I’m not dead. I have some thoughts.

Y’all, I know I haven’t written anything for quite, quite some time. That is going to change. I’m not promising I will write regularly or even a lot, but there’s gonna be some writing.

I have some thoughts about what’s going on and Twitter just isn’t the place for long-form thinking.

Keep posted. I’ll be around.



The Rant Was Due pt. 1

Cross-posted from a Twitter rant I did this morning while waiting at the eye doctor’s office.

This is part one of a #TheRantIsDue and #TheRantWasDue series of essays and, well, rants that needed to be said.


The Penguins, despite the results and sometimes lopsided scores, have actually been playing – relatively – well and are due for a little luck and a win. They have been a woefully unlucky team and are due for a few breaks. I suspect tonight will be one of those nights where one or two bounces go the right way and they gut out a win. Maybe 4-2 or 3-2. Something like that. And they’ll do so with Crosby out which will feed a million disassociated narratives about his leadership and how the team should get rid of him. Correlation is not causation. Crosby being out != Penguins success (if/when they win).

It doesn’t excuse Crosby’s play. That has been abysmal. And not just by Crosby standards. But him being out and, God help us, the Pens winning a game will be a whole new nightmare of stupidity from an already shortsighted, incomprehensible fan base of dunces.

Johnston got canned. Scuderi got traded. Somehow Rutherford is the next scapegoat…but Crosby is right on the heels.

I said before that there is something fundamentally broken about this team and I can’t put my finger on it. I said that Johnston was definitely in over his head and he became intractable in his approach, which was ultimately his undoing, but he wasn’t a bad coach.

Shortsighted, easily manipulated assclappers, however, were quick to jump on the bandwagon of “Johnston is the woorrrsssstttttt” because the equally shitty media were pushing a narrative because it generates traffic.

I don’t even entirely disagree with Johnston getting the chop because it clearly had become an issue, but I don’t think anything is magically going to change because of a new bench boss. I said it under MJ, now I say it under MS – this is entirely on the players. They’re the fuck ups.

There were so many people who literally fell for the propaganda being shoved into their faces about Johnston and the team. It’s amazing how quickly people were led to believe things about MJ simply by ROOT Sports cutting to him after a goal or during a moment of contention. It’s not as though there was any type of editorializing being done there.

After Yohe made his report about Rutherford being unhappy with MJ and player usage, I said the reason that came out was entirely, 100% to provide context to dismiss a coach who had been relatively successful in a short stretch of time.

Certain propagandists and general douchebags have made it a point to die on the hill that it was Rutherford being a senile old man who is grossly unprofessional in saying this. And this is because it fits a narrative they want pushed because they didn’t like the hiring in the first place. And, in their eyes, it all leads back to David Morehouse. And that’s crafting a narrative to fit the ends you want to see.

MJ became a sacrificial lamb of sorts (I say of sorts because he wasn’t exactly doing the best in the job and it wasn’t a wholly undeserved firing) and now people are coming at Rutherford.

Maybe it begins with you. You need to see the thing you love for what it is instead of what you imagine it to be. Enjoy the thing you love because you love it, not because it’s the lost successful or prettiest thing.

You don’t love the Penguins or hockey. You love what the Penguins represent – status, prestige, success. They don’t meet those expectations and somehow you need to point a figure at an exact, precise thing for blame.

The Penguins are an underachieving team and there’s no easy fix. It is what it is. All you can do is hope to see things get better. If they don’t, that’s life. Ups and downs. Can’t win ’em all. Luck’s gotta run out some time.

And now, God help us all, if the Pens win without Crosby tonight, there will be no rest among the vocal rabbles in the fan base until Crosby has been traded or retires. He will shoot to number one with a bullet on the public enemy chart if they win without him.

And we’re seeing the groundwork again – Malkin being “ready to lead” type articles. Now we get a hundred think pieces on Crosby’s leadership (or lack thereof) and how Malkin should be wearing the C and blah blah.

It frightens me to see just how easily manipulated people are. And then I look at who is leading the Republican field for President and remind myself just how weak-willed, weak minded, shortsighted, and how severely lacking in critical thinking skills the average citizen is. There’s a reason Trump is leading and why his brand of fascism is succeeding.

It’s going to get worse before it gets better. Strap in, motherfuckers.

Staring into the Abyss

The following is transcribed from a Twitter Rant I went on earlier today. It was very much a stream-of-consciousness type rant because I had just seen enough and needed to get the thoughts and feeling out of my mind and body. I prefaced it with Lewis Black’s amazing hashtag, #TheRantIsDue.

