The Fall of Football

Ok, the title is misleading. I don’t figuratively mean that football is in a decline and I will not get political about all the issues currently surrounding the game. I literally mean that this post will cover an incredible Fall season of Football and one that I will not forget anytime soon. Working in sports has been a journey that has lead me to a lot of places.

Each time I look back to reflect on my career, “What would 12/15/18/22 year old Ben think?” pretty much determines whether I should keep plugging away or pack it in. Well, those different variations of Ben would have been pretty excited at the idea of going to 12 College Football games in 14 weeks. This post is the story and recap of that experience.

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High atop the Coliseum

Saturday, August 30th – Fresno State @ USC – Neither Nikki or I had every been to a game at The Coliseum and it was a sight to be seen. Thankfully our good friends Mike and Megan Miller (and Mike’s dad) were able to show us the ropes and get us into a pretty awesome USC VIP tailgate (fresh with some New Belgium Beer, which I took as a good sign…). Turns out that was a BAD sign as USC put a complete hurting on Fresno State 52-13 in a game that wasn’t even that close. Tradition, or Pageantry to those in the know, is always something played up in college football and being a part of a USC home game did not disappoint. The players marching through the crowd to the field to Traveler (the mascot) and the lighting of the Olympic torch made a hot day with bad seats and a blowout much more palpable.

Saturday, September 6th – BYE Week – oh wait, Fresno played Utah…or did they? I’ve since repressed. (note – did not attend)

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Nebraska Game

Saturday, September 13th – Fresno State vs. Nebraska – Another week, another blowout. What else was new the first couple weeks of the season? Answer: a visit from the Walters Family (sans Krista). Outside of the usual happy moments (kids, marriage, etc.) standing on the Nebraska sideline for part of the game probable ranks pretty high up there. Nebraska put the finishing touches on a 55-19 trouncing of the Bulldogs but spirits remained high and many light beers were drank.

Saturday, September 20th – Fresno State vs. Southern Utah – yawn…Fresno State won 56-16, but hey, we did get to see fireworks after the game. Can’t overlook the first win of the season.

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Yep…that’s a bed on a football field.

Friday, September 26th – Fresno State @ New Mexico – Lets go 1-0 this week Dogs! After a slow start to the game the Bulldogs came out swinging in the 2nd half and charged to a 35-24 victory. Highlights of the trip included a successful night with our clients at the Sandia Casino, some excellent/authentic New Mexican food, a little golf, seeing a bed on a football field and getting home on Saturday morning instead of Sunday morning. Travelling with the team is fun for a lot of reasons but it generally puts a strain on your energy level (getting home at 2-3am). I can’t even begin to say how much more awesome Friday night games are than Saturday night games.

Friday, October 3rd – Fresno State vs. San Diego State – SDSU was on their third string QB and IMG_0098it showed. The Dogs eeked out a 24-13 victory to win their third straight game and push their record to 3-3 on the year. Optimism was returning to the valley! Games for me are a blur. Suite, field, seats, meeting clients, on-field promotions, suite, field, etc. Certain things stand out each game and my opportunity to run the Hero of the Game promotion at every game was one of those. Getting to know each of our Heroes (Servicemen or Women) each week was an honor but seeing the crowd reaction and the faces of our Heroes and their families was the true reward. We honored Bob McLaughlin at the SDSU game and our friend Derek Carr was nice enough to pay a special visit.IMG_0104

Friday, October 10th – Fresno State @ UNLV – we lost…that’s all I have to say about the game. Outside of the game we had a great time in Vegas with our clients. Meeting Jerry Tarkanian (former UNLV and Fresno State men’s basketball coach), a wayward cab ride and a little roulette all made the loss a little bit easier to stomach (and getting back Saturday morning).

Friday, October 17th – Fresno State @ Boise State – I get it…Fresno AND Boise are not States…moving on. Boise is a great city and college town wrapped into one. They have a great downtown, great trails, great beer culture and some excellent restaurants. Boise State won 37-27 but I was honored to bring Valley First Credit Union and the ValleyIMG_0148 First Flyaway contest winners. My guests had an excellent time and the whole experience created “wow” moments for everyone all weekend. Truly a trip to remember.

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Magical city of Fort Collins

Saturday, October 25th – Colorado State vs. Wyoming – our annual trip home for a Rams football game happened to work perfectly for 30-40 of our friends also and a memorable tailgate party was had by all. Fort Collins is a magical town that provide us with FREE beer tastings at Odell’s, fun and fellowship at Old Chicago’s (and my first legal beer with my sister) and a late-night chance meeting with Rashard ‘Hollywood’ Higgins. The Rams also dominated the poor little Cowboys so that was neat.

