Goodreads Giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Samurai's Heart by Walt Mussell

The Samurai's Heart

by Walt Mussell

Giveaway ends October 20, 2017.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Auburn vs. Ole Miss Preview: Green Day had it wrong

Pardon the late post for this week’s preview. I’ve been caught up in the political campaigns. I wonder about all the name-calling going back and forth between the two candidates and wonder if it’s as bad as it used to be. Andrew Jackson once called John Quincy Adams a pimp and Adams referred to Jackson’s wife as a slut and the country went on. Name-calling seems pervasive. (In the Adams, Sr. – Jefferson match-up, Jefferson questioned Adams’ gender, saying that he was neither man nor woman. Adams responded, saying that there would be house burning and the violation of the chastity of our nation’s daughters.) I did remember that we have a game this weekend. I just forgot what day it was.

This weekend, Auburn travels to Oxford to take on Ole Miss. Kickoff is 12:30 p.m. EST. The record between the two schools is 24-8. (The record during the Tuberville era is 7-2.) Auburn first played Ole Miss in October 1928. It lost 19-0. Auburn played Ole Miss six times over the next four decades, dropping four of them.

Then I was born. ;-)

Since my birth, Auburn has gone 22-3 against Ole Miss, often favored to win. Shug didn’t lose after my birth. Oddly, Barfeld and Tater Tot never dropped a game to Ole Miss. Dye lost his final meeting against Ole Miss. Tuberville has lost twice, making him (I think) the only coach to lose more than one game to Ole Miss.

However, the general perception is that Auburn will drop another one. Collegefootballnews.com is predicting an Ole Miss victory this Saturday, the first time they’ve bet against Auburn all year (ignoring the spread). Ole Miss, like Auburn, has a 4-4 record, with a victory last week over Arkansas and a win at Florida earlier this season. They have an excellent QB in Snead who is coming into his own. In addition, they have an exceptional motivator in 1st year coach, Houston Nutt, whose teams gave Auburn fits when Nutt coached at Arkansas.

Expand more of the same fits in Oxford. However, I have to disagree with College Football News. Auburn’s back is against the wall. With four games remaining, we have to win two to become bowl eligible. Even that, though, won’t guarantee us a postseason game. I’m assuming will beat UT-Martin next week. That means we have to pull out at least one more victory from the remaining three games: Ole Miss, Georgia, and Alabama. I think we’ll pull two out of three minimum, and it starts with Ole Miss.

The best thing I can say about this game is the band Green Day had it wrong. Green Day, has a song titled, ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends.” The date for this game is November 1st. What may be the worst month in Auburn history is over. And Auburn fans would have been glad to have slept through it. We only played three games, but it feels like we went through hell. Hopefully, this team will wake up and establish a beautiful November worth singing about.

War Eagle!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mommy Does It Better: A Cooking Story

“What do you want for lunch, Christopher?” I asked yesterday.

“Macaroni and cheese,” he said.

“Macaroni and cheese what?”

“Macaroni and cheese with the real fake cheese.”

“OK. It’ll be the real fake cheese, but what else. Macaroni and cheese, what?”

“Oh,” he answered. “Macaroni and cheese, please!”

I searched the pantry for the blue box of Kraft M&C. Christopher called it the “real fake cheese” due to cheese packet inside. As I put the pan of water on the stove, Christopher commented, “Not you, Daddy. I want Mommy to make it.”

“Mommy?”

“Yeah, Mommy makes it better than you.”

I admit my wife is a better cook and that I’m the house sous chef (apprentice chef). However, even my wife was surprised by this comment. She chimed in, ‘Christopher, it’s just mac-and-cheese. Daddy makes it fine.”

“No, Mommy. It tastes better when you make it,” he said.

Perplexed, I still proceeded to make Christopher his lunch. I boiled the water and allowed Christopher to pour in the macaroni. I drained the macaroni after it had boiled sufficiently and returned it to the pan. I grabbed the margarine and 2% milk from the fridge when my wife commented, “I know it says margarine, but I use butter.’