I don’t expect to win too many friends with this, but that’s life.


I never thought this day would come, but I have become the most ardent, vocal defender of someone related to and involved with the Kardashians. The willful ignorance of short sighted (and, let’s call a spade a spade here, largely conservative) yahoos has made me a defendant of Caitlyn Jenner.

For a society that loves to claim “you do you,” it seems a touch hypocritical to castigate a person for being herself. Yes, Caitlyn Jenner is rich and a celebrity (partly because of previous successes I  Athletics, and it’s not like America hasn’t had an unhealthy obsession with sports and sports figures before AND partly because we, as a society, made her one by association with a family, honestly, known for doing nothing positive or meaningful in the world). Yes, Caitlyn’s transition is absolutely abnormal for the vast majority of the Trans population.

How Goddamn motherfucking hard is it to acknowledge a person’s humanity? Jesus Christ. You’re willing to believe there’s a man who lives in the fucking sky who sees and knows all and lives in the past, present, and future simultaneously, but you can’t DARE be bothered to use the correct preferred pronoun for someone?

I know women as still viewed as weak, inferior beings and undeserving of autonomy, but that’s a bigger problem in this country (and the world) than Caitlyn Jenner. Every movement needs heroes and villains. It took the American Society all of about 8 minutes to prove itself as the villain.

There are many out there who are doing and saying the right things to support others (not dust in the Trans community, but we’ll focus there for now). It is, again, to NOBODY’S surprise that the loudest opponents to using a correct pronoun and recognizing a person’s humanity are the people on far-right. The Christian conservatives, naturally, but that’s because they are all fucked in the head and are too busy supporting the Duggar family for protecting their molester son. The social conservatives…Jesus Christ, I don’t even try to understand them as a separate entity from the Christian right. These jack wagons are the group most closely related to the gamer gate movement. Anti-woman, anti-minority, anti-social legislation. They are the group defending the rights of white men against the looming fear of not-white-men moving anywhere up in the world.

These assclappers on the right, man. And these are the first jagaloons to yell and scream “NOT ALL COPS ARE BAD!” after another white cop shoots and kills a black or brown skinned person without cause. Well, not all conservatives are bad, but the vocal yahoos make it bad for everyone. See how that works? If 99% of police are good, upstanding people, they all Bear the taint of their rotten 1%. Same goes with the far right. There are some decent people, some who I call friends, who are strongly conservative but can avow themselves the dignity to differentiate from the caterwaul of ignorant stupidity to come crawling form the mouths of the feckless so-called leaders in Washington.

The onus is on the few remaining sane people on the conservative side to right this ship. The conservative movement has been, for a long time, become one of exclusion, privilege, and dynastic entitlement. I would be remiss to mention that, in America, those terms apply to only one sex and one race. And those white men are scared shitless that a brown person or a woman or, heaven forbid, a brown woman can make it somewhere. That “those” people can actually climb the ladder out of poverty and break the cycle of historic, systemic racism and sexism.

And here we are. Who ever would have guessed that Caitlyn Jenner would be the Lexington and Concord of this war? Refusing to acknowledge Caitlyn Jenner as “Caitlyn” reveals way more about you, your world view, and the society you want than most anything else you can show or say. And, to be frank, I don’t think I want to know you or have you be part of the world I live in.

Penguins Postmortem: Part 1

On the bus with the kids end route to Raleigh for the visit to State. Just kinda musing to myself now about the Penguins and the NHL and life in general…

1. Ben Lovejoy is not a great defenseman. That’s not the argument. Lovejoy is a more than competent bottom pair guy. He was a nightmare I  the playoffs because, frankly, he’s not that good and he certainly should not have been playing in the top pair, but the injury situation changed all of that. If your third pair is Lovejoy and Dumoulin or Harrington or Chorney, or even as the 7th D when injuries happen, you’re in a good spot. He’s a cheap veteran player. Going on a rant about how awful he is does nothing. He’s got another year of term, provides cost certainty, and can be a useful depth player. Let that dead horse finally rest.

