2020: A New Beginning And A New Era

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As I have hopefully made clear in previous posts, I am really ready for the decade of the 2010s to end. This has been the worst decade of my life by a wide margin. In fact, this has been the first decade of my life I would give a failing grade to. I am a generally positive person who can see the good in a bad situation but the good from the 2010s are few and far between.

This blog will not be beating a dead horse and looking back at all that toxic negativity. This blog is about hope, positivity and the future. I think the 2020s have a chance to be great.

I also want to lay out what I want to accomplish as we reach the dawn of a new era.

What has me most excited for the 2020s is the ascension of the Chicago White Sox from laughingstock of Major League Baseball to a viable contender for a World Series title. The decade of the 2010s was just as bad for my favorite baseball team as it was for me. From 2010 through 2019, the White Sox had one (1) winning season out of 10, in 2012, when they finished 85-77 and in second place in the American League Central. Other than that, nothing but negatives.

That is changing, however, as the rebuild that began in late 2016 is starting to bear fruit. It will be fun to follow the team as they continue their improvement for the next several years.

On a personal level, there are a lot of things I want to see change from the 2010s into the 2020s. Physically, mentally and emotionally. I have figured out my mistakes and I am ready to not only stop making them but to move on from them and forget them. Leave the past in the past.

Physically, while I made some strides in 2019, I am far from a finished product. Probably 60 pounds, at least, need to be removed from me when I step on the scale. I want to start making a workout program part of every day, much like I did back in my younger days. In my early 20s, I participated in a weight training program seven days a week and was very happy with myself. I was at my physical peak then. Right now I’m not. I’m still showing the effects of the past ten years and I want to put that in full reversal, with losing weight being the most important. I lost a lot of hair, especially in the latter part of the decade from stress, and am considering just shaving my head. This has been frowned upon by some female acquaintances, but more on that later.

I plan on working out my exercise program in the next week or so, I want to do some combination of weight training and aerobic, while adding endurance exercises later on in 2020.

I debate daily on keeping my beard or trimming it down to a notch above a five-o’clock shadow look. I’ll never go clean-shaven again, but the mountain man look may be a little too much.

I’m thinking maybe a basic buzz cut, not a razor-shaven bald head, with a light beard.

I look young for my age in spite of what stress has done to me in the 2010s and I don’t want to lose that. I have watched my mom age 30 years in the past five and I don’t want to do that at 42 years old. My mom didn’t start to really age until she was 80. I want that kind of longevity.

I also have to start getting more sleep, which means going to bed earlier and actually going to sleep, rather than surfing the web on my phone and being in bed for eight hours but only sleeping for four. I have to make myself understand that the internet will still be there in the morning.

So, if I can drop about 60 pounds, get the “look” that I want and get some sleep, I’ll consider that a victory and a good beginning for the decade. There is no reason I can’t accomplish those goals.

From a mental standpoint, there is a lot I want to do on many fronts. I want to learn. I want to put my mind to work more than I have in the past 15 years. That means exchanging girls for academics, on whatever level of academics I happen to land. I enjoyed scratching the surface on my scientific learning in 2019 and certainly hope to continue that, just on an expanded basis.

Other subjects I would like to study more in-depth include the American Civil War, of which I have been a knowledge sponge for decades. I love American history but haven’t done enough about it. I have a lot of information at my disposal and intend on packing my brain with that info.

Also on the mental side of things, I want to put more time into my MLB The Show franchise on the PlayStation 4. This has been a desire of mine dating back to the mid-1990s, when I was playing Ken Griffey, Jr.’s Winning Run on the Super Nintendo. I want to play the part of general manager and build the White Sox like I was running the team. I have been through a number of video games in an attempt to do this, including every MLB offering from Sony since MLB 98 over 20 years ago. If I fail in this endeavor again, I have a secondary option I would like to give a try to again.

Back in the 1990s, I enjoyed playing NCAA Football games and “creating” myself at UCLA, playing my career there, and then getting drafted into the NFL. The earliest version of this started in 1995, my senior year in high school. I haven’t given it a real try since 2001, but if MLB The Show fails, 2020 may be the time to do it, 25 years after the original run. I have to use outdated games (NCAA Football 14 is the newest to be released due to licensing issues, but it will have to do).

More importantly, from a standpoint of my mental health, is to nurture my friendships with the people who actually care about me and to eliminate the toxic people from my life. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I have a really bad habit of being involved with toxic people. And this is not a new phenomenon, this has followed me for most of my life, for at least 30 years now. I need to stop dealing with people who either don’t have my best interests at heart or who only want me around for what I can do for them, or who just get a kick out of seeing me miserable.

Most importantly, it’s beyond time for me to accept defeat and put an end to my lifelong pointless attempt to meet a woman and fall in love. This exercise in futility was put to bed in 1996 but for some reason in 2005 I decided to try again and from 2005 through 2019 I have experienced one failure after another, in the worst-case scenarios I could have lost my life and in the best-case scenarios I suffered daily anxiety, and there is no way that’s the desired result in a relationship. The fact is, I’ve always known I was better off alone and now I am all in on that theory.

