Can the Raptors Actually Do This?

The Toronto Raptors are in the NBA Finals for the first time in their 24-year history. Their path to this stage has been a wild ride, as the team has had to shrug off numerous body blows throughout the playoffs. But through all the moments of doubt, the Raps have thrived with their backs against the ropes as they’ve consistently found a way to dodge the knockout punch.

There was the brief moment of panic after losing their very first game of the postseason at home against what was supposed to be an overmatched Orlando Magic team. They coughed up their home-court advantage against the Sixers in the second round and fell in a 2-1 hole, before storming back and eventually winning that series in one of the best Game 7’s in recent memory. The image of Kawhi Leonard’s buzzer-beating shot bouncing around the rim before falling in and advancing them to the Eastern Conference Finals has already cemented its place in Canadian sports lore for the rest of time.

Then of course, the East Final was a saga all to its own. After losing the first two games against the Bucks – the team with the best record in the league – the doubt in many Raps’ fans actually felt more like concession that this was the point where it was all going to come crashing down. Except instead of going away quietly, Toronto didn’t lose another game in the series. They took four straight from a Milwaukee team that had only lost TWO in a row one time over the course of the entire 82-game season.

The joy that has been felt all across Canada following that win has been impossible not to feel. But even with all of that being said, there is also a sense even among some of the most die-hard Raptors fans that this is where the party ends. And honestly, considering the depths that this organization has been mired in at certain points of their history, this NBA Finals berth is enough to warrant the glorious celebration it has elicited.

The obvious reason why there is trepidation in believing that the Raptors can win the whole damn thing is because their reward for getting themselves into the Finals is a match-up against the most prolific dynasty of this generation, the Golden State Warriors.

But the way things have gone in this particular postseason has me thinking, is it really that crazy to at least hold out some modicum of hope that the Raptors have what it takes to do this? Your thinking doesn’t need to be all that pie-in-the-sky to find reasons to believe.

For example, as loaded as the Warriors’ roster undoubtedly is, they are in fact missing Kevin Durant, who you may be aware is very good at this whole basketball thing. The scary part is that even though no team that employs KD could possibly consider themselves BETTER without him, the fact is that in the last 32 games where Steph Curry has played and Durant hasn’t, the Warriors have won 31 of those games. And honestly, that’s just dumb.

There’s no doubt that Curry is the engine that makes the Warriors go. He’s the best shooter in the league for a reason, and his ability to reach NBA Jam on-fire status from deep is the biggest reason why Golden State is never out of any game, even if they find themselves down double digits late in the 3rd quarter. However, there have been games during this particular playoff run where he has been less than stellar. The idea of him being guarded by Kawhi Leonard should make it reasonable to believe that he can be held in check enough that someone else is going to have to pick up the slack offensively for the Dubs. Is that Klay Thompson? Sure, it could be. And I’d be willing to bet that at least for a game or two, it will be. But any situation where the Raptors can force Golden State into relying on a strong performance from Klay to win a game is a best-case scenario for Toronto.

Getting back to the subject of Kawhi, now is the point where I address how God-like he has been during this playoff run. The man has clearly been playing hurt for a while now, and yet he has still been the best performer on any team this postseason night in and night out. His basketball IQ combined with the intangible will to win he wears on his proverbial sleeve has elevated the play of his teammates. The way he impacts the game on both ends of the floor has been a thrill to watch. In case anyone was unsure of whether or not he is worthy of being in the conversation for top-five player in the league, his performance this spring should erase any of that doubt.

Leonard’s supporting cast has been efficient, even if they’ve been inconsistent. Kyle Lowry is a perpetual enigma who has the ability to go off for 30 on any given night, but somehow also feels like he could be due for the kind of underwhelming showing that has plagued him in the past. But let’s put it this way, if Lowry is knocking down shots and creating transition offense on any given night, the Raptors are scary. If nothing else, Lowry can increase Toronto’s chances of winning enormously if he can defend Thompson well enough to force him to put the ball on the floor instead of the catch-and-shoot approach in which Klay thrives.

Fred Van Vleet has been a revelation as these playoffs have progressed. His three-point efficiency has been a pleasant surprise, even if it doesn’t necessarily feel sustainable. Pascal Siakam has had one helluva year, and should prevent Draymond Green from putting up any eye-popping offensive stat lines. But considering the all-hands-on-deck approach it’s going to take to knock off the Warriors, he’s going to have to make an impact on both ends of the floor.

Marc Gasol has been up and down this postseason, but his ability to hold Brook Lopez in check after an absurd Game 1 performance in the East Finals is a good omen considering that I think it’s safe to say that Kevon Looney is no Brook Lopez. Gasol is another guy that doesn’t necessarily HAVE to have a strong shooting performance for the Raptors to succeed, but if he does find his stroke for a game or two, it would provide a huge boost.

The Raptors are very clearly Kawhi Leonard’s team, but the performance of their bench late in the Milwaukee series was a sign that they at least have the ability to beat anyone, even Golden State. And after all that I’ve written here, I still haven’t once mentioned the name Serge Ibaka, who is one of the most proven playoff performers on the team. He brings an intensity to the floor which is one of those intangible things you won’t see quantified in a box score, but is unquestionably an asset.

At this point, I’ve laid out so many positives that the Raptors have going for them, you might be thinking I’m picking them to win this series. But here’s the thing. When it comes to beating one of the best teams ever, it’s going to take most or all of the “if this happens, then maybe” scenarios to play out exactly how Toronto wants.

When I talk about the possibility of Curry being less than amazing, or Klay being held in check, or Draymond struggling to contribute, or Lowry being a consistent scorer, or Van Vleet doing this that or the other, I’m talking about possibilities that could easily go the other way. You know, the way that would see the Raptors struggling to even win more than a game or two in this series.

On paper, no one is better than the Warriors, with or without KD. But the games aren’t played on paper. The biggest strength the Raptors have going for them is that defensively, they have done a remarkable job of forcing their opponents to get away from their identity. This was particularly evident against the Bucks. No team during this incredible MVP year that Giannis Antetokounmpo has had was able to get into his head the way the Raptors did. All Giannis wanted to do was be able to penetrate off the dribble and get to the rim with a burst of speed. But time after time, the Raptors defense converged on him at the point of attack and either forced him backwards, or caused him to get rid of the ball. If the Raptors can identify and execute the ways to cause Golden State to play an off-brand version of their game, this could be a long series.

So can the Raptors actually do this? Yes! I think it is 100% possible. Is it likely? I don’t know if I’d go that far. But one thing is for sure. I haven’t been this intrigued by an NBA Finals match-up in at least a few years. I don’t know if it’s going to yield the result that most Canadians I’ve talked to are hoping for, but it should be a joy to watch. It all starts Thursday night. I can’t wait.

Hey Boston, Enough Already

The Boston Bruins are just sitting back right now, feet up on the coffee table, waiting in the wings for the winner of the Sharks-Blues Western Conference Final to be determined. The Carolina Hurricanes were the most fun story the Stanley Cup Playoffs had going, and the Bruins just smothered them in the East Final like a deflating bouncy house at a children’s birthday party. They swept the Canes, who had swept the Islanders, who had swept the Penguins. So I guess on the plus side, haha Pittsburgh. But what that leaves us with is a Boston team that is going into the Cup Final as rested as could be, and awaiting an opponent that will be some combination of tired, shorthanded, or just worse (at least on paper) than the B’s.

So what it comes down to is this: The Boston Bruins are going to win the Stanley Cup. Right now, I can’t be convinced otherwise. And that bums me right the fuck out.

Before I continue, I feel it necessary to point out that when it comes to spoiled sports fans, I am one of the worst. In my lifetime, my New York Yankees have won five World Series. My New York Giants have four Super Bowl rings (although I’m really only old enough to have appreciated two of them). Even my rarely talked-about hockey team – the New Jersey Devils – have hoisted three Stanley Cups. What I’m saying is that if you hate me for that, you’re allowed. I couldn’t possibly blame you.

The chokehold that the city of Boston has applied to the sports world in the first two decades of this century is nothing short of enraging. That’s doubly true for me as a New Yorker. The curse of the Bambino has been dead for almost 15 years now, somehow. And oh what I would give to go back and live in those days when the Red Sox were a team that was just good enough to get themselves into an LCS match-up against the Yanks, only to have their hopes and dreams dashed in the most heartbreaking of ways. If that sounds sinister to you, well, it kinda is. But that’s just part of what it means to hate a rival team. Sports are one of the few realms in life where experiencing schadenfraude isn’t something that should be accompanied with instant shame. It’s part of the fan experience.

