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What The 2016 Chicago Cubs Taught Us About Hope (A Guest Post by Michael Murphy)

From time to time, I like to open up The Luke Norris Experience to those who have something they want to get out to the world but just don’t have a forum to do so. Just yesterday, I wrote a piece entitled “What The Cubs Winning The World Series Means To Me“, knowing full well that there were likely many others who had probably done the same or were thinking of doing the same. As it happens, one of those people is Michael Murphy, a great friend of mine that I’ve known since high school that shares my love for the Cubs. Murph is an extremely intelligent and talented lawyer who doesn’t get to do much creative writing but just as it was with me wanted to get his thoughts on the Cubs winning the World Series out to the world. So without further ado, here they are:

Don’t ever give up on your dreams, friends.

Through failure, adversity, frustration, mediocrity, humiliation, despair, and even desperation, don’t ever give up. Why?  There are many reasons, but one of them is that the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 World Series. 

I was born in 1979 and have been a Cubs fan as long as I can remember. I never considered rooting for another team; my father raised me to be a Cubs fan. It was the only thing I ever knew.  I never questioned it. I never begrudged my father for instilling this in me. I have always been and will always be a Chicago Cubs fan.

But I was bred into a losing fandom and could only dream what it might be like if the Cubs won a championship. In 2016, the Cubs had not won the World Series in 108 years. They had not even appeared in the World Series since 1945. From 1979 to 2016, the Cubs had 25 seasons where they lost more games than they won. But I never gave up hope.

The Cubs occasionally made the postseason. They were leading the National League Championship Series (NLCS) in 1984 three games to one, lost three straight games, and lost the series to San Diego. They were tied one game to one in the 1989 NLCS, and lost three straight games to San Francisco to lose the series. I barely remember these, but I learned of them through my Cubs fandom.   Despite this knowledge, I never gave up hope.

In 1998, after winning a one-game playoff, the Cubs achieved a wild card spot in the playoffs. The Cubs were swept in three games by the Atlanta Braves. But I never gave up hope.

In 2003, the Cubs won their first postseason series since 1908, beating the Atlanta Braves in five games in the National League Division Series (NLDS).  Then, the Cubs were leading the NLCS three games to one and were five outs away from advancing to the World Series, leading three to nothing in Game 6 against Florida. They lost Game 6, lost Game 7, and lost the series. I was 24, and I vividly remember the lasting pain of the conclusion of the 2003 Cubs season. But I never gave up hope. 

The Cubs had great teams in 2007 and 2008, winning the Central Division both years to advance to the postseason. They were swept in the NLDS by Arizona in 2007 and Los Angeles in 2008. That was nine straight postseason games lost.  But I never gave up hope. 

In 2015, the Cubs advanced to the NLCS, only to be swept in four games by New York.  But I never gave up hope.  

The 2016 Cubs season was different. THESE Cubs never gave up.  They had the best record in Major League Baseball, coming from behind to win an amazing eight times when they were trailing entering the ninth inning. These Cubs were leading the NLDS two games to one, but were down by three runs after eight innings in San Francisco. They were facing a series tied at two games each and a pressure-packed elimination Game 5 back at Wrigley Field. But they did not give up hope in Game 4.  They scored four runs in the ninth inning and won the series.

These Cubs were losing the NLCS two games to one in Los Angeles, having been shutout in the past two games. But they never gave up hope.  They won three games in a row to advance to the World Series.

These Cubs were losing the World Series three games to one. But they never gave up hope.  They won Game 5 at Wrigley Field to make the series three to two, yet then faced two road games in Cleveland, with Cleveland needing only one win to eliminate the Cubs. They won Game 6 nine to three, and proceeded to the ultimate baseball game, Game 7 of the World Series.

These Cubs had a six to three lead with two outs in the eighth inning of Game 7. They allowed Cleveland to tie the game six to six in the eighth. Although they surrendered the lead when they were four outs away from finally winning a title, they never gave up hope.

These Cubs rallied to score two runs in the tenth inning of Game 7. They allowed a run to Cleveland in the bottom of the tenth, and then with two outs, Cleveland had the tying run at first base, and the winning run at the plate. But these Cubs never quit; they only needed one more out. These Cubs got the final out and won their first World Series in 108 years. 

I believed in all the Chicago Cubs teams prior to 2016, and they did not achieve the ultimate goal. But I never gave up hope and believed again in 2016. These 2016 Chicago Cubs never quit.  These Chicago Cubs never gave up hope. These Chicago Cubs accomplished the seemingly impossible by winning the World Series.  These gritty, hardworking, never say die 2016 Cubs made their dreams come true, along with the dreams of millions of dedicated and faithful Cubs fans.

The story of the Chicago Cubs and its fandom transcends baseball. Being a Cubs fan is admittedly attaching great emotion to a game one has no power to affect, and sports fandom in general is not for everyone. The story of the Chicago Cubs, however, is a source of hope for all.

The fact that the Chicago Cubs won the World Series means that anything can happen, including things that have not occurred in over a century, things very few people alive have ever seen, and things no one alive has ever seen. No matter how long and painful the failure to achieve a goal may be, never give up hope. No matter how sad, depressed, ashamed, or exasperated one feels, there is always hope. Believe in your family, your friends, your coworkers, your neighbors, your fellow Americans, humankind in general and, most importantly, yourself. There is always hope.

Sometimes, or maybe many times, or perhaps over a hundred times, the goal will not be achieved. But there is always hope that a goal thought to be only a dream can be achieved. When that goal is something you were emotionally invested in and hoped would happen for a lifetime, a Cubs fan can assure you that reaching it will be an amazing experience. So, don’t ever give up on your dreams, friends.  

-Michael P. Murphy

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What The Cubs Winning The World Series Means To Me

Yes, I realize that it’s now been five days since the Chicago Cubs won the World Series (and yes, that is a very strange sentence to type) and that some of you may be sick of all of the posts and memes and stories about it, but I just can’t pass up this chance to share my thoughts on the matter with you, especially with those of you whom I know have been asking and waiting patiently for them. But honestly, I really wanted to let everything sink in and see the rest of the stories come out that go along with this monumental occasion. And I’ve also had to deal with my two daughters being sick and everything that goes along with that, I had a wedding to attend and of course had some actual work to do. But with the short time I do have available today (and wanting to get it in before so many of you get angry about the election tomorrow), here it goes.

It’s hard not to be romantic about baseball.

I want so badly to be able to take credit for that line but that actually comes from Moneyball (a movie that just gets better with each and every viewing and something I may or may not have watched multiple times in the past week) and it fits so perfectly with everything that took place during this World Series run by the Chicago Cubs. Now, I could go on for hours and hours on why exactly I love baseball so much. I could pull the James Earl Jones speech from Field of Dreams and just break that down line by line and likely get 10,000 words out of it but I’ll try to keep myself reeled in as best I can as I go along here.

