Thursday, February 6, 2020

I dream of my 28th

I rarely remember my dreams. This one I recall. Dreams contain part of reality mixed with, well, dreaming! This dream is something I would like for my birthday. Birthdays are the one day a year where if you are selfish, it is okay. To an extent, selfishness is almost encouraged.

Perhaps it is the gray days combined with the cold which led me to this location. I dreamt my family & friends were at a waterpark resort, complete with a hot tub. It was just people I knew; no strangers to intrude upon my special day.

As I walked through the resort, I was astounded by all the people I knew. Twenty-eight years into this life, I have never had a surprise birthday party. Because we are headed to Lexington the following day, I highly doubt 2020 will be my first one.

Seeing my family & friends brought joy to my heart & a large smile to my face. As a kid, I was raised to acknowledge everyone at family gatherings. So, I walked around, told everyone hello, & thanked them all for coming. Although some of my family lives nearby, nearly all my friends live farther away. As for my extended family, while they live two hours away, I rarely see them from Labor Day-Memorial Day. As we have grown older, we do not see each other as often.

Our lack of seeing each other likely served as the reason why none of their children were present at the resort. I am not a father, not the fondest of little kids, & my interactions with the little ones have been sparse. Now when I travel to see those family members on the lake, the kids are at the forefront… & there’s a lot of ‘em.

What struck me at the resort was that everyone got along. No worries about money, health, jobs, our country, etc., nor any in-fighting amongst people. As a Catholic, I am taught to treat everyone equally, but when someone close to me hurts me, it is hard to put those feelings aside. Even if I love you, I know fully well nobody is perfect.

Despite my challenges in life, I continue to love good food. Deep dish pizza, a delicious burger, a tasty pasta dish, & a scrumptious hot dog are just a few of those items. Whenever you stay at a resort, there’s typically good food. We all enjoyed the food, bringing us together for an event, & the dessert was as delectable as the chocolate chip cookies at Michigan International Speedway.

Whenever you enjoy a good hot shower or step into a hot tub, there is a sense of relaxation. Your body calms down, feeling at peace. I remember joining others in the hot tub, us all enjoying the hot water soothing our cold bodies. My birthday is in February. I have never worn shorts on my birthday. A hot tub sounds good right about now.

‘Course, Maizey & Blu are there, enjoying the pets, running around excited by all the people. To think, I am famous for saying, “I hate those dogs!”

I am an Eagle Scout, & I jokingly occasionally tell people that Eagle Scouts are pyromaniacs. Our fireplace brings us no heat; actually, it cools the upstairs in our house. In winter, a warn fire is portrayed as a typical nightly occasion in movies, TV shows, etc. Yet I usually burn stuff in the spring-fall.

But a dream mixes reality with our desires with oddities. So, as we all conclude our time together at the resort, we gather round the fireplace. We talk, laugh, enjoy each other’s company. Naturally, this group of people would only come together in my dreams. Like the gathering of folks to watch the college football national championship game, this group gets along just fine.

We all slowly walk back to our rooms, tired from our awesome day together. I prefer not to use the word ‘awesome’ because society overuses it. This day though was awesome.

We say good night, likely seeing each other in the morning for breakfast as we will depart & go our separate ways. These resort rooms are quite cozy. The bed is comfortable & there’s pillows aplenty. I go through my nightly rituals & climb into bed. As I drift asleep, my smile reluctantly fades away. When I wake up, it will be all over. My dream, my birthday, & this event. What will I dream tonight?

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

My final college football top 25 of the 2019 season

Congratulations to the LSU Tigers & Coach Ed Orgeron on winning the college football national championship. Orgeron is a befitting coach for that school; his accent is awesome!

The game last night was far too long-ridiculous! Perhaps when football season rolls around in the fall, I will write about two or three changes I would make to hopefully shorten the length of the game.

To the people who came over to my house last night to watch the game, thank you for coming. I greatly enjoyed myself & I hope you had a delightful time too.