Saturday, November 1st – Fresno State vs. Wyoming – I can confirm that I was at this game and that it did, in fact, happen. After a 45-17 loss things can really only go up right?

Saturday, November 8th – Fresno State vs. San Jose State – Last year SJSU embarrassed us in San Jose and ruined our chances of a BCS bowl game and an undefeated season. Revenge is a dish best served cold and thrown in the other’s face with a 38-24 butt-kicking. Fresno moved to 4-6 and within a punchers chance of still winning the West Division and playing for a Mountain West Championship.

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Packed house in Reno

Saturday, November 22nd – Fresno State vs. Nevada – Road Trips always seem to mark something special and this one held the distinction of being Andrew Wieder’s first trip with the team and the first time I’ve ever been on a plane where the pilot missed his landing and had to pull a Top Gun style “touch and go” and lay on the throttle about 500 feet above ground. IT was awesome in a kind of “Holy crap, what is happening…” reaction in the moment and a pretty cool story to tell after the fact. Our colleagues at Wolf Pack Sports Properties hosted us and showed us a good time in Reno that night followed by a 40-20 beatdown of the Wolf Pack by our Dogs the next day. Just like that we are 5-6 and a win vs. Hawaii the next week would put us into the Mountain West Championship game.

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The calm before the storm

Saturday, November 29th – The Lucas family descended upon Fresno for our regular season finale against Hawaii. Somehow we were able to recover from the Thanksgiving coma and make it out of the house on Saturday. It was mom and dad’s first game at Bulldog Stadium and they got to experience some tailgating, our suite and the cold metal bleachers of section 26. One of my clients was the game sponsor so my game day experience was cut and pasted into a random but memorable collage…all in a days work.

12 Games in 14 weeks…I need a beer and a nap but there is no rest for the weary…Fresno State vs. Cal Poly men’s basketball game tips off at 7pm! See you there.

Thoughts re: Sunday night TV

The Sunday night TV lineup has become one of my (Nikki) favorite rituals that Ben and I have as husband and wife. We make dinner together and watch shows after. Our TV shows are mostly dramas that provide a “settle down from the weekend” and “prepare for the week”. How zombies could be involved with settling/calming I don’t know!

Every week we get through 3-4 shows back-to-back. I’ve noticed a trait I have is that I take on the emotions and struggles of characters. Many times between shows we will have to pause and do a reality check. Example: My name is Nikki. I live in Fresno. I’m married to the amazing and handsome Ben. Sometimes a character is so BAD i.e. horrible and if they’ve wronged my favorite character and keep up that path of horribleness sometimes I wish for the TV show to produce something/someone to kill them. A hero (heroine), perhaps. This is a TV show, I know. But why is the solution to kill them?

I borrowed a few books from friends in Fresno (thanks Brendan and Emily!), one of which is The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World, an interview of the Dalai Lama by Howard C. Cutler, MD. While on a plane I was reading the chapter “Violence Versus Dialouge” and came across some words that made me think differently about the power of anger and hatred when not combined with empathy and effort to educate on the full view of a situation when someone has been wronged by another.

“The second main danger,” the Dalai Lama continued, “is when the label ‘evil’ is applied to an individual or group of people, it naturally sort of demonizes that person or group. Once this kind of perception takes root, a process of dehumanization takes place. They are seen as subhuman. And if we no longer see the person as a human being, as someone like ourselves, then we have no common ground. They are seen as subhuman. And without common ground, there is no basis for empathy to arise. The end result of this is that it opens the door to justifying any injustice done against them, any horror, any atrocity, even genocide.” – Dalai Lama 

This excerpt is part of the section “The Root of Violence” which details many levels of root causes of violence. The above quote is based on internal causes. But that can very easily be exaggerated or oversimplified to hatred of a person, or group, seen as “evil”.

So, what’s the point? To me, it serves as a reminder that empathy is important even for characters in tv shows who are just such meanie heads. And to not let these thoughts extend into your reality. Don’t look at anyone as subhuman. Bad people are out there but there is more to the story.

Cheers,

Nikki

 

Source:

Cutler, Howard C. “Violence Versus Dialogue.” The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World. By Bstan-ʼdzin-rgya-mtsho. New York:      Doubleday, 2009. 145-46. Print.

