Tag Archives: 30 at 30

30 at 30 Lists #26: Feelings About LeBron Joining the Lakers

In honor of me turning 30, I’m compiling 30 different top-30 lists on a wide variety of topics ranging from trivial interests of mine to meaningful life moments. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for these lists. They were composed by a panel of one—me.

On July 1, news broke that LeBron James was joining the Los Angeles Lakers.  More than a month later I am still processing what this means for my favorite franchise. In the meantime, a lot of people have asked me how I feel about LeBron becoming a Laker. So with apologies to Drake, I figured why not get in my feelings about LeBron. Without further ado, here are 30 ways I am feeling about LeBron heading to L.A.

1. Excited
Obviously. This is the Lakers’ biggest free agent signing since they inked a 24-year-old Shaquille O’Neal in the summer of 1996. O’Neal was coming off four straight all-star selections to begin his career and went on to lead the Lakers to three titles. Although LeBron will turn 34 in December, he has shown no signs of slowing down yet. Last season was year 15 in the NBA, yet LeBron played in all 82 games and averaged a league high 36.9 minutes per game en route to an 8th straight NBA Finals appearance. 

2. Ecstatic
OK, excited is an understatement. The best player in the league joined my team. The 2018-19 season cannot tip off soon enough!

3. Celebratory 
The Lakers unveiled new Nike uniforms recently, but as nice as a #23 jersey would look, I liked this T-shirt courtesy of @purehoop and Cotton Bureau even more. So I bought one for myself as an early birthday gift. 

4. Surprised
Even amid rumors that had been floating for months that LeBron to the Lakers was a likely possibility, I never fully believed it. It seemed too good to be true.

5. Spoiled
For Laker-haters (and there are plenty of them), LeBron’s decision to join the purple (or forum blue) and gold only added fuel to the fire. I get it. I hate the Yankees. I love the Lakers. I know they are similarly rich franchises with a history of scoring the best players in the game. They’re easily hatable. It just so happens that I was raised a Lakers fan. It’s the one team most of my family actually agrees on. Still, I understand the vitriol coming from other fan bases. From birth until I was out of college, playoffs were taken for granted as a Lakers fan. They only missed the postseason twice from the time I was born in 1984 through 2013. They have missed the playoffs in each of the past five seasons, giving me and Lakers fans a harsh dose of reality—the playoffs should be an accomplishment and not taken for granted. Then, voila! We get LeBron James, who has played in the past 8 NBA Finals and has not played for a team that missed the postseason since 2005. 

6. Wistful
Nowadays everyone debates Michael Jordan vs. LeBron. Ten years ago, however, MJ’s G.O.A.T. status was relatively unquestioned. Instead, the great NBA debate of 2008 was Kobe vs. LeBron. As a Lakers fan, I was always team Kobe, but I wrote this favorable LeBron article after he led his Cavs to victory in a head-to-head showdown with Kobe’s Lakers in January 2008. Of course, I ended up switching course and voting for Kobe for 2008 MVP. As fate would have it, LeBron vs. Kobe never lived up to the hype/hope that it would equal the Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson rivalry of the 80s. From the time LeBron entered the league in 2003 until the time Kobe retired 2016, there were only two NBA Finals (2005 and 2006) that featured neither LeBron nor Kobe. Yet somehow, despite being opposite conferences the entire time, they never met in the Finals.

7. Ready
Since I already admitted to feeling spoiled, I feel safe to move on to saying that I am so ready for the Lakers to be competitive again. The past five years have been dark for Lakers fans. I suppose the highlight was Kobe Bryant’s 60-point performance in his last game before retirement in an otherwise meaningless regular season game against Utah. The Western Conference is going to be loaded this season. Only three games separated the third-seeded Portland Trailblazers and the Denver Nuggets, who missed the playoffs. So there is no guarantee that the Lakers will make the playoffs, but with LeBron in town, playoffs are absolutely the expectation for this coming season…and then hopefully a championship in the next few years.

8. Optimistic
Realistically, I do not think the Lakers are a championship contender this season. I expect a playoff berth and would consider a first round series win as a successful season for this team as it is currently constructed. However, LeBron James has taken lesser teams to the NBA Finals (last year’s Cavaliers team as well as the 2007 edition come to mind), and he has never lost a first round playoff series. So, while I expect an early round exit this season, I would not be shocked if LeBron and the Lakers become legitimate title contenders in the very near future.

9. Encouraged
The biggest reason I am encouraged about the direction of the Lakers is that they did not mortgage their future in acquiring LeBron. Barring a major trade, the Lakers will have the salary cap flexibility to add another superstar to the fold next offseason. The biggest name out there is Kawhi Leonard, who has stated his desire to play in Los Angeles. The former San Antonio Spurs star, who earned my vote for the 2017 MVP Award, was traded last month to the Toronto Raptors but will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Klay Thompson is another potential target for the Lakers if Kawhi does not pan out. While a healthy Kawhi would be the top prize, luring Thompson to follow in his father’s footsteps to become a Laker would be a double whammy for the Lakers. Not only would L.A. be adding a top-20 talent, they’d also be taking him away from reigning two-time champion Golden State Warriors.

