Sunday, November 22, 2015

Turkey Club Club: Turkey to Go

I think we'd all like to believe deep down that what we want is what's best. At least, that's how I feel when I order a turkey sandwich. I want the turkey, tomato, onion, pepper jack cheese, and peppers topped with mayo on some sort of whole wheat bread. The combination has rarely failed me, so that's what I get most every time I have the option to choose the toppings.

On Friday, I decided to try out Turkey to Go. I passed by it every day on my way to the bus stop. I mean it has turkey in the name, so it was a natural stop. It's slogan was "The tastiest bird in town."

I had to sit in on something over the lunch hour and I really didn't want my hangry level to go up, so I decided to run their quick and eat the sandwich at my desk.

Luckily, I got there before the lunch rush came, so there was no line - a definite plus. The options for bread were limited: hamburger buns, hoagie buns or wraps. I went with the hoagie bun.

As I've said before, the bread is really the key to the whole thing. It's kind of like the quarterback, it has the most important role in the sandwich. It's a delivery mechanism that also provides texture and flavor. No other part of the sandwich has that many roles.

(To continue the football metaphor, the turkey is the running back. It really is going to do most of the work. The veggies and cheese are the wide receivers, they provide zip and flash to the whole thing. And the condiments are the offensive line. They may not get the most attention, but you'll notice it if they're gone.)

I got the standard order, but these ingredients were slightly different than the normal deli counter. First, everything was chopped and the cheese was shredded. The turkey was shredded as well. I don't mind hot turkey, but I've noticed that hot sandwiches are usually the messiest ones.

It cost $7.14, which was one the lower end. It passed the heft test. I felt like I was getting optimal sandwich proportion for my money.

I went back to my desk and unwrapped the aluminum foil. After my first bite, I realized that this lunch was going to be like a Van Halen reunion. It just wasn't going to work well together. Nothing was bad on it's own, but the combination was just off.

The bread got soggy real quickly due to the turkey and the veggies/cheese just wasn't combining well. The turkey was high quality, but it was like thanksgiving turkey. And the normal deli mixture just doesn't quite fit with that sort of turkey.

As I chewed, I thought to myself, "Man this would be a great post-Thanksgiving sandwich." It would be great with potatoes, cranberries and the like. I saw that the advertised a turkey sandwich with brie cheese and cranberry. I think that'd be pretty good.

I'd give Turkey to Go two stars. It was fine quality, but it just didn't come together.

I came to Turkey to Go thinking my way to order was the best way to get a sandwich, that's not always the case. Sometimes you have to be willing to be flexible, even with your turkey sandwiches.

Also, if you haven't seen "Turkey Club Club: The Animated Series" Please check out the video done by my very funny friend Jamie Loftus

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Turkey Club Club: Brothers Deli

We all get disappointed from time to time. It's just part of being human.

I had real high hopes for Brothers Deli. It is alwasy bustling every time I walk by over the lunch hour.

I tried it last week, hoping for a solid deli sanewich.

There were lots of sandwich choices on the menu that took up nearly an entire wall behind the counter. I like places that refer to themselves as a "deli" especially ones that have unpretentious names like "Brothers."

I want to like humble places like that, but unfortunately, Brothers missed the mark.

I saw that they had nine varieties of turkey sandwich. NINE. Wow. I decided on the Turkey Clubhouse because, well, it is the Turkey Club Club after all. The line moved fairly quickly, which was nice. I paid $8.85 for sandwich only and headed to my normal spot in the IDS tower plaza.

I sat down and took out the sandwich. There wasn't much heft to it and was kind of flimsy. I suspect that it was because the bread was toasted. (That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but if it is toasted, it has to be toasted well.)

The bread was greasy, again, not a bad thing, but it didn't make for the type of sandwich I favor consuming on my normal lunch hour. I like stuff I can eat quickly and not have to worry about making a mess. As my friend Steve pointed out with a Facebook comment "That's a mess." It was.

First off, here's what I liked: The turkey was better than average. I like stuff that isn't slimy and has the texture of a turkey you'd eat on Thanksgiving, but not as thick. This meat was better than average.

The Russian dressing wasn't bad either. I usually prefer spicy to sweet on my sandwich, but it worked in this instance.

Overall, the bread was pretty good. The taste was better than the texture. A little too greasy, but it worked all right in this situation.

However, a lot of things left me unsatisfied afterwards.

The sandwich was coming apart as I ate it. I really don't like that. My sandwich is not an ice cream cone. I shouldn't have to worry about my lunch getting all over my hands.

It felt like something was missing with this sandwich though. Maybe it was a plate of fries, maybe it was some lettuce in the middle. Overall the turkey, bacon, tomato, swiss and dressing just felt a little empty.

I'd give it a 3 out of 5. I'd be willing to try the place again, but I'm not going to be raving about the place to friends and family.

What did I learn from Brothers Deli? It's good to have a bit of skepticism about everything, including your turkey sandwich.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Turkey Club Club: D'Amico and Sons

It’s not been an easy week, especially for Minnesota sports fans
So in the middle of that week I realized that I needed something tangible and simple to bring me back to earth. And of course, that was a turkey sandwich.

I went to D’Amico and Sons, an Italian eatery that has locations all over the Twin Cities (also, weirdly, in Florida). I was a little nervous because the only thing that could derail me from getting a turkey sandwich is a long line and lunch time is a crapshoot in downtown. However, the line moved quickly, but another thing made me pause, pre-made sandwiches. I was a little skeptical because I didn’t know how long they had been out there.

After I paid for my sandwich, I made my way to the plaza where I like to have my lunch and took it out. There was some good heft and it was compact, so it was fairly easy to eat. I appreciate that in a sandwich.

The bread was on an onion cibatta roll that had an ideal amount of chewiness. That’s really the key to the sandwich, if you have bad bread, it’s really an uphill battle to impress me. It also had arugula, bacon, tomato, cheese and some sort of balsamic mayo.  

