The Fantasy Guide You Won’t Find on a Sports Website.

Definitive advice, no maybes, it’s only pride.

With the beginning of the 2018 season two weeks away, over 30 million people will get ready to bet pride and/or real money on the superstars of the NFL. There are over a dozen different versions of fantasy football that stray away from the original betting line— ‘who will do better than the other guy’ –and there are still some hold outs for getting to bond over something on Monday, other than what the kids did over the weekend. This is so that you can lie your way into a league, so it’s still possible to trash talk your friends.

The basics
Google fantasy football, and the first two links will have large banners for where to click to join a league, or maybe there’s an office league to sign up for. There are plenty of sites that offer similar programs for tracking player stats, offering advice, and displaying highlights week to week, so it doesn’t matter which interface you decide to go with. Here’s the shortcut to ESPN. Once asked to sign up with a profile, choose the size of league you want to join and the type of scoring.

In fantasy, you’ll pick a group of well-known players from different teams to outscore someone else’s lineup each week. Certain people in the NFL get the ball way more than others, and should since it’s their high-paying job, so they ‘score’ more points through running yards and catching. The important positions to know are quarterback, running back, receiver, tight end, and kicker. The defense of each team also counts as one position as is awarded points for turning the ball over and not letting their opposing team score too much. Specifics will follow.

See the source image

The quarterback gains fantasy points by throwing hundreds of yards of passes that eventually turn into touchdowns in real life. Both the receiver and quarterback gain points for touchdowns. Running backs and receivers (including tight ends) get one point for every ten yards they have move the ball, and kickers get between one and five points for the length or type of kick made. Basically you want your players to be ballhogs.

Primarily there are two kinds of scoring, standard and PPR. PPR differs in that players can earn one point per catch they make, regardless if they go anywhere after catching the ball. This makes it so that certain players are not overlooked because they play a more supporting role in their offense instead of being the show off. In recent years many offenses have relied on passing plays to get their offense moving, making the running back position less valuable. PPR makes it so that running backs who can also catch get their fair share of points, while standard is more traditionalist—one of two truck-like men with cheetah hearts will outscore every other running back by 100 points by the end of the season. Choosing one or the other scoring option will change the format of the stats you’ll see for high scoring players.

The draft
This is the most looked forward to part of the season and arguably the most important. The interface will ask what type of draft will occur: ladder, snake, or auction. In ladder and snake, people will take turns choosing who they think will score the most points for their team over the course of the season. There are 16 rounds and each person has two minutes to choose a player or the autopick will do it for them. Ladder style goes from player 1 to player 10 and starts over, while snake goes 1 to 10, and switches from 10 descending to 1 so that the higher number players do not consistently miss out on better picks. This is the fairer option, especially if your league is randomized. In auction, everyone is given an imaginary salary cap of usually 200$ to buy the players on their team. A player is suggested each round, and people get to bid on how much they think that player is worth. Some running backs go for 60 dollars and a few rounds later will go for 15, people will try to goad rookies into overpaying, and the system gets frustrating if you don’t know the stats for every player that gets put up for auction. It is a blast once you understand fantasy football as a whole, but wait on it until things start to get stale.

Three strategies exist on who to pick when to ensure a well-balanced team; anything else is misguided and for shock value. Too understand each, you need to know what a lineup looks like.

Teams usually have 15 players on them, a starting line and a bench. The starters play each week and score points, the bench players are available if a starter gets hurt, has a real life bye week and doesn’t play, or has a particularly bad matchup and won’t score much that week.

A starting lineup looks like this, and scoring is on the right.

QB- quarterback 1 point for every 25 yards thrown, 1 point for every 10 yards run, 4 points for a passing touchdown (TD), 6 for a run TD, -2 points for an interception or fumble
RB- running back

2nd  running back

1 point for every 10 yards run whether it was passed or handed off, 6 points for a TD, -2 points for an interception or fumble
WR- wide receiver

2nd   wide receiver

Same as RB
TE- tight end Same as RB
F- flex player Can be a RB or WR, same scoring
K- kicker 1 point for a point after touchdown (PAT), 3 points for a field goal, 5 for a field goal over 50 yards away.
D- defense 1 point for sacking the QB, 2 points for interceptions and fumbles, 6 points for a defensive TD, 10 points for allowing 0 from the other team, 7 points for 1-6, 4 for 7-13, and negative points if the other team scores more than 27.

The defense will start the game with 10 points and it will change from there.

6 bench players

Picking strategies and things to know

  1. Run heavy- take a RB the first two, or three, rounds of the draft in hopes you score one of the two elites. WR are still important and two starters are gotten before round 7, but a solid ‘core’ of RB will dominate since so few great ones are available.
  2. Pass heavy- similar to 1 but with WR instead of RB because again, there are a few players who will get at least five more touchdowns than everyone else at that position.
  3. Run overload- every other round take a RB, no matter what. Your roster will have 7 RB and you won’t draft a defense or kicker at all, but after two logistical nightmare weeks teams lacking in the run game will have to trade you one of their more valuable players in order to stay competitive.

The most underrated and most valuable positon on the team. No one can make the playoffs without a QB who is at least tier two. Drew Brees of the Saints has gone in the first round, Aaron Rodgers of the Packers, Tom Brady of the Patriots, Peyton Manning in his prime… A few QB are simply better than everyone else and prove it every week by putting on throwing clinics, racking up 500 pass yards and four touchdowns, totaling 36 points. One week Peyton scored 52 somehow. Depending on how valuable you think they’ll be when compared to more competitive positions, taking a QB early is risky. There are the top five, tier one, who are expected to break away like elite RB, but a tier two QB can be taken as late as round 9 or 10 long after you’ve filled your other starters. It’s a gamble that usually pays off to grab one of the greats between rounds 3 and 6, but there are some gems in the later rounds if you know who will get looked over—like Matt Stafford every year.

CircumstancesEvery now and then certain players are at the top of their game. Rob Gronkowski, the tight end for the New England Patriots, had some 60 more points than every other TE, a position that’s incredibly hard to excel at, pointwise. For two years he was projected as a top 10 player in the league and almost always was taken in the first round if not the second. His proneness to injury made that a huge risk to miss out on a great RB or WR so early, but that’s what makes fantasy football fun.

Rookies and later rounds
In the first 8 rounds you’ll want to fill out the starters for high scoring positions—everything but defense and kicker. If you didn’t get a TE or a QB yet that’s risky, but not unheard of. Rounds 9 through 13 are for those risky picks called sleepers. Sleepers are players who have been looked over in the past, but now have a new team, new quarterback, new offensive set up, or new schedule that might allow them to dominate. Every year, really struggling teams will pick up key position players from college with the expectation that they will play when ready to fill that role. Some rookies boom in their first few games, and some bust, dropping down on their real life roster to the bench. The table below will help a little in knowing what crumbs there will be left to scoop up. Despite what every draft program suggests, do not pick a kicker or defense until the last 3 rounds or face ridicule. Yes there are some very good ones, but not at the cost of a mid-round pick that could pay off big later on. Many people pick up a new defense every week depending on who is facing the worst team in the league that week.

Setting up
The website or league manager will give you a draft time and all there is left to do is consider who you want to root for on your team. The next section will briefly go over the key positions of most of the teams in the league, but feel free to do your own research on who you think will carry you to victory.

Chicago Bears
QB– Mitchell Trubisky- rookie means big risk. Round 12 at best
RB– Jordan Howard- top 10 RB last year which should continue so get him early
WR– A. Robinson- after an amazing year as the Jaguars main WR he tore his ACL in week one last year and was traded. He should be good 4th round, but it’s a risk with an unproven QB
WR– T. Gabriel- Atlanta’s #3 WR last year, Gabriel looks prepped to step into a bigger role and could be a deep sleeper.
Detroit Lions
QB– Matt Stafford- always a top 10 QB
RB– L. Blount- a star in New England with 18 TDs, Blount failed to shine with the more pass oriented Eagles. He has less competition, but it looks like Detroit has a stable of average RB to share duties.
WR– Marvin Jones somehow beat out Golden Tate with 4 more TDs to become the #5 WR, but both are solid options in early rounds.


