A Letter to Me a Year Ago


I know you’re wandering around a strange place in life – stuck between an adolescent youth and where you actually belong in the world. You just graduated college and right now your degree seems useless because you have no clue what to do with it.

I know you’re sending out applications every day. I know you have to move out of your college apartment within the next month and have no place to go besides home. I know your current job hasn’t challenged you in a long time and I know you haven’t slept since graduation because the stress of taking the next step is overwhelming.

I want you to know that things will start happening for you, and they’ll happen quickly. Pretty soon you’ll get caught in an upward spiral and you won’t come down for a very long time.

You’ll have your first interview, and you’ll crush it. A week later you’ll disregard your conscience telling you that you’re too much of an introvert to work in sales, and you’ll accept the position. You’ll quit your restaurant job of over two years, and later this month you’ll move out of your college apartment. You’ll be sad about both, but know that what lies ahead of you is the best year of your life.

A year from now you will look forward to going to work. You’ll see your colleagues grow into some of your best friends and you won’t have to constantly apologize for being late to pay rent. You’ll love your job despite not having a passion for what you do.

You’ll know that you’re extremely lucky, but know that this happiness isn’t the result of some miracle. It’s because of the other changes you’re going to make that will get you to this point.

Over the course of the next year you will invest heavily in yourself and grow immensely. You will challenge your own faith and other longstanding beliefs, and you’ll abandon a lot of them. You’ll take a hard look at yourself and find that you don’t really like everything you see, and you’ll make necessary corrections.

You’ll learn to budget your time. You’ll realize how important family is. You’ll discover a joy in reading and exercising. You’ll know that calculated risks pay off. You’ll pursue the things that bring you happiness and you’ll do so unapologetically.

You’ll be happy where you are a year from now. Everything will be different, but everything will still be good. Your life will be something truly special and something to be proud of.



You, a year from now


Thank You, Coach Ruff.

I remember attending an ECU basketball game around this time 3 years ago. The sport was an afterthought on campus at the time. If you fired a cannon off into the stands most nights you likely wouldn’t hit anybody. I couldn’t tell you who the opponent was or the outcome, but I remember it.

I remember a few minutes after tip-off a man walked into the room, walked around the court, and stood 2 rows directly in front of me. He was greeted with high-fives from a few nearby students. I thought, “Damn, I really want to give him one,” but decided not to because I thought it would be uncool.

Then Ruffin McNeil turned around, looked me in the eyes, and extended his hand out towards me. He was just so happy to be there. Not a lot of people cared to attend those games, but he did.

Everybody loved Coach Ruff – players, students, and alumni. More importantly, Coach Ruff loved ECU.

Now I’m as pessimistic of a sports fan as anyone, but the thought of losing our coach never seemed like a possibility to me. “He’d never leave for a ‘better job,” I’d always tell people. “He played for this school. It’s obvious this is exactly where he wants to be.” The assumption was that a big time program would come knocking on his door one day and he’d say thanks, but no thanks.

We fired him. We fucking fired this guy, and I don’t know why.

Thanks for everything you’ve done for my alma mater, coach Ruff. Thanks for all of the quips everyone thought they understood but weren’t totally sure about. Thanks for beating UNC in consecutive years. Thanks for crushing State on their home field so badly that the chants of “Purple!” and “Gold!” were overwhelming. Thanks for genuinely caring about this school and for your respect that went unmatched by only a few who also happened to be decision-makers.

Thanks for the high-five, coach, and best of luck at your next stop in your career. We’ll miss you, and if this somehow finds you I hope you know that you deserved better.

Written by Brandon Alandt

What I Learned from Volunteer Work

Posted by Brandon Alandt

I’m going to try something here. I’m going to write my first non-sports post. I’ve taken a hiatus from writing for this blog for a couple of reasons. I’ve been incredibly busy in life and I haven’t had a lot of time nor motivation to write.