Since the Patriots beat the Rams in 2002’s Super Bowl XXXVI, that football team has won five more rings. The Red Sox have won four World Series. The Celtics have an NBA title to their credit. The Bruins have won one Stanley Cup, and seem poised to add another. Should that happen, it will be 13 championships in 18 years for one city. But perhaps worst of all, the last three will have come in the span of nine months. Bless the Bucks for knocking the Celtics out of this year’s NBA Playoffs so we at least don’t have to worry about the potential of a clean sweep.

All of this serves to underline the point that Boston has become the modern-day Titletown, and there is no close second. That this has occurred while the New York sports scene has largely devolved into a three-ring circus only adds fuel to my personal dread that would coincide with four more Bruins wins this spring. And the sad truth is, I’m not counting on either St. Louis or San Jose to save us.

Of course, a major part of my disdain for this team is merely because of the location where they play their home games. It’s true that there are some genuinely likable characters on the Bruins’ roster. Zdeno Chara is easy to root for. Tuukka Rask is a great story, and is undeniably one of those guys that seems to shine when the spotlight burns the brightest. There’s a lot to be said for that. In a vacuum, would I love to see David Backes finally win a championship after 13 years of being a very good player who was never on the best team? Sure. And of course I have a soft spot in my heart for former Devil, Marcus Johansson, who has really had a stellar showing this postseason. But as long as they all wear that B on the front of their jerseys, I can’t help but hope they go down in flames.

Honestly, any good will I can build up towards this Boston team as a whole is undone entirely by the way I feel about Brad Marchand. Taking nothing away from his skill, of which he obviously has plenty, the goonery that he puts on display on a regular basis leaves me no choice but to want to see him get his comeuppance. That doesn’t mean I want to see him get injured. I never wish that upon anyone, even if he has a penchant for inflcting injury on others. I just hope that he gets put on his ass every time he hits the ice. More frequently though, he’ll make a dazzling play in the offensive zone that makes me shake my fist at the sky. To Marchand’s credit, it’s rare that you see a guy with the ability to throw a seasoned veteran like Justin Williams so far off of his game that he seemed to forget that he was playing hockey. There is certainly a spot on any team’s roster for a guy with the ability to do that, but Marchand is way too extra for me to actually get to a place in my mind where I can celebrate him.

I’m getting slightly off topic here though. So let me end on this note. It certainly looks like we’re headed towards a Boston-St. Louis Stanley Cup Final. And you can bet your ass I’ll be rooting like crazy for the Blues. But I just can’t see them winning four out of seven against these goddamn Bruins.

Boston sports dominance doesn’t appear like it’s going to go away any time soon. The Red Sox are getting their act together after a putrid start to this baseball season. The Patriots are still the Patriots until proven otherwise. The Celtics will continue to be good, even if they’re not elite. And there’s no sign of the Bruins falling out of the category of perennial Cup contender in the near future. All of it together just leaves me with an everlasting sour taste in my mouth. I mean seriously. Enough already, Boston. We get it.

The New Vampire Weekend Album Is So Goddamn Good

Every now and then, an album enters into my life that I know I will hold near and dear to my heart forever. That just happened a few Fridays ago when Vampire Weekend released their long anticipated double album, Father of the Bride. It had been nearly six years since they dropped what I thought was going to be their magnum opus, Modern Vampires of the City. But this new project is just absurdly good and honestly blows their other work out of the water. And I love their other stuff!

As is the case with most of my favorite albums of all time, the main strength of this project is the delightful lyricism that frontman Ezra Koenig provides in spades from start to finish. So this week on the blog, I’m going to go track by track and let you in on what makes this piece of art so special in my mind.


The album opens with a beautiful acoustic guitar riff, and immediately sets the scene. We are placed at a wedding in which the relationship in question has clearly been strained with its future uncertain. It’s the first of three duets between Koenig and Danielle Haim, all of which have a country essence to them. The opening lyrics of this track are also the ones that resonate the most for me, even if the relationship that I think about personally when I hear them is the professional relationship I had with the place where I got my start in the broadcasting business.


I know the reason why you think you gotta leave
Promises of future glory don’t make a case for me
I did my best and all the rest is hidden by the clouds
I can’t carry you forever, but I can hold you now


Of the six singles that were released before the album came out, this is the one that I found to be the most elevated by the full context of the project. The light and bouncy guitar sounds are joined by an upbeat piano, but they are countered by lyrics that portray a character who is fed up with the way things have been going. Koenig even rehashes a lyric from a song off the last album called Finger Back in which he states, “I don’t wanna live like this, but I don’t wanna die.”


Anger wants a voice
Voices want to sing
Singers harmonize
Til they can’t hear anything

I thought that I was free
From all that questioning
But every time a problem ends
Another one begins


This is one of the three tracks on the album that runs less than two minutes, but it’s also one of my favorites. The use of vocoder and crunchy guitars makes it one of the best head-boppers on the record. But the track gets quieter to make way for the hook, which conjures up thoughts of a person who feels they need to step away from the one they love when things begin to seem untenable.


My Christian heart cannot withstand
The thundering arena
I’ll see you when the violence ends
For now, ciao ciao, bambina


This track comes through with buoyant guitars and hand claps. It’s the kind of song that makes you snap your fingers and sing along. But as you sing along, you may realize that you’re singing about the uncertainty of life that gives us all pause from time to time. Who among us hasn’t at one point or another thought to themselves, “Oh Christ, am I good for nothing?


Baby, I know death probably hasn’t happened yet
‘Cause I don’t remember living life before this
And darling, our disease is the same one as the trees
Unaware that they’ve been living in a forest


This is the most lyrically simplistic of the tracks on the album, merely because it’s one stanza that repeats itself three times. I can’t claim to know exactly what Koenig’s inspiration was behind these words, but to me it sounds like an address to the universe itself as life becomes more difficult to cope with.


Big blue
For once in my life I felt close to you
I was so overcome with emotion
When I was hurt and in need of affection
When I was tired and I couldn’t go home
Then you offered protection
So am I learning my lesson?
Or am I back on my own?


This track underlines one of the most jarring juxtapositions between the instrumentation and the lyrical content. Musically it is a song that features happy keys and fun harmonies, as well as playful guitars and sound effects. At times, you can even hear some hip hop sensibilities in the production. But the lyrics at first paint a picture of this failed relationship, and eventually describe the future destruction of Los Angeles.


Getting to the top
Wasn’t supposed to be this hard
The house is on Mulholland Drive
The car’s on Sunset Boulevard

The registration’s here with me
Neither of us has the key
We could live down in the flats
The hills will fall eventually


The fact that this song is one of the lowliers on the album in my opinion really speaks to the quality of the overall project. While musically beautiful, the only reason why it’s low on the list of my favorite tracks is because lyrically it doesn’t ADD a whole lot. It does contribute to the theme of a failed relationship, but I guess I just feel like there are other songs that do a better job of accomplishing that. That said, the hook is yet another example of terrific songwriting.


There’s an avalanche coming
Don’t cover your eyes
It’s what you thought that you wanted
It’s still a surprise

It’s hard on the body
It’s hard on the mind

To learn what kept us together, darling
Is what kept us alive


If I could only pick one, this would be my favorite track on the album. In a world where we’ve superficially created the idea that wealth equates with success, this song is a breath of fresh air. Hammering home the idea that money doesn’t buy happiness, it starts with a brilliantly crafted line that goes, “When I was young I was told I’d find one rich man in ten has a satisfied mind, and I’m the one.” Other stanzas pepper in concepts of love, and a striking through line also touches on the ridiculousness of the odds we stack on people who are trying their best to achieve their goals, no matter how unlikely they may be at face value. Let’s just say that this idea in particular is one that hits close to home for me. Also, the Looney Tunes-ass strings that come in at two separate intervals of the song are just so gorgeous, it makes me want to get up and waltz.


One in a million don’t mean what it meant
And these millions of gold coins don’t gleam when they’re spent
You’re left with none

Ten million dollars could win the whole lot
But if ten million dollars is all that you got
You wont be the one


This is just a straight-up country duet between Koenig and Haim that is belied by the modernized production behind it. It’s not the best song on the album, but it’s certainly not the worst. It does provide one of a few moments on the record when the two partners in this doomed relationship address one another directly. I’m particularly a fan of when they collectively discuss the idea that this relationship once seemed perfect, but both of them have long since lost sight of that time.


EK: I thought you might learn the language
DH: I thought you might learn to sing
TOGETHER: We were born before the gold rush
So why can’t I remember anything?