Baltimore Ravens
QB– Joe Flacco-despite having an impressive 9th season of 4000 passing yards, Flacco is too inconsistent to be a starter, especially with a RB committee that shares instead of scores
RB– no one has proven themselves yet
WR– M. Crabtree takes over for Wallace and Watson, Flacco’s favorite lackluster core last year, but instead does not have to compete with Cooper and Cook for targets. He’s a steal round 8 or 9
WR– W. Snead- New Orleans #3 also shows promise, but under the radar could go as high as 13
Cincinnati Bengals
QB– Andy Dalton- never thrown below 3200 yards, but never over 4300. He fits comfortably in the top 20 but shouldn’t go before round 10
RB– Cincy does not have a running game right now; check the waiver wire soon
WR– A.J. Green- one of the league’s best, Green is a bright spot of the Bengals offense and #10 will go in the first 3 rounds if not 2
TE– T. Kroft rounds out the top 10 of TE and belongs on someone’s team, just not in the first 9 rounds.
Green Bay Packers
QB– Aaron Rodgers- after a season ending shoulder injury in week 6 of last year, Rodgers is good to go and has something to prove. He might go under the radar until round 7
RB– J. Williams- after two other RB, the cheese settled on Williams to carry the second half of last season, but he only racked up 4 TDs. With Rodgers back he could see less pressure up the middle but he’ll still be around in round 5
WR– D. Adams finished 12th with a less-than pro bowl QB; he should be in the top 10 easily
WR– R. Cobb is a staple of Green Bay; he may be worth a look in the double digit rounds
TE– J. Graham, his third team in three years, Jimmy Graham wants more touches despite being the #4 TE last year. Rodgers passes more than Russell ever will. He will go early.
Cleveland Browns
QB– Tyrod Taylor, unlike Cleveland’s previous 17 QBs, has more than a year of moderate success, and with an average supporting cast. Cleveland has spent this year’s salary on offense this year and Taylor might surprise some people with a win
RB– N. Chubb- rookie= big risk= bigger in Cleveland since he may have to split carries with D. Johnson
WR– J. Landry- four consistent seasons as Miami’s number one has led to a reverse LeBron James. Landry should do fine with a more talented QB, but will have to fight for the top spot with the ghost of Josh Gordon: he had one of the most impressive second year runs back in 2013, for Cleveland no less. 1600 receiving yards is unheard of. But a string of crimes and selfishness got Gordon suspended basically until now. Someone will get him in round 5 or 6 for the payoff but you don’t have to.
Minnesota Vikings
QB– Kirk Cousins- with the contract Washington couldn’t give him, Cousins will want to put on a display early to show  he’s still top 10. People should sleep on him in early rounds
RB– D. Cook- a week 4 knee injury last year has healed up, but he’ll fight for the top RB slot with L. Murray who filled in last season under a QB who passes. Take him round 3
WR– S. Diggs would have gone top 10 if not for a groin injury that kept him sidelined for almost four weeks; under Cousins he’ll crush
WR– A. Thielen- solidly the Vike’s #2, Thielen should see another +1000 yard season and will go later than most people would think.
TE– K. Rudolph- top 10 for the last few years, Rudolph is one of the last consistent tight ends and should not be skipped past round 6.
Pittsburgh Steelers
QB– Ben Roethlisberger fits comfortably in the top 10 QB, and by all accounts cannot be brought down by injury for more than a few weeks. Once QB start to go, wait until everyone wastes a mid-round pick and hang onto a QB that’s only 40 points from second in the 11th round
RB– L. Bell- in the top 5 more often than he isn’t, Bell is unstoppable and is definitely going in the first round; he is worth the pick
WR– A. Brown is far and away the best receiver in the league and is another first round pick
WR– J. Smith-Schuster had an amazing first year, especially getting half of the targets given to Brown, but there’s a lot of hype about him this year and there shouldn’t be yet. Don’t be surprised if he’s taken in rounds 3 through 5, there are more reliable options who will consistently deliver.
Dallas Cowboys
QB– Dak Prescott- behind the best offensive line in the league, Dak blew people away in his rookie season and came within 300 yards of doing it again in his second. One of the most eager QB to run, expect some extra TD points
RB– E. Elliot- even more dazzle follows this third year Cowboy, being the #9 RB despite missing 6 games due to legal troubles last year. He will definitely go in the first round of every league
WR– A. Hurns- Jacksonville’s number 2 turned number one before an injury took the last few games, Hurns fills the big shoes of Dez Bryant who has still yet to find a home. Pick him up starting round 3, especially with Jason Witten’s targets needing to go somewhere.
Miami Dolphins
QB– Ryan Tannehill- an ACL tear in 2016 and has taken the safe road to getting back. Middle of the road QB, he can be a good back up in late rounds
RB– K. Drake- after completely splitting carries with J. Ajayi, Drake has come out on top as the #1 RB. Since he’ll get the ball so much it would be a surprise if he was picked any later than the fourth
WR– D. Amendola has had no good seasons in 10 years. He’s had a few great singular games and been on great offenses but he’s injury prone and is never the number one, until now. This will be his chance to show that he can dress for 16 games and catch for an offense that loves to throw. He’s a deep sleeper along with K. Stills.
New York Giants
QB– Eli Manning- it’s been a tough few years for the southpaw Manning, but he’s usually  in the top 20. He’s is a great back up for matchups down the stretch
RB– S. Barkley- the most sought after rookie, Barkley is going in the first round in some drafts. Rookie RBs have not done well for the G-Men in previous years, but he may prove himself
WR– O. Beckam- another first rounder cut down by injury in week 5, OBJ should go in the first two rounds as the most talented, and relied on, member of the Giant’s offense
TE– E. Engram surprisingly clicked more than any of Eli’s other targets and earned him a four week streak of touchdowns, so he should stay the #2.
New York Jets
QB– Teddy Bridgewater- two seasons in Minnesota looked promising before injury took him out in the first week last year. Now in New York, Bridgewater will look to change an offense that has unsuccessfully relied on the run in the past. He’s too big a risk to get before double digit rounds
RB– B. Powell lost 100 carries to M. Forte last year, and now he may lose 100 to Cleveland’s Isaiah Crowell. Neither broke 1000 yards and are therefore liable to a RB committee. Don’t take either until one proves more than the other
WR– R. Anderson- along with J. Kearse are back for another year as 1 and 2. If Bridgewater fits well expect one of them to break 100 yards, but right now they can wait for a mid to late round.
Philadelphia Eagles
QB– Carson Wentz- the #5 scoring QB went down in week 14, keeping him from the elusive 300 club. With his options, expect him as one of the first QB off the board
RB– J. Ajayi, also known as Jay Ajayi, failed to follow up his breakaway season as a Miami Dolphin. Behind Blount, Ajayi missed plenty of carries, so he should reclaim his former stats. Grab him before the fourth round
WR– A. Jeffery and N. Agholor- both finished in the top 25 receivers, so that’s nothing to overlook, but neither will be stars with the variety of targets Wentz has available
TE– Z. Ertz is the real highlight of the Eagles pass game. The 3rd highest TE overall and most yards per game of any Eagle, it would be a mistake to wait past round 5 for him. 
New England Patriots
QB– Tom Brady- should and will be one of the first QB off the board in round 4 or 5
RB– J. White made a name for himself during last year’s playoff run, but was relatively unknown behind the then healthy Dion Lewis. Belichick runs a RB committee, so White isn’t worth more than a third or fourth option on your roster
WR– J. Edelman missed all of last season due to a torn ACL, and starts the season with a four game suspension, AND only has two 1000 yard seasons, but with top target Brandin Cooks in LA, he’s an easy 8th round sleeper
TE– R. Gronkowski- still on top for tight ends with size and speed, the only thing stopping Gronk are the frequent injuries because he’s in on every play. Almost anyone would pick him up as early as round 3 if no one else looks appetizing at the time.
Washington Redskins
QB– Alex Smith- posting arguably his best season, Alex Smith from KC moves to DC to a cast of questionable targets. Almost 4500 yards last year, and with no one expecting much from the burgundy, he should be an easy 10th round sleeper.
RB– no one. Washington just signed the elderly Adrian Peterson to a one year deal in case their four other injury prone backs can’t go the distance like AP has. Pick a Washington RB in the late rounds as a league joke
WR– check the week two waiver wire. 


Buffalo Bills
QB– AJ McCarron- a professional back up, McCarron currently holds the spot for rookie Josh Allen. Pass
RB– L. McCoy was 7th overall last year and should go top 10 again, unless his untested QB cannot get the pass game going and defenses buckle down on him. He’ll go in the first two rounds but there is a risk
WR– K. Benjamin- last year’s Bills needed a star receiver to take on Taylor’s throws and Benjamin might not be it. Acquired in a trade halfway through last season, Benjamin’s production didn’t jump with so little time to get used to a different QB. He should go as a late round sleeper with primary target upside.
Arizona Cardinals
QB– Sam Bradford- this was Carson Palmer’s last season, and ARI looks to the previously injured and traded Vikings QB. He’s capable of +3500 yard years, but not without two strong WR; wait until the double digit rounds
RB– D. Johnson- a week one wrist injury ended the campaign of last year’s first pick overall for the rest of the season. Scoring an ungodly +330 in his sophomore year, Johnson is set to make a comeback and should go round 1 or 2
WR– L. Fitzgerald- for the ninth time in 14 seasons, Larry Fitzgerald had over 1000 yards. If he can outrun father time, he has no competition doing it again—try waiting until the 7th round to try and sneak out with him.
Kansas City Chiefs
QB– Patrick Mahomes- a 2nd year with one game under his belt, Mahomes has a lot of pressure and a lot to work with, but he’s a rookie
RB– K. Hunt had a massive first year and head coach Andy Reid likes to run. He’s going in the first round
WR– T. Hill ended as the 4th WR and will go in the first two rounds, but the talented S. Watkins may also take some catches. After two great years in Buffalo, he’s struggled for the last two. He can be a deep sleeper option that gets dropped week 4
TE– T. Kelce- the #2 tight end overall with over 1000 yards- as soon as someone grabs Gronk pick him up. The limited options at TE means that he could go way earlier than expected.
Los Angeles Rams
QB– Jared Goff- a surprisingly good tier 2 QB from LA, Goff racked up 3800 yards with no real receivers. He’ll be available in the higher rounds and shouldn’t be
RB– T. Gurley should be the first pick of the draft. The only RB to top 300 points, LA has the offense to do it all again. Take him first
WR– B. Cooks is doubtful to repeat the catches and yards he had in New England, but may be worth a late round pick in sheer volume.


