Wow, forgive me for the redundant name, but it’s something I feel every single day. A Fire Inside, the official name of the band known as AFI. We all possess this fire, but many lose it somewhere between the ages of eighteen and twenty-six. Or do we? How many of us are older than twenty-six, and in our thirties, forties, fifties, and even sixties, and wonder what could’ve been had we stuck to the path. What made you give in? What made you give up on your ambitions, only to become a sheep in the flock.

Why is it that I still possess this teary feeling inside my stomach every time I look at another worklist from my employer, or a stupid spreadsheet reminding me to preach value and to sell, sell, and sell a product I have zero interest in selling, though I love the lifestyle? Forgive me for the long sentence, but it’s my pitch for this work. Numbers say this, numbers say that, this isn’t my dream. I thought it was. Really, I did, until discovering I became like everyone else. A sheep in the herd. I have to escape this mess. Escape this madness. Dig myself out of this hole I dug myself into. I never wanted this. Oh, but so I thought. It all goes back to high school.

What do I want? I want my message of freedom and happiness to be preached to the hopeless masses. Give them a ray of hope, something to believe in, other than their favorite NFL team winning on a Sunday or during a primetime hour. This is what I want, and I’ve always wanted it. Thinking back to my latter days of grade school, and my early days of middle school. This is what I wanted, but I figured it was frowned upon as feminine. Writers teach English class, and all English teaches are female, I believed. Oh, how ever wrong I was! Man, I just want my voice to be heard, my stories told, and to get out of this office someday. To make appearances, rev up the masses, let them know things don’t have to be the way they are.

Oh, what could’ve been! Wait. Take a deep breath, Todd. Things aren’t as bad as they seem. You’re but twenty-six years of age, and if you do the math of this year versus yesterday, twenty-six is like, being sixteen. Your whole life is ahead of you, barring catastrophe. You’re single, childless, and a man who isn’t afraid to speak his mind even if it costs him his job. You’ll never end up in a homeless shelter, even if you lose it, because you love the forest and woods too much. You can survive without much. It only takes a pen and paper to jot down thoughts in a situation where you become a real-life version of Robin Hood.

But no, you’re too stubborn to give in. You aren’t like everyone else. You refuse to give in. Quitting on your ultimate dream isn’t an option. No! Even if it costs you a job. Even if it costs you everything you put yourself thirty-thousand dollars in debt for. That just meant the desire didn’t come naturally. Something else does. Yes! It’s putting words to a screen, or a pen to paper. Yes! You’re still young enough. Sure, you have bills to pay, food to eat, a freedom number to hit, but you’re okay. You’re young, and you can still do this. You don’t have to sit in an office and preach the value of something to people for thirty-five years. You don’t have to feign a passion for this any longer, because your gods and goddesses called you back to the ancient path, or your original path. You’re a writer, and your voice must be heard. You need it to be heard. You need to have haters in life. Haters who call you out every time you fail. You can name them, you went to school with them, but they provide motivation and not discouragement. You can do this, and they can watch, as you relentlessly pursue your dream.

Never give up. Don’t give in. Don’t give the masses satisfaction of watching you fail. Succeed, and change their mindset. This is what you’ve worked for! A Fire Inside is lit, and keep the Freedom Flame burning!

657,000 Meaningful Hours to Live

We have one life to live. There are 8,760 hours in a year. The average lifetime is seventy-five years, give or take half a decade. This gives us an average of 657,000 hours in a life. Now, many spend one-third, or 219,000 hours, sleeping. We’re asleep for hundreds of millions of centuries before, and hundreds of millions of centuries after.

Are you the type who sits around and watches television or plays video games at the end of each work day? The average adult sits and watches TV or plays video games three to four hours per day, during waking hours. Let’s do the math. Over an average lifespan, the average person spends 53,750 hours in front of an electronic device, watching TV, playing video games, surfing the web without productive purpose. In other words, during waking hours, one may be unproductive for 53,750 hours.