This is the closest attempt Vampire Weekend has ever made at producing a jazz song. The song is appropriately moody and does a great job at expressing the regret that goes along with feeling responsible for the end of something good. It’s probably the track with the least replay value, but it accomplishes the role that it’s clearly designed to play in the context of the album.


There was choice to get out
Or remain in this state
There was springtime and future
Til I made my mistake


Holy shit, does this song slap. I wasn’t aware that flamenco and techno could be blended so smoothly, but it turns out, yep! It starts with a spoken word intro that says “I think I took myself too serious. It’s not that serious” And this song is seriously bonkers. It also contains some poignant observations of the world, including this gem of a line in the second verse.


I’d never heard the words
Enemies for centuries until there was a third


Teamed up with the brilliant guitar playing of Steve Lacy from The Internet, this song is one of the happiest moments on the record. That’s the case even though the lyrics actually present the idea of rebelling against the world and the way it operates. To me anyway, the messaging of the song is one of resistance against contributing to the functionality of a cruel universe, and instead choosing to spend the day indoors kept to yourself.


Sunflower in the morning
Standing in the garden
All before you wake
No power can compel you
Out into the daylight
Let that evil wait


I can’t lie. The hook of this song makes me cry. Not only does the use of vocoder make Koenig and Lacy’s vocals sound beautifully heartbroken, the words speak to some of the strongest emotions I felt throughout my darker times a few years ago when I was reassessing what I was doing with my life. I hear the message of wanting things to be different, but understanding that in order for things to be the way you want them to be, it’s going to require a big change, and a great deal of patience.


Flower moon, curse the night
If the sun don’t make things right
Then it’s gonna take a year
(Gonna take a year)

Flower moon, sacred sign
Coca-Cola and red wine
Now’s the time to disappear
(Gonna take a year)

14) 2021

This track features the simplistic sound of a synth and a lyric sheet that ponders about the future. It’s sweet in its brevity and easy relatability. It also plays off of Flower Moon incredibly well, in that it recycles the concept of patience, but stresses that too much patience can actually work against you.


2021, will you think about me?
I could wait a year, but I shouldn’t wait three


The third and final duet between Koenig and Haim is just absolutely wonderful in every way. After all of the trials and tribulations of this problematic relationship, they come together to sing about how much love they have for one another, even if ultimately it didn’t work out the way either of them had hoped. The words when read in isolation may come off as cheesy or saccharine, but honestly, they work so perfectly that not only is that NOT a strike against the song, it actually adds a lot to it.


We go together like give and take
Pains and aches
Real and fake
We go together, don’t be opaque
It’s clear we go together


The words to the chorus of this song serve as the thesis statement for the entire project. “Things have never been stranger. Things are gonna stay strange.” There are a number of elements to this song that make it one of the poppier sounding songs on the record, and I just love it. As the album begins to come to a close, you can sense the themes of the songwriting shift from pensive and in-the-moment to reflective and grateful.


The sound of you and your sister
I couldn’t face these days alone

You got the right light, candles burning
We don’t need the moon anymore

I used to look for an answer
I used to knock on every door
But you got the wave on, music playing
Don’t need to look anymore


This is another song that does a tremendous job of describing a specific event in time. It paints the picture of this couple’s last moments together, as a spring snowstorm has caused her flight to be delayed, giving them a few more hours to be in each other’s company. But just as was the case with the relationship in general, this moment is only fleeting. The two of them have to accept that this is just the way everything was meant to play out.


The snow fell last night
Your flight couldn’t leave

Come back to the bed
Let’s take this reprieve

It felt like the end
The end’s been delayed
You’re here in my arms
So what should I say?


This song is a heartbreaking way to end the album, but it is still somehow the perfect conclusion. While there are obvious references to the sadness felt towards no longer being with a beloved, there are also bigger themes addressed that speak toward the world as a whole. As Koenig has stated, the song is really about “what it means to connect to something bigger than yourself.” Despite how heavy a question like that is, Koenig does a great job of personalizing the answer. But as far as the one line that stands out to me as the most personal to my experience as someone trying to find the right avenue to chase down my life goals, it’s this one:


You’ve given me the big dream
But you can’t make it real

To wrap this up, Father of the Bride is not even two weeks old on my ears yet, so perhaps my recency bias is playing into why I hold it in such high regard. But sometimes you just know. I can’t say that this record will unseat The Hazards of Love by The Decemberists for my favorite album of all time. But I do think I can comfortably place it in my top five. Bravo, Vampire Weekend. Bra-freaking-vo.

Sorry, I Suck Today

This blog feels like work today. And I hate it. Right now, my brother and his record label mates are making a beautiful song in the next room, and all I want to do is immerse myself in that process with them. But if I don’t do what I said from the beginning I was going to do with this space, then I’m going to feel as though I’ve failed the day. And I wont allow myself to do that.

I said I was going to write every Monday, and if I just decide to take a day off, then what’s stopping me from taking next Monday off, or the Monday after that. I can’t do that. I wont.

Maybe this is me putting unnecessary pressure on myself. But whatever. Someone needs to put pressure on me creatively, and no one else is going to do it. It’s just another thing that makes this project mine.

I’m so fixated on the idea of being great at everything I do, I find myself being uncomfortable with the idea of just being fine on any given day. But I realize that’s a dangerous precedent to set for myself.

My brother has been a terrific sounding board for me, and he told me something not long ago that I need to take to heart. He even put it into a sports context, because he knew it would resonate with me more that way. Essentially what he said was, “You don’t need to go out and hit a home run every time you step up to the plate. Sometimes you just need to hit a single.”

And he’s right. So I guess that’s what I’ll view this post as. Just a little baseknock. Honestly, it kind of feels more like reaching base by getting hit by a pitch. But maybe this way, the next time I do hit one out of the park, there will be some runners on base. Is this sports analogy getting too convoluted? Yeah, it could be. But it’s actually working for me, so I’m gonna just roll with it.

My brain just feels locked up today. But I’m finding that it’s helping to work my way through it by doing what I love to do – writing about it. So I guess I’m not as lost as I think I am.

I just couldn’t stare at a blank screen anymore. It was giving me anxiety like you wouldn’t believe. So now I’ve got words here. They may not be the most inspiring words I’ll ever write, but part of what this blog was designed to be was an invitation for the reader to get into my headspace.

So this is what’s going on in my head today: I’m really fucking aggravated that I haven’t met my own standards of quality lately. I’m not going to let it be an indictment of my ability, but it sucks to feel like you’re not doing the best you can do. And frankly, I need to do better next week.

I already have a deeply meaningful post planned for later this month, because it will coincide with another one of those anniversaries of a significant life event. But until then, my goal is to approach next week’s post with a concrete idea and to execute that idea to the best of my ability. I know I have things to say. But all of my ideas for this week’s post either felt half-baked or just dumb.

It pisses me off to say this, but this is the best I can do today. I just need to feel like I’ve met my obligation to myself to write SOMETHING. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go wrtie a song or a poem now so I can feel a little bit more accomplished. See you next week. Sorry, I suck today.

The Writer’s Block Series: Episode 1

I have no idea what to write about today. So instead of beating my head against the wall in hopes that a million-dollar idea falls out my ear, I’ve decided to just start typing and see what happens. I have a feeling this wont be the last time I do this. So let’s just call it Episode 1 of The Writer’s Block Series.

So let’s see here. What’s bouncing around my brain today? I mean besides the everlasting image of this squirrel eating an avocado with an avocado helmet on his squirrel head…

I’m looking forward to seeing Avengers: Endgame at some point, hopefully this week. But not nearly as much as I would look forward to seeing a movie-length recreation of my favorite superhero gang of all time. I’m talking, of course, about Action League NOW!

You mean to tell me The Flesh couldn’t go toe to toe with The Hulk? Who are you kidding? The Hulk may be super strong, but as long as he has those shorts on he’s simply not capable of unleashing the true power of being super naked. Advantage The Flesh. Also, is there a superhero in the whole universe more easy to identify with than Meltman? I think not.

