Major League Guilt (Not Really)

I’m a lousy baseball fan.

This year is the final season of Adam Wainwright’s, Yadier Molina’s and Albert Pujols’ respective careers. I haven’t watched a single game since last year’s St. Louis Cardinals’ walk-off loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the post-season.

You can’t pay me enough to sit down and watch a regular season game. You’d think I would have a different perspective, considering the last stand of the players listed above. After all, Pujols is my all-time favorite player. He left the Cards in the 2012 off-season (remember: I wrote a post prior to this happening, at the time, stating that it was the right move for the Cards to let him walk) when he signed a massive deal with the LA Angels. Remember the old TSTOS banner from 2007-2012? Steven Jackson, Tim Duncan and Pujols.

I can’t watch a damn game in the regular season to save my life. I would rather be doing anything else, like Watching “The Bear” on Hulu or “Severance” on Apple TV.

I learn most of my Cards news from one of my close friends, who somehow manages to watch as many regular season games as he can. Hell, I picked the exciting season 4 of Stranger Things epic-last-two-episodes over watching a Cards game.

The only sports team I’ve invested any significant amount of time watching in the last decade has been the, you guessed it, reigning SUPER BOWL 56 CHAMPION Los Angeles Rams.

Regular season baseball feels like a waste of time to me. There are 162 games. I don’t feel any sense of urgency, like I do with pro football, to watch, unless it is the post-season or an exciting race for a division crown at the end of the regular season.

Last season’s Rams’ campaign was downright enthralling. The yearly struggle to defeat the 49ers continued. The Rams acquiring Odell Beckham, Jr. and Von Miller made for must-see TV as for how the Rams were going to use their new talent. The free-fall in November. The bounce-back in December that ultimately led to the Rams winning the NFC West.

It would be nice to see the MLB shorten its regular season.

But saying this out loud causes the old heads, the boomers, the folks who listened to baseball games on the radio after watching “What’s My Line?” episodes (wait, are those people still alive?) to clutch their pearls and bitch about the idea of change.

That’s what it is taking me out of the element, though. The resistance to change. It makes me laugh my ass off when old fuckers whine about trivial things like a player flipping his bat and watching his own home run, or when a team ‘appears to be purposefully running up the score.’

Why not run up the score? Your defensive efforts should be to stop the other team from scoring. The onus is on you. Not on the other team to back off. Why would they? Run up the goddamn score.

I hope I don’t turn into a bitter, stagnant old sumbitch one of these days, like those pearl-clutching baseball fans who take offense to the prospect of any semblance of change or adaption to something that could help baseball.

I like baseball; I really do. I just don’t give a damn about the regular season. So, do I really like it or nah?

Winning Time

I finally watched “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty” on HBO, which is based on one of my favorite sports-related books: Showtime (my review from 2014).

Members of the ’80s Lakers have gone out of their way to state that the show is not historically accurate.

Well, guess what, motherfuckers: the show isn’t trying to be a concrete, accurate depiction of the 1980s. It is a drama. It is a show. It isn’t a biopicture. It isn’t a documentary. It’s a goddamn show with characters.

Jerry West is 400 years old and he hates the way he is portrayed, but what do you reckon? His character on Winning Time, portrayed by Jason Clarke, is my favorite of them all. He spouts more goddamns than I’ve ever emitted in my life, and he’s a raging lunatic, traumatized by the myriad of NBA Finals losses in the 1960s at the hands of the Boston Celtics.

Perhaps the best part of the show is John C. Reilly portraying Dr. Jerry Buss. Never in my life would I have imagined that kind of casting, and you know what? Homeboy knocks it out of the park. From the ‘breaking the fourth wall’ moments to the partying to the scene of Buss cry-sucking on a woman’s tits in a car.

After we finished Winning Time, Felice said that we need to watch Step Brothers now, just to contrast John C. Reilly’s two totally different roles. Goddamn.

Yeah, the show is highly dramatized. Adrien Brody plays Pat Riley — Riley’s nose wasn’t that damn big. Paul Westhead wasn’t the cowardly dumbshit that he is shown to be. The Lakers didn’t begin their 1979 season with a miraculous buzzer beater by Kareem. But who cares? It is entertaining, and the show was renewed for a second season.

The only two complaints I have:

1.) Julius Erving — why is the actor who plays Julius in his 50s, portraying a 30-year-old Dr. J?

2.) Larry Bird — the dude portraying Larry Legend looks like a backwoods hick from my hometown and he acts like a huge asshole. By all accounts, in 1979 Larry was a shy 23-year-old who, although later known for his legendary trash talking on the court, didn’t do all that shit from that time period, at least… during that time period. They had Bird dipping tobacco and drinking Budweiser, which was hilarious.

They have Bird’s father saying some racist shit during the 1980 NBA Finals. In reality, Bird’s dad committed suicide in 1975-1976.

Nevertheless, fun show.

Fumbling the Bag

The Golden State Warriors have won the 2022 NBA title in six games over the Boston Celtics.

The Celtics operated from a 2-1 series lead and proceeded to shit the bed three games in a row. They couldn’t even win a game (game 5) with Steph Curry going 0-9 from 3. A game they allowed Andrew Wiggins to decimate them.

In game six, Jayson Tatum scored 0 points in the second half. Essentially, Tatum gave the best tribute he possibly could for Kobe Bryant: he played like he was dead.

Tatum is only 24, so maybe he’ll progress to an absolute dog on the court, but once the Warriors started sticking Wiggins on him, he was done for. Even Gary Payton II was giving him fits.

The Celtics’ penchant for turning the ball over in rapid succession sparked a slew of runs by Golden State. The dry spells on offense did them no favors, either. Missing free throws killed one game for them that would have likely been a sure win (game 4) and continued to be a trend for the remainder of the series.

Perhaps the C’s will add a sharpshooter over the off-season, but the likelihood they will make it back to next year’s NBA Finals is bleak if you consider the prospect of the Milwaukee Bucks reloading, the Miami Heat strengthening themselves and the unlikelihood of catching the breaks they did this past post-season.

While the Celtics weren’t at full strength in their Eastern Conference playoff run, they had an advantage over the Bucks and Heat. The Bucks were missing “Celtic Killer” Khris Middleton and the Heat were banged up. What a lost opportunity.

The great Stephen Curry won his first Finals MVP and his fourth championship ring. This Warriors franchise has been run so damn well over the years. Formidable leadership from top to bottom with all the right pieces to make a continued run for the foreseeable future. Draymond Green is the Jalen Ramsey of the NBA — a solid piece who shows up in so many big and little ways.

Can the Boston Celtics Win the NBA Finals?

The Rams won Super Bowl LVI (I’m still celebrating).

The Celtics are playing in the NBA Finals.

Are the Cardinals going to play in the World Series?

What a year in sports. I digress.

