THE ULTIMATE AMATEUR SUPER BOWL HYPE POST #2: EVERYTHING BESIDES NEWTON

Today’s the big day.  And truth be told, I almost forgot to publish a followup post.  I’m glad I didn’t because I left a lot of things open in the air after the last post… and may have shown my Panthers bias off a little too much.  But that’s only natural, being from Charlotte and driving by Bank of America Stadium at least once a week, every week of my life since I was 11.

Last time, I loaded my entry with numerous Cam Newton GIFs to substantiate just how much he has been a factor in turning this Panthers squad around.  And obviously, professional NFL head coaches and writers agreed with me, because Cam Newton was voted the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year, as well as the NFL MVP.  That’s a huge milestone for Newton, and for the Carolina Panthers.  And before you ask, no, he didn’t hand his trophy to a kid in the crowd.

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera also won his second Coach of the Year Award, which is also an impressive feat, given that he now has only one fewer than Bill Belichick, the 4-time Super Bowl winning coach of the Patriots who will undoubtedly have his name written in the history books… and Rivera’s only been doing this for 5 years.  For those of you who don’t know, Ron Rivera changed his conservative play calling after a last-second, 24-23 loss to an average Buffalo Bills team, and has since gone 36-11.  He’s now known as “Riverboat Ron” for his high-stakes decisions, and has garnered this incredible GIF from the Panthers fanbase:

But now, onto the game itself.  There’s been a lot of talk as to whether the Panthers defense can stop the Broncos offense, led by one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, Peyton Manning.  Some speculate that Manning has decided to call it quits after this game, given his many injuries in the past 4 years.  And although Manning has had an abysmal year where he led the league in interceptions, he has not thrown any in the playoffs so far.  Injured or not, we should remember that Manning has able to make plays like this:

He timed and placed that pass perfectly, and that was from earlier this year.  If vintage Peyton Manning comes to play in the Super Bowl, it’ll be an incredible game, and the Panthers will have their work cut out for them.

Perhaps the biggest headline preceding the Super Bowl, however, is not the tale of the two quarterbacks — it’s the tale of the two defenses.  Statistically, the Broncos had the number one defense in the NFL this year in yards allowed.  It’s led by veteran pass rusher DeMarcus Ware (who is a definite lock for the Hall of Fame) and the 2nd pick of the 2011 NFL Draft (after Cam) Von Miller, who is just as big of a defensive threat.

On the other end, the Panthers defense is just as dominant in its own way — getting turnovers, and scoring off them.  Led by the undisputed best middle linebacker in the league, Luke Kuechly, the Panthers defense is superb at reading the offensive scheme and capitalizing upon it.  Backed by cornerback Josh Norman, who is having a career season in a contract year, and Kurt Coleman — the journeyman safety who found a home with the Panthers, en route to 7 interceptions on the year.  The Panthers have the best defense in the NFL in terms of points scored off turnovers.  Their success has been marked by this play, in particular:

As well as many more like it.  It’ll be exciting to see which defense can get the best of the opposing quarterback.

It’ll be an interesting game, and I have no idea what’s going to happen.  All I can do is hope that the Panthers come out on top.  Also, as an advertising major, you better believe that I’m just as excited for the commercials as I am for the game… okay, maybe almost as much.  But that’ll be fun to talk about in class soon.  Stay tuned, eat a lot, and rep your team tonight!

 

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THE ULTIMATE AMATEUR SUPER BOWL HYPE POST #1: CAM NEWTON

It’s finally happening.  It almost feels surreal.  The Super Bowl is here, and the Panthers are in it.

It’s crazy to me that the Carolina Panthers were a rebuilding team 5 years ago.  They were coming off an abysmal, disappointing 2010 season marked by the frustrating play of quarterback Jimmy Clausen, a former Notre Dame star which the Panthers drafted that year to turn the team around.  Their experiment had failed, and they were back to square one — fresh with a new head coach, Ron Rivera, and a new general manager, Dave Gettleman.  But there was some salvation — the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft.  And the new staff had to get their pick right.

