The 2019 End of the Year Rant: Finding Lord Stanley, Jon Hamm relations, and growing as a person

Sometimes, it’s best to stop and sell the roses. Instead of constantly moving forward, you step back for a minute and appreciate what’s taken place in your life. Doing this every 365 days or so is a good plan. The time has come to pause and reflect on 2019 before 2020 gets away from me.

Am I late to this rant (we are four weeks into the new year)? Yes we are, but life doesn’t sit still allowing for you to play catch-up. You have to take the ball out of the pocket and do that shit on the run. I promise that’s the only football reference in this blog.

Without further delay, let’s get moving. We’ll go with the big elephant in the fucking room…

Hello, Lord Stanley

The Blues cancelled a 52 year drought that felt like 502 long years to most fans. They did it in the most unlikely fashion too, going from worst to best inside 6 months. An eleven game winning streak cemented the turnaround, but it was Craig Berube’s coaching, Jordan Binnington’s emergence, and Ryan O’Reilly’s versatility that made it all stick.

Best of all, the magical Blues run turned my dad into a full blown hockey fan. So much so he was telling me how the game works after watching only 24 games. It was well worth it, watching the Blues win their first cup with my dad and brother. Sometimes, you let family members give you their in depth take and receive it with quiet elegance, because they will only get more passionate about the sport.

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It was a win-win for me. The Blues got a Cup and I got my dad into hockey. So much that he comes over the house and after a few minutes, busts straight into a hockey rant about last night’s game. “What the fuck were they doing,” he asks. My answer: “Welcome to Blues hockey. Down this whiskey shot and report for duty.”

Also, Jeff Curry’s photo of Pat Maroon and Ben Bishop, two St. Louis guys, will live on forever.

The Cardinals return to prominence

Love or hate Bill DeWitt Jr’s tactics in managing a payroll or trading for the best talent all the time, one must applaud the team’s climb out of the third place gutter. That may be the lowest place they fall with the current ownership team in place.

They won 91 games, made it to the final four of baseball, and did so without a lot of key contributors doing their normal thing on the field. Paul Goldschmidt and Matt Carpenter were not themselves, helping the offense finish 24th in OPS and get wiped out by Washington in the NLCS. But they cleaned up the baserunning and defense in a big way, and the pitching was sturdy. Jack Flaherty became an Ace. Giovanny Gallegos became deadly. Tommy Edman emerged.

The stage is seemingly set for another playoff run, but there’s an identity crisis. The team is aging in certain areas but undecided and young in others. Do they have enough hitting to go deeper, because that’s what will be expected from here on out? More is desired in St. Louis baseball. It’s a rite of passage here. This isn’t Pittsburgh, where you get close and celebrate it like a bender in Vegas before returning to your small payroll-infused reality.

For now, I’ll sit back in the luxury of returning to division king status, but that’ll change if the lineup doesn’t produce and the pitching comes back to the ground. After all, this team has only spent $8 million on improvements since the playoffs ended.

The XFL is coming to STL

I was asked Monday if I am going to watch these games, and the answer is a resounding yes. I don’t care if the running back worked at Home Depot last year or the defensive end was a QT employee. Supporting the Battlehawks is a spirit animal heel turn towards Stan Kroenke’s lying, swindling tactics in taking football out of this city. This league could run a year or two, and it’s a win. Stan is getting his ass handed to him in court, his monstrosity of a stadium will only be half-full when Jared Goff is slinging interceptions, and his legacy may very well be scoring three points in a Super Bowl game when Tom Brady was begging you to be beat him. The two leagues aren’t connected, but it won’t stop me from tying a knot between the two, and enjoying football in St. Louis again.

Count me in for a face/head paint and tailgate on opening weekend.

MLS soccer became a real thing

I am not a huge fan of the sport, but a sport like this brings notoriety and money to the city. It boosts the profile and makes it more viable (pay attention, Stan). The new stadium will begin construction next month and along with the other buildings and openings downtown, this city is going to be shine brighter. Just imagine the game nights with 2-3 sports happening at once.