2. The Penguins had to pay for the sins of the Father this past year. That’s just how it goes. Ray Shero, in effect, destroyed this team. Because of his trading style (gambling) and drafting philosophy (draft on defensemen with your 2 picks you didn’t trade away), the Pens are perpetually backed into a corner and need to then trade more assets and picks for depth players that normally would be filled in via draft (or minor trade or low-cost free agents). As soon as the team identifies a player they want, that player knows they can demand more because the Pens had no other options. The team could, of course, not sign the player and, instead, keep signing Craig Adams and Mike Rupp and Tanner Glass and Joe Vitale. So, when people bitch and whine and bemoan Nick Spaling, keep in mind that Rutherford had his hands tied by the previous regime and had to sign a depth player to a slightly inflated contract because, frankly, there’s nobody to step in.

3. Mike Johnston is everything you want in a coach…you just don’t like his demeanor. Johnston is a calm, reserved guy. He seems aloof. He seems like everything has happened for the first time.

That’s actually the kind of guy I want coaching a team. He’s not some fly-off-the-handle lunatic every time something doesn’t go his way. He’s not working the refs like some strumpet at a massage parlor. He keeps a level, even head during and after games because he’s analyzing everything going on around him. He’s taking it all in, adapting, adjusting, tweaking, and reinforcing.

How are any of those bad qualities? Why do Pens fans want someone like Tortorella? Some screaming, ranting maniac who cannot help but make himself the story? Why? Because he’s an “ass-kicker” who doesn’t take shit from spoiled pretty boys? You know who else doesn’t? Joel Quenneville and Barry Trotz. They also happen to be hugely successful coaches who have earned the respect of their players and the rest of the league, as opposed to demanding respect because they have loud voices.

Mike Johnston just completed his first season with a completely broken team and franchise. Let’s see where things go next year. Only then can we truly assess what kind of coach he ultimately will be. He has the qualities a great coach needs. It’s up to him make the team his own now.

4. Jim Rutherford is more than competent and actually did a good job of changing some of the culture around the team. People want to make him a failure. Those people are also morons.

There has been so much lamenting for the departed Shero and Bylsma tandem that it’s sickening.

What these people have shown is that they have been watching the Penguins since February of 2009 when Dan Bylsma was brought in. It also shows a willful ignorance to understand anything about the sport on a grander scale.

Jim Rutherford came into a situation where he could not win. There was too much already broken for him to be able to fix in just a season. And, frankly, he isn’t the guy who is doing the fixing. He’s keeping the ship afloat while a leader emerges among the cabal of assistants.

Maybe, just maybe, he knows what he’s doing. Maybe Jason Botterill, the savior and Angel of the lingering Shero devotees in Penguin-land, isn’t all he’s cracked up to be. For someone who is allegedly a wizard with numbers, he sure allowed the team to go to financial Hell this year.

And who took the blame? Rutherford. Because that is what a leader actually does. Maybe none of those GMs-in-waiting are any good. Maybe they are. All I know is that the organization didn’t trust Botterill with the keys to the kingdom after Shero got fired and the cap became their enemy this year. Who ever would have guessed?

5. Salary cap is both the friend and enemy of this team. The Pens are a team that is notoriously strapped for cash and up against the cap. Assuming the NHLPA uses the elevator, next year’s cap will be a solid increase.  The Pens, for the first time in a long while, actually have a borderline substantial amount of caps pace to use this summer.

The roster will see some big changes. Most notably, Paul Martin and Christian Ehrhoff will come off the blue line and off the books. That’s 9 million just from two guys who aren’t “needed” any longer.

I suspect, and I have no evidence to prove it, that Lapierre may be the only UFA to return. I’m not entirely sure what Beau Bennett does, either. They could keep him or they could let him walk.  Either way, the roster will change.

The defense will see changes, too, but they will be cheaper, younger, and faster. Assuming all players return healthy (that’s a different discussion), the team should (and will) buyout the contract of Rob Scuderi. Even with the dead money, the cost savings from the buyout + replacing with a cheap ELC is a net positive.

In theory, the Pens will have between 15 and 20 million to sign necessary players.  Which leads me to…

6. The as of right now roster. As I see it, and, again, I am an idiot and don’t know my ass from a hole in the ground, this is how I see the roster shaking out

Top 6 becomes any combo of the following:


Pens need to address the top 6 wing position, but they have the money to be a legitimate player. What they don’t have, necessarily, is the means to make a trade for one unless they are willing to move a Dumoulin or Harrington.

Bottom six becomes a combo of:


I don’t see the team buying out both Scuderi and Kunitz. And Scuderi is the more important buyout. I don’t really see a spot for Bennett if Dupuis is healthy. Yes, I know, Dupuis could fill the spot on Crosby’s RW, but I think he’s better served in the bottom six. I may be wrong. Likewise, I really think Bobby Farnham has earned a place with the team. He’s a psycho who is tough as nails and can just annoy the shit out of a team. Put him with Lapierre and I can enjoy a good troll show.