Now, if I may – and I may, because this is my blog – allow me to share some of my favorite things I saw online this past week. This photo of the FRIENDS cast made the rounds on Twitter…

So no one told them life was gonna be this wayyyy (CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP). I mean, what was this even for? Honestly, if you know, don’t tell me. I’d rather use my imagination. There’s just so much going on here. Matt LeBlanc is sitting on what appears to be a marching bass drum which for some reason just so happened to be sitting outside the open door of a barn. Lisa Kudrow, Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry appear to not actually be sitting on anything at all, instead somehow managing to levitate. All I know is David Schwimmer is by far the star of this photo. He’s wearing mesh with overalls for goodness sake. MESH! WITH OVERALLS! What an absolute icon. #Schwimwear

Moving on. Ever wanted to see a kitty cat slap the absolute soul out of a seal? I didn’t know how much I did until I saw this next clip. Here ya go…

The flop by this seal is the kind of sell job that would make Ric Flair weep. It is absolute perfection. That cat is not to be fucked with. Then again, what cat is? That poor seal was literally just minding its own business. You can feel the shockwave run through its entire body after the first slap, as if to say, “Why, Whiskers?” And then the second one is deserving of a Mortal Kombat FATALITY overdub. Afterwards, the cat just stands there and admires the carnage. Absolutely savage.

Finally, a few words on what may be the worst song I’ve ever heard. Let me preface this by saying that I am actually a fan of both Taylor Swift and Brendon Urie. In fact, Panic! at the Disco is safely in my top 15 or so favorite artists of all time. But the song ME! that the two of them collaborated on and released this past Friday is whatever the opposite of ear candy is. It’s ear candy corn.

If you haven’t heard it yet, all you really need to know is that at one point, Swift gleefully shouts the phrase, “Hey kids! Spelling is fun!” And no, Taylor. No it is not. You know how I know? Because this is the face of a kid who just won $40,000 dollars at the Scripps Spelling Bee:

The face of fun

It’s a shame, because I believe the two of them could actually pull off a very good song together. But it just sort of feels like they were actually trying to pull off the cheesiest pop-machine-ready tune possible. So I guess in that sense, they succeeded. But woof. Bad song. And not in the “it’s so bad, it’s good” kind of way.

Here’s a better alternative to put into your ears. One of my favorite Vancouver-based acts just released a real gooder on Friday. Listen to Capture by the Crouchin 40 Sippas. Do it. And also recognize that there’s going to be a buttload of good music to come out of this city over the course of this year and beyond. Very excite.

Anywho, hopefully I’ll have something a little more focused to write about next week. Either way, thanks for joining me on my first attempt to plow through writer’s block by just typing the first things that pop into my head. I’m sure I’ll be doing it again before too long.

Confidence Is Hard

I like to consider myself a creative type. There are few things that give me the kind of satisfaction that I get from taking nothing more than an idea and turning it into something tangible. In a lot of ways, that is exactly the inspiration that led to me starting this blog. Just today, I’ve spent the better part of the last two hours staring at a blank page with the intention of filling the space with words that will get some kind of reaction out of you. As anyone who has attempted a creative endeavor such as this knows, it can be a daunting challenge.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m only doing this to satisfy my own ego. After all, it’s not like I’m writing for an established publication. I have no deadlines to meet that aren’t self-imposed. I barely even have an audience at this stage of my development. When I first decided I was going to start writing a blog, it was designed as a purely self-fulfilling project. I enjoy writing. I think I’m pretty good at it. So why not just write for the hell of it? If nothing else, it would be good practice.

But then I wrote a post that was read by a lot of people (by my standards), and one that everyone genuinely seemed to enjoy. It was this one. It wasn’t one of my sports takes. Not one of my thinkpieces on society or politics. It was literally just a post detailing part of my life story.

My biggest takeaway from the feedback I got on that piece was how many people found something in it that resonated with them personally. I found a way to inspire, even if it was completely by accident. I remain extremely proud of that post, almost entirely for that reason.

I’ve written a lot since then, and nothing else I’ve posted has even come close to replicating that moment. That’s not to say that I haven’t gotten a lot of positive feedback from close relations and strangers alike. I’m always grateful to anyone who takes the time to read and comment on my work, because if I’m being honest with myself, I recognize that I’m basically a nobody in the grand scheme of things. But there are times that I wonder if that piece is always going to stand out as my one-hit wonder. My Mambo No. 5, if you will.

But then I wonder, why is that? Where does that fear come from? Why even entertain the idea that no matter what I do, I’m destined to be average? What I’m realizing after having conversations with many other creative types is that this is a feeling that is shockingly pervasive. It’s an offshoot of something called impostor syndrome, and it seems as though not even the most talented of us are immune to the grip it can impose.

Impostor syndrome has a pretty general definition. It’s essentially the self-imposed feeling that you are a fraud, even if you have evidence to the contrary. You feel like you don’t deserve your own accomplishments. Even if other people think you’re talented or admire the things that you do, you feel like you’ve somehow duped them into thinking that way.

The weird thing about my experience with this is that it hasn’t been constant. There are days where I’m actually quite full of myself. I’ll look back on things I’ve done and think to myself, “Wow, I really knocked that one out of the park. I’m so fucking good.” But the next day, I might look back at that same thing and think, “Is that the best I can do?”

It sets me up to put more pressure on myself for the next thing I do. Sometimes it’s helpful. That pressure can lead to me doing something even better. Oftentimes though, it’s an unnecessary burden that causes me to swing for the fences, and as any baseball player could tell you, it frequently happens that when you do that, you miss horribly.

Maybe you’ve been there too. I’m willing to bet at least a fraction of you have. Some days you’ll wake up with the kind of energy that has you ready to take on the world. You feel like you have the Midas touch. You can’t miss. But other days, you wake up thinking, what if I’m actually dog shit at this thing that I claim to be good at?

For me, confidence has always been a very fickle thing. But over time, I’ve found ways to fight back against doubt when it starts to creep in. Sometimes, I’ll just talk shit out loud, even if no one else is around. Actually, especially when no one is around. It’s amazing how powerful it can be to gas yourself up. The more conviction I have when I talk about how good I am, the more I believe it. Sure, there are days where that conviction is almost entirely fabricated. But even when that is the case, I find that it can be so helpful to just pump a little bit of air into my own tires.

If it’s true that we can speak things into existence – which I believe it is, at least to an extent – then tearing yourself down is one of the least productive things you can do during your moments of weakness. I don’t know exactly when it was that I convinced myself to stop doing that, but I can tell you that since then, I’ve been much better off for it. That’s not to say that I don’t have moments when I’m down on myself, but when those moments come, I feel more prepared to deal with them now.

I think part of my struggle with confidence has been the fact that I’ve been trained to believe that ego is a bad thing to have. And certainly, no one likes an egomaniac. But a healthy dose of it is not only good, it’s downright necessary. Think of some of the most successful people you know. I’m willing to bet that many of them are confident in themselves to the point that their confidence can sometimes present itself as cockiness. That might rub some people the wrong way, but I’m here to tell you that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being cocky if it’s justified.

So maybe that’s it. Maybe I feel like I haven’t yet earned the right to be confident to the point that I can truly flex on you. But you can bet your ass that I’m gonna get there. I’ll get there even if it takes years of hard work, which frankly, it probably will. What keeps me going is that I know that my ideas are strong enough that if they’re executed properly, they are going to leave an impression.

So here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna go ahead and put this post out into the world and hope that you find it to be helpful if you’re like me and you find yourself having to go toe-to-toe with your own self-doubt on a regular basis. Next, I’m going to come back again next week and continue to create. I’m going to continue to train my sights to focus on improvement instead of perfection. Perfection doesn’t exist, so why seek it? Instead, what I seek is to be unapologetically me, and for all of my work to be good enough to satisfy my own standards. There will be times that it may fall short of yours, and that’s okay.

My need to be a people pleaser and to be liked by everyone has gotten in my way. I realize that. It doesn’t mean I’m going to combat that by being a dick. At least not on purpose. That’s not who I am. But it does mean that I’m going to try to give a little bit less of a fuck about how well my posts do or how many feathers I might ruffle when I post things that are opinionated.

For all intents and purposes, I’m just getting started. I’m going to try to make it a point to embrace the building process more. There will be days where I’m less confident in myself than others. But at the end of the day, I know I have what it takes. And by the way, so do you. Don’t let yourself get in your own way. Just keep putting in the work. You’ve got this. Let’s climb this mountain together. I’ll meet you at the top.

The Most Difficult Trophy to Win in Sports

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! You can have Christmas. For me, April through June are truly my favorite months, at least on the sports calendar. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are in full swing, as each first-round series will have finished three games by the end of play tonight. There have been some truly stunning developments early on. The best team in the sport has been pushed to the brink of elimination in the blink of an eye. Home ice advantage has been relatively meaningless, as the home and road splits are pretty much even so far (11-9 in favor of the home squads). And of course, we’ve seen the typical bad blood brewing between combatants on opposing sides. You get the sense that many of these teams genuinely dislike one another. It’s fucking beautiful.

