Howdy. I'm Matt Todd. My wife and I have four kids and a dog,. I'm passionate about orphan care. I'm a die-hard fan of the Evansville Aces, the Indiana Hoosiers, and Star Wars. I'm trying to live life by the Todd family motto: "It behooves us to live!"

Bon Jovi in Indianapolis

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. Learn more in my Disclosure Policy. As always, thank you for your support.

Once upon a time, not so long ago…

It’s no secret that I lived under a rock for a long time when it came to non Star Wars related pop culture, especially when it came to music. Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet pulled me out from under that rock and helped me see the light. Whenever my friends, Matt and Aaron came over, we’d pop the album in my cassette player. We subsequently turned my room into a stage in the center of a packed arena, pretending to perform Bon Jovi’s jams in front of thousands of screaming fans.

We needed another member to complete the group. Fortunately, Kevin was always a willing participant. So the four of us would jump up and down on my bed, shouting the lyrics at the top of our lungs and shredding the air guitar with each rockin’ solo.

See? There’s more to having a younger brother than just having someone to sneak attack with a pillow at Grandma’s house.

But that’s pretty fun, too. Continue reading Bon Jovi in Indianapolis

The curse is broken!

The Curse is Broken

Well it’s taken almost 25 years, but I can finally say that I’ve watched another IU victory in person. The curse is finally broken!

Yesterday was a little bit of a crazy day in college hoops. North Carolina, Notre Dame, and Michigan – all teams that are ranked – lost games that they were “supposed” to win. 40-0 avenged their Super Bowl…I mean, NIT…loss to Robert Morris. It was clear that anything could happen yesterday. March Madness showed up in November, and it’s a reminder why I love college basketball – even though the foul calls might be bordering on ridiculousness.

Thanks again to Jason for setting us up with some fabulous tickets. I think it’s safe to say that we all had a great time. It kind of reignited my desire to see games live and in person. The college basketball atmosphere is pretty tough to beat. And it’s kind of addicting. I just hope I don’t have to wait another 25 years before being at a game where the Hoosiers win.

IU vs Stony Brook

IU vs Stony Brook

Big heads at IU vs Stony Brook, including JMV Sucks

Dad and Sons at IU vs Stony Brook

Come to think of it, I believe a new streak has started with this victory. The Hoosiers are probably going to start winning every time I’m there. So who wants to fund my trips to Assembly Hall this year to help make sure that Indiana wins all their home games? Any takers?

Any?

I didn’t think so. But it doesn’t hurt to ask. Right?

 

The sun continues to rise

Philmont sunrise

I took this picture in July of 1994. It isn’t that great of a picture, but it’s one of the most special and most memorable pictures I have taken from any of my five treks at Philmont Scout Ranch.

I had just completed my final trek at Philmont. I thought this would be my last hurrah* at Philmont. Kevin and I had the amazing opportunity to hike down Time Ridge from the Tooth of Time together in a very cool moment of brotherly bonding. I was going to be heading away to college in a month and I knew that shared experiences like these were going to become few and far between. So I cherished that moment as much as a fresh-out-of-high-school kid could cherish.

Shortly after coming off the trail, our crew received all our mail that had been sent to us while we were in the backcountry. Kevin and I received an envelope that had been sent overnight to us, which seemed rather odd. No one had ever sent us an overnight package while we were at Philmont. It was a little too unpredictable (and expensive) to try to send something like that. So we opened the envelope, which contained a note from Dad: Grandmama was in the hospital.

We didn’t really have much time to dwell on this news because of all of the debriefing events that had to take place before we could head home. We knew we’d be calling home later that evening. It was Mom’s birthday and we had a plan.

After the Closing Ceremony, we grabbed as many people as we could and had them huddle around a payphone. As soon as mom picked up the phone, she was serenaded by a motley group of 15+ teenage boys singing “Happy birthday, dear Mom!” to her over the phone. As soon as the song was over, some of the adults from our crew led the impromptu Boy Band away as we continued our conversation with Mom and Dad.

“How’s Grandmama?” I asked, fully expecting to hear that she had already gone home.

I don’t remember what Dad said or how he said it because all I remember was knowing without him even finishing the first word that Grandmama had died earlier in the day – probably while Kevin and I were hiking down Trail Ridge together.

As I turned to try to tell Kevin what I had just heard, words totally escaped me. I hoped he could somehow read my mind because I could not find a way to make myself say the words, “Grandmama died.”

Then I felt it. It was caring and comforting and strong. It was a hand on my shoulder. Mr. G had stayed with us and was there for us. He had found out beforehand and was there to comfort us as we found out this heartbreaking news some one thousand miles away from home. I’m not sure how I would’ve gotten through that phone call without him being there for us.

I couldn’t sleep that night. I got up early and walked around through Base Camp. I remember seeing the vast sea of stars high above me and feeling extremely alone and sad. Then the sun began to rise. And I realized that even though things were dark and heartbreaking for me, there was still a glimmer of hope. The sun does still rise. The day does come. And the darkness is pushed away.