But I do love baseball. As far as sports are concerned, it really was my first love. Like so many other kids that grew up in my generation, I was just drawn to it from the start. There was just something so simple about it when you were a kid, wasn’t there? This was obviously before I realized how much actually goes into a baseball game what with the strategy of a hit and run or a pitching change to get the lefty vs lefty matchup or a double switch or any of the numerous other little things that each and every Major League game contains. But when you’re a kid, you’ve got a ball, a bat and a glove and everything seems so simple. I hit the ball. You field it. I throw the ball. You catch it. I mean, we could make a game out of anything, couldn’t we? If we didn’t have enough people to play a real game, you just improvised. Remember 500? Or 700? Or 900? It was a game where you just threw the ball up in the air and yelled a random number of points that was awarded to the person who caught it. If it sounds that simple it’s because it was. Even if it was only myself and one other person, we could still find a way to somehow play some kind of full game, even if that meant that one of us had to play both pitcher and hitter by throwing the ball up and hitting it yourself while the other person attempted to catch the ball before it crossed a line in the street or a rock trail in a random field in the neighborhood . While it was essentially a home run derby, my friend Bob and I called it the “3-Out Game” and we would play a full nine-inning game multiple times a day until the street lights told us it was time to stop. That was our life and that’s what we did.

And I love the Chicago Cubs. While I’ve got a favorite team in every sport, there’s never been one that I’ve rooted for as much as I have for the Cubs. And again, that just goes back to when I was a boy. I mean, one of the ways I learned to read was from sitting with my grandfather reading the Cubs stories in the Chicago Tribune. I went as Andre Dawson, still my favorite Cub of all time, for Halloween. I wore a Chicago Cubs uniform for my school picture in second grade.  With that being said, I also wore a Cardinals jersey the following year because my father, who was a huge Cardinals fan, essentially forced me to do so. But that was part of the fun of loving the Cubs so much. While most boys end up rooting for the team that their father does, I went the opposite way and we would just go back and forth at each other, obviously with Pop being able to use the 1908 joke whenever he felt like it to win the discussion. But that was also just part of the fun of where I grew up. Peoria, IL is basically halfway between Chicago and St. Louis and the fans around here are split right down the middle…with a few White Sox fans sprinkled in here and there.

And growing up as a Cubs fan in Peoria was pretty awesome as one of their minor-league affiliates, the Chiefs, were here in town and I was able to see so many future greats like Greg Maddux and Mark Grace before they were stars at this little rinky-dink ballpark in the center of town (there’s a much nicer stadium downtown these days) and I thought it was the greatest place in the world…until I went to Wrigley Field. I’d watched so many games on WGN and walking up that ramp and seeing scoreboard and the field and the ivy for the first time is a moment I’ll never forget. Walking into that place was like walking into a church for me and even now, as a guy in my late 30s, I still get that feeling every time I go there because it really does, even if only for a few hours, take me back to a simpler time. You sit in those stands for a few hours and you can forget everything else that’s going on around you. It doesn’t mean that everything else goes away, but for nine innings you can sit and worry about nothing else besides if you’re going to see that “W” flag fly. Unfortunately, the Cubs just didn’t win that much when I was a kid.

I was only five years old in 1984 so I can’t really pretend to remember feeling any heartbreak when the Cubs lost to the Padres in the NLCS after holding a 2-0 lead. But I do remember the feeling I had in 1989 when they lost to the Giants. Or how heartbroken I was when they let Greg Maddux get away. And I honestly was mad at them for a long time, so much so that I once wore an opposing player’s jersey into the Friendly Confines just to let them know. I sure showed them. And like so many others, I got away from baseball for a while after the strike in 1994. Sure, I still followed what was happening but basketball had then become the sport that I played the most and paid the most attention to during my teenage years. But also like so many others, the home run race between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire in 1998 coupled with the Cubs’ playoff chase brought me back. I remember parading the streets in college when they won the Wild Card that fall and once again being disappointed when they couldn’t advance. And of course there was the 2003 season.

2003 had to be the year, right? With that team and with that pitching staff, there was no way in the world that the Cubs could blow a 3-1 lead in the NLCS, right? Well, I think we all know how that turned out and in case you’re wondering, no, I was never one to blame Steve Bartman for anything. I’ve felt so sorry for that guy since that fateful night and I honestly hope that this year’s happenings has given that man a little bit of peace. But it was just so unbelievable to watch. And then I watched in horror over the next three years as the Boston Red Sox broke their 86-year “curse”, the crosstown Chicago White Sox bring a title to Chicago for the first time since 1917 and watched as the rival St. Louis Cardinals win their 10th World Series crown. Of all of the teams that could win titles after the Cubs blew their best chance in nearly sixty years, it had to be those three? Throw in the fact that the Red Sox won two more and the Cardinals won another before the Cubs even got back to the NLCS and you just couldn’t help but feel that a World Series win wasn’t in the cards for the North Side. Even their playoff runs in 2007 and 2008 never had that championship feel to them.

As the decade turned, I sat and watched five straight last-place finishes, including the 2012 season when they lost 101 games. But we were told to be patient. There was a plan in place that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer were sticking to and Cubs fans just had to wait. After more than 100 years without a title, what’s a few more? So we waited. We watched as these kids were drafted and developed. We watched as trades were made and free agents were signed, all with the hope that this tortured fan base would someday get to feel what so many others had felt. And finally, in 2015, the plan truly began to take shape as the Cubs won 97 games and took the second Wild Card spot. And we watched as Jake Arrieta threw a gem in Pittsburgh. And we watched as for the first time in history, the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals played each other in the playoffs. And the Cubs actually won. Could this really be happening? If the Cubs finally bested their bitter rivals, they could do anything, right? Well, the New York Mets had something to say about that and championship hopes were dashed once again as the Cubs were swept in the NLCS and the “wait until next year” slogan once again had to be thrown around and Cubs fans had to once again be ridiculed mercilessly. It’s just something that comes along with the territory and is just that much worse now that social media is around. Honestly, could you imagine some of the Facebook or Twitter posts that would have come along with any of those Cubs teams (’69, ’84, ’03) that blew big leads?

But then it happened. Next year was finally here and someday became a thing of the past last Wednesday night (or Thursday depending on where you live) when the Cubs won that epic Game 7 in Cleveland. I suppose I probably didn’t need to get into all of the history that I did but it all plays into what happened during this World Series, doesn’t it? Cubs fans have had to deal with more loss and more heartbreak than any other franchise in sports in the last century. I mean, even the Cleveland Browns won a championship in 1964. And that feeling was there on numerous occasions throughout the series. The Cubs got blanked in Game 1 so there was an immediate need to fight back, which they did in Game 2. But then they lost Game 3. And then Game 4 to go down 3-1, which usually means that you’re going to lose. But this is the beauty of baseball.

I’ve long said that more than other sport in the world, any given team in baseball can win on any given day. A last-place team in baseball can win more easily against a first-place team in baseball. For instance, and I’m sorry to Cleveland for once again going back to the Browns, there’s essentially a zero-percent chance that they could go into Foxboro and get a win against the Patriots. However, the Minnesota Twins, who had the worst record in baseball this season with only 59 wins, can go into Cleveland and take three out of four games (this actually happened in early August) from the Indians at any time. That’s just how baseball works. There’s a reason that MLB hasn’t had a repeat champion in nearly two decades. It’s really hard to win the World Series and while it was going to be very difficult for the Cubs to win three games against a very good baseball team, it was still possible. But that Cubs fan feeling was still there. But then they won Game 5 and hope began to build. And then they won Game 6 and let’s get real. For the Cubs to win the World Series, there had to be the drama of a do-or-die Game 7. It just wouldn’t have felt right any other way.