Experiencing the Stanley Cup Playoffs through a Canadian lens for the last two years has really illuminated how special hockey’s postseason is in my mind. It’s a shame that the sport is treated as a punchline in some parts of the US. But honestly, if you’re ignoring the Stanley Cup Playoffs, I don’t know what else to say other than that is very much your loss.

Look, I’m not going to be the guy who screams “WATCH MY FAVORITE SPORT!” at people who aren’t interested, because frankly, it’s a lame and ultimately pointless thing to do. But if you are a casual fan or a newcomer to NHL hockey, you just might watch these games and learn something that, to me, is undeniable fact. And that fact is that the Stanley Cup is the most difficult trophy to win in all of sports.

Don’t believe me? Wanna tell me that it’s more difficult to win a Super Bowl? A World Series? An NCAA championship? An NBA title? Not a chance. First, the NHL playoffs are a two-month ordeal, as in the length of the NCAA tournament and MLB playoffs COMBINED. It is a near guarantee that between the two teams that play for the Stanley Cup this year, at least half of the competitors on each side will be playing through significant pain. I’m not talking about the headache that caused you to call out of work last week. Which, by the way, no judgment there. Lord knows I’ve used some pretty lame excuses to get out of work in the past. But what I am talking about is the kind of pain sustained by occurrences like taking a PUCK to your FACE.

Joe Pavelski of the San Jose Sharks knows all about what that feels like. He was credited with a goal in Game 1 of the Sharks’ series against the Vegas Golden Knights after a wicked wrister off the stick of teammate Brent Burns ricocheted off of his damn jaw and into the net. The impact of that shot didn’t even knock him off his feet, though it did knock out some of his chompers. He calmly skated off the ice, got the necessary repairs and was back in time for the second period. Absurd.

During the playoffs, players will finish every check and even the biggest stars will give up their bodies to block shots flying toward the net at triple-digit speeds. Naturally, you’re bound to collect a few bumps and bruises along the way. Playing through pain is certainly not a concept unheard of in other realms of sport, but it seemingly happens every year in every series during the Stanley Cup playoffs. These guys are all required to pay a physical price every time they set foot on the ice.

But maybe you’re not convinced. I’ve heard the argument that the NCAA Tournament is more difficult to win because of the 68-team field and the single-elimination aspect that it brings to the table. That same aspect could also fool you into thinking it’s tougher to win a Super Bowl. That’s a fine argument, but look at the flip side. It takes just six postseason wins to earn a National Championship – seven if you’re one of the teams in the First Four. You need no more than four playoff wins in the NFL to take home the Lombardi Trophy. But it takes four rounds and sixteen victories to win the Cup. There is no other major sport that requires a team to win more games to take home the grand prize. I can already hear my hoop heads out there saying, “But! But!.” Yes, the NBA champion will also have won sixteen games by the time that postseason is finished, but that brings me to my next point.

On the subject of parity, the NHL has it in spades. The NBA playoff field has been infamously top-heavy since forever. The higher seeds in the NCAA Tournament (i.e., the teams more likely to win) also have an easier road to the later rounds because they often have easier matchups, certainly for the first few games. As an illustration of that point, 16-seeds have won exactly one game in tournament history.  In the NFL, the top two seeds in each conference don’t even have to play in the first round. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Lightning, on the heels of a historically prolific regular season, are currently getting their asses handed to them in the first round by the last team to make it into the dance from the Eastern Conference, the Columbus Blue Jackets. It’s not like this is a one-off happening either. Teams that finished the regular season with the NHL’s best record have only won it all four times since the turn of the century. Only one other such team has even made it to the Stanley Cup Final.

Much of what makes the Cup such a difficult prize to win is obviously the fact that hockey is a full contact sport, and that physicality only escalates as the stakes get higher. The lack of physical play helps to eliminate baseball and basketball from this conversation. With no disrespect to the grind that getting through the NBA playoff schedule necessitates, it seems that nowadays if you sneeze too hard in someone’s direction, the referees will blow the whistle and send the offended player to the free throw line.

Being that football is widely regarded as the only sport more physical than hockey, perhaps you’d like to argue that the Super Bowl is more difficult to win. There’s no doubt that attrition goes hand in hand with football perhaps more than any other sport. But remember, football players only play on either the offensive OR defensive side of the ball, whereas hockey players are responsible for taking care of both ends of the ice. And both jobs require getting your hands dirty, so to speak.

Teams competing in the NFL playoffs also only have to compete once a week, with those teams fortunate enough to get to the Super Bowl being rewarded with an additional week off before the big game. NHL playoff games are played every other night for two months. There is no time to rest, and no time to heal. No time to dwell on your last loss, and hardly any time to look forward to your next game. Momentum plays a bigger role in the Stanley Cup playoffs than in any other sport’s postseason.

The Stanley Cup is so treasured that many youngin’s aspiring to become hockey stars are taught not to so much as lay a finger on the Cup. The legend goes that the honor of touching the Holy Grail is reserved for those that are good enough to win it. To this day, that remains my personal favorite sports superstition. If there is any trophy on the planet that deserves such reverence, it is the Stanley Cup. Simply put, it is the most difficult prize to win in sports. The next two months of hockey figure to go a long way towards proving that point. Inject it straight into my veins. I can’t get enough.

When Everything Is Controversial, We All Lose

I’m hard-pressed to think of a time when society has felt more divided. We play the “both sides” game with seemingly every topic that enters into our consciousness. This debate club approach to public discourse isn’t completely without benefit, because in theory, it’s a good thing to engage and listen to people who have different perspectives than you. But in practice, there is no denying that the way we talk to each other about sensitive issues has resulted in a lot of vitriol.

The thing that really bugs me about this is that not every subject we discuss this way should be treated as debatable. When I tell you that 2+2=4, there’s no reasonable human being that would come back at me with, “Well actually, 2+2=Tangerine.” Obviously, sociopolitical issues are never as cut and dry as an arithmetic problem, but we’ve been pitted against one another to such a degree, that it feels like we’ve lost the ability to agree on ANYTHING. And lemme tell ya folks, that’s a big problem.

The best example I can think of to illustrate this is the “controversy” surrounding climate change. Let’s start with a basic, indisputable fact. At least 97% of scientists agree that warming trends in climate are real and increasingly dangerous, and that human activity is the leading contributor to that trend. It takes a pretty convincing argument to get 97% of any group of people to agree on anything. Yet somehow, instead of saying “Ok, this is a problem. How do we address it?” we can’t seem to get past the first part – the acceptance of the problem.

The arguments supporting the idea that decades of peer-reviewed science are either wrong or made-up range from questionable to laughable. My favorite is the one where the position is that scientists are getting paid to manipulate their research into supporting the “climate change agenda.” If it were true that the science community could be paid off, best believe that wealthy oil companies and the like would have been making it rain in nerd town for years now.

While picking a battle with science may be dumb and silly, it still isn’t the most disheartening category of angry debate that we have. The Trump era in politics has introduced a concept that many of us had never heard of before, but now has become a common term in our vernacular. I’m referring to the idea of gaslighting. The basic premise is that one side of a debate encourages the other to ignore evidence that supports their argument even if it’s in plain sight. In other words – specifically the words of the President himself – “What you’re seeing…is not what’s happening.”

This is literally the tactic taken by conspiracy theorists. It’s enraging, but the scary part is, it’s effective. Being told over and over again that you can’t trust your own eyes and ears can make you feel like a crazy person. You might even find yourself acquiescing to ideas that you vehemently disagree with just because it’s easier than trying to argue with someone who’s not operating on the same playing field as you.

The best way to deal with someone engaging you in this way is to shut the conversation down, because they don’t actually have any interest in hearing what you have to say. Their goal is not to have a discussion, it’s to WIN the discussion. The problem is that nowadays this method is being used frequently by people with massive platforms. You have no choice but to take them seriously, because their captive audiences certainly will. Whether we’re talking about Donald Trump or someone like Tucker Carlson, just shrugging them off somehow isn’t good enough.

We can have substantive, thoughtful arguments about the best way forward for healthcare or taxation or immigration. But if we can’t agree that putting babies in cages is royally fucked up, how are we supposed to move any conversation forward? How can we address the best way to fix the tax bracket if your opinion is that poor people are poor because they’re lazy and they deserve it? It’s like being handed a giant turd along with some eggs and flour and being asked to make carrot cake out of it.

It would take an entire thesis paper to address the multitude of reasons explaining how we got here, but there is one thing that seems to be a given. Media, in all its forms, is broken. And honestly, I’m not even sure it can be fixed. There’s so much money invested in the success of 24-hour cable news networks that cater their programming more to supporting confirmation bias of their viewers than delivering nuts and bolts news coverage. That’s a big issue no matter which side of the political aisle you subscribe to.

