The week that was

Brady vs. Manning – The Sequel: The games with Tom Brady facing Peyton Manning-led teams were the marquee NFL events for the first 15 years of the 21st century. It was bigger than the teams themselves; when Manning moved to Denver, Indianapolis all but disappeared from the radar and Denver vs. New England became the game everyone circled on the calendar. But after four straight games decided by three points, two of which went to overtime and the other two of which were decided by last-second field goals, and having Cincy and KC in the last four Super Bowls, we now have a successor to Manning vs. Brady. Because even with the league filled with a boatload of talented young quarterbacks, after the last two AFC title game thrillers it is clearly Patrick Mahomes vs. Joe Burrow. Both have the same coolness under fire, with the added dimension of greater mobility to use their legs when needed, as Mahomes did in Sunday’s cataclysmic play. And with great weapons to collaborate with on offense, sturdy young teams behind them and having a coach who’s much better than it seemed two years ago and another whose next stop will be the Hall of Fame, Bengals vs. Chiefs will be the NFL game to circle over the next 10 years.

Rollin’ into the Hall: I’ve got nothing against Scott Rolen. But after seeing him voted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame last week I will say the “everyone gets a trophy” generation strikes again! Because like in the case of Harold Baines, not once during his career did it ever occur to me that Rolen might be a Famer, let alone should he get in. Not to knock him, because he was a very good longtime player, but sorry, the Hall is honoring greatness, not very goodness. Now my attitude has changed a little bit on it, just being about peak greatness to give a little more deference to guys who rack up numbers because of their longevity, because the durability to do that is a skill.

As for Rolen, they tell you you can’t play “what about him”-ism when it comes to Hall voting. But I say why not? When I heard Rolen was likely to get in I came up with 10 guys, like Dwight Evans, Albert Belle and Dick Allen, who were clearly more impactful in their time than Rolen was. But let’s focus on just two who played the same position: Joe Torre and Graig Nettles. Rolen’s numbers were .281 BA, 316 homers, 1287 RBI, 7 All-Star games and 8 Gold Gloves. But remember, making the All-Star game was taken far more seriously in the past, while Gold Gloves depend on who’s in your era.

In the case of Torre, he outhit Rolen (.292), had more RBI, more 100-RBI seasons and made 9 All-Star games, which he did at three different positions (C, 1B and 3B). Only Pete Rose did that besides him. He had the signature season of 1971 that Rolen never came within three area codes of when he won the batting title (.363) with 230 hits, 137 RBI and was MVP. For good measure he also sometimes hit clean-up for the Braves between Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews, who for the historically challenged hit a combined 1,266 home runs. In short: Him not being in while Rolen is in is a joke.

The case for Nettles is a lot closer as some of his numbers come from longevity and batting average was not his thing. But he’s got more homers (390), more RBIs (1,314) and a home run title and was a better fielder, though not as many GGs because he played when the spectacular Brooks Robinson did when he always got in on reputation whether he deserved it or not. Plus, Nettles was stationary defensively in the 1978 World Series, while Rolen hit .220 in the postseason.

AFC Championship Game: There are two things that distinguish football from other sports: how the players have to adapt to conditions around them by playing in anything from the searing Miami heat of September to last week’s driving snowstorm in Buffalo, and coping with the injuries most teams have at this time of year. This week was no different, with a 10-degree wind chill in KC, and SF having to play the Wildcat after its third- and fourth-string QBs got knocked out of the game and the Chiefs surviving after losing all but one wide receiver. Not to mention having their QB come into the game a week after suffering an injury that annually took Kelly Olynyk two months to recover from when he was a Celtic. But there was Mahomes throwing for 300 plus and making the game’s most crucial play on a mind-over-matter scramble to get the first down in the final seconds he always seems to get in crunch time before getting smacked out of bounds to get the 15-yard penalty that made the 47-yard FG that sent KC to the Super Bowl doable. So move over, Curt Schilling, because, as young’n Tony Romo astutely mentioned during the broadcast, this one goes up there with the bloody sock game, Willis Reed limping into Game 7 at MSG, and flu-stricken Michael Jordan going for 37 in the NBA Finals. Bravo, Patrick.