After years of watching the Celtics shrink at some point in the playoffs, failing to head back to the big stage, they are, ah, back. For the first time since 2010. We usually don’t talk about 2010. You remember that shit, don’t you? The Celtics, with the big three of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett nursing a 3-2 series lead against the Lakers, only to drop two games in a row. I haven’t watched a single highlight from that NBA Finals, but I still remember Ron Artest’s, er, Metta World Peace’s corner 3-pointer. Or the fact that Kobe Bryant played like absolute dogshit in comparison to his typical Mamba play, and still won Finals MVP.

Over the years I have become more of an objective basketball fan. I don’t really have a dog in the fight. All my favorite players from my childhood and teen years are retired.

But damn it, I still want to see the Celtics defeat the Warriors in the NBA Finals and capture their 18th championship.

And I like the Warriors. Stephen Curry has been my favorite player in the league for a decade, or at least ever since he was balling out against the eventual champion (at the time) Spurs in the playoffs back in 2013 despite the loss.

Let’s cut to the chase: can the Celtics beat the Warriors? I’m having a hard time believing in that reality. It’s not because of the Warriors’ championship experience (2015-2019 and now 2022). It’s because I think the Warriors are a bad matchup. Nobody moves the ball around better than Golden State. I know the Celtics present a fierce defense spear-headed by the defensive player of the year in Marcus Smart. I know Jayson Tatum is a baller. I know Al Horford has been playing almost like he’s back in his prime. I know Jalen Brown can come up big.

But the Warriors are a well-oiled machine.

The Celtics just went through back-to-back grueling series in the Eastern Conference that went seven games each against the Bucks and the Heat, both teams respectively missing key players.

The Celtics looked in control of yesterday’s game, and yet the Heat were a missed Jimmy Butler 3-pointer from advancing to the championship round.

The Celtics have a theme of becoming tight in big spots. They kept shrinking in the final moments yesterday, but they still won and that’s what matters. They finally got over the hump. Remember when they were in the Eastern Conference Finals a few years ago as a slew of youngins against LeBron and the Cavs? How about that COVID-tournament against the Heat?

Who knows? I say Warriors will win this one in five games for their fourth title in eight seasons. Hope I’m wrong — I usually am.

Overcoming Loss and Managing Pain in the Aftermath

I don’t feel like rehashing 2020 or regaling TSTOS readers with a painful story. A lot of people have painful stories about 2020, but for a variety of — if not similar in many cases — reasons. You can swing back into the TSTOS archives to April of that year to extrapolate what you will.

How are you supposed to take an adequate mirror photo? Do you look into the phone screen? Where do you hold the goddamn phone — at this level? I tried smiling but looked like a serial killer, so I just stared into the abyss like a jackass.

Staring into the abyss or not, homie on the right grew from the pain of bloated dude on the left.

April 2020: about three weeks after the pandemic hit, my life hit rock bottom without any reason given to me. What happened, happened out of the blue — no explanation — and it was a repetition of history from December 2010 and December 2011.

I worked my ass off throughout the difficult year that was 2019 and into the first few months of 2020, saving as much money as humanly possible, to prepare for the future that I thought was in store. When that future was unceremoniously ripped away from me, I fell into a deep, blinding empty pit of depression.

While the same exact act of blindsided betrayal from both 2010 and 2011 occurred, back then I reacted outwardly. This time, I held those emotions inside and paid the price. Not knowing why things happened all over again, not receiving the courtesy to know any answers, was pure mental torment.

Due to the pandemic, I was working from home so I was completely alone and isolated, left to dwell on my thoughts. Once again (as was the case over a decade ago), I was forced to figure out the ‘why?’ by myself. This led to a great deal of sleepless nights which only encouraged an abundance of alcohol use to attempt to quiet my mind. I was drinking daily because I couldn’t go to sleep with my mind racing. I tried meditation to no avail; I attempted to think about anything else — didn’t work. Melatonin? Didn’t do shit. Even if I got merely three hours of sleep, I just couldn’t go to sleep the following night without drinking.

To make matters worse, I had to hear a barrage of “I told you so! We warned you!” gloating from people I ultimately lost respect for. Who kicks someone when they are down? I will never forget that. As a result, I started feeling an immense amount of self-loathing because I thought of myself as a huge fool for, as I saw it, being ‘duped’ again.

I didn’t talk to anybody I know personally about what happened, because I was tired of already hearing unhelpful bullshit like, “Well, considering this happened before, it’s not surprising! We predicted it!” So I bottled everything I was feeling, all the sadness and anger and collective heartbreak, and tried to work through those emotions the same way I did in 2014-2015.

Except I couldn’t. I drank and I drank and I drank. I slept, and felt, like shit. Sedentary. As lifeless as a zombie. I was bloated. I tried staying busy and doing anything to blunt the pain, but I felt completely empty. My food posts on Instagram were either drafts from previous cooks in years past that I had never posted, or lazily thrown together meals to keep my account active. I felt zero zest for life. My desire to do anything was lost. I don’t know how many ways I can write that.

I thought I was legitimately going to die of a broken heart. For not knowing “why?” for the third different time. After all, ghosting after love-bombing the absolute shit out of someone is the cruelest thing you can do; you don’t ghost someone if you care about them, full stop.

By September 2020, my mother’s health had improved to the point of becoming independent again (after a stroke in late 2018), and I received an out-of-state job offer. I thought a change of scenery would be great. After all, I spent all of 2019 saving all that money, remember? I planned on using those savings for us, for her, remember? So I accepted the job and moved. I was delusional, because I thought simply moving would jar me out of the shit-pit my brain — and my heart — was in.

For a minute, it worked. New area, new stimuli — all refreshing — but I quickly fell back into those familiar bad habits. Extreme, persisting emptiness. Towards the end of 2020 I finally started going to therapy. I should have started right after the end of March 2020, even if it was through some virtual bullshit due to the pandemic, but I didn’t. Regardless, that was the beginning of getting my shit together part 2. I learned acceptance. Accepting that some people are the way they are, no matter how deeply and emphatically you love them. Accepting that what happened would have happened no matter something going differently, no matter if the original plans had went down the way we I wanted them to. Forgiving myself for feeling foolish/duped.

The last part is important. Forgiving myself. I felt so much self-loathing. I carried so much guilt; I blamed myself and I don’t know why, even though in the aftermath I uncovered so many lies that were told and discovered unmentioned truths. But when you feel like a colossal dumbass, and internalize it, it is difficult to overcome.

I learned a painful, but necessary life lesson (plenty of them) through it all, through the loss, through the pain, through the isolation. Unpacking that baggage and that trauma. I don’t know how I would have done it if I didn’t go to therapy. I should have done so in 2012-2013, but through self-awareness, introspective thinking, time and patience in 2014-2015, I managed to get my shit together during that phase of life. I thought I could do it again, but I couldn’t.