How many of us work a job where we’re just a pawn in the game? Perhaps I must define the word ‘pawn,’ in this essence. You know, the average individual who works eight hours per day, forty hours per week, and we’ll average it to forty-five years, counting our first jobs somewhere between sixteen and twenty. Grand total? 93,600 hours. For you hospital, contracting, oilfield, or related profession employees, this number increases at times by one-third.

Math can be fun, despite my hatred of numbers. Math is fun when numbers and statistics mean something. Let’s come up with a grand total. Subtract 219,000, 53,750, and 93,600 from 657,000, and you get 290,650. What are we doing during these 290, 650 hours? Well, we have childhood and adolescence, from birth to age eighteen. Practically school. Subtract another 156,000 hours from your life. Now, we’re down to 134,000 hours. You may go to college because your future job may require additional training. That’s 34,800. We’re down to 99,200 hours. Now, if we retire at 67 and I use 75 as the average age, again, give or take a few years, it gives us eight more years. How many retirees are looking to change the world? We’re now down to a meager 29,600 hours.

Massive punchline: Even if one lives to 80, 90, or 100, the retirement hours rarely make a difference. The retirement hours can be anything. If one lives to 100 after retiring at 67, they have a retirement check, hopefully some cashed out stock, and money for travel and leisure. But what did you do to make a difference? What did you do to uphold your beliefs? Voting doesn’t count. You’re one in 300,000,000, or whatever the hundreds of millions of voters on a national scale. Even at the state level, you’re one in 10,000,000 if you live in a large state.

Nothing cries foul like people believing they have the power to influence. You’re a single soul going up against lobbyists and superpacs. You did your duty to vote? That’s nice. Voting doesn’t change anything except rich faces in a House, Senate, or judiciary system. Voting changes faces in power, power over you, control over you, as you toil away believing this regime is better, or that regime is better. But they’re all the same. From George W. Bush to Barack Obama to Donald Trump. What have our kids known? Increased security, usurpation of liberty, taxation, war, and violence. Why? We put our trust in other people, because we didn’t do anything spectacular.

If you want to learn some sound awareness for change, keep and eye out, as my matthewsfit.blog is soon shifting into the political, social, and awareness realm. Should be a fun ride. Hope you’re there for the grand tour.

Improvement in 0-13

Give the Browns credit, they’ve been in all but two games despite the 0-13 record. 0-13 is something to dwell on, and Hue Jackson’s 1-28 record is unacceptable, but when you’re coaching the NFL’s youngest team with a roster torn apart two off-seasons ago, wins are few and far in between. Even with the level of experience, one would expect more wins, but in Hue’s defense, he’s been competitive. I’ll be the first to say a competitive 0-16 is better than a 4-12 season where a team gets blown out eight times, as is the case of the 2008 or 2009 Browns, who finished 5-11. Each week was an expected blowout. At least here in 2017, they keep a fan’s interest.

I get it, this team is 1-31 since Week 15, 2015, and 4-46 since Week 13, 2014. This futility has even the most die-hard fan shaking their head, wondering why they bother to care. But if you ask anyone with an ounce of mainstream or commercial success who mastered their craft without inheriting a fortune from mom, dad, or the grandparents, they’ll tell you one thing: they failed about one-thousand times before succeeding. It’s a message we can hold true to ourselves, especially today, where everyone expects a quick fix. Look, the Browns are losing at an alarming rate, but there is talent all over the board.

Myles Garrett, Danny Shelton, Trevon Coley, and Emmanuel Ogbah are all young and growing together. The depth is there with Carl Nassib, Nate Orchard, Larry Ogunjobi, and Jamie Meder. This depth was on display last Sunday, as both Shelton and Ogbah are out, and they succeeded. Onto the linebackers, where Christian Kirksey, Jamie Collins, and Joe Schobert make up one of the better linebacking corps on the NFL’s tenth ranked defense. That’s right, they’re a top ten defense. Check the rankings. Defensive backfield is where the problem lays, as Jamar Taylor and Jason McCourty are stopgaps, while Derrick Kindred and Jabrill Peppers are in their second and first year. But Kindred and Peppers possess a hitter’s mentality. Imagine if the Browns had two Pro-Bowl caliber corners as young as Peppers and Kindred. Briean Boddy-Calhoun? Great nickelback, but not a great one or two cover man. If the Browns hit the defensive backfield hard in free agency or the draft, watch out.

