Adventures in Oxford: Attending the Polo Club Ball

Growing up in a middle class home in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, the thought of going to super fancy balls never really crossed my mind. I think the fanciest event I ever went to was a pretty normal wedding. When Jenny texted me asking It i wanted to go to the Oxford Polo Club Ball I thought there was no way in hell we would be allowed in there.

The Oxford Polo Club Ball is one of the most prestigious balls on the University of Oxford calendar. Jenny got an invited from a friend who is in the polo club before I arrived in England. Her brief explanation over the phone was: White tie, at the Tower of London, and a river cruise on the Thames. I thought she was crazy. First I figured there was no way we’d be able to afford it, and second I thought it must be a mistake that we could even get an invite, and someone would eventually tell us that we couldn’t go. After talking about it for a few minute we decided that it wasn’t too expensive, and might be a once in a lifetime event for us that we couldn’t pass up. I mean private tour of the Crown Jewels, dinner and reception inside the Tower of London, and a fancy boat ride on the Thames through Central London, when would we ever be in a position to do something like that again.

Our friend got us tickets and I made my way over to England. Over the next month and a half we were so busy exploring England that I somewhat forgot we were even going to the ball. About a week before the ball I decided it was time to start getting ready. First thing was to decide what to wear. As it was a white tie event, there wasn’t much of an option. As a guy who hasn’t even worn a tux since I was probably 4 years old, I was a little intimidated by the formal evening attire. I had no idea what I needed to get for the ensemble, or how to correctly wear each piece. Luckily for me, Oxford is very versed in formalwear so it was not hard to find a shop to rent everything I needed from. The only other thing I needed to get was cufflinks.

When the day of the ball came, we decided to get dressed and take some pictures by some of Oxford’s most famous buildings with some friends we were going with. There is no more surreal feeling than walking around in the most formal attire imaginable in front of a bunch of tourists. Every time we stopped to take pictures we had several people ask what we were doing, or if we were going to a wedding. It didn’t help either that when I answered them, it was obvious that I was American (and everyone in our little group was American or Canadian), and it just confused them even more.


After the photo shoot we got on the bus with all the other well dressed people and made out way to the Tower of London. The only problem getting there was that the tower is in Central London. Even though Oxford is roughly 50 miles from London, it took over two hours to get there because London was so busy on a Friday night.

Once we finally got to the tower, we got in smoothly, and the Yeoman Warders gave us a brief history of the tower. There’s a lot of pretty gruesome history that happened in the Tower of London. After the history, we got to take a private tour of the Crown Jewels. The jewels were pretty fantastic, but we were anxious to get to the part of the night we actually came there for, the drinking. We had a very nice champagne reception in one of the museum galleries on the grounds. We got to drink while looking at all kinds of artifacts, it was pretty cool. After the reception we moved to another part of the tower for a four course dinner. Dinner was great, pork and potatoes, with chocolate fore dessert.


After downing a few bottles of wine between us, we made our way to the last stop for the evening, a boat cruise on the Thames. The boat, thankfully with a fully stocked bar, carried us from the tower west, through most of downtown and central London. Along the way we passed Big Ben and Parliament, along with several other important buildings. But the boat served first and foremost for a vessel for our dance party. It was the one time in the night where everyone could drop the formalities of the ball and let loose a little bit (and also make jokes about being Billy Zane in Titanic).


All in all it was a great experience, and probably something we would only experience once in a lifetime. I’m so glad we got the invitation and didn’t shy away because we felt we didn’t exactly belong in that world.

Andrew Wiggins is forming a troubling pattern in his performance

The Minnesota Timberwolves are enjoying their best season in a generation. The turnaround from dismal franchise in constant rebuild to top four seed in the West has been led by their two All-Stars, franchise golden boy Karl-Anthony Towns, and the first year wolf and MVP candidate Jimmy Butler. The two-headed monster have the Wolves in prime position to make their first playoff appearance since 2004. But it seems like someone is missing from that equation. Andrew Wiggins, the top pick in the 2014 draft (drafted by Cleveland) should be part of a “Big Three” with Towns and Butler, but that hasn’t been the case this season. The fourth year small forward out of Kansas is having his worst season as a pro, marred by inefficiency, poor shot selection, and failure to get to the free throw line.

