Red Sox Opening Day 2014

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On Friday, April 4th, I had the opportunity to attend the 2014 Fenway Park home opener. All things considered, it was one of the most emotional experiences and atmospheres that I have ever been a part of. This was a special day in Boston that went beyond just a baseball game or the celebration of a championship. The city has endured so much over the last couple of years, and it was truly inspirational to see the celebration and remembrance of so many important people and events that meant so much to the city.

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The championship celebration and raising of the banner itself was emotional given the context of what the team had been through: the collapse in 2011 that resulted in the firing of one of Boston’s most beloved managers in Terry Francona, a disastrous 2012 season marked by big contract players and a manager who were selfish and always involved in controversy, and the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park that was marred by these events during the same year. The 2013 Red Sox were a story of redemption, a team built with unselfish players and a manager who was respected by everyone, a team that did everything the right way and was rewarded a World Series championship just one year after a last place finish.

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However, what was special about this day was not just the celebration of a baseball team, but the celebration of a city. The Boston Marathon bombing victims were honored in the pregame ceremony, as well as the Back Bay firefighters who lost their lives just last week. In addition, mayor Thomas Menino was honored by the team for his 20 years of service during the ceremonial first pitch. All eight championship trophies from the last twelve years were brought on to the field during the opening ceremonies by former players before current mayor Walsh threw out the first pitch. Red Sox personalities Don Orsillo and Joe Castiglione were on the field to announce the starting lineups. Each player had highlights shown on the scoreboard while they were receiving their World Series rings. The stadium was packed and the crowd was electric, and to cap it off the Dropkick Murphys were there to play the national anthem and shipping up to Boston. I truly have never been more proud to be a part of this city, and will remember the experience for a lifetime.

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Thanks to everyone who read this post. Please like the post if you enjoyed reading, comment if you have feedback, and share with others.

Thanks,

Jeff

FINAL FOUR PREVIEW

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After three weeks of madness, the field of 68 NCAA tournament teams has been cut down to just four, and the teams will head to North Texas to compete for the 2014 NCAA Championship. 2011 Champion UConn and 2012 Champion Kentucky come in as underdogs against #1 overall seed Florida and #2 Wisconsin. These four teams have combined to win four out of the last eight national championships, and are set to compete for one more in what should be an entertaining Final Four.

Saturday, April 5 at 6:09 PM: #1 Florida vs. #7 UConn

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This matchup is very intriguing for several reasons. The Florida Gators are riding an incredible 30 game win streak and have not lost in 2014. However, their last loss came at the hands of Shabazz Napier’s buzzer beater way back in early December. Florida has one of the best defenses in the country, and all the focus will be on making sure Napier and fellow backcourt member Ryan Boatright don’t get into a rhythm early. The Gators have a talented group of seniors led by point guard Scottie Wilbekin, and coach Billy Donovan, who won back to back national championships in 2006 and 2007.

However, while Florida’s starters are making their first final four appearance, UConn’s best player already national championship experience under his belt. Shabazz Napier backed up star point guard Kemba Walker during UConn’s impressive run to the Final Four in 2011 and eventual national championship. Napier, a freshman back then, is doing his best Kemba Walker impression now as a senior as he tries to duplicate what the 2011 team was able to accomplish.

However, I think Florida is just too talented and too deep to lose this year. They have managed to win games even with terrible performances from their best players, and have the experience of three consecutive elite 8 trips prior to this year. Scottie Wilbeken, Casey Prather, Patric Young, and Michael Frazier have been playing together for a while and desperately want to end this season with a national championship after being so close to the Final Four in previous years. Billy Donovan clearly has the coaching advantage over Kevin Ollie, and the Gators aren’t going to let UConn repeat what they did back in December. I think Florida wins this one by 10 points and advances to the national championship.

Saturday, April 5th at 8:49 PM: #2 Wisconsin vs. #8 Kentucky

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The Kentucky Wildcats have been the story of the tournament so far. After having such high expectations to begin the season, they were often inconsistent and not very impressive for a large majority of the year. That all changed once the tournament began. After defeating Kansas State in the second round, Kentucky went on to upset undefeated #1 Wichita State in the third round, defending national champion #4 Louisville in the Sweet 16, and defending national runner-up #2 Michigan in the Elite 8 in the hardest region of the tournament. There was no doubt that Kentucky’s freshman were very talented, but they also proved they could play as a team and brought coach John Calipari back to the Final Four.

