1. My sports loyalties are a matter of public record, so when the usually sad collection of teams I most avidly follow have their occasional great seasons, I can’t be accused of bandwagon jumping. 2015 was a remarkable year for me on this front, as the Beloved Kansas City Royals took home a World Series Crown for the first time in 30 years. Huttah! Navy football also capped a remarkable season, with the stellar Keenan Reynolds ending his four-year career as starting quarterback with the best Heisman Trophy finish for a Navy player since Roger Staubach won the thing in 1963. Double Huttah! So now it is 2016, and it looks on the surface like I could be on a fandom roll, as the Washington Capitals just captured the President’s Trophy in the National Hockey League, securing home ice advantage for all four rounds of the playoffs. Note well, though, that they key words in the prior sentence are “looks on the surface,” as the Caps are among the most heart-breaking of my favorite franchises, with a long history of awesome regular season play being undone by shocking chokes in the post-season. How did their last President’s Trophy season end, you might ask? With a first round, seven-game loss to #8 seed Montreal. They say that pessimists are never disappointed, so I’m preparing for the post-season accordingly. Harrumph!
2. Around our three month anniversary in Chicago, I’d written a piece about some Mysteries of Chicago that we’d experienced in our early days here. Five months later, a couple more have emerged for us:
- What’s with all the bad mouthing of Navy Pier in both the traditional and hipster media? Sure, it’s a big tourist destination with a lot of the expected plastic cheese factor that goes along with that, but it’s still a nice walkabout with some great lake views and pretty unbeatable people-watching opportunities, right? And what’s wrong with that?
- Why are locals obsessed with regaling newcomers about the horrors of the weather here? While we recognize that this past winter was quite a mild one, we’ve endured the horrors of Idaho, Upstate New York and Iowa winters for the past quarter century, so when people give me the “Oooo, just you wait ’til next year, it’s going to be awful” pitch, I just sort of shrug in an unimpressed fashion, and it seems to offend some folks that I would dare to suggest that other places’ weather is more vile than ours is here.
3. Over a year ago, before we knew we were moving to Chicago, we purchased a pair of tickets in Des Moines for this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship first and second round games. We had seen had seen an epic collection of Women’s Hoops teams during their tournament a couple of years before (including Baylor with Britney Griner, and Tennessee in Pat Summit’s last year with the team), so were optimistic that we might get something similar for the men this year. We traveled back to Des Moines two weekends ago for the games, and the draw didn’t disappoint, as the second round games we attended featured four legendary programs with Kentucky, Connecticut, Indiana and Kansas taking the floor. We gave two of our first round tickets to Katelin and John, but we did get to see Stony Brook (SUNY represent!) play their first and (for now) last NCAA Tournament game. I’d have preferred to see their conference rival Albany Great Danes play, of course, but it was good to have an American East team in the house, however briefly. We didn’t get to pick seats, so were also nicely surprised at how good they turned out to be. Here’s the free throw that ended Kentucky’s season, as a sampler of the view:
4. From Des Moines, I flew on to Knoxville, Tennessee for a conference, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the Convention Center is built on the grounds of the Worlds Fair, which I attended in 1982 on my high school Senior Class Trip. The Sunsphere features in many blurry memories that I have of that trip, and it’s still there, so it was nice to have some fresh, unblurry views of it, all these years later. If you know much about what happened during that earlier trip to Knoxville, feel free to fill me in at some point. Ahem.
5. We celebrated Katelin and Marcia’s birthdays this year in Chicago together, with Katelin and John visiting from Des Moines, and three of Katelin’s college friends from New York flying in to make things extra festive. The weekend featured two exceptional meals, one with all seven of us at Emilio’s Sol y Nieve (tapas ’til the cows came home), and one with just The Family at Sepia (delicious creative organic/sustainable fare rooted in traditional American fare, with modern International twists). We highly recommend both destinations if you’re looking for a special night out.