The presentation was very good, or as my agate desk friend Adam said, “Copy-fit on-first-paste.“
I took a bite and boy was I impressed. The bacon was smoked and really worked well with the balsamic and arugala. My one knock on this sandwich was that it cost $10.29. However, it was one dang good sandwich.

I’d give it a 4.5. It’s a top-five sandwich for sure, but it’s not quite the LeBron of sandwiches. It’s like the Russell Westbrook of sandwiches. Really, really good and really impressive, but still doesn’t have that one thing to bring it all together.

I'm still searching for that one thing.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Turkey Club Club: Lyons Pub

When you start out at new job there is always a chance that you could get labeled as "X Guy" for some little life quirk that was never once brought up in your previous place of employment.

I think I may now be "The Turkey Sandwich guy" because I've talked about sandwiches quite a lot in my first two weeks. 
I am OK with that branding. It could always be worse. And hey, I don't mind if people want to talk about sandwiches. I LOVE talking about sandwiches. 

Eight days after I started, my boss took the communications team out for lunch. They were the people I'd probably be working with the most in the office. I'd worked with them all a little bit already, but this was a chance to socialize after week one over lunch. 

We went to Lyons Pub across the street from our office building. Lyons Pub looked like a place I wouldn't mind having a drink. It reminded me of Cornwall's Pub in Boston. A unpretentious British-style pub that was lively, but never too busy and had a good selection of drinks. 

I had my eyes on a buffalo chicken wrap, but at the last second I panicked and got the Turkey Sandwich. I don't know if I thought everyone was expecting me to order that or what. I wasn't feeling great about it. (I also didn't get fries, I've been trying to cut back.)

When the plates came out, I wasn't impressed. My initial observation always is, "Could I make this at home?" And yeah, it looked like I could with this one. The bread looked like standard grocery store wheat bread and there wasn't any special sauce or spread on it.

The bread was toasted, but I'm not always a huge fan of that. If it is toasted, it has to have some melted cheese with it. I don't like just toasting the bread. 

The meat was above average. It tasted like fresh deli meat and looked hearty as well. The lettuce and tomatoes were good, but not overly memorable.

However, I didn't take a picture because I didn't want to be labeled "Guy who takes pictures of his food" in front of people I had only been working with for a week.

Overall, I'd give the sandwich a two out of five, but I could see myself stopping into Lyons for a happy hour. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Turkey Club Club: Potbelly Sandwich Works

I decided to start the Turkey Club Club back up because I needed a place to write. And turkey club sandwiches bring me joy, so why not start reviewing turkey sandwiches again?

I started my new job in downtown Minneapolis last week. The location gives me ample access to different sandwich places via the skyway. I think I'm going to do it on Fridays to give me something to look forward to during the week.

I chose Potbelly for my first venture. I'd eaten there before in Madison during a quiz bowl trip in high school. I remember one of my classmates talking about how great the Potbelly sandwiches were. I don't remember my initial impression, but it wasn't memorable.

There is one in the building over from my work, so I thought it would be a convenient place to start. The first thing I noticed was the long line. If there is one thing I hate as much as I love turkey sandwiches, it's lines. However, the line moved quickly because they had a guy with a tablet taking orders as people got into line. It was a nice surprise.

I ordered the turkey with everything. I got the full sandwich (about 9 inches) with everything on it. It came to $6.65. Not a bad deal for a decently size sandwich. It came with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, peppers and cheese.

The first thing I ask whenever I get a sandwich is, "Could I make this better at home?" Nope, the bread definitely made the meal.

I noticed it had some good heft. It felt like I was getting a good amount of sandwich. I really liked the sub-shaped bread. It was warm and had a nice crunch to it. It was big, but not to fluffy or chewy.

The other thing I noticed was the good spice. I like a little heat on the sandwich and this one definitely delivered. The veggies were crunchy and didn't feel like they were sitting out all day.

However, there was one major thing wrong with this sandwich: the meat. It was slimy and tasted like the cheap stuff you get at the deli counter. The slippery taste really didn't feel right in the middle of the crunch and warmth. It was also a bit messy. My hands were kind of oily near the end of the meal. (Or I could also just be a slob.)

Overall, I'd give this a 2.5 out of five. It was a decent price for a better-than-average sandwich. However, I don't think it will be placed in the regular rotation.

Monday, October 19, 2015

500 Letters: What do you want me to say?

Sorry I haven't updated this in a few months. I've had a few changes in my life. Namely, I have a new job and I'm no longer living in Marshall. I would say that's the reason I haven't updated, but I think
the real reason is... I don't know what to say.

I've gotten into a rut with my letter writing. The letters have gotten shorter (I'm sending out more postcards now.) More and more letters have gone to a fewer number of people (not that I don't enjoy sending those people letters.) I fell behind, but only caught up after a postcard-writing blitz this week.

So, I needed to reflect on why I started this project.

1. The challenge. I've stayed on top of this. I'm on letter 397 and I should be around 400.

2. Stuff. I've been buying more cards and sending them. I really enjoy going into stationary stores now and shopping for cards. It's like a hobby.

3. Legacy? Oof. Too early to tell, but people have told me they like the letters.

4. Grandma. I like to think I'm doing what my grandma would have done.

5. Relationships. This is the crux of this whole endeavor.

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a college friend of mine about faith. She's working towards a master's degree in theology and needed someone to discuss their faith. I've tried to relish more opportunities to discuss what my faith means to me because it helps me understand my own values more. So, I happily volunteered to chat with her.

We spoke on the phone for about a half hour. We talked about a lot of things, but one question sticks out in my mind from the conversation.

She asked (I'm paraphrasing here), "What do you think your faith is calling you to do?"
I responded with, "Be present."

I like that idea of knowing and caring about what happens in other people's lives. I like "being there" for people.

