Monthly Archives: November 2008

36 and…what’s that?…ZERO

scoreboard(Photo Courtesy of Brandy Frost)

Back in August I sat down starring head long into another college football season a bit dismayed.  I decided to voice my frustrations on my blog as I usually do.  I was searching for a reason to care about the season.  A reason to want to yell and scream and cheer for Alabama to play the kind of football I’ve always known they’re capable of.  Disgruntled far from articulated it.  It just seemed so ridiculous that the group of athletes that suit up in Crimson every week couldn’t also execute their talent in the 60 minutes they’re given.  Their potential has been there for years just waiting for them to pick it up and simply DO SOMETHING WITH IT.

Well, a few days after I wrote that blog post I sat down to watch the game against Clemson.  I was blown away.  These were the guys I knew were there.  These were the guys that Nick Saban came back to college football to coach.  These were the guys who were buying into the Saban System and showing it.  But still I was cautiously optimistic.  I still thought it could have been a fluke…a one hit wonder, if you will.

I wasn’t entirely wrong.  We moved on to Tulane with whom we had a bit of a problem.  We started to click some more against Western Kentucky.  And then we just opened up the entire gamut against Arkansas.  Then, #3 Georgia loomed large.  They planned a blackout in Athens to welcome us.  Graciously, we helped them turn on the lights opening the game 31-0 in the first half.  Ok.  This was starting to really look great.

Now…by beating a couple of teams ranked higher than Alabama at the time of the game and with all the right teams losing at just the right time, Alabama managed to jump to #2 and eventually #1.  The fact that we are #1 because other teams lost their rankings by losing to teams other than Alabama is not lost on me.  But if they’re just gonna leave that #1 ranking sitting around, some one’s gonna take it.

The problem with that is the #1 ranking comes with this really beautiful red and white circular painting for every one’s back.  Most people call it a bulls eye.  I call it a dream killer.  In walked Kentucky and Ole Miss hoping to knock off the #1 team for the bragging rights that come right along with that.  But, Bama survived…barely, but in this game you only have to win by 1 point.

Despite what I was seeing on the field and hearing from the players and Coach Saban, I was still waiting for the other shoe to drop.  You see, I’d been here before.  I’ve seen a team win nearly every single game heading into homecoming or the final 3rd of the season only to watch the pod people take over their bodies and finish out the season with losses and a trip to the Ricky Bobby Weed Whacker Bowl.  A trip to Knoxville didn’t exactly do much to calm my nerves.  Despite the fact that Tennessee was having an off season, I never EVER look past the Volunteers.  But these Tide football players were having none of the hype or the pressure.  I’m sure they heard it all, but whatever they did to sweep that junk under the rug was working.

Homecoming arrived and Arkansas State fell right into our hands, but the season was far from over.  The very next week, Bama had to travel to Baton Rouge…a place where Nick Saban is the kind of language that gets a kid’s mouth washed out with soap.  It was the most high energy, intense game I think I’ve ever watched.  And I’ve watched a lot of sports.  We escaped in an overtime victory and thanks to the Louisiana state police, our team made it back to Tuscaloosa safely.

Mississippi State came next along with their 2 game winning streak against us.  Sylvester Croom (who resigned this morning) was looking for a way to save his season and his job.  But we weren’t having any of that.  It may have taken a bit to get going, but the second half of that game really gave me reasons to be proud.

A much needed break came after Mississippi State and before Auburn.  2,569 days had passed since the last time Bama beat Auburn.  The cloud that loomed was too much to take.  I was gonna need a stiff drink if Auburn managed to make it 7 straight.  But the team that showed up at Bryant-Denny Stadium wearing Crimson was determined not to let that happen.  36 points and 4 quarters later Bama has it’s first victory against Auburn in Tuscaloosa, its first shut out over Auburn since 1992, and its largest margin of victory over Auburn since 1962.