I could write diatribes about the life lessons I learned through that entire ordeal, but maybe for another time. I’m not ‘pain-free‘ today. You don’t just get over the three-times-occurrence loss of the person you have poured more love — and incandescent passion — into than anything or anybody else in the world. In my case, you just find a way to accept that the loss happened, you accept that you must grieve and you accept that what happened, happened no matter what action you could/would have taken prior to such an event going down, even if the primary cause of pain is because you have no fucking idea why it ever happened since you weren’t afforded a rightfully deserved explanation.

I have never been an ‘angry’ type of person. People who are prone to anger always look like uncontrollable, inconsolable dumbfucks, don’t they? There’s a reason why the saying, ‘losing your cool’ is apt when it comes to someone becoming angry, because anybody overcome with a moment of anger never looks ‘cool’. However, hey, there’s a great deal of provided entertainment from such times, though, yeah? The ‘public freakout’ subreddit is a shining example of that, but I digress.

My point (as poorly as I’m trying to get it across), however, is that emotions such as sadness and anger can be positively used. Sadness can breed acceptance. Anger is useful if you can sublimate it into positive action. The thing is, the majority of the anger I had felt was directed at myself, the perpetual cycle of self-loathing, which did me no good.

I have been through more loss than most people. I almost wrote ‘unfortunately been through’, but loss in life has made me who I am today, so I own it.

Loss, Loss, Loss: Embrace

Coping with loss always involves the same dynamics, no matter the case. In every case — no matter the loss — you are forced to grapple with the undisputed fact that you will never experience something or someone again, or at least the same. You are forced to feel an internal emptiness and to accept your pain. You are forced to confront that terrible, terrible word: “Never.”

Never” hurts like hell, because never means that it cannot be changed. And we always like to think that things can be changed. That possibility makes us feel better.

But “never”? Never means it’s over. Never means it’s gone. Never means forever. And that’s really fucking hard to bear.

You can never bring a dead person back to life. You can never hit ‘reset’ on a broken relationship. You can never fix a wasted youth or redo a past mistake or un-say the words that destroyed a friendship.

When it is gone, it is gone. And it will never be the same, no matter what you do. And this, in a real psychological sense, destroys a small piece of you. A piece that must eventually be rebuilt.

I understand that life is precious. That is my paradigm, anyhow. A lot of people have a nihilistic view of life, and that’s their right to their own paradigm and worldview. Me? The sweetest things in this world are priceless: experiences and memories. Both, particularly fond memories, are everything to me, because it is the only thing we have at the end of the day.

The understanding that life is precious is what powered me to love her as hard and as deeply as I did.

The understanding that life is precious is the emanation of the fact that everything in life is eventually lost.

I’m always blown away when I meet someone who is relatively the same age as me and find out they have either barely experienced loss or never have on a grand scale. But eventually they will, because that is an inevitability in life. Life is a long road and journey of losses. It is invariably the one true guarantee in our collective existence.

From each moment or year to year, we must give up and leave our former selves behind. We lose friends, family, relationships, jobs and communities, and along the way our perspectives, experiences and passions. The grand finale is that one day we lose our existence entirely.

If you are reading this on TSTOS — whether you are a regular reader or you have found this site by a random Google search and you are wondering what the fuck you are doing on a sports blog that is featuring a long-winded post about introspection and moving forward from excruciating pain – and feel like you have not been though much loss, reconsider: think back to a difficult time in your life and understand that, to get out of those said difficult times, you had to accept losses. Relationships and/or pursuits being lost? You had to lose a shithorde of meaning in order to create a greater, healthier meaning. In that absolute sense, every bit of growth in life requires a degree of loss.

People love to see growth as this euphoric, joyful thing. Just look at all the corny memes on social media with the rainbows in the background on quote photos. But it’s not. Real change – growth – brings a mixed bag of emotions with it. Grief of what you have left behind along with a satisfaction of what you have become. A soft sadness combined with a simple joy.

For growth, the bottom line is that you have to be honest with yourself. A lot of people lie to themselves. To their spouses. To their friends. To their family. That’s bullshit. Lying to themselves and living a fake life. You won’t get by far for very long like that unless you are a narcissistic sociopath. For the rest of us, a reality check is required to grow.

Getting My Physical Health in Check

As for mending my physical health, I knew what I needed to do: ditch alcohol and find ways to create a better sleeping schedule, get back into my old habits of intermittent fasting, being physically active, lifting heavy shit & sitting it back down and eating whole foods from nutritious, micronutrient-packed sources.

I ridded the alcohol from my home entirely. There’s not a single drop of the sauce in here. However, that still didn’t cure the racing mind that liked to delve into deep topics at bedtime. I stopped looking at my phone at least an hour before bed and kicked back in a dark room. This took time, patience and adjustment. I started trying to get to sleep before 12am as an early goal. With this newfound acceptance, eventually I got back into gear.

Those nights of struggling to sleep still arise from time to time, but it’s not an every-night occurrence like it was. This is the hardest thing to adapt to. If you have a racing, overactive mind when you try to sleep, you know what it’s like: the need for sleep when you are exhausted, but you can’t because your brain won’t pipe down. I’m not much help for this arena of thought.

IF (intermittent fasting) is easy for me. It is something I have been accustomed to for a long time. I enjoy breakfast foods, but I’ve never enjoyed eating them at traditional breakfast hours. They make me fatigued and drowsy during the day. Do I recommend IF to you? That’s subjective. If you are hungry as a muh in the morning hours, no — do something else.

IF is merely a useful tool for me. I have never been much of a snacker or low volume eater. I prefer a big meal to satiate hunger over a sliver. For some people, that amount of food for a meal would either encourage binging or drowsiness afterwards. However, binging is mitigated when you are eating nutritionally-dense goodness with plenty of vegetables. I stopped eating any and all junk food entirely, except for maybe once or twice a month. Fruit became my dessert: whatever fruit that was on sale during a particular week at one of the local grocery stores, that was dessert.

Getting my shit together in the realm of physical health came naturally for me, because I knew what I needed to do. Nutritional science has been something I’ve enjoyed studying for over a decade of my life. I don’t believe in fad diets. My philosophy is simple: the majority of your diet should consist of primarily whole foods from micronutrient-dense sources. Even if you are rocking a budget, you can make this happen. Look at what’s on sale, shop the perimeter of the grocery stores and make sure you are getting enough fat and protein. I like carbs (potatoes, especially); I think keto, carnivore, all that shit, is shit, but I’ve ranted enough about those topics over the years.

The biggest change was dropping the alcohol. I didn’t really eat all that much junk food at all in 2020, but the sheer fact that I was drinking so heavily and lying around instead of being as physically active as I was before and not drinking was the culprit for the shit health I was in.

I went from an average of walking 15,000-20,000 steps a day prior to 2020 to 2,000-or-less steps per day during that period of harrowing depression. Completely unlike me. I had always been physically active, but the emptiness was draining; I didn’t feel like moving. That, and the alcohol, took a toll.

Getting back into that previous habit of physical activity pissed me off, especially when it came to lifting weights again. Not surprisingly, I had lost a lot of strength, and at the same time, not having the same stamina as before was annoying. I have always been patient with other people, but know all too well about being impatient with myself, so having to rest between days while getting my shit together was a struggle in and of itself. But eventually I steered back.