Wiggins is scoring six points fewer per game than last year (23.6 last season to 17.7 this year), and his Player Efficiency Rating is a career worst 13.1 according to ESPN. Some of that can be attributed to inserting Jimmy Butler and his 22.4 points per game. But most of it has been caused by his lack of interest in meshing with new alpha dog teammates in Tom Thibodeau’s offense, and his willingness to take a backseat at times to even less accomplished scorers like Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson and Jamal Crawford.

On Tuesday, Wiggins may have bottomed out against the Rockets, missing his first 12 shots before salvaging a 2-14 shooting line that included him going 0-5 from beyond the arc. This is becoming Wiggins’ most troubling pattern, hitting rock bottom just about every five games. Look through his game-by-game stats. You’ll find plenty of games where he goes 8-17 with 18 points, 4 rebounds, a few assists, maybe a steal or two. Those are his averages so that’s the bulk of stat lines you’re going to find. But every week or two there’s at least one game, sometimes two or three in a row, where it seems everything went off the rails for Wiggins and he wasn’t part of the offense at all. Wiggins was off to a hot start this season, averaging 24.7 points through his first three games. In the fourth game though: 3-9 shooting, 0-3 from three, 1-6 from the free throw line for a total of seven points. November was full of plenty of off games, 4-10 for 11 points, 5-14 for 11 points, 5-15 for 13 points. Nothing so bad, but inconsistent with what should be his norm. December was his worst month of the season so far. Wiggins shot just 39% from the field for 15.5 points per game. He had 4 games in December where he shot below 30% from the field, and five games where he failed to score more than 12 points. He rebounded nicely in January, excluding his 4-18, 10 point performance in a loss to Golden State. February has brought back his inconsistency. He’s scored seven points twice in six games, and has failed to eclipse 20 points in a game this month.

Everybody has bad games, but Wiggins’ poor performances are sometimes so bad they are derailing his season, and detrimental to Minnesota’s cause. In 60 games this season Wiggins has failed to reach double digits in six games, something he did just three times all of last season. He found consistency last year, but has reverted back to his rookie ways of shooting too many long jumpers instead of getting to the rim.

If history has shown us anything about Andrew Wiggins in the NBA, it’s that he gets better as the season goes on. We have to see some improvement in the remaining 22 games to believe he can actually help this team once the playoffs arrive, otherwise, he could see his minutes diminish drastically when games begin to really matter.

That was one of the all-time great Super Bowls (Minus the halftime show)

Super Bowl 52 had all the normal hype of your average Super Bowl. The Patriots were in it like every other year, but the upstart Eagles, with backup quarterback Nick Foles leading the way didn’t necessarily have people believing they were going to block the road to Tom Brady’s sixth Super Bowl Championship. But what unfolded was one of the greatest all-around Super Bowls from every angle, except the halftime show, which I’ll get to.

First the game itself was fantastic. More than 1,000 yards of total offense, which was the most in NFL history. The Teams combined to score 74 points, and the biggest playmakers made huge plays all game long. The most interesting thing I took away from the game was that the Patriots were nearly flawless, up until the fumble, and still lost. The greatest football player to ever live, Tom Brady, went 28-48 for 505 yards, three TDS, no interceptions and they still lose. The vaunted Belichick “do your job” Patriots only committed one penalty for five yards, give up one sack, are even in the turnover battle, and still lose. That’s possibly the most insane thing I’ve ever heard. If you rattle off those stats and I didn’t watch the game, I would probably guess the Patriots won 38-14 or something like that. the fact that Nick Foles and crew lead for most of the game, is quite unbelievable. Foles catching a touchdown after Brady dropped a wide open pass is the icing on the cake for me. That will go down as two of the most talked about plays in football history. Other than the quarterbacks, both teams had huge plays on both sides of the ball which really cemented this as an absolute all timer. And what’s a Super Bowl without a little controversy. Everyone has an opinion on whether Zach Ertz’s touchdown in the fourth quarter was a catch or not. Personally I think it was a catch and a good call, but there are plenty of people who would love to fight me on this and rightfully so, it could have gone either way. You end the game on a Brady to Gronkowski Hail Mary that almost connects and you have yourself a great ending to a fantastic game.