Those of you who know me are aware that I spend my weekends at the restaurant I work at. Like most blue collar jobs, it’s a disguised revolving door where coworkers come and go almost daily. Lately I’ve been down on myself there; in a sort of funk I can’t seem to shake. Last year I saw a vast, vast majority of my friends whom I worked with leave. I no longer had a bunch of reasons to look forward to going into work for. I stopped enjoying being there and my work ethic suffered. I became selfish and began only working for myself and not my coworkers or guests. This is something I just realized. This is an ongoing problem for me, but the purpose of me writing this isn’t to complain about my boring restaurant job.

I consider myself a very lucky guy.

I got to spend my final three Spring Breaks in college volunteering in Jacksonville, Florida. During each one of those weeks the group I was with helped six or seven different organizations over five days.

Why is that information important?

I should preface all of this by saying that this is not going to be a “holier than thou” moment from me nor is it a call to action, I promise. I am not a preacher.

It’s important that you understand my background so you understand that I’ve been around enough people who work at those places every single day and keep those organizations afloat. I see how they operate on a normal day and how much joy they have for the work they do. Those people live to help others. I can sense the completeness within them. As a guy who’s about to graduate from college in fewer than two months with no clue what the next step is, that makes me a little jealous.

It’s refreshing to interact with people who have a deep passion for what they do. It gives you an added boost of energy when you see an enthusiastic collection of people who dedicate their lives and talents to helping people at food banks, shelters, or soup kitchens. Take it from me, it’s exhausting work, and I was only spending a few days at a time doing it.

I don’t think I could do what those people do.

I realized this year that while I enjoy helping people, I don’t love it the same way most of the people I’ve encountered do. All of this considered, it should have only been a onetime thing, not something I eagerly anticipated every year. Here’s why it went down the way it did. Here’s perhaps the cheesiest, most cliché words that I will ever write:

Whatever you choose to do, the most important thing in determining your overall quality of life is the people who accompany you on your journey.

I said I didn’t necessarily love the work I was doing, which is true, but I love the people I’ve had the opportunity to share all of those moments with. The work we did was worthwhile, but it was the people I was with who made those weeks some of the most amazing I’ve ever had.

So when the credits finished rolling on the last episode of my volunteering trilogy, I was left with small scratches from head to toe from the jobs I did, but in addition to that I’m also left with a sort of emptiness. Even though I was doing grunt work all week without pay, I wish it could have lasted forever. It’s like if you were on a rollercoaster that took you all the way up to the top and you were anticipating a big, exciting, gradual drop and then the ride suddenly ends. Get off, it’s over.

I feel empty because I’m not sure if the people I’ll work with in the future will ever be able to compare to the ones I got to spend those three spring breaks in college with. I’m thankful for the opportunities, but I’m still greedy.

The point I’m getting at here is that I think a lot of times we take the people we actually enjoy working with for granted. At least I do. I think without them we’re essentially acting as flawed machines. We become emotionless while performing the same tasks over and over again, except we aren’t programmed. I think we underestimate how crucial they are to our overall happiness and how crucial we are to theirs.

How Fairy Tales Really End

I walked down College Hill with my roommate for the last time this season. I don’t know when or if I’ll make that walk again. “It wasn’t supposed to end that way,” I said.

Minutes later I began a quiet drive around town for a fast-food place that wasn’t flooded with people which turned into an hour-long escapade anyways.  I ordered a Big Mac combo with a sweet tea. I punched my straw in my drink and had a sip of Coke. That wasn’t what it should have been.

I had the pleasure of walking out onto the field with others from my senior class to form a tunnel the players would run out to after halftime. My adrenaline was boosting. I dished out dozens of high-fives including one to NCAA Record-Holder Justin Hardy. On my way off the field I grabbed a handful of purple grass from the end zone because it seemed important to me.

It was already a special game. I took in everything for the last time. I appreciated things other than the score. I was satisfied although it looked like UCF was going to run away with it. The Pirates refused to let that happen, though.

Justin Hardy caught the go-ahead touchdown pass from fellow senior Shane Carden with 2:17 remaining. There was no better-scripted ending than that. That’s how it needed to happen.