10. Patient
Speaking of the Warriors, I am feeling patient, waiting for them to stumble. All good things must come to an end, and that will be true of the Warriors dynasty, too. It’s just a matter of when and what will cause it to fall. The good news for Lakers fans is that LeBron signed a four-year contract (with a player option after year three), so the Lakers do not have to throw all of their eggs into one basket. The overwhelming consensus is that the 2019 title is Golden State’s to lose, but the Lakers have a vision for the future, and they are building for championships in 2020 and beyond.

11. Concerned
I am patient, but I am also a little concerned about LeBron’s age and health. As I mentioned under point number one, LeBron led the league in minutes last year at age 33. His playoff success has meant that he has played 239 career postseason games, which is essentially an extra three seasons worth of mileage on his legs. Only twice in his career has he played in less than 70 regular season games. Human nature tells us that his body has to slow down at some point, but LeBron is far from the average human, and he has not showed signs of slowing down yet. So I’m concerned that all four years of LeBron as a Laker may not be prime LeBron, but it would not shock me if he defies father time either.

12. Intrigued
Ultimately, whether the Lakers can become a championship franchise with LeBron may be less about what LeBron can do and more about how much the young homegrown talent can improve. In Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, the Lakers have a pair of number two overall picks from the past two years that have shown flashes of greatness, but they have also been inconsistent and injured. If one or both can make the leap to become an all-star level talent, which is what you hope for from a number two overall selection, the Lakers will be primed to compete now and in the future. The Lakers also hit big with a pair of late first round draft picks in 2017 that they acquired via trade. Kyle Kuzma, the 27th overall selection, was the 2017 Summer League MVP and a 2017-18 All Rookie first-team selection. Meanwhile, the 30th overall selection, Josh Hart, started 23 games last season and showed flashes of an improved game en route to being named the 2018 Summer League MVP. Additionally, the Lakers made me a happy man by drafting Michigan big man Moe Wagner in the first round this past June. They also added Kansas sharpshooter 
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk in the second round, giving the Lakers a formidable young core of talented players with a lot of upside.

13. Disappointed
While I loved the Lakers decision not to part ways with Ingram, Ball, Kuzma, or Hart, I was disappointed that they did not re-sign Julius Randle and, to a lesser extent, Brook Lopez. Randle was a homegrown talent, the number 7 overall selection in the 2014 NBA Draft. Randle broke his leg in his NBA debut, causing him to miss the entire 2014-15 season, but he only missed 9 games total in the three seasons since then. Last year, Randle had his best season yet, appearing in all 82 games for the Lakers while averaging career highs in points (16.1) and field goal percentage (55.8). His scoring was tied for the team lead, and he also led the Lakers with 8.0 rebounds per game. I read that Randle preferred to stay with the Lakers, but once they signed LeBron, it was clear his role would be diminished. Still, I liked the fight I saw in Randle last season. He played with a ferociousness when attacking the rim that made me think he could be more than a stats on a bad team player. Unfortunately, he signed a two-year, $17.71 million deal with New Orleans. And Brook Lopez signed a one-year, $3.382 million deal with Milwaukee. I thought Lopez as a stretch five would have worked well to space the floor with LeBron as a creator of the dribble. Alas, that is not the direction the Lakers chose to go.

14. Confused
Instead, the Lakers had me scratching my head with their other free agent signings. They signed Rajon Rondo, who will be playing for his sixth team in the past 6 years, for $9 million. They signed Shaqtin’ a Fool Hall of Famer JaVale McGee. They also added Lance Stephenson, who famously blew in LeBron James’ ear during a playoff game, and a former number two overall pick, Michael Beasley, who is on his seventh team in 11 seasons. The silver lining is that all of the players were signed to one year deals, which allows the Lakers to maintain the aforementioned salary cap flexibility for the summer of 2019. In the meantime, the Lakers have been dubbed “The Meme Team” online for the cast of characters they chose to bring in along with LeBron.

15. Greedy
I mentioned before that I am glad the Lakers did not send a bunch of young stars away in a package deal to acquire Kawhi Leonard for the San Antonio Spurs. Having said that, I am feeling greedy. I want the Lakers to keep the young core intact and add Kawhi as a free agent this offseason. This is where the patience could pay off. If they wait and get Kawhi, suddenly they have a very formidable, versatile roster with veteran superstars and up and coming talent together.

16. Trepidatious
The last time I was this excited for a Lakers acquisition was in 2012 when they added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to join Kobe Bryant on a team that was only a couple years removed from winning a championship. The Sports Illustrated cover famously proclaimed “Now This is Going to be Fun,” and I thought it would be. It was a disaster. Nash struggled with injuries. Howard’s playfulness never clicked with Kobe’s Mamba mentality, and the team was swept in the first round of the playoffs. Acquiring LeBron to join this team is obviously an entirely different situation; I’m just trying not to get my hopes up too high so as not to be let down the way I was back in 2012-13. 