Denver Broncos
QB– Case Keenum- one season in Minnesota was good enough to get him top 15 last year, and with these receivers he should do even better. He’s a light sleeper who should be available in the 9th
RB– D. Booker will step up to fill C.J Anderson’s 1000 yard shoes. He’ll get the majority of carries so getting him before the middle rounds is a good idea
WR– D. Thomas- last year was a 50 yard fluke from Thomas’ 5 year 1000 yard streak and this year can bury the last one with a more consistent QB. He’s worth it from round 3 onward.
San Francisco 49ers
QB– Jimmy Garopolo?- he falls under the radar and is worth as much as a kicker.
RB– J. McKinnon is the second RB traded from the Vikings for being very inconsistent, yin-yanging between 5 and 20 points each week. He won’t have competition for carries, but he won’t go early
WR– M. Goodwin might get 1000 yards but for now he’s a deep sleeper. 
Los Angeles Chargers
QB– Philip Rivers- number 8 last year, he’s consistently underrated and usually top 10
RB– Melvin Gordon gets better each year, and breaking 1000 yards means first two round material
WR– K. Allen- finally healthy, Keenan Allen came away with 3rd and almost 1400 yards. He’ll go in the first two rounds as well but has to stay injury free
TE– H. Henry is a solid pick once the elites are taken.
Seattle Seahawks
QB– Russell Wilson- the perfect combination of pass and run, Wilson has found the sweet spot for points and nabbing him between round 4 and 6 is not a bad idea
RB– not worth looking into
WR– D. Baldwin almost broke 1000 last year, but Wilson spreads the ball around to his top 4. With Graham gone, Baldwin should get more looks so take him round 5 or 6.
Oakland Raiders
QB– Derek Carr- incredibly consistent in four years, Carr doesn’t need to go before round 10 as a tier 3
RB– M. Lynch shook off the rust of retirement to reach the top 20 RB, but not what people were expecting, so Beastmode could be a 4th round steal
WR– J. Nelson- a four week injury kept A. Cooper from the top 25, but Green Bay’s long time #1 in now in Oakland so he should be the easy choice in round  5.
Atlanta Falcons
QB– Matt Ryan is the cornerstone of this high powered offense. 6th in yards, expect him to go middle rounds once QBs start to go
RB– D. Freeman makes up for runs with catches, #13 last year. He’s worth the 4th or 5th round pick, despite splitting with T. Coleman
WR– J. Jones- Julio has been top 10 for almost a decade—he’ll go before the 5th round.
Houston Texans
QB– Deshaun Watson- now that Tom Savage is gone Watson is the starter, but hasn’t proven himself enough to be picked in the draft
RB– L. Miller had an off year and still ended up #14. Thanks to his offense, he’ll go round 2 or 3 easily
WR– D. Hopkins got more options than anyone else and because of this was first. Get him in round one. 
Carolina Panthers
QB– Cam Newton- it’s hard to argue with production, and although Cam doesn’t pass too many touchdowns, he certainly runs the rest himself. As #2 last year, he’ll be one of the first to go once people get QB happy.
RB– C. McCaffrey is the stand-alone RB, with more receiving yards than running, Cam has the run game locked up. He’s top 15 material, but goes in rounds 3 to 5. What’s surprising is the silence around Denver’s 1000 yard runner C. J Anderson coming to Carolina and not moving up the depth chart. He’s a huge sleeper for now but could prove valuable.
Indianapolis Colts
QB– Andrew Luck- somehow Luck missed every game last year to the frustration of everyone, so this previously elite QB is on no one’s radar
RB– M. Mack was the backup to Frank Gore, who’s now in Miami. In sheer volume he should break 1000, but only worth a mid-round pick for the risk
WR– T.Y Hilton- a less talented QB than usual meant barely breaking the top 25, but Hilton has been top 10 in recent years. He’s a light, round 7 sleeper
TE– J. Doyle- the colts pass; it’s what they do. With so many opportunities, Jack Doyle is a solid TE option in the top 10 last year- get him round 10.
New Orleans Saints
QB– Drew Brees- always top 10, he’s never thrown fewer than 4,000 yards in a decade. The only concern is his getting along in years—his 18th season—but the 6th round isn’t bad
RB– A. Kamara had an impressive balance of 800 receiving yards and 1100 rushing. He will definitely go in the first round
RB– M. Ingram- with Brees’ offense Mark Ingram was ALSO top 5 with Kamara and is the ultimate handcuff in round 2
WR– M. Thomas rounds out the Saints’ offense, #8 WR overall, 2nd round.
Jacksonville Jaguars
QB– Blake Bortles- he may have slipped from the impressive sophomore year he’s remembered for, but Bortles is a top 15 QB that can go in later rounds and still remain consistent each week
RB– L. Fournette was the breakout rookie from last year and there’s no reason why he can’t be top 10 again. See him go in the second round
WR– M. Lee- Donte Moncrief was brought in from Indy to add star potential, but his stats have not produced in the past 3 years. He’s a deep sleeper
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
QB– Jameis Winston faces a 3 game suspension to begin the year, and missed the top 20 due to a 3 week injury in the middle of last season. He is consistent, and could be a round 13 backup QB without anyone noticing
WR– M. Evans cracked the 1000 yards club but is otherwise a middle of the draft receiver
TE– C. Brate is worth grabbing if everyone else starts getting the top five tight ends, can wait for later rounds if you’re not worried.
Tennessee Titans
QB– Marcua Mariota- consistent through three seasons, he’s a great tier 3 QB for a later round
RB– D. Henry had to compete with the truck that was DeMarco Murray, and now will with Dion Lewis. He’s worth picking no earlier than 5th
WR– R. Matthews should be the undisputed #1 receiver, but doesn’t have mid-round potential yet
TE– D. Walker- over 800 yards each of the past four years with Mariota, Walker is a respectable top 10 TE to get before the 10th round to secure points.

If you’ve made it this far you really don’t know what you’re doing and will need this. Between the draft and the first week you’ll be able to make trades and set your lineup of starters. Check for defensive matchups so your WR aren’t screwed by Seattle, and make sure none of your starters are injured. Once a game with your player has started, you cannot move them on your lineup, so be aware of league news on Thursday afternoon and Sunday morning. On Monday you’ll be able to check stats to see who did well and who got hurt—please check out the waiver wire to pick up players who no one saw doing well. Losing teams will have priority to pick up players on Wednesday morning, and you’ll set a new lineup each week with primarily the same starters as long as they’re doing well. Watch out for bye weeks, and have fun making mistakes that all of us have.


Renter’s Navigation

How apartment hunting should and shouldn’t go these days

For almost ten years, the words of my upstart uncle have surfaced every time I’ve tried not to care about my monthly rent. Starting from a small 1950’s house nestled back in the woods, gravel roads and all that, and transitioning to dorms and apartments too close to the lights, noise, and crime of downtown Norfolk, Virginia, I’ve imagined putting down roots between the two extremes. Sadly, I’ve yet to find an area busy enough for my lifestyle and calm enough to leave property outside without worry of it being pilfered by sunrise. A new job has encouraged me out of an income-restricted development at the worst time of the year to do so, and I’ve never been further away from satiating my uncle’s need for me to buy instead of rent.

Virginia has the seasons, beaches, mountains, cities, traffic, and trails like any other coastal state, but slightly more researching than necessary revealed how unfortunate the median rent is to be afforded the beaches and traffic. A cursory glance at well colored maps from Earnest Research’s findings told me that I had a specific number to remain under, and an equally short search on told me that I was going to have to change my expectations of quality for the area I planned on moving to. Finding an ‘affordable’ place to live turned out to be one large bite, and pricing for a down payment and mortgage was another fruit entirely, so I tried not to be gluttonous.

The housing market crash is now just a decade behind us and its impact shows in the percentage of people renting as opposed to owning. With properties being foreclosed, loans from banks also fell under fire, and confidence in both is still very low for the working American. The winners of the banking crisis, a la ‘The Big Short,’ were people who had money to play around with. Everyone who was affected by it or too young at that time is now wary of the myth that property equity always increases, and I was forced to disappoint my uncle again by ‘throwing my money away’ in renting, despite the still egregiously low interest rate. For me it’s being tied down to something I may want to move far away from in a few years.

As to the renting issue, I was well aware that moving closer to Washington D.C would mean higher prices; people go to cities for things. That’s fine, but I was raised to compare prices, and there really isn’t much of a difference between a nine dollar burger and a 14 dollar burger. One may have a more specifically toasted bun or a zestier blue cheese on it, but the meat comes from cows. The same applies to bath fixtures, and centralized air. I ended up visiting 11 different apartment developments, in three adjacent townships, and going on eight tours before coming to a conclusion on where I would ‘have to’ stay, and no I did not fall under the median rent amount for my region.

What took three weeks and over 300 miles of driving was a series of technical errors and bad showmanship. More people, at least in my area, should avoid some of the headaches that I was given.

As much as I would like to, I’ll omit specific callouts and links to places I found very distasteful, and focus more on what renters should look out for when researching and deciding. This wasn’t the first time I had been apartment shopping, but this was the first time I had truly been sold a place. In previous years I simply signed onto my brother’s friend’s lease as someone else was moving out, or had more of a literal limit that I could afford, but this time I had options, and more often than not that wasn’t a good thing.