On defense, I see it like this:


I could see the team carry 7 D and roatate guys in and out of the bottom pair. Regardless, that defensive corps has a lot of skill and speed and natural instinct, but not a lot of experience. I think all of those players, though, fit what Johnston wants to do and their inexperience will be a non-issue come playoff time.

That’s where I’m leaving things for now. I will hopefully have time to look at some other aspects later in part 2. Who knows if Part 2 ever actually happens.

Please read, watch, and vote

Hey guys,

I don’t do a lot of this type of promoting and begging, but the times they are a changing.

My school is participating in the annual Fox50 Lipdub challenge and we have a chance of winning $10,000 for our school. We are a small school and getting the word out there is integral to having a chance against the bigger schools.

Please go to the following link and vote for the video for “Cross Creek Early College High School.” This was my directorial debut as well as my planning and design. My Glee Club did an amazing job planning it and pacing it, practicing and designing the whole thing. Our kids put time and effort into creating posters and dances and routines for each room. It took a ridiculous amount of work and I would appreciate your votes.

You may vote as many times as you like and every vote matters. Please help spread the word and help us win $10,000!

The link: http://fox50.upickem.net/engine/Votes.aspx?contestid=162653

Go there and vote “Cross Creek Early College High School”

I’m not dead


Really, I’m not dead. I have paid to keep this domain alive this long. I just don’t have time to write, but, given how this semester is shaping up, I fully expect I will need to write in order to save my sanity.


Here we are. I’m not dead and, well, I’m not dead. I make no promises about writing because, frankly, I know I can’t keep them and I hate writing checks I can’t cash.

I’m not dead. Not yet.

2014 is gone. 2015 is here. Walt is alive.


Where Do We Go From Here?

Bienvenue, mes amis.

It’s been a while since I posted. Pretty much broke that promise of regular updates. The only thing consistent is my inconsistency.

As you have likely gathered, the school year is in full swing and I am, as per usual, up to my neck in work. Don’t take that as necessarily a bad thing, because I do, truly, love what I do…but I do put in some ridiculously long hours and I am grossly underpaid for the work I (and the vast majority of others in the profession in this state) do. Just because I get paid poorly, though, doesn’t mean I’m going to slack off. I could, but I won’t. Believe me, I’ve had enough terrible jobs for terrible pay where I effed around so much I should have been fired a thousand times over. I would push that envelope just to see if anyone would ever fire me. It pretty much never happened (there was one case, but I did get to cross off the “you can’t fire me! I quit!” routine off the bucket list).

I love what I do. There were really only ever two things that called to me and I could see myself doing for a living, and one called way more than the other. I love working with young people. I love exploring new ideas and concepts with young adults. I love to smell the lean calories burning as I challenge every perception of life and world the students have ever had. I love that my students, on the whole, hate me and my class while in it, but love me dearly and thank me for putting them through Hell after it is over. I love my job.

I really don’t mind the completely insane hours, either. Yes, there are times when I wish I wasn’t putting in 80+ hours in a week, but at least it’s a purposeful 80 hours. I’m not spending 70-80 hours slinging freight at the Walmart where I have 20 different supervisors who never worked a day’s hard labor telling me I need to cut labor costs and drive sales or I’ll be looking for a new job in 3 months. I’m also not paid nearly as well as a Walmart manager, which is truly sad, but that’s the way of things.

As pretty much all of you know, North Carolina is a horrid place, especially for education. There are some bright spots in the state, such as Asheville and Raleigh, but those do not, even remotely, outweigh the craptacularity that is the rest of the state. No level of awesomeness in Boone can make up for the utter shittiness of Fayetteville. Unless you are wealthy (or content living in abject poverty), North Carolina is not a place to be. I was discussing this with some other teachers as the year was starting and I made the declaration that the bottom is going to fall out of this state within the next 10 years unless major, sweeping changes are made.

There was a study recently conducted by Public Policy Polling (an admittedly slightly left leaning polling firm) that said prior to the 2010 Tea Party madness and, really, the 2012 election of Pat McCrory and his cronies, North Carolina was in the top 10 of state favorability. Per PPP’s findings,

While southern states generally found themselves toward the bottom of the list, North Carolina was an exception. It polled among the ten most popular states in the country, with 40% of voters rating it favorably to only 11% who had an unfavorable opinion.

