My Friday Five: On MLS Talk, TIME & Amazon Go

1. Going Bowling

UNC and N.C. State are going bowling but I’m not too excited about it to be honest. The Heels will face Stanford all the way out in El Paso, Texas for the Sun Bowl while the Wolfpack have the “pleasure” of heading down to Shreveport, La. for the Independence Bowl to face Vanderbilt. I’ll get to why I used “pleasure” the way I did in a minute.

First off, I was pretty disappointed by Carolina’s bowl bid. Not necessarily for the team or the season but for myself. I had planned on going to the bowl game had the Heels landed at the Belk Bowl in Charlotte. I really wanted to see this team play in person one last time as it will lose many key players. Junior, Nazair Jones, announced today that he’ll forgo his final year of eligibility and enter the NFL Draft. The same could potentially happen with junior quarterback, Mitch Trubisky and junior running back, Elijah Hood. And let’s not forget the seniors who’ll be leaving, such as Ryan Switzer, Mack Hollins, T.J. Logan and others. The trip to Charlotte wouldn’t have been a long one and it wouldn’t have made a huge dent in my finances. The Sun Bowl in Texas is just not feasible for me logistically, that is, unless I won tickets and airfare. Chances of that happening? Slim. It’s also challenging to get someone to go with me either because (a) they’re not UNC fans and/or (b) their schedules/finances do not make a trip like this possible.

And let’s not forget the matchup: Stanford. Seriously? It’ll be one of the hardest – if not the hardest – tests for the Heels all season. Meanwhile, teams that Carolina beat such as Miami and Florida State, get to play – gasp – in Florida for their respective bowl games. Another team the Heels beat, Pittsburgh, gets to play not too far away from home at the Pinstripe Bowl in New York. It makes no sense to me other than the fact of the almighty dollar. Additionally, I hate to diss UNC fans but let’s be honest. I bet Carolina will not have a good contingency at the Sun Bowl. I hope I’m proven wrong but the fact of the matter is Carolina Football fans simply don’t travel that well. I don’t know why but it is what it is. I was presently surprised by the turnout at the Russell Athletic Bowl last season but that was in Florida. Texas? Who knows what’ll happen. The reaction to the Sun Bowl selection has been met with a sort of “ho-hum” by some Heels fans from what I’ve seen. With the game falling on New Year’s, airfare from RDU Airport in North Carolina to El Paso starting at $750/ticket, a good hotel going for at least $85/night and tickets for the game itself starting at $22/each, it’ll be a tough sell.

On to N.C. State, the Pack just snuck into a bowl after beating Carolina the other week. Its reward is a date with Vanderbilt at the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La. I’ve never been to that city and it could be lovely but I’ve heard some interesting stories from teams that have played in that particular bowl before. I mean, even this article from the Shreveport Times mentioned how the 40-year-old bowl “isn’t what it used to be.” Although I’m happy for the team, I’m not happy about the destination in this case either. Needless to say, it’ll be an intriguing bowl season for UNC and N.C. State, both of whom have fanbases that feel their teams underachieved.

2. Railhawks Rebrand

This week, the Carolina Railhawks franchise rebranded itself to “North Carolina FC” with aspirations to build a new stadium and join Major League Soccer (MLS) in the near future. The Raleigh-based franchise currently plays in the North American Soccer League (NASL) and had been the Railhawks since its inception in 2006. I’m going to share my thoughts on this, not as a soccer aficionado, but as the sports junkie I am: the logo and name could have been a lot better. All I’ve known is “Carolina Railhawks” so “North Carolina FC” is just blah. I personally think the franchise could have picked something, anything, better than this. Jumping to the logo, it’s just blah as well. There’s an entire page on the NCFC website dedicated to explaining the new logo but it does little to improve my thoughts about it. I would like to have seen a modernization of the Railhawks logo with the inclusion of the new colors. I think this would have been the more appropriate choice as the new logo does nothing to stand out from the crowd, in my opinion. Although I’m excited about the potential of a MLS team in North Carolina, these changes just leave the Railhawks’ rich history in the rearview mirror as opposed to embracing it – which is a shame.

3. Props to Take 5 Oil Change

I have to give a quick shoutout to Take 5 Oil Change on Capital Blvd. in Raleigh. I’d heard about this place on the radio and was in the area on Friday so I thought, why not, and stopped there to get my oil changed. It was definitely time to get this done anyway. I was immediately impressed by the courteous and professional staff, who let me know what was going on every step of the way and even gave me a Coke to drink while I was waiting.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get my oil changed because they found that the oil drain plug had been rounded off and they could not get it off in order to properly complete the service. No kidding, at least three or four of the mechanics, even the lead technician, tried but were unsuccessful. All the while, the service writer apologized even though it wasn’t Take 5’s fault. The staff at the last place I got an oil change from, Capital Ford in Hillsborough, apparently didn’t replace the plug with a new one and/or stripped the plug altogether, according to the staff at Take 5. The plug must be replaced with each oil change. It’s frustrating because the part costs only $.50-$1 and takes five seconds to replace. Obviously, my car has been running fine since the last oil change as this doesn’t adversely affect performance. It’s still a nuisance, nonetheless.

During the past few months, I’ve started planning for a new vehicle. My current one is an old geezer in car terms – eight years old – and it’s closing in on 100k miles. It’s been a good one but this latest gaffe has made me do a lot of thinking. Frankly, I’ve decided that my next vehicle will not be a Ford. I’ll also be searching for a shop other than Capital Ford in Hillsborough to take my current one for future servicing.

4. TIME Person of the Year

Donald Trump was selected by TIME as its “Person of the Year” beating out Hillary Clinton and Simone Biles, among others. The, in my view, annual marketing gimmick by the magazine has garnered much debate in 2016 given the fact of who was picked. But TIME is no stranger to controversial picks for POY, with the likes of Adolf Hitler (in 1938) and Josef Stalin (in 1939 and 1942) making appearances on the cover. I don’t necessarily read TIME anyway but I certainly won’t be now due to this decision. Nor will I be reading any of its counterpart brands such as Entertainment Weekly, which I almost reinstated my subscription for this year after a brief hiatus. Thankfully, I didn’t. 

5. Amazon Go

Amazon is making strides in the future of shopping. The online retailing giant announced a new grab-and-go convenience store concept this week. The brick-and-mortar concept, aptly called Amazon Go, is currently in private beta testing with Amazon employees nearby the company’s Seattle headquarters with plans to open the location to the public in 2017, according to CNBC. The store utilizes an app that can detect when a shopper picks up or returns an item. Items picked up from the shelves are added to a virtual cart and the customer’s account is charged when he or she leaves the store, bypassing checkout lines.

Hmm. I don’t know what to think about this. Personally, I’d feel weird just leaving the store without going through a physical checkout line. What do you think? Drop me a line in the comments!

Thanks for Reading

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