I needed a kitchen. That sounds rudimentary, but when you don’t put a minimum on the rent price and include private residences on the search filter, anyone with a basement can make a few extra hundred a month. Fixing that, I needed a kitchen that didn’t remind me of a Hogwarts corridor. It’s not the room I spend the most time in, but it’s the most important time. Some people need a gym, others need a softly-lit nook; I need a kitchen to destress. One bedroom apartments only have four rooms total, so each one matters, and between seeing the second and third actual living space, I realized that it would be my crap all over the bedroom and living room, so it really didn’t matter what those looked like—only one wasn’t a rectangle anyway. As long as there was enough square feet for my crap, either behind closet doors or out in the open, it was the same cow and I’d just go for the cheaper cut. What really ended up mattering were the less tangible things like parking availability, window positioning, cabinet condition, and I had already scheduled too many tours.

Ordering the units by price was a terrible decision because it felt like driving out of a pit of despair. The first place was missing swings (and chains) from the playground so a tour wasn’t necessary. The second was less than a mile away and higher in price because it wasn’t in the same neighborhood. It was, however, so far from the bad neighborhood that nothing was within walking distance. This place separated itself from the other developments in the area by literally doing so and boasted seclusion. The gate to get into this community felt like a lock, and the ten minute drive out of the way of civilization wasn’t worth getting to. What a view though. As long as the fixtures were within the past two decades and there wasn’t an obvious over layering of paint on the walls I could make almost any space work, but you can’t change sound and smell.

More than one building expressed the community’s multicultural stance on home cooking, and did not focus on wall thickness. I have nothing against anybody I don’t know, I just simply want my place to smell like mine and not someone else’s. This in itself wasn’t a deal breaker, but the way the property manager handled it was. The place I currently live is okay in my book because they do not acknowledge my existence. My needs are met, my rent is on time, and aside from warning me about fines for not taking my Christmas lights down, the building manager does not contact me even when I throw my compost off the balcony into the nearby ravine. I’m environmental. When I moved in I got the feeling that we would stay out of each other’s way and I think that’s how it should be. I have a number to call about bugs and water damage, but otherwise I’m in charge of my space. Some of the managers knew too much about the buildings they were showing and the tenants in nearby units and that directed me to focus on the reason why I had asked for an in-person showing, the sell.

The first place that showed real promise, good neighborhood, low traffic, track lighting, had the smallest bathroom appliances out of every property. It was laughable. I sat down in the tub as a comparison to the toilet and sink because it felt like a 90% scaled version of a bathroom. The tub was smaller too. My overly bubbly manager made a joke about it as I got out, followed by a curt mention of the units going faster than she had expected. We got back to the leasing office, which was normal sized, and she began waxing about the daily price changes and move-in availability. There was a general sense of doom at this point because I hadn’t seen anything to be excited about and didn’t think I would. Immediately she printed out a quote and tried to close, making the last ten minutes seem phony. I couldn’t reconcile that half-bath for a full bathroom price, which wow, was over 100 dollars a month more than what I had found online, and then was quoted by a real person over the phone just the day before. She unhaggled me and based on how she talked about the property I didn’t think there were any normal-sized bathrooms available. Something illegal might have happened there.

Eventually I changed the filters for price, square footage, and amenities to find two places that were comparable in price and right down the road from each other. Both salesmen were lovely, one being a little too friendly, but both willing to level with me about some of the cons their properties had, and that made the difference. The big aha is not where I chose or what factor I chose it on, but thinking retrospectively about how underwhelmed I was about both of these places when finding their information online. All renting companies have some form of digital representation with prices and floorplans, but the accompanying pictures are terrible. Terrible. I asked to see so many places because there were either stock photos of units I wouldn’t be moving into, or vague long-angled shots that distorted the way the living spaces looked. In this age, it takes literally less than ten minutes to do a one minute walk through of the actual apartment with a phone’s camera, or 15 pictures of things that aren’t the gym or view from the office. Any website that focuses too much of their visual tour on things other than the unit should be considered well after ones that don’t, and any manager who says prices change daily is trying to personally profit more than move someone into an available space. Many of the people I spoke to were not willing to work with me and did not get my business.

Of course the website will offer low to entice people, the actual estimates will vary, and prices are seasonal depending on availability, but quotes generally run high and can come down. When I got to the final two and let each know about the other, one dropped their rent 30 bucks, the other offered reserved parking passes and reminded me of their second gym location. Let your rent work for you a little.


P.S If you live in the DMV area and would like specifics on any of these properties, email me and I’ll be candid.

The Boat

It had been another long practice. Sweat had long since dried above my eyelids and under my ears and walking out to my car, ‘the boat,’ I was finally able to appreciate what a nice day it was. The sun gleamed off of the spots that weren’t missing paint on the hood and roof and I had to grin to myself as I threw things in the trunk. Thankfully none of my friends needed a ride home because I’d already promised seats to all of my brother Zach’s friends in exchange for gas money.

Watching the football teams do suicides at the end was always a good laugh when compared to what we had to do for track every single day. A couple of guys and I played wall ball while they were waiting on their parents, and I pulled the car around when more people started coming out of the locker room. For theatrics, I drummed out a familiar 80’s song on my horn when I saw Nick Romano look around. For whatever reason the horn was pressure sensitive and a light tap produced a short murmur not unlike Beaker from the Muppets. Nick recognized the sound and walked over, followed by Derek and Josh, brothers, with Zach the last to arrive.

Conversation was cheerful, and I matched that by continuing to drum as I took the long circle that started out of the student parking lot. The boys slid over the food stained bench seat, sending Nick into the ambiguous scratch marks on the headliner. Derek asked me about the horn, to which I said, “I don’t know how it works, but you can play it at different volumes. Check it out.”

Derek leaned forward and hit the horn a few times without coordination. Nick chimed in, “I wouldn’t do that. The airbag can go off if you hit it at just the right angle.”

I disagreed wholeheartedly, having beat the steering drum for months while experiencing every emotion imaginable without any issue. To prove my point, I made a fist and pounded the center of the wheel. The one way road had spit us out onto route 17 going northbound; we would turn toward home at the next median. The car gave a sharp ‘mump!’ but otherwise was fine. Asking while sitting up in his seat again, Derek also punched the steering column, being much more ham-fisted than I was. During our back and forth, I was completely unaware that a car in the left-hand lane had changed speeds because we were honking periodically. What had started at a 6 or a 7 now intensified; both of us were curious as to whether any amount of force was detrimental to this fine american made machine. On Derek’s third strike, the ‘mump’ turning into a ‘mahhhhhhhhh’ and didn’t stop. I didn’t know what to do. Confused looks were shared between every pair of people in the car. Zach reached over to hit it just as I did, but the sound continued. It was stuck. Imagine the rest of this telling with a fairly high-pitched ‘aaaaaaaaah’ going on in the background, slowly moving from your left to your right.

We rode on with the horn on full blast. Derek tried hitting it in the same spot, I attempted to probe different parts of the horn to dislodge what was stuck, all while the car kept going 45 down the road. Other cars refused to pass us because clearly something was wrong, and it looked like everyone was moving from the rearview window. In a panic I pulled over. For some reason Zach immediately got out and began running down the side of the road, arms waving. Nick had been giving advice on what to do for over a minute now and Derek reared up to give the horn another shot. When I tried to pull the front square away from the rest of the wheel the sound faltered for a second. I put my fingers against the back of the square at the top and thumbs at the bottom. The sound died when I squeezed. Confused, we all made eye contact again as I kept pressure on the wound. Josh gave a forlorn, “I wonder how long that’s gonna last.”

Able to think, I shouted for someone to close the door so we could drive back to an autoparts store a mile in the direction we had come from. Cars passed slowly on the left, necks craned, wary of the first cars which had heard and seen what happened. We grabbed Zach, who had made quite some distance, and changed lanes to get into a median. I could steer with my fingertips just fine, but the horn let out a long whine as I released to make a 180 degree turn. We were on our way to reason. Two lights separated us from the parking lot of the auto store, and upon approaching the first my fingers slipped, letting out a healthy ‘mahhhh’ like an animal yawning. Sitting directly behind me, Nick offered to hold the wheel to give my hands a break, but we were driving dangerously enough as it was. My fingers started to cramp as the light changed, and drivers going the other way hesitated getting through the intersection so they could look over at the paint-chipped army green Buick Lesabre lightly saying ‘hagh,’ ‘hannnh,’ in quick succession. Making the sounds out loud will help with the image.

Before we got to the second light, closer to town, my fingers couldn’t take it and the horn came seeping through. I thought ‘screw it,’ and let go, gunning the engine to get through the light so we could park the dang thing. We passed a full audience on the patio of Dairy Queen with a full ‘haaaaah’ going as fast as the other cars would let us. Tearing into the parking lot I stopped in three spots and jumped out, popping the hood. Zach ran inside to get a mechanic, Derek jumped under the steering column to look at the fuse box, Josh grabbed the owner’s manual to help Derek, and Nick went around to the front of the car to inspect the now louder ‘ahhhhhhh’ that bounced off the trees on the edge of the lot. I scrambled through my contacts, trying to think of someone who knew anything about cars but everyone I scrolled past was as naive as I was.

Different colored fuses began hitting the floorboard near Derek’s head as Josh called out the positions of different systems, and the radio, which had been on this whole time, shut off. Tyler Johnson’s truck pulled up alongside of us; he and Eric climbed out. “How’d I know that would be you driving down 17. You could hear the horn from the school parking lot.”