No idea what bodyfat percentage I was during the last few months of 2020. Probably 25% if I had to guess. I felt like shit! Walking a flight of stairs was exhausting — I never knew that feeling before. Hated it immensely, and even in the throes of depression I knew I needed to change and get back into my old habits, even though it took a while to go through the motions of doing so. I’m at 15% now.

The above thoughts on physical health are merely what worked for me. I’m not dispensing unsolicited advice in that realm of things. I am not a medical professional in any way, shape or form. These are simply opinions derived from my own anecdotal bullshit.

For readers of TSTOS, or anyone who finds this post from Google or another search engine, I do hope my thoughts on loss provide a little bit of insight and clarity that can help expand your perspective, but the biggest takeaway I hope you glean is accepting the possibility of going to therapy.

Therapy is not a panacea. Life isn’t perfect. I still think about the past all the time. But I’m not muddled in the dredges of bitterness and overwhelmed by a crushing sense of emptiness. It took time. Years. It is not easy. It is painful. You have to grieve. You have to express your emotions to someone. If you don’t, you are going to be dragged under whether you realize it or not.

You owe it to yourself to take care of yourself. Nobody else is going to do that for you except for you.

Russ Willy to the Broncos — What Do You Reckon?

From all the racket emanating over the last year from Aaron Rodger’s camp and the obnoxious hype drummed up over his seemingly impending move to Denver to play for the Broncos, I never once considered that Russell Wilson would wind up there.

But here we are. The Broncos have landed ol’ Russ Willy. “You did it. You crazy son of a bitch, you did it.” That Jeff Goldblum-in-Jurassic Park quote entered my mind when the breaking news launched.

I can’t believe the Seasquawks traded away the best quarterback in their franchise’s history.

Of course, I reckon the tension has been building for years. After Paul Allen passed away, Pete Carroll assumed more control with the team. Bad draft picks and roster moves, including being fleeced by the New York Jets when they acquired Jamal Adams, played a huge part in their downfall.

I would like to now accept any and all apologies for the loud-mouth homers who chastised the Rams for landing Jalen Ramsey in 2019 only to not harp on the Squawks as much for the Adams deal a year later. I digress.

Speaking of 2019 and its season, I can’t help but smirk and recall a time late in that season, when the Squawks and Forty-Whiners were battling it out for the number one seed in the NFC playoffs. The Rams were all but finished, 9-7 that year, and in a NFL-related Reddit thread multiple Squawks and Whiners fans were saying, “This is how it’s supposed to be! Squawks/Whiners! The real rivalry of the NFC West!” The Squawks bowed out to the Packers in the playoffs a few weeks later. The Whiners made it back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2013 and completed a beautiful, classic Kyle Shanahan choke-job to the Chiefs. That’s what I call art.

As legend has it, the Squawks failed to produce a worthy offensive line to protect Wilson. Their days of wielding a daunting defense dissipated some years ago and they started to develop a “let’s allow every offense to pass the ball all over us” complex that was pleasing to witness.

Wilson’s displeasures were spewed by the media as a messenger last off-season while he remained mostly quiet himself. Nothing happened, then. Their 2020 season came to a crushing end when they were thoroughly dominated by the Rams’ defense in Seattle. Wilson returned to the Squawks in 2021, but after suffering an injury against the Rams in their first matchup this past season, he never looked like the Russ Willy of old when he came back, and well, it now appears that the breakup with the Squawks was inevitable.

I don’t get it, though. I can’t make sense of it. Franchise quarterbacks don’t fall off trees. Russ Willy has, at times, looked like a strong MVP candidate over the years. He has been a consummate professional and has won complete games by his play in the last minute of games.

If I were in the front office of the Squawks with any kind of pull, I would have kept Wilson and kicked Carroll to the curb, but I’m not. I’m just an arm-chair ‘hack’. They have committed to the rebuild, as we are seeing with this move and the prospective release of their beloved Bobby Wagner.

But why commit to Carroll? He looks just about finished as a head coach. Asides from having too much power in making moves, just ask Squawks fans what they think about his play-calling on gameday. Nothing but complaints. It looks like the game has finally passed him by. He used to look youthful, but now he’s showing his age and developing TMJ from chewing all that gum on the sidelines.

The AFC is now loaded, more than ever, at quarterback. How can you not look at the AFC West now and not think, “Holy shit!”? Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, Justin Herbert and Derek Carr. That’s a gauntlet due for a bloodbath of games in the coming seasons.

Lots of my fellow Rams fans think that Von Miller will be heading back to Denver now. That won’t be surprising, but hey, I’ll always be a huge Von fan after this last season. He played a huge part in bringing a Lombardi trophy to the Rams.

I’m going off the rails here, but I just can’t help but smirk (saying it again, because it’s all so comical to me) over the downfall of the Squawks. The level of arrogance their fans displayed over the past decade was grating. Some humility from the pacific northwest will be fantastic to witness.

Just as I’m getting ready to post this, I’m seeing reports that the Squawks are allegedly exploring trade options to acquire Deshaun Watson. Welp. Maybe I’m wrong about them committing to a rebuild, but why in the world would you ditch the wholesome-but-corny Russ Willy for… a guy who is in as much trouble and brings a litany of baggage with him like Watson? Just like with relationship choices, people sure do like to make shitty decisions. A big “ayyyyyyyy LMFAO!!!” is appropriate here.

The Rams are Super Bowl LVI Champions

2021 Los Angeles Rams: Super Bowl Champions

It has been a week and I’m still smiling, still celebrating and at least once a day it hits me like a wave: Holy shit, the Rams… the RAMS… WON… the effin’ Super Bowl!

Thanks to the existence of this blog, TSTOS, nobody can ever accuse me of being a bandwagoner. The March 2007 creation of this place preceded the worst stretch of football in Rams history. 3-13, 2-14, 1-15.

Speaking of those aforementioned records that took place from 2007 through 2009, last Sunday night when the Rams defeated the media darling Bengals in Super Bowl LVI, I was sauced up on a tad too much moonshine (thank the third and fourth quarters for that) and as the video evidence shows from the candid recordings via one of my friends’ iPhones, I regaled my girlfriend and group of friends with the story as such (verbatim): “The Rams were dogshit! … For my entire life! I was teased! … In high school! The Rams! The Rams! The Rams! They went 3-13… they went 2-14… they went 1-and-fifteeeeeeen! Now they are Super Bowl champions! Aaron Donald!!! You are the greatest defensive tackle of all-time! Forget ‘Mean’ Joe Greene in his Coca Cola or Pepsi or what-have-you commercials!”

I directed the Joe Greene comments to the Pittsburgh fans in attendance, but I have to commend them. Old and new friends made the trek to visit us for the game, and they rolled with my Rams for the game. Before the above rambling, I expressed to the Pittsburgh fans, “YOU DON’T HAVE TO LISTEN TO THE BENGALS!” referring to what the off-season would have been like for Steelers fans had the Bengals won the Super Bowl, given their AFC North rivalry.