Without further ado, here is my college football top 25 from the 2019 season. Disagree with me? Let me know & let’s have an engaging conversation.
1. LSU
2. Clemson
3. Ohio St.
4. Oklahoma
5. Appalachian St.
6. Georgia
7. Alabama
8. Oregon
9. Penn St.
10. Florida
11. Notre Dame
12. Boise St.
13. Air Force
14. Memphis
15. Navy
16. Minnesota
17. Utah
18. Louisiana
19. UCF
20. Baylor
21. Iowa
22. Florida Atlantic
23. San Diego St.
24. Cincinnati
25. Louisiana Tech

Mark Kristl 2019 college football bowl pick 'em contest results

Congratulations to Coach Ed Orgeron & LSU Tigers for winning the college football national championship. Additionally, congratulations to LSU quarterback Joe Burrow for winning the Heisman Trophy, breaking the single-season record for most TD passes, & leading his team to victory.

A job well done to Coach Dabo Swinney & Clemson Tigers for winning the ACC & defeating Ohio St. to advance to the championship game. They will be a contender next season.

A tip of the cap goes to Coach Ryan Day & Ohio St. Buckeyes & Coach Lincoln Riley & Oklahoma Sooners for making the college football playoffs. Despite their defeat, the Buckeyes & Sooners deserved to make the playoffs.

Thank you to all the participants in the 2019 Mark Kristl college football bowl pick ‘em contest. With 31 participants this year, I paid 1st-3rd place & last place received their money back. Next year, I will likely increase the entry fee by a dollar or two.

Here are the final standings. The tiebreaker did determine third place. There were two ties-those ties are noted with ‘T.’ Thank you to all the participants; I hope you all play again next time!
1. Papa 36 points
2. R.A.N. 35 points
3. Papa & Mark 34 points
4. Dan Anderson 34 points
5. Jackson 34 points
6. Matt Nommensen 33 points
7. Matt Anderson 33 points
8. Hagen 32 points
T9. Jones 32 points
T9. Mike Jones 32 points
11. Jen Christensen 32 points
T12. da bear 31 points
T12. Joe Wooley 31 points
14. Outback Jack 30 points
15. Mike Kristl 30 points
16. Mark Kristl 30 points
17. Dan Nawrocki 29 points
18. Amy Nommensen 29 points
19. Jay Holzapfel 28 points
20. Papa & Stephanie 28 points
21. Christine Kristl 27 points
22. Sr. Jean Patrice 27 points
23. Stephanie & Jackson 26 points
24. Carl Ruf 26 points
25. Stephanie 26 points
26. Ceth Christensen 24 points
27. Rob Ostrowski 23 points
28. Adam Jones 23 points
29. Marcus 22 points
30. Sr. Mary Jo 21 points
31. Chuck Barrett 19 points

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The beauty of baseball

Happy Opening Day 2019 everyone! May you thoroughly enjoy this season, just if the Chicago Cubs come out on top!

The off-season moved at a glacial pace, as big-name free agents Bryce Harper & Manny Machado signed their respective megadeals late in the off-season. Yet many other free agents, such as Dallas Keuchel & Craig Kimbrel, remain unsigned. Baseball is beautiful because it never stops. When there are no games, there are conversations about the future, regarding teams, players, rules, etc.

Major League Baseball (MLB) bid farewell to other players who retired. Adrian Beltre retired, & he is destined for induction into the MLB Hall of Fame. Joe Mauer retired, & although his resume is debatable for the Hall of Fame voters, he was the face of the Minnesota Twins. Jason Hammel retired, but he will not be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He concluded a solid career, highlighted with a World Series ring from playing on the 2016 World Series champion Chicago Cubs. Baseball is beautiful for its countless number of players, so whom played only a game in the big leagues, & others who became the greatest ballplayers in MLB.

