The Cat’s out of the bag

My friend and co-worker Brian has an interesting side hustle. He prowls the sidelines of NFL games as “Who Dey” – the mascot for the Cincinnati Bengals.

He’s been “dressing up as a fake tiger” (his words, not mine) for more than 20 years — he’s getting a bit long in the fang for the mascot game. This feat is quite impressive when you consider how much of a physical workout it is. (Brian said on warmer game days, he’ll sweat off 10 pounds or more.)

And it’s even more impressive when you consider the fact that the Bengals were… let me put this politely… not good for much of his tenure. It can’t be much fun trying to fire up a sparse crowd — many of whom were probably rooting for the opposing team — during a 2-14 season.

I’m glad the Tiger tables have turned. If things go the Bengals way this Sunday, Brian will be going to the Super Bowl for the 2nd year in a row. Not bad for a side hustle. Or should I say “fur” a side hustle?

Xavier University’s website has a great profile of Brian here.

While he was in college, he was leading a mascot double life, as the “Blue Blob” mascot at Xavier sporting events, as well as doing his Who Dey thing.

And because Brian’s a natural ham, I cast him in a bunch of fun videos that I’ve scripted for our company over the years. One of my favorites was a buddy cop spoof — Brian and I were “Ham” and “Cheese” respectively, for obvious reasons.

In that video, we poked fun at some of the more arcane rules in the employee handbook, like “no t-shirts with inappropriate slogans” for our in-house fitness center. Here’s a quick clip from that:

I’m glad Brian’s still having fun hamming it up as Who Dey. Here’s hoping we see him at Super Bowl LVII in a few weeks!

Be a Team Player: Be a blockhead!

The Cincinnati Bengals beat the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the NFL playoffs on Sunday night. The winning touchdown was an amazing (and amazingly rare) play: a 98-yard fumble recovery by a defensive lineman. Local boy Sam Hubbard made the heads-up score:

But something happened on that play that happens all the time in NFL games, and it drives me bonkers.

Look at Sam when he starts his rumble: he’s got three teammates nearby, with two opponents trailing them.

The teammates just run alongside Sam Hubbard. As if they think the Bengals will get bonus points if four guys reach the end zone. (Spoiler: they won’t.) This happens all the time on turnovers… teammates run alongside the dude with the ball.

Instead of forming a convoy, they should turn around and block one of the pursuing opponents:

At midfield, one teammate is even clapping – I think he wants Sam to lateral the ball to him… Save your clapping, pal, and put your pads on a Raven.

Ravens tight end Mark Andrews busted his butt trying to catch up to Hubbard. Sam’s teammates finally try to block him, but they’re lucky they didn’t get called for a block in the back – which would’ve negated the score.

I see this all the time in games. And a lot of times, an opponent actually catches up to, and tackles, the runner, while the runner’s teammates do nothing to impede the tackler’s progress.

Running alongside the guy with the ball does no good…. you can celebrate with your teammate all you want AFTER you block the only guys with a chance of tackling him.

Thus sayeth Grandpa, the team player. Now get off my lawn!

Happy Friday!


“And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’”

Kurt Vonnegut Jr., A Man Without a Country

If you’re happy and you know it… appreciate it. (And go ahead and clap your hands too. We wouldn’t want that nursery rhyme that’s been stuck in your head all these years to go to waste.)

Read (and write) all about it

From Seth Godin’s daily blog:

Our dreaming opportunity

School and work push us to avoid real dreams. Dreamers are dangerous, impatient and unwilling to tolerate the status quo. Existing systems would prefer we simply fit in.

The dreams we need to teach are the dreams of self-reliance and generosity. The only way for us to move forward is to encourage and amplify the work of people who are willing to learn, to see and to commit to making things better.

It turns out that reading and writing are the cornerstones of this practice, now more than ever. These are the two skills most likely to produce exponential results.

The effective writer can see their ideas spread to a hundred people overnight, or perhaps a million. Writing is still the bedrock tool we use to codify and share ideas, and it forces us to organize our thoughts.

