Monday, January 26, 2015

Ex-Cubbie Ted Lilly... A Felon?

Ted Lilly made more than $80 million during his 15-year MLB career. Nevertheless, rather than reach into petty cash to repair his damaged RV last year, the former Cubbie left-hander allegedly tried to scam Progressive Insurance Co. out of $4,600.

As detailed here, Lilly has been charged in California with three felonies: filing a false insurance claim, filing a false statement in connection with an insurance claim, and concealing a material fact in connection with an insurance claim. He faces a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison -- which would be even worse than his 3 1/2-year sentence in Cubbieland.

No matter how the case turns out, however, Theodore Roosevelt Lilly will not be remembered for this. Not by me, anyway.

On Oct. 4, 2007, in the second inning of Game 2 of the NLDS, Lilly gave up a three-run homer to Arizona's Chris Young. As the ball cleared the fence, Lilly ripped off his glove, spun around on the mound and whipped his mitt to the ground. It was a classic Tanner move from The Bad News Bears.

Sitting in the press box on that warm Phoenix night, I laughed my arse off. And every time they showed the replay, I laughed harder.

It was funny and goofy and dopey and oh-so-Cubbie.

The Cubs went on to lose that game and get swept in the series. They won the division the following season but got swept out of the playoffs again, this time by the Dodgers. They haven't been to the postseason since, and Lilly was traded midway through the 2010 season.

And now, Ted Lilly is accused of being a felon.

Apparently, it isn't any easier to sneak a bogus claim past the folks at Progressive than it was to sneak a mediocre fastball past Chris Young.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Today's Top 10 - NFL Edition ... Plus A Dad-In-Law Update ... Plus My Next Big Game

10. Was that the Genius Bill Belichick leaving Tom Brady in to get clobbered by a Colts pass-rusher while trying to throw a deep TD pass with 6 minutes to go in a 45-7 game?

I never root for guys to get hurt, and I actually really like Brady, but if ever a coach deserved a negative fate, it is that cheatin' jerk Belichick.

Makes it even easier to root for Seattle in the Super Bowl.

9. The Seahawks couldn't have played much worse, especially on offense, in the first 55 minutes of the game. But they sure knew how to capitalize the 10th time the Packers all but begged them to steal it.

Champions find a way to win even when they suck.

8. Early 2015 Turkey of the Year candidate: Brandon Bostick.

The backup Packers tight end was supposed to block so that Jordy Nelson could field the onside kick. Instead, Bostick tried to make the play only to have the ball go through his Crisco-covered hands and into the waiting arms of Seattle's Chris Matthews.

Paraphrasing the amazing words once uttered by former Twins great Gary Gaetti:

"It's hard to catch the football when you have both hands wrapped around your throat."

7. As bad as Bostick's play was, the Packers still might have won had they knocked down the highest-thrown 2-point conversion pass in NFL history ... and/or had they managed the clock better after taking possession with 1:19 left in regulation and all three time-outs.

I guess Pack coach Mike McCarthy was saving his last two time-outs for next season.

6. Some pretty horrific playoff performances by elite QBs Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, Cam Newton and Joe Flacco.

Russell Wilson was no great shakes, either, but at least he came through with the game on the line.

5. New Bears coach John Fox missed out on the Jay Cutler Denver Experience so now he'll get to enjoy the Jay Cutler Chicago Experience.

Hey, Fox got to a Super Bowl with Jake Delhomme and won a playoff game with Tim Tebow, so could Cutler be any worse?

Never mind. I won't answer that question.

4. Brady might already be the greatest QB ever. But if the Patriots win this Super Bowl, there isn't a shred of doubt in my mind. Of course, I said that each of the last two times he got to the big game, too.

At least he doesn't have to face the Giants this time.

3. Seahawks fans are so self-important, crowning themselves as the best in the world. Well, the best fans in the world don't leave a winnable game in the closing minutes.

I'm glad those "12th Man" dopes missed one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history.

2. I hope injured Seahawks DBs Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman can play near peak ability in the Super Bowl because I always want both teams to be as healthy as possible.

Brady vs. the Seattle secondary figures to be an epic battle.

1. How ridiculous that Ohio State tailback (and future NFL star) Zeke Elliott can't go pro because he's only been at college for two years.

Yeah, let's make an NFL-ready kid who already has reached the pinnacle of college football go back out there and take 250-300 handoffs -- and crunching hits -- for free. What a system.


And in non-football news ...

Two weeks in, my father-in-law Frank and I are getting on just fine. We just got back from Aldi -- or as he hilariously calls it, "Aldis" -- where he insisted upon buying 4 yogurts even though he hadn't touched the 3 yogurts he wanted last week.

On Saturday, Robbie had "The Talk" with him, telling him we want and expect him to stay with us for the foreseeable future. She had spoken with his Chicago-area doctor a couple of days earlier and the doctor agreed Frank can no longer drive or live on his own.

