#TBT: The Surprise Christmas Gift

With Christmas only four days away, I thought this to be the perfect time to hop in a time machine and head 15 years into the past to talk about one of the best unexpected Christmas gifts I ever received.

The year was 2002 and I was in the 7th grade and my younger brother was in 3rd grade. I cannot recall what exactly either of us had on our respective Christmas lists that year but I know the last present we unwrapped was not included by myself or him.

It started when we unwrapped a scanner and neither of us had any idea what to think. I’m not sure we even knew what a scanner was or what it did and to this day I cannot recall ever using said scanner but I digress.

Attached to the now unwrapped scanner was a Polaroid(!) picture of a computer set up on a desk in what looked like our basement. We quickly rushed downstairs and lo and behold there it was, a brand new Dell desktop computer on a huge desk ready for raring to go for us.

Over the next seven or eight years that computer gave us many memories. It served me well all throughout my high school years before I moved onto laptops when I moved off to college. Compared to today’s technology, this computer was like looking at the ancient Pyramids or Stonehenge. It had the old CRT monitor and when they call it a tower PC they literally meant it came with a whole tower but at the time this was a top of line machine.

One of our favorite pastimes was playing video games on the machine whether is be disc based games or flash games on the internet. We used the PC non-stop and loved every minute of it.

A favorite game of mine was was the Backyard Sports series. This is one that will talked about often on the blog and unfortunately is no longer in production but these games were a classic.

As the years wore on that computer began to slow down as most do and eventually technology surpassed what that machine was capable of and it became a thing of that past. It remained on that desk in the basement for quite a long time but our family had moved on to other devices, mostly laptops and tablets. After years of sitting dormant we put it to rest for good and got rid of the desk as well.

Looking back that computer was one of the great Christmas surprises. Even now, after its been long gone for many years, the memory of that day and the excitement that rushed over us in the moment was the stuff of Christmas magic. It’s something I’ll hold on to forever.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday Take: ‘Olive, the Other Reindeer’ has almost every Christmas special fighting for third

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Again, as the headline indicates. This Tuesday Take is riffing on the fact that the information depicted below argues the clear choice for the second-best televised animated Christmas special ever. Because as soon as “A Charlie Brown Christmas” debuted in 1965, anything that happened to be a Christmas special before or after that day was fighting for a very distant second.

(BONUS HOT TAKE: Know a friend who doesn’t think that “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is the best Christmas special ever? Guess what? You’re no longer their friend. Them’s the rules.)

Anyhow. Back to the task at hand. This is a post to champion the obvious choice for the No. 2 on everyone’s list of greatest animated Christmas specials. I expect that after this post goes viral, that BuzzFeed will run a listicle of “276 times that we were all …”

“Olive, the Other Reindeer”

You see. This wonderful special debuted in 1999 when Fox seemingly held a monopoly of great one-off specials and six-week wonders. It has since aired on Nickelodeon (2001) and Cartoon Network (2002-14). Aside from being the most important listing on Drew Barrymore’s IMDB page (she voiced Olive, in case you were wondering), “Olive, the Other Reindeer” is based off a book written by Vivian Walsh and is a CGI-animated special produced by The Curiosity Company.

The Curiosity Company. Why should you know this name? It’s the production company founded by Matt Groening.

Yes. That Matt Groening. The man that gave us “The Simpsons” and “Futurama” was the person who founded the company that gave the world “Olive, the Other Reindeer.”

That fact right there immediately vaults this effort to top-five status as an animated Christmas special. The aesthetic of the special, which Wikipedia describes as “paperlike character art in 3-D environments.” So, with the release of “Paper Mario” – the best non-wrestling title on the Nintendo 64 – almost two years after “Olive, the Other Reindeer” first aired, it’s safe to say that this special ushered in the revolutionary game.

OK. Maybe not, but you cannot tell me that it had zero influence on “Paper Mario.”

It just hit me that that you probably just caught that “Olive, the Other Reindeer” sounds an awful lot like “all of the other reindeer,” from the jaunty Christmas jingle “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” You’re welcome.