We’re Finally Regulars

Sequoia and Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Company

A few years back I (Nikki) made a list of things I wanted to do before I died. One item was to take my sister Taryn to Disneyworld which was crossed off in 2012. That’s a foo-foo one, but still good to have been completed and the sisters Walters had a blast. Another one was to “Be a regular somewhere”. Living in Denver, there was always some new, hip place to go to that we never really had a spot. Since moving to Fresno, our spot is right around the corner from our place and conveniently hosts the weekly trivia nights that we compete in.

How do you know you’re a regular? Our big moment was when the wait staff knew our entire table’s preferred beverage. I know, dream big!, but it still felt good.

Since we’ve been going for a year we thought we share our favorite “go-to” drinks at Sequoia (by our place) and the Tioga-Sequioa (downtown Fresno).

Nikki’s preferred beers:

  • Del Oro – my go-to trivia beer. Light, refreshing, and easy to drink. Also helps keep the mind sharp. Must be served with lime.
  • Pomegranate Ale – the beer to combine with brunch. Sequoia offers a great breakfast on Sundays and if I’m not in the mimosa mood, this beer is a great breakfast beer. I feel weird for saying that. Sorry Grandma.
  • Half-Dome Wheat – Named for the famous Yosemite landmark that Ben summited last year (see blog post), this is a wheat beer made with SJV grown lemon and orange peel. Good stuff, not too heavy. Orange slice optional, but nice!

I (Ben) moved out a few months before Nikki did and one day I ventured to Sequoia for to do a tasting of their beers. $10 for tasters…ok, a little pricy but ok…until they brought out a cafeteria plate full of beers AND squeezed a few extras in just for good measure. After 13 or so samples I found out a few that I liked and have stuck with those ever since.

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Cafeteria tray full of beer!

Ben’s (‘don’t give me no light beers’) choices:

  • Black Oak Porter – really nice Porter…very easy to drink for non dark beer fans…very, almost too, similar to 1554 from New Belgium.
  • Oatmeal Stout – my version of the breakfast beer. The times we’ve done brunch at Sequoia I always get roped into ordering their Oatmeal Stout. It’s a sucker bet, like putting $5 on red in Vegas, but I’m a sucker and I keep ordering it. Is it my favorite? Nope, not even close…but it’s Oatmeal…and that goes well with pancakes and eggs…right…?
  • Seasonal Releases

o   Russian Imperial Stout – thumbs up…not too boozy. Big complaint with other RIS category beers is that they taste like I am taking a pull off a Burnett’s lightweight traveller before a fraternity party in college…not really what I am looking for in a beer. Chocolate and Vanilla with a background hint of coffee…smooth and strong enough…only recommend one.

o   Double Pilsner – my favorite seasonal they have come out with. Really good…hoppy…light…overall a good and stronger alternative to a normal Bud/Coors/Stella style beer.

  • Tioga-Sequoia

o   Catacomb Brew – Blueberry Saison, 5.5 ABV, 20 IBU – not super fruity but the blueberry taste is there in the background…milder than a typical saison…smaller brewery and can tell with the beer being more small batch and it is slightly more carbonated. Not something I would order but definitely one for the ladies and craft beer newbies.

o   Sugar Pine Porter – Cocoa-Vanilla Porter – slightly too sweet for its own good. If it were just Cocoa or just Vanilla I think it would really stand up…maybe trying to do a little too much here.

o   General Sherman Double Dry Hopped IPA – This is a great improvement on the normal General Sherman IPA…they’ve clearly taken time to source some good hops and make the Double something that you’d feel great about buying ($4-5 for a bomber).

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Catacomb, General Sherman Double Dry Hopped IPA, Sugar Pine Porter

Adventures in the Kitchen: Coconut Curry Chicken Tacos

Tacos have been a fun adventure food for us since we moved to California…we’ve dabbled a little with fish tacos, traditional beef and chicken tacos…every time we attempt a new ingredient and see what works best. We may just have stumbled upon our favorite of the bunch…Coconut Curry chicken tacos with quinoa, cherry tomatoes, fresh sliced avocado and salsa verde on Mission brand Corn and Whole Wheat tortilla…pretty long winded but long on taste too!