Three months ago I begged the Alabama football team to give me a reason to care and be proud.  Three months later, Alabama is the #1 team in the nation and headed to Atlanta next weekend to play Florida in the SEC Championship and a chance to play in the National Championship game.  Now I’ve heard it all.  The media expects a massacre, advantage Florida.  It’s supposedly going to be a blood bath and maybe it will.  But by all accounts, the Clemson game at the beginning of the season was supposed to be a blood bath, advantage Clemson.  All I know is that I asked for Alabama to play their hearts out this season.  I never expected the result.

One game from playing for the National Championship.  Two games from hoisting that trophy.  120 minutes away from proving that not only was Mal Moore smart to wait for Nick Saban, but that Nick Saban was and is worth every penny of his contract.  I hope one day, as tonight’s announcers suggested, Mal Moore writes a book and tells the whole story about acquiring Nick Saban if for no other reason than to give Nick his integrity back.

No matter what happens in the next game or the game after that, I found my care.  The players haven’t just won.  They’ve won with class and they’ve won because they didn’t give up.  I never said they had to win all the games to win me back.  They just had to show me they knew what it means to wear that jersey for Alabama.  I don’t know what led to the night and day change that made the difference from last season to this one, but whatever the mojo, I have three simple words for you:

ROLL TIDE ROLL!

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WWIR: Vacation Stop

My apologies for not providing this note earlier.  Due to the Thanksgiving Holiday, WWIR will be postponed until next Wednesday when I will bring you WWIR: The Double Issue.

Until then…

thanksgiving

Extra Extra

A lot has been made in the last week about the first tie in the NFL in six years and especially about how Donovan McNabb and a lot of his teammates had no idea what the NFL overtime rules were.  So, I’m taking this opportunity to present my fix for overtime in college football and the NFL. 

Please see these links for current rules on overtime:

Let me start by saying that I actually hate all forms of overtime.  I think that the game should be played in the amount of time allotted for regulation, and if the game is tied at the end of regulation, the game ends in a tie except for post season play.  I think overtime gives people the opportunity to perhaps be conservative and play for the tie instead of the win, and as good ole Herman Edwards has taught us, “you play to win the game.”

I found this quote in an article after the Colts/Steelers game a couple weeks ago, and truly I think this should be the mindset of every football player:

“I love what I do and I know the guy across from me loves what he does, so we’ve got a problem,” DT Eric Foster said. “Somebody’s not going to be happy and I don’t want it to be me.”

So, with that, I present for your consideration, Overtime: Leann Style.

  • Coin flip (same rules as beginning of regulation)
  • Kick-off
  • 15 minutes on the clock
  • When a touchdown is scored, the team MUST attempt the 2 point conversion.
  • If at the end of 15 minutes the game is still tied, then the game ends in a tie. 

And that’s it.  See…now wasn’t that simple.  You can fight over how many timeouts/challenges/booth reviews there can be in overtime, but this is the basic set up that I think would actually work. 

Ok.  So, fire away, but be gentle.