I’m gonna be honest, I was among the skeptics of Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, a rare specimen of football player with the ability to make big plays throwing the football and running it.  He had just led the Tigers to college football championship victory, and won the Heisman Trophy, an award given to the most outstanding football player that year.  In typical sports nerd-fashion, I researched the track record of former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks, and noticed that they didn’t translate well into the pros.  Additionally, Cam Newton played in a spread offense, a system specifically designed for high scoring and utilizing Cam’s unique physical traits, but nothing like what the professional system was like.

Cam also garnered comparisons (by both physicality and race, the latter of which is ABSOLUTELY ridiculous) to former LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell.  Russell was also an athletic freak who was said to have been able to throw a football 65 yards down field… on his knees.  Russell put together a 5-year career in Oakland, highlighted by lowlights, including abysmal quarterback play, win-loss record, and character issues.  He is widely considered the biggest disappointment in NFL history.

In hindsight, I’m EXTREMELY glad I’m not an NFL scout.  The Carolina Panthers, despite the overwhelming majority of people who wanted them to draft a surefire defensive stud in the draft, selected Cam Newton first overall.  They didn’t even hesitate.

It took him a few years, but Cam Newton has silenced his critics and has become one of the top players — and poster children — of the NFL.  He’s been labelled as “the LeBron James of the NFL” for his combination of size and speed.  It’s allowed him to make plays like this:

And this:

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And especially this:

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Which allows him to do this:

 

And definitely this:

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The Carolina Panthers are having a magical season.  They’ve achieved their best record in franchise history at 15-1, and only the Denver Broncos stand in their way of winning their first ever Super Bowl.  Panthers fans (especially hundred of children) are happy.  This is an exciting, dynamic football team that resonates with their crowd and embodies what the spirit of the sport should be.  In 5 years, the Carolina Panthers have been revitalized, and it’s mostly in part to Cam Newton and how he carries himself on the field.

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He’s all smiles, and plays the game with a passion and intensity that few players do on a regular basis.  He’s become one of the most marketable players, if not the most marketable player in the NFL.

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Win or lose the Super Bowl, the Panthers have a bright future ahead of them with this guy leading the charge.  But I hope we win.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot.

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DAB ON ‘EM!!!

 

Writers’ Block Makes Me Talk About a Cool Shirt Instead of Sports Today

One of the toughest things that I’ve learned about keeping a blog is the 5-inch thick brick wall of writers’ block that occasionally appears out of nowhere.

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Suddenly, what you think you want to write about you can’t seem to progress, and you’re stuck in a situation where you’re trapped in a box, tossing ideas back and forth with yourself.  And I think I’ve made it tougher for me personally, since my centralized theme is sports-related and I’ve got to roll with it at this point.  So here’s a personal monologue and live play-by-play of my actions as I hold you all over for my “feature” blog post about the Super Bowl tomorrow. It’s a topic which, I can guarantee you, I can go on for pages about.

Right now, I’m shopping for stuff on Amazon.  Mostly cheap shirts.  I’m a huge fan of graphic tees that feature pop culture references, or are just plain humorous.  For example, I’m about to pull the trigger on this:

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The “Share With Friends” isn’t actually part of the shirt, don’t worry.  It would be an absolute design disaster if it was.  The bottom trim of the shirt would be way too long, uneven, and there would be no point in putting such large, different, white text down there.  It almost seems like it’s out of place and shouldn’t belong on the shirt… good thing it is.