17. Embarrassed
A recent trend in sports has been unearthing things that current players said on social media back when they were young and before they were famous. I’m not famous, but I do regret some of my knee-jerk reactionary tweets from back in the day. For example, after LeBron announced that he was “taking his talents to South Beach”  in 2010 to team with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, I tweeted the following:

It was a sentiment shared by a lot of sports fans and media personalities alike. Even a number of former players spoke out against LeBron’s decision. In hindsight, I wish I had taken a more nuanced approach. While I did feel bad for Cleveland fans, labeling LeBron as Pippen 2.0 was unfair. He proved in his four years in Miami and again upon his return to Cleveland that he was not only the best player on his team every step of the way. I do think he approaches the game differently than Kobe or MJ, but now I wonder if that is not necessarily a bad thing.

18. Sympathetic
I feel sincerely bad for Cavs fans. LeBron James ripped their hearts out when he left in 2010. It was a messy divorce, but when he returned in 2014, most Cavs fans I knew welcomed him back with open arms. He delivered them the championship they were starving for in 2016 and gave them four straight Finals appearances, but now he is gone again. It seems like most Cavs fans were prepared for the exit this time, and there does not seem to be a lot of harbored resentment, but I still feel bad. In some ways, no team has been more blessed by luck this century than Cleveland. They won the NBA Draft Lottery four times, including the grand prize of winning the right to draft the hometown hero LeBron in 2003. Yet with former number one pick Kyrie Irving forcing a trade prior to last season, the Cavs will tipoff the 2018-19 season without any of those four number one overall picks on the roster.

19. Challenged
As a Lakers fan living in Erie, Pennsylvania, I have lived my entire life defending my Lakers fandom. I am not a bandwagon fan. I hate bandwagon fans. My first memory of life was sitting on my dad’s lap was watching the Lakers defeat the Detroit Pistons in the 1988 NBA Finals. I’ve been hooked ever since. Now that LeBron is a Laker, the Lakers bandwagon will be more loaded than ever. So I was not surprised when the day after LeBron announced he was headed to L.A. I was questioned by a random lady in Tim Horton’s about my Lakers shirt and whether I became a fan because of LeBron. The shirt is probably a decade old, and I was all too prepared to retort by naming off some of the more obscure Lakers from the early 2000s. Shout out to Slava Medvedenko. 

20. Proud
While I loved cheering for Kobe Bryant the basketball player, it was hard to ever fully embrace Kobe Bryant the man. LeBron on the other hand, by all accounts, has been a model father, husband, and  man since he entered the league. Despite being dubbed as King James from day one, LeBron has never let the hype overshadow the substance. While he undoubtably cares about his image and his brand, he does so in a way that is socially conscious and culturally responsible. Plus, as a teacher, I love his commitment to education. The amount of money he has invested into the lives of young people, particularly from his hometown of Akron, Ohio, is astounding.

21. Nostalgic
I played basketball against LeBron James. Feel free to scroll on if you’ve heard thus one before, but it’s one of my favorites. I told this story as part of my 30 at 30 List #2: Places I’ve Played Basketball:

My favorite basketball anecdote goes a little something like this. In the summer after 5th grade, after my Dunkin’ Dutchmen squad won the local basketball tournament, we advanced to regional competition. The game was held in some M-city in Ohio. My memory fails me here as to exactly which city it was. Madison? Mansfield?Mentor? Anyway, we went up against a team of all-stars from Ohio, featuring a 6-foot-something phenom. On the first play of the game, I spotted up for what I thought was a good look at a 3-pointer. That same phenom swatted it into the third row, which is even more impressive when you’re playing in a grade school gym that only has a few rows of seating. Although we were top dogs back in Erie, we found ourselves down 30+ at halftime in Ohio. The phenom left at halftime to go play with the older kids, who would presumably offer a better level of competition. Our parents were skeptical that this young superstar wasn’t perhaps one of the older kids himself, so they demanded to see his birth certificate (apparently, they weren’t the only ones). The birth certificate showed that the kid in question was, in fact, legit. He was born Dec. 30, 1984, making him more than three months younger than me. The birth certificate also showed his name: LeBron James. And the rest, as they say, is history.

22. Nervous (opening the East up for Boston)
LeBron James has played for the Eastern Conference team in each of the past eight NBA Finals. The last Eastern Conference team not to feature LeBron in the Finals was the Boston Celtics in 2010. As a Lakers fan, it’s my birthright to hate the Celtics. While I was not born to witness the rivalry in the 60s (thankfully) and too young to remember the classic battles of the 80s, I vividly remember 2008 and 2010 when Boston and L.A. split a pair of championship showdowns. With LeBron out of the East, the Celtics are one of the favorites to win the conference. They have one of the league’s best young coaches in Brad Stevens and a team that is loaded with young talent. It’s scary to recall that they made it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals last season despite not having the services of arguably their two best players in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. I am very nervous about Boston making a run at a championship before LeBron gets the roster help he needs to make the Lakers a serious contender. 

23. Historical
With the addition of LeBron James, you could make a case that the all-time Lakers squad could defeat a team made up of the greats from every other team. I’d roll out a lineup of Kareem at center, LeBron and Elgin Baylor at forwards, Kobe and Magic at guard, and that means you’ve got Shaq, Wilt, James Worthy, and Jerry West coming off the bench! The opposition would roll out a starting five of Russell, Duncan, Bird, Jordan, and Oscar with any number of deep bench options. I’m not sure who would win, but the fact that it’s even a question says something about the talent the Lakers have had over the years. Boston is the only other team that can come close on the front line, but their guards don’t match up to Magic, Kobe, and West.

