Saturday, February 4, 2012

Well it's Groundhog Day... Again.

And like clockwork, it’s that time of year to dust off that Billy Murray every-man classic. If you've never seen Groundhog Day, stop reading this immediately and go watch it. It’s a masterpiece, and I don’t mind saying: if you don’t like Groundhog Day, you have no soul.

Murray portrays a narcissistic, cynical, city weatherman who hates the winter almost as much as spending it in podunk towns like Punxsutawney, PA. A town where - incidentally - he becomes trapped by a blizzard while on assignment. But the worst part is, he wakes up tomorrow to find that it's not:

"I wake up every day, right here, right in Punxsutawney, and it's always February 2nd, and there's nothing I can do about it."

Murray is stuck, living the same day in his personal hell, over and over and over again.

I won’t divulge much more than that, but the sheer magic of this film is that it hits on an existential issue that everyone deals with:

"What would you do if you were stuck in one place... and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?"

Because like it or not, at some point in everyone's life they become stuck in the mud, spinning their tires. When every day is the same, and it seems that there's nothing one can do. And in the end, the answer is: that only when we use the moment to better ourselves and the lives of others can we ever become lovable and happy.

"It was the end of a very long day... Is there anything I can do for you today?"

According to the director, he has received letters from all sorts of spiritual groups - Jews, Yogists, Buddhists, Jesuits and Fundamentalists - all stating how much they love this movie. Yet my dad still maintains his dislike.

He must have no soul. Or at least hates Billy Murray. One of the two.

But that's enough of that. The fact remains it's a "seasonal cult-classic" that must be watched every year. Everyone has 'em. What are some of yours?





  • Die Hard (1988): John McClain and... Officer Winslow. The only Die Hard movie really worth watching.

Groundhog Day

  • Groundhog Day

St. Patrick’s Day



Thursday, November 24, 2011

Phil? Phil Connors, I thought that was you!

One of the best parts about working for ESPN is the opportunity to be in close proximity to the TV talent and on-air guests. It's a neat prospect to go to work knowing you just might see someone famous. Last Friday, the entire Kentucky basketball team came for the whole day and even held practice at the newly built court. Recognizing John Calipari out of the corner of my eye, I managed a "Hey Coach, how are ya?" while standing in the lunch line.

That being said, it's generally the unwritten rule not to assume much more than that sort of conversaion with most. And really, nobody wants to be *that guy* - the "Ned Ryerson" from Groundhog day, pestering Bill Murray's character each and every morning. A cordial "Hi, How are you?" exchange suffices, and if nothing else comes, move on.

Still, every now and again you get the opportunity to connect with some of the guys. On a couple occasions, I've gotten the chance for small talk with on-air talent like Scott Van Pelt and Kordell Stewart. And once after a session of question and answers, I had the pleasure of meeting the owner of the Saints, Rita Leblanc. She even passed around her Super Bowl ring for all to see and hold.

So this Thanksgiving, I'm first and foremost thankful for my family and great friends, and also for the opportunity work at a place like ESPN, and to be on a team of good, professional and fun people. Happy Thanksgiving, and Go Packers!

Famous People I've Seen So Far...

Chris Berman, ESPN Anchor

Chris Carter, NFL Wide Receiver and Analyist

Kordell Stewart, NFL Quarterback, NFL Analyist

Colin Cowherd, SportsNation Host

Jay Harris, ESPN Anchor

Michael Wilbon, Pardon the Interruption Host

Michelle Beadle, SportsNation Host

Mike Golic, Mike and Mike in the Morning Host

Mike Greeney, Mike and Mike in the Morning Host

Scott Van Pelt, SportsCenter Anchor

Adrian Peterson, NFL Running Back

Greg Jennings, NFL Wide Receiver

Jason Terry, NBA Guard

Joe Mauer, MLB Catcher

Scotty Pippen, NBA Forward

Erin Andrews, Sideline Reporter

Chris Mckendry, SportsCenter Anchor

Trent Dilfer, NFL Quarterback, Analyist

Michael Vick, NFL Quarterback

Peyton Hillis, NFL Running Back

Eric Mangini, NFL Coach and Analyist

John Gruden, NFL Coach and Analyist

Geno Auriemma, UCONN Women's Coach

Stephan A. Smith, Writer and Analyist

AJ Adande, Writer and Analyist

Mark Schlerith, NFL Lineman and Analyist

Jerry Rice, NFL Wide Receiver and Analyist

John Calipari, NCAA Basketball Coach

Saturday, October 1, 2011

RE: Reply All

This past Friday some unfortunate employee accidentally sent an e-mail to the wrong distribution list. Not all that uncommon really, except that this particular list was comprised of 800 employees, including the television talent.

Even then the damage should have been minimal. Until the reply-all's began.

"Why am I on this list?", "Please remove me from this thread" the wildfire began, the senders either too hasty or ignorant to realize that every response would only exacerbate the situation and be forwarded to hundreds of other employees. How they didn't realize this is beyond me, but it was totally awesome.

We spent the next half-hour watching the responses roll in. Some ballsy employees even began to chime in: "GO BILLS!", "So who does everybody like in Rays-Rangers tonight?". I can now honestly say in one day I received e-mails from Jay Harris, Scott Van Pelt and Michelle Beadle. But how was your Friday?

Alas, all good things must end. John Skipper laid the hammer down with a thunderous cease and desist e-mail. Six replies later, that was that.

My favorite of the afternoon? "What a great way to close out the week! I love EMAIL."