So the Cubs jump out to an early lead in Game 7 and we’re feeling pretty good. Then the Indians tie it up. Then the Cubs take a four-run lead after two runs in the fourth and two more in the fifth. Cleveland gets two in the bottom of the fifth but the Cubs get another run in the sixth and take that three-run lead into the eighth. But then that old-fashioned feeling comes roaring back when Aroldis Chapman gives up that home run to Rajai Davis to tie the game at 6-6. All the momentum is with the Indians at this point and you just couldn’t help but think that any chance the Cubs had to win was gone. And for those who are yelling at me through your screen that I’m supposed to stay positive and believe and such, just save it. You know that even if just for a split second that you were thinking the same thing. And just for a little added drama, the game goes to extra innings….and we have to wait out a rain delay for the finish. Are you kidding me?

Now, I’m in a bar for this entire thing. I work at a local tavern a couple of nights per week for some extra cash and I’m just a wreck. I told myself all day not to get too worked up about this game but as the start time drew closer, I just couldn’t stop pacing behind the bar and I was as active as could be during this entire thing. Everyone in the place was so focused on the game and it was a very cool environment to be in charge of. I’m usually a pretty reserved guy during sporting events. I usually don’t allow myself to get that worked up on something I have no control over but I was trying to keep everyone involved that night. I was the guy running down the line giving high fives after a big hit or a big strikeout and just doing that whole thing. So after the rain delay is over and the Cubs come out and get two runs, I’m going absolutely insane. But then that feeling crept back in for a moment when the Indians scored in the bottom of the tenth. As Michael Martinez stepped to the plate, I was terrified on what could happen. But I’ve been very impressed with Michael Montgomery in these playoffs but the little dribbler that came off of the bat of Martinez looked like a hit if I’m being honest here. It seemed like one of those balls that just wouldn’t be gotten to in time but then Kris Bryant came flying into the screen and hit Anthony Rizzo with a perfect throw and I’ve got no problem admitting that things got a little emotional.

I didn’t even see the big pile on the infield until later. As soon as Rizzo caught the ball and stuffed it into his pocket, I was out the back door and into the alley. There was no yelling. There was no jumping for joy. There was me, dressed in jeans, a backwards Cubs hat, a blue Cubs jersey with a “1908 World Champions” shirt that I had made into a “2016 World Champions” shirt by using a little bit of blue painters tape at about 4:00 that afternoon that nobody saw until I went back inside, doubled over with my hands over my face and crying….over a baseball game.

But it just wasn’t one baseball game to Cubs fans, was it? Just like it wasn’t just one baseball game for Red Sox fans in 2004. Or White Sox fans in 2005. It was realizing that the first team I ever loved just did something that they hadn’t done in 108 years. Is it any more special than any three of the titles that the Giants have won recently? Or any of the 27 titles that the Yankees have won? Or any of the 11 that the Cardinals have won? No…not to them. But it is for us. And whether people want to admit or not, there is something to be said for all of the stories about grandparents and parents that never got a chance to witness this that makes it that much more appealing to us. You don’t think I wasn’t thinking about those times reading the Trib with my grandfather? Or that I wasn’t thinking about how much I wish my father, who always rooted for the Cubs when the Cardinals weren’t in it, were still alive so that I could share this with him? That’s where the tears came from.

Look, sports are a huge part of my life. They’re part of what I do for a living. I get to write about a sports and collect a check for it. But with that being said, I don’t let them run my life. Do I want my teams to win? Of course I do. But I refuse to get mad when they don’t. I don’t let the outcome of a game ruin the rest of my day if it doesn’t go my way. Nor do I throw the result in someone else’s face if it does. I know plenty of people like that and it’s just absolutely ridiculous. I don’t get into sports arguments. I get into sports discussions, where people actually listen, and those are much more rewarding. Just looking at social media since Wednesday is somewhat hilarious. The “1 year of success doesn’t erase 108 years of failure” posts and people that just refuse to let Cubs fans enjoy this is actually somewhat comical. Is your life that empty where you just have to try and make everyone as miserable as you? And just to even things out a bit, there are plenty of Cubs fans that have posted things that I don’t like and I’m never one to say that Cubs fans are the best fans in the world. Every fan base things that theirs is the best and that’s the way it should be. It’s just that Cubs fans have had to be more patient. As far as being a sports fan, I’ve now been lucky enough to watch every single team that I root for win at least one championship. But like every other title win I’ve watched before, this World Series win from the Cubs doesn’t really change anything that “matters”, does it?

Watching the Cubs win the World Series didn’t make my bills magically disappear. It didn’t change the fact that I still have to wake up and work every day. It didn’t change the fact that I deal with a consistent number of problems on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly basis. But what this run has done has allowed me to do is watch a Cubs World Series game with my children, something my father never got to do. What this has done is bring a community of people together, which is something that happens in sports every day that so often gets overlooked. What this has done is allowed me to take myself back to a simpler time, a time when I was that kid with a ball, a bat and a glove dressed in number 8 Andre Dawson Cubs jersey that wanted nothing more out of life than to watch the Cubs win the World Series. It allowed millions of Cubs fans around the world to take a quick break from their lives and be a part of something special, something that so many other fan bases have gotten to do while we waited patiently for our turn. For a split second, all of the failed attempts over the past 108 years didn’t matter because they got the last one right. And that’s a feeling that the players can hang on to until the spring when they and 29 other teams and all 30 fan bases have to start all over again. No, the Cubs winning the World Series doesn’t really change anything in the grand scheme of things. But for one night, we were able to take a break and witness something we’ve never seen before. And while it may be just a game, it’s so much more than that to so many people. It’s our childhood. It’s something we shared with those that are no longer with us. It’s something that taught us about winning and losing. It’s a game that’s so simple on the surface while so unbelievably complex at its core. And it’s a game that for one night brought a brief moment of pure joy to millions of people around the world.

What’s not romantic about that?

So Where’s The Cure?

Good day, everyone. I’ve been extremely busy over the past few weeks as I’m still getting adjusted to a few new things but I wanted to take a few minutes today to share something with everyone that I’ve been working on for quite a while and am extremely excited to announce that it’s finally ready to go.

A few months back, I was approached by my aunt, Cinda Thompson, to help out with a book that she’d been wanting to put out for quite some time. If you’re unaware of who she is, she’s a very talented writer whose poetry, short stories and memoirs have been featured in numerous publications over the years, including in a national best-selling anthology, When I Am An Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple. I’ve done some work for her in the past, finally getting some of her work out there on a digital platform. She’d been wanting to get her work online but just didn’t know how to go about it which is where I came in. About a year ago at this time, we launched Living The Revolution, which houses the majority of the work she’s ever done, including the poetry from her poetry book, At The Core, which was released many years ago.

I also created a focused blog for her, Diabetes: A Life Sentence?, where she writes posts from time to time about her more than 50-year battle with Type 1 Diabetes, which is also the focus of her latest and biggest project to date, So Where’s The Cure?, a new book with nine incredible stories about her battle with this terrible disease. Using the subtitle “Memories Of A Life With Type 1 Diabetes”, So Where’s The Cure looks at Cinda’s original diagnosis at just 11 years old and is filled with amazing tales of life, love, loss and heartache while also discussing the diets, medicines and costs associated with T1D, bringing a fantastic mix of everything you need to know about what she’s had to deal on a day-to-day basis for more than five decades. ol

And as far as my involvement goes, I was extremely honored to be a part of this project as the publisher. After being given all of the source material, it was my job to design and format the entire book to get it ready to go to print, which is actually a little more work than you might think. We had to take into account the audience that we were looking at, which we decided would need a bigger font size which changes a lot of different things as it pertains to margins and such when you’re putting a book together. There’s how much space you want after a paragraph, what kind of spacing you need within each paragraph, how the pictures that we wanted to use would fit and where they needed to be. We ran through a few different fonts for appearance and there’s spacing issues when transitioning from each format that have to be dealt with, which results in having to look at each and every page over and over and over to make sure that we’ve got everything done just right before going to the printer and after having seen the finished product, I’m happy to say that I think we got it just right.