NFC Title Game Notes: (1) Nick Sirianni has a very similar resume to Coach B, with a D-III playing career and a million jobs before becoming a young HC at 40. But by getting to the SB in Year 2 he’s five years ahead of Bill. (2) Philly is a lot better than I thought they were. (3) Coach B, please pay attention to how adding two dynamic outside threats (A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith) turned the waiting until someone better comes along Jalen Hurts into an MVP-caliber player, because Mac Jones was better at Alabama than he was.

Email Dave Long at

Quality of Life 23/02/02

News your wallet already knows

Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration collected by Texas-based electricity company Payless Power revealed that New Hampshire is the U.S. state with the biggest jump in electricity prices between August 2021 and August 2022, with a 40 percent increase in cost per kilowatt-hour. The study also found that New Hampshire is the state with the fifth-highest estimated monthly residential electric bill, averaging $173.34, and the sixth-highest cost per kilowatt-hour at 20 cents.

QOL score: -2

Comment: Find the complete study at

Hospitals are crowded

News outlets around the country have reported hospital overcrowding this winter, and New Hampshire is no exception. Earlier this month the New Hampshire Hospital Association tweeted a graph showing a statewide average of 94.9 percent occupancy of staffed hospital beds in December. Hospitals in Concord and Laconia “have been at or above 100% capacity for the past few months, with little or no let-up,” according to a Jan. 23 Concord Monitor Granite Geek story. Workforce shortages and difficulty moving patients to long-term care facilities (which are also crowded and short-staffed) are thought to be behind the crowding, the story said.

QOL score: -2

Comment: Props to the hospital staff trying to keep it all together during long emergency room waits.

Top marks

For the fourth year in a row United Way of Greater Nashua is the recipient of Charity Navigator’s highest rating for nonprofits demonstrating strong financial health and commitment to accountability and transparency. According to a press release, only 21 percent of charities evaluated by Charity Navigator receive the highest rating. “This … indicates that your organization adheres to sector best practices and executes its mission in a financially efficient way … [and] verifies that United Way of Greater Nashua exceeds industry standards and outperforms most charities in your area of work,” Charity Navigator president and CEO Michael Thatcher wrote in the award letter. United Way of Greater Nashua has also received top ratings for accountability, transparency and financial management from the nonprofit reporter GuideStar.

QOL score: +1

Comment: Participate in their fundraising via the upcoming Nashua Nor’easter Winter Walk/Run/Drive Community Fundraiser, taking place Feb. 26 through March 4. Choose the day, distance, method and speed of locomotion to tackle the distance by yourself or with a team, according to a press release.

Rookie of the Week

Breezie Williams, a freshman guard on the University of New Hampshire’s women’s basketball team, was named Rookie of the Week by America East on Jan. 30, according to a press release, her second such designation this season. QOL will let the press release recount the stats: “Williams averaged 11.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.0 steals in 33.9 minutes per game to rank second on the team in scoring and third in rebounding last week. She shot 41.2 percent (7 of 17) from the floor and a perfect 8-for-8 at the foul line. Williams helped lead UNH to its first conference win of the season, a 56-51 victory at UMass Lowell on Jan. 28, by recording 13 points, six rebounds, two steals and an assist.”

QOL score: +1 because QOL likes rooting for all the home teams

Comments: UNH women’s basketball will play a home game on Saturday, Feb. 4, at 1 p.m. vs. Bryant University. Tickets cost $10 ($15 to sit courtside), $5 for kids and seniors for general admission. See

QOL score: 52

Net change: -2

QOL this week: 50

What’s affecting your Quality of Life here in New Hampshire? Let us know at

Featured photo: Granite United Way Volunteer Income Tax Assistance. Courtesy photo.