24. Curious
Lakers coach Luke Walton and his new star player have something in common. Both were drafted in 2003. LeBron, of course, went number one overall. Walton went in the second round (32nd overall). Walton’s 11-year playing career began with the Lakers and ended with the Cavs. LeBron’s began with the Cavs and could end with the Lakers…with Walton as his had coach. I am curious to see how this relationship pans out. LeBron’s most recent coach, Ty Lue, was also a former Laker. However, LeBron has had somewhat of a spotty relationship with his coaches in the past. While their game on the court was different, both LeBron and Walton also played with an unselfishness in their game that I hope will translate to a good working relationship as player and coach.

25. Annoyed
I can already hear the inevitable media circus with LaVar Ball and LeBron James being connected to the same team. Turn down the volume. Stop yelling, Stephen A. Smith! Get a clue, Skip Bayless! Will someone please get back to talking about basketball already.

26. Baffled 
I do not understand vandalism. Hopefully the new mural remains intact because it is truly a work of art.

https://twitter.com/LakersDynasty33/status/1025228211821588480

27. Tired (10:30 p.m. tip-offs)
The only could thing about the Lakers fielding poor teams for the past five years was that I did not always feel obligated to stay up for the full game. Those 10:30 p.m. tips are a killer for an East Coast fan like myself who has to get up for work the next day. But I’m afraid this new look Lakers team will have me back to my old ways pulling some late nights.  

28. Hopeful (Ben & Max watching LeBron with me)
I mentioned earlier that my first memory of live was watching the Lakers with my dad. I am hopeful that my sons Ben and Max will get to share similar moments with me. At the end of LeBron’s contract with the Lakers Max will be the age I was when I watched with my dad, and Ben is 2.5 years older than Max, so I sincerely hope it happens.

29. Vindicated
To all of my dear students who talked trash on me the past few years for being a Lakers fan, I told you the Lakers would be back!

30. Open-minded
Ask me today who the greatest basketball player of all-time is, and I will say Michael Jordan, although I also enjoyed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s take on the G.O.A.T. debate. Kareem is in the conversation, too, and if you factor in his success at the high school, college, and professional level, he’s as decorated as any basketball star. But the question of today is MJ or LeBron? Like I said, ask me today, and I will say Jordan has the edge, but LeBron’s résumé is unfinished. For his career, LeBron has averaged more than 2,000 points per season. He would only need to average 1,837.25 points per season for the next four years to break Kareem’s career scoring record. Barring injury he will move into the all-time top-10 in assists next season and all-time top-10 in steals within the next 2-3 years. If he can lead the Lakers back to the promised land and win another championship (or multiple championships), my mind is open to the possibility that when all is said and done, LeBron may be the greatest of all-time. There was a time when I would have argued Kobe over LeBron in the pantheon of basketball history. I cannot make that argument anymore. It’s hard to imagine a world when Jordan is usurped from the throne, but if anyone can do it, perhaps it’s King James. I’m not saying it will happen, but I’m open-minded to the possibility.

30 at 30 Lists #24: Words to Live By

In honor of me turning 30, I’m compiling 30 different top-30 lists on a wide variety of topics ranging from trivial interests of mine to meaningful life moments. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for these lists. They were composed by a panel of one—me.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a bunch of crap. Words are extremely powerful. Words can hurt. Words can also help. Words can even inspire. Words of inspiration come from many different sources, including historical figures, authors, and coaches.

Over the years I have collected numerous quotes that resonated with me in one way or another. Some of the quotes are famous lines that have been used by graduating seniors in high school yearbooks for generations. Some of the quotes come from movies and television shows. Other quotes are more obscure but no less meaningful in my life.

Attempting to select a top 30 list of words to live by undoubtably meant leaving some great, memorable quotes off the list. Nonetheless I feel confident that everyone will find something on this list that speaks to them in the same way it speaks to me. Perhaps you’ll even be inspired to write some words of your own. Continue reading 30 at 30 Lists #24: Words to Live By

30 at 30 Lists #23: The Most Memorable Wins of My Life as a Sports Fan

In honor of me turning 30, I’m compiling 30 different top-30 lists on a wide variety of topics ranging from trivial interests of mine to meaningful life moments. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for these lists. They were composed by a panel of one—me.

As a sports fan, I have endured more than my fair share of heartbreak. When the Oakland Athletics faltered in the 2014 AL Wild Card game, it gave me the perfect hook for my 30 at 30 list of the most devastating losses of my life as a sports fan.  Since publishing that list I already had to amend it once to account for Michigan’s baffling punt-fumble loss to Michigan State last fall.

Meanwhile I was waiting—hoping—that one of my teams would win a signature game meaningful enough to compel me to write this list, a much happier list, which counts down the 30 most memorable wins of my life as a sports fan. Unfortunately I’ve spent the past few seasons in the doldrums as a sports fan:

  • The Athletics, who haven’t won a postseason series since 2006 went 68-94 last year and currently sit in the basement of the AL West.
  • Michigan basketball lost in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament after missing out on the 2015 tournament entirely.
  • The Los Angeles Lakers posted their worst record in franchise history and missed the playoffs for the third straight season after missing the playoffs only twice previously during my lifetime.
  • Michigan football posted a better-than-expected 10-3 record in their first year under new head coach Jim Harbaugh and expectations are high for the upcoming season but they still lost rivalry games to Michigan State and Ohio State.
  • Similarly the Oakland Raiders showed glimpses of hope last year and many experts are talking playoffs for them this season, but they still haven’t posted a winning season since 2002.

