Winter Words / Vol.9 / Football, Baseball and Blessings

The time has changed. The weather has changed. It remains winter, as the vernal equinox has yet to visit us, but spring is within sniffing distance. The forecast for north Georgia is for warm temperatures but it is going to be WET, really wet, this week. But, like a friend said, as I stopped to chat on my walk around midday, we certainly have it better than our friends and neighbors in the northeast. It’s been brutal up there. May you thaw quickly folks!

Baseball’s Spring Training is in full swing and I caught a good bit of the Braves vs. the Nats today. The Braves won, 2-1. It’s not like that matters at this point. All the youngsters are getting a good long look and all will have an opportunity to prove their mettle.

I do hope the Braves’ pitching will remain as strong as it has been thus far. Nine arms combined for a no-hitter this past weekend. That was an odd game. It ended in a 2-2 tie as the game was called after ten innings. They had a shutout through eight today. Good going!

Yes, regular season baseball is just around the corner, but that is not the Big News.

The Big News is… the Auburn Tigers being spring practice TOMORROW. Gus will have a press conference at 11:30 AM CDT and then the burnt orange and navy blue will go about the business of beginning FOR REAL preparation for the 2015 season. YeeeeHaaaaaw!!!

According to early Vegas odds, the Tigers are 4-1 to win the SEC. The Georgia Bulldogs also stand at 4-1 and Ole Miss comes in at 4.2-1. Alabama is favored to repeat at 2-1. Fine.

All of this may be much ado about nothing, in the grand scheme, but it is great fodder for conversation when you live, eat and sleep college football as we do here in the Deep South. March Madness might be about to crank up, but football is what truly captures our hearts and souls 365/24/7.

Speaking of roundball, the SEC Tournament begins, in NashVegas, in a couple of days. The big question is… Can anyone challenge the Kentucky Wildcats? I have heard, and used, the term Mildcats when referring to the Bluegrass State’s flagship school on the gridiron. No one, in their right mind, would refer to their basketball team as such. They are a juggernaut! Their record stands at 31-0 and they are the prohibitive favorite to win it all. I hope they do.

Auburn has no chance to win the SEC Tourney or play in the Big Dance this year. That’s okay, for now, because the future is VERY bright for the Tigers. Coach Bruce Pearl is doing an outstanding job of coaching and recruiting, on The Plains, and I expect them to make a lot of noise soon.

It really is remarkable what Pearl has done so far with the program. Who would have EVER expected numerous sellouts in basketball at Auburn? How about the presence of scalpers at an EXHIBITION GAME?

Incredible!

And how about the promise of Easter?

It seems that resurrection is rearing its head in every aspect of my life. I hope and pray that it is for each and every one of you.

So War Eagle and Go Cats!!!

And…

May God our Father/Mother and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

Selah

Advertisements

Winter Words Vol. 8 / Walking and Sweating, Keith Jackson and Robert DeNiro

I sweated today! (3/4/15) Yes, deep into my walk, I broke out in a mild sweat which became a bit more profuse after I arrived back home. It is 73 degrees in Acworth, GA! Good news, huh? Tomorrow the temperature will be…sigh… in the high 30’s. March is one schizophrenic month!!! I can hear Neil Young singing in my head, “Don’t let it bring you down…”

It won’t.

Back to my walk.

As I was headed down the first cul de sac, I came upon a neighbor throwing the frisbee to his talented dog. This same dog brought me the frisbee one day late last year at that point in my walk. I’m not as talented as the dog or his master. I made two or three feeble tosses which were not even close for what Fido needed to make a spectacular catch. He eventually returned to Chris and Rebecca, his mom and dad, for some proper tosses.

Today Chris and I talked, very briefly, about the weather and then the conversation turned to, you guessed it, football. Chris is a Michigan fan and is excited about Jim Harbaugh coaching the, once mighty, Wolverines. We agreed that his hiring should have a positive impact on Michigan and the Big Ten as well.

He also thought the Muschamp hire was a great one for Auburn and I certainly agreed. We mused about how long Saban might be a Alabama. What does he have left to accomplish and so forth.

The conversation eventually took a turn toward Pasadena and the Rose Bowl. I spoke of what a beautiful setting it was and that I was swept away in it’s beauty and history, when I was there, and of Keith Jackson calling so many of those games… I can hear him now… “Welcome to Pasadena, California! You’re looking at the San Gabriel mountains, and it is in this beautiful location that the USC Trojans will take on the Ohio State Buckeyes in the grandaddy of them all, the Rose Bowl!”

They do not make them like Keith Jackson anymore. He is the last of a dying breed. I like Brent Musburger but he is a bit over-the-top, the Neil Diamond of announcers. “This one is for all the Tostitos!!!!!!”

