God works in mysterious ways!

They say the Lord works in mysterious ways. Perhaps there’s no better example of that saying than the January 2010 reconciliation on WWE Monday Night Raw between longtime bitter rivals Bret “Hit Man” Hart and “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels, following 12-plus years of not communicating with one another.

Michaels became a born-again Christian in 2002, shortly before he came back to competing in WWE after a four-year absence. If you followed Shawn’s antics as part of D-Generation X in 1997-98, or if you followed his backstage antics via the Internet, you would have concluded that Michaels would be the last WWE Superstar to find God, unless “Stone Cold” Steve Austin were to start preaching John 3:16 instead of Austin 3:16.

Earlier this year, Shawn released a book, Wrestling For My Life, which details his faith journey. When he first left WWE following WrestleMania XIV in March 1998, by his own admission, he was angry at the world. He became addicted to pills and painkillers to mask the constant pain that he was experiencing. He married his current wife, Rebecca, in 1999, and they couple gave birth to a son, Cameron, in January 2000. However, that didn’t stop Shawn from continuing to take his pills and having a generally miserable outlook on life. As best as I can recall, his son had just turned two years old, and began to notice his dad constantly drugged out. Shawn eventually began to see the error of his ways, and through the prayerful intervention of his wife, sought out a Bible study in his hometown of San Antonio. The Bible study leader led Shawn in the Sinner’s Prayer, and Shawn wrote that he wept like a baby and became a new man. Even though he still goes through the same human ups and downs that we all do, Shawn resolved to become a God-fearing man and a better husband and father, and, in my opinion, has followed through on that promise. Shawn and Rebecca had a second child, daughter Cheyenne, in 2004.

Meanwhile, following the Montreal Screwjob at the 1997 WWE Survivor Series, Bret Hart left WWE for WCW, and to the surprise of absolutely no one who followed the business, was grossly misused. He eventually had to retire from active competition in 2000, after suffering a concussion resulting from an errant kick from Bill Goldberg at WCW Starrcade 1999. Moreover, his personal life went to hell in a handbasket in the years following the Montreal Screwjob. Hart admitted in his 2007 autobiography that he had a lot of extramarital affairs and was not the most faithful husband to his then-wife, Julie. That led to the couple’s eventual divorce, and I think Bret at least has to take some responsibility for that happening. However, there were plenty of awful things that happened in Bret’s life during that time period that weren’t his fault: the deaths of his brother Owen and his brother-in-law “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith, the deaths of his parents, Stu and Helen Hart, the deaths of several friends within the industry (Mr. Perfect and Rick Rude come to mind right off the bat), and to top things off, suffering a stroke, which took him a long time to recover from.

Ironically, the first person to call Bret in the hospital following his stroke was none other than WWE chairman Vince McMahon, the same man who Bret punched out following the Montreal Screwjob. Bret wrote in his book that he felt very emotional as a result of that call, and that led to him slowly but surely making peace with the WWE, including an excellent DVD career retrospective which was released in the latter part of 2005 (featuring several great matches which Bret himself selected for the DVD), and his rightful induction into the WWE Hall of Fame in April of 2006.

However, Bret wrote in his autobiography that he still held ill feelings toward Shawn. I’m sure that Bret thought Shawn’s conversion wasn’t for real. In fact, Bret wrote in his book that he would never forgive Shawn, or his best friend Triple H, for what they did to ruin the business.

Evidently, the good Lord had other ideas. Shawn wrote in his book that Bret began reaching out to him in the latter part of 2009, and the two began texting one another. Bret made his official return to the WWE on the Jan. 4, 2010 edition of RAW and confronted his old rival to begin the show. After the two addressed each other, Bret extended his hand to Shawn in friendship, and Shawn accepted. The two even hugged each other. It is easily the most surreal moment in WWE history: more surreal than former WCW boss Eric Bischoff becoming the storyline General Manager of WWE Raw in July 2002, and more surreal than former WCW icon Sting making his WWE debut at the 2014 WWE Survivor Series.

At the WWE’s annual showcase event, Wrestlemania 26 in 2010, Bret defeated the evil Mr. McMahon via the Sharpshooter in a no-holds-barred match (which was really a glorified squash match, but at least the right man won!). Meanwhile, Shawn lost a Streak vs. Career match to The Undertaker in the main event of that show. Shawn retired as a result of that match, and hasn’t wrestled since. I don’t think it’s an accident that they both had their Wrestlemania swan songs at the same event. Shawn took his rightful place in the WWE Hall of Fame in April 2011, and later that year, WWE released an excellent Greatest Rivalries DVD, featuring Bret and Shawn in a sit-down interview with WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross.