This is not a “you’ll meet the right woman someday” kind of thing, I have put that idea away a long time ago. I live in a low-population area and I’m not doing long distance, so I have exhausted all local options and am going to make a point of avoiding anything that may introduce anyone new into the equation. The only way I would even consider entering the dating pool again is if I move out of this God-forsaken area and have an entirely new demographic to work through.

Even then, I’ll be a bit standoffish, but I would definitely be a lot more open to “fate.”

Emotionally, a lot of these changes will help me eliminate the stress and anxiety I feel most days that I just try to suppress. The problem is, suppressing stress and anxiety is what got me into the physical wreck I am today. From 2010 to 2017 I put on almost 100 pounds, lost a lot of hair, suffered from stomach ulcers, lack of sleep, twitching eyes, a wrecked immune system and migraine headaches. As I eliminated the stress and anxiety, a lot of these things began to clear up. If I can eliminate all of them, I can begin to rebuild the wreckage that was once my body.

I have also been trying to “clean up my act” a bit on social networking. I am in the midst of a 30-day suspension on Facebook that could lead to a lifetime ban from what I have read and having my account permanently closed, due to memes I have posted that were considered “offensive.” This is borderline hilarious, due to the fact that one of the times I was sent to Facebook jail I reposted a meme I had posted one year previously and nothing was said about it. In fact, I have spent five hitches in Facebook jail in my life and all five were in 2019. In the previous 12 years, I had never been in Facebook jail. Once, I was accused of “posting spam,” which was actually White Sox news stories. I fought the law and I won, as my stories were returned to my wall and no action was taken. I can say 2019 was the worst year I ever spent on Facebook and I hope that will improve going forward, assuming I have a Facebook account to go back to in two weeks time.

I have cleaned up all the sexual posts, bad language posts and the kinds of things that make one look less intelligent or socially unacceptable. I also plan to ravage my friends list and remove people that shouldn’t be there, and I will be very discriminating going forward in terms of who is allowed into my circle. There will be a solid vetting process with who gets into my life.

So, if I can work myself back into shape, get the look I want, eliminate the stress and negativity and toxicity from my life, start learning again, accomplish what I want on MLB The Show (preferably) or NCAA Football, successfully end my dating life and make my social networking pages a reflection of the guy I actually am rather than the off-color comedian I had always wanted to be, I will consider 2020 to be a success. And I think if I accomplish even 10% of my goals, 2020 will be a major improvement over 2019 and a massive improvement over the rest of the 2010s.

I’m staking a claim on the 2020s as “my decade,” the one where I bring out the best in myself and allow God to put me where I should be rather than fighting tooth and nail to make bad decisions and put myself into problem areas that I should never have been involved with in the first place. I have the tools and the ability to make the best of this decade and I’ll do everything I can to accomplish that goal. I want to forget the 2010s ever happened and look strictly forward.

There is no reason I can’t be living my best life in 2020 and every year after that. Its just a matter of actually applying myself to the task at hand and doing it. There is nothing holding me back. If I were to fail, I have no one to blame but myself. But I’m going to do all I can to succeed.

Thank you for taking the time to read. Peace.

Simulating My Life: Sports Video Games, 1995-2019

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As age begins to get the better of me, I spend more and more time reminiscing about days gone by, and a couple of days ago this lead me to thinking about video games; specifically sports game simulations and the whole “create yourself” concept.

This is the idea of creating “yourself” within the game and playing CF for the New York Yankees or center for the Los Angeles Lakers or quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. That’s YOUR name up there. Your height, weight, hair color, etc.

My first experience with this came in the form of Baseball Stars, a game for the Nintendo Entertainment System, released in 1989, Baseball Stars allowed you to create an entire team by name, including your franchise itself. A favorite among my friends for many years and still in my NES collection to this day. It was a simplified game in terms of the actual gameplay; the ability to create players and teams made it stand out.

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By 1995, a second version of the game had been released and the concept of player creation was removed. By that point, a large number of licensed sports games were hitting the market and the niche was “real players” and/or “real teams.” NBA Live had both. Madden NFL had real teams, but players were identified by jersey number only. RBI Baseball had real players, but the teams were identified only by their home city.

Tecmo Super Bowl was the exception, featuring real teams and real players. The idea that you could sit down and play an actual video game that featured real NFL teams and the actual players, by name, that played on those teams, was amazing.

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But that didn’t quite cut it. My friend Joe and I craved the concept of having OURSELVES in the game. Wearing the jersey number we wanted. But this was not yet feasible. So, I took it upon myself to create my own universe, using an old NES game called John Elway’s Quarterback, and Tecmo Super Bowl. And it went something like this:

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John Elway’s Quarterback was an arcade-style game that featured no real players and no real teams, which made it perfect for the simulation I wanted to run. I used it as a college football game before such a thing really existed. I would play a schedule I made up on my own, using the “Los Angeles” franchise as UCLA, and since the game did not feature any type of post-game statistics, I would sit with a binder in my lap and a pencil, and when “I” completed a pass in the game, I would see how many yards that completion covered and write it in my binder. At the end of the game I would count up my completions and yards and know how I had performed in that game. I did this for four simulated seasons, and then moved on to play Tecmo Super Bowl as a draft pick of the Cleveland Browns.

