara Jacob

As the entire universe knows, Dallas-Fort Worth (Arlington to be exact), is about to host “the Big Game” (a.k.a. Super Bowl, but we aren’t allowed to say that unless we pay millions of dollars).  And, as you all know, unless you’ve been living under a rock or frozen in ice – (haha get it?) that DFW has been hit by one of the worst winter storms in over 20 years.  This predicament has caused many to question the NFL’s decision to hold the Sup…I mean, Big Game, in DFW.  The fact is, “worst winter storm in over 20 years,” isn’t being truly considered here.  The normal temperature this time of year in DFW is  mid-50’s which isn’t nearly as bad as Indianapolis (2012 host) and New York (2013 host).

ESPN columnist, Gene Wojciechowsk went on a rant, much like many others, recently about how bad the SB doesn’t belong here. He goes on to talk about how warm it is in places like Miami, San Diego, Phoenix and New Orleans.  For the record, Phoenix is also seeing some of its coldest temperatures in years.  They have caused for numerous delays in the Phoenix Open this week due to frozen conditions.  Now, I know, cold temperatures are one thing, those don’t cause accidents the way a mammoth ice storm does, but my point is that you can’t predict the weather.  I mean, hell, it was 75 last Saturday.  Had they not added another week in between the playoffs and the “Game,” this whole issue never would have even come up.  In fact, they would be talking about the next time DFW would host, not if it will ever host again.

People have been going on about the lack of salt trucks in the DFW area.  DFW doesn’t have salt trucks the way other cities in the midwest do.  Would you, as a tax payer, want your city to put money into the equipment (trucks and salt- which is not cheap) for an ice storm that may or may not come once a year?  I would think not.

I moved here to the DFW area almost 4 years ago.  I have seen 2 of these ice storms since I’ve been here, and would definitely say this one was the worst.  I have never, even in all my time living in Michigan, seen a storm debilitate a city the way this one has, and with the temperatures as low as they were, I’m really not sure salt trucks would have helped much.  One thing I learned in Michigan is that the salt only works above a certain temperature.

I guess the point of my rant is in rebuttal of all those that are saying Dallas isn’t worthy of a Super Bowl – I mean “Big Game.”  I could care less about Jerry Jones and the millions of dollars he will make off this event, but I do care about the money it will bring to our communities.  If one day the NFL decides to put the game on a rotating schedule with “warmer” cities, then so be it, and honestly, I wouldn’t blame them.  They need to get owners off this kick though of trying to use drawing the game to their city by means of building a new stadium.  How the hell else do you think Detroit got one and that the next two are in Indy and then New York?