It was a great year at the movies

There isn’t a better sign of a great year in film than having a tough time putting together a top ten list. My shape-shifted for weeks, with movies falling in and out of the list. Pretty good films like “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” were forgotten by Christmas due to the limitless power of unique treasures like “Uncut Gems,” “1917,” and “Ford v. Ferrari.” Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” and Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story” cut deep, while Martin Scorsese made gangster gold with “The Irishman” and Quentin Tarantino paid tribute to Los Angeles in the late 1960’s with “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.” Shia LaBeouf made a thrilling comeback with “The Peanut Butter Falcon” and “Honey Boy,” while Scarlett Johansson had one of the best years in recent memory.

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All of it comes to a head on Feb. 9 with the Oscars. No matter who wins individually, movie fans scored a knockout this season. All hail, Joaquin Phoenix and Adam Sandler.

My Film Critic bubble grows larger

When 2019 began, I was a member of the St. Louis Film Critics Association, a well-respected group of 19 critics. When 2019 closed its doors, I was also a part of the Critics Choice Association, formerly known as the Broadcast Film Critics Association. I had made it on television with a segment on KSDK’s “Show Me St. Louis,” and did regular segments on 590 The Fan and KMOX 1120. As the first weeks of the new year pass, I have another potential opportunity that you will learn more about as February unfolds. While I love sports and the easy love they provide, a movie is where I truly geek out and am truly myself. It’s my niche, for better or worse-and last year saw me take big steps in that arena.

The Loop Trolley idea crashes and burns

The next time Joe Edwards has an idea, turn him down. That is all.

Uber trials and stories continues, to less-eventful effect

I’ve completed over 3,500 rides now in my 2.5 years of service for the rideshare giant. I can say there are times where I think I am performing a heist, making out with great cash when it comes to an hourly wage. But there are also times where I feel like I could be doing something else with my time, and saving my car some wear and tear. Uber is great due to the hands-off style of its employer-employee relationship. Since I started, I’ve spoken to someone on the phone one time and never in person. I make my own hours, which is nice and easy on the family. But I also have bad weekends, can’t drive in rough weather, and run into a wall sometimes driving drunks around. I experience the human species when I drive, which can mean good and very bad things. I see it all, hear more, and wish I could have my brain wiped of the past few hours when I am done. It’s like any other job: there are good, bad, and ugly aspects. It pays, so for now, I carry on.

“In shape and not a shape”

Look, I used to go into a gym and just attack shit. The weights were at my mercy and I engaged with a workout like no other. 2019 found me trying to come up with new ways to get active in a gym. I did more cross-fit type workouts, worked on the abs more, and learned to manage my upper body work. I ran a lot and dialed up the reps to find more definition in certain areas of the body. Is it all working out? Sure, peaks and valleys.

I’m still in shape. I can still run six miles without collapsing. I can bench, leg press, and curl good weight. I don’t flinch when I get in front of a mirror. If I’ve learned anything in fitness over the past 20+ years, it’s understanding the ups and downs of the practice. Don’t be envious of the jacked due who looks like they painted his shirt on. The woman who has thighs that could strangle you. The guy who is so built, he could pass for a Mack Truck or at least qualify as a human piece of beef jerky. Just do you in there and try to make it out of there without getting hurt. Good form should come before big weight, and a good diet is the equalizer in any fitness story. It’s hard at times, but then again, it should be. If not, obesity wouldn’t overwhelm our country.

My wife is a pet martyr and it’s fine

We have five pets. Three cats, two dogs. Constant shit and piss on the floor. Constant excuses that they don’t know better and will be better. I just roll with it, because how can you stop a woman from saving little furry lives? We adopted a puppy chihuahua, whom I begin each day wanting to love but end it by feeling the need to put him into traffic. My beagle looks depressed, and my three cats are always hungry. Pets may not be the smartest tool in the shed, but they really know how to fuck with you in malevolent ways.

It’s fine … really … honestly, it’s fine (Screams, does a shot).