In addition to being my favorite NFL team, Tecmo had apparently been unable to obtain the rights to Browns’ quarterback Bernie Kosar from the NFLPA, so he is simply named “QB Browns” in the game. This offered me the opportunity to select my own number (I wore number 9 in my simulation) with the Browns. I played seven seasons with the Browns, winning three Super Bowls, before leaving as a free agent to return to California, signing a deal with the (at the time) Los Angeles Raiders. I played one more season with the Raiders before I started to get bored with the whole concept of the game.

Fast forward a couple of years and I started anew, with a new console and new games that upped the ante considerably: College Football USA 97 and Madden NFL 97 on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. This was a step up in every way.

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While College Football USA 97 did not include the option to create a player (which it did on the Sega Genesis version of the game but I didn’t get it until many years later) it did include ALL NCAA Division I football teams. And Madden NFL 97 did have the option to create a player, so I basically did the same simulation over again, four years of games with the UCLA Bruins followed by creating myself with the Pittsburgh Steelers, as I didn’t have the option to play for the Browns in 1997 as the franchise didn’t exist in that form.

I never actually played a game with the Steelers, as I ended up ending my run in order to start playing Ken Griffey Junior’s Winning Run on the Super NES instead.

By the time I came around again, things had changed exponentially. I had bought a Sony PlayStation and bought every sports game available from 989 Sports, Sony’s proprietary division that produced college and professional sports games.

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NCAA GameBreaker 2000 and NFL GameDay 2000 were truly amazing. I could create myself, by name, height, weight, hair color, facial features, hometown and a number of other settings. Not only that, but I could download myself onto a memory card from NCAA GameBreaker and then upload myself onto NFL GameDay for the NFL Draft. And it was here that I found my most lasting success, fleeting as even it may have been.

Four seasons at UCLA, playing both football and basketball for the Bruins. I was then drafted into the NFL by the Carolina Panthers, a franchise I was never a huge fan of but decided to run with it; I even went out and bought a Carolina Panthers Starter parka, back when that was a thing. It was to be short-lived, however, as my created self suffered a knee injury in week two of my second season with the Panthers and I was on the retired list at the end of the season. That $100 jacket may have been a mistake in hindsight.

My next run at this simulation was in 2013, with the release of NCAA Football 14 from EA Sports along with Madden NFL 25, the 25th anniversary edition of the game, for the PlayStation 3. I wanted a true full-on experience, so in addition to UCLA football I also bought a copy of NCAA Basketball 10, which was the final release of that franchise, as well as a copy of MVP NCAA Baseball 07 for the PlayStation 2, the second and final release featuring college baseball. But, I learned that unhappy, time-consuming relationships don’t mix well with time-consuming video game simulations, so I never so much as got started. I boxed up my games figuring I would try again in the future.

No such luck, as NCAA Football 14 was the final college football game ever released, still to this day. So I keep them, hoping maybe someday I’ll take one final run…

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Which brings me to today and my latest simulation attempt, completely off track from previous attempts. This attempt has begun with me simulating a self-simulation. I created myself on MLB 2005 for the PlayStation 2 and then simulated my career, playing 14 seasons with the Oakland A’s, Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago White Sox. I manipulated this a bit, as I had been a big Oakland A’s fan in the 1980s and began following the White Sox in 1991. I kept my statistics and outlined my career running from 1982 to 1995, those years beautifully encompassing my public school years, from my entrance into kindergarten in 1982 to my graduation from high school in 1995. From here, I will simulate myself as the general manager of the White Sox, on MLB The Show 19.

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While the game will drop this Tuesday, I will not be doing anything with it until the Operation Sports Full Minors rosters are released in the roster vault at some point this spring. At that point, I’ll start playing, making the roster moves as I would as GM. I hope to continue this through the end of the season and when the 2020 version of the game is released, just transfer my up-to-date saves to the new version on a yearly basis.

I wish I had started this three years ago when year-to-year saves became feasible.

While the desire still burns within me to go back to the NCAA Football 14/NCAA Basketball 10/MVP NCAA Baseball 07 games and head back to UCLA, I see that as more of a future option. I am so completely invested in baseball at this point its going to take something major to push me back to other things. Like a potential 2021 MLB strike.

Basically, that’s what I’m holding out to see. If there is, in fact, a work stoppage, I’m boxing up everything I own of a White Sox persuasion and replacing it with everything UCLA I can get my hands on. I won’t lie, there’s a part of me kind of hoping for a work stoppage just for that reason. But we’ll see how I feel when 2021 rolls around.

That’s my life’s experience with sports video game simulations. I’ve loved it every step of the way, and I hope I can make the adjustments to make this new round as satisfactory as previous years. In the early days of this exercise, Joe and I would go so far as to keep our own newspaper headlines and storylines, which certainly added a major creative outlet to the whole experience. I am so ready to do that again. It’s time.

Thank you for reading, and God bless.