I was far too young to appreciate the Rams’ first Super Bowl victory on January 30, 2000. I expected that era of the Rams to win multiple Super Bowls; they made it back to one, two years later, and lost in excruciating fashion.

This victory, and the road leading to it, was as sweet as could be. How can you write the script any better than what transpired?

One of the two Rams themed cookie cakes from Food City that my girlfriend surprised me with for our Super Bowl party with friends.

The Rams took on the Arizona Cardinals, an upstart team that started the year 8-0 — including a win over the Rams to assert themselves — in the wildcard round of the playoffs, and the Rams absolutely destroyed them from the Rams’ second offensive drive onwards. It was complete and total domination.

In the divisional round of the playoffs, the Rams thoroughly handled Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. The only reason the game was close, in the end, after blowing a 27-3 lead, is because the Rams’ developed a case of not being able to hold onto the football, but late game heroics featuring a bomb from Matt Stafford to the NFL’s real MVP, Cooper Kupp, and a kick from Matt Gay, saved the day as the Rams advanced to the NFC championship game in addition to ending the career of Tom Brady once and for all.

In the NFC championship, the Rams played the 49ers, a team the Rams had not defeated since the 2018 campaign. I have a close friend on Instagram — Chuck — who is a 49ers fan. All week long, leading up to that game, he asked his fellow Forty-Whiners fans to send him photos and videos of themselves repping the Forty-Whiners, so he could make a compilation to celebrate that team’s Cinderella season. The end result was glorious. The Whiners blew a 17-7 lead in the fourth quarter. A Cooper Kupp touchdown catch, two Matt Gay field goals and a forceful Aaron Donald, assisting in showing the world that Jimmy ‘Garoppolol’ can’t deliver on the big stage, stamped the Rams’ ticket to Super Bowl LVI.

In the two weeks leading to the Super Bowl, the media droned on about the miracle season brought forth by the Cincinnati Bengals and lauded Joe Burrow to hell and back. For good reason, too. Burrow — if the Bengals can manage to surround him with a formidable offensive line sooner than later rather than giving him an Andrew Luck-esque career — is going to have a hell of a run in his NFL journey.

Everybody knew the story of the game would be the Rams’ defensive line going up against the Bengals’ horrific offensive line.

In the first half, the Bengals’ offensive line was holding up quite well. The Rams boasted a 13-10 lead at halftime, and we also witnessed how fat 50 Cent has become.

The Bengals took a 17-13 lead on the first offensive play in the third quarter when Tee Higgins snatched the hell outta Jalen Ramsey’s facemask on a 75-yard touchdown reception. This is when I began loading up on the ‘shine. After that play, Matt Stafford threw an interception due to the loosey goosey hands of Ben Skowronek, the Rams’ defense started buckling up and raining hell on the Bengals’ offensive line and Burrow, and the Rams’ offense couldn’t get anything going as Sean McVay exhausted everyone by calling run play after run play, and nothing was working.

It must be noted that Odell Beckham, Jr.’s ACL tear in the second quarter altered the game tremendously for the Rams. He had already caught one touchdown pass and another pass that went for a hefty game. Two receptions for 52 yards and he was looking to have himself quite the game. After this happened, the Bengals were allowed to double 2021 NFL MVP Cooper Kupp because the Rams had no other viable options going on, for the most part. Obviously Bobby Trees — Robert Woods — has been out due to an ACL tear since November, Tyler Higbee sprained his MCL in the NFC title game and was out, Kendall Blanton was a fifth string tight end coming into training camp and Brycen Hopkins was eventually placed into the game to replace Blanton on the final drive. However, I’m going to rewatch the game when I have time and figure out when all of this took place, because I’m going by revisionist history at the moment.

As the Rams failed to move the ball down the field in the fourth quarter, I started losing hope, only because I’ve watched this story too many times in my life, as a die-hard Rams fan. I have watched this team lose two Super Bowls in my lifetime and I needed to prepare myself for the prospect of losing a third Super Bowl in said lifetime, this time to the Cincinnati freakin’ BUNGLES. They were no longer your grandpoppy’s BUNGLES, but still, seeing the Rams lose — with all the talent they featured on defense — to a team with a dysmal offensive line was looking like a reality.

I went through all the motions and stages of grief, it felt like. I thought about how the Rams would be clowned by the media and so many NFL fans who have a fetish for hating Los Angeles sports teams, how the Forty-Whiners fans would claim that their Whiners would have fared better in the Super Bowl against the Bengals than the Rams. I thought about how people would blame Matt Stafford and say that he would never win the big game if he couldn’t out-duel Burrow. I thought about how long of an off-season it would be. I was stressed the hell out, as I imbibed some more ‘shine.

The Rams got the ball back at, what, five or six minutes left in the game? Again: remember, I need to rewatch the game, and I will happily do so.

Shortly into what would be the Rams’ final offensive possession, the Rams were stopped on a third and short play, and it was now fourth and one. One yard. If my memory is accurate, the ball was on the Bengals’ side of the field, and if the Rams failed to convert this play, the game felt like it would be effectively over.

The ball was snapped on fourth down: a sweep play to Cooper Kupp. Shout out to Brycen Hopkins for the mean block he threw at a Bengal, because Kupp advanced the ball past the first down marker.

“Oh shit. LET’S GO!!!!”

You, me, everybody in the world, knew that if Matt Stafford was going to pass the freakin’ football, it was gonna go to 2021 NFL MVP Cooper Kupp.

The Bengals still couldn’t stop him.

I don’t know what nickname you could give this Super Bowl, but what about, “The No-Look”? A 22-yard no-look pass from Stafford to 2021 NFL MVP Cooper Kupp set the Rams up in the red zone, bringing them to Cincinnati’s 24 with a touch over two minutes remaining in the game.

An 8-yard pass to 2021 NFL MVP Cooper Kupp brought the Rams to Cincinnati’s 16 before a surprisingly effective run by Cam Akers took the Rams to the 8.

There is something to be said about the Rams’ persistence in running the football. In Super Bowl LIII, Sean McVay gave up on the run and, well, that’s all I want to say about that game. In this one, he still brought it out till the very end. At least on that play, it worked, which brought the Rams closer.

Moments later, the play that everybody wants to talk about is the third down defensive holding on Logan Wilson. Let’s stop talking about it. It was holding. People want to say, “Well! The refs weren’t calling anything all game and they wanted to call it at the end to help the Rams!” Oh, shut up. Consider it payback for not calling the blatant facemask in the third quarter.

On the very next play, 2021 NFL MVP Cooper Kupp scored on a touchdown catch where he ensuingly took a shot from the deepest depths of hell by a Bengals’ defender in the end zone. However, it was nullified due to offensive holding via Rob Havenstein.

Everybody.