Zach came back with a too-young employee looking just as confused as we were and Tyler and I pondered what to do next. I didn’t know cars had that many fuses as Derek gave up on Josh’s suggestions and started pulling them out at random. I looked around for anything to do when I hear from the front of the car, “I think I’ve got it.”

From the visible space between the dash and the hood of the car I see a knife come out of Nick’s pocket and over the lip of the hood, raised above Nick’s head. He swung it downward and the ‘ahhhhhhhhhh’ changed to a much higher ‘eeeeeeee’ after thinking about it for a second. A second later Nick shouts, “Oh” and the horn stops completely as he shows us the plug to the other side of the horn connection from around the hood.

116 dollars later my horn was under my control again, but it never recovered from its originally surgery. My tapping to notify people of my presence or that a good song was on the radio came in at a much higher pitch from then on.

How to Grow Into a Man

      Never much for commentary, Will watched most sports for his family and not with his family. He understood winners and losers, but the personal connection that caused men to stand, shout, and waste food was lost on him. At this age it would’ve been impossible to see that that was how communication worked for a man who learned how to be a man in a different time, and the more Will wanted to understand the less he was supposed to address with his father and brothers. Grips and drops and swings were nuanced to the point where only generalized commentary could explain them without mocking them. Then came golf.

      It had an essential skill in common with baseball which is why ‘Baseball Bill’ Tilling approved of it in the first place. A former catcher, Bill could talk ball contact for hours, which he did, to the chagrin of his son whose accuracy dropped successively in the first week. But Bill was happy to see his son pick up something he knew the ins and outs of, without having the patience for it, personally. A bag and the ‘six essential clubs’ were easy to find, but ball management quickly became an issue. It’s written somewhere that it takes 1,000 hits, that’s contact, to find your swing, and a bucket of 60 balls is around 8 bucks before you even see a course framed by trees, sand,  and drink. The former linebacker turned catcher did a little math and figured they would need some of those balls back in case his son was awful at golf. Encouragement and criticism were the same to ‘Bb,’ who did crowd the plate and held the highest walk percentage in his adult softball league, so he tried his hardest to knock down that 1,000 to 800 by buying a few buckets from a driving range and taking all of his sons to the local landfill. Will got a bucket to himself and the other boys shared a one. If one bucket emptied before the other, the remainder would be divided to assist the diligent. When everyone was out, they drove to the other side and collected to start over. Bill’s oldest and youngest took to power hitting much sooner than he had anticipated Will to, but he got better with the pressure of necessary feedback.

      The first season didn’t bring accolade, and Bill found less reason to miss work to see his son go against another school’s fifth or sixth seed. Will in turn asked less to be taken to the driving range as more of his friends got licenses, and the luster of improvement fell away. There was a difference between saying nothing during a game, and being asked to say nothing while the match was going on. Because Bill felt like he couldn’t make an impact on Will’s effort, he didn’t.

      Now in his second season, Will looked more inspired to work, but the backyard was largely designed to accommodate tackling and fielding drill. Big Bill might have lost some of his acceleration, but he could still catch interceptions and stand against the tackling dummy to weigh in on proper wrapping technique. The netting design was a good summer project for the two of them, and Will fixed a problem through engineering instead of money–the cement came from a finished work contract–but Bill rarely got to see the contraption in action; Will almost always finished up around sunset as his dad was getting in, and today, Bill got the last few swings through the kitchen window as he got a beer from the fridge.

      “How’d it go today?” He said without much emotion.

      “Oh it’s holding up fine, the second layer of tarp distributes the ball impact much better.”

      Bill almost noticed the topic change as he scanned the fridge for leftovers. “Know what your mother’s making for dinner?”

      As long as the house expectations were followed there was no need to force a father-son talk. Both of them figured that a real conversation would catch up sooner or later; both were problem solvers, so there were few problems.

My State of Education

To anyone who thinks there’s more at the moment,

A certain level of irony will go into the sarcasm of trying to be relevant while staying on topic, so try to keep up. This topic is so broad it’s truly confusing to discern where it starts, or should, in order to impress any impact beyond the fact that this is a brick of words so it inherently must be boring. Maybe if I separate the entire thing into two line chunks like a twitter feed, with picture examples included, it will be easier to not close the window. I also do figurative language, but don’t take my word for it…

There is a weird and undefinable disconnect between the expectations of teenagers and the expectations for those teenagers which stems from adults who were once teenagers. I’d like to premise my points by saying no one is to blame for this, no person, because that kind of thinking might get a complaint filed against me, and I think six is enough for now. For now, let’s say it’s the result of technology—which is a very tired subject, and class has just started.

My realization for how technology has created a negative influence came as an accident. I was discussing ‘sexting’ as a way to address anonymity as it pertains to guilt in the way we treat other human beings because we are encouraged to refuse to get to know them, which is a hidden theme of ‘Tuesday’s With Morrie’ in the way that Mitch, the narrator, is unconcerned with how he lives his life until he revisits someone who knew him very dearly. This was and is a wide concept for teenagers to get, looking at how they treat other people because they don’t consider how they should treat other people—you know, the golden rule? But I was discussing sexting with my students in as a professional way as I could possibly think of because it is a cultural example they can relate to and it does happen. I would be glad to apologize to any parent who finds this offensive, but I spoke about it because it exists and I believed that every single child in that room had the capacity to be mature enough to understand the connection to the literature we were analyzing and to take away the right message of why I would need to introduce the topic. As a concept, it’s an unfortunate existence because of its accessibility, and no generation before this current batch of 20somethings has been able to show off their bodies, or be asked to, so immediately or cheaply.

Halfway through my explanation I realized how awkward it would be for any of my students, as well as myself, to have to explain what sexting is, and how it can hurt, to their parents. There simply wasn’t the technology at that time of pubescent confusion, so the pressure or temptation or curiosity of anything that deals with digital flirting did not exist for anyone older than their parents.  Ten years from now this will be digested more easily, similar to the onset of mass marketed birth control in the 70s, but for right now, this nugget is indicative of a much larger problem teenagers face in this decade. Many problems students face today would be like trying to start teaching an adult a new language, and it is much easier in many categories to simply not have those conversations because it’s not hard to imagine why an adult wouldn’t ‘get it.’ I have an interesting perspective of being halfway between generations so I’m aware of my students’ issues, but not so far removed from traditional schooling and raising and expectations—I know when to quote Bon Jovi and how to be polite at dinner parties without my phone.

I apologize if the previous paragraphs took on a serious, uncomfortable tone, but that discomfort is what convinces most kids to make decisions regarding their education. They either know the expectations of their parents and wish to gain acceptance from following the rules, or they fear seeming homogenous so they choose to not follow certain rules. There are so many that it’s hard to keep track of who stands by which ones, so children pick and choose like rules come from a fundraiser catalog. There’s a running joke in teaching how often students will ask for extra credit when they have missing assignments for regular credit. More often than not I’ll assign late work with a different name on the top and no one has caught me yet.


A student came by this week to complain about their attendance. Like an incredulous amount of my other students, she is missing so many more concepts than days from school, and it doesn’t matter which days or which concepts; she has never come to tutoring during my planning or after school every day of the week. But it’s a good idea to miss another class to come find me and ask about being tardy for my class, and none of this affects her overall performance, just a number in the computer system that disappears every semester. I want to move away from this example because I feel as bored as you do reading it—it’s an infinitesimal example of the decisions students come across on a daily basis and most of them are stupid. Of course they’re allowed to be stupid—they’re kids—but they should slowly become less stupid and less frequent. Something is causing kids to simply not think through their own decisions and go for the least common denominator of red light/green light.

Most adults are as guilty as smartphones in this instance. As purely digital natives, this generation of kids learns so immediately the conditioning of doing something right will cause a response. When they tap a screen, if they do it right, a new screen will appear; if they don’t, nothing happens. Imagine a child or even a baby holding its mom’s phone—tap correctly and the colors change. These seems like an egregious parallel between babies and teenagers, but the immediate recall of tap and response fosters that level of communication for less technological devices and even people. Tap someone on the shoulder and get a ‘hi,’ smile at someone and get a smile in return. Decisions are a continual system of correct and incorrect, but the instant stimuli of phones and digital content change the entire process of decision making. To put the allegory to sleep, a baby crying to get attention still has to wait for someone to get out of their seat, and someone getting ice has to wait for the fridge to crush it.

This wild supposition has to have a conclusion, so if you’re still reading while waiting for shards of ice, think about it. There is no waiting with phones, even the content shown as posts and previews and updates that pop up as a banner if a message needs to be condensed and then screened. If that’s how information is transferred on an hourly basis, why would anyone want to slow down and parcel through the pre-reader’s digest version? That type of information shouldn’t even make sense to teenagers. Why wait a week for the conclusion to a cliffhanger show when the next episode is already buffering? Why sit through a meaningful minute-long David Gilmour intro when lyrics can start four seconds after Pharrell has established the beat with his unnecessary repeating letters? Why read when spark notes exists?


