Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Randy's Most Memorable Sports Moments: #1

The most memorable sports moment of my life is memorable not only for the event itself, but also for what it represents. It represents the epic struggle of young vs. old, good vs. bad, brother vs. brother.

The event transpired during the winter of my junior year of high school, when I was 16 and Derek was 9. We had recently started played a lot of ping pong against each other and we were both becoming very good. Daily, we played each other on my parent’s 1930’s ping pong table in our crowded basement.

Since Derek has been able to walk the two of us have been competing. Especially in those early years we competed against one another all the time from computer games to one-on-one football. We made up games, we adjusted rules to even things out, and we both took it seriously. Both of us had school friends that we hung out with but the majority of our after-school hours were spent with each other, usually in competition.

Up through this particular day you could count the number of times Derek had beaten me at anything on one hand. We would adjust rules to make games fairer and I would usually let Derek stay close but in the end I would always beat him. Something was different about Derek on this day, though. He was playing out of his mind and was as focused as I’ve ever seen him.

Early in the game I noticed Derek was on fire and when he went up by about 3 right away I realized I had to focus hard to keep him from pulling away. I reeled him in a little to make it something like 10-11 but then he burned me on his serve and went up 15-10. I knew it was going to be tough to catch up with how he was playing so I concentrated with all I had and point by point started climbing back in it. Neither of us wanted to lose: Derek because victory over me was so rare and so sweet, and me because I couldn’t stand to jeopardize my 200-0 record over Derek in ping pong.

I battled back to a 19-19 tie on his serve and I was confident I had won the match because Derek was exceedingly frustrated at my comeback and I was playing lights-out. But then Derek played an amazing point and took a 20-19 lead, just one point away from winning. NO! This made me extremely nervous because one slip and it was all over. I couldn’t give him a really good serve because if I messed up I would lose, so I played a good but safe serve and Derek had the return of his life. He slammed the ball on my backhand side right at the back of the table. I had very little time to think but in that instant I remember realizing how awful it was going to be to lose to him and how I couldn’t believe he had just hit that shot to beat me.

As my undefeated streak flashed before my eyes I instinctively threw my arm toward the speeding ping pong ball and to my amazement I made contact. Not only did I make contact but the ball was going in Derek’s general direction, unfortunately not onto the table. The ball took off very slowly (a blooper) in a trajectory heading 6-12” off the left side of the table. However, the super quick arm motion I needed to make contact had put a ton of side spin on the ball and Derek and I watched as it slowly curved back towards the table. We both stared with heightened interest as the ball made it all the way back towards the table and…tink…it hit the corner and bounced straight sideways. YES!!! What an amazingly lucky shot to save the point and the game. It of course demoralized Derek as he couldn’t believe I had tied it up after sure victory for him. I went on to win the game 23-21 and keep my undefeated streak going and keep Derek from winning at anything against me! Evil, big brother won again.

Honorable Mention:
Half Dome
Going to 2002 Stanley Cup Finals Series Clinching Game
Riverbank Runs
50 Mile Appalachian Trail Hike in 2003 (Story to come some day)
Beating #3 basketball team in the state in 1999
Hitting for the cycle in my 2006 softball playoff game

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Farewell to Murphy

This weekend my family had to say goodbye to our favorite furry little friend, Murphy. She had been a part of our family for 14 1/2 years, our family pictures weren't complete unless they included her.
The vet had told my parents that she was in kidney failure, and mostly blind and deaf, so she was scared to walk around. Wednesday night Randy and I, along with my sister Gwen, had dinner with my parents and got to spend some time with her. Most of the family (excluding Gwen and Rob) were at my parents for Thanksgiving so we had the day to hold her.
Murphy had a strong personality, she got her name from the show Murphy Brown, because she was opinionated like the character. When we picked out Murphy we got to bring all the puppies over to decide which one we wanted. Most of them would just stand or lay, but Murphy who they called Squirt (because she was the runt) would play and even let out a little bark at David. We then knew she was the one for us.
She also definitely had her favorites in our family. I know I wasn't on the top of the list, probably because when we got her I always wanted to hold, hug, and kiss her little head. She was very loyal to everyone in her family, I would prove it to my friends when I was younger by telling them to hit me. I would then say "Ow Murphy" and she would bark and act like she was about to attack (but she didn't =) ). Whenever we were upset about something or home sick laying on the couch she would stay right by our side. She just seemed to know when we needed a friend. We are all sad to lose her.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

New Credit Card

I got an email today for a credit card that potentially had better benefits that my current card. The kicker was I could earn a "universal airline ticket" quicker than I currently earn a NWA flight with my worldperks visa card. My question was what's a universal ticket? Before I applied for the credit card I wanted to know so pursued the answer - here is how it went...