The Grillo Partnership coming to a halt

I won’t dive too deeply into this, because it doesn’t need to become a thing-but at the same time, it needs to be discussed. If any of you have paid attention over the past few years; reading articles, following me on social media, whatever; you’ll know I am very fond of Frank Grillo. The late-blooming action star who has become a marquee name in the past couple years after a couple decades of hard ass work is now in 4-6 films per year at least and playing a variety of characters, mostly antagonists lately. He turned heel in “Donnybrook” and “Into the Ashes” while embracing buddy cop vibes to great effect in “Point Blank.” He played a dirty cop in Deon Taylor’s “Black and Blue,” an October thriller that I found to be lacking in substance and quite forgettable. The review went up, certain things happened, and a relationship-one built on integrity and respect-ended.

I don’t need to provide more details, but let’s just say I had to make a choice between journalistic integrity and supporting a guy’s movie just because he was in it. I made the right choice, and learned something vital in the end. You can’t get too close to your heroes, whether they exist in a sport, movie, or whatever. Most of the time, you’ll end up disappointed. I interviewed Frank eight times, wrote dozens of articles about him and his work, and supported him-but with one bad review, it all came down. You can’t do a google search on Frank without seeing 2-3 of my articles. But even those highlights aren’t enough in the end. It’s a harsh lesson that this guy had to digest this past year. I’ll miss our 35-40 minute chats, which were a pain in the ass to transcribe but still fun to revisit days later.

Finding out Jon Hamm may be a relative

Hamm and II’m not bullshitting you. During the Blues’ playoff run, I found out that Hamm and I could be related. He met and spoke to Brad Lee, the editor-in-chief of the St. Louis Game Time paper I write for, and told him “your guy Buffa and I could be related.” Weeks later, I met him after a Blues game, and he confirmed to me that, and these are his words, “if you’re a Buffa in St. Louis, we are related.” Talk about a conversation piece! I’ve always admired Hamm’s work, so being related somehow, possibly is kind of cool.

So, let’s tally that up. A Stanley Cup, getting my dad into hockey, and meeting Hamm. That’s a lot to top this year, but I think the Blues have a good chance of repeating, so we shall see.

Going to New York for the first time

In June, I had the opportunity to fly to the Big Apple for a press junket. I mean, the “Shaft” sequel was a good flick and all, but the highlight was interviewing Samuel L. Jackson. He was exactly whom you expect in person and cool as a cucumber. More importantly, I got to do a few things. Going for a run in Central Park, staying at a nice hotel, eating fried chicken in Harlem, and finally getting to see the 9/11 Memorial and Freedom Tower. The site gave me an eerily feeling and was overwhelming at times, but you couldn’t help but be moved by the fountains covered in names and memories. I spent two hours there just wandering around. That was the best part about the whole damn trip. Meeting Jules was nice, but meeting the 9/11 memorial topped it.

Russell’s: When a brunch spot turns into your version of Cheers

Russell’s on Macklind has good food, but the people are better. The menu may not change that much and the Bloody Mary’s are consistent, but it’s the faces you see upon entering that make it special. Faron, the manager, is a big presence who always puts on a smile even if his body is giving him the middle finger and a day is hectic. Megan is a diligent waitress, but someone who rarely gets overwhelmed. Justin and Nikki are no longer around, but I somehow still feel their presence. Trish and Sandy are the sweetest sisters in town. Luke is the bartender you need after a long week. I could list more people, because they are all great. Do they have the best food in town? Debatable, but the people are the best.

Finding new ways to be a good parent, husband

60324335_10214203872272729_888035748882677760_nLook, it’s hard work. Parenting is the toughest job on the planet. My son is eight years old and testing me in ways that weren’t explained to me before this whole operation began. It’s an aggressive form of adulting that kicks your ass. You can be too soft and let him run over you. Or you can be too hard on him and feel bad about it later. What I try to do is be patient and understanding. I try to remember that he’s in those young shoes trying to figure shit out in a completely new and fast-moving world. I have to be the guide and not the wrecking ball.