DeShone Kizer has turned the ball over as much as Peyton Manning during his rookie season. Look it up, Manning threw twenty-eight interceptions back in 1998, and he had Marvin Harrison. Kizer had a bare cabinet until Corey Coleman returned from a hand injury and Josh Gordon returned from a three-year suspension. Speaking of Gordon and Coleman, they gave Kizer a few legitimate options last Sunday. Kizer had a 72% completion percentage when the duo took the field. I’m excited to see what the last three games hold. Duke and Crow are great backs. Neither should be featured, and the Browns must find a workhorse via free agency or the draft, but both have a role, especially Duke Johnson.

I can’t say enough about the offensive line. They’ve opened holes for the running backs all season, and for half the year they played without future Hall of Fame tackle, Joe Thomas. Spencer Drango has done an excellent job filling in for Thomas, given the shoes he had to fill. Zeitler, Tretter, Bitonio, and Shon Coleman will be here for the long haul. This is a good unit.

Same goes for the tight-ends. Randall Telfer is a blocker, but Seth DeValve and David Njoku have grown together and will continue to do so. Njoku is a future star, and has shown more than flashes of brilliance. He was supposed to be raw, but he’s come into his own as his rookie season winds down.

I could care less about the record. The team is better than the 2016 version, where blowouts became paramount down the stretch. The 2017 Browns, at the very least, have remained competitive in most games. It’s a sign of growth. Now, they just need to figure out how to convert leads into W’s. Leading by two scores in the fourth quarter is a good first step. Finishing games is the next item on the to-do list.

The Ultimatum

I have something I need to get off my chest. If you had two choices to live your life, and only two, would you hear me out? Don’t worry, because we aren’t talking about an ultimatum worth of only two narrow choices. These two choices are wide, and whether you realize it, all of us make one of the two choices. A hint? Robert Frost once wrote a poem about these two choices. You getting a feel for what I’m getting after? Good.

Choice A is the route taken by what I’ll call the 90%. I think we know several who take this route. What does it consist of? Oh, you might have an idea or two. Monday through Friday (sometimes Saturday and/or Sunday) you wake up at five or six in a house or apartment you’re nowhere near finished paying for. You hop in your vehicle you’re still paying for, fight traffic, encounter road rage, force-feed breakfast at a GMO-laden fast food joint or work cafeteria, and work forty to fifty hours a week making a lot of money for someone else to live out their dream. Does this sound like you? If so, how many of you like this choice? Let’s be honest, Choice A sucks.

I know what happens. You mimicked mom and dad, didn’t you? They said this is “the way it is,” like that Bruce Hornsby song. It’s just the way it is, we work to pay property taxes, city taxes, personal property taxes, pet taxes in some states, and earn just enough money to make ends meet while watching our favorite television programs or the news. Have you ever read Fahrenheit 451? You’ll never watch TV again, I’ll tell you that much. But let me ask you what the hell you’re doing? What kind of impact are you making in a positive, popular or unpopular, manner? What’s that? You vote for politicians? How has that turned out? Yeah, still waiting for one to do their job because the two predecessors didn’t. Oh, you’re working to fund your kids’ extracurriculars they barely have time for and saving for college. You’re a great parent. What’re you teaching them? How to become a drone to society, that’s what. Go to school, find a job, pay taxes to your government overlords, pay for your kids to have the opportunity you never did, pay more taxes, die, and become a pinprick in this rock we live on floating somewhere in space.