Ah, mystery solved. My wife’s secret ingredient is substituting the creaminess of milk for the lighter taste of vegetable oil.

I cut four tablespoons of butter, grabbed a small measure of milk, and then allowed Christopher to add them and the fake cheese to the drained macaroni in the saucepan. He mixed it up. I prepared a bowl with his mac-and-cheese.

“So what do you think, Christopher?” my wife asked. “Is Dad’s as good as mine?”

“No, Mommy. Yours still tastes better.”

Darn it! Still house sous chef when it comes to macaroni!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Auburn vs. West Virginia Wrap-Up: The lack of a killer instinct

It’s said that you learn more through adversity than you do through good times. If so, then Auburn is getting a graduate level education at the moment. However, it’s the lessons we’re learning that have me buffaloed. In its four losses this year, Auburn

-> Led at halftime (which is actually true for every game)
-> Led by double digits
-> Came out flat or came up short in the third quarter, when we had chances to keep up the pressure.
-> Showed the total inability of our coaching staff to have something prepared for the expected halftime adjustments.

In addition, in the Vandy and WVU games, we allowed late scores at the end of the half to give the other team momentum going into the locker room.

So what is up? Offensive coordinators aside, we were unable to put away teams we had down. And it points to one thing…lack of a killer instinct. Do I fault us for this? As long as I’ve followed Auburn football, I’ve seen few teams (2004 being a recent exception), where Auburn has taken a lead and then effectively gone for the jugular. It’s not our style. We’re too friggin nice!

Another problem with our style. We play not to lose. When Auburn opened this game, we opened in the “I.” It was going so well, I originally imagined titling my follow up post as “Auburn proves there is an ‘I’ in team.” However, in the second half, it seemed like Tony Franklin was calling the plays again and we came up short.

Kodi made mistakes last night. He started getting away from what seemed to work for him in the first half. However, he can’t do much when receivers drop passes. He can’t do much when the offensive line is not adjusting to defensive shifts. He can’t do much when he makes forward progress into field goal range, only to have the field goal come up short. In his defense, though, he showed brilliance and will only get better.

And speaking of field goals, what is up with Wes Byrum’s Damon Duval imitation? Both kickers made amazing kicks as freshman to win big games against Florida. (Byrum had to do his twice. Duval had to do his in a drizzling rain and a 30-mph crosswind.) Then, both kickers seemed to go in the tank.

At 4-4, it is not looking good for us. We can pass this off as more growing pains as we try to get back to a semblance of the team we love. We can hope that the next 9-10 days will prove us ample opportunity to get ready for an away game at Ole Miss and another shot at turning the season around. I just hope we find what’s ailing us soon. It’s as if we need another wake-up call, another shot of adrenaline, another opponent that brings out the best in Auburn and allows us to prove to ourselves that we are better than we’ve shown.

Where’s Florida when we need them.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Auburn vs. West Virginia Preview

ESPN must be wondering what they were thinking at the start of the year. They coaxed Auburn and WVU to move their game from the second week of the season to a mid-October Thursday night. They figured Auburn to be 7-0 or 6-1 and WVU to be 6-0.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Morgantown. WVU dropped two of its first three games and is now 4-2. Auburn has dropped three of its last four and comes in 4-3. Two teams struggling for respect. Two teams struggling for an identity. Two teams who shouldn’t be struggling at all.

This is the first match-up between Auburn and West Virginia. (I can’t find any evidence that Auburn and WVU have ever played before. I know it’s our fist trip to Morgantown, but I thought there might be a neutral site or a previous game under a different name scenario. Nothing. ) Auburn hasn’t sparred much with the current teams in the Big East. We’re 1-1-1 against Syracuse, with each game providing a lasting memory. There was the infamous tie in the Sugar Bowl when Auburn ruined Syracuse’s chance at an undefeated season. There was game at Syracuse where we were the first major sporting event in the state of NY after 9-11…and we were blown out. Then there was the three OT classic in the following year. As for other teams in the Big East, we’re 1-0 against both Louisville and Rutgers, 2-0 against Cincinnati, and 0-1 vs. South Florida. None of that matters in Thursday night’s game.