2019 will also welcome four players into the MLB Hall of Fame. As a 27-year-old fan, I had the pleasure of watching these inductees play the game. Congratulations to Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Mike Mussina, & Edgar Martinez. All four players had tremendous careers, & they will forever be remembered in the annals of MLB. Baseball is beautiful for its history.

Like your pet which welcomes you home, there are baseball games from today, March 29, through the World Series Game 7 on October 30. There are seven months of almost daily baseball games. There is a legitimate case that the season is too long. Admittedly, I would probably agree with you about that gripe. Nonetheless, baseball is beautiful for its reliability.

The highlight reels will be filled of monstrous home runs, jaw-dropping defensive plays, crazy occurrences both on & off the field, embarrassingly funny mistakes, & moments which will define each team's season. Baseball is beautiful for its highlights, both good & bad.

For fans, baseball games are a time to gather round the TV to watch the game, listen to it as we drive to & from different locations, conversation pieces in a world where much of the news brings arguing, & hope as we imitate our favorite batter's stance or toss the ball around in a game of catch. Baseball is beautiful because it brings out our inner childhood love of the game.

Baseball holds many traditions for us. We wear our favorite player's jersey when we go to the games, we wear our team's clothing on some days such as Opening Day, we wear the ballcaps as we enjoy the nice weather from spring-fall, & we delight in the camaraderie of cheering on our favorite team. Baseball is beautiful because it has become a part of our lives in some capacity.

The games themselves boast time-honored traditions. The singing of The National Anthem, the bellow of "Play Ball," the first pitch, which I will recall as being thrown by my beloved friend Sr. Mary Jo Sobieck, the scribbling down the information on your scorecard, the cheering at the important parts of the game, & the indulging in a hot dog & beverage as you watch the game. Stadiums vary on their value of Take Me Out to the Ballgame, but we all enjoy getting up & singing. Three strikes & you're out! The traditions of baseball games make it beautiful.

Twenty-seven outs & we all head home. If we win, we're in a celebratory mood. If we lose, we move on. It's just a game we tell ourselves, but we adore it so much more. We'll get 'em tomorrow; there's 162 games in a season. At its core, baseball is a game. We all played in our lives in some capacity, even if it was a game of whiffle ball in our backyard. No matter the score, there are two guarantees at every baseball game. First, there is a winner. Second, there is a loser. Whether your team wins 19-0, 5-3, 1-0, or some other score, the game is reflected in the standings by one number. Either you add 1 to the win column, or you add 1 to the loss column. Baseball is beautiful for its simplicity.

So, go on, enjoy this season. Millions of Americans will join you. Watch the game with your family & friends, turn on the radio as you drive around, enjoy America's pastime. It is beautiful.

My 2019 MLB predictions

The 2019 Major League Baseball (MLB) season is upon us, play ball! It is time for my MLB predictions. Over the course of the season, there will be injuries, call-ups, transactions, & managerial firings. Obviously, I cannot predict to whom those will occur, so these rankings are based on current information. As such, I will briefly explain my predictions.

AL East
1. Boston Red Sox
2. New York Yankees (AL wild card #1)
3. Tampa Bay Rays
4. Toronto Blue Jays
5. Baltimore Orioles
This divisional race will be very close between the Red Sox & the Yankees. On the strength of a more experienced lineup & stronger rotation, the Red Sox will barely win, but this race could go down to the last few days of the regular season.

AL Central
1. Cleveland Indians
2. Minnesota Twins (AL wild card #2)
3. Chicago White Sox
4. Kansas City Royals
5. Detroit Tigers
The Indians will clinch this one not because they're good, but because the other four, especially the bottom three, aren't very good. The Twins quietly improved their team over the offseason, & they will surprise people when they win the second wild card spot.

AL West
1. Houston Astros
2. Los Angeles Angels
3. Oakland A's
4. Texas Rangers
5. Seattle Mariners
While the Astros will win this one going away & thereby end up with the best record in the AL, the Angels & A's will both battle the Twins for the second wild card. If the Angels stay healthy & perhaps pick a back end of the rotation player, they could snag that spot. Currently, the Twins are slightly better.