1800Rep#1: How many I help you today?
Randy: I was looking through the credit card offer I just received and before I apply for it I wanted to clarify what the "universal airline ticket" meant.
1800Rep#1: What card are you talking about?
Randy: The Elite Visa card.
1800Rep#1: OK, that's a different department so let me transfer you there.
Randy: Great, thanks for your help
1800Rep#1: Hold please

1800Rep#2: How many I help you today?
Randy: I was looking through the credit card offer I just received and before I apply for it I wanted to clarify what the "universal airline ticket" meant.
1800Rep#2: What card are you talking about?
Randy: The Elite Visa card.
1800Rep#2: Are you talking about the points based checking card or airlines reward card?
Randy: Er, I don't know the difference, I just got an email today about this Elite card.
1800Rep#2: Oh, are you currently a National City account holder?
Randy: Yes
1800Rep#2: OK, that's a different department so let me transfer you there because they'll know for sure what you need.
Randy: Great, thanks for your help
1800Rep#2: Hold please

1800Rep#3: How many I help you today?
Randy: I was looking through the credit card offer I just received and before I apply for it I wanted to clarify what the "universal airline ticket" meant.
1800Rep#3: What card are you talking about?
Randy: The Elite Visa card.
Skip ahead 3 minutes
1800Rep#3: Oh I see, let me transfer you to our rewards department because they'll know the answer for sure so that I don't have to speculate at the answer.
Randy: Great, thanks for your help.
1800Rep#3: Hold please

1800Rep#4: Hi, may I have your account number?
Randy: Actually, I just have a question about one of the rewards you offer. I wanted to clarify what the "universal airline ticket" meant.
1800Rep#4: What card are you talking about?
Randy: The Elite Visa card.
Skip ahead 3 minutes
1800Rep#4: OK, let me bring up the information packet I have on the reward (thinking to myself hasn't anyone gotten the airline ticket before, is this totally knew to everyone?). I have to download the form can I put you on hold for a few minutes.
Randy: Sure
Skip ahead 4 minutes
1800Rep#4: Sir? Thanks so much for your patience. Let me just scroll down the form here and find what they must be way at the bottom...I'm getting it is. [Reads the same 5 paragraph canned description I had read online before any of my calls]
Randy: Right, but what does that actually mean? What ticket value can I redeem? Deadlines? Restrictions?
1800Rep#4: I don't know the exact answer to that question so instead of speculating I'm going to give you a number of the redemption company.
Randy: Isn't that what you do?
1800Rep#4: Yes, we handle reward requests but the redemption company actually processes the rewards so they will know for sure the answer to your question.
Randy: Alllllrighty then...
1800Rep#4: Here's the number - 1800.....
Total time so far: 25 minutes

Several hours later I call the new 1800 number...First I sat through a 5 minute automated recording saying the department was under maintenance for 3 weeks blah blah blah and finally I was given an option of talking to another "agent."
1800Rep#5: Hi, may I have your account number?
Randy: Actually, I just have a question about one of the rewards you offer. I wanted to clarify what the "universal airline ticket" meant.
1800Rep#5: What card are you talking about?
Randy: The Elite Visa card.
Skip ahead 3 minutes
1800Rep#5: Sorry, we no longer handle that card. Let me transfer you to the department that does. Can I put you on hold?

1800Rep#6: Hi, may I have your account number?
Skip ahead 5 minutes
1800Rep#6: Let me transfer you to another agent in the department who knows more about this.
Randy: Is this airline reward program brand new?
1800Rep#6: No, can I transfer you?
Randy: Haven't you ever handled this before? It has to be fairly common. Why won't anyone tell me anything?! I'm just curious whether I should apply for the credit card. This isn't life or death. Can't you tell me anything?
1800Rep#6: No, let me transfer you to someone that can. Hold Please.

1800Rep#7: Hi, may I have your account number?
Skip ahead 5 minutes
1800Rep#7: I'll transfer you to the department that handles travel rewards.
Randy: What, you're the redemption department?
1800Rep#7: Yeah, but we have a separate agency that handles the travel rewards.
Randy: Look, I'm sure you've dealt with this issue many times. Can you just tell me the specifics of the "universal airline ticket?"
1800Rep#7: I'm sorry, a different agency handles that. I'll transfer you now. Please Hold.

1800Rep#8: Hi, what can I help you with today?
Skip ahead 3 minutes
1800Rep#8: May I have your account number?
Randy: I don't have an account. I'm just trying to find out about the "universal airline ticket."
1800Rep#8: I'm sorry, I can only give out that information if you have an account.
Randy: What?!?! I should be able to find out about the card benefits before I apply.
1800Rep#8: I'm sorry, that's our policy
Randy: Well that's totally backwards. Why can't you just tell me?
1800Rep#8: I can put you on with my manager if you'd like.
Randy: Yes, please do.
1800Rep#8: Hold Please.

1800Rep#9: Hello Sir, are you asking about the "universal airline ticket."
Randy: Yes, I just want to know what exactly that means, like the value of the ticket I can get, the availability, and any restrictions.
1800Rep#9: It is air travel anywhere in the continental US. Must be booked at least 21 days in advance. Overnight Saturday stay is required. Must be a round trip ticket, no multiple destinations or one way tickets allowed. Maximum $500 value. Just like normal reward travel it is subject to availability.
Randy: Wow, that's a pretty good deal. Thanks for your help.
1800Rep#9: Your welcome, is there anything else I can help you with today?
Randy: NO
Total time: 70 minutes
Reps talked to: 9
Questions answered: 1

Monday, November 20, 2006

Big Bird

My annual Thanksgiving gift from work is a butterball gift certificate so I used it to buy a 21 pound turkey and have a dinner party. Without stuffing I've found turkeys are really easy to make and I enjoy doing it every year. Plus, I've got leftover turkey for weeks.