There may be no better indicator that the media is not prepared to handle a figure like Donald Trump in the White House than seeing well-respected news publications having such a hard time labeling the things he says and does for what they are. What I mean by this is that when the President calls for an outright ban of Muslims entering the country, or refers to a group of neo-Nazis as “very fine people” while framing Mexicans as criminals and rapists, that kind of talk is not racially charged. It doesn’t have racial undertones. It’s fucking RACIST. But instead, they’ll continue to handle him with kid gloves, even though he should have lost the benefit of that doubt before he ever even took the oath of office.

The rise of social media has unleashed this Pandora’s box where everyone has been handed a platform. This is conflicting for me, because my platform (small though it may be) can be largely contributed to my presence on social media. That’s especially true at this stage of my career where I’m no longer affiliated with a large media conglomerate. I’m willing to bet you wouldn’t be reading this right now if it weren’t a link you could click on someone’s Facebook or Twitter page.

The problem is that it takes no effort at all for some jabroni to hop in your mentions and start spitting venom at you. And that shit is wack. I don’t know about you, but as much as I love and appreciate every message of support and encouragement I get online, it’s the shit-posters that stick with me the longest. That might just be a flaw in my personality, but I hate it, and there are times it makes me not want to be online at all.

So I’ll finish by saying this. I’m sure there are things I’ve written here that are going to piss some people off. And that’s a shame, because the reasons I have for being so opposed to much of what’s going on in politics these days doesn’t really stem from the fact that I am left-leaning. I am, but it’s not because I’m a policy wonk who disagrees with all conservative ideology at face value. Honestly, that couldn’t be further from the truth. My issue is that in coordination with the M.O. of the current administration, society itself seems to be getting more cruel, less compassionate and increasingly morally bankrupt. At the very least our exposure to these moral failings is at an all-time high.

Ultimately, what I’m proposing is that we all try to focus our frustrations in the right direction. It’s so strange to me how successful those at the top have been at convincing us that our struggles are being caused by our fellow citizens who are struggling just as much as us, if not worse. Lost your job? I bet you it’s because that immigrant took it. Can’t afford to pay your bills? Well, we would have given you a break on your taxes, but we can’t afford to do that AND provide welfare to your neighbor. Don’t feel safe? You shouldn’t. Something something RADICAL ISLAMIC TERRORISM.

As George Carlin once said: “It’s all bullshit, folks. And it’s bad for ya.” For all of this talk about how “the elites are out of control,” as long as we continue to fight with each other about everything under the sun, we’re giving them exactly what they want.

It’s Wrestlemania Week, So Let’s Talk Rasslin!

Remember when I said in my post from a few weeks ago that not every piece I write for this blog will be catered to a wide audience? This one is probably going to be the most glaring example of that. That’s because if you’re not a fan of World Wrestling Entertainment, I can just about guarantee you’re not going to care even a little bit about anything I’ve written here. So to my non-wrestling-fan readers, this is the part where I say check back in next week! I promise I’ll have something more palatable for you then.

I’m going the wrestling route this week because the best 9-day period on the WWE calendar is upon us. Wrestlemania 35 is this Sunday, and truthfully I can’t remember the last time I was this excited about a wrestling show of any kind. Growing up, I was a die-hard fan who tuned into every Raw, Smackdown and pay-per-view to watch the likes of The Rock, Triple H, Mick Foley, and my all-time favorite, Stone Cold Steve Austin battle it out in some of the most intense feuds in WWE history.

My fandom cooled off significantly in the mid-2000’s, and since then I’ve been what you might call a casual observer of WWE. There have been spikes in my giving-a-shit correlating with the rise to prominence of some of my favorite superstars of more recent times, CM Punk and Daniel Bryan foremost among them.

Even through the times that I wasn’t watching regularly, I’d always make a point to tune into Wrestlemania, simply because it’s billed as the best show WWE puts on every year, and more often than not it does live up to that billing. But this year, I’ve been keeping closer tabs on a weekly basis. There are still plenty of issues that I have with WWE’s booking choices, but I get the sense that they are building to what will be one of the better Manias in recent history based on the card they’ve put together over the last month or so.

So this week, I’d like to take a run through the planned card for Wrestlemania 35 and give my breakdown on how the storylines have been written, and what I anticipate will happen at Metlife Stadium this Sunday. It should be said that at least as of now, neither the Raw or Smackdown Tag Team Championships have been booked for matches, but I anticipate that will change between tonight’s episode of Raw and tomorrow’s Smackdown. That said, let’s start with the undercard before we get into the main event scene.


This tradition started a few years back and is very transparently WWE’s way of trying to cram as many people on the Wrestlemania card as possible. There is little to no intrigue involved with these over-the-top-rope competitions, which is why it breaks my heart to see performers as talented as Asuka and Braun Stroman relegated to this gimmicky clusterfuck on the most important show of the year. I imagine that those two will at least come out on top as the winners of these filler matches.

As an added wrinkle, also competing in the men’s version of this match alongside Stroman will be SNL Weekend Update co-anchors Michael Che and Colin Jost. Which, just, ugh. That’s brutal. That’s to say nothing of Che and Jost’s abilities as comedians, but having those two start a “feud” with a guy in Stroman, who could legitimately play a strong role in an upper card program with a championship on the line is a laughable waste of the man’s size and talent. This is after last year’s Mania when Stroman won the tag team championships with a nine-year-old child named Nicholas. Vince McMahon is notrious for falling in love with huge dudes and having them run roughshod over seemingly everybody. But for whatever reason, Stroman has never properly gotten his shine on “The Show of Shows.” Maybe next year. But I won’t be holding my breath.

CRUSIERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP: Buddy Murphy (c) vs. Tony Nese

I have to admit that I do not watch 205 Live, which is the program on which the cruiserweights are given the vast majority of their on-screen time. I’ve been told that I absolutely SHOULD be watching that show, and that doesn’t surprise me. When I think of the cruiserweight division, my mind automatically goes back to the golden days of WCW, and the amazing high-flying matches that Rey Mysterio, Billy Kidman, Ultimo Dragon and Eddie Guerrero (to name a few) used to have that were candidates to steal any show they were featured on.

Even though I can’t claim to be overly familiar with either Buddy Murphy or Tony Nese, I’d be willing to bet that these two will put on one of the more memorable matches of the entire evening. Wrestlemania has a tendency to bring out the best in competitors who don’t normally get a chance to perform under this kind of spotlight.

Kurt Angle vs. Baron Corbin (???)

This one is a puzzler. Kurt Angle has made it known that his match at Wrestlemania this Sunday will be the final one of his illustrious career. He also announced on Raw a few weeks back that he made a decision on who his opponent would be, and that he had chosen to take on Baron Corbin.

I’m not going to make it a point to crap all over Corbin here. He’s…fine. But since this announcement was made, seemingly all of WWE fandom has been up in arms about how dumb this is. Angle deserves to have his final match be against someone BIG. The fact that the commentators on WWE programming have not made any attempt to hide the fact that their fan base is upset about this match-up makes me believe that there’s actually something else going on here.

So here’s my prediction. I think that on the day of Wrestlemania, maybe even as Corbin is coming out to the ring, he will either be interrupted or attacked…and I think the person who is going to do that will be none other than John Cena. You may remember that Cena’s first ever match for WWE was against Angle. Cena responded to an open challenge proposed by Angle, and came oh so close to beating the Olympic champion at the height of his powers. You know the rest. Cena would go on to become the face of the company for well over a decade. I think the idea of harking back to this moment in history would get one of the loudest pops from the crowd all night, and to have Angle beat Cena in his retirement match would just be SO much better than anything he could possibly do opposite Corbin.

The Miz vs. Shane McMahon (Falls Count Anywhere)

This feud has been crafted pretty darn well. After having these two team up to capture the Smackdown Tag Team Championships, the easy thing to do probably would have been to have The Miz turn on Shane, seeing as how the former has done plenty of respectable heel work for most of his career. But reversing the roles, and having Shane go into this contest as the heel was 100% the right move.

The fact that this will be a Falls Count Anywhere match means one thing to me. Shane is going to take at least one disgusting bump that would probably maim or kill the average person. More often than not at Wrestlemania, the heel tends to get their comeuppance after perpetrating their dastardly deeds, which in this case took the form of Shane not only executing a vicious blindside assault, but also then putting his hands on The Miz’s father who was sitting at ringside. So I’m gonna predict that The Miz will be the one that goes over by the time the final bell rings.