On the other end of the floor are the Wisconsin Badgers. After an epic one point overtime victory over Arizona in the Elite 8, Bo Ryan clinched his first career Final Four berth. Junior forward Frank Kaminsky posted 28 points and 11 rebounds in that game, and will be a key factor if Wisconsin wants to advance to the national championship. The Badgers struggled early in their first couple rounds of the tournament against inferior opponents, but look to be back on track as they clash with Kentucky in Arlington.

I think Kentucky’s size and deadly three-point shooting is going to be too much for Wisconsin to handle in this game. Aaron Harrison and James Young have combined to shoot 45% from three during the tournament, and the Wildcats have been monsters on the offensive glass, especially against Michigan. I think Kentucky’s three previous opponents were all better than Wisconsin, so they are battle-tested and ready for any challenge. Meanwhile, Wisconsin has come through arguably the weakest region and has not shown anything overly impressive, other than a blowout of Baylor in the Sweet 16. I believe we are going to see Florida vs. Kentucky IV in the national championship and it should be an epic game on Monday night.

How do you think the Final Four will play out? Let me know by voting in the poll down below.

Thanks to everyone who read this post. Please like the post, comment if you have feedback, and share with others.

Thanks,

Jeff

2014 MLB Season Preview

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Tonight is the official opening of the 2014 Major League Baseball season in the United States (the season technically started in Australia a week ago with a two game series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks). There are several exciting headlines to look for during the 2014 season, but I am obligated to begin with my defending World Series Champion Boston Red Sox.

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The Red Sox did not make any big time deals this offseason, but did do an effective job at bolstering their team for another title run. After losing Jacoby Ellsbury to the New York Yankees, the Sox went out and took a risk by signing former Indians star center fielder Grady Sizemore. Initially expected to back up the up-and-coming Jackie Bradley, Jr. in center, Sizemore, plagued by injuries the last several years, had an impressive spring training and is on track to be the starting center fielder for the team. Xander Boegarts is expected to start at shortstop in place of Stephen Drew, giving the Sox a very solid infield with Middlebrooks, Pedroia, and Napoli. With David Ortiz signed to a two-year extension, Boston is ready and loaded to defend their title.

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The two best players in all of baseball both signed nine digit contracts in the past month. Mike Trout was extended for 6 years and $144 million, while Cabrera received an 8 year extension of $292 million, including the two years left on his contract. I think the Trout investment was smart, it will just be a matter of the Angels putting enough around him to give him a chance at the postseason now. I strongly believe Cabrera is the best player in the game right now, but even then I think this is a terrible contract for Detroit. He is going to be 31 years old in a couple of weeks, and is already showing signs of wear and tear with his injury problems last year. He is simply not going to be worth anywhere near $30 million a year halfway through this contract. I would have thought the Tigers learned from the A-Rod mistake. I’m not even sure Cabrera is worth $30 million this season, more support for why baseball needs a salary cap in my opinion. Nevertheless, Detroit will be a legitimate threat once again in the American League.

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The New York Yankees returned to their old selves this offseason and shelled out half a billion dollars in an attempt to avoid missing the postseason in back to back years for the first time in my lifetime. They added veterans Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran, and revamped their pitching by signing star Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. I personally excited for what should be one of the more competitive editions of the Red Sox vs. Yankees rivalry that we have seen in recent years. I would hesitate to say that the Yankees have a shot at the World Series now, but I expect them to return to the postseason as the Rays won’t have enough fire power for another wild card run.

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After the Dodgers broke the Yankees streak in leading the league in payroll this offseason, they look to go one step further than the NLCS team did last year. Led by Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and second year star Yasiel Puig, the Dodgers will be a legitimate title contender this year. The NL West will be over by the All Star Break, and I would not be surprised to see a rematch with St. Louis in this year’s NLCS.