Jenny and I had another midnight race down the street and back, but this year we decided mid-run to stop at the learning center instead of going all the way to CVS. Later we created a more interesting version of our standard "trail of tears." We incorporated the party game catch phrase and whoever lost a round had to take the walk of shame/pain.
The game gets more and more violent every time. I have a visible bruise on my thigh this time from a well placed shot and Jenny and Erin also commented on some sore spots. The only person who got through unscathed was Amy Smith, and that's because she's pregnant. Pansy.

Monday, November 13, 2006

RBD Tour: Season 2

It was year number two of the 3rd generation Elenbaas Michigan fans travelling to see a U of M big ten game. This year we got to share the experience with all the Elenbaas Michigan fans. Eight of us made the trip down to Bloomington, IN to see Michigan thump on Indiana.

It was an extremely fun game to watch and it was great to get pumped up with the rest of the Michigan fans around for next week's game.
After the game I made Ben pick up 20 cups before he could leave the stadium.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Randy's Most Memorable Sports Moments: #2

I was always a little afraid of the baseball, but I was also a big kid and typically known as a slugger. In tee ball and coach pitch I was a solid batter and had a lot of great hits, but when I turned 10 I stepped into a new league...Southern Little League.

Southern is the 10-12 year old kid pitch league and there were majors and minors. Typically a kid would play in the minors when he was 10 and then the slower developing 11-year-olds would also play in the minors. Once in awhile a 10 year old would play in the majors. When I was 10 the coach of one team had been my coach before and decided to draft me on potential to play in the majors as a 10 year old. I was definitely out of my league and struggled my first year. On average our team was quite young and we finished last in our division.

As an 11 year old I had a decent season but still didn't start a lot of the games and didn't really feel comfortable out there. Our team continued to improve and we finished 3rd of 6 teams in our division. Finally when I was 12 I pulled it together and so did my team. I believe I batted around .325 for the year and our team won the division, which leads me to my 2nd most memorable sports moment ever.

The way the playoffs worked was the 1st place team in one league would play the 1st place teams of other little leagues around West Michigan. So our first playoff game came around and I was really excited to play and I remember having a real good feeling about the game. In the first inning I made 2 solids plays in the infield and as I ran back to the dugout I remember my coach saying something like "you're going to have a big game if you keep playing like that." In the bottom of the first I stepped up to the plate but was too aggressive and hit a weak grounder.

Our team struggled for a little while and we were down 5-2 when I got up again in the bottom of the 3rd. By this time, though, we had a little rally going and the bases were juiced. I stared off a couple of pitches and then I got the pitch I'd been looking for and CRUSHED it. It went way way up and kept going further back toward the fence. The outfielder slowly backed all the way to the fence and all I saw was him reach over and then all my teammates started celebrating...GRAND SLAM! We went up 6-5 on my hit! Other than that I had never even come close to hitting it out of the park in little league.

My strong play continued and I had 2 more singles with runners in scoring position later in the game. At the end of the day I was 3-4 with 7 RBI's and our team won 15-5. My only disappointment was that my dad couldn't see the hit. He basically came to every game and practice on all the teams I played on but happened to have his own softball game that night. It didn't take long for news to reach him, though, because my grandpa drove over to tell him as soon as my game was done. I didn't have another home run until this past summer on my church softball team, 12 years later.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Christmas Lights

As promised I put up my lights promptly on November 1. Also as promised I added $30 of lights to my display this year as well as a much needed timer. What do you think, am I going in the right direction?

Here is 2005
And here is 2006. I lost the pine on the left side of the garage but added the south window and the big tree. The icicle lights all the way across are new too.

Monday, November 06, 2006

"Over-rated Over-rated"

Eric and I went down to Champaign, Illinois this weekend to visit former roommate Michael. We had a great time hanging out, seeing the campus, watching arrested development, and playing poker. The best part of the weekend, however, was the football game between Illinois and ohio state. Sometimes its just as satisfying to root AGAINST ohio state as it is to root FOR Michigan. Michael and I dressed in our Michigan apparel just to tick off the OSU fans who clearly were annoyed with us as we walked by their tailgate parties and passed them in the stadium. We got into a few good arguments with them beforehand but we were sorely outnumbered as you might guess since the Michigan game was 400 miles away.

The game started predictably with OSU going up 17-0 pretty easily. But in the 2nd half Illinois played great defense and gave osu's offense nothing. Then in the 4th quarter Illinois put together two scoring drives to pull within 17-10. It was really funny because even though osu ended up winning by that score all the Illinois fans were happy after the game and all the osu fans were disgusted. We further aggravated the filthy buckeyes by chanting "over-rated" repeatedly as we left the stadium. It was great to see them flustered. Just wait until the 18th...