He of course wanted to know what was going to happen to all of his stuff -- his townhouse, his two cars (including the one we drove from Chicago to N.C.) and the 700 tons of mostly useless crap he has accumulated over the years. We told him we're not worrying about that immediately.

He has been amazed at all the things I can do on the computer, especially being able to pay his bills without having to write a check, stick it in an envelope, lick a stamp and send it via snail mail. He also has been amazed by my grocery-shopping acumen.

"You only paid 2 bucks for all that?"

Mostly, he has accompanied me here, there and everywhere ... as if he were the octogenarian sidekick in some kind of buddy sitcom.

For one thing, he has gone with me to every basketball game AND practice. At practice, he just sits in the corner and minds his own business. Probably just enjoys being out of the house and surrounded by activity.


And speaking of my team ...

My Scholars Academy Eagles play our biggest game so far this season Tuesday when we meet the "1" in our 10-1 record: Back Creek Christian.

We obviously want to win -- the girls are super-stoked to avenge our only defeat, and I have put in a few new wrinkles -- but the fact is that whether we win or lose, it is highly likely that we will be playing Back Creek again in the championship game a month from now.

So I need to find the right words to let the girls know that a victory guarantees us nothing and a loss doesn't ruin our season in any way.

Hmmm ... those are pretty good words right there, aren't they?

Go Eagles!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Busy start to what figures to be an interesting, funky and hopefully fun-filled year

If the first week of January was any indication of how the next 51 are going to go, 2015 is gonna be a pretty eventful year.

It started out with Robbie and me arriving home from our Chicago visit, accompanied by her dad, Frank. He is going to be staying with us for, as we told him, "a few weeks." Now, I'm not saying yet that he'll never go back to Chicago to live by himself, but let's put it this way: We had his mail forwarded to us here in N.C., we turned off his cable service, we cleaned all the expired foodstuffs out of his fridge and cabinets (meaning pretty much nothing is left), etc, etc. You get the idea.

Frank is almost 89 years old and is in amazing physical health, but he no longer can live by himself. So it's either us or an assisted-care facility, and we're trying to make this work for at least a spell. We'll see how it goes.

By the way, I'm not too worried about him reading this given that he has never used a computer.


Last Saturday, my new(ish) hometown faves, the Carolina Panthers, scored a resounding playoff victory over the Arizona Cardinals. We went to a sports bar to take in the game with like-minded fans and it was a lot of fun watching Thomas Davis, Luke Kuechly and the rest of our boyz hold the Cardinals to the lowest yardage total in NFL postseason history.

It should be a similarly festive scene this Saturday night when the Panthers take on the Seahawks ... although I'd like "our" chances a lot better if the defending champs would play their third-string QB the way Arizona had to!

Seriously, though, the Seahawks and Panthers tend to play close, low-scoring games, so an upset isn't out of the question if Cam Newton takes care of the football and the D bottles up Russell Wilson.

Two pretty big ifs, I admit.


Meanwhile, my Scholars Academy Eagles went directly from Xmas break to a game on the very first day back to school. We started horribly, fell behind St. Anne's immediately and still trailed 21-10 early in the fourth quarter.

For those unfamiliar with middle-school girls basketball, an 11-point lead with a few minutes to go is the equivalent of a 30-point lead in men's college basketball. In other words, it usually is money in the bank. The girls stayed after it, though, and we whittled into the lead. We turned up the heat on our press, and the shots we had been missing all game suddenly started falling. A layup from Margaret here, a short jumper from Sienna there, a 3-pointer from Ritika here, two free throws from Ruta there. All of a sudden, it's a 2-point game and there's still 2 minutes on the clock.

The St. Anne's coach called time-out and I spent the minute reminding our girls to stay calm and to just keep playing the great basketball they'd been playing the previous several minutes. And how 'bout this for crazy ... they actually listened!

It was 23-23 with 15 seconds left when Olivia, Margaret and Sienna teamed to break St. Anne's press. Eventually, we got the ball to Ruta for the winning layup with 3 seconds to go. Wow! It was the best quarter of basketball in my 2 years as coach, and it couldn't have come at a better time.

The next day, we played again. This time, we rolled to a 51-6 victory in a game we could have won by 100 if I hadn't called off our press in the second quarter. Hey, I'm nothing if not compassionate.

We're now 8-1 at the season's midway point, and that's one more win than we had all last year.

Pretty exciting stuff for a school with zero basketball tradition -- other than the tradition we're building right now!


I also had my 50th personal finance article published on Seeking Alpha.

My previous piece has garnerned more than 54,000 pageviews and 900 comments. To provide a little perspective, anything receiving more than 10,000 views is pretty darn good, and 100 comments is a lot. That article and a few other popular pieces before it helped me to my best quarter of freelance earnings since I started with Seeking Alpha about 2 1/2 years ago.

I didn't expect my latest article to approach that level ... and it hasn't. But it did give me the opportunity to unveil the new logo I designed, so check it out!


Oh, and here's one other cool thing: Robbie was the featured employee on the Levine Children's Hospital Facebook page this week.

So now she's famous for something other than being my Sugar Mama!