The crews that call the games now, I’m thinking ESPN, Fowler, Palmer, Herbie, Rece Davis, et al, simply do not hold a candle to Keith Jackson. Man could he describe the action and recreate the drama that was taking place on the field. And his pronunciation of GEORRRRRRGIA Bull-DOGGIES and AAAAAAAAAAla-BAMA, and BOOOO JACK-son. Loved it!!!

The ESPN guys sometimes cackle like they’re having a hen party up there in the booth. PLEASE!!!

We miss you Keith!!!

Back to my walk, again.

When I reached the end of that first cul de sac, I heard what sounded like a very mild, high-pitched roar or buzz. It sounded a little bit like locusts, but it wasn’t. That reminded me of the locusts that come to the mountains of Western North Carolina. Or is it the periodic cicadas that return every seventeen years? I don’t know. I’ll have to look it up. You’ll never hear anything quite like it. It’s no mild rumble of roar. Something like what would be a horde of flying saucers. Incredible!

Speaking of locusts, I’ll have to do you my impression Robert DeNiro as Moses sometimes. I mean you can hear it in your imagination.

“Did you like the locusts?” Did you like the locusts?” Did you like the locusts?” “How about the frogs? Did you like the frogs?” You get the picture.

Back to my walk, part three.

And so, it was a great walk with lot of sunshine, a little bit of sweat and memories of Keith Jackson, the Rose Bowl, and locusts.

Yes, the wintry winds and cold will return tomorrow with some potential ice and snow in the mountains of extreme North Georgia. That’s the schizophrenic March we’ve all come to know and love. But, as I mentioned in Winter Words Vol. 6, Spring is a comin’! The Braves played and lost to the Mets, 8-2, in Orlando today. First exhibition game. The first game at Turner Field will be against the Mets as well.

Now THAT takes me back to Milo Hamilton and Ernie Johnson, the Professor and Skip Caray and Hammerin’ Hank. But I’ll spare you that today.

Today we walked… and we sweated.

“The moving finger writes; and having writ, moves on.”

Winter Words Vol. 7/ Jesus Loves Me

The first thing that struck me this morning (3/3/15), when I walked out the front door and down the driveway to get the paper, was the large number of birds that were doing some serious singing. Now it was forty something degrees, cold and a bit raw, but the birds were really going after it, noticeably so more than any day in recent memory. It made me wonder why today with old man winter still refusing to release his cold and craggy grip. Why?

There could be any number of reasons, I suppose. My first thought was that this is the time of year, early March, when these particular groups of birds arrive for their next stay.

It is now six and a half hours later. I just walked out again to stand on the porch and take a few deep breaths of cool fresh winter air. The birds are still going at it. Whatever the reason, it does my heart good.

Now, that takes me back to when I was a very, very young boy growing up down in Camden, Alabama. When my mama was felled with a stroke back in late December of 2002, I felt compelled to call Mamie Blackmon. Mamie did a great deal of my raising. Mama and daddy both worked and Mamie was the person who kept me the most. She was like a mother to me. I loved her dearly.

So, I called Mamie and we went through requisite pleasantries. Then somewhere, in the middle of our conversation Mamie asked me a question, she queried, “Tweetie (my nickname given me at birth by my brother Jerry), do you still sing? You used to LOVE to sing!” I told her that I, indeed, had retained my love for singing. There is ALWAYS a song running through my head as I’m sure is the case with many of you.

I love singing. I sing as I walk around the house. I sing in the shower. I sing with the radio or the music I have cranking from any source at most any time. The singing is often accompanied by prancing, posturing or air guitar. I have always fancied myself as fronting a rock band, one night my freshman year in Auburn I did, but I’m so glad my life did not go in that direction. I don’t have that kind of talent and God only knows what would have become of me if that had been the case.

You’ve heard it said that the Lord looks out for fools and drunks and I dabbled heavily in both areas back then. Back THEN? Nahhhhhhhh…I won’t go there…

Back to the singing. My daddy was a talented vocalist. He was part of a quartet that had a program on the radio when he was a student at Auburn. When he and mama moved to Camden, back in 1948, he was known to do some solo singing around town in the various churches. He sang in the choir at the Camden Baptist Church for many, many years. Cigarette smoking took a toll on his voice, over the years, but he could still harmonize well in a lower register.

I loved singing in Sunday School when I was very young. Songs like “Do Lord”, “Deep and Wide” and “Jesus Loves Me” were my favorites. I also sang these songs around our house a great deal. One day daddy was leading the music at church, and he invited me up front to sing “Jesus Loves Me.” Once I, very shyly, made my way to the front of the sanctuary I froze. I could not sing a lick in front of all those people. And I was mostly ashamed because I thought I had embarrassed my father in front of the congregation.

