On this 4th of July, I want to share a story with you about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The pursuit of happiness actually found me. And it involves the deep satisfaction I’ve been finding just trying to help people.
It all started back in March. I’d decided I’d had enough with the working world. I checked my financials, and believed my wife and I had enough for a comfortable (although not exotic) existence the rest of our days. She was going to work for the next few years anyway, and I had been seeing far too many people I knew encounter serious health problems within days or weeks of them reaching retirement age.
So I called it quits and retired at a relatively young age.
Not too long after, I got a phone call from a young friend. She was frustrated with her job, had been sending out letters and resumes for months and not getting any calls back. Would I be willing to help?
I have long followed people on social media I’ve never met and probably never will. If you have similar values, or are funny, or just live in my general area, I’ll follow you.
What tends to happen is they follow back, and over the years we get to know each other’s families even though we probably wouldn’t recognize each other if we passed down the same aisle at the grocery store. Similar pictures at holidays, pics of our kids growing up, comments on how a Washington sports team let us down (except for this month)…we find out we are more the same than different.
It’s the cool part of social media. Conversely, there are times like the last few days on Twitter (and it’s now starting to bleed into Facebook) where we’re back to the “I’m going to shout out a declarative sentence that oversimplifies a complex issue and makes you look like a monster” phase.
It’s what I call the “impulse control” days of Twitter and Facebook. React to such statements from a friend and you won’t change their mind; you’ll just lose them as a friend. Debate a stranger and you’ll get dragged into an ugly circle of name-calling and snark that you swore to yourself you’d never stoop to.
Dear Wheaties: I have a suggestion for you. A great one. Really, I do.
Yesterday, the sports fans of Washington D.C. had the perfect day. There were close to half a million fans Rockin’ The Red throughout the city, finishing up a four-day celebration bender on behalf of the Washington Capitals. It was beyond our wildest dreams, everything went incredibly well, and now that we have to return to reality, there is something on everyone’s minds.
We want anything that reminds us of the euphoric feeling of the last four days. We’re buying up newspapers, magazines, overpriced T-shirts, overpriced hats, bobbleheads that won’t ship until this area has another solar eclipse…anything we can glance up and look at that puts a smile on our face and reminds us of that time Ovi and the boys dove in fountains, drank enough to drown, and made us feel like we were part of the fraternity party they were participating in.
Which brings us to Wheaties. Back in 1987 when Doug Williams led the Washington Redskins to 35 points in the second quarter of the Super Bowl with Denver and brought home a trophy to the most powerful city in the world, you put Doug on the front of your cereal box. We all bought them, and even though it’s been 31 years, the box is still sitting on a shelf in my library. Along with countless other pieces of memorabilia, it is firmly entrenched next to the Sonny Jurgensen autographed helmet, the Darrell Green bobblehead, and a host of miniature helmets representing every different one the Redskins have played with in the last 5 decades.
The taste, the number of vitamins, the percentage of nutrients and minerals…none of that matters. You could fill these boxes with shredded paper and nobody around here would care. That Wheaties box is pure nostalgia to us with Doug Williams on the box front. So now you need to do another one with our boys in the band from the Capitals.
Put Alex Ovehckin on the front holding the Stanley Cup Trophy over his head like he’s done several thousand times in the last four days and you won’t have a box left on any shelves in the DMV. Put the pic of the Caps on stage at the celebratory rally, looking out into a sea of red much like all the performers at Woodstock had to face when they went on stage in 1969, and you will get similar results.
This is what they call in the business “low-hanging fruit.” We here in the surrounding areas of the Nation’s Capital have been famished for a title for a long time and we’ve just been served. Now we’re craving something else…not necessarily your whole grain flakes, but a pretty package these good sources of B vitamins and fiber come in. Give us a Caps box, and we’ll give you some sales figures that will have you dancing like Ovi on the roof of Café Milano late at night.
As you can see, I’ve included mock-ups of both. So come on, General Mills. Don’t go looking to re-invent the wheel with ideas like those wizards who came up with the International House of Burgers. Do the right thing. Get the Washington Capitals on the front of your cereal box.
If you are over at C.S. Monroe Technology Center in Leesburg these days and want to see a Super Bowl ring, go find resource teacher John Cowne.
Lost in the media crush of the Washington Capitals’ Stanley Cup parade Tuesday was the fact that the replacement players who participated in three games during the Washington Redskins' 1987 Super Bowl season finally got their rings. They weren’t originally going to, but a 30 for 30 special on ESPN recently bought a spotlight to the fact they didn’t get rings, and the organization responded.