I mean everybody.

I said it already: everybody knew the ball would be going to Cooper Kupp.

The Rams were on the 1.

Unlike the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, the Rams passed the ball on the 1 and scored a touchdown. A ‘baby fade’ to 2021 NFL MVP Cooper Kupp.

“COOPER FUCKIN’ KUPP!!!!!” I exclaimed this in excitement twice, from the would’ve-been touchdown moments earlier to this one.

I knew the game wasn’t over, but goodness, Kupp made it look so easy. Perennial NFL Twitter-smack trash talk MVP Eli Apple made it easy for him.

Everybody in the room joked, “Welp, Troy, this game is going to overtime.” I expected it. Bengals’ kicker Evan ‘Shooter’ McPherson is a beast.

One of the plays of the game was made by Eric Weddle, a 37-year-old safety who had not played in two seasons before the opening playoff game against Arizona, when he stopped the Bengals’ Tyler Boyd from reaching the first down marker.

From there-on afterwards, Aaron Donald happened. Future hall-of-famer Aaron Donald.

AD practically arm-tackled Samaje Perine on a heart-pounding third-and-one (why wasn’t Joe Mixon in the game) and, on fourth down? Donald broke through the Bengals’ offensive line like I do with a beef brisket’s packaging, and he ragdolled 2021 NFL media darling Joe Burrow to the turf as Burrow tossed a prayer that fell flat.

It took a second for me to realize that the game was over. 39 seconds left and the Bengals only had one timeout.

Game over. THE GAME IS OVER?!

The Rams. The Rams. The Rams.

Super Bowl LVI champions.

I don’t care about the hysterics and emotional hate-spew produced by the haters of the Rams and Los Angeles sports as a whole. Nobody is dampening this victory for me and all of us Rams fans who have been fans for over two decades.

Like I said in my own drunken hysterics as the game clock headed towards 0, the Rams have been dogshit for the majority of my fanhood.

Now they are Super Bowl champions. Of course, the 2021 NFL MVP Cooper Kupp was named the Super Bowl LVI MVP after his two touchdown catches, including the game winner.

In the championship parade on Wednesday, the mantra — led by Sean McVay and Aaron Donald — was, “RUN IT BACK!” referring to winning the next Super Bowl, but y’know what? Regardless of what happens next season, I’m going to enjoy this one for a long, long, looooooong time.

In a way, I almost still can’t believe it. I really can’t. I have watched all the shows I usually never watch, the talking head shows on ESPN and Fox Sports 1, in the last week. I have watched the highlights multiple times. I have watched the “NFL Mic’d Up” of the game. The Rams are Super Bowl LVI champions and it still feels like a dream!

My girlfriend wanted to surprise me with a slew of Rams’ championship gear, but the gig was up when she heard me say, “I gotta order some shit before it sells out!” And she had to let me know that she already had. Heh. I have probably aggravated the shit out of her by the amount of times I’ve said, “I can’t believe the Rams won the Super Bowl.”

They did, damn it.

I was so hyped up in the 2007 NFL off-season, and looking back, I can see why, but at the same time? Ehhhh. The Rams were an aging team going into that season. They added Drew Bennett, but did nothing to bolster the offensive line. The defense was ultimately a mess. Torry Holt was 31, Isaac Bruce was almost 35. That season was over when hall-of-famer Orlando Pace (32-years-old that year) was injured in the opening game against the Panthers and was lost for the season.

I never thought I’d see the Rams be as bad as they were that season and the following years. They were horrific.

I appreciate Jeff Fisher for bringing stability to the organization five years later, but… ah hell?

Ah hell, right? What am I doing? This is TSTOS. There’s fifteen years of archived crap on here where I ranted about the Rams in 2007-2009. No need for it now.

The Rams have won Super Bowl LVI. Rams haters, LA sports haters… go pound sand. Deal with it. Accept it. Embrace it. The Rams are the kings of football.

Horns up.

The Rams’ Real Chance at Growing a Fan Base

I don’t give a shit about Los Angeles in particular.

We plan on making it out there to see Sofi Stadium next season, but my interest in going back to California in any capacity is rooted only in wanting to watch the Rams play and tearing up some Chilean grub.

As it stands, I’m just a hillbilly that is originally from southwest Virginia who has been a Rams fan for about three quarters of my life, and they were in St. Louis for the majority of that time until they moved back to Los Angeles in 2016. The Greatest Show on Turf era of the Rams hooked me to football and I never looked back. The ‘closest’ geographical team to where my hometown is, is four hours south (Charlotte, NC). I never gave a who-diddly shit about the Carolina Panthers. Most people where I’m originally from are Pittsburgh Steelers fans; beyond that, that area is a college football haven rooted in Virginia Tech, Tennessee, WVU, UVA, etc.

It has been odd following the Rams since they moved back home to LA. I’ve never been vested in a sports squad from that region before. Ever. When I say ‘odd’, I don’t mean it’s a bad thing. Hell, after the dismal 4-12 season to kick things off in the Hollywood return, the Rams have gone on to five consecutive winning seasons for the first time in my life, including two Super Bowl appearances. This is the most fun I’ve had as a fan since I was a child.

It’s odd because of the searing hate the Rams have accrued from a great deal of other NFL fans. It’s as if the ‘Los Angeles’ in front of the name ‘Rams’ attracts hate like no other. I suppose it’s just popular to hate LA teams. People love hatin’ on the Lakers (I’ve been there) and the Dodgers (the Dodgers have been irrelevant, to me, for most of my life until these last five or so years of championship contending). I don’t know shit about fuck when it comes to hockey, so I’m not sure what the consensus on the LA Kings is.

Call me a jerk, but I didn’t feel too bad for St. Louis when they lost the Rams.

Hear me out.

In baseball, I’m a Cardinals fan. I remember frequenting a Cards forum back in 2010-2011 when rumors started swirling about the Rams possibly moving back to Los Angeles, and sooo many members of that forum — from St. Louis — had the opinion of, “So what? This is a baseball town! The Rams stink!”

That sentiment stayed with me as time ensued. In the following seasons, whether it was the final shitbag disaster of a season that was Steve Spagnuolo’s curtain call, or when Jeff Fisher led the Rams to consistent mediocrity that wasn’t at least appreciable enough to make the playoffs, I thought about those words. I thought about how the franchise couldn’t at least re-design the seats in the Edward Jones Dome to paint ’em navy blue or something, since they stayed red for the entire duration the Rams were in the ‘Lou.

When the Rams moved back to Los Angeles and folks from St. Louis began to vociferate their collective crocodile tears by the use of the written word, I rolled my eyes.

Don’t get me wrong; I know some die-hard fans from St. Louis, and I commend the ones who have stayed fans of the Rams afterwards, so I do feel for them, in a way, but the loud-mouths who chose to die on the ‘We up hurr in Saint Louis, we a baseball city!’ hill can kick rocks.