With 10 seconds remaining in the game, I left my seat to go sing the Alma Mater with the players like we do after every game, win or lose. I was standing in the stands just behind the left cornerucf game of the end zone. The ball was launched towards my corner. I could have made a play on that ball. It soared over 3 ECU defenders and into the hands of a Knight. I could hear the ball touch his hands.

The UCF bench cleared and dog-piled mere feet in front of me.

I never got to sing the Alma Mater on Senior Night.

What happened on the field was no longer in anyone’s control. The game was over and everybody was pissed. Fans stood in the freezing stadium and cheered until they lost their voices when the team was twenty points down. Those fans didn’t walk out on the players when things weren’t going well. Those fans didn’t deserve to have the players walk out. If I’m mad about anything, that’s it.

I watch sports because it’s the only way for me to experience and feel certain things. Outside of sports, I primarily feel only happiness and anger. I’m numb to all other feelings outside of extreme circumstances.

I write to sort out these feelings. If you want to know why I post on this blog so rarely I have your answer. It’s because I only write when I have these rare feelings. I blurt thoughts out onto a word document for a few hours while it’s all fresh. The next day I’ll do light editing and post it. If on that second day I feel like I have to change a lot, I scrap the whole thing. I do this because it wouldn’t be real after a certain point. The brunt of these words are coming at 1 a.m. because otherwise they would never be read.

In this particular block of 3 and ½ hours I felt anxious and nervous. I felt defeat, elation, and finally sadness in about that order. I emotionally got my ass beat. It sucked, but it made me feel human.

I was sad. Not only for the loss, but because of how it happened. We weren’t supposed to be in the game, but the team clawed and scratched its way back. Days ago I said this:

“ECU Football was ferocious as the “underdog” in those games. At times they appeared unstoppable. They played like a pride of pissed-off lions. The fans cheered like everything mattered in those moments.”

“A seemingly different team emerged from the inflatable skull after [the win against Carolina]. There wasn’t the same intensity when we played SMU or Temple. We’re slowly regaining that mojo as we come crashing back down to reality.”

The team I saw in the fourth quarter was the team I was talking about. That’s the team that was ranked in the top 20. That’s the team we were all proud of and still should be. It just didn’t end the way it was supposed to.

Posted by Brandon Alandt

Sailing Away at the End of a (Nearly) Perfect Day

I’m quickly approaching a point in my life that has always seemed so far away. In 5 months I’ll graduate from East Carolina University and begin writing the next chapter of my life. Vast changes will be made. New values will sprout and others will rot and eventually die. I rediscovered a song that applies perfectly to my life in these coming months. Being a Pirate, the metaphor is even more suitable.

“I’m sailing away. Set an open course for the virgin sea.
I’ve got to be free, free to face the life that’s ahead of me.
On board I’m the captain so climb aboard.
We’ll search for tomorrow on every shore,
And I’ll try. Oh Lord, I’ll try to carry on.

I look to the sea. Reflections in the waves spark my memory.
Some happy, some sad.
I think of childhood friends and the dreams we had.
We live happily forever, so the story goes,
But somehow we missed out on that pot of gold.
But we’ll try best that we can to carry on.”

-Styx; “Come Sail Away”

On Thursday I will attend my last football game in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium as an ECU student. With that comes an unfortunate surge of nostalgia. I wrote about my passion for ECU Football at the beginning of the season. If you haven’t read that yet, go do that now. I still have the same feelings as I did then. I do, however, have a little different perspective now.

The sun had just set. The game was over, but 8 minutes were left on the clock. The stadium was still at capacity. 50,000 fans chanted “We Want Seventy” moments before backup quarterback Kurt Benkert ran the ball in for the final score against Carolina.

Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium erupted in such a way that in any other context it would have probably been a joke, but it was genuine.

Everybody hugged everybody and I almost shed a tear. The ball was spiked with such force that I was stunned that it didn’t stick into the earth. To me, that scene encompassed everything ECU embodies. There’s many memorable moments from my time as an ECU student, but that is one that will always stick out to me. I started to write a post for this blog immediately following that game but couldn’t find the words.