Now, I’ve been doing the online thing for a while now and while it’s great to have hundreds upon hundreds of articles with my name attached to it, there’s just a little something extra to seeing your name in print, especially on that back cover that I designed, which is something I haven’t seen since those poetry books I was in more than 10 years ago.

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While it was great to work on the project and receive a little bit of recognition for it, the credit here really does belong to Cinda. While the formatting and design and all of that is important, it’s the content here that really matters and it truly is exceptional. If you’re someone that suffers from diabetes or know anyone that suffers from diabetes, I highly recommend that you give this book a read. To order a copy, at the bargain price of $12.00 in print, you can contact Cinda on her websites or you can order one through me right here. I bet I can even get her to sign it for you as I made her do it for me. In addition, I also formatted So Where’s The Cure? as an e-book and you can order a digital copy of it for Amazon Kindle using this link for just $9.99.

I want to thank Cinda for the opportunity to work on this project with her. It truly was a great experience for me and I certainly learned a lot in the process about publishing, both in the print and digital world and even more importantly, I learned a little bit more about how this disease can have such an impact on a life.

Do yourself a favor. Check out So Where’s The Cure? and help support a great cause as the majority of the proceeds from the sale of this book will go towards the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The JDRF Walk here in Peoria, IL just took place over the weekend and was actually the location in which this book debuted. The JDRF is determined to turn Type One into Type None and this is a great way to help. And don’t forget that November is National Diabetes Awareness Month and this would make a great gift for someone you might know that could relate to the types of things that Cinda has had to deal with. Congratulations to Cinda on a job well done.

The 2016 State Of THE Luke Norris Address

At long last, the 2016 “State Of THE Luke Norris Address” has arrived.

As those of you who follow the site, I usually get this out a lot sooner than this (usually around the anniversary of the site), but this year has been such an absolute whirlwind that every time I’d even try to get this going, something would come up where I’d have to put it on the back burner. But to be honest with you, I really just need to get this out there for myself right now. For the past 18 months, I’ve been writing and writing and writing but so much of it has been for other people, which I suppose is something that I have to do given I’m a freelance writer and all, but today I just want to get some things out there and update everyone on exactly what’s happening in my world right now.

When I started this new adventure 18 months ago, I’ve got no problem admitting that I was absolutely terrified. I was making good money doing what I was doing, which is certainly important, but I was absolutely miserable. While I enjoyed some of the people I was working with, the actual guy I was working for was an absolute nightmare. Now, I know that’s what a lot of people say about their boss, but I hadn’t had that in a while. When I was doing the coffee thing, I loved the people I was working for. They were helpful and had a vision on where the company should go and while some of the follow-up didn’t necessarily work, it was okay. But this last guy just didn’t get it. He tried to teach through fear and that’s just no way to go about things. I didn’t mind the everyday challenges that I had to face, but again, this guy just didn’t get it. He would LITERALLY corner me in the bathroom to discuss how things should be going and just try to intimidate me into changing into somebody I didn’t want to be. I’m a pretty laid-back individual and he was trying to turn me into this aggressive, pushy, know-it-all monster….basically, he was trying to turn me into him. I would wake up everyday just hating that I had to walk into that place and that’s no way to go through life. So I left.

Obviously, he’s not the only reason that I left but it certainly made it a bit easier. As I explained in last year’s address, I wanted to follow a dream that I’ve had for a long time and it was time to really take a shot at it. And I hated the fact that I felt as if I was never seeing my children. For those who don’t know, I’m divorced and while I am lucky enough in that situation to have my children 50 percent of the time, it didn’t feel like that at all. I’d leave work at 5 or 5:15, drive the 20 minutes to go get them from my ex-wife, drive the 15 minutes back home and essentially would just have dinnertime, bathtime and bedtime. That was it. Sure, we’d get to play and do things on the weekends that I would have them but I felt that I was missing so much. Even on the mornings that they were at my house, my mother would have to come over and drive them to preschool so I didn’t even get to do any of that. My two daughters are still at the age where they actually like me and I wanted to be involved in as much of that as I could. And I wanted to be able to look them in the eye and tell them that if you want something bad enough that they should go after it. I never want to be a hypocrite to my little girls so 18 months ago, I made the decision that I did and started over.

I wish I could say that the past 18 months have been all sunshine and rainbows and I’m doing things exactly the way I planned to do them but that would just be a bold-faced lie. But as I’m trying these days to focus on the positives before the negatives, let me start there. The plan to have more time with my daughters is working perhaps even better than I had hoped for and I’m more thankful for that than anything. In essence, I can do all of the things that a “stay-at-home mom” is supposed to do and the only reason I used that term is because if social media is to be believed, dads aren’t actually able to do anything for their kids, right? Yes, I do get a little offended when people say that mothers do absolutely everything and dads only get to do the “fun” stuff…but I digress. But to me, I do get to do all of the fun stuff that I wanted to do. I get to wake up with my daughters and get them breakfast and get them ready for school and make their lunches and actually take them to and pick them up from school on the days that I have them and at least for the time being, that’s something I’m not willing to trade in for anything. You can put a lot of titles on me these days but I’m a father first and foremost and I’m loving every minute of that.

On the professional side, things started out a little slower than what I would have hoped for but I certainly have myself to blame for some of that. In the beginning months, I probably could have worked a little harder and done some more things to get the ball rolling but I was just enjoying my time with the kids so much that I didn’t want to focus on anything else. And yes, it was difficult to hold myself accountable for my day-to-day activities working from home. It was an entirely new concept for me and I told myself that I wouldn’t get distracted and would stay focused but it’s certainly something that I still have to work at every single day. I had so much freedom in the things that I was doing and I openly admit that I would just shove things to the side, especially in the beginning. But as the months went by, I focused in a little more and all of a sudden I found myself working for a number of different websites. I had found a Chicago-based site that was going to pay me to write about the Cubs and the other major teams in town. But seriously, someone is going to give me money to write about the freaking Chicago Cubs? Yeah, I think I’ll do that. Then I found another one that was going to pay me to write about wrestling. Yeah, I think I’ll do that as well. And for those of you who want to judge me about being 37 years old and still watching wrestling, just go ahead and save it. It’s an amazing form of entertainment and storytelling that I’ve been watching for 30+ years and will never be ashamed of doing so. I’m not judging you while you watch The Bachelor or Big Brother or any of the other 8,000 “reality” shows that exist right now. Okay, maybe I just did right there a little bit but seriously, you like what you like and I like what I like. If it entertains you, go nuts and don’t worry about what anybody else thinks. And then another one came along where I could write about just about anything. I could still do my sports and my entertainment but I could also hit on world news and politics and religion and things of that nature. And I was still having some fun doing some podcasts and contests and such for my original home at Binge Media. And to make everything even better, I was with (and still am) a woman that was supporting everything that I was doing 100 percent. I had a family that was being as supportive as they could be as well and I was doing all of this while still doing all of the things I wanted to with my kids. The money wasn’t exactly rolling in but I was doing okay and gaining a following and making a little name for myself in this business. The things that I’ve written in these past 18 months have literally been read by millions upon millions of people (without any of them including a cute kitten video) and things were okay…until they weren’t.