The game wasn’t all that made this Super Bowl so memorable. The commercials this year were some of the best, most memorable Super Bowl ads in recent memory. Tide stole the show (and seemingly others brands commercials) with their “it’s a Tide ad” bit. Chief Hopper from Stranger Things was the perfect choice to remind us that Tide is for more than eating. Alexa losing her voice only to be replaced by Gordon Ramsay, Cardi B, Rebel Wilson, and Anthony Hopkins was hilarious. Eli Manning can’t dance, but his Dirty Dancing ad with Odell Beckham Jr. was fantastic for the NFL. While there were some duds as there are every year, the good outweighed the bad for what seems like the first time in half a decade.

Now lets get to the one major downer of the evening. Justin Timberlake’s halftime performance was terrible. First of all why would you start the biggest 15 minutes of your year with a song nobody has heard of? I get you want to promote your new album, but everyone I was watching with had no clue what was going on for the first two minutes. Start with a crowd pleaser and set the bar high for yourself, instead of make people guess what you’re going to do from there. Secondly, you couldn’t even hear him throughout most of the concert. It seemed like his mic wasn’t turned up as loud as it needed to be, and it was hard to hear most of his songs. We had to guess what it was until we finally figured it out by the time he was getting ready to switch to a new song. He didn’t even seem to be singing most of the time, and worried more about the dancing and choreography than the full product. The only part that I remotely liked was the part that most people had a problem with, the Prince tribute. I thought it was easily the best part of the show, although the choice of song was a little weird.

Even with one of the lamest halftime shows I can remember, this Super Bowl will go down as one of the greatest in history.


10 most interesting differences between Americans and the British

I’ve been in England for just over a month now and one of the first things I’ve noticed are the subtle differences between the average American person and what I’ve seen of the British since I’ve been here. I feel like I’ve got some extra insight because I’m not your average tourist, I actually live here. I go to the gym, I go to the grocery store, I see the side of the city and people that isn’t always available to a tourist in town for a week. This list isn’t about the obvious differences that everyone American knows about upon arrival in England like they have different words for things, or use the metric system. This list highlights the subtle differences in everyday life that I’ve noted in my time here. Also I live in Oxford so this might be ore tailored to how life is here and could be super different than other areas of England. So without further ado, here is my top ten list of differences between Americans and the British.

10) British people can’t re rack weights

I know Americans aren’t the best at this either, but every gym I’ve been to in America people at least get the weights close to where they’re supposed to go. It’s total anarchy at Pure Gym in Oxford. the free weights range for about 5 kilograms to about 40, which, roughly, is 10 pounds to 90 pounds. Their is no order here. You can find any weight in any slot along the spectrum here and it’s just fine. I’ve hunted for similar weights before and have come up empty because they are either lost, being used, or most likely in the heavy section (which I definitely don’t use).

9) bars/pubs

Pubs ares tiny. Normally in America you have your local sports bars with a huge bar, plenty of TVs and 50 tables/booths for seating, not so fast in England. Most local pubs here have maybe seating for about 20 people. The kicker too is you have to order your food and drinks at the bar here instead of having a waiter or waitress come to every table and take your order. Good luck getting a party of 8 or more a table at anything that’s not a chain. But at least in England you get to leave when you’re done eating and not whenever you waiter/waitress processes your bill.

8) Customer Service/ servers

Speaking of servers, they aren’t working for tips so don’t expect any special treatment just because you came into their restaurant. Overall England certainly lacks for customer service in many businesses.