So, to reaffirm my mission with this project. If you need a letter, a note, something to look forward to in the mail, just let me know.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Nick's Notes: Nick's Night

October 3, 2015
By Nick Hansen (nhansen@marshallindependent.comMarshall Independent
Just about 15 months ago, life wasn't going great for me. I was living in Somerville, Massachusetts, in a townhouse that smelled like cat urine. I split up with my girlfriend. One of my roommates was skipping out on rent and I was told that I'd need a root canal.
Fast forward to to Thursday night when I walked into the Marshall High School gymnasium to discover that a handful of Marshall High School students had dressed up in khakis, blue button-up shirts, horn-rimmed glasses, and Minnesota Twins baseball caps in an homage to yours truly. They even accessorized with cameras and notebooks. I laughed, but I wanted to make sure everyone else got the joke.
I was dressed in jeans and a short-sleeved shirt, so I ran home to change into my "uniform." I returned to a handful of cheering teenagers just before the start of the game. Numerous photos, tweets and laughs later, I felt pretty awesome. Never in my wildest dreams would have I imagined that I'd be the subject for a theme night.
A big thank you to Marshall High School students Mitchell Sueker, Shane Greenslit, Nick Saugstad, Ryan VanMoer and Deacon DeBoer for making me feel really cool.
Some bittersweet news undercut the jovial evening: it was my last Marshall Tigers volleyball game. I'll be moving back to the Twin Cities area next week to start a new job in Minneapolis.
What have I learned in this past year where my fashion sensibilities somehow became worthy of emulating?
My enjoyment from this job didn't stem from just getting to watch a lot of sports. (Although saying you get paid to watch baseball games is pretty cool.) It came from getting to know all of you.
I enjoyed the human moments between the games. Those demonstrated how much all the games, practices and training all really meant.
Whether it was three of the Winkelman brothers talking about what it was like playing basketball together or Jackie Turner telling me how much she'll miss her cross-country team next year.
Seeing Southwest Minnesota State University volleyball coach Terry Culhane give Greta Geist an honorary starting spot at the NCAA championship was a wonderful moment. A few weeks prior to the match, Geist had gotten the news that her cancer had reappeared and she would be undergoing treatment once again. It was inspiring to see her team and the community rally around her.
Sometimes there were losses. Marshall football's loss to Waseca in the section playoffs and Marshall girl's basketball loss in the state finals stung the whole community. While disappointment hung in the air, so did hope in the future.
Most of all, I loved witnessing the joy. I loved the celebrations after volleyball players earned a point and the cheers coming from softball dugouts. I loved the smiles on parents cheering for their kids and the pride that went along with athletes signing their letters of intent.
There are a few people who deserve some thanks. Thank you to Marshall High School activities director Bruce Remme and SMSU athletic communications director Kelly Loft for being extremely professional and helpful in so many ways. They are both valuable assets to the community.
Thank you to David Merrill, Josh VanKlompenburg and Gary Kaczmarek in the sports department and Per Peterson for being along on this fun and crazy journey in the newsroom.
Most of all, thank you to Jim and Mary Tate for introducing me to the community. They took me in and made sure I was set here before I even wrote a story.
I took a chance when I left Boston. Thank you all for confirming it was the right choice.
Thank you all for inviting me in, welcoming me and letting me listen to your stories. It's been an honor and a blessing.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Nick's Notes: Little Victories

My friend and I have a saying we share whenever life is getting us down: little victories. We use it to point out those small, good things that happen when everything else seems against you. I recently experienced one of those little victories.
The other day a different friend told me he would not be participating in athletics this fall due to a suspension stemming from a rules infraction. He choked up telling me how he knew he let his team down. I could sense his remorse over his mistake.
I was a little upset as I had looked forward to following his progress. But I knew my role as a friend was not judge or berate him for him screwing up. I just listened. He talked about wanting to help his team from the sidelines and in practice. I told him to focus on just that.
My friend could have just given up, but he owned up to his mistake. He'll be facing his teammates every day this fall and not just retreating. I respect him for that. Even though his season might be lost, he's going to be contributing any way he can. That's a little victory.
Being here for over a year now, I've got a sense that Marshall likes big victories. Every season there's talk about making the state tournament. I like victories as much as the next sports fan, but a philosophy of "if you're not first, you're last" blinds you to so many things in life.
I think back to watching the Cottonwood Legion baseball team this summer. No, they did not win the state tournament, but coach Mike Rausch is building something good there. There were over 100 people at the home games I attended, and it wasn't just parents who showed up. Volunteers were selling concessions and the team was competitive. All those little victories have added up to one big one.
Our culture makes us believe that winning is the only thing that makes us happy in sports. Roger Bennett, the host of my favorite soccer podcast "Men in Blazers," said in a recent episode that he didn't believe that life was about finding happiness. "It's like sun in Florida, if you're always happy, you don't really appreciate it," he said.
Rather, Bennett said he thought life was about finding meaning, purpose and feeling things. And if you think your purpose is just to win all the time, I'm here to tell you that you're setting yourself up for major disappointment.
While my friend may not get to experience that winning feeling on the field this fall, he'll experience feelings of regret, growth, change and maybe a bit of wisdom. It may not be what he wanted, but I think it will be an important little victory.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

250 Letters: The DMV

It's been a year since I left Massachusetts. I've spent a good portion of this past year thinking that I will make my way back out to some easter metropolitan city sooner than later. I've come to the conclusion
that I probably won't, or at least I don't see that happening soon.

I've felt this strange sense of acceptance the past few days or so. Marshall has been good to me, but I've never thought of it as a place where I'm going to end up. I've planned and tried to execute my escape from here, but every time so far has been a no go. I've been upset about those missteps at times, but I've accepted them.

