My Friday Five: On Wassabi Productions, Sports Stories & Christmas Wishes

Photo: Chris White

Photo: Chris White

1. I Met Alex Wassabi!

I guess you can call this an early Christmas gift to me. About eight years ago, I discovered two local guys - Alex Burris and Roi Fabito, better known as Alex Wassabi and Roi Wassabi - and their YouTube channel, Wassabi Productions. The duo, along with some creative friends, concocted a library full of videos that could easily put a smile on your face. Wassabi Productions is still going strong today. In fact, its YouTube has garnered more than 2 billion views and just surpassed 7 million subscribers this week.

Some of the first Wassabi videos I can recall watching were titled "Breaking News" where Alex and his friends would film scenes like they were reporting the news, but the stories were usually about off the wall topics. It was silly but hilarious at the same time. I was hooked after watching those and I still am a fan to this day. Of course, things have changed as the years have gone by. Some of the older videos are no longer online unless they are re-uploads such as this one and Roi recently left Wassabi to focus on his personal endeavors. However, Wassabi is still upbeat, funny and heartfelt at its core and Alex and his team continue to churn out quality content. I've always turned to Wassabi videos in times of good and bad, getting a positive boost each time. It's been incredible to see how this YouTube channel has grown. Keep in mind, Wassabi Productions joined YouTube in 2006, just a year after the video-sharing site's founding. The staying power for Wassabi has been great to see and its following continues to climb everyday.

Now it's time to brag a bit. I know Alex apart from Wassabi. He went to the same high school in Durham that I did. I saw him in the hallways at school all the time. If memory serves, I even had a class or two with him. He and I have some mutual friends as well. Ever since I became a fan, I wanted to meet this guy to tell him about the high school connection and just how much I love the videos. I - finally - got to do just that today. Alex and his brother, Aaron - who's a popular YouTuber/filmmaker in his own right and who appears in Wassabi videos regularly - decided to do a meet and greet for fans in celebration of Wassabi's 7 million subscriber milestone.

Me with Alex (right) and his brother Aaron (left).

Me with Alex (right) and his brother Aaron (left).

I got excited about it but, to be honest, most cool things like this happen in Charlotte so I didn't get too excited. That quickly changed after I watched this video that included the meet up details. It was going to be in Durham! My hometown! I knew this was it: the moment I'd been waiting about eight years for. And it happened: I met not only Alex but Aaron as well. I could only spend a couple minutes with them due to the large amount of people at the meet up but that was enough time to tell them a condensed version of the story I just told you. I even got a quick photo with them as well (pictured right).

I can't recall a time I've met not only two awesome dudes, but people who haven't let the fame go to their heads and who genuinely care about the fans both younger and older. Two cool humans who make it their mission to brighten someone else's day. This holiday season is going to be a weird one for me since I lost two family members this year, getting to meet these guys definitely brightened my spirits. I'll never forget it!

2. UNC Student-4-A-Day

Speaking of things I'll never forget, I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to be courtside on the student risers for a Carolina Men's Basketball game! The UNC Ticket Office announced a promotion called "UNC Student-4-A-Day" where any fan could purchase a spot on the risers since many of the students would be on holiday break. The risers were packed full and I had a blast. Plus, it's always nice if the Heels win, which they did. This was the closest I've ever been to the action for a men's basketball game at the Smith Center. The only comparable time was a UNC Basketball Alumni Game in 2009, where I sat on the front row. But that wasn't a true UNC Basketball regular season game. This was. From doing "Jump Around" at tip-off to all the chants and more, it's a night I won't soon forget. Plus it was cool to spend time with a buddy of mine who I hadn't seen in a while to kick off his birthday right! A photo from my vantage point on the risers is below.

3. Grayson Allen

I'm just going to say it: Grayson Allen has a problem. The Duke Basketball star tripped yet another opposing player during Wednesday's game against Elon. He was subsequently assessed a technical foul and then was seen throwing a tantrum on the bench shortly thereafter. This is the third opposing player Allen has purposely tripped in the calendar year. Duke head coach, Mike Krzyzewski, suspended Allen indefinitely for his actions which is the right thing to do. There's no excuse for behavior like this. Period. If you're not going to play the game right, then why play at all?

4. Sitting Out

Some prominent college football players have decided to sit out of their teams' bowl games to prepare for the NFL Draft. Most notably, Stanford running back, Christian McCaffrey and LSU running back, Leonard Fournette. Of course, McCaffrey would have suited up for Stanford against Carolina in the Sun Bowl, which makes it even more of an important story for me. Some on social media have bashed the players for their decisions but others have come to their defense.

I can see both sides of the argument. On one hand, these two guys are destined for big careers - and big paychecks - in the NFL. Let's face it, that's something college football doesn't offer. Each game also brings the potential for injury and I'm sure the name Jaylon Smith is fixated in their minds. Smith, a linebacker for Notre Dame, was projected to be a top five pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. However, he injured his knee during the Fighting Irish's bowl game in January and slipped all the way down to 34th.

On the other hand, why wouldn't you want to suit up one last time with your team? It's almost like those past four or so years didn't mean anything. I do have one burning question: if Stanford and/or LSU were in the College Football Playoff, would McCaffrey and Fournette still sit out? Think about it.

5. Merry Christmas!

I'm going to wrap up this week's "Friday Five" by wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah/Happy Kwanzaa! Whether you celebrate one of these holidays or not, my sincere wish is for you and yours to have a wonderful season filled with smiling, laughter and love. God Bless.

And as always...

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