Why think when there’s a teacher in the room? They have the answers to the test anyway. And don’t get me started on ‘Trivia Crack’ where the answer is revealed seconds after not thinking ‘final answer.’ There is no system of recall because of the timer for the next question, so any consideration about the correct answer or who should care why that is the correct answer goes out the window. As long as the answer choice turns green you can feel good about the question that was asked until the round ends and you start another one. Teenagers have become conditioned to look for the answer to things instead of thinking through, around, or even about the problem. Some teachers even go so far as to say look at the answer choices, then the question before reading the passage to save time looking for the answer. Matching word B with box choice A doesn’t ‘show how to do something’ which is the word for word definition of teach. Hopefully we’ll get to standardized tests, which differ greatly from summative assessments, but the current issue involves the way people care about getting the right answer. Without the explanation of an answer, less brain synapses fire and less basic caring goes towards something and genuine teaching doesn’t occur. Too often students will demand the answer on a test during correction, but won’t stop themselves to consider why it’s correct, or why they need to know this in the first place.

Another personal diatribe that fits well is that of the struggling senior. They’re well beyond caring because no one older has shown them why they should care, and now they’re older so they’ve got it figured out. Every adult should be able to remember this phase of growing up, when you really think you have what you need to know. (My students would laugh at how many ‘you’s I just used.) They have a terrible average and the conversations they can’t uphold show why, but they still, somehow, has the opportunity to pass. Teachers are asked to regrade, amend, and even dumb down assignments so that the grades can superficially get the student to a D minus minus.

At a meeting, I almost asked a woman, “Do we want him to pass, or to learn?”

Neither scenario gets him to care, but one looks good on paper. And that’s heartbreaking. Children are so misguided because they should be, and as former teenagers we should show them, or at least explain, either how not to do what we did, or to do it better so that they learn their own lessons differently. I genuinely enjoy making a teenager feel small for a few moments when I show them that they can’t guess their way to my answer and they really don’t have it without reading my book. It’s a real punch in the ego, and while I don’t want any child to feel any pain for any length of time, they need to in order to grow. I don’t touch things that are on fire for a very good reason.


This has gotten me into a ton of trouble, often, and recently, but I am a teacher. I show people how to not look like a complete fool by making them feel. To check my ego, it is quite often that I feel foolish when a lesson doesn’t go well or offends someone into sending an email to my superiors, but those are learning experiences as long as no one in the situation gives up. Whether people feel empowered, correct, or foolish in order to learn is up to them, but that’s the one part of my teaching that I am cussword consistent about, and the right kids get when I’m being sarcastic or downright mean because I love them and I don’t want them to look stupid in front of anyone else again.

It’s unfortunate how many kids simply do not look up from their phones long enough to see this in me, or look defiantly as I try to take their phones like every other authority figure they’ve had. Technically that’s a child’s prerogative to decide they will purposefully ignore learning, and I believe that some kids should be left behind because they want to be—they will learn their lesson at some point in their lives, so it’s hard to just sit back and ask when, when I can prevent those lessons from happening. I’ll be cussworded if I don’t give an honest try to reach a child in the most embarrassing way (to myself) I can think of before resigning myself to understanding that that person about to become an adult is allowed to make their own choices about ‘not needing’ social skills like talking in front of people, explaining their reasoning, or dancing. Yes, I force dance upon my students and I don’t want them to feel embarrassed during the many times they will be asked to because they already did that in my classroom. A few of my kids run from their fear of dancing.

And the dissonance is amazing: I have to make the decision to hurt someone so that I can stop them from hurting. Otherwise they don’t hurt and enjoy my jokes, but fill up with pride that has to go somewhere when they do eventually get hurt. And the world hurts in more ways than they can possibly imagine at this point. When people say that ‘you don’t think like a parent until you are one,’ they’re trying to explain this hurt, that I know my students have to hurt before they can become the amazing people I see them becoming. That hurts. I guess I’m old enough to know the hurt and would rather take on that hurt of watching a child start to hate me, than know that one day they will be hurt and I could’ve done something. I want the people I encounter to experience life as full as they can, which is why I won’t be showing movies during the last week of school.


I had seriously started to worry that I wouldn’t be able to transition to my next talking point, but those who can’t teach irony. So much information exists in the world, most of it barely having anything to do with literature, and I’m cocky enough to imagine that I can explain, well yeah, I can explain anything better than most as long as I know what I’m talking about. A piece of paper says I went to college for literature, but I went for researching and I’m great at it because my English professors made me great at it.

I went over allegories recently, so imagine your brain is a book. Once the words are there they are in there, and researching finds the words again and again. If the book is only ever about one or two subjects, it can never find the right answers to explain. I could give a cussword if people remember the plots of classic, canon-based literature as long as they remember how they felt at certain parts and what experiences they related those feeling to. That’s what themes are, but just saying that isn’t teaching. Seeing an example of personification in ‘Big Fish’ is technically showing, but making that image happen without visuals is a deeper form of teaching, and that might cause you to remember me, or trees, or feelings, when you don’t need anyone and realize that’s when you want to need people the most. I want people to be able to research their own brains for the answers because other people worked so hard to put all of that information on phones, and that sounds like work. I can give so many tools to children, people, but I can’t teach work. That sucks, but the reason for it is that there is no single substitute to the pride felt after truly working; it’s a human theme. I don’t care what kind of work it is, even the screenplay for Twilight movies, as long as it’s something that time has no effect on. In regards to movies, time messes with memories constantly.

My district lays halfway between two schools of thought. One side is the ‘civilized’ ‘new-farm country’ of America that has small businesses and constant electricity, but has no idea about class or propriety. It’s trash culture. There’s a pride in what you do but a lack of shame from how you look. I grew up in it. I’ve been to school in overalls and no shirt. I’ve hitchhiked to school, and I loved it. I had couches in my yard until we set them on fire and immediately proceeded to grab the hose for the backyard. But it is trash and some people love that lifestyle and there’s nothing wrong with that. The issue is the other society pushed up against that one where everyone puts on a tie and commutes to a major metropolitan city where their offices look down on other offices. There’s a feeling of moving into high society in the morning, and lethargy of using your soul to keep the furnaces burning in the evening. Seeing people getting off the 5 o’clock train reminds me of zombie shows. They all believe that this is it and it’s what they have to get up in the morning for and what justifies what they did to get there. They’ve worked their lives away, and expect their children, who are so much geographically closer to so many job opportunities, to do the same. There’s the expectation to reach high society, when they live in the low country.

But it doesn’t feel that way. We have a Buffalo Wild Wings- a cornerstone of fancy living communities. (I digress—some of their sauces are amazing but you don’t need a chemistry degree to work there.) We have car dealerships and bus routes and a straight shot to any type of job you can think of, so why would anyone ‘regress’ toward menial labor or a service industry job? Over 80% of my students know they’re going to college, but don’t know their GPA, what classes they’ll take senior year, what they want to study, that they should have extra circulars, that they need to take the SATs, or that they need to know what commas do so their college essays don’t look embarrassing. They know phones. They’re already ‘high society’ without every knowing alternative perspectives where work is the only thing that moves people closer to their actual, or supposed goals. They don’t know work.


So I stand in the way. I don’t have the years of practice or experience to organize half of what I’d like my students to experience the same way I did: ‘South of the Slot’ changed my life. I try the best I can to give them obscure lessons where they use their phones for good, or think for themselves with no hope of every hearing the right answer because they don’t need my approval—they need to approve of the answer they come up with. I take phones randomly because I can tell they’ve been on it for days and this conversational point might actually make them keep their head up in time to see something they literally haven’t, so that they can run.

Tests and tests aren’t the goal. Living is the goal and there’s too much of it for this to be a timed exam. Nobody knows what’s on the next page or how long I’ll extend this metaphor, but writing is running. Answering, or making choices which lead to all sorts of outcomes, requires the moving of feet. How many times and how frequently is up to anyone, but I can’t imagine any of my kids not seeing everything they’d like to at an amusement park because they didn’t move fast enough, and they’re not aware of what rides just opened up. Sorry for jumping from one device to another, but it makes sense in my head. I certainly want them to run from this place so that they can see other places and see what those places are like so that they can compare like characters in novels. I want them to run, and sometimes I have to make sure they can’t see around me so that they start moving.

Some teenagers I move past see me as mean because they have to. I’m okay with being something they have to get past on the way to becoming them.


Tim Angell

Caring about now.

“Mr. ‘Teacher.’ When are you going to realize that everything you do up there, every rule and punctuation mark and smile and assignment will be completely gone in under four years? Can you quote any of your high school teachers? Weren’t you finding reasons to be on your phone? What you do makes no impact on any of us and you won’t make it past 22- you’re like the supplies for a birthday party. We need you to not make a mess, but nobody really notices that you’re there and it’s a hassle to put you in the trash after everyone has used you. You’ll have a lot fewer arguments with kids when you see that, then you’ll be more like some of our nicer teachers who let us do what we want.”