There are certainly advantages to doing what I do. I do have a bit more freedom in my daily life than many others. On days that I feel like it, I can literally sit on my couch in my pajamas and work and I’m not going to lie and pretend that that doesn’t happen. But working for a lot of websites is very time-consuming and while I was enjoying a lot of what I did, I had very little time for anything outside of that and my children. The time I wanted to spend with my girlfriend was limited, due also in part to the fact that she has an amazing work ethic and is trying to get her own career off the ground in musical education. Actually, while I’m on that topic, let me just talk about her for a minute. As I said before, she’s been nothing but supportive since I made this decision and I really couldn’t ask for anything more on that end. If you’ve not been here before and don’t know anything about her, allow me to fill you in. When I was going through the most difficult time in my life, she was there initially as a friend to help pick me up and it blossomed into what we are today, which is two people that are trying to balance going after our dreams while trying to raise two children in a 50/50 environment. I’m sure many of you reading this can relate and I’m sure you know how hard that is. Balance is always tricky, isn’t it? But this particular “millennial” is bucking the stereotype that her generation is lazy and busts her ass 65 hours a week at two schools, a music center and a church so I can do what it is I do each and every day. Does that sometimes cost her some time with my daughters? Yes, it does. But you know what? She absolutely loves my daughters and I know for a fact that they love her right back. To be honest, I know that she could put in more hours than she already does but she’s chosen not to do that in order to spend as much time as she can with the girls. I know that she takes a lot of heat from certain people and it’s heat that is absolutely unwarranted. She’s 26 years old and while she hadn’t initially planned to be a mom or a stepmom or whatever label you want to put on it, she’s doing her best to make everything work and she’s doing a damn fine job at it. I apologize for the small rant but these things just had to be said and as this is the one thing per year that I don’t edit, I just wanted to get that out there. Actually, I’m really not sorry.

Where was I? Oh right. So doing what I was doing didn’t allow much time for anything else. As I started to say, I was staying up late trying to write as much as I could and things did get a little tense between Ashlie and I for a bit. She wakes up very early for work so she has to go to bed quite early and I just couldn’t do that. At least I felt I couldn’t at the time. I’d stay up working until 2 or 3 in the morning and then get up with the kids early the next day and start again. Or on days that I wouldn’t have the kids, I’d stay up late and then wake up the next day and just try to cram in as much as I could while they were with their mom. And I really just became a shut-in. I avoided phone calls. I avoided text messages and really never wanted to do anything except work and hang out with my kids. And I really just stopped talking. I know that sounds strange for someone who occasionally does podcasts but I just didn’t really care about what most people had to say and I really just didn’t want to talk to most people. Still don’t if I’m being completely honest here. For the most part I’ve always been a pretty laid-back guy anyway but I would just get annoyed with anyone who opened their mouth. Somebody could be telling me the best story in the world but I likely wasn’t listening even if my eyes were looking directly at the person. Of course that didn’t apply to people I truly cared about but I really just wanted to be left alone. I was exhausted all the time and it was getting to the point that even when I was with my kids, I was just tired. And a lot of that was due to what I was doing to myself physically. I’ve never had the best diet in the world but there were days that I would literally just forget to eat and when I did it was just garbage. Any exercise that I had gotten in my former life from lifting boxes of coffee or just actual exercise were gone. And then there’s the smoking, which has now reached 20 years. Not exactly a celebratory milestone, is it? Add the maybe three or four hours of sleep I was getting each night and it’s no wonder I was exhausted on a constant basis. So I decided to cut back on work a bit.

I looked at everything I was doing and decided that the Chicago-based site had to go. While there are some very nice people running that site that do have a vision, I wasn’t liking a few of the things that were happening so I decided to leave. At the time, I still had two other sites that actually paid a bit more anyway so I felt I could walk away and still be okay. And I was for a while…until problems arose at the site for which I was doing the wrestling articles. I had come across a site that I had no affiliation with whatsoever that had posted something very similar to an article I had written. I actually came across it after Hulk Hogan had put it up on his Facebook page and I was insanely excited. If you don’t already know, I’m a huge Hulk Hogan guy and this was a big deal for me knowing that he (or at least somebody that’s running his Facebook page) is reading my work. So I click on it and it’s the same exact words and same exact pictures but it’s not actually my article and I got no credit of any kind anywhere on the page. After leaving a comment on Hogan’s page, I immediately contacted my site and told them what happened. I was assured that the legal department would get involved, that they had my back and everything would be taken care of. Okay, cool. But then it happened again. And then again. And then again. Every time this happened, I was losing money. If somebody like Hulk Hogan posts a wrestling article, it’s going to get a ton of views. But while they were my articles, they weren’t my actual articles and these millions of page views were going to somebody else that wasn’t me. Every time I contacted my site, I was told the same thing. We’ll take care of it. Well, they didn’t take care of it and it just wasn’t worth my time anymore to work for a company that actually didn’t have my back and would let this happen time and time again. Perhaps I took it a little too personally, but I went ahead and left there as well, still hanging onto the one site that I had where I was making the most money and decided to devote all of my writing time and energy to them. I’d be making more money and could build a better schedule that allowed me to get more sleep and just feel better overall, I thought. And it actually did work that way for a little while….until it didn’t.

Now, in the meantime I actually was making an attempt to get out of the house a bit more, even if that only meant I was still working. A local tavern that I’ve been going to for years needed a bartender on Thursday nights so I just threw my name in the hat and was given the job after about a minute of talking about it. There’s some great people that go there and it gave me a bit of a chance to be a bit more sociable than I had been, which really only entailed me sitting at a bar watching a ballgame by myself and not really talking to anybody outside of Ashlie and a friend or two that would join me on occasion. So after a much-needed vacation to the beach, I started working there one night a week, which has now turned into two due to the Wednesday guy wanting to get out. And I absolutely love it. It’s a little dive bar and it’s not that I’m making a ton of money working there but it gets me out of the house on nights that my daughters are with their mother during the week and I basically now just get paid to watch ballgames and have a few drinks. And I get to hang out with my ex-in-laws, who are regulars there, which might be strange for some people but they’re great people that I wasn’t seeing on a regular basis anymore. They’re people that I care about a great deal and we just sit there and talk about the kids while I’m cracking beers for them and it’s great. And it also opened the door to another opportunity that I’ll get to in a few minutes.

So at this point I’ve got the one website, the bar and a few side projects going and things are going pretty smoothly…until I get an e-mail telling me that my services are no longer needed at the one website I’ve got left, the one I’d been banking on to keep me going for a while. Honestly, I had been wondering where they were coming up with the money to pay all of the writers they had on staff and things must have been drying up a bit as the explanation I was given was that they were cutting back a bit and I guess I just didn’t have enough seniority. Although I understand, I can’t say that I wasn’t upset and certainly disappointed at what happened. At the risk of sounding a little crybaby-ish, it just felt that perhaps things were going a little too smoothly for me and that wasn’t allowed. Poor me, right? I had gotten to a point where I was finally finding some balance and all of a sudden it was taken away. But then I got to thinking that perhaps I did some of that to myself. Maybe I shouldn’t have left the other two sites but was I really happy with them anyway? The whole point of doing what I did was to be happy and I really wasn’t. A big reason in doing what I did was to write for a living and I had been doing that for over a year but I also wasn’t doing some of the projects that I really wanted to do. Writing articles for other people was taking up the majority of my time, obviously a necessity given the mortgage and bills and all of that, but was I really writing the things that I wanted to write? Sure, writing on the Cubs and wrestling and the other things for a check is a great thing and I’m going to continue to do that, but I’ve had ideas in my head for years that I’ve never pulled the trigger on and I suppose telling myself that I just didn’t have the time as opposed to being scared as hell to do them was something for another day. Except that day just kept becoming the next day and the next week and the next month and the next year and while I know I’m off the original topic yet again, I’m just sick of doing that to myself.