The point is I don’t want to wait any longer to write about the sunny side of my life as a sports fan. Maybe one of my teams will crack this list in the near future, but I’ll amend the list if and when that happens. For now, I’m looking fondly into the rearview mirror to highlight the most memorable wins of my life as a sports fan.

For what it’s worth, my sports memory begins in June of 1988 with the Pistons-Lakers NBA Finals (I was not quite 4 years old at the time), so I have ruled out including any games prior to that regardless of how many times I have watched Bo Jackson running over The Boz or Magic and Kareem beating the Celtics in the NBA Finals.

So what makes a win memorable? As this list will show, there are a number of criteria, but certainly some consistent themes. The most important factor here is that one of my teams was victorious. While there have been hundreds if not thousands of other memorable games involving other teams where I was uninvested in the specific outcome, this list focuses on games that had meaning to me because one of my teams was competing. Playoff games and championships certainly carry extra weight, but other factors such as the rivalry with the opponent and the closeness of the final score also impact how memorable the win was for me.

Thanks to the magic of YouTube, many of the highlights from these games—and in some cases, the full game—can be viewed online to relive these magical moments again and again. Continue reading 30 at 30 Lists #23: The Most Memorable Wins of My Life as a Sports Fan

30 at 30 Lists #22: Movies

In honor of me turning 30, I’m compiling 30 different top-30 lists on a wide variety of topics ranging from trivial interests of mine to meaningful life moments. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for these lists. They were composed by a panel of one—me.

I don’t watch a lot of movies, at least not compared to some of my family and friends who are true movie buffs. When Oscar season rolls around, I’m usually left scratching my head wondering how it’s possible that I never heard of so many of the nominated films. When it comes to on screen entertainment, I spend the vast majority of my time watching sports. I also regularly watch a substantial number of TV shows. While sports and TV shows are a part of my day-to-day life, movies are more of a rare treat reserved for special occasions.

I could probably count on one hand the number of times I have been to the theater in the past year, and when I tried to remember back to the last movie I saw at the theater, I was stumped. Maybe Trainwreck in 2015? Jessie and I occasionally watch something on Netflix or HBO Go, and we make a few trips to Redbox or Family Video to catch up on some of the movies we missed, but the truth of the matter is that there are a lot more movies that I don’t see than ones that I do see these days.

When it comes to movie preference, I generally prefer something lighthearted and funny. So don’t expect my list of favorites to mirror IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes. My list has nothing to do with critical acclaim and everything to do with appealing to me. Nonetheless, if you haven’t yet seen any of the 30 movies on my list, I highly recommend checking them out. Each one of them is a movie that I could and have watched multiple times. Now without any further ado, my favorite 30 movies of all-time. I also included links to each movie’s IMDB page in case you are interested to learn more: Continue reading 30 at 30 Lists #22: Movies

30 at 30 Lists #21: Food

In honor of me turning 30, I’m compiling 30 different top-30 lists on a wide variety of topics ranging from trivial interests of mine to meaningful life moments. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for these lists. They were composed by a panel of one—me.

If food and I were in a relationship on Facebook, it would probably be labeled “it’s complicated.” It was only a few months ago that the leading digit on the scale was a 2 for the first time in my life. I was always a skinny, athletic kid. In my brief high school basketball career, my struggle was trying to bulk up and add weight. 200 pounds was my wake up call.

When I first started a relationship with Jessie, I developed a notorious nickname: “The Picky Eater.” However, over time, my openness to trying new foods increased as did my ability to consume them. By the time we were married, I was somewhere in the neighborhood of 185 pounds—nowhere near the skinny kid I was in high school but still in pretty good shape.

Although I still managed to frequent the gym on a fairly regular schedule throughout the past several years, my workout regiment apparently did not increase as much as my appetite did. Or perhaps my now 30-something-year-old metabolism did not burn calories as efficiently as it did 10 or 20 years ago.

Regardless of how it happened, it happened. As the late Owen Hart said, “Enough is enough and it’s time for a change!” Of course, I’m not one for radical change. I have seen too many people dive headfirst into diets only to return to bad habits again once the diet ended. Instead, I prefer to institute more subtle, more sustainable changes. I don’t need to get back to my high school weight. And I don’t even need to get back to 185 right away. It took years to put the weight on; it may take as long or longer to shed the excess pounds. Rather than focus on the result, I am heeding my wife’s words of wisdom and focusing on the process. So after having some conversations with Jessie over the past month or so about making some dietary changes, I am optimistic that my future will be a healthier one. She is much more nutritionally educated than me, and anyone who saw her rock her pregnancy knows this.