Okay, onto Choice B. The drawback of Choice B is you’ll still going to have to do some work in the nine to five, Corporate America world, or if you’re in the manufacturing sector, some hard manual labor. Okay, the good news is those who take this route have a goal. They have a vision. They know what they want, and they’re willing to feel like they’re working two jobs to get what they want. What do they want to do? They want to make an impact. They have an idea and they know they can sell it.

This is my current struggle, because I’m ingrained in Choice B. What am I up to? How does working on a new blog promoting true liberty and discouraging the freedom with restriction mentality we’ve been forced to accept sound? Will it anger politicians, the police, CIA, FBI, military, and men behind the curtain? Probably. Am I worried? Something has to kill me. That’s my goal, to make an impact, one where I leave my mark, a legacy in the world. Yet it goes beyond a legacy. I want a blueprint for others to follow. I wish to educate. To enlighten. To show others an alternate route. To say what’s going on now is America: The Empirical, Authoritarian Police State. And to help create change. Help create a movement. Enlighten those who enlightened the American colonists back in the days of old. A free nation, without restriction, and to see if play out in my lifetime. This is my end goal. Imagine if we went the Choice B route.

Brainstorming Sunday

Yesterday, I mentioned my desire for others to understand liberty and freedom. Today, in preparation for my revamped site, I decided to do some brainstorming on certain topics for the new site. I found fifty-two topics. One topic per week. Beginning in January, I’ll spend much of the previous week conducting research on each, and release a polished, final draft on Saturdays.

A few things to keep in mind regarding My Freedom Flame. One, the overall purpose of the site is to promote freedom. True freedom. Freedom without restriction. If topics such as a limited government, police brutality, the real reasons America places bases in hundreds of countries, and social justice, this blog is for you. If you lean too far to the right or left of the political spectrum, this blog may anger or offend. Please comment, but if you disagree with my view, at least provide your reasoning. I don’t care if you troll, but it’ll only make you look silly. Disagree with a reason? I won’t agree with you, but at least I’ll understand your perspective.

Onto my writing style. It’s edgy. If you reside in say, Pittsburgh, and if you’ve ever listened to Mark Madden, the Super Genius, it resembles his style. It fits me, and my persona. Except I’m lean. Really, I am. Those of you who are transplants from my former site, matthewsfit.blog, a fitness site turned sports and political site, you already know this.

Why not continue a fitness-oriented, sports-related blog? If there is one thing I’ve learned this year, it’s to give my readers and followers credit. They should know this. I want to branch out and tell them things they may not know, and since I no longer work in the area, they can see the real me, which they’ve seen via my personal social media pages. Whether they still want anything to do with me come this time next year is their decision, not mine. Like I care. You can place me on a deserted island away from human contact and I’ll do just fine.

While I don’t live in a liberal area, I do live in a rather conservative one that worships authority. I’m in the small minority when I throw haymakers at the thin blue line. They say cops are there to serve and protect, I say they’re supposed to serve and protect, but they really engage in reaching state quotas, making their own laws, conducting needless checkpoints on innocent Americans, and enforcing unjust laws because they’re “just doing their job.” The previous piece gives you a little topic on which I’m working towards.

Ditto for their pro-military mentality. I’m not anti-military. Far from it. I am, however, against placing bases in Germany, Japan, Canada, and Australia. If you talk to any of these enlistees, many of them who possess a low Intelligence Quotient, they’ll insist we need to be in Canada, Brazil, and New Zealand. Someone told me they’re over there for humanitarian efforts. Great, so it’s humane to turn the world against us because we’re occupying space in their country reminiscent of the British Empire back in the day. I ask them: Did our forefathers like it? But if America does it, it’s “okay,” and “justifiable.” Just like Christians who plead the sixth…sixth commandment, that is…and justify the killing of Daniel Shaver. You know what? If you truly love police and justify their killings of innocent Americans and military occupation, perhaps you would’ve been a good fit for Nazi Germany back in the day? It’s not patriotic, I don’t care how you spin it, because if you ask America’s founders, they would brand you a British Loyalist.