WWIR: Hodgepodge

Everything but the kitchen sink…

  • Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town: I decided to sit down the other day and actually write out my Christmas List.  Now this would be the list of things I’m buying for other people, not what I want.  It’s incredibly difficult for me to write a Christmas List for the things I want since I never really know what I want.  Anyway…I discovered that I’ve got most of the list filled out.  Not bought, mind you, but I definitely know what I want to get people.  And really…isn’t that half the battle?
  • Crafty Ashley: On Saturday, my friend Ashley and I went to the local craft fair.  We missed getting to go together last year because I left early for Thanksgiving.  This year I’m, again, leaving early for Thanksgiving, but Ashley also is going to Europe with her husband.  So, when we found out that they had moved the craft fair up to this past weekend instead of this coming weekend, we were so excited.  We have a lot of fun just seeing all the things that people take copious amounts of time to perfect.  I bought a couple Christmas gifts there, too.
  • Mail from a Psycho: A couple weeks ago, I was buying some cards at Hallmark and found the perfect Get Well Soon card for Tyler Hansbrough, Psycho-T, since he’s been sitting out practice and games with his stress reaction.  It actually said, “Get Well Soon from one of your biggest fans.”  No joke.  Anyway, I had to buy it and send it.  Surprisingly enough, on Monday, I received a response from Tyler.  Someone in the Carolina Basketball office kindly drafted a sweet thank you note to me with words that made it obvious SOMEONE had read my card, and Tyler personally signed it.  It was a shock to me because I never really expect them to respond to me.  I mean really…who am I that they need to take the time to do that?  But I really did appreciate it.  It made my otherwise horrid day much more pleasant.
  • Horsepower: For the first time this NFL season, I actually looked at the standings.  If the season ended today, the Colts would get a wild card spot in the playoffs.  I can hardly believe it.  I guess hope really can spring up when you least expect it.  I was really happy with the way they played against the Texans in the second half.  You could see from the stats that Peyton was patient in dissecting the Texans’ defense in the first half and then just let ’em have it in the second.  Now that, my friends, is REAL Colts Ball.  Of course I reserve the right to be highly annoyed with them after this Sunday night when we play the Chargers…a team we apparently have some kind of mental block on.
  • The Enemy Within: NBC cancelled the new series My Own Worst Enemy this past week, and after seeing Monday’s episode, I’m incredibly hacked off at them for it.  It was getting so good and a whole new can of worms was opened.  Now, we’ll never know the outcome.  Thanks a lot viewing public…yeah…that’s you I’m talking to.  🙂
  • Lynch Mob: John Lynch, whom I’ve spoken about on this blog before, announced his retirement from the NFL on Monday afternoon in Tampa, FL.  While I completely understand and support his decision, I’m still very sad to see him go.  He’s going to start broadcasting games, so that should be fun if I ever get to see one of the games he does.  But his undying devotion to his teammates is rarely, if ever, matched in the league.  Thanks for the memories, John.

Ok.  That’s all I got for now.  In the next couple days, I’m going to put up my solution to the overtime problem in college football and the NFL.  It’s kind of a mix of both worlds.  We’ll see how you like it.  Stay tuned…

IIJM: NFL’s Worst Team

Is it just me or is the NFL’s worst team NOT the Detroit Lions?

I submit for your consideration the team of NFL referees as the NFL’s worst team this season.

Usually I don’t complain too much about the referees because I think it’s a crutch to use them as an excuse for why you lost the game.  If you want to win the game, you play the way you need to to win the game.

But it just seems that there are few weeks this season that haven’t involved some kind of discussion about how a game or multiple games were called poorly.

Mike Pereira has been the head of officiating for the NFL since 2001, but his actual officiating experience is only 2 years.  In any case, when the post season comes and team owners are considering whether to keep their head coach, I suggest that Roger Goodell take a good look at his home office coaching staff.

Be Kind

Dear Coach Roy Williams and Staff:

With all due respect for the phenomenal coaching staff that you are, would you kindly stop kicking Tyler Hansbrough in the shin, stepping on Marcus Ginyard’s foot, hitting Mike Copeland in the knee, and tripping Bobby Frasor.

The season will probably go a lot better if you abide by this request.

With kindest regards,
The Tar Heel Faithful

WW(T)IR

This is going to quite possibly be the fastest WWIR you’ll ever get, but I’m swamped with work, so you have to take what I can give you at this point.