I said in early August that I wouldn’t be surprised if ECU went 3-1 to start the season. I’ve watched every game since I arrived as a transfer student and I knew the potential this team had. I knew a top-10 passing attack was in place along with a tenacious defense. The team still had everything to prove, though, and all of those things were displayed against the teams we weren’t supposed to beat. ECU Football was ferocious as the “underdog” in those games. At times they appeared unstoppable. They played like a pride of pissed-off lions. The fans cheered like everything mattered in those moments.

Being in the same half of the state as UNC, Duke, and even NCSU, ECU is often an afterthought beyond just athletics. The Pirates have played the role of the underdog forever, and pretty damn well I might add. What separates ECU from, say, NC State is that ECU has embraced its role in the landscape of college athletics in North Carolina. Everyone here has a chip on their shoulder all for different reasons.

Something happened this season that was horrifying while unfolding, but beautiful in retrospect. ECU Football became something that it was not, and in that solidified its identity.

After the UNC game ECU became the team others circled on their schedules. We would be the heavy favorites and get everyone’s best shots from then on. A bye-week followed the blowout against Carolina, and a seemingly different team emerged from the inflatable skull after that. There wasn’t the same intensity when we played SMU or Temple. We’re slowly regaining that mojo as we come crashing back down to reality.

The team was forced by media and fan hype to abandon their previous identity and I don’t think they were ready for that. We thrive as the underdogs. I don’t say “we” meaning the football team, but our school as one collective entity.

For a vast majority of the people who comprise it, ECU wasn’t their original “dream school.” There is a general negative perception about this University. Outsiders view us as barbaric party animals. They aren’t that far off. I mean, we did have a drunken riot that one time. What I have witnessed from this student body in the three years I have been here extends beyond that in a way that I can’t explain.

There’s a lesson to be learned from this season even if you didn’t watch a single down of football. We as students should go about everything we do with a chip on our shoulders. We should remain humble yet ferocious with every step we take, even if we have no idea where we’re going. We should not let this underdog mentality hinder us, but strengthen and motivate us.

Looking back on it all, football seasons have provided me with some of the best memories not just from college, but from my entire life. I’m going to miss seeing pirate flags flying in the student tailgate lot. I’m going to miss the road beers on walks up College Hill to the stadium. I’m going to miss belting out the lyrics to “Livin’ on a Prayer” after the music cuts off. I’m going to miss standing in Section 23 every game.

It’s strange how simple it is for me to relate something seemingly so trivial to the broadness of life, but it’s real. I can honestly say that I have deeply-rooted values that exist because of how easy it is for me to love my school. I reluctantly transferred here after all of my other options ran out and it quickly became apparent that it was going to be one of the best things that ever happened to me. It wasn’t my first choice, but it was the best choice. Every single day endorses that. Thank you, ECU. For everything.

Posted by Brandon Alandt

Just Like Lego’s

Posted by Brandon Alandt

I’ve never been in love the way the movies portray it, but I’ve been in love. I’ve felt butterflies in anticipation. I’ve had my heart broken and I’ve had moments of pure elation. This isn’t a boy-meets-girl story; this is a boy-meets-sport story.

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”
― Douglas Adams

A very unpredictable series of events happened in my life starting when I was nine years old. I moved to the basketball capital of the world which initiated a slow yet massive cascade that eventually led me to be – wait for it – a hockey fan.


I recently re-watched the series-clinching game 5 of the 2002 Stanley Cup Finals between the Carolina Hurricanes and Detroit Red Wings. I’ve seen it before. If forever reason you put a gun to my head and told me to give you a play-by-play of the game I probably could, although I didn’t watch it live outside of maybe a few occasional  glimpses at the TV. I was probably playing with Lego’s, but during that time my hockey fandom was conceived.


My family that had been living in our North Carolina suburb for a year when the series started. As Wings fans, were deep behind enemy lines. My dad’s family resides just outside of the Motor City. Somewhere around the archives of my parents’ house there are pictures of me as an infant in Red Wings apparel. To this day I’m thankful it wasn’t the Lions. So incredibly thankful.