Oh, and by the way, I’m against Jerusalem being the capital of Israel. I’m not for it belonging entirely to Palestine. I believe in a two-state solution, as it would probably stave off war in the region, and a recognized Palestinian state. Is that too hard? If you ask evangelical Christians, they want nothing more than control of the Temple Mount, to resurrect a literary figure from a book of fairy tales. Now, before you brand me an atheist, I’d like to counter that, because you don’t know me. I believe in the ways of the old. I have my reasons, and perhaps you’ll see these reasons if you read the relaunched site come January.

So, if the above looks appealing to you, maybe you should spread the message of liberty. True liberty, not that liberty with restriction propaganda fed to you by the media and two opposite-ended political parties.

Mission of My Freedom Flame

To promote and spread true liberty. This is my mission. In my years of experience, I’ve observed many freedoms and rights we have in our country aren’t what they seem. They tell us we’re free, but we work really hard to make a lot of money for someone else. They tell us we’re free, but state troopers must make a daily quota to make money for the state, on top of your tax dollars. Speaking of tax dollars, our federal government, better known as the Internal Revenue Service, gets to decide how much of our taxes they keep, and how much we get back during tax season. We’ve seen police brutality on many Americans, especially in the past few years, but where I come from, Steubenville, Ohio, has seen police corruption as early as the 1980’s.

Our tax dollars are funding bases in over one-hundred and fifty countries under the false guise of humanitarian efforts, yet we’re twenty trillion dollars in debt and one in six Americans struggle with hunger, one in three American children living in poverty. Sounds like we need to invest in ourselves before we take care of anyone else. But in doing so, if the goal is humanitarian, do we really need bases in first-world countries such as Canada, Japan, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand, among other places? Are we serious, here?

Does this sound like a free country to you? To me, it sounds like a false freedom led by a cult of personality called the Star Spangled Banner, said to unite us under one flag, that flag representing freedom. But I question this. NFL players have kneeled during the anthem. Why? To peacefully protest social injustice, which I touched upon earlier. Police brutality, yet conservative Americans defend and worship the thin blue line because a man named Trump endorses them.

You see conservative Christians going out of their way to demonize religions such as Islam today, Germanic Paganism of a long-lost past. And today? They wish nothing more than for Trump to begin a war in what they call the Holy Land, to officially hand Jerusalem to Israel. Something about a Temple Mount in order to resurrect a Messiah which corresponds to nothing more than the classical Hero’s Journey, as outlined by Joseph Campbell in the mid-twentieth century. Well, Trump just recognized Jerusalem as the true capital of Israel, while ignoring the Palestinians, who lived on the land for centuries. A Bible tells these people differently, and prophesizes a Hero’s Return, using Trump as the catalyst to do it. I wonder.

We see a nation more divided than ever due to the actions of President Trump. I’m no liberal, and I’ve panned Barack Obama on numerous occasions, especially is poor handling of Obamacare, a state-funded colossal failure. This isn’t all on Trump, but he’s made it worse. The man worships police as much as his conservative buddies. He loves law and order, but isn’t the United States Constitution there to limit government? Our country’s founders knew government to be a necessary evil, and the Constitution restrains that evil to a pinprick to defend people’s rights. The Patriot Act, passed by the Bush Administration, violates this. Fining people for not purchasing government-driven health insurance also falls in that category. President Trump, militarizing police in order to quell protesting certainly ignores the Law of the Land.

We need our freedom back. We need American Exceptionalism back, without forcing it down the throats of others. We must recognize Christianity, not Islam or any other religion, is the most genocidal religion in world history. But the religion is erasing their steps, as the Crusades of the middle ages are merely mentioned, mass murder of Native Americans are a pass through in the history of the wild west. Trail of Tears? They talk about it for five minutes. The coup in Iran back in 1953? Christianity is guilty once more. The winners tell their side of history. The Freedom Flame exposes that.

