This year for the Madness, I found myself following the eventual national champion, Villanova Wildcats, throughout the tournament! In Pittsburgh, Nova easily took out Radford in the 1st Round then romped on Alabama in the 2nd. Moving on to Boston (where I drank my share of Dunkin Donuts for the week), the Wildcats managed to dispense of pesky West Virginia in the Sweet 16 and then they beat Texas Tech in the Elite 8, despite having a bad shooting night. Then it was on to San Antonio, Texas where they clobbered Kansas by shooting an INSANE number of 3-point shots in the first half (they were 13/26 from the 3-pt line) and then won in the Championship pretty easily over Michigan, who had a 14 game win streak coming into the game. Nova was led by Donte DiVincenzo, who came off the bench to score 31 points and received Most Outstanding Player honors.
With this being my second Final Four (but my first on the CBS/Turner television broadcast), there was plenty to be excited about as I got to realize one of my work goals for myself. I’ve always wanted to be at the Final Four. Of all of the events I’ve done, college basketball is easily my favorite and being on the show crew was a privilege and an honor. One of the highlights of being in San Antonio was that my family joined me for a few days as the kids were on spring break. Despite the fact that I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with them, it was cool having them with me for this event and I got to spend Easter evening/April Fools Night with Christopher as we were invited to play basketball on the Final Four court for a couple of hours. Not only was this a “Bucket List” item for me, but it was made even MORE awesome since Fer was there to play with me! That was an experience I’ll never forget! And to add to it…we both played pretty well considering how intimidating that court was! Playing in a football stadium, it’s LOT different than playing at my local gym, that’s for sure! But he and I both shot pretty well and we had a great time! While I was at work, Steph and the kids went to the Alamo, the San Antonio Zoo and the National Championship game. I was able to go on a Riverwalk tour with them and I think the change of scenery for this spring break was good for them. We love Destin, FL (which is where we’ve gone for spring break for the last 6 or 7 years), but it was fun doing something different and I got to work an event I have always wanted to work!!!
Through the years, I have made many friends in the television industry. Although we tend to live all over the place, we still find ourselves thrown together in any given city in any given state, all working to get a broadcast on the air and then we hop back in our cars and planes and go home. We never really having the chance to tell one another what a pleasure it is to work together. As “tv people”, we can find a lot of negative in the jobs we do….but secretly….we love it and can’t even consider any other options. And we love those that we work with.
My dear friend & co-worker, Janice Devine, passed away yesterday. It was a complete surprise to me. Having heard only the weekend prior that she had been ill for over a year and that she was in hospice, I didn’t know how far along she was or what the situation was. I have known Janice since the beginning of my career. She was often one of the graphics operators I was paired up with when I first started working for CBS and she and I, through the years, often found ourselves working together for other companies as well. When I heard that she wasn’t doing well and wasn’t taking calls, emails or texts, I realized it must be urgent. But I didn’t realize HOW urgent until the word came of her passing on Sunday, January 14th. I was at work in Bloomington, Indiana, working a basketball game, and the word was like a punch in my stomach.
Here’s the thing…for as long as I knew Janice (which was probably 17 years or so), I never really got the chance to tell her how much I enjoyed our time together. She was a genuine, bright, shiny light in this world. A woman who was ALWAYS smiling on the outside, even if things around her weren’t so shiny. I can’t recall ever hearing her speak badly about anyone (which would be a first in the television industry), I never saw her upset and I don’t remember there ever being a time where she was down or unhappy. She was always on…and she was always happy…and she was an excellent friend & co-worker.
I know she died of ovarian cancer, I know she fought for over a year and I know she kept it quiet. A lot of people on social media were surprised to hear that she had fallen ill. I wish I had even a couple minutes just to tell her what a pleasure it was knowing her and being her friend. It has been almost 6 years since she & I worked together. I recall chatting with her on Facebook a couple times since the London Olympics but they were usually short conversations. It saddens me that I didn’t have the time to chat with her more. She was truly a diamond in the rough.
Rest in Peace Janice. Thank you for being such a great friend and mentor. This world is a sadder place with your passing. You will be missed greatly and you will always be in my heart.
Winning a state football title ain’t easy. And winning it twice in 2 consecutive years is almost impossible. But this year’s Beechwood team did it, blowing out their opponent, Raceland, 41-0 in Lexington, KY. Christopher was more of a part of the team this year, seeing action in the state semifinal game but not in the championship. Even though he didn’t get a chance to get on the field, he made me proud the season, playing quarterback for not only the JV team, but also with the froshmore team and then backing up the starter for the varsity. He got a LOT of good experience and hopefully this will lead him into a position to take the Beechwood Tigers into next season with the same state championship aspirations that they had this season!
This year was another stellar Layton family get-together! As usual, we spent time hanging out with Mom & Dad, crashed at Uncle Frank’s home in the woods and had Thanksgiving dinner at Aunt Mandy’s house. Everyone got their fill (including Dad, who didn’t break his record speed for time spent eating dinner but still put in a good effort) and we played some card games, watched football and watched AJ show his older cousins how to play Madden 2018.
Although we didn’t get to go to a movie this year, Frank and I DID manage to watch a little bit of the underground classic, “The Room”, which is, without a doubt, one of the most ridiculous movies I’ve ever seen and I didn’t even get a chance to finish it! We also watched “Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets”, which wasn’t as bad as critics seemed to make it out to be. Actually…I kind of enjoyed it.