  • GEAUX BAMA:  I’ve never been a fan of spelling the word “go” the LSU way, but after Saturday’s game, I think I have to buckle under the pressure.  To say I was stressed for the better part of 4 hours would be the understatement of the year.  If you are a friend of mine on Facebook, you can go back and read my status updates.  Some had some shortened colorful language in them.  I wasn’t planning on updating my status that much, but I needed an outlet for my frustration as I watched the game.  We could have won that game in regulation given that during that time period we left two touchdowns and a field goal out there on the field instead of on the scoreboard.  I doubt that win will keep people from reminding us every chance they get that Nick Saban used to coach at LSU, but it felt so incredibly good to get that win…not for Nick and not to keep the #1 ranking…but just to flat out beat LSU who had beaten us the previous 5 seasons.  Now I realize we’ve got an uphill battle on our hands and that #1 ranking and National Championship bid is ours to lose.  Personally, I’m kind of sick of hearing the announcers talk about Alabama and the National Championship in the same breath.  I’d prefer to actually get to the Championship game before we start talking about it.  Until then we’ve got dates with Mississippi State, Auburn, and Florida.  That’s not exactly what would be on my Christmas list.
  • Make A Wish: Over the weekend, I started seeing Macy’s commercials about the Make A Wish Foundation.  They peaked my interest because the commercials start out telling the story of “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”  Next to the story of Jesus’s birth, that is my favorite Christmas story.  In any case, Macy’s is donating $1 up to a million dollars for every Letter to Santa Claus that is deposited into their special mailboxes at their stores.  For more information, go here.  So, if you’ve got some time, be a kid, again, and write a letter to Santa Claus.  You have to put a stamp on the envelope and Macy’s will actually take the letters to the Post Office, but really this might be the quickest way to donate to the Make A Wish Foundation.
  • A Win Streak:  I can’t believe I’m saying this in the middle of the season with a smile on my face, but the Colts are on a two game winning streak.  Now I realize they won 2 games in a row earlier in the season, but this current streak feels better because I feel like they scratched and clawed their way for these.  Playing the Pats and Steelers back to back is never easy, especially this season.  They were both tough opponents, but I’m pleased with the progress I’m starting to see on the field.  I never thought I’d believe we were in good shape with a 5-4 record.  Heck, after the 2001 season, I never thought we’d be under .500 again until after Peyton retired. 
  • Contingency Plans: I’m kind of tired of hearing Mike Martz’s excuse for the play that San Francisco ran Monday night to end the game.  The play that was sent in prior to the refs stopping the game for a booth review was for the ball being on the 1 yard line.  Now, the booth decided to review the spot of the ball, and when the decision came down to move the ball back 2 yards, the refs didn’t give the 49ers time to change their play…so Mike Martz says.  Well, regardless of whether the refs gave you time to change the play, there should have been 2 plays in the quarterback’s ear already.  Martz should have said, “if they leave it at the 1, here’s the play, but if they move it back, here’s the play.”  This is why women should run football.  We plan ahead.  Men make contingency plans only after plan A doesn’t work.  If Martz is looking for someone to blame for the 49ers losing that game on that play, he needs to find himself a mirror. 
  • Stress Reaction: Tyler Hansbrough’s stress reaction in his right shin is causing mestress.  Apparently, he is now “extremely doubtful” for the Penn game on Saturday afternoon.  That doesn’t so much concern me as the quick turnaround time to the next game.  After Saturday, North Carolina plays Kentucky the following Tuesday.  I’m hopeful that they’re holding Tyler out for Penn so he’ll be ready for Kentucky.  If not, I guess we’ll see what would have happened if Tyler had decided to go to the NBA and North Carolina kept everyone else.  And, while I enjoy seeing Tyler in a suit (I’m like a proud momma seeing her baby boy all dressed up.), I did NOT enjoy seeing the pictures of him on the bench in a suit during North Carolina’s exhibition game against UNC-Pembroke. 

Programming Note

Due to circumstances beyond my control, WWIR (Wednesday’s Weekend in Review) will be postponed to Thursday. 

Stay Tuned.

Peace in the (Death) Valley

Against my better judgment, I was reading some articles yesterday about the Bama/LSU game this weekend.  Last season and this season, I have done my best to stay away from the media hype surrounding this game because it turns 60 minutes of football into something it doesn’t need to be.  You see LSU and Alabama have had a deep hatred for each other for more years than I can count, but nearly two years ago that hatred entered a new level of hell.  Nick Saban became the coach at Alabama in January 2007 after leaving LSU for the NFL, and that very statement is what sent LSU into a tailspin. 