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Being a good husband is easier, but still requires work. You can care about your spouse’s feelings or decide not to care, as long as you know what each decision brings. You can take the time to spend with them, give them a kiss, and be sweet-or you can be an asshole. One way spells a long lasting marriage and other defines a doomed idea with a band aid on it. On Feb. 18, it will be 15 years of marriage to this sweet lady. I am lucky and try to remind her and myself of that every day. She’s boobs, butt, and brains. Don’t ask me about the order.

Learning to call out your own faults

Near the end of 2018, I made a stupid comment about yoga pants on here and paid for it. It wasn’t what I said, but the fact that I had to say it out loud and publish it. Over the course of the next year, I battled people on other fronts and was dealt a humbling lesson at some point about accountability. Sometimes, you may not think you are wrong, but need to realize the pressure that words bring. Stepping back and acknowledging your actions and reactions has a benefit to it. Let’s just say I made amends and openly put it out there on Twitter that I can be an asshat sometimes. We all say stuff and do stuff that we wish could be undone or put back in the mouth, but it doesn’t work that way. What you do is learn from it.

Shia LaBeouf makes a comeback

He almost gave it all up. He was in court-ordered rehab, and before calling it quits, LaBeouf took out a pen and paper and wrote an autobiographical tale about his childhood, particularly his combative relationship with his father. It was a rehab practice tool that became a script, which turned into “Honey Boy.” You see, LaBeouf didn’t get the fortunate grace period of a real childhood. He was an actor at a very young age and lived a robotic life and schedule. That has repercussions on certain people and with Shia, it was getting into trouble with the law on several occasions. He didn’t know how to be once the cameras stopped rolling. He’s always been a great actor, but needed a humbling vessel to send his redemption boat down. Coupled with the phenomenal “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” LaBeouf’s story (where he portrayed his father) gave the actor a 1-2 punch and a welcoming back into the inner circle of Hollywood’s A-List. Cheers.

Comic Book films grow in reverence

I watch a lot of movies and can tell you without a flinch that comic book films are heavy, weighted endeavors. They aren’t all tight costumes and fluff. I didn’t cry more at a film in 2019 than I did when I watched “Avengers: Endgame” for the fourth time. Big commercial flicks like that are registered by too many as arbitrary enterprises, but are really highly complicated and multi-faceted productions. What The Russo Brothers did with “Endgame” and Todd Phillips did with “Joker” should transcend how people view these films. The former became the highest grossing film of all time and the latter snagged the most Oscar nominations. Phoenix will win for Best Actor, and watch out for the film in other big categories. Scorsese doesn’t have to love it, but it’s real.

Being humbled by the fall of a giant

Yes, I’m talking about Kobe Bryant. I went long form on this over at KSDK, but I’ll add a more condensed version here.

You don’t have to be a basketball savant to understand his impact on the sport and the world. He was on another level on the court, shooting piercing snake eyes at opponents as he downloaded the thought into their minds that his shot was hitting nothing but net. But he was a powerful soul off the court, helping bring attention to the WNBA and other sports. In the words of Barack Obama, he was just getting started when he died tragically on Sunday along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.

That’s the most bittersweet aspect of the entire thing, knowing he died being a dad but also died knowing he couldn’t protect his baby girl. A parent should never have to bury their kid. Now, Vanessa Bryant buries her husband and daughter. It’s a brutal gut punch that once again reminds our ever-evolving minds to slow down, reload, and appreciate what you have at home. Appreciate that you can call your father or sister tomorrow. Appreciate that yesterday wasn’t your time. Appreciate that you still have time. One can spend a month appreciating Bryant’s work on the count. I’ll spend the next several days wondering what his second act was going to look like. That’s death. Even when it’s someone you didn’t know personally or never met, it knocks you on the canvas and makes your mouth disappear.