The pep talk pod

Luna Smith wants to bring positivity to your day

Luna Smith of Londonderry talked about her new podcast, The Friend In Your Ear Pod, launched Jan. 11, with new episodes released every Wednesday. Find the podcast on all major podcast platforms or visit

Tell us about you.

I’ve been married to my best friend for over a decade now, and we are parents to a 4-year-old boy and a 6-year-old Boston Terrier. I went to school for Classics but ended up in the creative realm working freelance from home. I’ve been obsessed with self-improvement for as long as I can remember. In my pregnancy I started a blog called “That Blissful Balance,” ignorantly thinking I had figured it out, only to discover postpartum that balance is not what I thought it was. Since starting the podcast I’ve restarted the blog to be more in line with the podcast — less about a perfect balance and more about all the tips and tools that make life a little more blissful, coming from the perspective of a recovering perfectionist with high-functioning anxiety who believes even the smallest changes can make major impacts on the quality of our lives.

What made you want to start a podcast?

I’m a huge fan of podcasts and listen to them daily in the pockets of time I have between drop-offs and pickups, housework and work deadlines. But sometimes I would just want to listen to something that was more personable and uplifting, like a pep talk from a friend on a particularly hard day, and I thought that if I felt that way, perhaps others did, too. So that was the inspiration to create a podcast that did that — a podcast that felt like a friend giving you a hug from afar and telling you you could do it; a friend to give you company, positivity and to help you believe in yourself when you need it.

What is The Friend In Your Ear Pod about?

It’s mainly a self-improvement and positivity podcast, currently in a season of wellness, both mental and physical, and each week is on a different topic. They mostly feel like motivational pep talks with some personal experiences sprinkled in. There’s a new segment called ‘Good News’ to celebrate listeners’ wins, because celebrating small wins makes a big difference. I also do a mantra of the week to further help with cultivating and keeping that positive mindset. But it’s all done in a friendly, encouraging way, like a friend giving you a little boost of positivity with a dose of understanding and empathy.

Who is your target audience?

I wanted to create an accessible space for anyone who could use a little boost of positivity and friendly support in their lives, but being familiar with the struggles of women and mothers in particular, that is who I’d like to offer the most support to with the topics I choose to discuss. Though some challenges are universal, I hope everyone can gain something positive from listening.

Where do you get your material?

Right now the material is mostly derived from my own personal experiences in self-improvement and wellness, though some topics are inspired by friends, and reader submissions are always welcome. I would love to provide friendly support in any way I can.

What are your future plans?

I would love to grow and expand in any way I can to provide these friendly pep talks to as many people who need them. Eventually I would love to bring on guests who can provide more expertise on particular topics, but for now it’s just my voice and experiences from things I’ve been able to accomplish and overcome through the power of positive thinking, like letting go of perfectionism and navigating anxiety to achieve goals and create a life I love.

What would you like listeners to get out of your podcast?

I want listeners to feel seen and supported in whatever they’re going through — to feel like they aren’t alone, and to get the motivation they need to make every day a little better, because every little win counts. I hope together we can create a community that celebrates and supports each other.

Featured photo: Luna Smith. Courtesy photo.

News & Notes 23/02/02

Rental assistance

New Hampshire has received nearly $3.6 million from the U.S. Department of Treasury through the Emergency Rental Assistance program to assist New Hampshire renters with rent and other housing expenses, including energy and utility costs. According to a press release, the supplemental funds were allotted in response to an appeal made by the New Hampshire congressional delegation in October after the U.S. Treasury announced that New Hampshire would not receive additional resources to continue the program beyond Dec. 29, and New Hampshire Housing was forced to put the program on pause. “The housing crisis continues to be a top challenge facing Granite Staters, with particularly brutal consequences during the intense winter season,” U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who led the delegation, said in the release. More than $230 million in assistance was provided to more than 23,000 households across the state through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program from when it was launched in March 2021 to when it was put on pause in October 2022. Visit for updates and to apply for assistance.