Without spoiling the special for the unfortunate souls who have not witnessed it yet, I will divulge the following:

  • There is a con-artist penguin.
  • There are songs, including one featuring swing-revival band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, making this as 1990s as you can get.
  • There’s also a tune performed by R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, making this as timeless as you can get.
  • Olive isn’t a reindeer.

Wait. That last one was a huge spoiler.

See, Olive is a spunky little Jack Russell terrier with tremendous can-do spirit. It helps a bunch, because every Christmas special needs a character to fight adversity and save the day for everyone.

Does Olive save the day? 

Well, you may not be able to find it on television this holiday. You might not be able to find it on streaming services.

But YouTube heroically has your back.

But don’t take my word for it. Watch for yourself.

FlipCast Episode 4: The One About the Non-catch

The FlipCast (4)

Find it here on Podbean

Subscribe on iTunes

In this episode: Robbie and Shawn (over)react to the end of the Steelers-Patriots game on Sunday … They keep talking about it … They keep talking about it … Eventually they break away to chat video games and Star Wars. (Don’t worry, Robbie didn’t spoil and Shawn has yet to see the new flick).

Tuesday Take: The NFL Should Designate a “Snow Game” Every Season

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Via @buffalobills

This past weekend of football provided two of the most visually appealing games of the season and it had nothing to do with the uniforms the teams were wearing (Okay, the uniforms helped one in one of the games).

First, on Saturday afternoon, Army and Navy did battle on a snow covered field in Philadelphia and played an instant classic. Amongst a steady stream of falling snow, Army prevailed 14-13 after Navy missed a game winning field goal as time expired.

Then on Sunday, snow came to the NFL in Buffalo where the Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts played in an all out blizzard. Coming away with a 13-7 victory in overtime, the Bills were able to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

For the sake of this article, we are going to focus on Sunday’s blizzard game in Buffalo. Nothing against the all out fun that was Army/Navy, but Sunday’s game was football weather at its finest.


Buffalo is no stranger to snow. Located directly on the shores of Lake Erie, the city sits directly in the line of strong lake effect snow that can drop feet of snow in a short amount of time.

On Sunday, Buffalo was trapped in a full on white out blizzard as the game between the Bills and Colts kicked off. The scene looked like it was taken straight from a snow globe.

It was one of the most visually appealing football you could imagine. It wasn’t the prettiest brand of football you can think of (only 20 points combined) but the atmosphere was incredible.

Watching the game and seeing the highlights made me realize how wonderful this kind of game was. This game needs to be played at least once every season.

That’s why my proposal is this: the NFL should designate one game every season as their annual “Snow Game.”

It may sound like a gimmick but the league just needs to follow the example set by the NHL. Just one game every year needs to be set aside as a full on blizzard snow game. Obviously the game would be set in a northern city but it could absolutely work and it would be glorious.

Now, I understand the NFL cannot control the weather and guarantee inches upon inches of snow for whichever game they designate as the annual “Snow Game” but that issue can be easily resolved by just hauling in some snow machines like you see at ski resorts to create their own blizzards. This is understandably expensive but the NFL has more money than it knows what to do with and they could make a boatload of money off merchandise for the game.

Given the overwhelming positive reaction from the fans following Sunday’s game in Buffalo this is an idea the NFL should grab hold of and run with. The spectacle was something to behold and made for one of the best atmospheres you could ever wish for.

It may take some planning on the NFL’s part and if they need to make their own snow it could get expensive but with the way the NFL markets their product it would be asure fire success.

Do it, Rog.

FlipCast Episode 3: The One with an Unexpected Guest

The FlipCast (4)

Find it here on Podbean.

In this episode

• Shawn and Robbie gush over the Steelers’ comeback over the Ravens and discuss how special this team actually can be. Will Robbie drink the Steelers’ Kool-Aid?