NL East
1. Atlanta Braves
2. Philadelphia Phillies (NL wild card #2)
3. Washington Nationals
4. New York Mets
5. Miami Marlins
Those poor Marlins. The top four teams are very close, & they all will beat up on the Marlins. Atlanta lacks a true ace, but all their pitchers are good. If they sign a true ace like Dallas Keuchel, they gain an advantage over everyone else. The Phillies improved their club the best this offseason, but are they ready to take that jump into contenders? I predict they'll settle for the second wild card spot simply because of the depth of this division. The Nationals lost Bryce Harper but their rotation has Scherzer & Strasburg, they have young hitters, & Brian Dozier will nicely fit on the team. The Mets have arguably the best pitching staff, but their whole season is dependent on health. If they stay healthy & their lineup comes through, they could conceivably jump up higher in the final standings.

NL Central
1. Milwaukee Brewers
2. Chicago Cubs (NL wild card #1)
3. St. Louis Cardinals
4. Cincinnati Reds
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
Milwaukee smartly added Yasmani Grandal, St. Louis picked up Paul Goldschmidt, & the Reds acquired two outfielders. The Cubs stood pat, but they're banking on their team staying healthy. The rotation can be dominant if they all stay healthy. Because their margin for error is razor-thin, the Cubs will miss out on the divisional crown & win the wild card. At this point, the Pirates ought to overhaul. Trade Gregory Polanco, trade any impending free agents, admit defeat. Cause it's going to be a long season.

NL West
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Colorado Rockies
3. San Diego Padres
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
5. San Francisco Giants
The Dodgers can lose players to injury & still win the division. They're that good. The Rockies lost Carlos Gonzalez, but they added Daniel Murphy, & David Dahl will be a force to be reckoned with this season. Their rotation is solid, but the Rockies could really use Craig Kimbrel. Their bullpen is their glaring weakness. At Coors Field, poor pitching late in games will cost them wins. The Padres signed Manny Machado & definitely have an improved lineup. Their pitching staff is so unproven. When all the starters grow together, when the team endures a losing streak, who will stop the bleeding? As for the Diamondbacks, losing Steven Souza Jr. hurt them. It's now an even weaker lineup with a shaky pitching staff. They'll be right alongside the Giants, who are full of fading veterans. If there's a team with a bevy of trade pieces, it's the Giants. Sell, sell, sell!

Wild Card games
AL: New York Yankees defeat the Minnesota Twins
The Yankees will have improved, they'll host this game, & in a one-game matchup, the Yankees bullpen will end the Twins season.
NL: Chicago Cubs beat the Philadelphia Phillies in a low scoring affair
Who will start for the Phillies, Aaron Nola or Jake Arrieta? The Cubs will start either Jon Lester or Kyle Hendricks. This game will be the first team to score three runs wins.

Divisional Series
AL: Houston Astros over the New York Yankees in 5 & Boston Red Sox pound the Cleveland Indians in 3
The Astros will outhit the Yankees merely because they won't strike out as often. More hits equal more runs. The Red Sox will win because they're better in every facet of the game. If the Indians want to win, Terry Francona will have to outmanage Alex Cora. Good luck with that.
NL: Los Angeles Dodgers over the Chicago Cubs in 4 & Milwaukee Brewers emerge in a hard-fought 5 game matchup over the Atlanta Braves
The Dodgers will best the Cubs because of they are a better overall team. Any of their starters could be an ace on a bad team. Can the Cubs say the same? As for the Brewers, I predict they will pick up a big impact player, probably a pitcher, who will significantly upgrade this team. The Braves will battle, but they'll fall in the end.