So what happens next? Where am I today? I know these addresses run a little long, which is why I only subject you them once a year, but I thank you if you’ve made it through all of that just to find out what the latest news is. I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t wallow in self-pity for a few days but I couldn’t afford (literally) to just sit back and take it. Life’s about getting back up after you get knocked down and I’ve certainly had to do that on a number of occasions in the past. So I got back to it. I started throwing out some feelers to a few different websites and just a few weeks ago I latched onto a pretty big site that I’m starting to do a few things for called FanSided, a sports and entertainment website that’s owned by Time, Inc. and is actually a partner site to Sports Illustrated. So we’ll see how that goes moving forward.

As far as that other opportunity I mentioned a little bit ago, I just kind of fell into that. I was bartending one night and the mayor of my little slice of paradise comes in with his son, both of whom I’ve known for many years, and we just get to talking as you do in a bar. I actually hadn’t seen either in quite a while so they asked what else I was doing these days and I told them that I was doing the freelancing thing, writing articles and such and the son informed me that a small newspaper in his building called The Labor Paper, which is actually more than 100 years old and focuses on stories that pertain to unions and politics and things of that nature, was looking for someone to perhaps write a few articles here and there and was also looking for someone with some advertising sales experience. It was really kind of funny how it happened. Ashlie was sitting there with me while all this conversation was happening and her eyes just got so big and started pointing at me as if to say “That’s you! That’s you!” And as it turned out, it was. I got the number of the editor and met up with her a few days later for lunch and after talking to her for about 15 minutes, she hired me right there on the spot. So I’ll get to put some of that sales experience that I have to good use without an overbearing prick looking over my shoulder the whole time, which will be quite nice. In addition to putting out the paper, we also have a talk radio show on Saturdays on a popular station here in town and in addition to selling some spots for that, we’ve also discussed me filling in as the host from time to time when the regular guy needs a break and I still get to write, whether it be an article for the paper (will be nice to see my name in actual print) or writing radio spots for some clients. And the most beautiful part of this whole thing is that I work on my schedule. The job is technically a part-time position and I choose when I work, which means that everything I need to do for the kids isn’t affected in the slightest and who knows what other doors this could open as time goes on.

Six weeks ago, I was really down on myself as I thought that this little experiment of mine was a complete failure and I really thought I was ready to give up on myself. But I’ve got too many people believing in me to let that happen. And I’ve got two little girls that I want to look in the eye and continue to say that anything is possible if you just believe in yourself. And I’m still betting on me. I know that it’s going to take a little time to get adjusted to everything new that’s going on and nothing is going to happen overnight, but I’m preparing myself for what lies ahead. I’ve got a lot of goals that I’m setting for myself and now more than ever, I’m determined to reach them. I’ve been looking at what might work best to help me quit smoking and had some conversations with people about what’s worked best for them. I’ve been researching some different ways that I can ease back into exercising without overdoing it at the start. I’ve cut back on soda and have also been researching some diets that work for me that don’t involve McDonald’s three or four times per week (if you’re thinking that’s what I feed my kids, that’s certainly not the case…they eat a decent meal while I watch and after they go to bed I cram 1500 calories down my throat). As of right now, I’ve got the site, the bar and the paper and I’m looking into some other opportunities that perhaps I overlooked when I first started doing this. And I’ve started some preliminary work on what will end up being the biggest thing I’ve ever done (sorry, can’t give that one away just yet) and am looking to also start a children’s book in the near future. But I’m going to do all of this on a schedule that works best for me mentally and physically. I’m tired of being tired and it really all just comes back to balance. I know what I’m capable of and I know that I can do this. Hell, I’ve already proven that I can do this and although I’m basically starting over, I want even more this time. And I know it’s not going to be easy moving forward, but nothing that’s worth anything in life comes easy, does it?

Look, with all of the negative things that have happened in the past 18 months (I won’t even go into the feelings I had when my house was broken into as I’m likely to just type a bunch of expletives in red that won’t form a coherent thought), the positives easily won out. I’ve got so many good things going in my life that make me smile. My sister has a beautiful family and gave me a third nephew just last week. My brother continues to do well in law school in Portland and I’m so very proud of the man he’s become. My mother and stepfather continue to be the greatest grandparents in the history of forever and I’m so thankful to have them in my life. I still miss my dad every single day and despite everything I had to go through with him, I can now better remember the good times we had as opposed to constantly focusing on the times when things weren’t so good. I have a support system of aunts and uncles that I know are behind me each and every day and would do anything to help me. And of course, I’ve got my three girls here at home. Ashlyn, Brooklyn, Ashlie….it’s because of the three of you that I know that I can do this and want to do this and will try each and every day to be the best Daddy and partner that I can be.

And I also want to thank each and every one of you that’s ever taken time out of your day to read something that I’ve written or listened to something that I’ve recorded. My goal is simply to entertain you in some way and that certainly remains the same as I move forward. My name is Luke Norris and I’m a writer, editor, publisher, podcast host, marketing specialist, bartender, friend, brother, son, boyfriend and father. And the best is yet to come.

What Happened To My Little Girls?

There are moments in life that you think you’re ready for…..until they actually happen. One of those moments came for me this morning.

As I awoke just past 6:30, after what felt like a sleepless night as visions of the past six years swirled around my brain for hours, feelings of both happiness and sadness overwhelmed me as I prepared myself for this monumental day. As it was their weekend at their mother’s, my almost six-year-old twin daughters did not stay with me last night, which always makes for a tough morning anyway, but I knew that I’d see them soon enough. As I tell myself every morning they’re not with me, I pleaded with myself to keep it together. It’s difficult to wake up and not hear them playing, laughing or getting right in my face as I try to squeeze in that last minute of sleep saying “Daddy, I’m hungry”, and today really was no different. Except that it was. You see, today was Ashlyn and Brooklyn’s first day of kindergarten.

As I went through my “the girls aren’t with me” morning routine, which is obviously a little different than when they are there, I kept telling myself that I wasn’t going to cry today. In the four years (actually almost to the day) that I’ve been apart from their mother, I’ve cried too much. I tell my girls not to use the word “hate”, but I truly hate the feeling of not having my daughters with me, even when it’s only one of the little two-day stretches that they’re away. With 50/50 custody, sometimes it’s only the two days that they’re gone and sometimes it’s five. Either way, it really hurts. However, one of the luxuries and the biggest reason why I chose to do what it is I do is that I’m able to play a big part in my daughters’ daily activities, which includes taking them to and picking them up from school on my assigned days. I did it for the last year and a half they were in preschool and that was the itinerary this morning. Get up. Get ready. Get the girls and get some Kleenex because I absolutely lost it.

