Tag Archives: games

Here’s to a hot and heavy Sweet Sixteen

Emotions and personality traits I haven’t experienced since hitting puberty and beginning to date resurfaced awkwardly this month as March Madness hit full stride. Bittersweet nostalgia once again made an appearance, as did sweaty palms and pointless insecurities about my bracket. Cheeks flush with excitement, I picked my winning teams for the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship, hiding behind false confidences and smug smiles and thinking I knew better than any sportscasters’ predictions. After all, what did they know? Certainly not how to match a tie to a button-up shirt and suit jacket.

Really, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy should have never been canceled.

What made you think this suit was a good idea, Craig Sager? What?

My college picks were flawless for awhile, albeit superficially. I went into the first day of the tournament with only two losses. Those sportscasters’ balls may have dropped years ago, but they still didn’t have the balls to pick Colorado for a win, I remember thinking snobbishly last week. As my number of wins increased, so did my intense need to win the Pizza Hut gift card my department would present to its bracket winner. I could already taste the free cheesy breadsticks. The only thing hindering this fantasy was the momentary thought that my metabolism isn’t what it used to be. But, thankfully, neither is my body image.

Those who loyally follow the tournament or have filled out a bracket fully understand the instantaneous angst that presides over their lives for the following four weeks. With a little help from fate, luck, prayer and good-ole statistics, hand-in-hand with silly jinxes, bubble-lettered posters and face paint, the world only slowly starts its spin again on the off-days when teams hit the road, driving ever closer to an adamant and surely tumultuous victory.

I was delightfully ignorant going into this year’s March Madness festivities. Little did I know my courtship with these teams would be as fleeting as a schoolgirl’s first crush. In many cases, the single-elimination tournament has already broken my heart coldly and impersonally, and I have no doubt it will continue to do so next year, and the year after that. We never quite learn, do we?

It's not you, Jays, it's me. Maybe...maybe this tournament will all work out again someday for us...when we're older.

Creighton was my team of choice, although I knew odds weren’t good that they’d make it too far into the tournament and that my adoration would soon turn to another. One of the underdogs from the Missouri Valley Conference here in Nebraska, they were invited to the Big Dance for the first time since 2007. It was official. (SQUEAL!!) One of the most watched and prominent sporting events of the year, it’s an honor to be asked to the tournament and in this case, it was not so unlike the quarterback of the football team asking the girl with braces and unruly hair to prom. More smack talk. Less hair product.

Sadly, with so many eligible and skillful teams, Creighton soon found themselves out of the running. With accusations of breaking UNC point guard Kendall Marshall’s wrist, it certainly didn’t help that Creighton Forward Ethan Wragge was light-years away from winning any popularity contests.

Like many of you who are active participants in brackets, tournament watchers or simply basketball lovers, I’ve already run the gamut of adolescent feelings over the games. Cliquey of my favorite teams. Irritable upon watching Missouri, whom I had picked to be a top two contender (don’t judge!), lose to a team that was predicted to trail by 15 points. Clingy and stubbornly tied to Creighton, even though I knew they were bad news for me, and more so – my bracket. I’m sure my friends and family all disapproved of that pick.

If there’s one behavioral trait I AM proud of regarding my reaction to all the madness, it is that I have never, ever overreacted to a win or loss, and why? Because I am a mature adult. Those tears you may have seen in my eyes as Creighton lost? Allergies. The pollen count is outta sight this spring. That obnoxious screaming coming from my downstairs apartment? My first spider spotting.

The tears, fist pumps, passion, teamwork and dedication of every single player I’ve watched thus far in the tournament, however, have been very real. Truly fascinating and awe-inspiring to watch. Heartbreak in seeing seniors proudly leading the last play of the game – and their college careers. Delight in witnessing an underdog win a game in which no one considered them a contender. Courage in daring to take the ball down a lane covered in guys 20 pounds heavier. Creighton Center Gregory Echenique going for that rim-

Balls, my friends. Mad balls.

crushing final dunk to show a number one seed he’s not threatened? Or, just Echenique wearing pink shoes day after day for that matter? Ballsy.