Now that I have a son to care for, I realize that I also need to take better care of myself, which includes being more mindful of the food I eat. I am not buying into a specific diet. I am not doing a 30-day cleanse. I am not eliminating all fats, or all sweets, or all carbs. I am not going vegetarian or vegan. All of those are fine options for other people, but I am opting for a simpler, less stringent change that feels both manageable and helpful. I am making small changes like not eating a kids cereal every day for breakfast and a bologna sandwich for lunch, or not eating a processed, salty snack every single night before bed. The truth is I am not an entirely unhealthy person, but I can work to be a healthier person.

Having said all of that, the following list of my favorite foods is probably the answer to the question, “How did I end up reaching 200 pounds?” This is a list of my favorite things to eat. It is not nutritionist-approved. I know that I cannot all of the items on this list all of the time, and that I should probably reign in my portion size when I do eat them. But these are 30 foods that I am definitely not ready to quit just yet. Continue reading 30 at 30 Lists #21: Food

30 at 30 Lists #20: What I’ve Learned in My First 30 Days as a Dad

In honor of me turning 30, I’m compiling 30 different top-30 lists on a wide variety of topics ranging from trivial interests of mine to meaningful life moments. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for these lists. They were composed by a panel of one—me.

IMG_3291The most significant days in our lives usually represent something bigger than the day itself. Some major life events compel us to look back in time. A graduation day ceremony, for example, commemorates four years of academic progress and marks the end of a certain period in our life. Other major life events function rather as a new beginning representing lifestyle changes that will continue to impact us every day thereafter. A wedding, for example, marks the beginning of a couple’s life together with each spouse vowing to love the other for all the days of their life. When asked to name the most significant events that happened in their life, many people put the birth of their child(ren) at or near the top of the list. After only 30 days of being a dad, I am already starting to understand why. Having and raising a child simultaneously forces us to reflect on our past and contemplate our future, perhaps more so than any other life event.

I am amazed at how much I have learned during my short time as a parent, so much so that I felt called to write about it. Without further ado, here is my list of things I’ve learned in my first 30 days as a dad: Continue reading 30 at 30 Lists #20: What I’ve Learned in My First 30 Days as a Dad

Checking in on the 30 at 30 Project as a Newly Minted 31-Year-Old

Two years ago, when I turned 29, I knew that I wanted to commemorate turning 30 in a special way. The concept of the 30 at 30 project was born. The initial idea was a music project: compiling 30 CDs, each consisting of my favorite tracks from my 30 favorite musical artists. Thanks to the suggestion of my wonderful wife Jessie, I also decided to write about each of the CD mixes that I created, which I would post periodically on the site. The final one (Counting Crows) was posted two days ago. However, the 30 at 30 project is not over.

As much as I enjoyed writing about my favorite musical artists, I felt like I was leaving out important pieces of my personal story. So I expanded the 30 at 30 project and decided that I would write 30 lists with the musical artists counting as one of them. My first list was published in June of 2014, counting down my favorite student comments left for me on my end-of-the-year survey. Since then, I’ve published an additional 18 lists covering a wide variety of topics. I still have 11 more to go to achieve 30 at 30 status though, so I think I’m going to let this project extend into overtime and continue writing at age 31. I still have plenty of fun topics to cover, including my favorite movies, books, and foods.

More than anything, I’m grateful that the 30 at 30 project has provided me with a creative outlet to write again. MattHubert.com sat dormant for more than five years between posts before I launched the 30 at 30 project. Altogether, I’ve written more than 95,000 words since that introductory post a year and a half ago. With my list articles averaging nearly 3,500 words, I’ll be well over the 100,000 words before all is said and done.

As the calendar shows September 7, I am officially 31 years old today. Age 30 proved to be a very good year, and I hope that the rest of my thirties will follow suit. A year ago I wrote my list of “Things I Want to Do in My 30s.” The good news is I still have nine years to go, but I thought I’d take this opportunity to check in and assess my progress after one year being a thirtysomething. Continue reading Checking in on the 30 at 30 Project as a Newly Minted 31-Year-Old

30 at 30 Lists #19: Musical Artists

In honor of me turning 30, I’m compiling 30 different top-30 lists on a wide variety of topics ranging from trivial interests of mine to meaningful life moments. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for these lists. They were composed by a panel of one—me.

30at30Since this is the list that inspired the whole 30 at 30 project, and I’ve already written at length about each of the musical artists featured on the list, I’m going to keep this introduction rather short. Suffice it to say that music has played an instrumental role in my life thus far. Although I am not a musician, I have been influenced and inspired by many musicians—famous musicians like many of the names included on this list—and local musicans, including my wife and her family, all of whom happen to be musically gifted.

To every musician who has created music that I have enjoyed over the first 30+ years of my life, I say thank you. In good times and bad, music has been a constant companion throughout my life. From cathartic breakup music to celebratory bonfire music, my ears, my heart, and my soul have been treated well by by talented musicians, specifically the 30 musical artists and groups who form this list of my all-time favorites.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this process of compiling these 30 discs from my 30 favorite musical artists, counting them down, writing and reflecting upon them. If you enjoy any of the artists on this list, I’d invite you to read through my article about him/her/them and comment with your own personal favorite tracks. If you’re looking to discover something new or rediscover a band you haven’t listened to in a while, I’d invite you to do that as well. Links to each of my 30 musical artist articles are included below. Here’s to the next 30 years of music!