When I grew up I, hopefully, erased the perception I had that I embarrassed my father in our church. It was at the Camden Baptist Church that I was ordained to the ministry. This event took place on July of 1980. Toward the end of the service all of the ordained deacons in the church were called forward to ‘lay hands’ on the ministerial candidate.

I was on my knees in front of the congregation, some of whom were present the day that I lost my nerve to sing. The deacons came forward, one by one, placed their hands on me and said a blessing of their own choosing. I didn’t look up at any of these men but I saw their shoes. Shortly into the ceremony I noticed a pair of black, wing-tip shoes moving toward me. I recognized them as daddy’s.

When he reached me he placed his hands on my head and, initially, he couldn’t speak. I waited for what seemed like a lifetime as I watched his tears pattering on those shoes. He eventually managed to utter one word, “Bud.”

This is for you daddy.

Y’all sing along with me.

“Jesus loves me this I know,
For the bible tells me so;
little ones to him belong;
They are weak, but he is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes! Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.”

Selah

Winter Words Vol. 6 / Spring’s a Comin’!

I walked, today (3/2/15), for the first time in two weeks. In years past I would walk in rain or shine, hot or cold. Back when, whether I was walking or jogging, I didn’t care what the temperature was, I exercised. I have jogged, in Upstate New York, when it was 5 degrees and my mustache would freeze. Heck, my face would freeze! No matter, I would “just do it.” My Nike years.

As I have aged, and gracefully I would remind you ;), I have lost my ‘hell bent for leather’ attitude in my cardio pursuits. I have slowed down. Did I just say that? Ugh!

No, the last two weeks, here in Upstate Georgia, it has been brutally cold, precipitating, very windy, or all three of these at once. Therefore, no exercise for this old boy.

My dear mate, Miss LeCroy, Paul, Melodye with an e, or whatever you might call her, goes to the gym. I have tried this in years past, but it is boring and just… I don’t know, I don’t like this method of exercising. All the sweating, grunting, posing, strutting and the little outfits… it’s just not my thing.

I LOVE being in the outdoors… ALONE (Twenty years on the road so you’d better enjoy you)! I love soaking up the sunshine, listening to the birds and being at one with nature. I mentioned, in a ‘Winter Words’ blog last week, listening and enjoying the silence. It’s meditative, peaceful and somehow ‘right’ for me.

To each his/her own.

So today, it is now 58 degrees and so very pleasant. GREAT day for a walk! And I think we’re thawing out. I know there will be some cold days, and particularly nights, ahead but we are thawing. We’re moving steadily through Lent as we continue our journey toward Easter. There are only eighteen more days until the vernal equinox, the first day of SPRING.

The Braves first spring training game is Wednesday! The game will be played against my old adopted team, the New York Mets. It seems fitting.

Now back to the vernal equinox. From Wikipedia… “An equinox occurs twice a year, around 20 March and 22 September… An equinox occurs when the plane of Earth’s Equator passes the center of the Sun. At that instant, the tilt of the Earth’s axis neither inclines away from nor towards the Sun. The two annual equinoxes are the ONLY times when the subsolar point, the place on Earth’s surface where the center of the Sun is overhead, is on the Equator, and, consequently, the Sun is at zenith over the Equator. The subsolar point crosses the equator, moving northward at the March equinox and southward at the September equinox… The equinoxes are the only times when the solar terminator is perpendicular to the Equator, As a result, the northern and southern Hemispheres are illuminated equally.”

Amazing!

The Coming of Spring
by: Mary Dow Brine (1816-1913)

The ice-king trembles on his throne,
And holds his rod with loosened hand;
For there are murmurs in the air
Of one who cometh, sweet and fair,
To break with smiles the monarch’s band.

The skies are dawning a new blue,
To welcome her whose dancing feet
Thro’ cloudland hasten from afar,
Guided by sun, and moon, and star,
Her waiting friends once more to greet

The timid violets lift their heads,
And heavenward turn their gentle eyes,
And catch the fragrance newly born
Which cometh with the Spring’s glad dawn,
And steal their color from the skies.

The merry birds on twig and branch
Trill out the news with fluttering wings,
While Robin seeks the early fruit,
Impatient watching the green shoot,
And the glad tidings gaily sings.

The brook, grown weary of restraint,
Has burst its weakened bonds at last,
And rushing down the mountain-side,
Lends its fresh influence far and wide,
And Winter’s icy reign is past!

Selah