7) x’s after texts

Everybody sends somewhere between one and one billion random x’s after every text they send. just don’t get it. How did it start? Why x’s and not p’s? Do they not have emojis? It’s just one of those weird things that maybe will never be explained.

6) Mexican food

The next one has a much more straightforward answer behind it. There is NO GOOD MEXICAN FOOD IN OXFORD! There are some Chipotles in London, but they are a watered down version, and that’s about it for the entire country. Now that I’ve got my frustrations out, it’s pretty obvious why that’s the case. England doesn’t share a border with Mexico like the United States, and is 5,000 miles away, why the hell would there be a good burrito place here. While it’s sad, they do make up for it in having just about everything else you could want from all over the world.

5) Cards against humanity

This one should be obvious too, but you wouldn’t really thing about it until you play it with people from all over the United Kingdom. Instead making fun of Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin and Five Dollar Foot-Longs, the English are making fun of Ed Balls, the Welsh, and Pudsey Bear, whatever that is. It’s still the same fun game, sometimes you just might have to ask who or what someone is referring to.

4) Grocery stores

The basic premise of grocery stores is the same; you go in, buy food and walk out. The main difference is in America most grover stores have about 10-15 checkout lanes where you put you items on a conveyor belt as an employee checks you out, while there are maybe four self checkout lanes. In England it’s the opposite, most have several self checkout lanes with one or two traditional checkout lanes. This is very helpful if you only have a few items as the lines for the self checkout lanes move very quickly. Also something I find funny is the American section of the store.

3) Tourists

There are tourists everywhere I’ve been so far. Oxford, tourists, Bath, tourists, London, surprisingly not swarming with tourists, but we were there in the middle of the week. The United States obviously have plenty of tourism, but a lot of that is kept to the major cities. Here it seems like everything is a tourist attraction. I can’t even begin to count how many random people’s pictures that they snapped on the street I’m probably in. I get it, things here are old and cool and theres a lot of history. But it’s not even the places that are know tourists attractions that are swarming. I’ve seen people take countless pictures of a tree on a non-historic side street in front of a forgettable building like it’s the Mona Lisa. People are just stopping in the middle of the sidewalk to take a picture of H&M like it’s the University. Speaking of the University, tourists go crazy for students at Oxford. My girlfriend is a student and for Matriculation, there were hundreds of people just taking pictures of her and her friends in their uniforms like they were at a zoo. I get it, there’s a lot to see and do, but people get excited over the weirdest things here.

2) Jaywalking

Jaywalking happens in the United States all the time, but it is frowned upon and you at least have to give the police the decency to look and see if a squad car is near before you go. It’s fair game in England. If there are no cars coming, or one’s far away, feel free to cross that highway like a modern day Moses. Many times people don’t even look for traffic and step out near busses and cars assuming they’ll stop. I’ve seen people flood the middle of a street in front of a cop even, no big deal. Just a way of life and the longer I live here, the more entitled to crossing the street whenever I please I become.

1) Turning on/off outlets/appliances

And the number one subtle difference between America and the UK is… that in many places in the UK you have to turn on your outlets and appliances in order to have power and use them. In the United States, generally speaking, outlets have power going to them 24/7, just plug in and you’re good to go. In every apartment/hotel I’ve been in so far in the UK, you have to flip a switch to turn on outlets and appliances like the oven, washing machine, and even the shower. I don’t know how many times i’ve gotten in the shower only to find no water coming out, or thought I was cooking only to remember I didn’t flip the switch on the wall to turn on the stove. It truly is maddening until I reach the time when it becomes second nature. Also there are no outlets in the bathroom because Brits can’t be trusted to dry their hair too close to the shower apparently.

Honorable mentions: everyone is late, can’t bring drinks to seats in football stadium

Hopefully the longer I stay here the more interesting little differences I will come across.  If you have any other ideas or fun differences you’ve come across, let me know.