30. Oasis
29. The Fray
28. Ben Lee
27. The Decemberists
26. Sufjan Stevens
25. Jill Scott
24. Ben Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie / The Postal Service)
23. Howie Day
22. Gavin DeGraw
21. The Farewell Drifters
20. Eminem
19. Coldplay
18. Ryan Adams
17. Jack Johnson
16. The Beatles
15. Iron & Wine
14. Alicia Keys
13. Jay-Z
12. Beyoncé
11. John Legend
10. Jamie Cullum
9. Jason Mraz
8. Wyclef Jean
7. Dashboard Confessional
6. Ben Folds / Ben Folds Five
5. Ingrid Michaelson
4. Kanye West
3. John Mayer
2. Dave Matthews Band
1. Counting Crows

 

1. Counting Crows

In honor of me turning 30, I made mix CDs of my favorite songs from each of my 30 favorite musical artists/groups. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for this list. They’re simply my personal favorites. Coming in at number 1 is Counting Crows.

CountingCrows30at30

Counting Crows had a profound influence on me as an adolescent and young adult. Although I first heard Counting Crows on the radio in the early 90s when I was a preteen, I rediscovered the band and their music during my senior year of high school.

The number one reason I connected with Counting Crows was the lyrics of lead singer Adam Duritz. Despite being 20 years my elder, Duritz’s lyrical poetry resonated with me on a deep, spiritual level. The combination of his artfully crafted words and his passionate, vulnerable vocal performances made me relate to Duritz as a soul brother.

Counting Crows released their fourth studio album, Hard Candy, on July 8, 2002, midway through the summer before my senior year of high school. I probably listened to that album 100 times that summer while also immersing myself in the previous Counting Crows releases. I attempted to compile a “Best of” Counting Crows CD and ended up making a three-disc set that nearly included every song from their catalog. Every time I listened through an album it seemed like a different line from a different song caught my attention and fit my mood.

The welcome letter I received upon joining Cloudkookooland, the official fan club of Counting Crows.
The welcome letter I received upon joining Cloudkookooland, the official fan club of Counting Crows.

By the time the spring of 2003 rolled around, I was an unabashed Counting Crows fanatic. I joined the band’s official fan club at the time, Cloudkookooland. As the letter reads, the name “comes from Aristophanes’ play, ‘The Birds’, and was the name for the city, built by birds, suspended halfway between heaven and earth where the impossible was possible.” I also spent evenings reading and posting on Counting Crows message boards, which is how I discovered the burgeoning subculture of online bootleg music trading. Although the Internet connection speed of the early 2000s made it difficult, I slowly built a sizable collection of Counting Crows concert bootleg recordings, which the band did not discourage so long as they were not being sold by anyone for profit.  Unfortunately, I lost most of those recordings in an apartment fire in 2009. However, the time I spent listening to recorded versions of live Counting Crows performances opened my ears to a whole new world of Counting Crows music that I never had experienced before. Two things stuck out from the live shows: Adam’s innate ability  as a storyteller on stage and first-rate musicianship of the individual band members, especially Charlie (Gillingham), Dave (Bryson), Dan (Vickrey), and Immy (David Immerglück).

What I didn’t know was that listening to all of those live recordings was priming me for one of my the most meaningful experiences of my life. As fate would have it, Counting Crows’ spring tour brought them to the Warner Theatre in Erie, Pennsylvania, on April 23, 2003. It was my favorite band in my hometown less than two months before graduating from high school. Oh yeah, and it was also the first concert I ever attended. My buddy Ryan Colvin and I had great seats up front on the left side near the stage, and we were treated to an unforgettable performance. Fortunately for me, the show was recorded and I was able to obtain a copy through the online Counting Crows community that I was a part of. That live recording remains a treasured piece of my collection to this day, and that concert cemented Counting Crows’ legacy in my own mind as my all-time favorite band.

CC_bedroomAfter coming home from the concert I was insatiable. No amount of Counting Crows seemed to be enough. Impulsively, I decided then and there to redecorate my bedroom wall, which had previously been adorned exclusively with sports posters. I cleared the area of the wall above my bed. Centered above the bed was a poster of the band I had purchased at the concert. Meticulously, I surrounded the poster with printed copies of the lyrics from every song as well as the album artwork from each of the band’s four studio albums on coordinated colored paper. Obsessed? Perhaps. Dedicated? Undoubtably. I was no longer just a member of the fan club Cloudkookooland, I was living in it.

Counting Crows concert tickets
My Counting Crows concert history:
1. April 23, 2003, at the Warner Theatre in Erie, PA 
2. August 12, 2003, at the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center in Darien Center, NY
3. July 11, 2004, at the Jerome Duncan Ford Theatre in Sterling Heights, MI
4. July 15, 2006, at the Post-Gazette Pavillion, in Burgettstown, PA 
5. July 31, 2007, at Jerry Uht Park in Erie, PA 
6. August 20, 2009, at the House of Blues in North Myrtle Beach, SC
7. December 6, 2014, at the Packard Music Hall in Warren, OH.

In all, I have seen Counting Crows live in concert on seven occasions. I’ve seen them in five different states. I’ve seen them perform at inside at concert halls and outside in a baseball stadium. I’ve seen them perform in spring, summer, and winter. To me, asking me to compare shows is like comparing children. They are all special and unique, and I wouldn’t trade away the experience of attending any of them.