It's like I've been in line for the DMV this past year. You think you can barge right in, go to the window and get your business done quickly. No, you have to take a number and wait your turn. Everyone takes a number. Everyone waits. Some wait longer than others, but you're kidding yourself if you think you don't have to sit in one of those hard plastic chairs for at least a little bit.

I've thought I've heard my number called a few times these past few months. Turns out it hasn't been. I think I've just taken a deep breath and realized fighting it is useless. I have books. I have good company. I have a job. I have dreams. I have time.

Monday, June 29, 2015

500 Letters: 250

I stayed up late last night trying to get to the halfway mark. I'd been playing catch-up for most of the month, so I thought I'd finish strong.
I didn't know who I should write the halfway mark letter to. Most of my regulars had gotten a letter in
the past week and I was too tired to try and find someone new.

So I wrote one to myself. 

I know that's slightly cheesy and maybe a cop out (don't need a stamp!), but I figure I need to hear good things every once in a while too. Here's what I wrote.

Dear Nick,
You probably should be in bed right now. It's past 11 and you've got another big week ahead. But I think you wanted to make it to 250. And that's awesome. You've really grabbed this project by the horns. It hasn't been easy. You've thought you've run out of friends, or stamps, or paper. But things tend to just work out. 
I know you like to check in on people and make sure that everything is OK. I think that is one of your best qualities, but remember two things. 
1. Check in on yourself too. It's OK to write to yourself, check in, and slow down every once in a while. You can't save the world if you don't save yourself. 
2. A letter doesn't always do it. A letter doesn't always change things. People forget to return them. People don't always need them. Some don't even want them. Your love and commitment isn't the thing that's going to save everyone.  
It's like that song by Atmosphere you love, "Flicker." ... "One little flicker of light can raise the dark." Sometimes that is all someone needs. Sometimes it lights a path, other times it's rendered moot by something brighter. That's OK.  
Everyone is called to shine their own light. I think you've found that yours is writing. That's a good thing, right? Consider yourself fortunate that you've found that out about yourself. Not everyone does. So when you're feeling shitty or joyful or something, write it down and share it. It's your light. Don't snuff it out yourself.  
It's going to be OK and things will work out.
Now. Here. This.

I'm glad I'll be able to measure this year in terms of letters. I've measured other years in terms of girls I've dated or jobs I've had. Glad 2015 is letters.

Last Letters: 250 to Marshall
Reading: "Yes, Please" by Amy Poehler
Listening: The Mystery Show podcast
Watching: Inside Out

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Nick's Notes: My dad never

My dad never taught me to throw a baseball. We went on bike rides and once ran a mile together to
practice for the dreaded mile test in elementary school gym class. I haven't seen him run since then.
My dad never paid more than 15 dollars a ticket for a professional sports game. I consider spending anything over that price overpaying.
My dad never yelled at me for failing on the sports field, even after I let in eight goals during my first game playing goalie for my high school soccer team. Learning from your mistakes is more important than committing them.
My dad never left a ski race before I finished, even the time I came in dead last. Life requires patience.
My dad never said no to my youthful forays into wrestling and football, even though they weren't really his cup of tea. You just need to let people do their thing, even if you don't agree with it.
My dad has never made it through watching a sports game in the last decade without falling asleep at least once on the couch. "Resting my eyes" has become a regular part of my television viewing.
My dad never pressured me to do well in sports. Working hard and following through with my commitments was more important than success, even if I did have to suffer through being goalie.
My dad was never the high school quarterback. I was never one either, and I'm completely okay with it.
My dad never discussed sporting x's and o's with me. We discuss NPR.
My dad never taught me drills of any sort. He taught me how to kick back and relax with the newspaper on the deck.
My dad never forgot the importance of preparation, which means setting the coffee machine up the night before.
My dad never passed an opportunity to develop a friendship. He's been invited to all of my college friends' weddings.
My dad never lost touch with the friends he's made. He still regularly meets with friends he made in kindergarten.
My dad never threw away his old suits. I wore his baby-blue wedding suit from 1975 to prom.
My dad never lost his sense of adventure. He and mom will be heading on their sixth international trip in the past few years in a few weeks.
My dad will never be the sports dad, the tough dad, the dad who can fix anything, or the stoic-loner dad. He's the adventurous dad who always makes time for coffee, a beer or a phone call. I wouldn't have it any other way.
Happy Fathers Day, Dad.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Nick's Notes: Buchholz leaves a winner

Marshall is not a soccer town, but no one told TJ Buchholz.
In his four years here, Buchholz made a positive mark as the women's soccer coach at Southwest
Minnesota State University.
SMSU announced on Friday that Buchholz accepted a job as head coach of the University of Toledo women's soccer team.
"It was such a hard decision to leave. The university has been such a special place for me and my family for four years," said Buchholz via phone on Friday afternoon.
Buchholz said that he will miss the community, SMSU and the program he rebuilt after it had suffered a number of losing seasons.
"I just saw so much potential in the university and the community and the Schwan Regional Event Center and I just thought, why couldn't it happen? I thought it could be a winner," said Buchholz.
It did happen.
In his third year on the job, Buchholz totaled 16 wins, a conference tournament bid and a visit to the NCAA tournament, the program's first ever.
SMSU's signature win came in that tournament after they beat the No. 1 seed Minnesota State 2-1 to reach the Sweet 16.
Buchholz also won over his colleagues, opponents, and his athletes.
"TJ and I motivated each other. We had a lot of professional conversations. I probably learned more from him about just coaching athletes, not coaching track, just coaching in general more than any other single person," said SMSU cross country and track and field coach Nate Wolf.
After years of mediocre finishes, Buchholz made the Mustangs into a team that opponents could not ignore.
"He brought a serious, professional approach to the program. He knows the game. He's good with people," said University of Minnesota Duluth soccer coach Greg Cane. "They got the right guy when they hired him."
Most importantly, he valued other things just as much as winning. He made sure to look out for his team members as people, and not just athletes.
"He loves to win but he also wants to do things right. I think that one of the strongest characteristics is his integrity. That's something that's something very important to him," said Wolf.
"I don't think I could have asked to play for a better coach or a better person," said former SMSU midfielder Autumn Hayes, who is now an assistant coach for the Towson University women's soccer team.
"I am where I am because of coach B," she said.
Hayes also said she thought about leaving soccer all together during her college career, but that Buchholz, "stood by me the whole time."
The thing that impressed me the most about Buchholz was his desire to build something big. That's not easy to do in a town where soccer takes a back seat to football and volleyball in the fall.
Getting victories is a challenge, but changing a culture to expect victories is a bigger challenge. And doing that all without controversy is perhaps the biggest challenge.
What's his secret? The people.
"I think it's people first. It's always been about the people," said Buchholz. "It's about having integrity and believing in what you are doing. I wanted to bring an energy and passion to Southwest that had been missing for a while."
Marshall may still not be a soccer town, but it is sure a better place due to Buchholz.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Nick's Notes: Tommy's Time