As I made the twenty-minute drive to pick them up from a sitter that watches them occasionally when the ex-wife can’t be with them in the morning (she’s a school teacher in the same district so it was her first day as well), a lifetime, albeit the lifetime of two five-year-olds, of memories came crashing into me like ocean waves into a rock. And I’m the rock in this analogy simply because the waves of memories got my face wet as the tears began to trickle down my cheeks in the car as “It Won’t Be Like This For Long” played on the radio. If you know the song, then you know exactly how gut-wrenching it can be. I mean, wasn’t it just yesterday that my daughters fought and fought to grow after being born 11 weeks early?

Ashlyn Baby Brooklyn Baby

I guess not. And wasn’t it just yesterday that after 44 days in the NICU, they decided that they couldn’t be apart even for a day and decided to come home together? Wasn’t it just their first Christmas? Didn’t they just celebrate their first birthday?

Twins 1st Birthday Twins 1

It’s still not then either, huh? Okay. Well, then didn’t they just start walking and talking? Didn’t I just cry when I heard “Daddy” for the first time? Or watch as they innocently saw their entire world turn upside down as our family fell apart right around the time they turned two? That all just happened, right?

Twins 2nd Birthday Twins 2

Still no? Then surely they must have just started developing their own personalities and counting and doing the alphabet as they bravely adapted to a back-and-forth lifestyle after Mommy and Daddy got divorced, correct? Didn’t they just turn three?

Twins 3rd Birthday Twins 3

Okay, I’ve got it now. These tears can’t be due to their first day of kindergarten. They’re just starting preschool, aren’t they?

Ashlyn Preschool Year 1 Brooklyn Preschool Year 1

Preschool Year 1 Twins Preschool Year 1

Or just turn four?

Twins 4th Birthday Twins 4

Alright, now I’m really getting frustrated. If all of that has already happened, there is absolutely, positively no way that in the last year that Ashlyn and Brooklyn started a second year of preschool, turned five, finished preschool altogether, started picking out books with me to read on their own, zipped through an entire summer and are ready to start kindergarten. Because I really don’t know if I’m ready for that.

Twins Preschool Year 2 Preschool Year 2

Ashlyn Preschool Year 2 Brooklyn Preschool Year 2

Twins 5th Birthday Twins Last Day of Preschool

Twins Books Twins 5

And I wasn’t ready. But they sure were. As I pulled up to the house, they were standing at the front door waiting for me excited as could be. The familiar sound of “Daddy”, which will never get old, rang out as I hit the walkway and they eagerly put on their shoes, grabbed their backpacks and we were out the door. In the ten minutes in between the house and the school, I just asked them questions.

“Are you excited?”

“Are you nervous?”

“What happened to my little girls?”

The last one confused them for about a millisecond but they’re so smart that they knew exactly what I was saying. They were excited. They were nervous. But “we’re big girls now because we’re in kindergarten.”

Ashlyn First Day Brooklyn First Day

Ashlyn 1st Day Brooklyn 1st Day

And they were right. My girls are growing up and no matter how hard I try, I can’t stop it. As much as I’d like to just bottle them up today and keep them this age forever, an age where I’m their favorite person in the world (I’m sure they say that to Mommy too when they’re with her) and their innocence is still intact, I know I can’t. Sure, today may just be the start of kindergarten, but with the way things have already gone, tomorrow will be the start of grade school and the day after that they’ll be graduating from high school. They may not realize it just yet, but the real world essentially starts for them today. Schedules will be different. Focus will be different. For at least the next 13 years (at the end of which I’ll be 50), the ups and downs that come with going through school will take center stage in this little production we call life. And once the smoke clears and the dust has settled, I know that everything will be just fine. They’re good kids and with everything they’ve already gone through in their young lives, they’ve proven that they have the strength to get through anything….even going to a public school in Pekin, Illinois. And the greatest thing is that no matter what, they have each other to rely on when things get tough.

As for me, I think I’ll be okay as well. I knew today would be emotional and as I drove away from the school, I’m not going to pretend that a few more tears didn’t flow. After seeing their entire life play out in my head this morning, I kinda figured that might happen. Or maybe it’s knowing that every day they get older, I get older. Or maybe it’s just because now I don’t have anybody to play with during the day. What I also know is that as each day passes, I only love them more. And I know that whether it’s the day they were born, their first day of kindergarten, the day they graduate, the day they get married or the day they become parents themselves, they’ll always be my little girls.

First Day

My Night At ‘The Max’

I want to do a little something different this week. Yes, I’m obviously still writing and getting some articles out this week but it’s actually been quite a while since I’ve written anything for the sheer joy of just writing and that’s something I need to change. And I spent some of today writing about ISIS so I kinda need something a little more fun. For the past year, I’ve been so wrapped up in getting articles out for the websites I work for (obviously a necessity…..you know, I like the roof over my head and being able to feed my kids and all), but I haven’t been writing just to write. Whenever I would start something that I wasn’t getting paid for, I’d find myself feeling guilty for it, which I know sounds a little ridiculous but I just couldn’t help myself from feeling that way. Don’t get the wrong idea, though. I love being able to do what I do. I get to spend more time with my daughters and I have the freedom to write on just about anything I want and get a check for it. However, the drawback is that I’m constantly looking for the next story or researching the current one and that doesn’t leave a lot of time for other projects that I want to do. I’ll explain more in the upcoming “The State Of The Luke Norris Experience Address”, which is way past due anyway, but I’m planning on writing a lot more outside of actual “work”. I just don’t want my passion for writing to get lost. Yes, I can use whatever talent I do have to make a little money, but I just don’t want it to always seem like work. Writing is supposed to be fun and that’s something I’ve forgotten a little bit, so I want to have a little fun today.

Now, one of the great things about my job is when a story I write reaches somebody that’s actually involved in it. It’s happened a few times in the past and it happened again recently. As I mentioned earlier, one of the perks of my job is the freedom to find an entertaining topic and run with it. So when I heard that a Saved By The Bell pop-up bar and diner was coming to Chicago, I jumped on it. Look, any kid that grew up in the 80s and 90s like I did knows the show. From original airings on Saturday mornings on NBC to reruns on TBS years later, I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve seen every episode way too many times and can quote probably way too many lines. I mean, seriously, you can’t ever listen to the song “I’m So Excited” without thinking of Jesse’s “drug” problem, can you? Actually, I probably need to stop myself before I just start throwing quotes and storylines up here, so let’s get into it.

When I heard that “Saved By The Max”, which was going to be a replica of “The Max”, was seriously going to be an actual thing, I couldn’t help but get excited about it (see, you just thought I was making another “I’m So Excited” joke), so I found as much information as I could from the Facebook page and got it out there. The first one (which you can read HERE) did fairly well and I followed up with a second article when they announced the actual location. Outside of wanting to plan an actual trip to Chicago (only about a three-hour drive for those who don’t know me) to go, I really didn’t think too much more about it until @SavedByTheMax started following me on Twitter and I was soon after contacted by a man named Michael Corrigan, who’s running all the PR for the place. He thanked me for helping to spread the word, which only validated that my articles were reaching the people that they were intended to reach. Again, I didn’t think much of it, but we started chatting back and forth about me attending the grand opening on June 1, but a scheduling conflict with a doctor’s appointment for my daughters didn’t allow that to happen, but he told me that anytime that I wanted to come up to just contact him, even with them selling out the entire month of June on the very first day of ticket sales. The following weekend ended up working for me, so I e-mailed Michael and within just a few minutes, I had 9:00 reservations on a Friday night for the hottest place in Chicago. I called up an old friend of mine who I knew would appreciate this place as much as I would and we were all set.

