Mini American flagI am an American. And for all her flaws, I love my country. Today, though, as the barbecues finish up and the echoes of fireworks die away, I ask you to consider what it was all about.

As you dug out–or bought new–an Old Navy 4th of July tank top, was it because that’s just what Americans do? Sadly, for many, that’s exactly why. Today is a day of picnics, beer, and pyrotechnics finished with a veneer of “Murica” patriotism. Worse, it’s become ingrained our our cultural subconsciousness.

Today, the calendar shows that the date is July 4th…but it’s time we refocus on the recognition of Indpendence Day. It’s time we honor the courage of not only those who place themselves in harm’s way in defense of liberty–and for which they certainly deserve gratitude–but those who took a stand against the British monarchy 239 years ago.

Imagine the fear and uncertainty of Thomas Payne, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington as they sought to secure freedom out of oppression and liberty out of tyranny. They recognized that the system under which they lived no longer served their needs and interests, and with great courage, sought great change.

This is not to encourage rebellion, necessarily, but to simply ask all Americans to remember that change is always possible. It may require unvelievable perseverance and effort, but it can be done. Our founders believed that we, as a people, deserved better than British colonial rule. They not only declared indpendence, but risked everything to earn it.

That is what today is about. We honor our freedom. We revel in our liberty. We celebrate our independence.


On Wednesday, Star 104 here in Erie concluded its Cash, Cars and Stars contest by giving away a 2014 Honda Civic and $500 cash.  The contest has been run by Star 104 in the past, and is an extremely popular event in local radio.  That said, there was a glaring error in the contest this year.  Worse, as of yet, the station has refused to acknowledge the mistake.

For those who are unfamiliar, Cash, Cars and Stars requires listeners to identify the 5 celebrities who are “seated in Star 104’s Virtual Car.”  Several times each weekday, the station prompts listeners to call and caller 14 is given a clue regarding the identity of the current star.  Callers who correctly name the star win a smaller prize, and the caller who identifies the final star is awarded the grand prize.

As a contest that spans several weeks, participants who listen regularly have the advantage of hearing more clues.  More clues result in more specific research, and obviously, better guesses.  You probably realize this can only be helpful if all the clues are accurate.

On Friday, April 18, the event had reached the 5th and final star. The first clue given that morning (#20 of the eventual 38 clues) was “This Star does not have a sister.”  Caller 14 was unable to correctly guess the star and the contest continued.  Several days later, based on other clues, the star was identified as Zach Galifianakis, and the car was awarded.

Wait….what?   Zach Galifianakis has a sister named Merritt.

It turns out that I was caller 14 on clue #21 (the very next clue!).  By then, I had already started ruling out any star with, well, a sister. Why in the world would I guess Zach Galifianakis?  The whole point of the game is relying on the accuracy of the clues.  

So imagine my surprise when the final star turned out to be someone who has a sister!!!  Along with a few other listeners who caught it, I posted on the Star 104 Facebook page regarding the mistake.  Within several hours, all of the posts about the error had been deleted. A few other listeners posted, and again, their comments got deleted.

According to the rules of the contest:  “To the extent permitted by law, all entrants release from, and indemnify WRTS, Connoisseur Media LLC., Bianchi Honda and any other Porreco Auto Group against all liability, cost, loss or expense arising out of acceptance of any prize(s) or participation in the Promotion including (but not limited to) loss of income, loss of opportunity, personal injury and damage to property, whether direct or consequential, foreseeable, due to some negligent act or omission or otherwise.”  

I realize this roughly translates to “Even if we screw up, it’s not our problem.  There’s nothing you can do.”  And I know the contest won’t be restarted or anything.  The problem is that the station refuses to acknowledge there was even a mistake.  I should clarify:  The station is refusing to acknowledge it on social media. I don’t have any idea if it’s been mentioned on the air because I won’t listen to Star 104 anymore.

During the most valuable part of the contest, a factually inaccurate clue was given which steered regular listeners AWAY from the correct answer. Loyal listening became a disadvantage.  And the contest organizers would rather ignore it until everyone forgets.  I will not pretend it didn’t happen.  Unless something changes, I will no longer listen to Star 104 or participate in any of their unreliable contests.

