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This is the 11th anniversary of my first Bird at Play as I begin my 12th year the Carroll County Times. I thought about writing about what's changed in my life over that time, but like many people I think it might be too depressing to share.

I've always been one not to dwell on the past but look with excitement to what lies ahead. With the divisive election cycle we all endured, the closing of schools, and shifting of students and faculty, and the loss of so many beloved celebrities and non-celebrities, I'd rather take a look ahead to see what may lie in store for us in 2017.

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Selfishly, I'd like to see massive improvements in the Notre Dame football program in 2017. I wrote a column only a month ago throwing my support behind head coach Brian Kelly, who only a few years ago took my Fighting Irish to the brink of the BCS National Championship.

That was before the USC game and the embarrassing display of football performance and on-field character lapses that you should never expect from a Notre Dame athlete. That was before the NCAA ordered the Irish to vacate all of their wins in the 2012-2013 seasons due to academic dishonesty by a member of its athletic training staff and several of its players.

But, it's a new year, we're looking forward with a positive attitude, and it looks like Kelly will be back for another year at least. So with that in mind hopefully he can put a successful BCS campaign together and at least keep Notre Dame football relevant well in to December and hopefully next year.

In the same column defending Kelly, I threw my support behind John Harbaugh and reluctantly I still do. The seismic meltdowns against the Redskins, Raiders, Giants, and Steelers that ultimately cost the Ravens the division title and a trip to the postseason should cost somebody their job. And if it's not Harbaugh, at a minimum Dean defensive coordinator Pees needs to look elsewhere for his employment.

Looking positively forward to 2017, Rex Ryan takes a chunk out of his ego, comes back to Baltimore and makes our defense what the league used to be afraid to face week in and week out, not the laughingstock of the NFL as it has been under Pees. And to help him out, Ozzie Newsome ventures away from his "best player available" philosophy and drafts a top level safety or lock-down corner that will be in Purple and Black for years to come.

I'd like to see the NCAA expand the Bowl Championship Series to an eight-team playoff. For the second year in a row, there's been a fair dispute on Nos. 4 and 5 spots putting one team in to the mix and the other into the next tier bowl game, costing them millions of dollars. If the pool gets expanded to eight teams, it's hard to complain about being passed over at No. 9. The extra games will generate millions more in revenue that trickles down to each university, helping many more students achieve their dreams.

Drop that one out-of-conference game against East Turtle Soup State and you'll be fine.

In the 2015-16 high school sports seasons, many teams got to play in a county championship format in their sport. My team missed out on the fun that year but I went to the county finals at Liberty and really enjoyed the excitement that came along with a true county championship.

I know it was a lot easier when you had an even number of county schools and you could split to even divisions, but I'd love to see the county adopt a new championship format, at a minimum a 1 vs. 2 final in each sport that settles once and for all, on the field or court, who's the best in the county.

Here's to wishing for a winning lottery ticket in 2017. Sure, I'd love to win to take care of my family for generations, but it appears that may be the only way that Carroll County will ever get any turf fields.

With a winning ticket, I would fund a turf field for every high school in the county and create a partnership with the local recreation councils so that we get maximum use of the facilities for all of our citizens. In the meantime, maybe we can shake the money tree a little to fund at least a couple multi-use turf fields and a step closer to modern facilities.

American industry author Bill Vaughn once wrote, "An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves."

With 2016 in my rear view mirror, what's it called when you do both?

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