Thomas Fischer may be in the right place at the wrong time. The three-sport student-athlete at Marshall High School has waited in the wings for his chance to shine as a starter at critical positions on three different MHS teams.
For the football team, he'll be following Brad Bahlmann at quarterback, the 2014 Marshall Independent Offensive MVP. During basketball season, he'll take over for point guard Connor Winkelman, who won this year's Marshall Independent All-Area Player of the Year award. And next baseball season he'll move up in the Tigers rotation, which currently features Winkelman, senior Nate Hoeft, and 2014 All-Area baseball Player of the Year, junior Drew Hmielewski.
Fischer is ready for the challenges of three demanding positions.
"I think it will be fun to be out there playing and having big responsibilities to put the team in position to win," he said in between the Marshall Tigers baseball games at Legion Field last Saturday.
His preparation includes a busy summer schedule of training and conditioning.
Fischer said he'll be practicing basketball Monday through Thursday, playing seven-on-seven football every Tuesday, suiting up at second base for the Minneota Mudhens as well as lifting every day.
He described the summer as "action-packed."
Fischer seems to get the mental aspect of the games as well.
"Thomas is a student of the game," said Bahlmann. The former Tigers quarterback noted that Fischer eagerly soaked up the knowledge of how to run an offense and helped improve the team any way he could, even from the bench.
"Thomas takes every rep and pushes the guy ahead of him, even though he's the backup. He is always locked in and ready to go," said Bahlmann.
Fischer said his teammates have "put me in a spot to be successful next year."
That thirst for knowledge has spilled over into the classroom as well. Fischer won the prestigious Excel Award from the Minnesota State High School League.
The award is given to juniors who "are active in school activities, who show leadership qualities, and who volunteer in their communities" according the MSHSL website.
Only 32 students from across the state received the award this year.
It hasn't been easy for Fischer, but he's approached the school work just like he does his athletics.
"It's tough. You just got to get the stuff done. It's a lot of late night sometimes. You get from those games and get the homework done," he said.
It hasn't come easy on the field either. Fischer struggled in a relief appearance during Marshall's second game on Saturday. However, the team pulled out a 5-4 victory.
"If the team's successful, that's more fun than me being successful," said Fischer prior to the game.
With that kind of attitude, maybe he is in the right place at the right time.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Showing up for Memorial Day

Just over a week ago, I saw an act of patriotism and compassion that people like to say they support,
My mom and dad with Bob.
but rarely take the time or the effort to take part in.

My parents, Rick and Kathy, helped a local WWII veteran, Bob Sorman take part in an "Honor Flight" to Washington D.C. The program helps as many living WWII veterans get to DC for a day to see the various memorials around the city. The Minnesota Vietnam Veterans Charity organizes and funds the flight for the veterans. A "guardian" accompanies each person taking the trip. 

My mom nominated Bob, who is 90-years old. He's volunteered for 27 years at the Forest Lake Adult Learning Center, where my mom used to work. He just passed the 4,500 hour volunteering mark.

Here's a list of his military accomplishments, from the Forest Lake Lowdown:
His military service included 20 years in the Navy and Army, four of them during WWII. He was part of several naval battles, specialized in gunnery, completed special training to counter spy activity and retired with five battle star medals.  
My dad accompanied Bob on the flight. Basically, his responsibility was to help him get around and make sure he stayed well during the day.

Here's the thing about my parents. They are not overtly patriotic people. They do not have bumper stickers that say "support the troops."

My dad did serve in the Vietnam War, but he rarely talks about it. He's not the type to go to the VFW and swap war stories or wear any sort of clothing that signifies that he serves. (Not that there is anything wrong with doing any of these things, but it's just not my dad.)

However, they both went headfirst into helping make the Honor Flight a memorable one for Bob. My dad attended the pre-event meetings and got excited about returning to the nation's capital. My mom organized a welcome home gathering for Bob, inviting many former students and members of Bob's family (he has 10 kids).

The group left Minneapolis Airport around 6 a.m. on a Saturday. They were set to return at about 10 p.m. I rode with my neighbor and my brother to Terminal 2 of the MSP airport, while my mom and aunt and uncle drove in another car. At just around 10 p.m. I would say there were over 250 people there to welcome the vets home. A color guard lined the way. Some service members dressed in full Class A uniforms, some waved flags. About 15 former students and family members came to welcome Bob.

The flight was late, so they group arrived and got off the plane around 11 p.m. It was quite the scene when they reached the crowd. People applauded, they stopped to give hugs and shake hands, a man played bagpipes (I suppose there is some significance to this, but I'm not sure what.) The group had cupcakes and lemonade waiting for them.

Bob stopped and hugged everyone who had come to welcome him home. I drove my dad and Bob back to Forest Lake after their long day.