WOMEN’S TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP: Sasha Banks & Bayley (c) vs. Beth Phoenix & Natalya vs. Tamina Snuka & Nia Jax vs. The IIconics

Kudos to WWE for finally creating a championship for the women’s tag division. Reverse kudos to them for completely botching the build to what will be the first Wrestlemania match to feature these belts. There is simply zero juice for this match, and that’s because instead of having Sasha and Bayley have a legitimate feud with one other rival team, WWE creative has turned this into a situation where there are simply too many cooks in the kitchen.

First, it has to be said that the team of Tamina and Nia Jax just doesn’t bring anything to the table here other than, “Hey, those two women are noticeably larger than the others!” I would have much preferred the champs take on the returning Beth Phoenix and Natalya in a straight-up two-on-two match, even if that means that there wouldn’t be a classic babyfaces vs. heels dynamic. All that said, I’d be surprised if Sasha and Bayley didn’t retain their titles by the time this is over.

UNITED STATES CHAMPIONSHIP: Samoa Joe (c) vs. Rey Mysterio

This is the match on the undercard that I think has the most potential to be a show-stealer. It’s safe to say that neither of these superstars are in their prime, but they are both still so remarkably consistent, and both are the kind of performers who elevate their game for the big moments.

I trust these two completely to pull off the classic David vs. Goliath match trope to perfection. But please, please just let Samoa Joe win this thing. I so badly want to see him get the push he has always deserved, and a successful title defense against an all-time great would be a solid step in that direction.


This is another example of a program that could have been booked much better. In fact, it’s been so all over the place that I get the sense that WWE has been scripting it on the fly week to week. At one point, Balor won the title off Lashley, not by beating him, but by beating his undersized right-hand man and mouthpiece, Lio Rush. That never made any sense. But to put the belt right back on Lashley a few weeks later made even less sense. All it did was squash Balor’s momentum while doing relatively nothing to push Lashley. In other words, it helped no one.

I have to believe they’ll have Lashley retain here, simply because the hot potato game they’ve been playing with this belt is not a good look for what is supposed to be one of the most prestigious championships in the business. But I’m hoping WWE realizes they have a special talent in Balor. He deserves better than what he’s gotten over the years.

Triple H vs. Batista (No Holds Barred)

This is the first of what can be considered the main-event caliber matches on the card. Triple H has put his in-ring career on the line against his former Evolution stable-mate Batista, who has already said that this will be his final match.

This came to be after Batista ambushed 70-year-old Ric Flair on an episode of Raw that was supposed to be a celebration of Flair’s birthday. And honestly, that was just chef’s kiss quality stuff. It has sadly become rare that a WWE television episode has provided the kind of shock and awe reaction like that moment provided. It was brilliant.

Even though I doubt this match will go longer than 10 or 15 minutes, it figures to be one of the more intense bouts of the night. I could see Batista going over in this one, because I find it wholly believable that Trips might actually be ready to officially move on from the in-ring side of his on-screen character. It would be very fitting if these two had their last matches against each other. This is obviously an opportunity to do just that. But my gut tells me Triple H will get the win here and at least leave open the possibility that he wrestles again.

A.J. Styles vs. Randy Orton

Honestly, there’s not a whole lot to say about this one other than the obvious. These are two industry veterans who are extremely good at what they do. There’s no doubt in my mind that there will be more than a few spots in this match that will get an “Oh shit!” reaction. It’s a toss-up as to who will get the win, but seeing as how Orton is the WWE lifer, whereas Styles made his fame moreso in the independent circuit, I have a feeling the McMahon machine is going to reward the guy who has spent more time with the company. So I think Orton wins it with a patented RKO outta nowhere.

Roman Reigns vs. Drew McIntyre

This is an excellent way for Roman Reigns to re-enter the singles match scene. Since returning from his very real leukemia diagnosis to announce that he is in remission, the fans have rallied behind him in a way that Vince McMahon could have only dreamed of during all those years he tried to shove Roman down our throats as “The Guy.” Reigns has always been an excellent in-ring worker, despite the fans’ resistance to him as the face of the company. Drew McIntyre is nothing short of a star in the making.

Credit to WWE for booking McIntyre as an absolute killer. In the weeks leading up to Wrestlemania, Drew has picked apart all three members of The Shield in convincing fashion. His mic work has been fantastic too, even if it included an extremely cringey moment when he said, and I quote, “Roman Reigns may have beaten leukemia, BUT HE CAN’T BEAT ME!” Yeah, that was pretty yuck. But that aside, this match figures to be very good. And honestly, I would not be surprised if they have McIntyre win it, potentially setting him up to then feud with Seth Rollins for the Universal Championship. Oh, speaking of which…

UNIVERSAL CHAMPIONSHIP: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Seth Rollins

This has to be the end. This just HAS TO BE the last time we see the rarely-seen Brock Lesnar holding what is supposed to be one of the two most important titles in the company. Seth Rollins is the perfect choice to be the guy to take it from him, too. Rollins has been the backbone of WWE’s programming for the last year, and can seemingly get a high-quality match out of anyone. There’s no doubt he will do the same with Lesnar, who despite being the most part-time of part-timers, can always be counted on to deliver a worthy performance at shows as big as this. But if Rollins somehow doesn’t walk out of Metlife Stadium with the Universal Championship, there might be a riot.

WWE CHAMPIONSHIP: Daniel Bryan (c) vs. Kofi Kingston

This program has been magic, and the best sign yet that WWE has actually begun to start giving a shit about what their fans actually want to see. To be clear, Kofi Kingston was NOT supposed to be in this spot. He was only in the Elimination Chamber match this year because of an unfortunate injury to Mustafa Ali. But Kofi took that opportunity and ran with it. He was unquestionably the standout in that match, and his in-ring chemistry with Daniel Bryan was impossible not to notice.

The clever thing that WWE did with how they booked this was that not only did they realize how closely Kofi’s rise to the main event scene mirrors Bryan’s yes movement storyline from five years ago, they basically re-created it. This goes all the way down to the details. Bryan has been referring to Kingston as a “B+ player,” the same insult that The Authority used to hurl at Bryan to quash his desire to get a shot at the title in the lead-up to Wrestlemania 30. The only question left is will WWE go all the way and put the title around Kofi’s waist? YES! I think they will.

RAW WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP: Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch

This is a big moment in WWE history. It’s taken way too long to get to a point where a women’s match will be the last one to go on at Wrestlemania, but by golly is this the perfect one to do it. There is no doubt in my mind that this match will be spectacular, but the build to it has been…well…it’s been really, really strange.

As it stands right now, Rousey’s Raw Women’s Championship is the only one on the line in this match, despite the fact that just 12 days before the big show, WWE decided to take the Smackdown Women’s Championship off of Asuka and put it on Charlotte. I don’t necessarily hate that they did that, but it depends on what they do next that will determine whether or not that was the right thing to do.

First, it needs to be said that Asuka deserves so much better. Despite her language barrier preventing her from doing anything transcendent on the mic, her in-ring abilities are special. You could place her in a feud with any of the top stars in the women’s division, and you just know that they would knock it out of the park.

That aside, there’s really only one scenario in which I could see the dynamic of having two champions in the same match making any sense. And that would be if they unify the belts. Let’s face it, Becky Lynch is going to win this match. At least she damn well better. But if all she gets out of that win is Rousey’s Raw title, it would drastically dampen the impact of her victory if Charlotte can scurry out of the Meadowlands still holding gold. That’s just not how this should work. Unify the belts. Make Becky the one and only Women’s Champion. Then maybe we can do away with the brand split altogether. This would create so many different tasty match-up possibilities, it just seems like a no-brainer to me.

Regardless, I can’t wait for that moment when Wrestlemania 35 goes off the air with Becky Lynch raising those belts, and putting an exclamation point on a year that has seen her go from a star prospect with all the promise in the world to nothing less than a modern-day Stone Cold Steve Austin figure. It will be a night that will represent and honor how far women have come in the wrestling industry. And yet somehow it will be fitting when at the end of that night, the woman who has her arm raised in triumph will be the one who calls herself “The Man.”

Let’s Predict Some Stuff: 2019 MLB Edition

After a bitter and cold offseason featuring one of the most frigid free agency periods in memory, we have almost arrived at the proper Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season. I always get giddy this time of year, for one, because it means my birthday is right around the corner. But truly, the start of the baseball calendar has always felt like the beginning of the new year to me more than January 1st ever did.