Nevertheless, the Rams have struggled to build a monster fan base in LA. Tell me if I’m off base here, but it still appears that a great deal of Los Angeles-based NFL fans root for the Raiders, and even more disgusting than that? The 49ers. Yuck. It’s not surprising. LA has been a turnstile of shit. The Rams left in 1995. A whole generation of fans were born without a team to represent the region.

A win this Sunday, in Super Bowl LVI, could change that. Obviously, because I’m a die-hard Rams fan, I hope it happens.

When the Rams left St. Louis, so many friends of mine said, “Bruh, I’m sorry.” What are you sorry about? That’s what I’d ask ’em. I’d be a Rams fan regardless of where they play, since the location has never been important to me. When I picked my teams as a kid, I never had an option to pick ’em based on my geographical whereabouts. It was sad, initially, yes, ’cause I had only ever known them as the St. Louis Rams in my lifetime (I was four-years-old in 1995), but that was a momentary feeling.

So much chatter was yapped about going into the NFC title game a couple of weeks ago in regards to 49ers fans ‘taking over Sofi.’

The final regular season game was a farce. The 49ers fans loaded up at Sofi Stadium and watched their Whiners complete a 17-0 comeback to beat the Rams in overtime. Their fans loudly joked and emitted, “WHOSE HOUSE? WHINERS HOUSE” or something like that. Maybe they said ‘Niners House.’ I don’t know. I don’t converse with too many of those mouth-breathing Whiners fans.

All that bullshit made it much more sweeter when the Rams completed a comeback of their own in the NFC title game against the Whiners at Sofi, down 17-7 entering the fourth quarter, while Kyle Shanahan does what he does best — choke like he’s perennially eating a biscuit from Popeyes without a drink — and Jimmy Garoppolo showed his limitations as a quarterback.

America largely wants the Cincinnati Bengals to win this Sunday.

I get that. I do. If the Bengals were playing anybody but the Rams, I’d cheer for ’em. I like the Bengals. I like Zac Taylor. Joe Burrow has that ‘fuck you, I’mma make out with your lying, cheating wife and squeeze her badonkadonk in a bookstore parking lot while you dress up as Darth Vader inside a shit-squandered RV’ type of swagger that is great for the sport and for the media who propels him — currently — as the NFL’s new darling to promote with Tom Brady’s impending retirement (that I’m still not completely sold on since he hasn’t fully committed to, given his ‘never say never’ words leading to doubt regarding a comeback).

I like the Bengals. I think they are one of the few NFL teams I have never felt one ounce of dislike towards.

But I hope the Rams slap the whisker biscuit shit out of ’em this Sunday.

And I hope the Rams accrue a great deal of fans in the process who will stick around for the long run.

I’m just enjoying the ride, folks. This isn’t going to last forever. Maybe two or three more years. Aaron Donald will get older. So will Jalen Ramsey. They have decisions to make in the coming years.

I’m just a fan. I have no idea what will happen. I’ll still be rockin’ with ’em. Even if there are times when I have PTSD remembering when Keith Null, Gus Frerotte and Austin Davis were lining up behind center during some tough times.

Horns up.

The Rams are Going to Super Bowl LVI

The Los Angeles Rams are in the middle of a magical post-season run, and they are headed to one more game: Super Bowl LVI. In the process, they have saved America from having to watch Tom Brady or the insufferable, underwhelming, ‘just along for the ride’ Jimmy Garoppolo in another Super Bowl.

The Rams were in the Super Bowl three years ago. Remember that? My life was a mess during that time and throughout that year. Too busy trying to make the people in my life happy and believing in the hollow, meaningless words of the most dishonest person I’ve ever met or been deceived by, which culminated in 2020 being an excruciating year of isolation and pain that I could have avoided, as I had to eat crow and hear people tell me, “Well, we told you what would happen and you didn’t listen to us; we warned you. What did you expect? History repeats itself and people rarely change who they are, so believe them when they show you the first time instead of the third time.” Anywho, anyhow, anyway, I was shit-housed for that game and I’ve never watched a single highlight of it since of my own volition.

This Rams team is vastly different. Matt Stafford is the quarterback; not Jared Goff. Cam Akers and Sony Michel have usurped Todd Gurley and his arthritic self. The veritable MVP of the NFL, Cooper Kupp is healthy (although we miss Bobby Trees AKA Robert Woods) as he continues his legendary season. Odell Beckham Jr. is now a Ram and has made a resurgence. Von Miller is a Ram and has been off the charts since the game against the Ravens. The only constant has been Aaron Donald being Aaron Donald, the greatest defensive tackle to ever play.

The Rams will be facing the Cincinnati Bengals, a team that had not won a playoff game in over 30 years going into the post-season. The Bengals have won three straight, on a magical run of their own, en route to the big dance. They completed an unbelievable comeback against the Chiefs, a 21-3 deficit, to stamp their ticket to the game.

The Rams are no stranger to ending magical runs.

It’s funny, actually.

In the Rams’ last regular season game, they played the 49ers, a team that needed a win to enter the post-season. The Rams led 17-0 before falling 27-24 in overtime. The 49ers went on to beat the Cowboys in Dallas, upset the Packers in Green Bay and they licked their chops heading into yesterday’s game, ’cause they had a six game winning streak in the regular season.

Yesterday was the Rams’ turn to complete a comeback. Down 17-7 entering the fourth quarter, Matt Stafford connected on a touchdown pass to Cooper Kupp. Two Matt Gay field goals later, the Rams were in the lead.

The 49ers are a tough, gritty team, but that’s about the only credit I’m going to give them. They have been making dirty plays all year long, if you have been paying any attention. Say what you want, and make all the jokes as you desire, about Aaron Donald’s antics, but yesterday was inexcusable, from the targeted hit on OBJ to Fred Warner hitting Matt Stafford between plays. To the 49ers, I say, “fuck ’em.”

One consolation for the 49ers: their winning streak over the Rams is still active… in the regular season. Heh. Enjoy it. They couldn’t get it done when it mattered most.

Going into this Super Bowl, I feel confident outright. The Bengals’ offensive line is a mess. With the pass rush that the Rams boast, they should have no problems getting to Burrow. However, Burrow is an absolute beast.

In a way, this Bengals team reminds me of the 2001 Patriots. At the same time, they don’t.

I guess they remind me of that squad so much because they are the underdogs heading into the Super Bowl. A second year quarterback with a head coach looking to prove himself. I suppose the comparisons stop there. Nobody really knew much about Brady in 2001; he filled in for Drew Bledsoe. Zac Taylor is an offensive guy and not the defensive guru that even Bill Belichick was touted to be in 2001.

That nagging feeling is the only thing stopping me from being fully confident in the game.

Furthermore, Sean McVay’s odd decisions yesterday could have very well cost the Rams. He likes to get cute with his playcalling at times and can completely halt a drive. Early in the fourth quarter, he managed to blow all the timeouts after a couple of poor challenges.