In an age where "Support the Troops" is too often used as a money-making device, where "liking", "retweeting" and "sharing" is considered a strong enough currency to pay back those who gave so much and where we fire up the grill once we've done our duty, you don't often see genuine moments of support. It's easy to say "support the troops",  it's harder to show up.

My parents showed up, in a big way.

My parents didn't get paid for helping Bob, nor did they post selfies with him. They did it because they like helping other people. They did it because it was a good thing to do.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Nick's Notes: Commencement

Since no one invited me to give a commencement speech this year, I'm going to selfishly use this soapbox to deliver one to all the high schoolers receiving their diplomas this spring.

The theme of my address is this: prepare yourselves to win, but brace yourselves to lose. I guarantee that each and everyone of you will lose in some way in the coming years.

Things will not go according to plan. Something will blindside you. Mistakes will be made. Things will change.
And that's all okay. I'll tell you why later.

Life will be different after you receive your diploma.
You will not have all the resources currently at your disposal.
Your classroom or workplace will not be as nice as nice as the Schwan's Regional Event Center or Legion Field.
You will work for a boss at some point who does not measure up to the coaches you had in high school.
You will lose touch with your current teammates, they will not always be there to help and support you like they did for the past few years.
You will not always have your parents on the sideline waiting for you with Gatorade and hugs, some days it will just be you.

I don't mean to scare you, but it's my job as a newspaper reporter to tell the truth. The truth is not always as rosy as we'd like to believe.
I do not have all the answers for a happy and successful life, but I do have some sports-writerly wisdom to help you get through those rocky times.

First, play your own game. Comparing yourself to other people is the quickest way to feeling like a loser. Some will find true love quicker than you. Some will seem more successful than you. Some others will make more money than you. You know what? It doesn't matter. You compete against yourself in life. A verse from Proverbs sums it up well, "Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city."

Second, focus on what's right in front of you.
Train yourself to look at life the way you look at the pitchers' windup when you are up to bat. Don't let the fear of missing out on things prevent you from doing anything. Life happens anyway.
Third, If you lose, don't confine yourself to the sidelines, keep showing up. Fail a test? Go back to class. Didn't get the job you wanted? Apply for another one. Break up with your significant other? Go somewhere and meet someone new.

It's easy to sit on your couch, binge on Netflix, and eat Doritos after you feel like life has chewed you up and spit you out. (This is fine to do every once in a while, but not all the time.) However, it's harder to dust yourself off and show your face again. That's the only way new doors open up for you.

Do not think you failed in life because you're hitting some speed bumps. Everyone hits speed bumps.
When you hit one of those, take a deep breath. You will heal. You will be OK.

Learn from your losses, celebrate your victories and call your mother. That's the best winning formula I know.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

500 Letters: Something to hold on to

I have this box. It's a shoebox that a pair of PF Flyers came in. It's full of letters, notes, cards, and
photos. It's overstuffed. I am the only one who browses through it. It is what I would save if my building caught fire and I could only take one thing.

That box has probably two or three years worth of letters in it. There are a few other boxes at my parents' house with high school and college notes and papers, much like the one that sits under my bed right now. I think one box is from Keene and the other had Airwalks (that one's really old).

I kept some love notes from my high school girlfriend for quite a long time. They were in a manilla envelope. I remember the day when I came to the conclusion that I had hung on to them for too long. I went outside and set them all in a bucket and lit them on fire. Five years of photos and letters turned black. Some of the ashes floated away.

I thought about that when I cleaned out my email inbox. Many of the same things that were in that shoebox were also in my gmail inbox: letters of appreciation, thank you notes, love letters. I could have kept them. I had the space, but I didn't want to hold on to them anymore. So I just clicked the little checkbox and hit the little trash can icon. I then clicked the "Empty trash" button and they all disappeared. (I mean there's probably some way Google can get them back, but I really don't care to investigate.) No flames. No ash. Just a few seconds to refresh my computer and it was all gone.

I just finished reading a book called "The Circle" by Dave Eggers. It's a book about an internet company that is basically Facebook/Google/Amazon all meshed together. A young girl goes to work at this place, trying to figure out what it is. Basically, more and more of peoples lives become tied to the company and there are some drastic consequences because of it. Everything is quick, smooth, "convenient", and streamlined. Of course it's much harder to get rid of those online memories because everything is stored on some server and is searchable.

I like my shoeboxes. I like knowing that they can't be hacked. Someone could technically get a hold of them and upload them somewhere, but it would take some effort. When I'm holding a letter, I know I'm the only person in the world reading it.

Those boxes are unorganized, uneven, and uncatalogued. I like my memories that way.

Last letter: 175 to Minneapolis, Minn.
Reading: "So you've been publicly shamed" by Jon Ronson
Listening: Oasis
Watching: The Wire, Season 2

Sunday, April 26, 2015

500 Letters: Connection

All I want to do is to get back to you
Connection, I just can't make no connection
But all I want to do is to get back to you
-"Connection", The Rolling Stones

I recently made the decision to disconnect from a relationship that had meant a lot to me. It was excruciating. It was with someone I cared about, but the relationship changed in the last few months. Texts went unanswered, phone calls rescheduled, and it just never felt like we were really connecting. We exchanged a lot of information, but we weren't communicating well. I agonized over what it all meant. Analyzing the whole thing kept me awake at night.

I thought I would be able to keep up a connection with this person from a few thousand miles away. We had a number of communication avenues at our disposal: social media, texts, gchat, facetime, etc. However, it just felt forced after a while. Just because it's easy to connect doesn't mean you automatically will.

I think there is an invisible hand that guides all relationships. That's what makes some relationships fade out and others stick out for a long time. It involves a number of factors that we don't always know and maybe that we're not always meant to know.

For example, this weekend I connected with someone who I had not seen in over a decade. We'd been Facebook friends for a while and we'd exchanged few letters, but we hadn't physically seen each other since about eighth grade. She messaged me that she was in my hometown of Wyoming and I replied that I was too. We met for coffee and it was a pleasant, serendipitous surprise.