Well I can't really argue with astute analogies, but piecing this apart may make me smile in small parts. I realized the outcome of disconnection and outcome of teenagers not caring when I taught in a district that had given the kids exactly what they wanted. It was sad to see students reprimanded for headphone infractions and holding hands like they were children, and then expect them to leave their school day for adulthood and not sound ignorant or childish for not being reminded of the rules or for not being praised for anything in their lives. There's a large shift between secondary schooling and the real world, and it's that people who don't know your middle name don't give a cuss word about you. No one is left to ask how your game went, or to comment on your haircut because they see you every day, or to help you feel good about doing anything selfless for anyone for any reason. No one cares if you play a sport or volunteer when you're an adult; you're just expected to find that sense of inner pride when you finish something, when no one taught you how to have that at any point of your life. 
That's fine to forget or block certain things out, but high schools were meant to teach you 'how' to think, not 'what,' and a lot of districts and subdivisions and statistics forgot that. Each generation complains about the latest one being lazier, greedier, and more self-deserving, when it's the oldest generation who passes it down by trying to slap band-aids on losing playoff games and not getting away with cheating on assignments- if you don't do the work you should be faced with the idea that you suck at something. Feel bad. Feel lazy. Realize that someone is better, and then work harder. Quitting is not what made four and a half good Rocky movies. The adults who prepare the kids- who will be adults and pass their lessons to kids- seem to lose that transference of care. Yes someone cares about you as a child, but you need to learn to care for yourself before you become an adult so that you don't sound like a child when a mechanic calls with the wrong estimate or you need to email someone who is understandably mistaken about an issue that neither party should care about- it's just track lighting.  But this cycle of passing children like buckets of water gets those kids to the end of the line, and they only know how to pass buckets as well. 
It's funny that you mention me being used because that's exactly what I did to people when I was your age, and I have a much longer list of people I wish I was friends with than actual friends, who are the deepest friends, since they somehow saw past me being a selfish symbol of my entire age group. I don't want the same regret for any of you-which is why I encourage meeting everybody-because adults hate meeting each other for any reason except food. You have the opportunity to make eye contact with hundreds of people every day, and I wish adults had that; we spend more than 50% of our days looking at screens and wondering why it's hard to make eye contact with one or two people we aren't familiar with. The chain of judgement and awkward silence has gotten too wide for us and it feels safer to sit on a couch that has never judged us, making comments to a less-than-tangible webpage which always helps us fix our grammar mistakes and none of our moral mistakes. The whole technology issue is another ironic post, and I'll let this medium sink in. 
As for words and assignments, no matter what subject you teach, even knot tying or singing on key, synapses work in funny ways that connect songs on the radio to a book you read over ten years ago, which reminds you of your brother who played that CD way too much, which reminds you of breaking the speaker in the backseat, which reminds you of one of the longest road trips to see family, which reminds you of one of the shortest 6 hour drives to Florida you didn't know you'd want to hold onto because it was the longest time you spend discussing the road with your father. Everything is connected to everything, and it's that obscure sense of fate that one day you'll see the same word In a book I told you to read over winter break that you got to ten winter breaks too late, but it reminds you of a memory you've wanted to tell your daughter for years and didn't know where it was waiting for you. The assignments I put on you get put on your soul, and if you take your cuss word headphones out for long enough, you'll hear the future and might come to understand what hard work is before it's 2 AM and you're out of ideas on how to restart your computer to print a paper for a class you spent a thousand dollars on. 
I want you to experience twice the memories that I've hinted at, but I want you to be able to experience them fully, without repose, and without needing to reach for a camera phone or media outlet to share it with people who will literally scroll past your accomplishments. But I want you to be able to adequately and eloquently be able to describe half of those memories to people who might make eye contact with you, and might need that specific word to get them halfway to the feeling that you had when you saw the sunset after your last high school practice. You'll need those words for speeches you didn't know you had to make decades from now. 
Even though I realized that the current is too strong to stand up in, I'll anchor a stick into the rocks until I can't, and see what gets snagged in the meantime. When's the last time you really stared down a small beaver dam?

I Can’t Let Them Lie

Rarely, and often, do I come across my Alma mater when I’m not looking for it. Four years of my very short adulthood is too large to ignore, and while I grew up some while living in one of the worst traffic locations in the U.S, it still sucks and I’m overtly bitter about how people end up there and turn into bad citizens.

On a random web surf, I came across a blog post about why it doesn’t suck to go to Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.

I would like to stop and add a large disclaimer about the education I received and the human worth of the professors I encountered. I didn’t leave Old Dominion after my first year because it had a ridiculously succinct and serious educational program and I had no doubt that I would be getting proper and extensive training to do anything that I wanted to. Old Dominion has some of the finest teachers I’ve ever met and I have a silly amount of respect for certain professors who poured their love of subject into their lessons every day and had to put up with students bringing pillows to class just so they could pass the attendance requirement of the class. Most of the professors I personally had are not getting paid enough and deserve many more accolades for the time and effort they put in to end up with adults like myself who were given every tool needed to succeed in the real world. I desperately wish that I could express a small amount of gratitude to these professors and I’ll probably shoot them quick emails this week, but I will not publicize them online because I know that they would chastise me for the impersonal nature of a thumbs-up on a media site. Old Dominion offers an education that’s as good as any other college in Virginia.

Back to the article, psychology-wise, even the title makes excuses for living there- it’s not a great place to live by any means, it just doesn’t suck so you should give it a try and hope not to be robbed. It is positive to note that at least the robbers in Norfolk are quite creative, as my brother’s house was once broken into by having their back door sawed in half over winter break. The city, and surrounding area of Norfolk, is so sad and decrepit that it breeds criminal attitude, and after awhile everyone begins to look after themselves. Somehow the sun shines brighter as soon as you cross the bridge tunnel on 64. I could go on for a thousand words about how I walked through downtown with my hood up so that other people thought that I was a mugger and therefore wouldn’t mug me, or that my car’s window was smashed for fun and not for profit, or that I received a ticket for a policeman’s mistake while being the designated driver, but that’s simply why I hate Norfolk and everyone has their reasons. Your experience may be completely different. If at all possible, I’d like to go with facts I can compare to the ridiculous claims in the blog post that I shook my head at.

The first reason to go to a school near Virginia Beach is the beach, according to the blog at least. I’m well aware that it takes almost ten miles and twenty minutes of light traffic to get to the ocean front- that isn’t the James River- in ‘Ocean View,’ which my brother has reiterated as a place never to live if you want to enjoy your week. It is a fact that the beaches in Ocean View have glass and trash all over the sand and parking is laughable. I could start in with ‘at least…’ but what is the point of making excuses for a place you call home? The actual Virginia Beach beachfront people are familiar with is 21 miles west on route 264. Having the beach less than an hour away is not really a reason to love a college.

ODU students certainly do not run the streets of downtown Norfolk. I’ve seen a cop run down the street and tackle an ODU student because he kept walking, but the parties sort of have to hide- like those guys who take apart electronics if you leave your old TV on your lawn at night. At least there’s free trash pick-up. Between the expensive banking district and the campus stoplights that beep every 32 seconds, there are four ‘not crummy’ bars scattered among construction sites off Onley Rd, parking lots ringed with barbed wire, and rows of dilapidated houses next to Walgreen’s on 21st St. The bars are small, with terrible layouts, and one in particular has a new name and owner every few months. None of them look like the fun happening in movies, or any of the bars on ‘The Corner’ right next to UVA in Charlottesville. It’s sad how seedy they have to be when there’s such a distinction of class starting two blocks off campus.

The list sort of breaks down from there into things which are college specific, meaning any college can do them or has already done them, and things that every college in America does because they’re all colleges. I’ll go into angry specifics.

College Specific

#1 I don’t disagree with accepting sexual equality or think it’s a bad thing or want to discredit ODU at all, but the thing about true acceptance and cutting back on ignorant ideas is to stop mentioning those ideas and simply live in modern times. Waving our acceptance as a flag that brings more notice misses the point, and naming a specific faculty member as the unofficial spokesperson is in poor taste. Yes ODU is big on equality, but don’t brag about it: people who went there are still aware of the awful ‘Lavender House‘ idea which would’ve been detrimental to having the LGBT community feel comfortable going to school in Norfolk. And it’s not like other colleges are kicking diversity out.

#2 The library and graphic design club did things that other colleges haven’t done, which are cool, but it’s not like other colleges have been taking weeks off wishing they could go to our beach. In regards to having 250 people comment on the same topic at the same time- Facebook and twitter already do that during the Super Bowl and VMAs, ODU just edited it for content afterwards. Having a school specific video game does sound pretty cool, but it reminds me of the 2-bit Old Spice video game that had Dikembe Mutombo save the world by throwing cheeseburgers.

#3 “ODU has a large international presence and offers hundreds of study abroad options, but we only have a measely ‘248’ students enrolled in them.” You shot yourself in the foot. Out of 11k students, less than 3% try the study abroad program. I know why because I’ve tried, and the paperwork is tedious then impossible.

#4 The woman’s bathroom in MGB. I’ll give you that one. Fine. I’ve never been in the woman’s bathroom, and I’ve never been in the men’s becuase MGB is sandwiched between two construction sites next to the Webb and the shut Elkhorn Ave down so I have no reason to walk on that side of campus unless I’m headed to Constant- and they have new bathrooms anyway.

All Colleges Everywhere

#1 Having an arts program- I don’t even want to argue this. Please find a university without an arts program. Number 8 is irrelevant.

#2 Every college promotes diversity. It doesn’t suck that we’re in the majority of every college everywhere to accept diversity, but that’s not a reason to choose ODU over anyone else. There are 25K students, 13K are full time, 5K are graduate students, 4K are distance learning in different cities, 2K who go full time commute more than 20 miles to get there, 50% of the estimated 11K left are white, 25% are black, 6% are latino, and the percentages decrease from there. Reason 7 is garbage.

