Ten Things I Learned in 2016

dumpsterfire20162016 was a . . . well, it was definitely a year.

I learned a lot this year, though!

Yes, 2016 provided some terrific opportunities for learning—sometimes via the proverbial “hard way.”

Here, in no particular order, are some of the lessons gleaned from the past twelve months:

1. Eating is largely about habit and social ritual, rather than the ingestion of necessary nutrients.  Willpower can flip that relationship with surprising totality.  People who think that dieting is complicated are kidding themselves or lying to you.

2. Creating storytelling podcasts can be pretty fun.  In case you hadn’t noticed, this formerly writing-heavy website has largely become a depository for storytelling podcasts over the last six months.

3. On the other hand, I have almost no interest in listening to storytelling podcasts.  Exception: I like listening to ones that I’ve created, but I’m not particularly motivated to listen to the work of other people, unless I have a specific and compelling reason to do so.  Whether that makes me a bore or a narcissist or something else is up to you.

4. In my entire life, regarding someone’s chances of success, I have been very, very wrong about exactly two people: Russell Wilson and Donald Trump.

5. I should have moved to Old Town Alexandria when I was 25, not in the waning years of my 30s.  But it’s still nice.  Better late than never.

6. Speaking of storytelling, you probably shouldn’t do a podcast series about the 1991 Washington Redskins during football season.  It’s just background noise, especially when the Redskins are having a decent year.  Speaking of that . . .

7. I have no idea how to promote a podcast effectively.  None.  Even with the advantage of having a popular platform (Hogs Haven) on which to promote my work, the number of listens I got each week was around 50.  That’s fifty.  Five-oh.  The number of comments on my usual columns at Hogs Have are almost always over 100.  The number on the podcast posts were somewhere between zero(!) and eight.  I have to get better at that.

8. Much to my chagrin, disc-based media is already dying.  I got my first blu-ray player in 2014.  The format will be bordering on obsolete within 24 months of this writing.  If you visit, e.g., a Barnes & Noble, you’ll notice there is probably as much vinyl in the store as there is blu-ray.  This matters to me because I have about five huge albums full of movie and TV discs at the moment.  As hard to believe as this might be, we will be even more dependent on the Internet in a year or two than we are now.

9.  I sometimes forget how old I’m getting.  Almost all of the people I’ve befriended at work, for example, are younger than I am.  That possibly speaks to my maturity level or my lack of career advancement, but, in any case, the members of my DC peer group being between five and fourteen(!!!) years younger than I am can drown out the sound of 40’s rapidly approaching footsteps.

10. Never wear sneakers on a first date.

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Something Special: Let’s Prove It

With their first loss of the season behind them, the 1991 Washington Redskins enter the final month of the regular season looking to clinch the NFC East title and secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Most importantly, Washington looks to get momentum on its side as they head into postseason play.

This run of games against the Rams, Cardinals, Giants, and Eagles would go a long way toward determining how difficult the Redskins’ road to the Super Bowl would be.

The full episode is in the player below.

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Something Special: A Lot of Marbles

Getting to 11-0 was a lot of fun, but playtime was over.

If the 1991 Redskins were going to finish undefeated, the last remaining major roadblock would be their arch-rival Dallas Cowboys.

Coached by Jimmy Johnson and led by Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and rookies Russell Maryland and Erik Williams, the Cowboys looked to upend Washington at RFK Stadium.

It wouldn’t be easy.

It was the biggest game in the NFL that week.  John Madden.  Pat Summerall.  Redskins.  Cowboys.  A perfect fall afternoon at RFK.

What more could you want?

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Something Special: Keeping the Dream Alive

The fifth episode of “Something Special” sees the 9-0 Redskins look to become just the ninth team in NFL history to get to 11-0. Standing in the Redskins’ way would be Jerry Glanville and the upstart Atlanta Falcons, and coaching legend Chuck Noll and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Redskins took on the Falcons just three days after one of the more shocking off-field moment in sports history. On the field, Mark Rypien and Gary Clark would make a tiny bit of sports history of their own.