Championship Series
AL: Boston Red Sox over the Houston Astros in 6
The Red Sox will find a way. Their rotation will give them the lead late in games, & their bullpen issues will be resolved. J.D. Martinez will step up when needed, & they will return to the World Series
NL: Milwaukee Brewers over the Los Angeles Dodgers in 7
Wait, what? Yes, the Brewers will win the pennant. Christian Yelich will go off, Ryan Braun will find power once again, & the Brewers will rely heavily on their bullpen. Josh Hader & Corey Knebel will take care of business, & the Dodgers will leave Kenley Jansen in the bullpen as they cannot rally in Game 7.

World Series: Boston Red Sox repeat as World Series champions & celebrate at Fenway Park when they win in 5 games
The last repeat World Series champion was the New York Yankees who won three-straight from 1998-2000. These Red Sox are that good. Even with the loss of Craig Kimbrel, they're a World Series favorite. Their rotation & bullpen are deep. They have an excellent mix of veterans & young players. Even their young players like Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts, & Mookie Betts are accustomed to playing on a big stage. The Brewers will put up a valiant effort, but the Boston Red Sox will be too much to handle.

The Boston Red Sox will repeat as the 2019 World Series champions.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

2018 Mark Kristl college football bowl pick 'em contest results

Congratulations to Coach Dabo Swinney & Clemson Tigers for winning the college football national championship. Furthermore, a job well done to Coach Nick Saban & Alabama Crimson Tide for  reaching the college football national championship game. Also, a tip of the cap to Coach Brian Kelly & Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Coach Lincoln Riley & Oklahoma Sooners on making the college football playoffs. While Clemson won the title, those four teams were undoubtedly the best teams in college football this season.

Thank you to all the participants in the 2018 Mark Kristl college football bowl pick 'em contest. This year saw the highest number of participants. With 32 participants, I paid 1st-3rd place, & last place received their money back. I found the best balance for additional points for the college football playoff games & the national championship game. I thank everyone who participated & sincerely hope you play next year.

Here are the final standings. Obviously, for those people who are tied with points, the tiebreaker of total points in the national championship game served its purpose. Surprisingly, there were still ties. Two people tied for 5th place. Two people tied for 12th place. Remarkably, five people tied for 14th place. Those tied are noted with 'T'.
1. Carl Ruf 31 points
2. Hagen 27 points
3. Rob Ostrowski 26 points
4. Mark Kristl 25 points
T-5. Chuck Barrett 25 points
T-5. Matt Nommensen 25 points
7. Papa & Stephanie 25 points
8. Papa 25 points
9. Stephanie & Jackson 24 points
10. Dan Anderson 24 points
11. Joseph Wooley 23 points
T-12. David Devlin 23 points
T-12. Matt Anderson 23 points
T-14. Anthony McKee 23 points
T-14. Ceth Christensen 23 points
T-14. Dan Danis 23 points
T-14. Jay 23 points
T-14. Mike Kristl 23 points
19. Ian Chladek 23 points
20. RJ 22 points
21. Jordan Keeley 22 points
22. Amy Nommensen 21 points
23. Jackson 21 points
24. Sr. Mary Jo & Sr. Jean 21 points
25. Papa & Mark 21 points
26. Syron Distor 21 points
27. Adam Jones 21 points
28. Jonesy 20 points
29. Dan Nawrocki 20 points
30. R.A.N. 20 points
31. Christine 19 points
32. Jim McKee 18 points

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

My final college football Top 25 of the 2018 season

Congratulations to the Clemson Tigers on winning the college football national championship. I tweeted my weekly college football Top 25 with #wisdomofmark, but here is my final Top 25 from this season. Disagree with me? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments. Better yet? Post your own Top 25. 
Final college football Top 25 from the 2018 season.
1. Clemson
2. Alabama
3. Notre Dame
4. Oklahoma
5. Ohio St.
6. UCF
7. Fresno St.
8. Appalachian St.
9. Utah St.
10. Cincinnati
11. Army
12. Washington St.
13. Georgia
14. UAB
15. Michigan
16. Florida
17. Boise St.
18. Kentucky
19. Syracuse
20. LSU
21. Georgia Southern
22. Troy
23. Washington
24. Iowa
25. Penn St.