Cowne, who is also an assistant to Head Coach Mike Skinner at Woodgrove here in Loudoun County, played collegiately at Virginia Tech. He was on the teams of Bill Dooley from 1980 to 1983, primarily as a long snapper on teams that had a combined record of 31-14 and played in a bowl game. Cowne made an attempt at the NFL in 1987, playing for the San Diego Chargers before being waived at the end of the exhibition season.
The Brentsville District High School standout then got a call from Charlie Casserly, who was responsible for putting a replacement team together. On the night of Sept. 22, 1987, Cowne joined his new teammates at the Dulles Airport Marriott and ended up playing in all three games, including the Monday night October 19th 13-7 win over Dallas.
But just like in the movie “The Replacements”, the next day it was over and players were told to clean out their lockers. Cowne, the first and only player in the history of Brentsville District High School to play Division I football (and now get a Super Bowl ring), returned to teaching high school and coaching, where his stops have included positions at Loudoun Valley and Broad Run here in Ashburn.
Thanks to Will Montgomery’s Twitter feed (a fellow Hokie and Redskin) I was even able to grab a picture of Montgomery and Cowne (Cowne is on the right) and a picture of that newly minted Super Bowl ring.
This of course raises another question I will have to investigate: how many high school football coaches in Loudoun County have Super Bowl rings?
If you have followed the antics of Alex Ovechkin, his teammates and the Stanley Cup since they all landed at Dulles Friday, you’d have to think this group is Dan Snyder’s worst nightmare.
I’m not saying everyone is now going to stop following pro football and embrace hockey. The fanbase for that franchise is deep and isn’t going anywhere immediately.
But that fanbase is old. It’s my generation that has a closet filled with Redskins jerseys and will follow them until they die. The younger generation that has just gotten out of college does not have that loyalty. They don’t seem to be going to live sporting events as evidenced by more and more empty seats around the country. The value for high-priced tickets to any team’s games, much less one that isn’t all that much fun to follow come playoff time, just doesn’t seem to be there.
Then these guys come along. Watching Ovi and company is like watching a bunch of modern-day Beatles remaking “A Hard Day’s Night.” Heck, as hard as these guys are going at it, they could call it “A Hard Day’s WEEK.”
They are becoming folk heroes in front of our very eyes. First, they win the Stanley Cup. Then they take the Cup all over Las Vegas like a group of guys who are maniacs on a mission. They make the movie “The Hangover” look tame, and I figured no one can go at that pace two days in a row. They’ll calm down when they get home, logic dictated.
Today I was out and about just like half of Northern Virginia, shopping for Caps Stanley Cup merchandise.
It was painful. I haven’t paid full retail in 27 years. But there is a certain competitiveness after a team wins a championship, and while everyone can order online and have stuff Monday, I needed something yesterday. Even if it meant paying through the nose.
I actually did find something yesterday when my wife was out shopping with my daughter. She brought home a shirt that was the price of four large pizzas from Papa Johns, and while it looked nice, it didn’t fit right. So we went back today to return it and discovered there were new and better things to max out your credit card on.
You have to be quick. I started off with the Tervis mug you see in the picture to the right. It says it will keep things cool for 8 hours, but I think having that mug with the “Stanley Cup Champions” and Washington Capitals logo on it is going to be cool for 8 years or longer.
They also had shirts that said “Our Year”, which is exactly what my sentiment is. The Caps won the title Thursday night and throughout the playoffs have been incorporating the Nationals into a lot of their celebrations like older brothers showing their younger brethren the ropes. I think that’s going to pay off in the fall, as a number of players are going to remember this and dig deep to be able to experience all of this for themselves and their teammates.
Plus, it was the only one left in my “jumbo petite” size. Seconds after I grabbed the shirt, I turned to the table that had “Stanley Cup Champions” hats on it only a minute before for my next purchase. The table was empty. More will be coming in soon, I was told. You snooze, you lose is now the law of the Stanley Cup merchandise jungle.
Still, two out of three wasn’t bad. I went home, filled the tumbler full of ice, and poured my beverage of choice – iced tea – into it. Probably the millionth glass of iced tea I’ve had in my life.
But easily, after a Stanley Cup title I've waited 40 years for, the sweetest. :)
Nothing like a day at the ballpark, as the Caps came to Nats Park to show off the Stanley Cup. At top, Alex Ovechkin throws the first pitch just a bit high, but when you win a Cup, you get a mulligan. Below, Ovechkin notices that every time he raises the Cup over his head, people strangely seem to cheer wildly....