There's us and there's the stage.
There’s us and there’s the stage.
Posing for a photo with Adam at the close of the Counting Crows show in Warren, Ohio, in December of 2014.
Posing for a photo with Adam at the close of the Counting Crows show in Warren, Ohio, in December of 2014.

Having said that, my most recent Counting Crows live experience understandably stands out freshest in my mind. It was the first time seeing the band live since I got married in 2011 and the first time Jessie and I had seen them together since all the way back in 2006, so I knew it was going to be a memorable event. The icing on the cake was that we had front row seats! Plus, the band had just released its latest album Somewhere Under Wonderland in September, five days before my 30th birthday. Hearing many tracks from that album live for the first time that night was among the many highlights, including a rocking rendition of “Miami” and the seasonally appropriate “A Long December“.

“Mr. Jones”—the one Counting Crows song that everyone has heard—was first released as a single in December of 1993. Twenty-one years later, the band didn’t even play it at the Warren, Ohio, show, and it didn’t lessen my appreciation of the performance. If anything, I enjoyed it more because that meant I got to hear something rarer, a non-canon track like “Richard Manuel is Dead” or “Washington Square.”

I wholeheartedly disagree with one of the regular criticisms of Counting Crows concerts. If your goal for a concert is for the band to play a carbon copy of the album you listened to on the way to the concert, Counting Crows is probably not the band for you. Adam is bound to change the words, wander in and out of songs with storytelling snippets, slightly alter a melody here or there, or add in an alternate verse to your favorite song. They might play that fast song you like slow or turn that acoustic ballad you love into an electric rocker. Sure, singing along at a Counting Crows concert often becomes difficult because Adam zigs when you expect him to zag, but while Duritz may pump fake the audience better than Michael Jordan with his lyrical alterations, the rest of the band remains in sync with their lead singer, and there is never a question of whether the band is feeling it or not. These guys were born to rock. With Adam as the eccentric, sometimes brooding leader, the band puts on a show night after night, year after year. It’s clear that they’re having the time of their lives, improvising riffs and solos, playing off one another, and creating something special in the moment for that particular audience on that specific night. I’ve been privileged to be part of that audience seven times, and hopefully number eight isn’t too far off in the future.

Continue reading 1. Counting Crows

2. Dave Matthews Band

In honor of me turning 30, I made mix CDs of my favorite songs from each of my 30 favorite musical artists/groups. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for this list. They’re simply my personal favorites. Coming in at number 2 is Dave Matthew Band.

DaveMatthewsBand30at30

I don’t remember exactly when I first heard Dave Matthews Band  (sometime in the mid-90s) nor which song it was that I first heard (likely something from Under the Table and Dreaming). I do remember that DMB struck me differently than most of the music I had been listening to up until that point. I was young enough to still soak up much of top-40 pop radio yet just old enough to question if there was something more that I was missing.

Meanwhile, out in his studio, my dad was making pots while listening to B.B. King and Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy and Stevie Ray Vaughan. My dad loved jazz and blues, but it wasn’t quite palatable for a simple-minded pre-teen like myself who was simultaneously embracing Ace of Base and Shaq Diesel (seriously). In addition to becoming my second favorite band, Dave Matthews Band is largely responsible for opening the musical doors for me to explore and appreciate other types of music, particularly the jazz and blues that my dad enjoys so much.

DMB was one of the first groups that made me listen to music for something other than the lyrics. No, that’s not quite accurate. DMB’s lyrics have consistently resonated with me on a personal level. What I mean to say is that DMB’s music enticed me to listen to more than lyrics alone. Even on their studio tracks, the band’s musicianship has always stood out. Their songs are so etched into my memory that I often find myself trying to sing along note-for-note to the instrumental solos in addition to the actual lyrics.

If my memory serves me right, 1996’s Crash was the first DMB album that I actually purchased, and I quickly wore it out in my CD player. I was hooked. Today, in terms of official non-bootleg releases, I own more CDs from Dave Matthews than any other group or artist. The collection includes every studio album DMB has released as well as an assorted number of live releases that really showcases what has made DMB the concert band of my generation.

When summer rolls around, you can be sure that DMB will be touring. I first saw DMB live on June 26, 2003 at the Post-Gazette Pavilion in Burgettstown, Pa., with my friend Ryan. I’ve seen them live four times in all, and although each show was at the same venue, each show was different and awesome. No two DMB performances are exactly alike, and that’s part of the thrill. Thanks to the amazing database at DMBalmanac.com,  I can look up the entire setlist from that show and pretty much any other DMB show dating back to the band’s first performance in 1991.

As I mentioned before, I own a lot of DMB music. Trying to narrow it all down into one compilation CD of my favorites was a painstaking process. More than any other band, I think that my list of tracks with DMB would likely shift somewhat if I attempted to re-do the process. With the exception of maybe The Beatles, no other group on this list would likely cause other fans of the band to complain more, telling me that I left (insert song title here) off the list. Sorry, folks. It’s my project. It’s my list. I’d love to read about your favorite DMB songs, so feel free to leave them in the comments. In the meantime, click below to read about my favorites.

Continue reading 2. Dave Matthews Band