Staying close to my parents

As I stand less than a week away from 38 years of age, I can comfortably say I spend more time with my parents than I do my closest friends. In a way, my mom and dad are my best friends. I cherish going to their house and being showered with love. I know it’s a finite thing, so I am soaking it all up. The old man and I will drive around town talking and drinking coffee, or we’ll smoke cigars and sip bourbon. I’ll sit in the kitchen and hear my mom ask me about my dogs or make sure I am careful while driving for Uber. Falling asleep in my dad’s cigar lounge watching a movie or laughing out loud at Bill Burr with my dad, mimicking the comedian’s voices and mannerisms for the next few days. It’s always a good time and never a waste. You know those times with friends that felt tacked on and full of hot air. I don’t get that at my parents.

In all honesty, my free time is limited. I work three jobs, have a full-time home life with things to do, and try to stay in shape. There are only 24 hours in a day and some of them need to be spent sleeping. So I choose to spend that free time-the hours I don’t have with my wife or son-with my parents. It’s a home away from home. Always will be.

Finishing Touches:

*City roads are still a bitch and a half. Pot holes, metal plates, and big bumps. It’ll be nice when they are done building this thing as I turn 89. For now, I’ll scream emphatic “FUCKS” in traffic and try to remain calm enough not to pull a car over and read him/her the handbook on merging, speed tempos, and overall road judgement. I’ll try.

* Kyle Reis is still a pleasure to know and be friends with, and @cardinalsgifs continues to enliven Cardinal Nation in new and inventive ways.

*In the words of Tarantino, Twitter continues to be a little more than a buddy and a little less than a wife.

*Coffee is still king and always my first beverage choice.

*Finding the elusive silver lining between enjoying food and not putting on weight continues to be a difficult task that is easier to explain than put into action.

*Did I mention how much I love my wife? She’s pretty great and puts up with this chaotic, bald mess of a man who finds new ways to get mad about stupid shit.

*I think Eli Manning is a borderline Hall of Famer. Two Super Bowls, long tenure with the Giants, but just not a slam dunk for me.

*Brady will retire a Patriot. I don’t believe for a second he’ll play anywhere else.

*The Houston Astros are lying, cheating asshats who don’t know how to take accountability for their game-changing actions.

*Barry Bonds deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. You can’t directly attribute those swings to PED. Sorry, but nope. If you want to do that, take a deep look inside the HOF and tell me there isn’t faulty bastards in there. Go ahead and try as I keep typing.

*Getting drunk when you’re older should come with directions. Eat something, drink water, and get some pain medication. Don’t just fall asleep.

*There are still things I can’t mention on the internet without taking flack that simply isn’t worth the weight of being completely honest. I’m talking about dirty thoughts in my head. You can’t be YOURSELF on the internet. People can’t handle it. No way. What my dirty mind comes up with would baffle you and the rest of your family.

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In closing, I’ll add this. Try to wake up today and be LESS offended than yesterday. Don’t take everything so damn personally, because that’s a heavy cross to bear. Learn how to take things like that in stride, slowing down the reaction speed. If something offends you, take a second to decipher why it does before launching an attack. That way, later on when someone comes back at you, there’s a planned attack ready. If not, it’s spinning wheels and useless oxygen. Be yourself, but also protect yourself … by not being as offended.

Here’s the thing behind it. People won’t know to hit you with next if you don’t let it all affect you so much. They will quiver, run in circles, and create another email so they can create another Twitter account to bash you from afar. Remember to take a second and think before you react to something that initially offends you.

That’s all, really. I could say eat good food, have good sex, and please remember to put on sun block. Floss. Put the fucking toilet seat down and wipe the seat you sloppy pissers. Kiss your loved ones and check on your friends. Let someone else merge into your lane in traffic on the highway tomorrow. Find new music to lose yourself in. Don’t be afraid to donate an entire day to a Netflix series that gives you an equal serving of pleasure and intrigue.

Do what you want, when you want, how you want … as often as possible. If not, what the fuck are we doing here?

Thanks for reading. For making it to the end of this rambling stream of consciousness, you will receive … absolutely nothing more than the ability to tell me how stupid I am.

Just know I will forgo all grammar corrections because after all, this is an old fashioned rant.

Good morning.

Photo Credit: Jeff Curry/USA Today Sports

 

 

 

 

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