In his recent book, Shawn wrote that he and Bret are not best friends today, nor have they ever been best friends. However, they have a real and authentic friendship and still keep in touch to this day. Definitely a case of divine intervention! Very awesome stuff, if you ask me! If that makes me a old softie, then I guess I can live with that label.

Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels will always be linked together in the annals of WWE history. Thank goodness they are now real friends instead of bitter enemies.

My struggle with Asperger’s Syndrome

Hopefully, this post will not come across as self-pitying or anything of that nature. Instead, it is meant to enlighten and educate others (and myself), and to encourage you guys to be kind and compassionate toward others who may struggle with being shy or introverted, like myself. It is also meant to let you guys know, as honestly as I possibly can, what I struggle with on a daily basis. We all have our struggles and crosses to bear! Hopefully, I am conducting myself with dignity and class in the process.

As anyone who has known me for even a little bit can recognize, I am very introverted and shy, even on my best days. I am trying my best each day to overcome that stuff, but it’s not easy. Unfortunately, I was bullied on a daily basis in elementary school, and even in high school, because of my weight issues (which I struggle with to this day), as well as because I was so painfully shy. I wanted to fight back, but I didn’t know how to! I sat by myself in the cafeteria every day, I was always picked last in gym class, and I never had a single date in high school. Social life was quite difficult. The thing was, I went to Catholic elementary school (St. Matthew in Detroit) and Catholic high school (Notre Dame High School in Harper Woods)! My family lived in Detroit at the time (they moved to Clinton Township in 1992), and had they not sent me to Catholic school, the other option was to attend the Detroit Public Schools. That was not an option from my parents’ standpoint, and I am eternally grateful for their decision! I got a top-notch education and had the opportunity to graduate from Central Michigan University because I attended Catholic schools. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t wish my social life during those days on my worst enemy!

As I mentioned, I never went on a date in high school, and to this day, haven’t been on very many dates. I’m 44 years old and have never had a serious girlfriend. That feels like such a heavy weight to bear, even though none of my family or friends have passed judgement on me. My two younger sisters, Amy and Jenny, have both gotten married and now have families of their own. During their respective wedding days, I tried as best as I could to be the supportive big brother, and Amy and Jenny were both very compassionate toward me on their respective big days. Thankfully, they realized that weddings aren’t exactly my favorite things in the world. Just the same, it was hard to enjoy their weddings, because deep down, I wondered, “Why can’t I have what they have?” I realize now that it was self-pity on my part, but that’s how I felt at the time. I’m so thankful that I have good relationships today with Amy and Jenny, and that I have two wonderful nieces, Kayla (age 9) and Elianah (age 1).

I don’t remember exactly when, but my parents and my sister Amy talked things over with several professionals in the mental health field, and the professionals came to the conclusion that I have Asperger’s Syndrome. If you don’t know about that condition, I encourage you to look it up on the WebMD site. The site states that symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome can range from mild to severe. Those symptoms include: problems with social skills, eccentric or repetive behaviors, unusual preoccupations or rituals, and communication difficulties, just to name a few.

I am very thankful that I have several female friends who look past what’s on the outside and realize that I am doing the best that I can. To be quite honest, though, I would eventually like to move past friend status and have an honest to God relationship with a woman. Of course, that’s easier said than done! I look at that as a form of redemption for all the unhappiness I’ve endured in my life, and I also look at it as a reward for persevering in the face of adversity. Of course, I realize that God’s way of rewarding people is different from my own! I need to focus on taking things one day at a time and living life to the best of my ability.

I realize I took a risk by writing this post. My parents and sisters probably think I’m crazy for writing this. While I understand their concern, my reasoning is that if you can’t accept me as I am and that I’m doing the best I can every day, then I don’t want to deal with you from a personal or professional standpoint. I also view it as another step toward being the best I can be, toward cleansing myself of the past and moving on with my life.

Thank you for reading and God bless you.

Lions rant (the first of many, I’m sure!)

As my family and friends know, I am a big-time Detroit Lions fan. Let’s face it, they haven’t given me a lot of joyous moments through the years, but for some insane reason, I still root for them. Probably because I am a Detroit kind of guy and get upset when national media know-it-alls take their cheap shots at the city. I take it very personally that the Lions have been, for the most part, laughingstocks during my lifetime. Even when they do make the playoffs, they always lose!