Thursday, September 8, 2011

September 8th, 2008

In my scant 29 years, I’ve found that there are really only a handful of days that stick with you for the rest of your life. On as similar a Monday as 9/11, September 8th 2008 began ordinarily enough: I made my morning commute from Annandale to Nokesville, grabbed some coffee and retired to my desk. Aaron Rodgers was making his pro-football debut that night, and all I wanted in the world was to get home and watch the Packers clobber the Vikings. The only indication that today might be memorable was when my boss and coworker, Peter and Pablo, took me outside to commemorate the Blessed Mother's birthday. They left flowers in front of her statue, while I (maybe slightly embarrassedly) sang along to "Happy Birthday," then turned back inside to work.

A couple hours later, Peter came through the door again, but this time with a more grave countenance: Tom and his son Joseph "Josie" Vander Woude had fallen into a sewer, and Tom had died. Details were sketchy but he thought I should know, since my sister Katy is married to Chris, another of Tom's sons. Deciding that Katy should hear from the family first and since I did not know all the details, I sat back down and just waited.

I had known the Vander Woude’s since attending World Youth Day in Denver with them in 1993. In addition to being a family friend, Tom had been my high school basketball coach, my college athletic director and the head of the career development office when I graduated. He had been present throughout my young adult life, quietly strong, positive and supportive to everyone he worked with and influential in more ways than I could hope to write down here.

Not long after I'd heard the news, Facebook began to explode with status updates and instant messages. People were looking for news, details - anything. In particular I remember relaying what I had finally pieced together to my friend, Ben: Josie (who has down-syndrome) had been standing on an old septic tank lid when it gave way. Unable to pull him out, Tom had pushed himself into the muck underneath and held Josie up for air until help could arrive. Josie survived. Tom drowned. Ben replied: "That's the most heroic thing I've ever heard." And so it is.

There are infinitely more details regarding that day and those that followed than I could hope to relate here. More tributes than I could hope to chronicle about the influence that Tom had on my life or the thousands that packed Holy Trinity for his funeral. But a few days later I pulled into my driveway to the nasally voice of Mark Levin reading the Washington Post over AM radio: "'Tom had been a pilot in Vietnam... he worked as a commercial airline pilot... Farmer, athletic director, volunteer coach, parishioner, handy neighbor, grandfather of 24, husband of 43 years... his eldest son became a priest. Five others all married.' No one told me to read you this story. But I saw it and could not let it pass by. Because every American man needs to know this story. Because this is a man that every man should try to be." And so they should.

Rest in peace, Mr. Vander Woude.

Monday, August 22, 2011

... And We're Back

I know it's been a while since my last post. Don't really have an excuse for not writing, work was busy for a bit but has slowed down considerably since. So what's new? Well, I survived the Tough Mudder (you can view some photos here. Signed up for the Dublin Marathon in November (because I suffer from chronic masochism apparently). Released a new video player for the site with the rest of the ESPN video team and Ooyala. Hung out in Atlantic City with some friends. And pretty much have just been taking as much advantage as possible of the nice August weather in New England right now. Now that things are saner at work, I'll be more likely to post regularly here. So hopefully, you'll be hearing from me again soon. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

One Month to Tough Mudder

The New England Tough Mudder is fast approaching. A ten mile obstacle course with a 70% finish rate that brings grown men to tears (no pictures, please). To this day, I don’t know why I sign up for these things. Much less pay to sign a death waver. But the team-building, camaraderie and confidence from training with our team of guys from ESPN has been awesome. It’s a great group of five from random departments, and the accountability really helps one get up at 5AM to pull tractor tires (or whatever other crazy concoction Dave has rolling around in that noggin of his). Quite frankly, it’s the most intense training regimen I’ve ever been a part of. Kinda like Rocky IV. Well, maybe not so much. But I liken it to church sometimes: I don’t always want to go, but I know I need it. And once you get on a roll, it’s a great way to start the work day.

This week some of the Digital Media team (including yours truly) got to attend an on-campus jQuery seminar by Ben Alman (a man so time-wizened, his twitter name is @Cowboy). Boys and girls, that’s like getting the domain name, or e-mail account Sort of. But you get the point: he’s been in the business a long time. And it was a good and productive three days. Definitely fortunate to have a job that sets these kind of things up.

But other than that, it’s a gorgeous Saturday on the east end of West Hartford. Back in the day, Saturday’s in the Hardro house meant early morning cartoons, chores, and McDonalds lunch. But mostly chores. While blaring Christian radio, of course. And maybe it did mean certain tacky radio shows like Psalty (a grown man dressed as a blue bible? Really??). But it also meant awesome nineties music, like Another Bad Creation or Matthew Wilder. Is it wrong to have fonder memories of the latter? Anyways, what it means for now is cleaning the heck out of my apartment so that I can get out and enjoy some of this awesome weather.

On a separate note, many thanks for all the birthday wishes this past week. It was great to hear from you all, especially you guys from home. Got a surprise video from the cutest niece and nephew ever, which totally made my day. No offense Mikey, I meant cutest niece and nephew combo.

Ciao ciao for now!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

March has Come and Gone

...but the Madness continues! UK/UCONN tips in a few, but I'm hiding out in my apartment for fear of getting mauled by the Huskies faithful. In all seriousness, I'm in the mood to stay in, so I'll be rooting for the 'Cats from home tonight. And just plan on making the trek to Damon's Tavern on Monday (knock on wood)! But what a tournament it's been! Certainly one of the better that I can recall. That first weekend is always a cool time, but especially while working at Eh-Spin. Each employee has an HD TV at their desk, with access to channels from sports to Seinfeld (at least I think so... one of the higher ups always seems to have it on). Every first Thursday, the Digital Media crew puts together a pot-luck luncheon and watches the first round action from noon till night. It's a funny workplace experience, overhearing the "Oo's", "Ah's," "What game you watching?" and laments of despair over newly busted brackets. But such is the tourney, GO BIG BLUE!