That was a connection that didn't have any reason to bubble back into my life. Our lives would have been just fine if we hadn't connected, but some strange set of circumstances brought us together to a coffee shop for an hour. Maybe it will happen again, maybe it won't.

There are people I thought I would continue to maintain strong connections with, but they'd faded from my life, whether it was through distance, time, or some sort of unsaid acknowledgement that that was the only time and place where our lives were supposed to cross.

I thought I'd be closer friends with more friends from high school, and while I have Facebook friendships with many of them, I talk with my former teachers more. I don't know what it is, maybe teachers like to reminisce and discuss things more?

The invisible hand of relationships doesn't always make sense. I was in love with a girl, like madly in love, for a period of time. However, a relationship wasn't in the cards and we had a pretty ugly falling out. It wrecked me for a while, but two years later she reached out to me. She apologized for what she did. The anger I held deep inside melted away right after that.

These past few days I've put "Let it Be" by the Beatles on repeat on my car stereo. It's hard for me to do what Paul sings about. I like to fix things and "make everything alright" even when I shouldn't.

Maybe that relationship I distanced myself from just needs to be for a while. Maybe the invisible hand of relationships will push us back to one another, maybe it won't.

Sometimes it's best to just let the connection be.

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
-"Let it Be", The Beatles.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Nick's Notes: The 'what if?' game

Many Boston University hockey fans, including myself, played the "what if" game last Saturday night. You know the game, the one where we ask ourselves "What if this happened differently?" This time I played it 11 minutes and 24 seconds into the third period of the national championship game.
The Providence Friars shot a puck from center ice, where it proceeded to go airborne and land in the glove of Terriers' goalie Matt O'Connor. It looked like an easy catch, but the puck fell out of O'Connor's glove and into the net, tying the game. The Friars scored again to take the game and the championship. Terriers fans on Twitter were quick to blame O'Connor for the Terriers loss.
And the "what if" game began again. What if O'Connor hadn't dropped that puck?
This phenomenon happens at every level of sports. What if we ran a different play? What if there were different referees?
What if I had worn my lucky underwear? It's easy and convenient to put these things on a scapegoat.
This game isn't limited to sport. I do it all the time in my personal life. What if I chose not to pursue a career in journalism? What if I didn't break up with that girlfriend? What if I didn't move to Marshall? The game keeps you up late at night. It's masochistic, yet it's hard to stop playing.
Through nearly a year of reporting on sports, I've come to the conclusion that the "what if" game is absolutely the worst game to cover.
Ninety-nine percent of the time, your situation in life cannot be traced back to a single moment or decision.
Our lots are determined by our own actions, our environment, our character and many other things that we can't always identify.
We also have a tendency to blank out things that might not fit the narrative.
It's convenient to blame O'Connor for his mistake, but it's much harder to break down the play of the Terriers top line and how they were outplayed by the Friars lineup.
Context and accomplishments can get lost in these moments. The Terriers season was by no means a failure.
Going from a 10-win season last year to the national championship game is quite the turnaround. Yet most people will probably just remember the O'Connor mishap.
So how do we stop playing the "what if" game? The best advice I have is just to lather, rinse, and repeat. It's no use agonizing over what has been done.
It's best get out of your head and get back on the ice.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Nick's Notes: Flickers of Light

The song "Flicker" by the rap duo Atmosphere has been on heavy rotation in my earbuds lately. The song is about how the main vocalist, Slug, dealt with the accidental death of his friend and fellow rapper,
Eyedea. It's sad, but also hopeful.
I often repeat the chorus when everything in my life looks bad. It goes, "One little flicker of light can raise the dark." And things have looked so dark for me lately. Family members have been sick, friends have struggled to find jobs and others just can't seem to fend off the bad news.
That's why I was glad to see someone who's been a light to many people in this community, Southwest Minnesota State University volleyball player Greta Geist, speak at the SMSU Relay for Life event on Friday night.
Doctors diagnosed Geist with Hodgkins Lymphoma in February of 2014. While she was declared cancer free a few months later, the disease reared its ugly head late last fall.
While Geist is currently going through an exhausting medical regimen, she's kept her spirits high. She spoke about her story on a stage set up in the R/A Facility, detailing the past year. Signs that said "Hope", "Remember", "Celebrate", and "Fight Back" flanked her as she talked.
"Being a good person is the most important thing," she said during her speech. Geist choked up a few times, but was all smiles walking laps with her teammates a few minutes later.
Events this past week reminded me of the importance of that goodness. My cousin, Amy Fogerty, posted on Facebook about her friend Mike Neufeldt, who died a few days ago from complications due to Muscular Dystrophy.
Neufeldt lived an active life as a Goodwill Ambassador for MDA. He also worked for Harley Davidson and wrote a book about Marquette University basketball.
"For all the obstacles that he had to overcome in his life, I never once heard in complain. He just lived his life to the fullest in order to help make life better for others, whether he actually knew the person or not," said Fogerty in a Facebook message.
Neufeldt brought light everyday. However, some days that darkness just creeps up you.
A few months ago my friend, and diehard Philadelphia Flyers fan, Katie Spence got diagnosed with hemolytic anemia. It's a disorder where the body rapidly breaks down red blood cells. She got dozens of blood transfusions, biopsies, and other tests. It was an unexpected brush with death, but she's recovered.
In between tweets ragging on her Flyers, Spence now spends time advocating for donating blood. She acted like it was Christmas morning when a friend told her that he'd be donating next week. (There's a drive on Monday at Park Side Elementary.)
Geist's teammates all wore violet t-shirts with the letter "G" on them. They walked multiple laps with her. Teammate Sarah Parker walked with her arm around Geist. Stanger, the SMSU mascot, took a few laps with them as well.
Paper lanterns lined the track in the R/A Facility. People decorated them with hearts, ribbons, bible verses, and inspirational messages. Electric candles were placed in between them.
Even though all the lights were on in the gym, those little flickers of light seemed to provide just a little bit more comfort as everyone made their way.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Nick's Notes: New Things