My Preseason Predictions

AL EAST: BOSTON RED SOX
AL CENTRAL: DETROIT TIGERS
AL WEST: TEXAS RANGERS

AL WILD CARD 1: NEW YORK YANKEES
AL WILD CARD 2: OAKLAND ATHLETICS

NL EAST: WASHINGTON NATIONALS
NL CENTRAL: ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
NL WEST: LOS ANGELES DODGERS

NL WILD CARD 1: ATLANTA BRAVES
NL WILD CARD 2: CINCINNATI REDS

AL MVP: MIKE TROUT
AL CY YOUNG: YU DARVISH

NL MVP: MATT CARPENTER
NL CY YOUNG: CLAYTON KERSHAW

WORLD SERIES CHAMPION: LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Thanks to everyone who read this post. Please like the post if you enjoyed reading, comment if you have feedback, and share with others.

Thanks,

Jeff

Second Weekend Preview: Let the Madness Continue

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The field of 68 teams has been reduced to just 16 after a wild, upset-filled first weekend. Here’s what to watch for and keep an eye on for the regional semifinals and finals beginning tomorrow (Thursday).

South Region Preview

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Number one overall seed Florida looks to be operating on all cylinders after disposing of the Pittsburgh Panthers in the third round. Florida’s biggest obstacle to the Final Four may be their Sweet 16 matchup with UCLA. The fourth seeded Bruins reached the Sweet 16 after knocking off the 12 and 13 seeds with relative ease. I expect the Gators to come on top in this one, but for it to be a competitive game. The other game in this region may be one of the most entertaining games in this round. 11 seed Dayton takes on 10 seed Stanford in a battle of double-digit seeds looking to reach the Elite 8. Both teams scored big upsets in the second and third rounds, with Dayton knocking off Ohio State and Syracuse, and Stanford defeating New Mexico and Kansas. Whoever wins this game will have the right to be beaten by Florida en route to a Final Four appearance for the Gators.

East Region Preview

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The East Region features of pair of excellent matchups in Madison Square Garden. Shabazz Napier and the UConn Huskies matchup against Deandre Kane and the Iowa State Cyclones in what figures to be a great battle. Iowa State barely escaped UNC in the third round and looked impressive offensively, despite the loss of Georges Niang to a foot injury. Meanwhile Shabazz Napier has put up 49 points combined in victories over #10 St. Josephs and #2 Villanova. The Cyclones are a popular Final Four pick, but this UConn team has the potential to replicate 2011′s championship run, with Shabazz Napier doing his best Kemba Walker imitation. The second game in this region features top seeded Virginia against #4 Michigan State. Now that the Spartans are healthy, many people (including the President and all ESPN analysts), have Michigan State not only making the Final Four but winning the whole championship. A veteran team with a veteran head coach in Tom Izzo, experience will be on the side of MSU as they take on a Virginia team with little tournament experience. The Cavaliers were impressive in winning the ACC regular season and tournament title, but will play their toughest opponent to date for a berth in the Elite 8. I predict Michigan State will defeat UConn to reach the Final Four.

West Region Preview

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The first game in this region features #2 Wisconsin against #6 Baylor. Baylor has looked impressive throughout the tournament, easily beating Nebraska in the second round and blowing out #3 Creighton and Doug McDermott by 30 points in the third round. After midseason struggles, the Bears have hit their stride and are a serious threat to make the Final Four. Meanwhile, Wisconsin squeaked by #7 Oregon after a shaky first half, and has a good chance as any to land a spot in North Texas. I think the key to this game will be the first half. Wisconsin has started slow in both of its first games, and cannot afford to do so with Baylor’s offense rolling on all cylinders. The winner of that game will face the winner of #1 Arizona vs. #4 San Diego State. This should be a good matchup, featuring two teams that were both ranked in the AP top 10 for a good portion of the season. Arizona will be looking to validate its #1 seed while San Diego State will look for the upset. Key players to watch are Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon from Arizona, and Xavier Thames from SDSU. I am going to stick with my bracket picks in this one, and predict the Badgers to defeat the Aztecs to reach the Final Four.