• It was a fantastic weekend for snow football

• Giancarlo Stanton is a Yankee

• Will Andrew McCutchen survive the winter meetings as a Pittsburgh Pirate

• What is brewing for The BatFlip in the coming week?

• Shawn’s dog makes her presence felt while the podcast is recorded in his dining room area.

Army & Navy Will be Dressed for the Occasion

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One of the best traditions in college football is the annual game between the United States Military Academy (Army) and the United States Naval Academy (Navy), played on the final weekend of the regular season each year.

The tradition is so sacred, the game has the whole weekend to itself. Army/Navy is the only game on the docket for the second Saturday in December.

Over the years, the annual Army/Navy game has become one of the most exciting and thrilling games of the season, despite the lack of serious implications based on the result. Neither side will compete for a national championship, but for the players on the field this is the single most important day of their college football careers.

In over a century of battles between the two bitter rivals many great moments have been born. Most recently, it was Navy’s 14 game win streak between 2002-2015 and the subsequent end to that win streak last season, a 21-17 Army victory that sent West Point into a year long frenzy.


Since its inception in 1890, Army and Navy have played 117 times on the gridiron, with Navy leading the overall series 60-50-7. The teams will meet for a 118th time this Saturday, at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Like most of college football over the past two decades, the Army/Navy game is not only a football game but also a fashion show of sorts. In fact, it has become one of the best dressed games of every college football season. The traditional black & gold of Army and the navy blue & gold of Navy is set aside for more modern threads. If you’re going to play the biggest game of you life, you might as well be dressed for the occasion.

This year is no different, as both sides are going all out to look their absolute best for Saturday’s contest. Let’s have a look:


ARMY

We’ll start with the visitors for Saturday’s clash, the Army Black Knights of West Point.

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Via Army Athletics

As always, the uniforms are a nod to a historic fighting division within the United States Army. These uniforms are an ode to the 10th Mountain Division, who trained and fought in extreme conditions during World War II.

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Via Army Athletics

The all-white design represents the conditions the 10th Mountain Division typically fought in, snow covered peaks where disguise was one of their biggest attributes.

Another major nod to the historic 10th division is on the shoes the players will be wearing on Saturday, a small logo with a skiing panda bear.

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Via Army Athletics

The significance of the logo is explained best by the Army itself…

“The 85th, 86th and 87th Infantry Regiments joined together in Pando, Colorado on July 13, 1943 to form the 10th Light Division (Alpine). Soldiers at Camp Hale trained at 9,200 feet, honing their skills to fight and survive in the most brutal mountain conditions.”

“The panda bear is the mascot of Camp Hale, Colorado. The Railroad stop at Camp Hale was officially Pando, Colorado. While the division was at Camp Hale, this unofficial insignia appeared everywhere on signs, buildings, and even the division newspaper. Since the design was a cartoon, it was not accepted by the Army’s heraldry office.”

Army never shies away from honoring those who came before them and these uniforms are no different. Being the away team and wearing white was the perfect opportunity to honor a division who played a key role in the Allies victory during World War II, fighting in some of the nastiest conditions one could imagine.

You can learn more about the uniforms and the 10th mountain division at the Army’s official website for the uniform or by watching the video below produced by the Army, announcing the uniforms last week:


NAVY

Now, let’s switch sides and check out the uniforms for the home side Navy Midshipmen from the Naval Academy.

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Via @NavyAthletics

If the blue and yellow color scheme looks familiar then you will probably realize the uniforms are dedicated to the U.S. Navy’s flight team, the Blue Angels.

The Blue Angels are a world renowned flight team, performing at air shows all across the United States in their very distinct blue and yellow fighter jets. While Army went completely away from their school colors this year, the Navy stayed similar with the Blue Angels color scheme.

Even the helmets are derived from the Blue Angels…

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Via @NavyAthletics

Here is the unveil video provided by the Navy Athletic Department on Twitter…

If you have never seen the Blue Angels in action you can find a treasure trove of videos on YouTube of them performing during various air shows across the country. They are one of the premier flying teams in the world and are immediately recognizable with their unique blue and yellow paint job on their fighter jets. The Navy football team will be honoring them on Saturday against their bitter rivals with these special uniforms.