There has been a drastic shift in the two years since that initial polling data. The favorability has dropped to 30%, a loss of 10%, and the unfavorable vote has more than doubled, going from 11% to 23%.

While still above water with a +7% favorability, that 7% ranks NC right at 40th place for popularity nationwide.

40th. It dropped from top 10 to 40th place. The commonality? Retroactive, regressive, caveman policies of a dangerous Republican-controlled legislature and governorship, an approach to “small government” that made it so small it could fit in any woman’s naughty bits, which, as we know, is exactly where government belongs.

The ludicrous abortion restriction law was passed by the legislature as an amendment to a motorcycle safety law. Gov. McCrory had pledged during the campaign that he would not sign into law any additional restrictions on abortion. So much for that one, Pat.

Add on to that the insane loosening of the gun control policies and practices here, such as easing the regulations on conceal/carry and expanding the places where a concealed weapon could be carried…not a good situation. I mean, come one, there is absolutely NOTHING bad that can happen in North Carolina in, say, March while at a bar with a legally concealed weapon. Nah, nothing happens in the heart of the ACC in March or April. There aren’t too many colleges of note down here. People’s allegiances aren’t that strong. Nothing crazy could happen, and certainly not with alcohol involved. What ever could go wrong?

And then you get to people like us – the teachers. We are all paid the same statewide. We receive state salaries. Some counties are able to pay a little extra in supplements in the summer, but not all counties pay well. Cumberland county, thankfully, pays a decent stipend. That stipend has been the only reason I survived the last two summers without spiraling into debt or having to borrow huge sums of money.

I am now entering my 3rd years in the state. I have received no raises, which is somewhat expected, and will not get one, at the earliest, for another 2 years (or 3, depending on where you draw the lines – year 6 will be the first raise, and it will be, hold on to your hats, $1,200).

At my current salary, which is $30,800, I make just that much too much to be classified as poor and, thereby, ineligible for most forms of public assistance. My take home pay, after taxes, deductions, etc., comes out to $1735/month. And we do only get paid once a month.

I really want you to let that roll around in your head a little bit.

I never entered teaching to get rich. I know it’s not a career that pays well. If I wanted to get paid, I would work for some multinational and focus only on the bottom line without giving a damn about how I got there. I never really wanted before, nor do I now, to be rich. I’d like to not have to worry if I’m going to make it to payday, but that’s nothing exclusive to me.

Hundreds of thousands of people, many with families, are living day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month. I don’t stand alone in living so tight against the budget. It is a systemic problem in this country. And, for what it’s worth, you can really trace most of this back to the Reagan years and the necessity of the double income household.

I’m good with my money and, thankfully, living alone. I can make my $1700/month work, but barely. Sure, if I’m up against it I can cut out some leisure activities/pleasures, such as television. I don’t need TV, but I enjoy having something to relax to when I come home each night. I could eliminate plenty of small creature comforts to make ends meet if I had to. I am thankful that I am not in that position.

I am also not getting much ahead of the game. I’m paying down some debt, sure, but not paying down others *cough* student loans *cough* because I just can’t. Even if I cut out things like TV and my Netflix subscription, I cannot afford to pay my usual bills, buy food, and pay my full student loans each month.

I really want you to think about that.

That isn’t taking into account all of the stuff I pay for out of my own pocket for my students or our school. This year our school has moved to a new photocopy policy – we can make as many copies as we want…because we’re buying our own paper. We were given one case of paper (5000 sheets) to last the year. Once that’s gone, we’re on our own for making copies.

In the grand scheme of the year, an extra case of paper is, what, 45? 50 bucks? That isn’t so bad, really. Except you can’t pay 5 dollars a month for 10 months to buy the paper. And when you’re spent to your last dollar each month, it makes things a little difficult. Again, I am eternally thankful that I can manage my money well enough that I can afford a few extra each month and still be OK. Not everyone is in the same boat as me. Paper is just one small thing, but it is emblematic of a crumbling state that is so in tune with its own dogmatic bullshit that it is willing to destroy itself for some alleged higher purpose (that purpose, apparently, is to become the first negative tax state where lawlessness runs wild and women, blacks, Hispanics, and teachers are second and third class citizens).

I buy sanitary wipes and cleaning products for my classroom out of my own pocket. I always keep a stash of peppermints on my desk for both myself and the students. Those, while cheap, are not free. I have to purchase my own manilla (or, if I’m feeling fancy, colored) folders for the kids. I have to purchase lined paper for my classroom. None of these are huge purchases, but they do add up.