Midwest Region Preview

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The Midwest region features the game I am most looking forward to this weekend by far: A bitter rivalry featuring the last two national champions squaring off in Indianapolis. #8 Kentucky and Julius Randle are coming off an upset of #1 Wichita State to take on Russ Smith and the defending champion Louisville Cardinals. Emotions will be running high with the rivalry between these two teams, and although Louisville is expected to be favored, Kentucky has shown that talented youth is capable of beating experienced veterans. Two legendary coaches, John Calipari and Rick Pitino, will both be looking for a return to the Final Four. In order to do, they must also get through the winner of #2 Michigan and #11 Tennessee. Tennessee has won three tournament games so far, looking very impressive in their dismantling of Mercer and UMass. The again, the defending national finalist Wolverines have been just as impressive on their end and look to follow in the path of last year’s team. I like Michigan to win this region, defeating Louisville in the process.

Thanks to everyone who read this post. Please like the post if you enjoyed reading, comment if you have feedback, and share with others.

Thanks,

Jeff

First Weekend Preview: Let the Madness Begin

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March Madness is just a couple of hours away, the excitement is reaching its peak. As everyone furiously fills out brackets, rips them up, and proceeds to fill out more brackets, here is a preview of what to watch for during the second and third rounds of the NCAA tournament.

South Region

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Number one overall seed and SEC champion Florida comes into the tournament on a 26 game winning streak as they look to advance to the second weekend for the third straight year. Billy Donovan’s squad, led by Scottie Wilbeken, Casey Prather, and Michael Frazier, are certainly one of the favorites to cut down the nets in North Texas.

A potential upset alert in this region could come at the hands of Stephen F. Austin in the 12-5 matchup with VCU. The Lumberjacks went 18-0 in conference and are riding a 28 game winning streak, outscoring opponents by 14 points per game. They have a balanced attack on offense with four double-digit scorers and a stingy half court defense. This is a team that might not only make it out of the second round, but advance to the Sweet 16 as well.

A potential Ohio State-Syracuse matchup in the third round is intriguing for me. These are two teams that have both made deep tournament runs in recent years, started out the season on a long winning streak, having veteran coaches and experienced players, but both faltered down the stretch towards the end of the season. Both teams have the capability of making a run to the Final Four, but their inconsistency may be their downfall.

Finally, there are the Kansas Jayhawks. If freshman 7 foot center Joel Embiid’s health was not a problem a this point, Kansas would easily be one of the favorites to win it all. However, with Embiid out at least the first two tournament games, a third round matchup with New Mexico could pose problems for Kansas in the front court. Nevertheless, Kansas, led by star freshman Andrew Wiggins, has enough depth and talent to make it to the Sweet 16, where they hope they will be rejoined by Joel Embiid.

East Region

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The Virginia Cavaliers have been one of the surprise teams of the season this year. After winning the ACC regular season and tournament titles, Virginia took home the one seed for the East region. Many people are still not showing the Cavaliers respect in this bracket, so they will have to earn it by winning games with their play on the court.

A popular upset pick in this region is Harvard over Cincinnati in the 12-5 matchup. Harvard returns to the tournament for a third straight year, coming off an upset of New Mexico as a 14 seed in last year’s tournament. Cincinnati is a very good defensive team, but doesn’t have much on the offensive end aside from Sean Kilpatrick.

Number 3 seed Iowa State is a Final Four contender in this bracket. The cyclones went 8-2 against top 25 opponents, including a win over top seeded Kansas on their way to the Big 12 tournament title. Led by Deandre Kane, Melvin Ejim, and Georges Niang, Iowa State has one of the best offenses in the country. However, their defense may be their Achilles heel. A matchup with North Carolina in the third round could be troublesome, since the Tar Heels have the talent to make a deep run in this region.

West Region

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The Arizona Wildcats are the top seed in the West Region. Paced by Nick Johnson and star freshman Aaron Gordon, Arizona held the number one overall ranking for a good chunk of the season. A potential third round matchup against Marcus Smart’s Oklahoma State Cowboys could be an interesting matchup. Oklahoma State is battle tested from playing in the Big 12, and overcame Smart’s suspension to start playing a lot better. Arizona has only played one game against a top 25 team, and is without forward Brandon Ashley for the remainder of the tournament.

The Baylor Bears are ranked sixth in this region, and may be a team to keep an eye on. After a 12-1 start, Baylor endured a stretch of losing 8 out of 10, before finishing 10-2 and advancing to the Big 12 tournament final. Sharpshooter Brady Heslip can catch fire at any time, and Baylor is certainly riding the momentum right now. However, their second round matchup against Nebraska should not be overlooked.