Only second to the raw emotions that have surfaced so far during this wonderful month are the heart attacks that we as viewers have. Fueling the fire of insanity are those heart-stopping passes through a sea of opponents, that heart-pounding free throw to tie the game, and the heart-dropping ninth of a second that crushes everyone’s hopes as a last-ditch lob at the basket falls short at the impatient drone of the buzzer. In those moments, thousands of fans unknowingly hold their breath and await glory or monumental loss because come April, there can only be one victor.

Then, it’s time to exit the stadiums, shut off the televisions and rejoin the real world, making money like an adult – gambling your kids’ college funds away at the casino.

On a side note, anyone want to go in with me on some cheesy breadsticks?

True to word, Zombie Farm full of zombies, farming

Those of you with smart phones undoubtedly have been playing uploaded games on your phones for years. Unfortunately, I’m the type of person who holds onto my incredibly outdated devices for as long as possible because I don’t like change stubbornly refuse to buy new technology when the old works just fine.

I was made to use words such as "poppycock," "darn tootin'," and "yahoos."

Either way, I am officially 90.

This is why I never owned a newfangled Razr in 2004 and why until just a few months ago, I was carrying around an ancient Blackberry of the likes of which batteries for my particular make and model were no longer sold.  

If I had known about the luxuries of phone apps such as Epicurious, Yelp and ScoreCenter, I probably would have converted faster. It didn’t help that I was held captive for years under the monopolistic, ironfisted rule of Alltel. (I still feel semi-bad about starting rumors on Twitter about Alltel causing cancer, running over puppies for fun and influencing kids to drop out of school to become back-up dancers.)

There came a day when my Blackberry’s battery life ran out alongside my luck. When it did, Verizon was there to pick up the pieces, placing into my hands a shiny new iPhone 4 that required accessories designed to make me look affluent and not at all like I just spent that month’s rent on various rectangular pieces of protective plastic. I quickly became reacquainted with SpaghettiOs, one-ply toilet paper and the need for anger management when the 4S came out the week later.

…life.

The casual love affair I had with the phone’s endless assortment of apps turned into an incessant need faster than a freshman in high school tries her first wine cooler. As the games I had initially downloaded lost their luster, I looked for something new to fill the void. Then, after an hour of [impatiently] sitting in my doctor’s waiting room, I stumbled across it:

Zombie Farm.

It was a neglectful escape at first. I didn’t know how to play the game, didn’t bother to read the rules – didn’t care. Zombies and vegetal crops that had been planted to be harvested during very specific timeframes withered more than once under my negligent eye. I didn’t shed a tear. I didn’t bat that eye.

In fact, for that first week I confused the zombies with gnomes. Some had pointy hats.

Zombie Farm destroys lives and yes, where can I purchase that blue lagoon again?

I eagerly showed the game to Clayton the night of its discovery, and it became commonplace to play together, talking about our strategies over lunch dates and texts:

Clayton: “Do you think I should buy some decorative barrels for the farm?”
Me: “And spend 1,000 pieces of gold on a round piece of wood? It takes days to harvest those onions, Clayton! DAYS!! Well, one day.”
Clayton: “Maybe we should work on mutating our zombies to higher powers under this section called “Upgrades.” (He had read the instructions and FAQs through and through. Engineers.)
Me: “That mutated zombie with an onion head is freaking me out, Clayton. Right out.”

Last Sunday, I sent the zombies (who had computer-derived, 90s-inspired names such as Betsy, George and Ned – awesome) into battle to feed and collect loot for the first time. As they gnawed hungrily at 10 red-headed farmhands, I couldn’t help but wonder why everyone seemed to have it in for gingers. It was also then that I felt my first twinge of emotional attachment:

What if my first harvested zombie, George, doesn’t make it through the fight? Why didn’t I give them the proper sendoff, complete with a motivational speech about courage and victory? What is this I feel? Remorse? I think I’m going to throw up…

My nervousness for the safety of each zombie increased with each invasion.