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Via @NavyAthletics

Navy will be taking it one step further this weekend with a special game ball honoring the Blue Angels…

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Via @NavyAthletics

Saturday’s tilt between two of the oldest military institutions in our country’s history will undoubtedly be one of the best dressed events in all of college football this season as it is every season.

This isn’t simply a gimmick for either side to sell jerseys and make money, this is a moment for them to honor those who came before them while playing in the biggest game of their lives.

These young men are the future military leaders of our great country and will be sacrificing their lives to protect our freedoms, they earned this day. That’s what makes this game so special.

When the game kicks off Saturday afternoon you’ll see two teams playing for much more than a trophy or bragging rights, they’ll be playing to honor those who paid the ultimate price so we as Americans can enjoy the freedoms we do.

Best of luck to both the Cadets and Midshipmen. May the best Academy win. Don’t forget, winner sings second.

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Tuesday Take: College is better … For paper

img_2289Tuesday Takes is a series where either Robbie, Shawn or a special contributor offer a take with the fury of at least one sun. Takes are not required to stay within the formatting or categories of other posts on The BatFlip, but they will come with conviction.

Let’s just get right into it.

There are two types of people in this world. The first type is the kind of person who swears by college-ruled notebook paper. The second type needs to get right with the first type. This is not a world where wide-ruled paper is acceptable once you’re past fifth grade. (Some would even argue fourth grade, but I’ll cut parents and guardians of current fifth-graders a bit of slack)

If you need numbers to help you see my side, here they are.

  • • College-ruled (or medium-rule) boasts a margin of 9/32 of an inch between horizontal lines.
  • Wide-ruled paper checks in with a margin of 11/32 of an inch between horizontal lines. 

So, there’s a 1/16-inch difference. That means that every 16 lines on a sheet of wide-ruled paper is robbing you of a chance to keep your written thoughts on the same page. I can only imagine how annoying this is for teachers to have to check a second sheet of wide-ruled copy when it could have easily fit on a college-ruled sheet. If you used wide-rule at any level of your education beyond elementary school, handwrite your teachers an apology letter after you read this post … But use college-ruled paper like a civilized human being.

While you wide-ruled enthusiasts are probably distraught that your life has been a lie. Don’t rush to toss out your notebooks purchased out of being misguided souls. While you have seen the light, there isn’t a need to be wasteful. There are plenty of uses for those sheets that will never involve you having to wantonly distribute another drop of precious ink.

  • A 1:5 scale representation of a football field. But use pencils to draw in the other markings, though. Don’t use pens. Pens only deserve the glory of college-ruled sheets. 
  • Parallel-parking practice between the horizontal lines. Seriously, if you drive a vehicle smaller than a minivan, this will be a great help in mastering the tricky art of parallel parking.
  • Paper footballs. At least the wide-rule sheet can die heroically as it flies through the air and over a set of goal posts made with the thumbs acting as the crossbar. (Anyone who inverts the goal posts to have the thumbs as uprights should be banned from ever playing paper football in the future)
  • A crude, yet economical way to cover textbooks.
  • Kids crafts. Readers with kids can figure that one out. I’m just the idea man.
  • A napkin when there are no actual napkins or paper towels are available. We’ve all been there. No judging.

DISCLAIMER(S): Obviously, wide-rule has a purpose for those who write large or cannot see/read smaller text … We can all agree that graph paper is the superior ruling for notebook- and filler-paper, but this is a hot take about what should be in second place. 

FlipCast Episode 2: The One About The College Football Playoff

The FlipCast (4)

Find it here on Podbean

In this episode …

• Shawn and Robbie think the committee got it right with the College Football Playoff pairings

• When good Gronk becomes bad Gronk

• We dig a skeleton from the past of the University of Washington

• Robbie is still holding out on that life-changing take