The moments I watched I noticed the two goaltenders, Dominik Hasek and Arturs Irbe. They were diving all over the place keeping the puck out of their respective nets in incredible fashion. They looked like warriors in their massive pads, and they’re why I began to fall in love with the sport and why this blog even exists.

There is just under four minutes left in the game. The score is 2-1 in favor of the Red Wings. This is twelve years later, and my heart is still racing. I knew the outcome. Right now I’m more than twice my age at the time this game was being played, but it’s still so damn exhilarating to me. With 45 seconds left the crowd at Joe Louis Arena erupts as Brendan Shanahan tucks the puck into an empty goal from center ice. He immediately gets a tackling embrace from my all-time sports hero Steve Yzerman. Game over. Anxiety is replaced by Goosebumps. It happens every single time. It’s not often you get that kind of exhilaration, but it’s because of those moments you continue being a fan. It’s why you continue to be in love.

As years passed I found myself in a growing obsession. I would always grab a newspaper during my school’s “Drop Everything and Read” period every day to check box scores and statistics from the night before. I was a 13-year-old boy who wasn’t staying up until 1 a.m. talking on the phone, but watching games being played on the west coast. I would wake up only four hours later to get ready for school, and it was all worth it to me.

It’s easy to see in hindsight where our lives start to stray away from course they once appeared to be taking, but as it plays out, life is really all just a series of insignificant moments that eventually turn out to be something completely significant. Just like Lego’s.

Our Own Little Pirate Nation: An Ode to College Football

Posted by Brandon Alandt

I was a fresh face on my school’s campus in January, 2012. Upon transferring from another university across the state I was longing for a vintage college experience. I wondered where the fun and exciting part of college was. I wanted a home away from home. I wanted a family aside from my family. I pessimistically didn’t expect either of those, however. Enter East Carolina University.

ecu tunnel

When my first fall semester rolled around 8 months later a lot of things were different for me. The weather was warmer and I knew a lot more people. I was fairly familiar with my school and the surrounding area.  I woke up regularly to the sound of the Marching Pirates rehearsing the fight song and that didn’t even irritate me. In general, I had already grown to like the town I had crash-landed in. What I didn’t understand at the time was that I didn’t completely comprehend the whole culture I was being assimilated into. Then a few weeks later I experienced my first college football game as a student, and a wave of clarity overtook me.

I didn’t know my peers who often slept through 8am classes would enthusiastically and emphatically drink beer in a parking lot at that same hour. I didn’t know there wasn’t a division between groups of people and organizations on these days. I didn’t even know I could have fun losing at cornhole. I didn’t know I could tolerate scorching hot weather for an entire day, either.

As a lifelong sports fanatic, I still didn’t understand the capacity for a game that’s played once a week to bring people together. I always looked forward to the experience, but I was stunned by how much better it was in person. It didn’t matter who you were; when you walk into the stadium wearing the appropriate colors, you become part of something where you aren’t alone.

You become a member of a family. A family of children, students, and alumni who are mostly strangers. You become part of a tradition. You scream your lungs out to the same chants and cheers week after week and it never gets old. On Saturdays we actually become our own little Pirate Nation.

Come Saturday I’ll be standing in my usual spot several rows up in the corner of the end zone in the student section. I’ll be at the stadium an hour early to watch the band perform and for all of the pregame festivities. I’ll have butterflies in the pit of my stomach due to the anticipation that causes me to be unable to stand still. I’ll be yelling and clapping until my throat and hands get sore, and then I’ll yell some more. I’ll be doing this every Saturday I get the privilege of seeing the team emerge out of an inflatable skull in the midst of a purple haze.

If anything, the whole experience gets more exciting as the years pass. I didn’t understand all of this at first, but I think I do now. The spirit and pride I feel for my school is something special and it’s something that I’ll take with me to my grave. I found my home and my family, and it’s all here at East Carolina University. Go Pirates.