Recently, I sent an email to the Lions through the “contact us” portion of their website. Basically, I took the opportunity to vent at them because they’ve never really had an honest-to-God Super Bowl contender during the 44 years I’ve been on this Earth. All the other local pro sports teams have won at least one championship in my lifetime: the Tigers in 1984; the Pistons in 1989, 1990, and 2004; and the Red Wings in 1997, 1998, 2002, and 2008. The closest the Lions came to winning a championship in my lifetime was reaching the NFC Championship Game in January 1992, where they got their backsides handed to them by the eventual Super Bowl champion Washington Redskins.

In my email, I wrote that former Lions owner William Clay Ford Sr., when he was alive, should have publicly apologized to Lions fans everywhere for his incompetence and for never bringing a winner to the Motor City. Obviously, that time has passed, since Ford died in March 2014 at the age of 88. However, his son, Bill Ford Jr., sure as heck can publicly apologize to Lions fans on the family’s behalf. It’s the right thing to do. Having said that, I’m not holding my breath waiting for that to happen. It would be great if Ford Jr. himself, or at least president Tom Lewand or GM Martin Mayhew, would personally reply to my email (I haven’t received a reply as of this writing). However, I’ll probably get some sort of form letter email reply from some public relations representative.

The Lions’ track record during Ford Sr.’s tenure as owner speaks volumes, far more than I ever could. However, I don’t have anything bad to say about Ford as a person. From all I’ve heard, he was a pretty decent man (probably too loyal to his employees) who did lots of charitable work and tried his best to make the metro Detroit area a better place. The same can’t be said for former Lions team president Matt Millen. I know he’s been gone since 2008, but he still bugs me to no end! He is easily the worst front-office executive in professional sports history, and I don’t think there’s a close second. He raped and pillaged an entire NFL franchise while Ford Sr. turned a blind eye, and to this date has not publicly apologized or said I’m sorry for making a complete idiot of himself during his time here.

It bothers me greatly that the Lions, at least in my opinion, are treated as an ugly stepchild by the media. They certainly aren’t given the same kind of national media attention as teams such as the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, and especially the Green Bay Packers. It makes me sick how much love the Packers get from the national media: how great Lambeau Field is, the great tradition the team has, what wonderful fans the Packers have, etc. Packers fans haven’t had to put up with one-hundredth (at least) of the garbage that we Lions fans have had to put up with through the years. I realize a lot of the national media love is because the Packers had Brett Favre and now have Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, but still!

Can you guys tell that I get worked up pretty easily by the Lions? I realize that big-picture wise, the NFL isn’t that important, but it still bugs me greatly. That’s all for now. I’m out of here!

The Rock and Ronda Rousey vs. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon from Wrestlemania 31

I can almost hear Fr. Strasz now, “Oh my gosh, what have I done? He’s blogging about the WWE!” Hey, everyone has at least one guilty pleasure, right?

Yes, I admit it, I am a WWE fan, although I certainly don’t agree with everything they present on TV, on the WWE Network or on PPV. Having said that, I am certainly more comfortable with the PG version of WWE than I am with the Attitude era version of WWE. I think those of you who know me would not be surprised by that.

My all-time favorite WWE Superstar is The Rock. I am definitely one of the millions and millions of his fans! My favorite part of Wrestlemania 31, which took place in late March of this year, involved The Rock and UFC star Ronda Rousey having an in-ring confrontation with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. Fair warning: there is some non-PG stuff in that segment. However, the segment has a very satisfying conclusion if you are fans of The Rock and Rousey.

If you don’t have access to the WWE Network, then I think you can look that segment up on You Tube and check it out that way.

My fantasy baseball team

Here is my first-ever sports blog post. Trust me, there will be plenty more sports-related posts in the future. I can just hear my friend Amy now: “You men and your sports!”

Anyhow, for about 10 years (probably longer), I have been a part of the fantasy baseball league Clutch Hitters Only, of which my friend Brandon Brown is the commissioner. My team name is the Springfield Isotopes. I used to be a big fan of The Simpsons, but I’m not so much anymore. However, I couldn’t think of a better name for my team. Coincidentally or not, Brandon is currently in first place in the league, probably because he created the league rules and knows them inside and out! I am currently in fourth place out of 12 teams (the top 6 make the championship bracket of the league playoffs). Of course, there is plenty of baseball to be played this season. I am leading the league in stolen bases and am pretty competitive in the other statistical categories. FYI, there are six batting statistical categories and six pitching statistical categories. The batting categories are: runs, home runs, runs batted in, stolen bases, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. The pitching categories are: saves, strikeouts, earned-run average, WHIP (walks plus hits divided by innings pitched), strikeout-to-walk ratio, and quality starts.