But we can’t say it until we see it, which requires the commitment to reading and understanding, combined with the guts to dream and to lead.

Find the others, see the problem, and then decide to do something about it.

Great stuff, as always, from Seth. Reading expands your worldview. And the pen is mightier than the sword. It’s never been harder to carve out time for reading… but if you do, it’s never been easier to publish your thoughts.

Be Batty

I spent many a childhood summer in Houston, Texas, so I know it gets plenty hot there. (Thankfully, I could cool off in the Memorial West pool that my Aunt Virginia and Uncle Don belonged to.)

But Houston had a cold snap before Christmas, and bats were dropping like flies.

Photo credit: Mary Warwick, in the Washington Post

So what did Mary Warwick , executive director of the Houston Humane Society TWRC Wildlife Center, do? She started gathering up the unresponsive bats.

She collected 138 the first day. Each night for the next several days, she rescued more. Others heard about her efforts and pitched in. These Mexican free-tailed bats are important to the ecosystem – they eat a lot of mosquitoes and other bugs.

By Christmas night, Warwick said she had more than 1,500 bats hanging inside dog kennels in her attic. 

Most folks I know — myself included — would freak out about even a single bat in our house. But Mary knew these creatures needed help and she took action. Some of the rescued bats didn’t survive, but most did, and have been returned to their colonies in Houston.

I’m sure Mary Warwick could think of several other things to do in the days leading up to Christmas. But she knew nothing was more important than saving those bats. It’s work like this that can help save the planet we all share (humans and bats alike).

If you’re not a Batman or a Batwoman, there’s still probably something you’re passionate about, where your efforts can make a difference. It could be pet rescue, or bike paths, or park preservation, or planting trees, or preserving greenspace, or _______. And when the bat-signal goes out, I hope you’ll be batty enough to take action.

[The full Washington Post story about Mary Warwick’s rescue efforts is here.]

Do or Do Not…

Here’s a well-known quote from a pseudo-Muppet:

But here’s a quote I like even better, especially as we embark on a new year:

It’s easy to fill your days with to-do lists. But to carve out enough space for the big ideas, you might be better served creating a “to-don’t” list.

[The Patricia Digh quote above was included in a recent 3-2-1 newsletter from James Clear. If you clear enough “don’t” space, adding his newsletter to your weekly reads is well worth it.]

A simple wish for 2023

For you: joy.

For the world: peace.

The original artwork above was done by my friend Damjana, whom I met 32 years ago. You can see more of her lovely illustrations at her Loddelina website.

Here’s to a joyful, peaceful new year!

Stay Weird!

“Weird Al” Yankovic has a biopic out called Weird. In true Weird Al fashion, it’s a parody of biopics. And of course it’s on a weird network (the Roku channel). Weirder still, Daniel Radcliffe plays Al.

I watched it last night. Pretty funny stuff. (One of the best running gags is that Al wrote an original song called “Eat it” and then Michael Jackson came out with “Beat it” as a parody of that.)

Here’s one of the opening scenes, poking fun at the trope of parents who just don’t understand:

“Stop being who you are and doing the things you love…” Classic!

But near the end of the movie, “Al” gives an awards ceremony speech that doesn’t seem like parody (if you can overlook the fact that he pees his pants):

“Live the life you want to live. Be as weird as you wanna be. You will never find true happiness until you can truly accept who you are.”

Al Yankovic plays the accordian. And he does parodies of pop music songs. Not exactly the template for a rocket ride to the top of the music charts. But somehow it worked.

He chose the weird path… the path that was true to himself… and it paid off.

What’s your weird? And are you living it?

Worst. Christmas Song. ever.

I’m a Grinch (pre-heart-growing-three-sizes). And I particularly despise the tripe foisted upon our ears from Halloween onward. You may call it “Christmas music” but to me it’s an aural assault equivalent to a million nails on a chalkboard.