Covid detection

Data from New Hampshire’s wastewater surveillance for detecting Covid levels is now available to the public on a new online dashboard at Because the virus can be shed in wastewater, viral fragments in community-wide samples collected from wastewater treatment facilities can be used to track trends in levels of the virus over time. The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Public Health

Services launched the program in December as a potential tool to monitor the virus in New Hampshire communities and issue earlier warnings to the public about rising levels, according to a press release. The dashboard cautions against using the current data to inform public health as several months of data are required for accurate interpretation and establishing trends.

New shelters

Manchester homelessness initiatives are working to open two 24-hour emergency shelters following the City’s eviction of a large homeless encampment at Manchester and Pine streets that left about 50 people with nowhere to live, WMUR reported. The YCWA will oversee the reopening of the Tirrell House on Brook Street to provide 14 to 16 beds for women, and the City will oversee the other shelter, which will provide 40 beds for men and women. The City-run shelter is expected to be open until April while the YCWA is seeking to keep the Tirrell House open permanently. The City set up a temporary warming station at the William Cashin Senior Activity Center on Douglas Street in early January, and that operation will be moved to the City-run shelter once the shelter opens, according to the article.

Hiring freeze

Dartmouth Health, New Hampshire’s largest private employer, has instituted a hiring freeze and plans to conduct a job review process as it looks to close a $120 million budget gap by the end of September, NHPR reported. All open positions at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and the Dartmouth Hitchcock Clinics, as well as job changes, such as employee transfers, adjustments, promotions and filling positions after an employee leaves, will be subject to review. The system currently employs about 12,000 people and had more than 1,000 job openings listed last month, most of which were for nursing and allied health positions.

Back to normal

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services has announced that Medicaid eligibility and enrollment will resume regular, pre-pandemic operations beginning on April 1, according to a press release. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act has allowed all Medicaid recipients to retain their health coverage during the pandemic since March 2020. In the coming months, the Department will be reaching out to those approximately 102,000 beneficiaries currently protected under this coverage to assess their eligibility to continue being covered by Medicaid beyond April 1. “It will be important for Medicaid beneficiaries to watch their mail, email and texts for notices from DHHS and complete their Medicaid renewals in order to avoid a gap in their health coverage,” DHHS Medicaid Director Henry Lipman said in the release.

Tea Talks

The Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire’s 2023 Elinor Williams Hooker Tea Talks Series, titled “Bringing it Back: Conversations We Still Need,” begins with its first program, “Before European Contact: Changing the Ways We Present Our History,” on Sunday, Feb. 5, from 2 to 3:30 p.m., virtually and in person at the Portsmouth Public Library (175 Parrott Ave.). According to a press release, the talks explore the history and lived experience surrounding current issues in the Black, Indigenous, People of Color community and provide a safe space for conversation about race, equity, social justice and belonging. Other talks in the series will include “The Paradox of Education for Black and Brown Children” on Feb. 12; “Beyond Forty Acres: Land Ownership and Black Wealth” on Feb. 19; “Shades of Black: Connected by Color, Culture, and Community” on Feb. 26; “Exploring the Heart of Cross-Racial Conversation” on March 5; and “Youth to Power: Black Female Activists” on March 12. Registration is required. Visit

Meredith Village Savings Bank has donated $10,000 to the Meredith Sculpture Walk ( for the walk’s 10th year. According to a press release, this year’s walk will feature more than 30 sculptures. The sculptures can be seen year-round in downtown Meredith.

A new state historical highway marker has been placed on Route 9 in Barrington noting “The Balch Household Graves.” According to a press release, the reinterred gravesites in Pine Grove Cemetery are that of Rev. Benjamin Balch (1743–1815), the first chaplain of the Continental Navy, and a formerly enslaved woman named Aggie (ca. 1740–c.1840), who became known as the town nurse. A map of New Hampshire’s historical highway markers is available at

SEE Science Center presents Science on Tap on Tuesday, Feb. 7, at 6 p.m. at Stark Brewing Co. in Manchester (500 Commercial St.). The topic will be the present and future of organ transplants. Nick Rinella, associate scientist at the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute in Manchester, will be a panelist. Admission is free. RSVP at

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