My current roster is as follows (there are two DL spots allowed in the league, so I’ve kept a couple of other MLB players on my bench who are currently on the DL):

Batters – C: Kevin Plawecki (NYM), 1B: Jose Abreu (CWS), 2B: Jose Altuve (Hou), 3B: Manny Machado (Bal), SS: Addison Russell (ChC), CI: Justin Morneau (Col-1B), MI: Devon Travis (Tor-2B), LF: Matt Kemp (SD), CF: Jacoby Ellsbury (NYY), RF: Jay Bruce (Cin), OF: Gregory Polanco (Pit), Util: Billy Butler (Oak-1B), Bench: Devin Mesoraco (Cin-C), Alex Rios (KC-RF), Jung Ho Kang (Pit-3B,SS), DL: Matt Wieters (C-Bal).

Pitchers: SP: Jordan Zimmerman (Was), Sonny Gray (Oak), Chris Archer (TB), Tim Lincecum (SF), Wei-Yin Chen (Bal), RP: Craig Kimbrel (SD), Huston Street (LAA), Neftali Feliz (Tex), Bench: Dan Haren (Mia), Archie Bradley (Ari), DL: Hisashi Iwakuma (Sea).

You’ll notice I don’t have any current or former Detroit Tigers on my team, although I drafted Austin Jackson, who was traded to the Mariners as part of the David Price trade last season, for my bench before the start of the season. However, I released Jackson when he landed on the DL. I also drafted Jacoby Ellsbury, even though he’s on the Yankees. You have to put personal feelings aside when dealing with fantasy sports!

In addition, I currently have three catchers on my team: Plawecki, Mesoraco, and Wieters. I’ve been between a rock and a hard place the entire season when it comes to the catcher position. Of course, Wieters has been on the DL since the season started, while Mesoraco has barely played all season (for whatever reason, the Reds haven’t placed him on the DL). That necessitated me picked up Plawecki from the waiver wire, so I’d at least have a warm body to fill that spot. I’ll trim my roster to two catchers when the time is right, but I want to keep two catchers on my team because that position takes its toll on players from a physical standpoint.

So, do any of you guys play fantasy baseball or fantasy sports in general? Please let me know what you think of my team!

My first-ever blog post

Well, I’ve joined the 21st century and started my own blog!

Earlier this morning, I met with Fr. Jim Strasz, s.m., at Notre Dame Prep in Pontiac (he was my former junior religion teacher at Notre Dame High School in Harper Woods in 1987-88). I told him that I left my job at Sunrise Publications in West Branch, MI in May 2012, and that I didn’t really have an outlet for my writing skills, because I am no longer in the newspaper industry after having spent approximately 15 years in that business. He suggested, in reply, that I start a blog of my own. So you can either thank or blame him that I started this blog!

Anyhow, on this blog, I will be posting my thoughts on what’s going on in my corner of the world, as well as my thoughts on sports, my Catholic faith, and society at large. I certainly welcome differing viewpoints from my own (those of you who know me know I’m not a controversial or confrontational person, by any stretch of the imagination), but at the same time, I have some strong opinions on the world around me. I’ve never really felt comfortable talking about my own opinions, because I figured, “Who cares what I think?” Or, as WWE Superstar and movie star The Rock might put it, “It doesn’t matter what I think!” However, given my writing ability, I think a blog would be a good place to share those viewpoints with the world at large.

My first-ever blog post will feature my thoughts on SiriusXM satellite radio. I started subscribing to it when I leased my 2014 Chevrolet Cruze in November 2014, and I think it is one of the coolest things ever invented! I already posted this question to my FB friends, and I will post this to you guys now: For those of you who subscribe to SiriusXM, what are your favorite stations on that service? Mine are: 80s on 8, Classic Rewind (70s/80s classic rock), The Bridge (mellow rock), The Catholic Channel, and Sirius XM NFL Radio. In addition, I also enjoy listening to Holly during the Christmas season.

That’s all for now! Take care and talk to you soon! – Jeff

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