#3 Seize the day. Ugh. I don’t even want to use sentences because I had to reread about ‘turning up, never turning down’ and ‘we yolo*.’ At least my post now cancels her’s out because we both used ‘yolo’ and no one educated should take a brick of words seriously if it has ‘yolo’ in it. Well done. Everyone in college would like to think they party hard, but unless you’re the guys who put up an illegal fence in under 24 hours, threw a party, and had everyone on the lease promptly arrested that same night, you haven’t achieved ‘go hard’ status. People don’t comment on our Springfest or Quadfest or even tailgating. They do however comment on our crime log, which was my personal favorite part of the school newspaper. If you go and count, that’s an average of four crimes a day-on campus. As for ODU confessions, half of them are serious and sad posts, and the others get down-voted by our awesome acceptance.

*On a grammatical note, the phrase ‘we yolo’ means we you only live once. Aside from the fact that we live every day, the phrasing in Ms. Mayfield’s article doesn’t do her ODU education justice.

The Ending

I went to ODU for my own reasons and I’ll be happy with those reasons eventually, but I want to exhume any of the flat out lies they give on those campus tours. Although the education was first-rate, the policing for actual crime is terrible, and I’ve found bones in my hamburger more than once. I’ve seen 400 parking spots cut for no reason, parking expenses for students who didn’t buy a parking pass (in 2012) go up by over 200 dollars, and every party I went to within one block of campus busted by the police. According to College.niche, ODU is ranked third to last in VA for drug use and we have a high average for reported cases of rape. It has great academics, but don’t lie and say it has a great atmosphere for the ridiculous cost that attributes to the second fountain that floods the dorm quad once a week in the spring.

Not a ‘How I Met Your Mother’ Finale Recap

Not a 'How I Met Your Mother' Finale Recap

On March 31, 2014, the TV sitcom ‘How I Met Your Mother’ rolled out its hour long finale to the expectation, frustration, and relief of fans and viewers who were hoping to see numerous mysteries tied up after being alluded to for entire seasons. Enough blogs and recaps have been written about how some things find resolution and how the ending doesn’t sit well with a lot of die-hard fans.

People who were hoping for a fairytale ending were hit with realism instead. Timelines aren’t perfect, relationships aren’t perfect, and not every look is filled with drastic passion. While the ultimate resolution does not make everyone smile in the same way that they did when Ted first went from romantic gesture to romantic gesture, the five minutes before the ending make the series more than worth it.

Throughout the seasons, although sometimes loosely for episodes at a time, the main character Ted discusses how me met his wife with his two children. This original lens and intro that fell away in the ninth season came full circle in the finale when Ted explained why he needed to meet the mother instead of how. Admittedly, some of the more creative choices in this season’s episodes fell flat, but the writers saved the most jarring and emotionally pivotal thoughts for Ted’s last monologues.

In what can easily and completely taken out of the context of the show, he talks about time passing, making the hard choices, and realizing how good the small moments can be when you have the right people next to you. When so many things in life seem dark, there are people. He sums up the whole point of the show, and then some. ‘Love is the best thing we do.’

The other moment that should blow fans away is the final montage of the main characters. Each one is shown alongside a clip of themselves from the first season, and it’s incredible to think of the timeline of this show. They kept up with current events in a very SNL-esque way over the course of nine years. The characters have grown up next to their fans for nine years. Anyone who cannot remember where they were- and who they were- after finishing the first season cannot weigh in on how expected, unexpected, or cliche the ending was. Ted met the hell out of that mother and the onscreen time together is a metaphor for the time they got to spend with each other in the grand scheme of things.

Love it or hate it, this show was a huge cultural phenomenon that included many phrases and archetypal symbols that helped viewers find themselves. After nine whole years of being huge prime time television, everyone gets on with their futures. Anyone who’s seen most of the show can remember what it was like to care and follow a character’s life like an actual friend. Imagine extending ‘The Bachelor’ craze over almost a decade: ‘who will he choose this week?’ Shows that do well and do well often and stay on a major network for this long do not come very often, and much like Seinfeld, Friends, and The Office, ‘How I Met Your Mother’ has created season ticket holders who will own and love and discuss and compare the show to their and other people’s lives for years.

Response to ‘Bossy’ Response

Men are the pursuers of women. They think of something to say, approach women at bars, ask them out, pick them up, and usually pay for dinner because it’s expected and polite. For the most part, and in most cultures, this has been the natural order since cave men chose and dragged cave women back home, and cliches have filled in accordingly. Strong cases have been made for blatant sexism in business and media; the Bechdel Test and the ‘Glass Ceiling’ come to mind.  Rightfully so, women should not only be allowed, but encouraged, to go after exactly what they want in life without societal pressure or stereotyping which may speak badly about who they are as people. Some women are more direct or vocal than others just as some men get nervous just thinking about approaching a cute girl. Everyone is different, but it takes a while to get there.

Learning what society expects and ultimately accepts starts at a very young age, and it’s unfortunate how a lack of information has continued to hinder women from making decisions without feeling judged. A lot of little girls who inherently desire to be leaders and decision makers are unconsciously- and sometimes consciously- told that it’s impolite to speak up. Recently, Sheryl Sandberg, businesswoman and COO of Facebook, launched the campaign ‘Ban Bossy‘ to give notice to and cut back on admonishing girls who aren’t as docile as society wants them to be. Boys who take charge are seen as independent and driven leaders, whereas girls who do the same have been described as pushy, impatient, forward, and bossy because most adults are still used to the old way of thinking that men make decisions and women respond. According to Susan D. Witt’s article from the University of Akron, upholding these gender stereotypes of boys acting more physical and loud- compared to girls being emotional and gentle- may be beneficial to children becoming more comfortable with themselves and making decisions, but can damage a number of latent interests and talents that wouldn’t be explored through gender specific activities. Furthermore, pushing children towards certain activities can hinder their decision making as they get older, extending into the business world and relationships. This perpetuates gender limits and instills society in kids before they have a chance to figure it out on their own.

The immediate response to ‘Ban Bossy’ is an overreaction that nothing is wrong. Statistics from the Ban Bossy page about girls growing up not raising their hands for not wanting to look like a know-it-all are unfounded, and people with the means to publicly support this cause are more in favor of the adage that all kids are loud and bossy. Psychologist BJ Gallagher believes that not telling girls when they’re bossy- when they’re actually bossy- will cause them to develop poor interpersonal skills because no one told them when to listen. It is fine and permissible to point out when a child, boy or girl, is being loud, rude, and demanding, but Sandberg’s cause is making known the connotation that certain words are taking on when it comes to being social. Ms. Gallagher means well, but her article features quotes about leadership from leaders, and not from the parents and teachers of young children who have seen a child shut down for the afternoon after being told that trying to direct other students (as the team leader) was out of line.

It makes sense to stem assertion when it goes too far, but after decades and centuries of expecting women to remain quiet in the shadows, isn’t it fair to let individual girls and women figure out where that line is without societal implications? Everyone has different upbringings and intentions, and potentially bossy girls have just as much a right to be left alone as boys who refuse to speak up in class do.

Stop Hating Fred Phelps

Fred Phelps, infamous pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, died on March 29th, not as a member of the church he created in the 90s. Phelps has been well known in the public eye for protesting and picketing funerals of celebrities and military soldiers, targeting various groups of people with blunt and simple statements. These groups of people include homosexuals, minorities, practitioners of Judaism, immigrants, and politicians, to name a few. What’s unfortunate about the media coverage of this man’s death is the same pigeon-holing that made Phelps famous is now being used to color him in the opening statements of articles and blogs as a way to engage the reader.

Any sort of searching online will list events and evidence of Phelps and members of the Westboro Baptist Church, or WBC, physically at the funerals of U.S soldiers and various well known people such as TV’s Fred Rogers and Frank Sinatra. The WBC has a history of taking a harsh stance on God’s acceptance and mercy, using picket signs like ‘God hates fag,’ ‘Thank God for 9/11,’ and ‘Repent or perish.’ These are facts. A lot of people seem to stop after the first glance because it is hard to imagine insulting someone’s funeral and family, especially a soldier’s, in order to push a religious agenda. Society deems that rude, but judging Phelps and his supporters- mostly members of his family- promotes the same level of judgement that the WBC puts on their signs. In the Bible all sin is sin, John 5:17 states that no sin is greater than another. Why feed into one person’s opinion, whether it’s right or wrong? Who cares if anyone disagrees with Phelps’ declarations? Simply ignore him or act on the things you believe in.

There’s a well forgotten Treehouse of Horror Simpson’s episode featuring life size advertisements and billboards who come to life and terrorize Springfield. Lisa figures out that the ads need attention to stay current, so she tells everyone to ignore their building smashing despite the instinct to look on. Once everyone stops caring the ads go away. Fred Phelps’ passing and cultural impact won’t go away as quickly as a cartoon, and his death should be reported in the news, but letting personal belief fuel the information misses the point.

A few blogs and radio hosts are guilty of letting their feelings get the better of them, but it’s better not to call them out. The hate stops here. And hating the hate promotes nothing. If the news of Fred Phelps is a silent victory for anyone personally persecuted by people who speak out against what they do not understand or agree with then good, please feel more at ease, but try not to spread any opinions about someone passing away. Let the people who knew Fred Phelps verbally remember him and share stories about his life, but the people far removed from the issue have better issues to discuss on long car rides. CNN does a fair job of presenting the facts of Phelp’s life, and the search tabs describing more negative things about him unnecessarily slow computers down.