Now, I fully understand where LSU is coming from.  I became a Texas Longhorn fan the very second Dennis Franchione left Alabama for Texas A&M.  It had nothing to do with Texas A&M and nothing to do with their players.  It had everything to do with the way Dennis handled the situation.  So, I spent the next several seasons pulling against Texas A&M and hoping they’d lose so badly that Dennis would lose his job.  In the end, I got my wish, but to what satisfaction, I don’t know.  During those seasons that I was trying to exact my revenge on Franchione, I was indirectly exacting it on the players and fans of Texas A&M.  They did nothing wrong.  They simply asked him to be their coach.

So I go on to read this article in ESPN the Magazine about Hating Nick Saban.  It’s mainly about the lengths to which LSU fans have gone to deeply hate Nick Saban for returning to college football at a rival SEC school.  In a counter article written by Forrest Gump author Winston Groom, he asks, “Well, what was he supposed to do—go back to LSU and ask them to fire Les Miles? Apply for a job coaching Slippery Rock?”  That really basically said it all for me, but still LSU fans hate Alabama for because of the man standing on the sideline with the headset on.  It bothers me greatly really.  I want to play a 60 minute football game that has no other drama surrounding it than what happens on the field in those 60 minutes.  I can’t make LSU fans stop hating Alabama, but I wish there was some way that I could convince them of how unhealthy this type of hatred is.  There is healthy hatred of your sports rivals, but this is just wrong.  Even the law enforcement in Baton Rouge is concerned about the safety of our players and coaches…not to mention our fans.  That scares me a little more than the possible outcome of the game.

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In other college football news, the aforementioned Texas Longhorns dismissed lineman Buck Burnette for posting a racial slur on his Facebook page about President-elect Obama.  This makes me wonder if Colt McCoy had done the same thing, would the team have dismissed him?  I always wonder if that blanket offense of “violating team rules” applies to everyone on the team or just the players below a certain line on the hierarchy.  Incidentally, kudos to Texas for dismissing this player.

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I’m thinking good thoughts tonight for my high school football team as they take on our arch/cross-town rivals for the bazillionth time in history.  GO TARPONS!