Of all the videos produced by the NHL and the Washington Capitals, this one by the Caps may easily be the best. Watch it now....and 6 months from now when you're having a bad day, come back and watch it again. It won't disappoint...
Waking up this morning, my first thought was “that must have been a dream.”
But it’s not. The Caps won the Stanley Cup. And Alex Ovechkin took the Cup on a wild night in Vegas after the game, if the pictures I’m seeing on Twitter are accurate. In fact, this is one of the rare days that social media is almost overrun with pictures of celebration and happiness. It's like a Christmas morning.
The Washington Post certainly made sure I knew it was no dream. World Wars have ended with headlines smaller than what the Post has today about the Caps winning.
Then there is this serenade that I just had to post, because it's my favorite of everything I've seen. I’d have liked to have been in Las Vegas to see the win. But now seeing this, I’d have settled for being with this group of fellow red-clad long-suffering fans and belted out at least one verse of Queen's “We Are The Champions.”
Particularly when it gets to the part about “of the WORLD.”
It’s after 1:30 AM, and I don’t want to go to bed. I don’t want what just happened tonight to end.
Tonight was more than hockey, more than winning a Stanley Cup. It’s the finish to a journey that has ended in disappointment at every bend in the road for such a long freaking time. Lucy has been forever pulling the football up as the Charlie Brown Capitals tried to kick it for over 40 years. Every year the season has ended with the Caps lying flat on their backs looking up at the sky.
Not tonight. ‘Ol’ Lucy was a little too slow pulling the football away this time, and Charlie Brown nailed it. Right through the uprights.
They did it. They absolutely freaking did it.
I cannot tell you how many times in my life I have gone to bed in utter disbelief that the Washington Capitals blew another game or another series, making me stay up for multiple overtimes deep into the night only to crush my sportsfan soul (anyone who saw Pat LaFontaine score that goal in the 4th overtime for the Islanders in 1987 knows what I'm talking about). So when there was less than a second to go and it was apparent the Caps would win, it got a little dusty in here.
Some of it was the realization that two-thirds of my life has gone by waiting for this (I started following them in my 20s. I’m now in my 60s). Some was for others who suffered as much or more than me with this team and didn’t get to see it. Guys like Glenn Brenner, George Michael or Jim Vance. Those guys howled at all the unexpected misses and losses every year and still came back the next season proclaiming this would be the year. They’re all gone now.
Some of it was the respect and happiness for Alex Ovechkin, who has done just about everything in his 13 years in Washington EXCEPT win a title. As much as I wanted to see this happen for Washington sports fans, I wanted to see this more for Ovechkin. When the game was over, players from Las Vegas embraced him as an elder statesman of their sport, much the same way teams lined up to shake the hand of Dale Earnhardt when he finally won the Daytona 500 after so many misses. They knew Ovi deserved it. And were happy for him.
Some of it was watching an interview with T.J. Oshie, talking about his father and his battle with Alzheimers. I lost my father-in-law to that terrible disease 12 years ago, and I can tell you from experience that you wonder every day if the day will be a good day or a bad day when it comes to remembering things. T.J. was in tears explaining how special it was to have his Dad there at the game, hoping the memory would be powerful enough to last the rest of his days.
“He doesn't remember a lot of stuff these days,” Oshie said, wiping away tears. “He remembers enough. But I tell you what. He's here tonight - I don't know where he's at - but this one will stick with him forever, you can guarantee that.”
The room got even dustier after that.
But the moment I’ve really been waiting to see is the Commissioner of the NHL – Gary Bettman – handing Lord Stanley’s trophy to Ovechkin, imagining he would hold it high, bursting with pride as he showcased it around the ice. He didn’t disappoint, adding a few primal screams and kissing the Cup before handing it off to the guy who has waited just about as long as he has, Nick Backstrom. It was Ovi’s time to shine, but also the time to face all of his critics and say “I finally got this. Now bite me.”
The chase has been so long I have many times said I just wanted to see them win a Cup before I died. Mike Harris, who is an editor at The Athletic, is the same age as I and he has also said the same expression many times. When the Cup was finally hoisted, I tweeted at him “does this mean starting tomorrow that we might, um, oh never mind.” Mike, ever the expert wordsmith, replied with the perfect answer.
“I hope not,” he typed back. “But if I do, I do with a smile.”