So I took this picture to remind me of that moment – to remind me that light is stronger than dark, even when I hurt deep deep down in my soul. When everything is falling apart and you’re completely isolated and alone….there’s still hope. Light still wins.

I thought of this picture yesterday as I was standing in a room with my colleagues, learning that our company was going through another reduction in force. This announcement was probably more difficult to hear than the one 10 months ago because I soon realized that many of the people I worked with very closely had become casualties of this “right-sizing.” And then I felt it again. It was the strangest thing. I felt this hand on my shoulder, much like I felt when Mr. G was putting his hand on my shoulder and telling me it was going to be OK. Of course, his hand wasn’t on my shoulder.

No one’s hand was on my shoulder.

But I felt it. And I wanted to go around the room and put my hand on everyone’s shoulder, telling them that things were going to be OK. We were going to get through this disappointing news. I wanted to find my colleagues who had just been let go, put my hand on their collective shoulders, and be there for them.

As I left the office after the announcement that day, I had decided that I was going to find this picture and post it with this story as an attempt to encourage my friends who lost their jobs that there is light at the end of this darkness and that I have confidence that all of them are going to go on to do some pretty amazing things in their careers. I have no doubt about that.

Then it became clear that Christy’s dad was not going to live very much longer. And I realized that this picture that I had been thinking of for the last 36 hours was really for me and my family.

There is light at the end of this darkness. There is hope at the end of this heartache. Life will continue to go on, even as we walk through the valley of death’s shadow.

Even in the midst of this devastating series of events, it behooves us to live, and live to the fullest.

*It turned out that this event was not my last hurrah at Philmont. I returned the next two Summers as a staff member. 

Happy, Happy Birthday!

Me and Kevin with Boba Fett at Star Wars in Concert

I have a very vague memory of sitting at someone’s house in Kingston, Tennessee, and talking to an older lady on the phone about how we were moving back north to Evansville. I was around three years old and I’m pretty sure it’s the earliest memory I can recall. But it’s so vague, it’s more like a snapshot.

The next-oldest memory I can remember is much more vivid. I remember standing in the hospital and looking into a big picture window with a family member (maybe Grandmama? That part, I’m not so sure 0f). I remember watching people in their scrubs walking around in the room. And I remember Dad walking into the room with scrubs and talking to one of the nurses. Then I remember a lady coming out of the big room I’d been looking into through a picture window. She had the same scrubs on.

“Are you excited to see your new baby brother?” she asked me.

I don’t think I said anything. I was shy. But I was also speechless. Kinda tough for a three year-old. But I did nod furiously. I was, in fact, excited that my baby brother was born. He was behind the picture-window because he was born early. I didn’t realize until a few years ago just how early he was, and how big of a deal that really was (and still is).

That was 31 years ago today.

And I’m still excited about my baby brother. Most of the time. 😉

Happy birthday, Kev! Party on like R2-D2!
Kevin and R2-D2 at Star Wars in Concert(I hope Graelyn lets you sleep a bit tonight)

Another Close Encounter

One of the more popular posts at Life in the Fishbowl since I’ve migrated over to WordPress has been my close encounter with Rich Mullins. I’m pleased to say that this has not been my only brush with celebrity.

It happened after school one day – it must have been my Freshman or Sophomore year. There was always a mad rush towards the exits after the bell rang. In order not to be trampled by the crowd, it was common practice to point your body towards the doors, put your head down, and just keep walking until you were free of the confines of the school building. I remember more people than usual bumping into me that afternoon as all of us were trying to squeeze into the small corridor at the same time.. It strengthened my resolve to get out of there as quickly as possible. So I lowered my head and made my way towards the door. Then I ran into what felt like a brick wall in the middle of the hallway. Some guy had broken protocol and stopped in the middle of traffic. And I, with my head down and my strengthened resolve, ran right into him.

“Hey! What do you think you’re…”

Then I looked up and my jaw dropped when I realized who he really was. I was about to say some not-so nice things to my favorite player on the Hoosiers basketball team, who was also an alum of my high school – Calbert Cheaney.

Yes. Number 40 himself.

As I realized who he was, I was swept away by the current of people pouring out of the school. I don’t think I could close my mouth the rest of the day.

I know Calbert has been working out and shooting with the current Hoosiers incarnation. Maybe I’ll see him tonight at the game. If so, I hope I have enough wits about me to actually say something complimentary to him this time. He was at one of the games I had to pass up a few months ago. My brother and cousins got to have their picture taken with him. I’m still jealous.

Left to right: Kevin, Cheaney, Jason, Amanda. Yeah. My family is dead to me. I have no brother. Unless of course I get to meet #40 again.
Left to right: Kevin, Cheaney, Jason, Amanda. Yeah. My family is dead to me. I have no brother. Unless of course I get to meet #40 again.