Why the Browns Have Improved

1-27 isn’t pretty. In fact, 1-27 will cost any NFL coach his job. But with the Browns in Year Two of a franchise overhaul, Hue Jackson may (and should) be an exception to the golden rule come Black Monday next month. The average fan would point to Jackson’s back to back 0-12 starts and state his lack of wins are the only reason they need in their debate to let him go. I’m a numbers guy when it comes to football and upon further research, my black and white discoveries met my claim: The Browns have improved.

Let’s begin with first downs, where the Browns are minus 3 behind their opponents. They finished 2016 minus 68. Through twelve games, their ability to move the ball shows an improved offense. Through twelve games, their offense outrushed their opponents by 107 yards, while they finished 2016 at minus 262. They finished 2016 at minus 735 passing yards. In 2017, they’re minus 331. The offensive line has been a focal point, allowing only 39 sacks through twelve games, compared to 66 in 2016.

On the defensive side, they’re allowing 5.2 yards per play, down from 5.9 yards per play in 2016. Last season, the Browns allowed a 4.6 yard per carry average against NFL running backs. In 2017, the number is down to 3.3. Total rushing yards allowed? 1,163 this season. The 2016 total? 2,283. Through twelve games, they’ve sacked the quarterback 24 times, compared to 26 in 2016. The Browns defense allowed an astounding 6,279 yards last season, surrendering an average of 392 yards per game. This season, the Browns allowed 3,927 yards, averaging 327 yards per game, an improvement of 65 yards.

Another argument for continuing the set foundation accounts for starters acquired via draft, free agency, and trade. Upon looking at the Browns depth chart, they’ve found starters in Corey Coleman, Spencer Drango, Joel Bitonio, Shon Coleman, Emmanual Ogbah, Danny Shelton, Myles Garrett, Christian Kirksey, Joe Schobert, Derrick Kindred, and Jabrill Peppers. Trevon Coley fought his way into the starting lineup, being a second-year undrafted free agent. In other words, eleven of their twenty-two starters were drafted between the years 2014 and 2017. If one adds DeShone Kizer and David Njoku, who receives adequate playing time at tight-end, the number jumps to thirteen. Duke Johnson finds the field often, and Josh Gordon made his season debut for the first time in three seasons, so he’s essentially a newbie. Make that number sixteen, over two-thirds of the starters are twenty-six or younger.

Bitonio, Kirksey, and Schobert continue to play at Pro-Bowl levels. Garrett, Shelton, and Ogbah have transformed a once bleak defensive line. Peppers shows flashes of his hard-hitting ability. Ditto for Kindred. Duke Johnson remains one of the better receiving running backs in the game. Even DeShone Kizer, who critics grill for his less than stellar numbers have found the end zone five times this season and isn’t out of the running to start next season. Hey, Troy Aikman went 0-11 in his first eleven starts, too and nearly lost his job to some kid named Steve Walsh.

Talk of trades, the Browns acquired Jamie Collins, the unspoken leader of the defense and Jamar Taylor in 2016. Each found a place on Cleveland’s starting eleven. Kevin Zeitler and JC Tretter were prize free agent pickups, and another name to lookout for is James Burgess, who has strung together a few strong outings.

My friends tell me the way I talk, this should be a playoff team, right? Of course, not! They’re young, as I established earlier, but they’re much improved. This is a team who last season owned a defense reminiscent of the 2008 Lions and almost became them. This season, the Title of Imperfection isn’t out of reach, but the numbers look far better. As a friend of mine put it, they’re in almost every game. They are. They keep me watching, or listening, as I live in Steeler territory, until late in the fourth quarter. Minus the Texans and first game against the Bengals, they’ve been in games. Four have been decided by three points. One decision went to overtime.

I’m often asked how I can continue to root for such a futile team, who managed to pass up the 1976-77 Buccaneers in terms of worst starts by a Head Coach. I’ll be honest: my dream is playing out. Really, it is. I said it years ago. They need to tear down the roster and just post a miserable record for a few seasons. Start from scratch. Draft quantity, and through the years switch from quantity to quality. Build these guys and keep them together. Something big is happening over on the Lakefront. A complete teardown and rebuild takes years, as does anything worth having. See it through to the end.