Falling Leaves and Footballese

I was taking my daily walk, a week or so ago, when I felt a small rush of wind that was not summer like. This minor gust was a tinge cool and dry. It was then that a few dying leaves floated gently to the ground.

I immediately went into my shotgun stance, took the imaginary snap, and bolted toward right end on a zone read. I faked a pitch to my trailing tailback, tucked the pigskin, and dashed for 15 yards before I was knocked out of bounds.

First down!

It’s that time of year! For those of us who are rabid college football fans, excitement is abound. Every team is 0-0. No one has yet to lose a game. Anticipation is off the charts.

From “the loveliest village of the plains” to the bluegrass that surrounds Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky to the sprawling acreage of College Station, Texas. I can feel it, I can sense it, and I can almost smell the tantalizing scents of tailgate fare wafting on the breeze across the terrain of the sites where I will attend college football games this autumn.IMG_1037

“We’re on the cusp of a big year! Maybe we’ll make a New Year’s Day bowl. Can we win it all?”

But alas, the reality is those hopes, those 0-0’s will transform into 6 & 6’s, 5 & 7’s and, gulp, 4 & 8’s, for a great number of teams, by the conclusion of Thanksgiving weekend. There will not be many, if any, 12 & 0’s this fall.

Speculation. That is ALL we have right now.

Prediction. That is theme of the day.

Consternation. That is the mood of the pessimist and many a realist.

Exaltation. That is final word for all too few when the dust settles in January of 2016.

And that is a shame.

Everyone wants to know what lucky teams will make the College Football Playoff. What four teams will make it to Dallas and Miami? And the biggest question of all: What TWO teams will make the triumphant march to Glendale ?

It will be from that great Arizona desert that the players, alumni and fans of only ONE institution will hoist index fingers high above their heads and proclaim, “We’re number one!”

What happened to teams two through four who did, indeed, make the second installment of the College Football Playoff?

Many will leave the arenas of those great host cities with their heads hung low and their middle fingers raised high, or at least in their hearts and minds.

Again, that is a shame.

For all too often it is just about who is number one.

I have found myself in both of the above mentioned scenarios.

I reveled in the euphoria of victory on January 10, 2011 in Glendale, AZ.

I wallowed in the dejection of defeat on January 6, 2014 in Pasadena, CA.

But you know what? With a bit of time and perspective I was able to put both of those experiences in their proper place. The result in Glendale was grand and glorious. The experience in Pasadena, and the greater LA area, was blissful.

My dear wife, Melodye, and I enjoyed both of these experiences immensely. Sure! We wanted ever so badly to win BOTH of those ball games, but we did not. But what we did, in each case, was revel in the moment.

Now please bear with me as I, ever the sentimentalist and nostalgist, savor and share a few small slices of those grand times…

High five-ing security, as they encouraged us to “bring it back home”, at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport when we boarded our plane to Phoenix.

Singing, in my mind, Arlo Guthrie’s ‘Coming Into Los Angeles’ as we descended into LAX.

Dining on sugar-cured duck breast at The Roaring Fork restaurant in Scottsdale. Being questioned by our server, with a laugh, if that is what we Auburn fans would be having, seeing as how our opponent was Oregon. 😉

Securing our room in Redondo Beach, CA and discovering, much to our delight, that it was number 116. Our street number, in Acworth, GA, is 116. We took this as a good sign. It typically is just that.

Chatting with the staff at Los Olivos restaurant and laughing at their descriptions of Cam Newton and Nick Fairley, who had dined there just a couple of nights prior.

And driving from our beach motel, picking up a close friend in north LA, and following her directions to the the hallowed grounds of the Rose Bowl. I could hear Keith Jackson doing his intro to “the grandaddy of them all.” I was awestruck at the beauty of the San Gabriel mountains. And as we strolled those grounds, talking and gawking and exchanging “War Eagles”, our ‘little buddy'(a nickname I gave her many years ago) remarked, “You guys are family!”IMG_1292

We are. We are indeed.

It is this family, in times of victory or defeat, that helps make every college game day experience special.

From the pen of David Housel, an Auburn man…

“What Is Auburn?

Far be it from me to try to answer that question. There are as many definitions of Auburn as there are Auburn men and women.

It would be safe to say, however, that Auburn is much more than a football game. It is much more than winning and losing.

It is a spirit. It is an attitude. It is a way of looking at life and at one another. It is, almost, a way of living. Unless you have experienced it, you will never know what it is; you will never understand it. Once you have experienced it, you will never be the same. A part of you will, forevermore, be an Auburn man or an Auburn woman.”

As we kick off OUR season here at Campus Pressbox, I want to wish each and every one of you, and your respective teams, good luck. I hope that your seasons are filled with magical moments that will last a lifetime.

Now let’s all go make some memories (and win a few football games as well)!


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.”