I could very easily say “No, I’m not giving you guys folders to use to submit and organize all of your materials for your research paper(s),” but does that really accomplish anything? No, it doesn’t. That’s just being difficult for the sake of difficult. And I know I’m not the easiest person to live/work/coexist with, but my kids don’t deserve that. I even recycle the folders when possible. I’ll apply the white out and write in new names each year. You want to know how bad it is? When the students see me doing stuff like this and say “Geez, the struggle is real for you, Mr. [name redacted].” Have I mentioned that we’re a Title I school and are approximately 80% black and Hispanic, and the no. 1 criteria for admission is the student must be 1st generation college attendee? Our kids know that the struggle is real…and when the students are offering to buy stuff for the classroom, you know your state fucked up along the way.

So, why don’t I just quit and leave? It really seems simple, doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t that simple. Don’t get me wrong, I am personally miserable here. I hate the idiocy of the state and being poor, but I love our school so much and I love what we are doing for the kids in our community. I love my coworkers and, really, I know that I, along with the rest of the staff, am making a difference in the lives of these young people. No manner of dislike for the state and the town in which I reside can be greater than the reward of the job.

So, no, it’s not such a clear cut thing. I do desperately want to get back to PA, Pittsburgh in specific, but I do have a known quantity here and it is, as Raymond Carver put it, a small, good thing. I’m OK with making my life my job. Our kids need it. I don’t have to balance all the things many others do. I don’t have a wife or girlfriend. I don’t have children of my own. I don’t have to worry about finding the balance between the hours for our program and the hours needed for home life. I can work 70+ hours a week without much of a problem. I’m not a social butterfly to start, and I really don’t find much redeeming about Fayetteville. I’m OK with focusing on work on the weekends and each day during the week. I’m OK with it because it serves a purpose.

And that’s a big deal. For years before coming to NC, I was in perpetual pursuit of purpose in my life. Teaching does give me purpose, and that is the biggest, most powerful factor for me. Despite my ongoing battles with loneliness and depression and so on, I’m never weakened to the point of breaking because I do something meaningful.

But, still, we are grossly underpaid and overworked in this state. And NC is a right-to-work state, so, there’s no union representation. Whoever would have guessed where there are no unions the workers would be badly abused? We’ll ignore the laughably poor pay we receive. The state of North Carolina is doing away with tenure for teachers. Are there some who abuse tenure rules? Sure. But there are just as many terrible teachers who keep their jobs because they have a winning record as a coach. Let’s not pretend like this is a one-way street. The state is taking away what little job protection we had. Until a few days ago, they were also going to do away with Master’s pay (those with a Master’s degree or higher received a slight increase in salary), but, magically, Gov. McCrory found some money in the budget to continue paying those with advanced degrees. Because, you know, when you have a recruiting and attrition problem with professional teachers, the first thing you want to do is take away job protection and incentives for continuing your education and improving your practices.

This state truly does not know its ass from its elbow and it is quickly going to realize it must pay the piper. As it continues the ideological spiral downward and outward, we need to ask ourselves “where do we go from here?”


The PPP poll can be found here

The North Carolina salary scale can be found here (pdf file)

Additional reading:

The blog, Teaching Speaks Volumes, is incredible. I highly recommend you spend some time there. This post caught my attention over the summer and I’ve been stewing over it for some time.

The blog “Making Our Way” also caught my attention as our school year was getting underway. A truly remarkable and moving post here, which said a lot of what I and so many others wanted to say but couldn’t find the words.

“The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls”

It has been a long, long time since I have written anything. It wasn’t for lack of material about which to write (NHL Lockout, replacement refs in the NFL, the Pittsburgh Pirates laughable collapse, the election, my personal life, etc). It was simply a matter of professional life absolutely consuming every waking moment from July onward. Because I am both (a recovering) Catholic and Irish, I always feel guilty when I write anything for pleasure when “there’s work to be done.”

As most of you are aware, I am a high school teacher by trade. This is not a post about the problems of the US Educational system or how poorly I get paid for a thankless job. This is about something far, far more profound and personal. Please, if you only ever come here for the sports and ramblings of a borderline personality, you may want to look away from this post. If, however, you are more interested in my thoughts on some psychological issues with which I have been dealing, please, continue reading.