But why buy this shirt?  I like the way it looks, first and foremost.  Truth be told, I’m not even that big a Beatles fan (though this is one of my favorite songs by them).  And Star Wars?  Haven’t seen a single movie in full (though I’ll become a Jedi one day, I promise).  But I’ve been around these two “brands” long enough to get the humor in this shirt.  And more diehard fans of both will too, and probably even appreciate the humor more.  It’s a hilarious, clean looking shirt that’s awesome.  My only quandary at this point:  Out of Stock, so no Prime shipping right now.  5-7 days.  That’s a good sign, right?  I must be doing something right if I’m trying to buy a shirt that’s sold out.

Prepare for my amateur analysis on the Super Bowl matchup between the Panthers and Broncos tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

An Ode to my NFL Career, Part 1

It was just a simple, two-step math problem that I knew how to do.  “Factoring is easy!” I thought to myself.  But as I walked up to the white board to explain to the rest of the class, my legs trembled.  My voice choked up and I stammered.  

It was a group video project.  “My partner is counting on me!”  I told myself.  All I had to do was speak into a mic on a computer, and we could get the recording and be done for the day.  I paused between phrases, and couldn’t finish a sentence.  It took us all afternoon.  We got a B.

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It seems weird to think about now, but I was a shy, quiet kid throughout elementary and middle school.  The above instances occurred in the 8th grade, and to be honest, I’m not sure why I was so timid.  I remember my 8th-grade English teacher telling me (after the 15th or 16th take of my two-sentence blurb for our video project) that I had the voice of a news broadcaster.  At the time, I thought it was just a ploy to boost my confidence.  I mean, could I really be a guy like this?

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But at the beginning of 9th grade, I took it to heart.

A walk with two of my best (and more outgoing) middle school friends and a massive trifold conspicuously placed at the front of the school propelled me into the NFL.

What?  The NFL?  This guy must be crazy.

I’m only half-crazy.  What I’m talking about is the other NFL.

The National Forensics League.

More popularly known as Speech & Debate, I joined the club the first week of my freshman year of high school.  The basic premise was that we travel to schools across the region and compete against other high school students in various public speaking events.  I would be competing in front of as many as 7 people in a room, plus a judge.  It was sure to help me conquer my stage fright.

The catch?  We had to wear suits and ties.  And many of our tournaments involved waking up at 5 a.m., in the freezing cold, waiting to fill a busload of kids ready to ride 2-3 hours to do battle with their words.  Yet there were 50 of us on the team.  And thousands more of insanely competitive (emphasis on insane) kids like us across the nation.

It made for some of the greatest experiences of my life.

In my four years of high school, Speech & Debate taught me a lot.  It taught me time management – performances had restraints on how long they could be, so I had to carefully adjust my talking speed and material to make time – otherwise I’d get disqualified.  I also learned to be more outgoing – I met a lot of people and made new friends simply by speaking to them about their performances afterwards.  There’s simply too much about the entire experience to sufficiently fit into one blog, so I’ve gotta split it up.  TL;DR I wouldn’t be the way I am today without Speech & Debate, and I’m incredibly grateful for it.

So, even though I would have liked to break tackles and throw touchdown passes on the gridiron and make millions, I’ll would take this other NFL any day.  Plus, this kid is much better-suited for the job anyway:

 

 

 

 

The Trials of a Chubby Alex

From the ages of 7 to 12, I was a chubby, chubby kid.  I don’t know what it was — maybe I had too many cookies and chips at the 1st grade Christmas party, and Mrs. Johnson failed to stop me.  Maybe I spent wayyyy too much time watching Pokemon and Digimon after school, and not enough time playing tag with friends that were actually real.  Whatever it was, I ballooned from 55 to 70 pounds in half a year, and come 2nd grade yearbook pictures, my parents noticed the difference.  And they were having none of it.