99% of the holiday songs that are played ad nauseum are nausea-inducing. I don’t care if they’re “classics” from milquetoast crooners like Perry Como and Andy Williams or songs from new artists. They all stink.

The newer songs are particularly egregious. Every semi-popular artist releases at least one holiday tune, in a blatant attempt to weasel their way into the nearly-calcified list of 20 or so songs that are trotted out every year, merely to cash in on the “played every 30 minutes for 8 weeks every year” royalties. (It’s called the Mariah Carey Lottery.)

The worst offenders release an entire album of holiday music. “Why thank you, Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20, we didn’t think we needed a bazillionth cover of ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ but you showed us the error of our ways. God bless us, every one!”

This Tiny Tim probably did a Christmas album.

However, there’s a special place in my holiday hell reserved for what is undeniably the worst Christmas song ever: “The Christmas Shoes.”

Let’s break it down line by line (yes, I know Patton Oswalt does it so much better, but his version is pretty raunchy).

Typical dude, waiting until the last minute to do his shopping. Clearly this song was written in the pre-online shopping era. And let’s face it, no one is in a “Christmas mood” when they’re in a long line.

I think the boy needs to pee. I hope he doesn’t pee in the shoes!

Yes, our narrator is not in a “Christmas mood” nor is he in a Christian mood because he’s being awfully judgy about the lad’s appearance.

And the song has taken a dark turn. But even though the kid’s dad says “there’s not much time” he’s fine with his unaccompanied minor going to the store with a boatload of pennies to buy shoes for his dying mom. Imagine if the mom passes while the kid is out shopping… there aren’t enough pennies in the entire world to pay for the therapy sessions he’ll need.

Also, the dad has informed the wee one that momma is not long for this world, but he clearly hasn’t told his son how funerals work. I’ve been to a few services in my day and have yet to see an “open shoe” casket. So the poor kid is wasting his pennies.

The kid could probably just get her some house slippers. Or use his penny stash to get her some illegal pain meds.

Again, I’m going to go back to the casket thing… the kid should’ve purchased some earrings instead.

Our faithful narrator has been reminded of “what Christmas is all about”:

  • long lines
  • those super-annoying people who pay in cash
  • spending beyond your means
  • impractical gifts
  • imminent death

Sorry for being so grumpy. I blame the music.

The 12 Dates of Christmas

In case you hadn’t heard, Christmas is coming soon. The whole “peace on earth, good will toward men” part of the equation can get lost in a sea of shopping. Buy this! Buy that! “Makes the perfect Christmas gift!”

Chances are pretty good that you’re reading this from the cozy comfort of your home. Or perhaps you’re perusing this post on your smartphone while you’re out and about (you need a new hobby!). Either way, you have shelter… and an internet connection. So you probably don’t need any more “stuff” for Christmas.

Here’s a novel idea: give experiences instead of “stuff”… give the gift of time together. (Time is the most precious gift of all, right?)

That’s what I did last Christmas. Instead of buying my wife a bunch of stuff, I created “The 12 Dates of Christmas” – I planned out an excursion for each month of 2022, to a different neighborhood, where we could “buy local.” Patronize locally owned shops, dine at local restaurants, enjoy a beverage or two at a local watering hole,… visit local parks and attractions too.

We’ve been married for 25 years, and have lived in this city even longer, yet there are so many neighborhoods that we hadn’t fully explored, so many new (non-chain) restaurants to try, new breweries, or places that we hadn’t been to in ages (looking at you, comedy club).

Yes, it’s still commerce, but at least our dollars are staying in the community instead of going to China.

Source: Huff Post

And it ensured that we had a planned “date night” every month. (OK, not every month – we missed a few. We skipped the February one because the Bengals made the Super Bowl – didn’t see that one coming!)

Your 12 Dates don’t have to be with a significant other. It could be lunch with a parent or grandparent. A ballgame with an old friend. Spending your time with someone you love is much more valuable than more “stuff.”

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