WWIR: Progress

  • 2008 Election: History was made last night. History was going to be made regardless of who became the next President of the United States. Because of the nature of my job, I cannot public express my political views, of which I have plenty. If you really want to know how I felt about last night’s results, leave me a comment or email me and I’ll be happy to tell you.
  • Lincoln’s Latest: Lincoln dressed as a pirate for Halloween this year. Two days after Halloween he celebrated what would have been his birthdate if he had made it to his due date. Here are some pictures from both.
  • Trick or Treat: I think I’m turning into an old fuddy duddy. Friday night when I was handing out candy to the trick or treaters, I had one boy who looked to be late elementary/early middle school age. He asked if he could have extra candy for his brother who wasn’t allowed to go trick or treating because he is failing Spanish. So, I tell the kid that I don’t think it’s fair to give his brother candy if his brother is being punished for failing Spanish and the punishment for such is to have his trick or treating privileges taken away. The kid didn’t see it my way and proceeded to look inside my house where I had a box of Canada Dry sitting just inside the door. He then told me that I could at least spare some Canada Dry. To that I said, “Happy Halloween” and shut the door. Believe me, I fully expected to wake up to a toilet papered and/or egged house on Saturday morning, but I didn’t. Seriously, do kids really not understand what punishment is? And furthermore, why couldn’t that kid share HIS candy with his brother instead of asking for extra? Yeah..I’m a fuddy duddy.
  • Baby Boom: Congratulations to several of my friends who recently had babies. The wives of two guys I went to high school with each recently gave birth to baby girls. Congrats to Joe and Tara and Michael and Schuyler (I went to high school with Schuyler, too). Also, my friends Laura and Brent and Kelli and Brent are the proud parents of baby boys.
  • #1 Ranking For Sale: I am incredibly proud of the way Alabama has played this season. I am equally proud of the #1 ranking they received from the AP, USA Today, and BCS rankings on Sunday. And as proud as I am of those two things, I am also scared out of my freaking mind. So, I’m selling our #1 ranking to the highest bidder any time between now and 3:29pm ET on Saturday. Really I’ll give it to you free of charge. You just have to promise to give it back after the SEC championship game. I love being ranked #1 in the regular season for the first time since 1980, but I don’t like the pressure that comes with it. I’ve pretty much felt the entire season like I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, but at the same time if anyone can pull them through the pressure, I think it’s Nick Saban.
  • Rocky Top: This week Phillip Fulmer announced that he would step down after his 17th season as head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers based on a request from the school’s athletic department. As much as I am an Alabama fan, I was kind of sad about this. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t wholeheartedly hated this man during football season or because of the way he weaseled his way out of NCAA sanctions by ratting out everyone else in the SEC. But it’s just that the SEC will not be the same without him. I also have a little bit of a place in my heart for him because he was Peyton’s college coach. This was the man who managed to get Peyton Manning to skirt an offer from his father’s alma mater and play for a rival SEC school. He is responsible for creating a good bit of the quarterback we see today, and for that I’m thankful. Best of luck to the Great Pumpkin.
  • Incredible Crabtree: Saturday night I watched the Texas/Texas Tech game. I have some friends who graduated from Tech, so I tend to pay attention. Plus with Texas being #1 at the time, I’m always curious to see how they play. Amazed doesn’t even begin to describe what I saw in the last minute and a half of that game. After Texas had scored their last touchdown, I vehemently announced to my bedroom walls that I hated all teams who wore orange regardless of the shade. Then Harrell marched Tech right down the field to this amazing catch by Michael Crabtree. I am stunned that he was able to stay in bounds, on his toes no less, to score the final touchdown. Kudos to Texas for mounting a really great comeback, but Tech was just too determined. After that final Tech TD, I found myself wondering if Harrell and Crabtree were available for the Colts/Pats game the following Sunday night.
  • Taking What We Can Get: That’s basically where we are as Colts fans. We’ll take a win…no matter how we get it or by how many points. We’re down to a depth chart of three cornerbacks to fill two positions. The Patriots should have lit up our secondary during that game like no tomorrow. They tried that once to Gaffney, but he dropped it right through his hands. But, when your running game is busy lighting up the D-line for 140 yards on 32 carries why try something else. The biggest thing I noticed was the 3rd down conversions that the Colts defense continues to give up. We can’t seem to get them off the field. I looked at the stats afterwards because when you’re watching, it seems like they give up every 3rd down, but actually the Pats were 8 of 14. I figured out that of the 6 they didn’t convert, 3 were converted into field goals on 4th down, 2 resulted in punts, and 1 led to a 4th down interception. I had been begging for that interception all night and finally got it. But, in the end, Peyton managed to execute a near perfect QB performance by spreading his passing around to 7 different receivers and handing off to both Addai and Rhodes. That first scoring drive in the first half gave me the biggest smile I’ve had all season watching the Colts. Peyton did not throw an incompletion and the O-line was phenomenal. Now I’m going to say something that is completely unfounded and likely false, but I think Adam Vinatieri is on steroids. The man is 9 of 20 on 50+ yard field goals in his career. The last time he made one from that distance was in a game against Chicago on November 10, 2002 when he was playing for New England, but he makes a 52 yarder Sunday night. Plus, he already has 8 touchbacks on kickoffs this season. He had 9 total the entire season last year. I’m just saying…something’s fishy for a man who will be 36 years old next month to be kicking that well, but I’ll take it cause he looks fabulous doing it! Like I’ve said before, when the Colts play Colts Ball, it’s a beautiful thing to watch. The Steelers are next and coming off a huge win over the Skins on Monday night. Yep…I’m scared.

Happy Wednesday. And to those whose candidate won last night congratulations. To those whose candidate didn’t win last night, it’s gonna be ok.