Charles Barkley, Intramural Basketball, and this year’s Indiana Hoosiers

The Round Mound of Rebound
Sir Charles: The Round Mound of Rebound

Like most kids in Indiana, I was no stranger playing basketball in middle school and high school. We’d play in the backyard. We’d play in the church gym after Scout Troop meetings every Tuesday night. After lunch, we’d play basketball in the gym during middle school.

And, like most kids, we’d try to model our play after NBA players. There were all kinds of Jordan wannabes with tongues wagging and showboat layups. I had my own hero on the court. It was Charles Barkley, even though has continually reminded people that  he’s not a role model.  I didn’t have the height of a Dominique Wilkins or David Robinson. I couldn’t shoot the ball from outside like Larry Bird. And I definitely didn’t have the skills of an MJ.

If my body shape was like anyone in the NBA’s, it was Barkley’s. If my playing style was like anyone’s, it was Barkley’s. I didn’t talk trash like he did. And of course I couldn’t dunk. But I could block out. And I could fight for every rebound. And I loved the fact that his game was multidimensional. When he retired, he was one of only four players to end his career with 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, and 4,000 assists.

When I was with my friends, I’d play with confidence and reckless abandon. I’d block out. I’d fight for every possession. I’d drive to the basket with confidence. And I wasn’t afraid to swat away a shot or two. And when Kevin was playing, they made us play on opposing teams because we were too good when we were on the same team. We knew where the other was going to be and what the other one was going to do. I guess we canceled each other out when we were on opposing teams.

Things changed when I played with people other than my usual friends. There was one time when we were playing a pickup game and I was dominating in the paint. A few of the more athletic guys came over and suggested we play a game of four-on-four. We agreed. And I completely disappeared. It was like I’d forgotten how to play. It was like a light switch. One of my friends came up to me and said, “Play like you were just playing.” And I tried. I just didn’t react the same way. I couldn’t block out. I couldn’t drive to the hoop. It was like I forgot how to play.

The same thing happened again my freshman year of college. When I got together with my friends and we played a little hoops, I usually did pretty well. S0 we joined the intramural league. We walked into the gym for the first game, oozing with confidence. But that all changed at the first tip of the ball. I disappeared. Again. The light switch went off and I forgot how to play. As we were running down the court, one of my friends said to me something that sounded eerily similar to what was said to me five years prior: “Play like you were just playing yesterday!” But I couldn’t do it. I guess I was too intimidated.

We lost that game by at least 30 points. It might have been 50. I really don’t remember. We lost every other game in that intramural season. We were a bunch of freshman who hadn’t played together very much before intramurals began and we really didn’t have the collective skills (or hoops intelligence, to be honest) to match any of our opponents. We tried our hardest, but we really weren’t very good. And although my team tried to do everything they could to rebuild my confidence, I just didn’t ever play like I did when it was just me and my friends playing together. It was like I was a big fish in a little pond and I definitely couldn’t keep up with the big boys. Instead of fight my way through that, something inside of me would shut down instead.

Photo courtesy Hoosier Scoop Online

I thought of my basketball experience this Saturday as I watched the Indiana vs. Illinois game. I have no doubt that the Hoosiers are good players. I mean, Kyle Taber was the Player of the Year in Evansville his Senior year. That’s no small accomplishment. I’m sure they do remarkably well during practice.

What I saw when I watched the game, though, was a bunch of guys who realized they didn’t have the raw talent to take on their opponent. And instead of fighting for every possession and crashing every board, they forgot how to play. Just like when I’d play against people who were better than me, the light switch went off.

The Hoosiers are inexperienced. That goes without saying. Michigan’s Fab Five were inexperienced and they were very successful. But they were one of the highest-rated recruiting classes of all time. They could overpower other teams with their raw talent and athleticism.

The Hoosiers don’t have All-American talent. At best, they have the talent level of a mid-major or a smaller school. Mid-majors and smaller schools don’t overwhelm other teams with their overpowering athleticism. Inexperienced mid-majors and smaller schools get beat up by the bigger, more experienced and talented teams. They get beat up by teams like Indiana used to be. And while they take their lumps their first year or two, a team with the right chemistry and good coaching can build on those beatings and turn into a threat to the big boys come tournament time of the young team’s senior year.

In a few years, I’m confident that this is what’s going to happen to the Indiana program. In case you hadn’t read it before on my blog, Tom Crean gets it. He understands what Hoosier Hysteria is all about. He understands that there’s a culture and tradition at IU. And he can build on that. But tradition doesn’t win basketball games. So during this massive rebuilding process, the Hoosiers might wind up looking a little bit like my freshman intramural team.

I’d like to say that we blew out our opponent in the opening round of our intramural tournament. We didn’t. But we did manage to lose to the #1 seed (the team that blew us out in the first game of the season) by single-digits.

Sometimes it’s important to celebrate the small things.