However, as our troops gained invasion experience, they collected not only wins, but brains to curb their hunger and give them strength. After our little minions had been sufficiently fed, they roamed the farm with thought bubbles lingering over their heads filled with images of rainbows, smiley faces, daisies, lollipops and for the extra brain-dead – ellipses.

AWWWW. You can see why I love the little buggers.

We began to invest more time in decking out our farm, racking up experience points and diminishing whatever cool points we had acquired over, you know, actually living life. Trees that increased the lifespan of our little brain munchers, colorful banners, mailboxes, seashells and daisies soon overran the boundaries of our farm, which OMG, I just realized I shamelessly call “our.”

(And society wonders why no one is getting married anymore. Welcome to cyberspace. It’s motto should be “It’s legitimate enough.”

I knew my investment in the game had gotten bad when I started setting an alarm on my phone so I’d know when it was time to harvest.

I'll get to that TPS report immediately. Just as soon as I plow these last few acres of land.

I knew it had gotten worse when I started to nervously glance at my phone again and again in alarm when a co-worker stopped into my cube to talk just as it was time to sell some carrots.

I knew it had gotten to the point of no return when Clayton and I started having conversations fitting of a tired, cranky couple with 14 too many cyber kids. Because he’s been out of town for work the last few days, I was filling him in on how the farming was coming along, and which zombies were new (“Edna did the cutest thing the other day. I clicked on her as she was roaming through the garden – she loves the new shamrocks I just planted, btw – and she musta been hungry because she said, ‘Brains!’ It was adorable!”)

I also had to admit to accidentally killing our entire first fleet of zombies (RIP, George…) to a vampire farm that first day playing without him. The weight of decisions made without him was becoming unbearable, and when he casually asked yesterday how the farm was doing, I found myself texting half-jokingly, “You would know if you ever spent any quality time with the family!”

Of course by family, I meant Billy, Zip and all the others who had soullessly chewed their way into our hearts. He texted back, “Awww, I miss them” and with that, I collapsed in defeated exhaustion.

When I woke up this morning, I realized I don’t even expect to find Zombie Farm under the folder marked “Games” on my iPhone anymore. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet created a folder for “Obligations.”

I am so stressed, but anyway, I better go check on my turnips.

From hearing cricket(s)…to playing it!

Growing up, I attended a host of Catholic schools and was subliminally taught that conformity results in a well-rounded education, an unwavering relationship with God, and overall, an obedient, reverent and respectful young adult.

Just writing that first sentence made me completely lose my train of thought as to how this all relates to dart league, and not just because I was busy temporarily dry heaving at the memory. I will never be able to look at a crisply ironed Oxford shirt and khaki pants/shorts the same way.

Seriously. Where was I?

Oh yeah. Afterschool activities. Those organizations we were required to participate in to enhance our accomplishments and special talents in order to get into a solid university. Also cleverly designed to keep kids from coming

"Where's Sarah?" "Volleyball practice. Then she's got piano lessons." "Date night?!" "I'll grab my purse!" -parents everywhere

home until after dark, much to delight of every harried parent.  

Namely sports.

The most popular kids at my local high school took to the field with soccer and football, hitting the gym every winter for volleyball and basketball.

I was in softball and track. Where they had a captive audience of adoring parents, coaches, teachers and screaming groupies, I had 5 a.m. weekend workouts and shin splints. It seemed like a fair trade for not selling out my virtue and precious time spent watching TGIF on Friday nights (OMG, TOPANGA!) for drinking at the canal and attending unsupervised parties. At least that’s what I kept telling myself. Thanks for destroying my life, Melissa Joan Hart.

I was also part of the National Honor Society, FBLA, Teens for Life, Yearbook and Art Club, and may be subconsciously withholding a few more clubs from my memory ’cause hey – no need to get it all out there in one blog post, right?

(Those of you thinking, She sounds like the type of person who had lots of hamsters as a teenager, I smugly regret to inform you that you’re wrong! Dead wrong! It was a guinea pig. Cinnamon was one long-haired, vitamin C-deprived cutie who loved Tang. Gosh, she loved her Tang.)