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“Alex, stop eating that junk food right away.  You’re getting too fat,” my mom would say.  She’s always been the more brutally honest parent, whereas my dad is low-key and reserved.  My dad’s version was along the lines of, “Alex, if you keep eating all that junk food, you’ll run out of breath playing with your friends.”  Although I liked my dad’s version better, admittedly I thought both of them were being ridiculous.   But in hindsight, how do you expect a 7-year old to completely understand how to take care of their physique?  At that age, I could barely tell the difference between a “b” and a “d”, and now you’re telling me that if I torture myself with no Cheetos or Juicy Juice that I’ll experience some magical change?  Hold on, let me just send an e-mail on AOL to the former Mr. Olympia himself — me and Arnold are super tight.

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Joking aside — at first, my weight never really seemed like a problem to me.  Every pound I gained, I was proud of it, like I was unlocking some achievement on Xbox.  I’d weigh myself on the scale my parents bought me, exclaim “I’m 85 pounds!” and stare perplexed at their concerned faces.  Everything was good until my parents invited my relatives over for dinner once.  We had just moved into our new house, and so naturally, my parents wanted everybody to see it #fam.  And as the child of a dad who’s the youngest of 11, there are bound to be older male cousins ready to give you hell for every little nuance you possess.

Pizza is the ultimate “feed the masses” food.  Easily packaged, already portioned, deliverable, and ridiculously greasy and delicious.

So obviously I go grab a slice of the only food out on the table, and my 12-year old cousin Calvin snickers, “Hey fatty, is that your 3rd or 4th slice?”

It was my first.  I said nothing and sat down with my slice of shame, at the “kids” table.  At that very moment, my female cousin Alice, who was slightly older than me and also on the chubby side, also sat down with a slice of pizza.  Calvin notices and asks the whole table, “Who do you think is gonna eat the most pizza today?  I think Alex or Alice!”

… Cue the scolding by his sister Colette, the bawling by Alice, and the whining by me.

Calvin has since matured, and Alice and I have both outgrown our chubby phases.  We’re all adults now, and we hardly ever see each other.  But I’ve always reflected on this definitive time of my life, because it exposed me to the idea of self-consciousness.  I’m not going to sugar coat and say that being chubby doesn’t have its negative connotations, but its portrayal is delicate to someone so young.  Calling or implying someone is fat blurs the line between motivation and deprecation.  It wasn’t fun feeling like you had to weigh yourself after every meal to meet a weight that others thought was “socially acceptable”, especially for a 7-year old.  Paranoia is a very real thing, and to have it manifest in a child is heartbreaking.  At that age, a kid needs to have all the self-confidence in the world, not have it taken away by something they don’t know how to control.

My Blog Etymology

As I mentioned in my last post, this blog is meant to serve a number of purposes:

  1. To help me discover more about myself.
  2. To serve as an outlet for creative self-expression.
  3. To better the articulate in my thoughts.
  4. To let others know a little bit more about me.

So naturally, let’s start with the last question.  Why “My Life Is Baller?”  Simply put – I’m a huge sports nerd.  Not just a fan, but a nerd.  It’s the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about what defines me.  Every Sunday, I’ve got the Panthers game streaming on the big screen, and a plethora of sports mobile apps pulled up on the small screen.  The commercial breaks are for checking box scores, player stats, and the results of other sports.  Fantasy Football?  Don’t even get me started.

I never played sports in middle and high school – unless you count Taekwondo or Speech & Debate.   So it’s kinda weird how I’d even get into sports in the first place.  My parents are Chinese immigrants, so it’s not like I was born into a family of diehard fans:

So why?

My parents are self-employed, and Sunday has always been my dad’s day off.  And for as long as I can remember, he’d invite a few of his friends over every Sunday, crack open a couple of Bud Lights, and watch football for 10 hours.

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I was about eight when I realized that my dad’s obsession with football wasn’t just because he was a Panthers fan.  Wanting to keep his eyes glued to the screen and knowing I wasn’t doing anything important, my dad would tell me, “Alex, I want you to go on CBSSports.com and look under ‘Odds.’  Tell me the spread on the Cowboys and Packers games.”