Some of you out there actually know me, or should I say knew me, in the real world. As most everyone knows by now, “Walt Flanagan” is not my real name. It is the identity I have assumed for all my dealings online and otherwise. When when I created this blog in 2011 I paid the extra couple bucks to have an anonymous registration so it could not easily be searched and associated with my real name. Of course, if you have read this…ever or are even remotely capable of putting two and two together, it’s likely you can figure out precisely who is the person behind this madness.

Over the last year, I have undergone what I can only describe as truly moving and profound developments in my life. Moving away from PA was an “easy” decision because I always knew it would happen. Granted, I didn’t expect to end up in the ass end of North Carolina, but it is sometimes hard to know exactly where the current will take you. I had attempted to mentally and emotionally prepare myself for that parting. It did make the leaving easy, but the long tail has been the undeniably difficult part in this (for those unfamiliar, you can read up on the “long tail” here ).

I have spent numerous hours looking into some of the possible causes for my madness. The curse and blessing of being me is that I am very much in tune with my own stunning levels of bullshit. I know who I am and what I intend. I also know my strengths and weaknesses, especially when it comes to psychological instability. I am many, many, many things in this world. A doctor is not one of those things. That said, I know, without ever having been tested for any such maladies, that I “suffer” from a variety of psychological issues, including manic-depressive tendencies. Many of you have seen it in action when I am riding high or falling real low. Sometimes within the span of a few hours.

Continue reading ““The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls””

The Deep End of the Fan Pool

I am, by and large, a big personality. Those who know me in real life know that I can be…a little much to take. Those who only know me from online are fairly certain that I am mentally unstable and in desperate need of various medications.

They very well may all be right, but that doesn’t make what I say wrong.

Look, I am by no means an expert when it comes to development of junior hockey players. I know that most who are drafted do not go on to long, successful careers in the NHL. It’s a crapshoot. I get that. I never claimed it otherwise. I am not a professional scout. And in a mildly passive-aggressive retort: Neither are you.

I got a LOT of shit from a LOT of people who like to remind me that I’m not a professional scout. I would like to point out that neither are they. I have my opinions and, generally speaking, they aren’t particularly popular. I have not been shy for the last year-or-so in criticizing general manager Ray Shero’s draft strategy. The defense I hear regularly is “yeah, and look at all the stud defensemen and success they’re having in Nashville.” My response? “Yeah, they’re developing really great talent…which they can’t afford to cheap and continue to flameout in the 1st and 2nd rounds of the playoffs.” I know winning the Cup and making a deep run each year is unreasonable, but the laughable effort the last 3 years from Pittsburgh in the playoffs has been a massive, systematic failure from the very top all the way down.

Routinely I would hear people say “Shero is a ‘best player available’ type drafter.” Bullshit. The 2012 1st round (as well as 2011’s 1st and 2nd round) proved that Shero does not draft the best played available. When the Staal trade came down, I was over the moon. I like Sutter in exchange for Staal. I wasn’t familiar with Dumoulin, but I’ve heard great things. I was even more thrilled with us having a TOP 10 pick with a guy like Filip Forsberg just sitting there…and Ray Shero, almost as though he has an addiction he can’t kick, selects Derrick Pouliot, a guy generally ranked right around where the Pens originally stood at no. 22.

Shero then, again, selected yet another defenseman 14 picks latter with Olli Maatta.

Here’s why I have a problem with this strategy and the borderline ignorance of only using valuable picks on defensemen: The cupboard is completely bare in terms of forward development. Realistically, over the next 5 years, there’s only 2, maybe 3 guys currently in development at forward who could become legitimate NHL talents.

It wouldn’t be a concern if there was ANY depth behind guys like Bennett, Kuhnhackl, and, *gulp* Tangradi. Dominik Uher is about the only depth guy beyond those three who could see NHL action within a few seasons. I know there was a LOT of talk about a guy like Keven Veilleux, but injuries and general lack of spark seems to have tamped that down considerably. I am likely forgetting someone (and, my God, people will only be too happy to tell me about it), but the point still stands that we are choked up with defensemen and continue drafting more and more of them.

If you look at the defense right now, there’s Joe Morrow, Simon Despres, Scott Harrington, Robert Bortuzzo, Brian Strait, Carl Sneep, Philip Samuelsson, Alex Grant, Reid McNeill, and now Maatta, Dumoulin, and Pouliot. Again, I’ve likely missed 2 or 3 guys, but that is immaterial.