Over the last few months, the United States Olympic men’s ice hockey team has taken American fans on quite a rollercoaster ride.  Beginning with a controversial selection process which ruffled more than a few feathers, all the way through Saturday’s embarrassing effort against a very good Finnish team, this Olympic experience has a lot of people wondering where USA Hockey goes from here.

At The Big House in Ann Arbor, MI, on January 1st, the final Olympic roster was named following the Winter Classic.  Therein lies another confusing decision:  The U.S. Women’s team roster was named between periods of one of the most watched regular-season games of the year.  The Men’s team waited until the game was over, as the 100,000+ freezing fans in attendance made their way to the exits and American TV audience got ready to change the channel.  I’m not sure who made the programming decision to do this but it begs the question:  Was it done intentionally to highlight the Women’s team?  Or was USA Hockey aware they were about to reveal some unpopular decisions and were okay with downplaying the reveal?   To me, this was the first big missed opportunity.  You’ve got the undivided attention of the entire American hockey world, who are ready to be inspired to get behind this team, and you wait till they are reaching for remote.

Maybe USA Hockey was a little concerned about the roster they were about to release.  Of course, several players were virtual locks:  Zach Parise, Patrick Kane, Phil Kessel.  There were a few raised eyebrows over the goaltenders: Ryan Miller, Jonathan Quick, and Jimmy Howard (possibly bring Ben Bishop?)  But there were some serious questions about scorers who were going to be left at home: forwards Bobby Ryan, a member of the 2010 silver medal team, and Kyle Okposo, and defensemen Dustin Byfuglien, Keith Yandle, and ’10 vets Erik and Jack Johnson.

We were told his team would be fast, with some size up front, and the defensive pairings would be good in transition.  They were, overall, a young group with speed who were “able to skate with anyone” in the tournament.  Being “able to skate with anyone” sounds good in theory, but considering the firepower that everyone knew would be waiting on the benches of Canada, Sweden, and Russia, it left a little to be desired.

So the tournament got underway with pool play and Team USA fairly easily slipped past Zdeno Chára and Slovakia.  That was followed by what could have been an all-time iconic USA Hockey moment, when T.J. Oshie (who most of America had never heard of before February 15th) beat Russia’s Sergei Bobrovsky on 4 out of 6 penalty shots to claim victory for Team USA.  The Americans seemed to be unfazed by the emotional win, as they cruised by Slovenia to claim the #2 seed in the medal round tournament.

In the quaterfinals, USA squared off with a veteran-laden Czech Republic team, USA responded well and won easily.  At 2:01 of the third period of that game, Phil Kessel scored the 5th goal of the night for the Americans.  They would not score another goal for the rest of the tournament.

In the semifinal game against Canada, only the superb play of Jonathan Quick kept the game from turning into a blowout.  I agree with Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun when he called it “the most lopsided 1-0 game ever.”    As a result, Team USA would meet Finland in the bronze medal game the next day.  I’m assuming that head coach Dan Bylsma must have told the team the wrong day or time for the bronze medal game, because they never showed up.  A lackluster effort ended with Finland routing Team USA 5-0.

So what’s wrong with American hockey?  And just as importantly, how does it get fixed?

First of all, Team USA didn’t seem to embrace the two-week long tournament.  They shot out of the gate quickly, but didn’t really do much to get better as the Olympics progressed.  They stagnated, and even took steps backward as the competition around them got more intense. Which lead to…

The biggest thing I noticed about this team was their own lack of confidence.  Sure, Patrick Kane has swagger and Jonathan Quick has his moments of ego, but as a team, they feared Canada.  (I’m leaving out the Finland game for now, since that was just ridiculous.)  There was not a sense of equality even from the opening face-off.  It seemed, to a man, they knew they were over-matched and played with such temerity that they never even gave themselves a chance to win.

Also, I should clarify: Canada deserved to win the gold medal.  They improved with each game, played the best team hockey, and peaked in the last two games.  They were head and shoulders above the rest of the world this time around…although, I was a little disappointed in Sweden’s gold medal game performance.

So, would Bobby Ryan or a couple of Johnsons have provided USA with a different outcome?  I honestly don’t think it would have even made the difference of a single goal.  This team skated fast and moved the puck around….okay, maybe they could have used more scoring ability.  As much as it pains me to say, with all the 1980 Lake Placid “Miracle” references everywhere, it seemed that in the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, the one thing the United States men’s hockey team lacked most…..was heart.