January is fast fading into our rear-view mirror and nearly a week of February has slipped past, meaning that it's only about 42 more days until Spring arrives!
And that can't happen soon enough, if you ask me, even though we had a fairly minor winter thus far. That can change in those 42 days -- and maybe even into the first few days of Spring -- but maybe Mother Nature will give us a break this year.
Last Sunday, of course, was the NFL's Big Game Day and, like most of America, we had it tuned in, although some of the poorly officiated game was difficult to watch.
Truth be told, much of it was just plain boring as well.
As for that much-touted and highly anticipated halftime show, well, let's just say if that's all $13 million buys today, then entertainment inflation must be back in a huge way.
Call me under whelmed!
Amazingly, neither Jennifer Lopez nor Shakira received a penny of that $13 million for their performances. They were reimbursed for their expenses but not paid, as is the NFL's custom.
But don't feel too sorry for them because they do it for the exposure (pardon the bad pun given their costumes) it gives their careers. When Lady Gaga headlined in 2017, she saw her total album sales in the next few months jump 2,000 percent.
But don't worry about these two gals starving, JLo is reputed to be worth $400 million and Shakira is about $100 million behind her!
Of course, the greedy NFL is watching all this -- and looking for a way to cash in.
It may even begin charging performers to headline Big Game halftime shows in the future -- a money grab that only they could conceive!
The NFL is rolling in cash today but "sucess-itis" can begin to cause problems very quickly. Just ask NASCAR.
Can't help but wonder if that's not already happening. Even the ads, which we usually enjoy, were not up to Big Game Day standards, in our humble opinion.
In fact, as many of them aired, the topic of conversation in our house was something to the effect of "what the heck was THAT about?"
And if a high dollar TV ad has to be explained, you can pretty much bet that it missed its mark entirely.
There were a couple of pretty good ones but nothing that will go down as memorable in my book.
Even the soft drink and beer peddlers seemed to be lacking creativity this year, perhaps because they were likely written by millenials -- and I'm not of that generation!
In my meager defense, even teenage Nick didn't get some of the ads either -- especially some that were throwbacks to another era, like the one referencing the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day.
I suppose you can't please everyone -- but for the kind of money that was spent on some of these creations, I suspect there are some second thoughts. If not, there ought to be.
One feature that I really liked was the one cooked up by the NFL for its 100th anniversary. It featured a kid -- sporting an Odell Beckham Jr. style haircut -- basically running across America carrying a football while being urged to "take it to the house."
It was fun and the ending with that kid and many others running onto the field of the actual Big Game was cool.
It never answered the question about who that kid is, but it didn't take long to find the answer.
His name is Maxwell "Bunchie" Young and the 12-year-old is somewhat of a football star already.
Young, who lives in Los Angeles, was named the 2017 Sports Illustrated SportsKid of the Year after posting 61 touchdowns in a season and a half of youth football and destroying the field in track competitions.
He was good enough to get a college offer from Illinois at the age of 10.
In fact, it might be a good idea to jot that name down somewhere because in a few years, there is a good possibility that "Bunchie" will be running on an NFL field to actually play in the game.
By far my favorite ad during the game actually wasn't trying to peddle any product, although it was trying to get us all to part with a little money.
The saga behind the ad began last summer when David MacNeil's 7-year-old golden retriever named Scout was diagnosed with cancer and given a month to live.
MacNeil is the CEO of WeatherTech, maker of high-end vehicle floor mats and other products, although the company's products were barely featured in the ad.
Instead MacNeil spent $6 million for an ad to thank the University of Wisconsin's school of veterinary medicine -- and to urge viewers to donate to the school that saved Scout's life.
When his dog was diagnosed with having a tumor on his heart and given just a one percent chance of living, MacNeil said the school's research on cancer in animals was instrumental in saving the dog's life.
"There he was in this little room, standing in the corner," MacNeil told NBC News. " ... And he's wagging his tail at me. I'm like, 'I'm not putting that dog down. There's just absolutely no way.'"
Veterinarians treated Scout with aggressive chemotherapy and radiation that nearly eradicated the tumor, according to NBC News.
Even better, the school's dean told the network that their veterinary research also contributes to cancer-fighting efforts for humans.
Now, that's a win-win -- and it will be interesting to find out how many Americans donate to the school's efforts to research and treat the scourge of cancer.
If the ad is any indication -- and here's hoping it's real and accurate -- Scout appeared to be healthy, happy and ready to do all kinds of "dog stuff" after his brush with death.
If you're an animal lover, a cancer fighter or just want to make a difference, here's where you can donate to the veterinary hospital:
And by the way, they take credit cards!
Those of us in the news business spend a lot of our time writing about what government is doing.
Maybe we should be paying more attention to what government is not doing.
For example, it's not uncommon for us to be writing stories about government spending thousands of tax dollars for sidewalks, for studies that will never be pertinent or implemented, for projects that aren't really needed and which may actually make things worse and so forth and so on.
But it's what we're not doing -- either as a government, as individuals or through other organizations -- that deserves a closer look.
A few years ago I was surprised when some folks said Franklin County needed "soup kitchens" to help feed the needy.
My first reaction was shock that such a need existed here in our county in this day and age.
Since then, I've gotten better informed and realized that the need is real and urgent -- and that a host of wonderful volunteers are stepping up regularly to meet that need through an organization they call "A Blessing, Inc."
But this week, a reader came by to ask a question for which I had no answer.
The question was simple: Do we have a facility to aid the homeless?
His question came after he recently met a man who has found himself down on his luck and without resources.
According to our reader, this man was a productive member of society until his mother got sick and he spent everything he had on her care. Eventually she died -- and he has virtually nothing except a cell phone, which is his life-saving lifeline to survival.
Apparently this man finds shelter where he can, often in restaurants that stay open late and which either offer hospitality or tolerate his presence. At least that gives him some break from the weather, which can be brutal this time of the year.
From what our reader told me, this man doesn't have apparent drug or alcohol problems, nor any mental health issues beyond the stress and fear that goes with being homeless.
The obvious issue -- and some will make it political -- is that much or all of his current life situation was caused by the abject failure of our health care system which is a disgrace in a developed country in the 21st Century. No one should end up homeless just because they want their mother to have medical care.
Beyond that, however, I realized -- after a few phone calls -- that we don't have provisions for helping people who find themselves in this situation.
To the best of my knowledge -- and if I'm wrong, I hope you'll waste no time in telling me -- we have no homeless shelter or temporary shelter for folks who find themselves in dire straights.
Surely we can do better.
The thought of people forced to roam the street and seek food and shelter where they can, if they can, is enough to give me the heebie-jeebies.
Some politicians are boasting that the economy is in excellent shape, maybe the best it's ever been, but those of us who live in small town America know that's mostly hype to gather votes.
Locally, the economy is severely stressed but that doesn't give us an excuse to ignore a real need that's right out there on the street on a daily basis.
We, thankfully, have a shelter for those battered by domestic violence.
Perhaps it's time to begin thinking about how to deal with those who are homeless or who are living in temporary arrangements that are far from ideal.
Talking with the county school leadership, I discovered -- much to my astonishment -- that they currently have about 138 students who are listed as homeless or living in some type of temporary conditions.
I suspect that if we poke around in this issue a little more, we're likely to find it's a bigger deal than any of us realize -- and caused by a whole lot of issues that are complex and difficult to solve. Sadly, the victims are mostly invisible.
But shouldn't we at least try to help, even if we're only helping a few people at a time?
This is the 21st Century. A warm, dry place to sleep, food to eat and basic health care doesn't seem to be too much to ask.
Anyone got any bright ideas?