Then, Washington battled a man with four Super Bowl rings in Noll, as the Redskins traveled to always-challenging Riverfront Stadium to tangle with the Steelers. Clark and company didn’t miss a beat.

The full episode can be heard below:

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Something Special: A Long Time Coming

In part four of “Something Special,” the Redskins try to break a three-year losing streak against the New York Giants. Then, Washington battles the Houston Oilers as head coach Jack Pardee looks for revenge against his old team.

The Redskins hadn’t beaten the Giants since 1987, and New York was the defending world champion. That didn’t bode well for Washington as they tangled with the Giants opposite Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.

Then, the 7-1 Oilers came to town, coached by former Redskins head man Jack Pardee, who had also been a linebacker for Washington during the George Allen era.

The full episode can be heard below.

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Something Special: Why Did You Wait So Long?

In part three of “Something Special,” the undefeated Redskins face off against a veteran, Super-Bowl-winning coach, and a young, up-and-coming, future championship-winning coach.

Both men would come away impressed.

Along the way, the Redskins would discover a new gamebreaker who would add even more firepower to Washington’s already dominant offense—a rookie who Joe Gibbs suspected had star potential all along.

The new episode, featuring games against the Bears and Browns, can be heard or downloaded in the player below.

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Something Special: Putting Romeo and Juliet to Shame

Especially in these overly contentious, unbearably divisive times, it’s nice to reminisce about something that once united the Washington metro area across political, ethnic, and economic lines.

The Washington Redskins.

In part two of “Something Special,” we move deeper into the 1991 season, as the greatest fans in the NFL watched the 2-0 Redskins attempt to take control of the NFC East following their big win over the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football.

Featured this week are a pair of divisional games against the Cardinals (yes, it was a divisional game then) and the Eagles, sandwiched around a hard-fought battle against the Bengals.

The full episode can be heard below, and last week’s episode can be heard here.

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Something Special: Laying the Groundwork

The 1991 Redskins are, by some accounts, the greatest team in franchise history. They may even be the greatest Super Bowl champion of all time.

Even two-plus decades consisting largely of frustration and ineptitude can’t wash away the glory of that year.

Since 2016 is the 25th anniversary of the last Washington Redskins championship team, I thought this was as solid a justification as any to debut a new podcast series for Hogs Haven.  The podcast below published there last week.

In researching the ‘91 Redskins, one phrase that came up over and over when I read player interviews was “something special.” That’s why I chose “Something Special” for the title of this series.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be revisiting the story of the 1991 Redskins and the players and moments that made the team so memorable. You can listen to the first episode, entitled “Laying the Groundwork,” below.

New episodes will debut at Hogs Haven each Thursday, and I’ll republish them here a few days thereafter.  Enjoy.

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The WWE Has a Big Problem. Here’s the Solution. Really.

In light of recent events, I thought it might be a good idea to revisit this piece from a couple of years ago. I’m cautiously optimistic that we may be headed down a road that’s substantially similar to the path for which I pined back in 2014. And that would be . . . awesome.

The Axis of Ego

The WWE has a problem.

Surprisingly, I’m not talking about anything related to stock value or corporate governance.  I’m referring specifically to the aspect of pro wrestling that matters most to me as a fan: Storytelling.  And, whether the creative team realizes it yet or not, the WWE has a huge, looming issue that will negatively impact the long-term fortunes of the product.

Something is changing about the way WWE tells stories.  It’s a change that is heretofore unknown in the world of sports entertainment.

Look at the current WWE roster.  Notice anything odd?

Maybe not.  I’ll explain what you should be looking for . . .

HoganWarrior Not every conflict has to be “heel vs. face,” but that structure must be the backbone of the promotion.

Let’s start with a basic point: For storylines generally to work on a consistent basis, the WWE needs heels (bad guys, in…

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The Imposter

Real Tennis CourtYou’re familiar with tennis, right?

Are you sure about that?

Did it ever occur to you that the game you think you know, is, in fact, an imposter?

In this podcast, I reveal the secret identity of one of the world’s most popular sports—with the help of Ivan Ronaldson, the Head Court Tennis Professional of Prince’s Court, right here in the Washington, DC area.

This is the story of real tennis.

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