The number 3 team in the West Region has one of my favorite players to watch in all of college basketball. Doug McDermott, the nation’s leading scorer and a career 3000+ points, returns for his third shot at playing in the NCAA tournament. Having improved both personally and as a team each of the last three years, Creighton looks to finally break through and make a deep run in the bracket. A potential third round matchup against Baylor is an interesting matchup to keep an eye on.

Midwest Region

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By now everybody knows the story of Wichita State. A Cinderella run to the Final Four last year has translated into an undefeated 34-0 season and a number one seed in the Midwest region this year. Apparently that wasn’t good enough for the selection committee, since the Shockers got stuck in a region where defending champion Louisville is the number 4 seed. A potential third round matchup against John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats is a very intriguing one. Kentucky has been inconsistent all season but certainly has the talent to win with Julius Randle and the Harrison twins.

The biggest controversy in the seeding this year was Louisville, who many thought could be the fourth number 1 seed, dropping all the way to the four seed. The defending champions, led by Russ Smith, have as good a chance as any to make it to the Final Four and should be able to get to the Sweet 16 relatively easily.

Umass makes their return to the tournament for the first time in over a decade as the 6 seed in this region. After a strong start that vaulted them as high as #13 in the national rankings, the Minutemen have slipped a little since then but are led by veterans Chaz Williamns and Raphael Putney, and are eager to prove themselves in the tournament.

Finally, a potential sweet 16 matchup between 3 seed Duke and 2 seed Michigan would certainly be a fun one to watch. Jabari Parker leads the Blue Devils while the Wolverines have improved over last year’s national finalist team, despite the loss of Trey Burke to the NBA and Mitch McGary to injury. Both of these teams are capable of a Final Four run.

Thanks to everyone who read this post. Please like the post if you enjoyed reading, comment if you have feedback, and share with others.

Thanks,

Jeff

ServeUp Tampa 2014

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This past week, Bryant University, along with Bridgewater State University, Connecticut College, and the University of New Hampshire, participated in the second annual ServeUp alternative spring break trip to Ybor City in Tampa, Florida. This trip originally began as a hurricane relief trip to New Orleans after Katrina struck in 2005, but was expanded to include Tampa last year. Myself and eleven other Bryant students, along with our staff advisor, boarded the bus for a 26 hour trip from Rhode Island to Tampa, and that was just the beginning of what would be an exciting and life-changing trip.

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Pre-trip Team Photo

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Tampa Underground

The organization that we worked for during the week was called the Tampa Underground. The Underground is a community of micro-churches that serve the Tampa area. Their main building, which we lived in for the week, is called the Hub and is located in Ybor Square. This particular area of Tampa is littered with all sorts of problems: prostitution, drug use, crime, homelessness, poverty, etc. The Underground specifically located itself right in the middle of all of this corruption and poverty in order to help those in the community who need it. The Director of the Tampa Underground is a recovering drug addict himself, and has a passion for helping those in need. The Tampa Underground has grown to include over 100 ministries, one of which is the Timothy Initiative. This initiative is focused on helping out recovering drug addicts and giving them a supportive community and home for them to live in. This was one of the main ministries that we worked with during the week.

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During the Work Week

There were two main sites that we worked on throughout the week. I spent the first three days outside helping to paint houses, one of which was a woman’s house and the other was a Timothy Initiative house. The weather was beautiful all week, aside from a 10 minute downpour on Wednesday. On our lunch breaks, we had the opportunity to hear the testimonies of several of the Timothy Initiative members, and it was really powerful stuff. These were guys who survived miraculous circumstances after hitting rock bottom, and ended up coming to faith. An important thing that we learned throughout the week is to not think of ourselves as better than these people. It is important to be understanding of what a serious issue drug addiction is. Often times, these were just normal people who were put in unfortunate circumstances and made a bad choice that kept escalating. It was inspiring to hear that many of them claimed they motivated to get clean so they could return to their family, girlfriend, and child.

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The second worksite, where I spent Thursday and Friday, was a building that the Tampa Underground was planning to move into dubbed the “New Hub”. Our job here was to clean and move out all of the equipment and other tools to try to get the building in good condition for move-in day. It was pretty cool to see the new building because you could tell it was going to be a huge upgrade for the organization, and therefore gives them more potential to reach out to the community.