Even though it’s one of the laziest things a writer can do to put words onto a screen, it is undeniably a fun exercise to try to predict what will happen before the season starts. If nothing else, it gives you something to look back on in October and make fun of me for when 75 percent of these predictions inevitably go to shit. With that in mind, let’s get it…

AL EAST CHAMPION: New York Yankees

Let’s get my homer stuff out of the way nice and early. Yes, I am a die-hard Yankee fan. And yes, this is a prediction that is partly being made because it’s what I want to see happen. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a logical argument to be made to back this up.

Obviously, the Red Sox are the defending champions not just of the AL East, but all of baseball. And as Ric Flair put it best, “To be the man, you gotta beat the man.” That’s never been more true than in MLB’s current divisional scheduling format when the teams play each other head-to-head 19 times a year.

The Yanks are dealing with some pretty major injury concerns to begin the season, particularly with their pitching. Luis Severino, Dellin Betances and C.C. Sabathia will all be on the mend instead of on the mound to start the year.

But an offense that set an MLB record for home runs a year ago actually has a lot of room to improve. The improvement would rely upon getting a bounce-back year from Gary Sanchez, a healthier one from Aaron Judge, and a less schizophrenic one from Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankee bullpen is still the best in the game, whereas the Sox’ pen minus Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly is almost certainly going to cost them a few games this season.

AL CENTRAL CHAMPION: Cleveland Indians

I’m going with the chalk pick, as tempting as it is to pick the Twins to unseat Cleveland here. This really all comes down to starting pitching for me. The starting five of Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber is one of a few rotations that can lay claim to the title of best in the bigs.

The question is going to be whether this team can score enough runs to support them. With Edwin Encarnacion, Michael Brantley, Yonder Alonso and Yan Gomes all gone from the lineup, it puts a lot on Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez and Jason Kipnis to do the heavy lifting.

The bullpen is a bit suspect too without Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, but the Central has been, and still is one of the weaker divisions in the sport. Like I said, the Twins are a tempting pick, but I’m gonna take the team with the better pitching to finish the 162-game grind with a slightly better record. But I would not be surprised if this was one of the tighter races down the stretch.

AL WEST CHAMPION: Houston Astros

This one feels like the most “well, duh” pick of the division champs. The Oakland A’s are coming off a 97-win year and will likely be a tough team to play once again this season. But the Astros are just too damn good. It’s hard to find a definitive weak spot on this squad. Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer all have room to improve from their 2018 numbers, and I’d be willing to bet that all three will.

Sure, they lost three extremely capable starters in Dallas Kuechel, Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers. But Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole are still very much there. Collin McHugh, Wade Miley and Brad Peacock may not be the kind of names that make opposing lineups shudder, but Houston’s coaching staff has done a remarkable job in recent years of getting the best out of seemingly every arm they have. All that said, this team is my pick to finish the year with the best record in the sport.

AL WILD CARDS: Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins

Whichever team between the Yankees and Red Sox doesn’t win the AL East is a slam dunk pick to take one of the wild cards in the American League in my mind. As for the other WC spot, I’m predicting it will go to a team that (as I mentioned) I toyed with choosing to be a division winner in the Twins.

This is a team that captured a wild card spot two seasons ago, and has made some key additions to their offense this offseason. Nelson Cruz, Jonathan Schoop and Marwin Gonzalez are all guys that will provide Minnesota with the kind of bats that make them capable of putting up runs in bunches. Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson give them a solid 1-2 punch at the top of their starting rotation.

The Twins are bound to get a strong push from the A’s and perhaps even the Tampa Bay Rays for this playoff spot, but give me Minnesota as the team that will likely get the bricks blown off of them in a Wild Card Game match-up against the Sawx.

NL EAST CHAMPION: Washington Nationals

I’ve made a point of not looking at any other prediction pieces before doing my own, and I wonder how many pundits have written off the Nats after not only losing Bryce Harper, but losing him to another team in what currently stands as the most wide-open division in baseball. But despite being branded with the reputation of playoff chokers, Washington often finds a way to at least get there, last season notwithstanding.

Make no mistake, this team still has a lineup that packs a punch, and a lot of those punches will come from guys who are going to be mainstays for years to come. Trea Turner, Juan Soto, Victor Robles and Anthony Rendon are top of mind in that category. And oh yeah, their pitching rotation is money with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and the newly acquired Patrick Corbin leading the way.

The Braves, Phillies, and even the Mets could all finish within shouting distance of the top spot, but I still like the Nationals to take the prize.


This is a spot where I feel like I may be relying more on my gut than my logic. The Brewers might actually be a more “complete” team than the Cubs on paper, and the Brew Crew hold the distinction of defending champs in this division. But you’ll remember that came down to a Game 163 last season, so to say it was a close race is very much an understatement. The Cardinals will also pose a threat to Chicago, as they have absolutely made strides in improving their club.

This seems like a cop-out explanation, but to me it just feels like the Cubbies are bound to get back to the top spot in the Central this year. Joe Maddon may be my favorite manager in the sport, and the roster he’s working with feels like a nearly ideal blend of youth and experience. Their starting infield in particular is as good as most teams in the game. And I have to make at least one pick here that is based almost solely on gut feeling. Having said all of that, look for Milwaukee to pop up again a little further down in this column.

NL WEST CHAMPION: Colorado Rockies

This is pretty clearly going to be a two-horse race, as the Rockies and Dodgers are really the only teams in the NL West that are worth a damn. LA may have won the previous six division titles, but I believe Colorado is finally going to put a stop to that streak this season.

This was the other division that needed a 163rd game to decide a winner last year. And while there is no denying the two-time defending NL Champs are still a quality team with loads of depth, the Rockies are returning a very similar looking roster to last season’s while Los Angeles actually changed a lot this winter.

Gone from the Dodgers’ roster are Manny Machado, Yasiel Puig, Yasmani Grandal, Matt Kemp and Alex Wood. That’s a lot to lose. Yes, they did add A.J. Pollock, and a consistently healthy Corey Seager would go a long way toward keeping this team on top. But the Rockies are essentially the same group that took LA down to the wire last season, except with the addition of Daniel Murphy. If Kyle Freeland, German Marquez and Jon Gray can pitch to their potential all year, I think Colorado has enough to finish in first.

NL WILD CARDS: Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers

This would set up a rematch of last year’s NLCS in the Wild Card Game. It would be a damn shame to have to lose one of these teams in a one-game playoff scenario, but I think that’s exactly what’s going to happen. And truth be told, it’s in this scenario that I think the Dodgers’ bid at making it to three straight World Series will come to an end.

The one thing the Brewers are lacking is a definitive ace of the pitching staff, and that is something the Dodgers undoubtedly have in Clayton Kershaw. So maybe you can chalk this up as a prediction of heart over head. That Milwaukee lineup is just so damn good, though. The guy who would likely relish this opportunity the most would be Yasmani Grandal, who left Los Angeles to sign with the Beer Makers this offseason. Imagine if he were to play a big role in sending the Dodgers packing come October. We can dream, can’t we?

ALCS Prediction: Astros defeat Yankees

Ugh. It pains my pinstriped heart to say this, but the Astros are simply the better and more complete team, plus they have had the Yankees’ number in recent history. This is the series I want though. A chance to exorcise the demons of the 2017 ALCS in which the underdog Yanks nearly knocked off the eventual World Champion Stros is surely an appetizing situation. I just don’t think the Yankees really want that smoke. Houston is too good.

NLCS Prediction: Brewers defeat Rockies

This presumes the Cubs finish with the National League’s best record, which is far from a lock, but play along with me. The Brewers beat the Dodgers in the Wild Card Game. The NLDS would then see the Rockies beat the Nationals (because the Nats don’t win playoff series, just as a general rule) and the Brewers upset the Cubs. Brewers-Rockies would be a fascinating NLCS, and honestly, predicting a wild card team to make the World Series just makes for a fun little wrinkle in this here prediction column.

World Series Prediction: Astros defeat Brewers

Of all the truly plausible World Series scenarios, this is certainly one that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred would desire the least. Houston and Milwaukee aren’t exactly what you would define as large media markets. But if the Yankees can’t be there, sign me up for seven games of this series.

I’m not so sure it would happen that way, because frankly I think the Astros are simply better than the Brewers in almost every conceivable category. But there ya have it. My official World Series pick. So when the Brewers now inevitably miss the playoffs altogether or something dumb like that, you can point back at this and laugh at me.

Predictions aren’t exactly the most profound thing in the world of sports punditry, but they sure are fun to make. By all means, please sound off in the comments and let me know how wrong and stupid I am. And most importantly, HAPPY BASEBALL SEASON TO ALL!