So many times I hear people use the argument that “defensemen are the most sought after commodity,” and they are, generally, correct. But for those assets to actually be useful as a commodity Shero needs to pull the trigger and trade them. Brian Strait and Robert Bortuzzo have shown they are capable of playing in the NHL, but with how things have shaken out, it seems likely they will A: Walk for nothing, B: Get picked off waivers for nothing (assuming they don’t make the team out of camp), or C: will play a regular shift in the NHL night-in-night-out. Why don’t I include option D: Trade them for other assets? Because Shero has shown an unwillingness to trade his precious commodities.

He did pull the trigger on Goligoski, which worked out beautifully, but that still leaves a hilarious logjam both on the Pens and in the development channel. Then he moves Michalek for ANOTHER defensive prospect…after adding a defensive prospect in the Staal trade.

This would really be a truly wonderful thing…if the Pens, from top down, were planning on actually growing and developing the home-grown talent. They aren’t. They sign guys from outside. And they’re making a big push for at least one big time defensive signing while standing in opposition to promotion from within, at least on the foreseeable horizon.

Maybe, one day, far down the line the defensive corps will be guys like Morrow, Pouliot, Maatta, Harrington, Despres…but it doesn’t seem bloody likely, given the history.

It has becomes a relatively well-known fact that I am a “bad fan.” I routinely criticize the team and management. I have high expectations and do not stand for or defend substandard play. When the Pens fall in their well-known pattern of playing lazy defense, or the famous “switch flipping” mentality, I become unbearable. The dealings of Ray Shero have completely sent me over the edge.

I trust Ray Shero implicitly when it comes to getting players signed to cap-friendly, respectable contracts and making trades, but I don’t trust him when it comes to his drafting or moving the defensemen he’s accumulated.

So, of course, I took up the charge of saying the things nobody else is willing to say and thinking the things nobody else is willing to think. I just happen to take to the internet and actually say them for all the world to criticize me. I’m a bad fan because I don’t think everything the team does is wonderful. I’m a bad fan because I don’t like a lot of what the team does. I’m a bad fan because of being critical and having the wherewithal to actually state an opinion that goes against the grain.

I’m a bad fan not out of malice, but out of painful, deep love. I want this team to be successful in every aspect and continually be successful. The current model is NOT one of success. If I wanted a team that played 60 games that were really entertaining, 20 games that were laughably bad, and 2 games that were so-so…I’d watch the Vancouver Canucks.

With the draft said and done, we all turn our eyes toward Free Agency. Next Sunday, July 1, will really be the end result of the last few years under Ray Shero’s guidance. The two names most associated with the Penguins and their collective interests in free agency are F Zach Parise, currently of the New Jersey Devils, and D Ryan Suter, of the Nashville Predators.

A good number of people have already written that Parise is a foregone conclusion to come to Pittsburgh. I wouldn’t be too certain of that. He’s the biggest fish in this free agent class and will have a number of high profile suitors as well as some ludicrous contracts thrown his way. The Penguins, at present, have about $15M in cap space, which is impressive, but about half of that will go to Parise if they wish to sign him. I cannot even fathom what it will take to land Ryan Suter, but signing both is…possible. If the Pens are able to open up a little more cap space, I think both players will be signing here. If additional cap space is not an option, Shero will be forced to pick between the two.

Failure to land either player will be a complete and catastrophic failure on Ray Shero’s part. With trading Staal and Michalek as well as continuing to draft more defensemen, Shero has found himself in the position of having cap space, but also needs to be a big time player on July 1. Failure to land either leaves the Pens down an all-star caliber forward (though I am a big fan of getting Sutter from Carolina) as well as one of the better defensemen on the Pens’ squad from the last two years and 15 million in cap space effectively “unused.” Yes, there are other options, but then Shero may be forced to spend big on secondary or tertiary targets as well as give up some of those coveted defensive assets in WBS.

And so I find myself, again, in the deep end of the fan pool. I’m out in no-man’s land and I’m willing to tread water as long as need be, but I’m fully embracing my inner Randy Quaid from “Major League II.” I’ve fully embraced the snark and criticism…but it takes just one thing – one, small thing – to get me back to being the world’s biggest fanboy. I want this team to succeed. I want them to win every game and every championship for the next forever, but I know that isn’t possible.

The next ten days might truly define the Shero legacy. He’s a brilliant GM when it comes to contracts and trades. I’ve been told for years to trust in Shero and that Shero has a grand plan for all of this. Well, this is when we see what his plan is.

Well, that happened.

Folks, it’s about to get real ugly in here. I would have said it’s about to stink in here, but the Pens did enough stinking for everyone.


Season recap, grades, and looking ahead coming this week.


You’ve been warned.

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