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Evening Games and Discussions

Of course, the week wasn’t only working all day. During the evenings, there were several games and competitions that everyone participated in as teams. The winner of the competition for one night would get to eat dinner first the next night, so there was definitely some incentive.

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There were also the discussions that we had at night. After being presented with some questions to think about concerning what happened during the day, we broke off into small groups and had some great conversations. Whether it was just getting to know each other better, sharing our spiritual backgrounds and beliefs, or telling personal stories that would be really hard to share with just any ordinary person, I think both Bryant small groups really had a great time and shared some deep discussions. It was personal highlight for me, because it had been a very long time since I had ever experienced that much openness and honesty from other people.

St. Petersburg and Sarasota

We did have the opportunity to do some fun things outside of Tampa this week. On Sunday, our first full day in Florida, we went to St. Petersburg to enjoy a beautiful day at St. Petersburg beach. I had a great time playing some beach volleyball and it was nice just to relax in the sun. The beaches in Florida are definitely different than the ones in New England.

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On Tuesday night, we had the privilege of going to out to St. Armand’s Circle in Sarasota for the evening. We got to enjoy a nice dinner together, and walk around and explore the area, which included ice cream and fudge shops, a hammock store, sunset on the beach, and many other tourist shops. It was another beautiful night and a great time overall.

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New Orleans vs. Tampa

One interesting part of this trip for me was mentally comparing to my experience in New Orleans on the same trip three years ago. In 2011, New Orleans was still reeling from Hurricane Katrina, and the focus of the trip was to provide hurricane relief to those in need and explore the intersection between social justice and spirituality. I thought both New Orleans and Tampa were cool cities themselves in terms of their setup and location. What made this Tampa trip stand out to me was that we were trying to help with a fundamental structural problem that has existed for decades, not just one event that happened in 2005. For me, it felt like the city of Tampa was in worse shape, and in need of more help. This is a place where prostitution, drugs, and crime run wild. This city is broken, but I still feel like God has a purpose for Tampa. We already got to hear the amazing testimonies to faith that emerged out of these terrible situations. I think I also learned a lot more and had a better time being a more experienced and mature senior on this trip versus being a lowly freshman in New Orleans three years ago.

Final Thoughts

Overall, this trip definitely exceeded my expectations. This statement is not to be taken lightly, as someone who had done the trip before and somewhat knew what to expect. Two major things I took away from this trip were the importance of relationships, both with God and with others, and the importance of the openness and honesty that took place during the group discussions throughout the week. I have become more and more convinced throughout the years that true happiness can only be achieved directly by establishing relationships with others. We were meant to connect with other people, to share both the good times and the bad, and to support each other. This was no more evident than the men from the Timothy Initiative consistently emphasizing how happy they were to live with the other guys in their community who could care for them and support them. They didn’t have to face their addictions or problems alone, and that was a big burden off of their shoulders. Along with relationships comes the importance of honesty. This was so clear all week as we shared very deep things with each other in our small groups and were just real with each other. This quality is something you don’t see very often, especially at Bryant. Even one of the recovering addicts said that he knew he had to admit his relapse while he was with the Timothy Initiative or he wouldn’t get better.

This trip impacted everyone in different ways, but I am thankful for the group of Bryant students I was able to spend it with: Ashley, Dan, Luke, Catherine, Katie, Kat, Alex, Kanal, Michelle, Mark, Taylor, and Chris. It was truly a highlight of my life and I hope to use this momentum going forward.

Thanks to everyone who read this post. Please like the post if you enjoyed reading, comment if you have feedback, and share with others.

Thanks,

Jeff

NFL Free Agency Update

NFL free agency

The NFL free agency period is in full force right now and several major moves have been made. I am going to recap what I think have been the most significant moves so far, and my reaction to them as well.

Patriots boost WR core and secondary

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The New England Patriots wasted no time addressing their needs on the offensive and defensive side. The first step was resigning wide receiver Julian Edelman, the 27-year-old slot receiver who posted a 100 catch 1000 yard season last year to fill the void left by the departure of Wes Welker. The Patriots added more receiver depth with the signing of former Carolina Panther Brandon LaFell to a three-year $9 million deal. LaFell was Cam Newton’s #2 receiver in Carolina alongside Steve Smith and helps the Patriots stretch the field.