Still, real Rams fans are happy to have McVay as the coach. Five consecutive winning seasons, three division titles, two conference championships and hopefully a Super Bowl victory coming up.

How About a Little Bit’Ah Patience?

Happy new year, everybody.

Instead of making resolutions that you’ll break by the end of this month, consider tapping into something that few people mentally and emotionally wield? A little bit of goddamn patience.

I could spend forever and a day ranting about the American work culture, toxic grindsets, everybody being worn out from shitty workplaces, stuck in a loop of constant exhaustion and all that jazz, but I’ll save it for another time because there’s already far too much material out there for that.

How does this relate to patience? In so many ways. I have over-expressed this, but the only form of social media I’m active on is Instagram. My feed is 85% food related, 10% meme related and 5% random inspirational-influence-what-the-hell-ever related.

Every now and again, random ads promote business pages that feature flashy photos of vehicles and how the owner of the page has Lamborghinis and Porches or big mansions with pools that nobody would have the time to properly maintain themselves with tired old quotes about doing this, that or the other for monetary success. I always get a kick out of these pages and I have no idea why they are promoted (maybe because I follow Gary Vee or something? Fuck if I know), because I’ve never given a single iota of a shit about vehicles of any kind (my criteria for a great vehicle? 1.) Be able to get me from point A to point B, and 2.) be durable and not experience frequent issues) nor do I care about big homes.

But a lot of people do buy into these material possessions, and that’s fine, but these pages tap into those desires and prey on the impatience of those who feel like they are stuck in a rut in their jobs, careers and overall lives.

That goes for all avenues of life; you see people impatiently tapping into whatever it is that is pushing their desires for now, now, now.

One of the reasons I was so drawn into barbecue a touch over five years ago was because it’s a nice, long process. You can’t just take a pork butt or a brisket and expect it to be ready in an hour. You have to cook them both slowly, or relatively slowly if you are going for the hot’n’fast method, in order to break down the tough collagens for the ultimate tender result.

A few years ago, I dabbled in making homemade pizza. I got a pizza peel and everything. I got a pizza stone a couple of years prior to this point in time, but I only used it for shitty frozen pizzas for whenever I didn’t have time to throw together a homecooked dinner.

My first couple of attempts, I used all purpose flour. The results were subpar because I couldn’t hand-stretch the dough, and then I read about bread flour featuring higher protein — more gluten — content and tried it, and I still failed. I gave up for a while.

Eventually I gave pan pizzas a try. Higher hydration doughs made with bread flour, but instead of hand stretching or using a peel, you just stretched the sumbitch out in a pan. Easy peasy. I gave up on any kind of Neapolitan or New York style pizzas, because my impatience and lack of practice despite the previous attempts led me to believe in a self-fulfilling prophecy that I simply could not create them.

To people who know me personally, I’ve talked about wanting to buy an outdoor woodfired pizza oven for a while. I almost pulled the trigger on one a year or so ago, but once again, I told myself, “Eh, I can’t hand-stretch or hand-toss dough worth a damn, so why bother?” Felice surprised me with one for Christmas.

I had no excuse to not learn. So I delved deeper into the research on how in the hell one should properly hand-stretch pizza dough. I watched a horde of videos when I first started this process a couple of years back, but I went deeper into it this time.

Why wouldn’t the goddamn dough stretch? Hmm. Well, I bought what I call a ‘caterpillar dick’ scale. I already had a food scale, but it couldn’t measure any microingredients, so using yeast was a tricky thing to do. With the ‘caterpillar dick’ scale, I could measure out the tiniest amount of yeast and roll with it. This way, I could avoid over-proofing the dough and have more control of how many air bubbles there would be when it came time to get those dough balls stretched out.

Secondly, I paid more attention to kneading. Is the dough soft and smooth? Is it tearing or nah, fam? Is it passing the windowpane test? Trying to ensure the gluten chains were forming, y’know?

Thirdly, in the past I would dust the countertop with a bit of flour and try to stretch the dough to no avail. This time, I would attempt to sit the dough ball into a bowl of ‘bench flour’, press it out from the middle on both sides, and then transfer it to the countertop to stretch.

First time, when trying out the awesome woodfired pizza oven that Felice surprised me with? I knocked it out of the park with some of the best pizza I have ever tasted, using nothing but water, bread flour, salt and yeast.

A little bit of patience while tapping into all the pizza resources online and being understanding that practice was needed wound up being the right move.

A lot of people give up on learning new skills because of the learning curve requiring ample patience. I’ve been there at so many points.

Just like a lot of people give up on various endeavors in life because of impatience. Think about sunk cost fallacy, too, where people have this belief that since they have put a lot of time and effort into something (like shitty, broken marriages riddled with affairs and overall disinterest featuring both parties doubling down by playing a game of ‘pretend’ on public display), they should continue doing that thing. I know of people who will go back to something ‘less’ because they are too impatient to wait for something more.

Think about that.

Last summer, my 12-year-old quasi-nephew was going to spend two weeks with me and Felice. I have to admit something that is going to make me sound awful: I dreaded it. He has behavioral (anger) issues stemming from all sorts of shit, and he has a way-too-young fascination with spending money.

What happened was, he wound up spending the entire summer with us. I did something he’s not used to: I listened to him, validated his emotions over random shit, and partook in his hobbies. He likes the Forza Horizon video game series, and as part of that, he really likes cars. Keep in mind, as I said above: I don’t give a shit about cars. But I actively listened and talked to him about them, his dream cars when he grows up and all that jazz. His father is a piece of shit, and his mother has the patience of a gnat.

Most of all, I didn’t raise my voice at him or chastise him for random things, like leaving half-eaten food or empty drink containers on the dining room table. I just calmly would say something like, “Hey Bray, would you mind cleaning that up? I’d appreciate it.”

Instead of spending time on Tik Tok or video games, he wanted to throw down some grub with me on certain days.

He spent the entire summer in a household with two people who didn’t raise their voice at him; two people who listened to what he had to say rather than making him feel like his opinions don’t matter. As a result, by the time he went back home to kick off the school year, he was calmer, happy and appears to have had a great time here with us.

I was shocked, because I didn’t expect that. I thought he would have an awful time, be bored, become petulant, etc. but none of those things happened. I learned something about myself and a life lesson through that experience. He’s still talking about how he can’t wait for this summer.

Another test of patience is happening as of this moment.

My closest aunt, who is like a second mother to me, was diagnosed with stage 3 non-small cell lung cancer in November. I have made a shithorde of trips back home to do what I can to help out. It has been an exhausting time, and I have never seen her with so little energy or zest after beginning radiation and chemo. Her personality has shifted, understandably so, and we’ve been doing everything possible to keep her spirits high. I lost an aunt in 2020, and another one in 2021. I’ve been trying to stay positive myself through all of this, but it has been challenging nonetheless.

So instead of useless resolutions like losing weight (as if the first day of the year is some magical day of clarity to begin a routine of healthy living rather than trying to get your shit together by starting in July or August), start practicing a modicum of patience.