Also this year, Frank & I had the opportunity to play in our high school alumni basketball game! Even though we were on separate teams and had to play against each other, it was probably the most fun I’ve had playing basketball in a long time! Just wish I had played better. I had 4 points but also managed a couple bad airballs (mostly because I was sucking wind most of the game) and let Frank push me around a couple times on the baseline. Gonna have to fix that for next year!
This summer, I thought it would be fun to vote for our summer vacation getaway. So on a random afternoon, we picked our spot from 6 locations: Hawaii, Seattle, Los Angeles, Montana, Ft. Myers, FL, and the Caribbean. In a unanimous vote, we chose the Caribbean to be our destination! But that left me with some research to do because the Caribbean consists of several little islands and I didn’t have a lot of time. So…after doing a Google search on the world wide web, I discovered a great family resort on the same little island where Stephanie and I went for our honeymoon! St. Lucia is a tiny island on the southern part of the Caribbean. It’s beautiful there and so we were happy to return…although this time with out 2 kids along for the ride. The resort, Coconut Bay, is on the Atlantic side of the island and only a few minutes from the airport. The resort itself is awesome! Very relaxing, all-inclusive and a perfect spot for a family getaway. We did a lot of relaxing, a lot of swimming and made a couple trips away from the resort for fun! Here are some pictures from our trip! And if you are ever looking for a great family vacation spot….I recommend St. Lucia & Coconut Bay!
Well…here we go. Ava turned 13 yesterday. It wasn’t a surprise and it wasn’t like it crept up on us. To be perfectly honest…sometimes I forgot that she WASN’T in her teens already. The girl is more mature (at times) than some adults I know…including myself. Not saying she doesn’t have her goofy side…because she does. But I attribute that to my genes and she can’t help herself.
As the years fly by, in MY mind, Ava will always be my baby girl, scooting across the kitchen floor (she never did learn to crawl), binky in her mouth and giving lean-in hugs (hey…she liked her personal space). I can’t believe how fast she’s grown and she surprises me every day. Now she’s on her school’s golf team, is quick with a quip or funny response and has a unique perspective on life that makes me proud to be her dad. She is a friend to everyone and, as far as I know, doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. She loves binge-watching Netflix shows and dabbles on the ChatSnap from time to time. Oh…and she MIGHT just like LUSH products. I could be wrong about that but…I’m pretty sure she hooked…
She’s growing into a beautiful young woman and as silly as she can be at times, she is more level-headed and more mature than I ever was at her age. She’s growing into her own and I couldn’t possibly be more proud of her. She enters the 8th grade here in less than a month and I’m hoping this year will be filled with as many laughs and amazing memories as she can cram into 365 days!
Love you Monkey!!!
It’s been a long time since I reviewed a movie. There are a few reasons for that. Firstly…I’ve been busy and if I’m gonna write…I’d prefer to write about something important about my family or friends or something. Secondly…there haven’t been a lot of movies that I really care to write about. Thirdly…well…that’s really about it. I love movies and for me to take the time to write about them they better be WORTH the time…ya know?
Which brings me to THIS film. Going on record here…I, like a gazillion other moviegoers, LOVED the original GOTG. It was everything you want in a scifi, Marvel event movie. It had action. It had romance (kinda). It had humor. It was everything a popcorn movie should be and it was magnificent!
Cut to a couple years later and now you have the sequel. Look…we all know the rulebook says the second one should NEVER be as good as the first one…right? Well…except for “Aliens.” And “Terminator 2.” Oh…and “The Empire Strikes Back.” Well…THAT one is arguable. Aaaaanyway…I am so VERY happy to report that the sequel to GOTG isn’t just a return to the original. It expands and enhances. It’s hysterically funny in places. It’s action-packed! It has awesome new characters and it has storylines that blend well together, never leaving a character behind (which is difficult to do in a movie with 5 or 6 “main” characters). I left the theater feeling enthralled, exasperated, exhilerated and, above all the other “E” adjectives…entertained! This was EXACTLY what I needed to kick off this upcoming summer of blockbusters! Seriously…it was the most fun I’ve had at a movie since….well…the first one probably.
I’m not giving anything away here. It’s not what I do. But I will do this….here is a list of my favorite characters in THIS installment of the GOTG universe…
- Yondu (Michael Rooker) takes his character to a new level in this one. I won’t say why but just know…he’s back and better than the first.
- Baby Groot. Seriously…the opening sequence is worth the price of admission.
- Ego The Living Planet (Kurt Russell) is, without a doubt, the biggest surprise of this movie.
- Drax (Dave Bautista) steals the entire first half of this movie. He’s HYSTERICAL!
- Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) & Gamora (Zoe Saldana) are the heart of this franchise and they don’t let us down here.
- Rocket. Seriously…you forget he’s a CGI character. He’s the Han Solo of this franchise and he makes every scene he’s in better.
- The 80’s references come fast & furious. Don’t blink! You might miss something!
Now…a few critical notes…
This movie is awesome! Go see it in a theater. Make it as BIG a screen as you can. Get some popcorn, a soda, maybe some candy, whatever and prepare yourself for over 2 hours of entertainment. Also…a quick note…this movie may be the most colorful movie I have seen since “The Wizard Of Oz.” An entire spectrum of color is thrown at the screen at all times and it is FANTASTIC! Kudos to the art & CGI department at Marvel. It is magnificent to look at!
Overall Rating: A+. An awesome start to the summer! Way to go Marvel!!!