On the defensive side, the Patriots picked up cornerback Darrelle Revis on a one year deal after he was released from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Revis was once considered the best shutdown corner in the game while playing for Rex Ryan’s New York Jets, but injuries have made him inconsistent and sideline him for much of the past couple of seasons. If Revis stays healthy, this is a major boost to a Patriots secondary that has not been good in several years. Add in the addition of former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner on a three-year deal, and this defense is even better. If Browner can stay out of trouble with illegal substances, the Patriots secondary is shaping up very well.

The Patriots certainly are not done with their free agent moves yet. Having lost Aqib Talib to Denver and Brandon Spikes to Buffalo, with Vince Wilfork likely to be released as well, there is still work to be done. The latest rumors are that the Patriots and 49ers are in the conversation for acquiring Desean Jackson from Philadelphia. I would absolutely love this move as well.

Broncos improve on both sides of the ball

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Denver’s defense is no doubt still having nightmares from the beat down that the Seattle Seahawks put on them in the Super Bowl. While Denver easily had the best offense in the league, their defense was far from perfect. That is why they went out and picked up Pro Bowl defensive end Demarcus Ware after he was released by the Cowboys. If Ware stays healthy, he gives Denver a formidable pass rush alongside Von Miller. In the secondary, the Broncos signed cornerback Aqib Talib to a six-year $57 million deal and added safety T.J. Ward after releasing Champ Bailey. After losing wide receiver Eric Decker, the Broncos signed former Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to give Peyton Manning some help on the offensive side as well. It seems inevitable that New England and Denver will once again face off in the AFC Championship.

OTHER KEY FREE AGENT SIGNINGS

WR Eric Decker to the New York Jets
CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to the New York Giants
WR Mario Manningham to the New York Giants
WR Anquan Boldin resigns with San Francisco 49ers
Philadelphia Eagles acquire RB/WR Darren Sproles from New Orleans Saints
Cleveland Browns sign RB Ben Tate
DE Julius Peppers to Green Bay Packers
WR James Jones to Oakland Raiders
WR Steve Smith to Baltimore Ravens
DE Justin Tuck to Oakland Raiders
WR Hakeem Nicks to the Indianapolis Colts
CB Cortland Finnegan to the Miami Dolphins
NT B.J. Raji resigns with Green Bay Packers
S Jairus Byrd to New Orleans Saints

To stay updated on NFL free agency, go this link: http://www.nfl.com/freeagency

Movie Review: The Lego Movie (2014)

Summary

Ordinary construction worker Emmet (Chris Pratt) finds himself thrown into the spotlight after discovering a special Lego piece that was part of an ancient prophecy. It is up to him and his team of companions, including Batman (Will Arnett), Wild Style (Elizabeth Banks), and the wizard (Morgan Freeman), to use this piece to prevent evil President Business (Will Ferrell) and his sidekick bad cop (Liam Neeson) from destroying the world.

What I liked

If you’ve seen or heard any reviews on this movie already, this will come as no surprise: This was an all around fantastic movie. After seeing the movie light up Rotten Tomatoes, I came into the theater with high expectations, and they were met just about as well as they could be. First off, the graphics and the CGI that was used to bring the Lego characters and the Lego world to life was absolutely phenomenal. There were so many intricate details that were taken into account that you would have to see this movie more than once to appreciate what a work of art the movie actually is. The character cast was really good as well, which was not surprising with all of the well-known names that had a voice in this movie. The humor was incredibly clever and intelligent, and similar to the graphics, you’d have to watch this movie again in order to catch all of the little jokes and puns that were perfectly woven into the script.

Most importantly, and the thing that I think surprised a lot of people and elevated this movie over the top, was the storyline. The director was able to take a relatively simple theme, not try too hard to be unique, and integrate it perfectly into the Lego world. Also add in the simple and catchy theme song in this movie and you have the icing on the cake. Take all of these different factors and you have a movie that pretty much people of any age will almost certainly enjoy. This could arguably be the best movie than an adult will ever watch that doesn’t have profanity, sex, or violence of any kind, and of course all of the kids will love it.