March 26, 2015
By Nick Hansen ( , Marshall Independent
This is a scary time of year. We're no longer protected by the cocoons of our bulky winter jackets, heated gymnasiums, and excuses to stay on our couches. We have to go outside, dress for a Russian Roulette of weather conditions, and watch sports that roll along at a different pace than we're used to. Things are changing.
That's no different for our sports teams. I've noticed that spring sports don't get as much love as fall and winter sports. People anticipate fall and winter sports seasons starting, while spring sports eventually show up. You can usually identify a football or basketball player, but it's harder to pick out a baseball or softball player. Kids "try out" track & field, rather than focus on it.
Marshall girls track and field coach Marie Sample told me that shapes the identity of her team.
"We have a young team again. It's hard to keep our juniors and seniors," said Sample before her team's practice. "JO volleyball, AAU for basketball and volleyball, often times when they get to that age they opt to go to that and just do that."
That's totally fine if kids want to focus on one sport, but I don't think that's the best route for everyone.
I saw almost 100 kids convening around the gymnasium before practice. I am sure some will drop once the season gets going.
I hope they stick with it. It's easy to take a few months off or focus on one sport that you know and love, but it's hard to try something new. It's hard to get out of your comfort zone. But that's when the best things happen.
A college friend of mine, Al struggled to figure out what he was going to do after graduation. He thought about staying in the Twin Cities or sticking around close to home. However, he eventually decided to volunteer in Tanzania.
I still remember when he told me. He was leading an admissions tour and I waved to him as I walked by, heading to class. He called to me and said, "Hey, I'm going to Tanzania." He was cool, collected, and scared as heck. And five years later, Al is a better, more complete person because of it.
My favorite author, Anne Lamott wrote the following,"It's good to do uncomfortable things. It's weight training for life."
And the more time you spend in that weight room, the better off you will be.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Nick's Notes: Tough Enough

NICK'S NOTES: Tough enough

March 23, 2015
Marshall Independent
Any one of the young women I talked to this past week would be a great role model for my 7-year old goddaughter, Melanie.
I worry if Melanie will have a strong female athlete role model to look up to.
As I've said before, women's athletics doesn't always get their due.
Even though the Lynx are the only professional team in Minnesota that has won anything in the past decade, they are not in the same conversation as the Twins, Timberwolves, Vikings, or Wild.
Millions of men's brackets are filled out for the NCAA Tournament, but the women's tournament gets no where near the amount of attention.
Even though the Minneota and Marshall girls basketball teams won't get national attention, they deserve commendation for the best quality, their toughness.
There was Marshall's Sarah Buysse, who bounced through opposing defenses on the court, but always flashed a winning smile after games.
It takes toughness to get back on your feet.
Marshall's Callie Graff is also all-business, no matter what sport she plays. I don't think I've seen any other player as committed to the cause as she is. It takes toughness to remain focused amid any challenge.
Every member of the Marshall team does those things that you won't see on ESPN's SportsCenter Top 10.
They go for loose balls. They get jump balls and offensive rebounds.
They would all probably make good rugby players.
It takes toughness to do the unglamorous things without complaint.
A lot of credit goes the Minneota team, who could have easily written off Saturday's third-place contest as some sort of disappointing consolation.
They wanted a win and they got one. It takes toughness to swallow your pride and play your heart out, no matter the contest.
Girls usually hide their toughness once they leave the court or the field, but I hope these young women do not. It's a quality falls off quickly in importance as women go through life.
Coach Dan Westby told me that toughness is an expectation for his team. I like that line of thinking.
I hope some of these women consider coaching. Westby and Minneota coach Chad Johnston have done a great job passing on their knowledge of the game to their team.
These two teams would do well to teach that knowledge to the next generation of players.
Even if these girls don't go into coaching, I hope they take positions in boardrooms and public offices. The toughness they showed on the court will serve them well in those places.
The world needs more tough women. Melanie is watching.

Monday, March 23, 2015

500 Letters: The sixth point of the scout law

I can still recite the 12 points of the Boy Scout Law. A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. 

I've been thinking a lot about the sixth point, a scout is kind. 

That's a tough point for young men to follow. Look at any other of the 11 points and you can picture young men being those things. There are movies about being loyal and brave. You can picture helpfulness and friendliness, but kindness? That's for old men with Werther's Original candies in their pockets. 

People often mistake being nice with being kind. You don't need to do much to be nice. That's often the go to characteristic of someone that we don't have anything bad to say about, but can't think of much else to say about either. "Oh yeah, he's a nice guy." 

The dictionary definition of nice is: "pleasant; agreeable; satisfactory." I've had oatmeal that is pleasant, agreeable and satisfactory. 

The dictionary definition of kind is: "having or showing a friendly, generous, and considerate nature." That sounds so much better, doesn't it? 

The internet is an especially tough place to be kind. Just look at the guy who tweeted about some nasty stuff about kid phenom Mo'ne Davis. Do you really need to lash out at someone you don't know who is getting some well deserved attention? It just baffles me why people need to do this. You're allowed to have opinions, but do they need to be expressed in such a hurtful, acidic way? 

People also sometimes get suspicious of people who are kind, like they want something. I'll tell you what I want... other people to be kind to me.

My kindness has probably been taken advantage of at times. I'm just glad that journalism has also fine tuned my B.S. detector to a point where I can sense people's intentions. But I like to give the people the benefit of the doubt.

Kindness is difficult, do it anyway.

Last letter: #118 to Somerville, Mass.
Reading: News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist by Laurie Hertzel
Listening: "Strangers to Ourselves" by Modest Mouse
Watching: The Jinx