I rolled out of Peoria at around 3:00 on Friday afternoon and arrived at my buddy’s place around six, which I’ll certainly take on a Friday in the Chicago area at rush hour. We left his place at around 7:15 just to make sure we had enough time to deal with Friday night traffic into the city and hopefully find a decent parking spot, which we actually did only two blocks away from our destination. We both had looked at pictures of “Saved By The Max” online and such, but on the way into the city, we each talked about what we might expect when we walked up, but we had absolutely no clue what we were in for….that is, until we saw it from across the street.

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I openly admit that I got a little giddy when I saw it, but we still had about half an hour to spare and I knew we wouldn’t get in right away, so we went to a nearby bar for a warm-up beer before heading back. A line for walk-ins had formed outside (seriously, do your best to get a reservation if you plan on going as the walk-in spots are limited and the lines get long). As we walked in, we were immediately hit with awesomeness on the wall.

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Trust me, I really wanted to change that to “Kelly loves Luke” but I was able to contain myself. Come on, you can’t tell me that Kelly Kapowski wasn’t one of your childhood crushes, am I right? It was either Kelly Kapowski, Kelly Taylor or Winnie Cooper for me (I just like ’em all, I guess), but I composed myself and moved to the amazing wall to the right of the lockers.

There were throwbacks to the Johnny Dakota episode…
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…the oil spill…
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…Screech’s robot Kevin from some early episodes…

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…and of course. Look, it’s even got little caffeine pills.

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As we made our way in, it was seriously like walking into a time warp. As we turned a slight corner to check out the main area, it was clear that the pictures hadn’t done the place justice. It was absolutely mesmerizing as we were seated at the counter/bar. There was a huge “Bayside Tigers” sign on the wall just above the DJ area (the place does turn into more of a bar after 11 and it’s a little easier to get in) that had the familiar KKTY Tiger Radio logo on it. Surely you remember how bad Slater’s sports commentary was, don’t you? I mean, he did save “The Max” later on in the episode though. Yep, I know way too much about the show.

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I was astonished at the detail the owners had put into the place. From the familiar entrance (sorry folks, the door is just for show) to the arcade games in the corner to the jukebox that even had a reference to the sacred “A12”, it was all here. There was even one corner table made to look a bit like Mr. Belding’s office.

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And much to my delight, there were plenty of people in costume. The group behind us went all out. The guy had a Slater wig on, one of the girls had a Bayside cheerleader outfit on and another had enough denim on for everyone in the joint…and probably enough hairspray as well going for the old school Kelly look and I’ll openly admit to crushing on her for a second or two. Another great thing is that while you’re sitting there, they’ve got plenty of music from the show going in the background. That DJ booth isn’t just for show and right there in the middle of the joint, they got up and gave us a great example of “The Sprain”. Awesome.

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Now, as far as the food and drink are concerned, I couldn’t have cared less after just being in the place for two minutes. Just the nostalgia factor alone made the trip worth it, but the food is incredible. Every item on the menu has some hilarious tie to the show.

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Personally, I went with the AC Sliders for my appetizer, the Bayside Burger with fries for my entree and had to go with the Hot Sundae for dessert. My buddy got the burger as well, but went with the Mac & Screech for an appetizer and Miss Bliss’ Candied Bacon for dessert. And no, I’ve got no problem admitting that he and I shared our food. I thought we might end up sharing a milkshake with two straws but that might have been a little too much.

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But we did offer one another tastes of the delicious cocktails that our mixologist Gabby made up for us.  I forgot to take a picture of the drink menu, but everything is right there at savedbythemax.com to take a look at. If memory serves correctly, we tried the “I’m So Excited”, the “Mark Paul 75”, the “Miss Simpson”, “The Eric”, “Jessie’s Joan of Arc”, the “Ginger Baldwin” and “The Last Dance” between the two of us. And every single one of them was fantastic. I do remember the “Miss Simpson” being my favorite, but I’d drink any one of them again in a heartbeat. And all the while, we’re talking to the staff, all of whom were wonderful people, and just soaking in the atmosphere. Pardon the awful pun that I’m about to make, but it really was a nice timeout from the grind of everyday life. Obviously, we didn’t spend the entire two and half to three hours that we were there talking all things Saved By The Bell, but we damn sure hit on it quite a bit. From our favorite episodes to characters to whatever, we seriously felt like we were actually sitting at “The Max”. And it certainly didn’t hurt when Gabby came up and told me that my bill had been taken care of. I can’t thank Michael Corrigan enough for hooking this up for me and I’ll probably be hitting him up again soon for another trip. “Saved By The Max” was originally only supposed to be open for the month of June, but the response was so overwhelming that they decided to extend it through August. And when those reservations got all filled up, they recently announced that they’re extending it until the end of the year.

As much as I want to, I can’t take credit for the best line of the night, which has to go to my buddy when he said that “we crossed off a bucket item list that we never knew we had”. And there’s really nothing that I can write that’s going to say it any better than that. Seriously, if you’re in the Chicago area, or even within a few hours of the city….GO. You will not regret it.

Now if I could only find a place like this resembling The Peach Pit. Maybe I’ll make that my next fun project.

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As always, thanks for reading. For those of you who are new to the site, please feel free to take a look around and give me a follow if it suits you. You can also follow me on Twitter @THElukenorris and can also get updates on every new article I write on The Luke Norris Experience Facebook page. Enjoy the experience.

 

 

The Week In Review: 6/6/16 – 6/12/16

Welcome to the latest edition of the “The Week In Review”. The count is a little down this week as I took the weekend off to recharge a little bit. As I’ve mentioned over the past few weeks, I’m trying to make a few changes and I’m still in the process of working all of that out. In the meantime, I’ll be back to it today and look forward to hopefully entertaining you at some point over the next seven days. Here’s a few of the highlights from the last week.

Justin Bieber

6/9/16-Sports Mockery: VIDEO: Justin Bieber Got Into A Brawl Following Last Night’s NBA Finals Game 3

Miguel Gonzalez

6/9/16-Sports Mockery: White Sox Facing A Struggling Gio Gonzalez As They Look To Get Back To .500

Shaun Livingston

6/8/16-Inquisitr: The Incredible Story Of Shaun Livingston

White-Sox-trade-for-James-Shields-797x580

6/8/16-Sports Mockery: James Shields Speaks On Coming To Chicago, Makes White Sox Debut Tonight Versus Nationals

Albert Almora

6/8/16-Sports Mockery: Albert Almora To Make First Start As Cubs Go For Series Win In Philadelphia

ali

6/8/16-Binge Media: Binge SportsCast: Muhammad Ali, NBA Finals & A Major Announcement On The Future Of The Show

tiger

6/7/16-Inquisitr: Tiger Woods Announces Status For U.S. Open

nationalsvswhitesox

6/7/16-Sports Mockery: White Sox Welcome Nationals To Town For Interleague Matchup

Kyle Hendricks

6/7/16-Sports Mockery: Cubs Fastest To 40, Go For Number 41 Tonight In Philadelphia

tiger

6/7/16-Inquisitr: Tiger Woods Writing New Tell-All Book To Be Released Early Next Year

Jon-Lester

6/6/16-Sports Mockery: Lefties Battle In Philly As The Cubs Begin Nine-Game Road Trip

LukeNorrisExperience

6/6/16-The Luke Norris Experience: The Week In Review: 5/30/16 – 6/5/16