What I didn’t like

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that this paragraph will be pretty short. If I had to think of something, I would say there were parts that were a little cheesy and predictable, but again I think that was necessary to make it enjoyable for kids to watch and certainly doesn’t make the movie any less enjoyable for an adult.

Rating

IMDB: 8.4/10
RT Critics: 96%
RT Audience: 91%
My Rating: 5/5

Thanks to everyone who read this review. Please like the post if you enjoyed reading, comment if you have feedback, and share with others.

Thanks,

Jeff

NBA Trade Deadline Recap

nba trade

The NBA trade deadline came and went yesterday afternoon, and although there weren’t really any big time deals made, there were several trades to take note of.

Brooklyn trades Jason Terry and Reggie Evans to Sacramento for Marcus Thornton

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I think this is a good move for the Nets. They add some youth and good shooting to the bench to go along with Deron Williams and Joe Johnson in the backcourt. Sacramento clears some salary cap space that wasn’t going to use since Thornton didn’t play much anyway, and acquires two aging players that come off the bench. Clearly Sacramento is still in rebuilding mode, but even then I like this move more for the Nets than the Kings.

Los Angeles trades Steve Blake to Golden State for Marshon Brooks and Kent Bazemore

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The Warriors acquisition of Blake means that Golden State now has a veteran point guard with championship experience to back up talented but young guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in the backcourt. As for the Lakers, it looks like they are thinking long-term. Brooks and Bazemore are young and have potential, but haven’t played much during their NBA careers. Add in the fact that Kobe Bryant has voiced his displeasure over losing Blake, and it looks like the Lakers free fall will continue on.

Philadelphia trades Spencer Hawes to Cleveland for Earl Clark, Henry Sims, and two 2nd round picks

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The Cavaliers have shown they are committed to winning in the near future. Spencer Hawes is a good addition in the frontcourt to complement Kyrie Irving. With what is expected to be another high lottery pick in this year’s draft, Cleveland will only be able to add more young talent to its foundation. Philadelphia, on the other hand, is in full rebuilding mode with now 7 second round draft picks.

Andre Miller to the Wizards in three team deal

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This was definitely not a surprising move. Miller made it clear that he wanted out of Denver and Washington showed interest in the veteran point guard to add leadership experience playing along fellow point guard John Wall.

Charlotte trades Ramon Sessions and Jeff Adrien to Milwaukee for Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour

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It’s been awhile since there has been a meaningful trade deadline for the Bobcats, but with a playoff berth looming, Charlotte was able to add solid depth to their rotation. Meanwhile, Milwaukee finds themselves in the position that Charlotte is used to being in: poised for the #1 pick.

Indiana trades Danny Granger to Philadelphia for Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen

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Nobody is surprised that Danny Granger, once the face of the franchise, was finally shipped out of Indiana. Amid injuries and an expensive expiring contract, Granger just didn’t fit into the Pacers rotation anymore. The Pacers acquire two good young players that have playoff experience while the 76ers continue their journey toward a lottery pick.

Notable teams that stayed quiet at the deadline include the New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, and Los Angeles Clippers.

Thanks to everyone who read this post. Please like the post if you enjoyed reading, comment if you have feedback, and share with others.

Thanks,

Jeff

A Day in Pictures

I came across an interesting blog idea the other day. The concept is simple: take a picture every hour during the day from when you wake up to when you go to sleep. I certainly do not have a very exciting life (during the week anyways) but figured I would give it a try anyway. This was done for Wednesday, February 12, 2014.

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10:00 AM – waking up

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11:00 AM – walking to class

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12:00 PM – waiting for my Asian American studies class to start

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1:00 PM – walking to the library

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2:00 PM – studying for Exam FM

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3:00 PM – chilling outside of the study rooms in the library

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4:00 PM – studying for my Multivariate Statistics test

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5:00 PM – writing a paper

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6:00 PM – relaxing back at my room

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7:00 PM – watching YouTube

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8:00 PM – Celtics update

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9:00 PM – on ESPN.com after the epic Syracuse win

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10:00 PM – posting a Facebook status about the national debt

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11:00 PM – watching Game of Thrones

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12:00 AM – going to bed

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