Back to modern day.

Last summer, it came to my attention I urgently needed to join some sort of after work activity as a last ditch effort to save my social life, which was at the time notorious for catching a z or two. After coed softball concluded in the fall, dart league was the next natural choice – it was a win-win encompassing all the nostalgia and fellowship of organized sports with none of the orthodoxy. Plus, you can swear without being reprimanded and forced to run a lap, which I could really hop on board with.

Still, where others were playing intramural “Power” volleyball (as opposed to “Play,” featuring the league’s more relaxed teams whom I’m guessing can’t as easily spike, I mean, strike fear into the hearts of their opponents) at my old high school, those of us in dart league veered toward the wilder, darker side of life. A side that never includes enough of the Real McCoy’s “Another Night.”

It didn’t hurt that we got free T-shirts featuring an image of a fishbowl and fishing poles with the caption, “Fishin’ in the dark.” If that wasn’t ironic foreshadowing for our first-year dart team to play against teams of  5+ years, I don’t know what is. The added irony is that we’re still wearing a uniform.

My team of four travels from bar to bar throughout town every Monday night, throwing against various players who – from the chained wallets and bearded, to the middle-aged married men with two kids who have this night, alone, to leave the house for a few hours, to the overly-enthusiastic, husky women who dance and sing a bit too freely to all of today’s top hits – are always simply aspiring to have a good time.

Perks of dart league: we get one gratuitous beverage per week! Two if you get a hat trick, which means throwing three bulls eyes in a row. I just found this tidbit of info out last Monday. If I had known before, I probably would have been trying harder, what with the tough economy and tight budget and all.

…Yup. That’s why I wasn’t throwing hat tricks before.

The real trick is to not suck.

Anyway, joining the league last October was a breath of fresh air, and not just because the bars in my town are finally smoke-free. No, rather, it was because I finally had something to look forward to on those Mondays when getting out of bed to start yet another week of writing the corporate news, revising formalcommunication plans and hearing the word “robust” thrown out, well, robustly, seemed unbearable.

The league lasts until April and I only hope my attention span makes it through the winter with the same gritty determination. Looking back over the last few months, I made the connection that each of my favorite memories of the league thus far have one common theme: free. How’s that for budgeting while enjoying myself and participating in a healthy dose of social activity? To throw (heh) a few out here, some of my favorite memories include:

1. Showing up in matching T-shirts and equally cheesy positivity to a dank dive bar brimming with scowling bikers, eternal alcoholics and other seedy characters. Interrupting a long sequence of scream-o music with Brittney Spears. Dancing freely in seated position without making direct eye contact with bar patrons for remainder of the night.

2. Christy and I utterly schooling two guys, who clearly knew about the hat trick (AKA free drink) rule, in less than five minutes flat. Ah, the power of a Catholic education. Cue angels singing as the clouds part.

3. Christy and I immediately losing to aforementioned team in a  rematch due to the insistent 40-something male intent on holding a grudge from getting a free education. (The damage to his ego, however, was apparently costly.)

It's like a BLT, but with less lettuce and more death wish!

4. Taking home free-for-all produce laying out at yet another sketchy bar and making the most delicious BETs (bacon, egg and tomato). Thank you, naïve trust established from 26 years living in a rural community.

5. Freeing our minds by making poor life decisions and closing down the bar each week:

Clayton: “Just one more drink?”
Me: “One more.  I have an important meeting tomorrow morning.”  
Clayton: “Me too. So one more and then we’re going home.”
Me: “Yes. For sure.”
Clayton: “Deal.”
Me: “Definitely.”

High five in agreement.

Five hours later…

Me: “How is it 2 in the morning already?! Why? Why, dart league?!”
Clayton: “Wanna make egg sandwiches?”
Me: “Sure. Then we’ll play one game of Angry Birds.
Clayton: “Just one. Then bedtime.”
Me: “Right.”
Clayton: “Right.”
Me: “Yay!”