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Coconut Curry Chicken Tacos

Serves 4 – Prep Time 40 Minutes, Cook Time 15 Minutes

2 chicken breasts and 2 chicken tenders (we use the package from Costco)

Coconut Oil

Curry Powder

Cayenne Pepper Seasoning

1 Large Avocado

Handful of Cherry Tomatoes

Mission Corn & Whole Wheat Blend tortillas

Quinoa (brand does not matter here, but we used plain)

Herdez Verde Salsa (or your favorite brand)

Mexican Shredded Cheese

  1. Slice chicken breasts into smaller pieces, about the same size as the tenders in the package. You’ll get about 8-10 strips from this.
  2. Take 2 Tablespoons of Coconut Oil and coat the chicken. Add Curry Powder and Cayenne Pepper seasoning to taste preference. Both are bold flavors, keep this in mind. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  3. Prepare quinoa based on package instructions. We made 1/2 cup of quinoa for this. This will take about 10 minutes.
  4. Slice cherry tomatoes into quarters and avocados into square chunks.
  5. Heat grill to “High” and place chicken directly on heat. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, allowing the chicken to get a good sear on it. Remove chicken and cover with aluminum foil for 5 minutes. Chop chicken into thin small pieces
  6. Heat tortillas on a griddle. Each side should start to bubble slightly, but don’t leave long enough to crisp. Once both sides have been warmed, add shredded cheese to melt on the tortilla. (Trust us on this one).
  7. Assemble! Tortilla, Quinoa, Chicken, Avocado, Tomato, Verde Salsa.

Enjoy and let us know if you have any other ideas for taco recipes.

Cheers, Ben and Nikki

Capture the Colour: Colo to Cali Edition

Our theme is always around adventure and exploring and our Capture the Colour submission does not stray from that. Thanks to Val with girlsgottadrink.com for the challenge. Ben and I accept!

Half Dome

Red Nikki: It’s hard to stand out with nature this beautiful surrounding you. Ben hiked half dome and brought this great picture back for his wife (not a t-shirt but I’d say a winner).

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Jellyfish at Omaha Aquarium

Blue Nikki: This is a photo of my sister hanging out with jellyfish. While I was glad that glass separated us, this picture is one that will always wow me.

New Belgium at Fresno Brewing Company (RIP)

Yellow

Ben: Nikki and I loved spending Saturday mornings in downtown Fresno at the Fresno Brewing Company. We loved the atmosphere, the coffee and the familiar beer. We enjoyed many local (Fort Collins) beers there before it closed a few months back. We miss it but are on the lookout for a new local Fresno spot to linger on Saturdays.  

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Trees for days in Walnut Creek, CA are

Green

Nikki: While visiting friends from CO that now live in Walnut Creek, we took advantage of the outdoors and went on a little hike. This is one of those views that you look at and stop dead in your tracks, look again and then are thankful that you have your phone with you to take a picture.

 

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Ben: The Bellagio Water fountains will always hold a special place for Nikki and I. No matter how many times we go to Vegas and no matter what we are doing when we are there we always stop by for a show or seven.

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Bellagio Water Fountains

The Innovation of Loneliness – Commentary

Shimi Cohen published a great video about the connection of social media and human’s sense of loneliness.

Watch this video – http://vimeo.com/70534716

The video is masterfully done and the comparisons are smart and accurately pointed. Social media, video games, electronic devices have done amazing things to bring people together, increase efficiency and provide entertainment. Unfortunately they have also created lazy and out of shape kids, distracted spouses and effectively eliminated the need for face-to-face interactions.

Shimi asks “What is the problem in having a conversation? It happens in real time and you can’t control what you are going to say.” People and companies who operate in the same town as I do would rather have an email chain conversation with 12 people cc’d on it that lasts 4 days than take 30 minutes over lunch and discuss everything we would have accomplished in those emails before our entrees arrived at the table. The ability to check, edit, re-check, think “wait, did I cc or bcc the guy who I bashing on this email”, edit and push send is very safe. There isn’t any risk of spouting off or getting off track or thinking that you are only going to embarrass yourself and fail. Failing over an email or a text message feels better.

Don’t “sacrifice conversation for mere connection.” Get out in the world and have a conversation today.

Ben

Year 2 – Fresno

It has been a little over a year since Nikki and I started this blog and about a year since Nikki and Todd helped move all of our stuff to Fresno. I am big into nostalgia and I enjoy looking back to the beginning of our adventure. Looking back allows me to always stay looking forward. We have found a great apartment in a great area of town. We have made some great friends and started a newly dominating trivia team. We have jobs that we enjoy and that challenge us every single day.

August will fly by with a trip to Vegas next weekend meeting the Haberle’s and the soon-to-be Gorman’s, a trip to Denver to celebrate the French nuptials, Nikki staying in Denver for work then headed to Omaha (for another wedding), Nikki’s birthday and Opening Kick for Fresno State…our 1st anniversary will be here before we know it. The trend of things moving fast has dominated our life this year but we are hopeful that year 2 in Fresno will slow down, if only a bit.

“I accept Time absolutely.
It alone is without flaw,
It alone rounds and completes all,
That mystic baffling wonder.”

-Walt Whitman