What does matter then?

It matters that Kodi Burns will be starting the game and hopes to remain that way. In the Arkansas game, Kodi drove us down the field twice in the 4th quarter, only to have us stub our toe, heel, or anything else we decided to throw in the ground. It looks like Chris Todd has dropped to third on the depth chart, behind Neil Caudle. It’s been speculated that Barrett Trotter might have his redshirt ripped off for the remaining five games of this season. (Note to Auburn coaches: Please don’t. Was it worth losing a season of Ben Tate for four games?) It will drive Auburn fans crazy to watch that, on the other side of the field, is a QB from Daphne, Alabama, someone that was mentioned as a potential Heisman candidate and who would have been perfect for what we tried to do this year. (Take a bow, Pat. You’re incredible to watch.)

It matters that we don’t give down on ourselves. A good friend of mine (and reader of this blog), Wes Edwards, was watching PBS recently and saw a show about a physicist that championed alternate universes. Wes commented in a note to me: “Perhaps we would have been 4-3 even without the Franklin experiment. Perhaps, in another reality, we are 7-0.” To that, I would add the following: Perhaps, in another reality, we are also 2-5.

We can’t change the past, only the perception of the future. The current perception is for Auburn to go 6-6, with wins over UT-Martin and Ole Miss. Changing that perception starts NOW!

War Eagle!!!!!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Where Do We Go From Here

I feel the need to follow up on my short comment from my previous post.

We have played seven of our 12 games this season. Our five remaining opponents: West Virginia, Ole Miss, Tennessee Martin, Georgia, and Alabama. We need to beat at least two of them to add a 13th game to the season. I know we can win one. I find myself hopeful that we can win two.

I am looking at what were the remains of a season with great potential. An old football saying goes, “Offense wins games. Defense wins championships.” This year, we have the type of defense on which championship teams are built…and the offense failed miserably. It isn’t through a lack of talent. The players we have on offense are extremely talented. They’ve more talent than Vandy. They’ve more talent than Arkansas. They have as much talent as LSU. This team should be 6-1 or 7-0. Instead, they’re 4-3. In the Vandy game, the defense had miscues. In the Arkansas game, the defense fell apart and gave up over 400 yards. I don’t blame them. After having to carry the water for the offense for half the season, I think they just got tired.

And I lay the failure for this season not at the feel of Franklin, but of Tuberville. It was Tuberville’s idea to do to the offense what he did. Even a half-decent offense would have beaten both Vandy and Arkansas. We’d be in the hunt for the SEC West title. We’d be looking forward to the remaining five games, our emotions rising and falling each week. Instead, our dreams of championship this season have ended so early that the Tampa Bay Rays are still alive.

Yet, with five games, possibly six, we still have a chance to make it a good season. I expected us to lose two this year. With some breaks, I could be only one off. It wouldn’t be the season we’d hoped for, but still a season of that we could remember. That hope begins now.

Friday, October 17, 2008

I Should Have Posted This Earlier

A co-worker, who happens to be a Clemson grad, IM'd me on Monday with the message, "Walt, have you heard the news? Tommy's fired."

My response was, "Who's?"

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Auburn vs. Arkansas Wrap Up: The Return of Nallsminger

The Smashing Pumpkins have hit Auburn. I say that as I currently Melancholy and I’m feeling the infinite sadness. (OK. Bad pun.)

Admittedly, I missed the first half of tonight’s game. Every October, my wife schedules a trip to a local pumpkin patch. Though she doesn’t look at Auburn’s schedule, she typically seems to plan the trip for Auburn’s game with Arkansas. I love my Tigers, but the kids won’t be pumpkin patch age forever. I caught the second half by computer.

I wish I missed the second half, too.