So because a couple of 40-year-old guys wanted to try their luck at earning a few extra bucks on their days off, I was hooked.  I started watching games with them.  I started to get excited at the big plays.  I started playing football with my neighbors.  And as I learned more about the game, I began to keep track of all the stats.  Of course, football was a team sport, so the only stat that really mattered was the number in the wins column.  But it was interesting to me to link and analyze what contributed to a team’s wins.  Was it because they had the best quarterback in the league?  Or was it because of their defense?  I felt that I gained a much greater appreciation for the game, as well as its players, by doing this so frequently.  It carried over when I started watching the NBA too.

I realize that I’ve droned on a long time about my love of sports, and I promise that my future blog posts won’t have this much technical jargon.  I just want people to see where I’m coming from.

“My Life Is Baller” is this – a compilation of all the mundane events in my life, made more exciting by sports GIFs and images.  

“My Life Is Baller” is something that I want to have fun with.  It lets me blog about myself while keeping a centralized theme, that defines me in some way.  It’s my branding project.  Since I can’t videotape my life 24/7, I figure that the next best thing is to show you an equivalent of how I felt at certain points of my life after the fact.  It’s my life retold as a highlight reel.

I hope you’ll keep reading – I’ve got an endless supply of GIFs to relate to my life in some way.  Who better to kick things off with than a 6-foot-8, 250-pound behemoth of a brand himself?

 

Gametime.

 

“Tell me about yourself.”

“My name is Alex.  I’m a third year advertising student at UNC-Chapel Hill, and… uh, what else do you want to know about me?”

I began with this sentence at an interview for a marketing position this past October.  And before you jump to conclusions, let me tell you, the interview went a lot better than you would think.  I proceeded to talk about the design internship that I held over the summer, as well as some of my past experiences and hobbies.  It wasn’t awkward at all, and I truly felt like my outgoing, engaging personality shone through.  After the interview, I thanked my recruiter for his time, gave him a firm handshake, and walked out of the room looking like this:

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I was floating on cloud nine.  The rest of the day, I relived every 100 I got on a test, every time I asked a girl out and wasn’t humiliated (three, FYI), and every time my dad came home from work with leftover General Tso’s.

The recruiter said I’d hear back in about two weeks.  So I patiently waited… and then two weeks came and went.  After three weeks, I received the dreaded message at the front of my inbox:

“Unfortunately, you have not been selected to move forward in the hiring process.”

😦

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I wasn’t so much sad or disappointed as I was confused.  I mean, I thought I crushed it!  I was outgoing, thought I communicated my interests and skills well, didn’t waver, and bonded with this guy over Moneyball!  That’s gotta be a win, right?  To my dismay, apparently not.

I won’t ever know what led to my rejection.  However, what I do know is that I had to improve in some way .  Whether that is to be more articulate and ramble less, or be more refined in my knowledge of the industry and technical skills, that I also won’t ever know.  But anything is progress.

So when I decided to start this blog, it was to answer a lot of questions I’ve asked myself.  First, I really wanted to discover more about my identity.  I want to be able to thoroughly answer — unprompted — the question that I stumbled with from that university recruiter:  “Tell me about yourself.”

This blog an outlet to personally reflect and write down and weave together my own thoughts.  It’s also an opportunity for me to express myself, perhaps differently to others who know me.  A lot of people know me as outgoing, loud, encouraging, eccentric, anything of the sort.  I’ve always wanted to pour my personality out on the page, since my mind moves faster than my mouth can speak.  And thus, sometimes, I don’t think before I speak and the things I say lack substance or coherence.  I’ll take it one step at a time here.

I encourage you to read and react to the thoughts that I publish on this blog — this might as well be one of those kids’ diaries with the lock and key if I meant to keep this private.  Of course, you don’t have to read everything, because I’ll be putting anything that comes to my mind here, even if it’s just a personal monologue.  But you still can, if you want!

So, the big question:  What’s up with the name of your blog?

That’s for next time.