I have never seen an offensive performance that pathetic. Still, through turnovers and a kickoff return for a TD, we were up 20-10 in the third quarter and leading 20-16 going in to the 4th quarter.

And we’d yet to gain 100 yards of total offense by the end of the third quarter. Combining these first three quarters with the final three quarters of Vanderbilt game, we were under 170 yards for six quarters.

And our defense gave up over 400 yards. I don’t blame them. They were tired. At one point somewhere in 4th quarter, Arkansas had run double the numbers of plays of Auburn. That’s a lot of three and outs.

What’s amazing, though, is that we still had a chance to win the game at the end. We drove the field and had 2nd and goal at the 4-yard line. We threw three straight passes. THREE STRAIGHT FRIGGIN PASSES!

It was then I realized Nallsminger was in charge. (Yes, I realize Ensminger is the one calling the plays.)

In 2003, we were down to Ole Miss at home. (For those that don’t’ remember, 2003 was Eli’s senior year.) We had 3rd and 2 at Ole Miss’s 3-yard line with less than a minute to go. We had a time out. Also, even if we got stopped short, we would get a 1st down (and the clock would stop) just by reaching the 1-yard line. We threw two passes, the last one dropped by Ben Obamanu in the end zone.

We have lost three games by a combined score of nine points and we look pathetic and what really sucks is how easily we could be 7-0. However, I don’t see much hope at the moment. Nallsminger tried to run in 2003 the offense that Petrino ran in 2002. The current incarnation is trying to run the spread. Neither incarnation knew what they were doing.

If Auburn’s going to run a spread offense similar to what Oklahoma does, then they’re going to have to do more than fire Tony Franklin. Nall, Ensminger, Gran, and Knox would need to go as well. Tuberville needs to decide whether he’s more devoted to his assistants and thinks they can learn or whether he needs to bring in others who know what they’re doing. Too many missed assignments. Too many dropped passes. Too many…losses.

And the season has really imploded.

War Eagle anyway!

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Visit to House 24

On Thursday night, I went with Christopher’s Cub Scout troop to visit the local fire station near the Mall of Georgia. Christopher, age six, is in first grade and a Tiger Cub. He’s excited to be a Cub Scout and has wanted to follow in his brother’s footsteps since Andrew joined the local Scout troop last year.

Fire stations all through the area offer these kinds of tours to children’s group. People can arrange them by calling the Programs and Services number at 678-518-4850. The firefighters visit schools throughout the districts they serve. According to one of the firefighters I talked to, they enjoy the visits as it gives the firefighters a chance to see people at happy times instead of sad ones.

The Tiger Cubs all seemed to have a blast. It opened with a video on fire safety that was geared towards the kids. (What is it about Gilbert Gottfried, who provided the voice for a smoke detector in the video, which makes young and old laugh?) Then Fireman Matt had a question and answer session, making sure every boy in attendance got to talk and received a sticker.

Beep Beep Beep
The firefighters tensed. The beeps go out to all stations, signaling the need that one station’s services will be needed. A central dispatcher announces the firehouse’s number and then the situation.

“Engine 23,” the dispatcher’s voice sounded. I couldn’t hear anything after that, though I knew the firefighters had heard and understood every word. Firefighter Matt returned to the Q&A session.

After the Q&A session, Firefighter Ashley (yes, there are female firefighters) brought out her gear and gave a demonstration to the Tiger Cubs of how firefighters go through the ritual of what is anywhere from 50-80 pounds of equipment, given the needs of the emergency.

Beep Beep Beep
The equipment demo was interrupted by the second set of beeps we’d heard since arrival. “Engine 9,” the dispatcher said. The firefighters relaxed and the demo continued.

Next, the demo headed to what was likely the most exciting: the trucks. Uniforms were stacked next to the trucks, the closest point when it would be needed. They started with one of the big trucks.

Beep Beep Beep
“Engine 20” the dispatcher said and the lecture continued towards one of the medical vehicles at the fire house.

Beep Beep Beep
“Engine 24,” the dispatcher said.

The kidding around stopped as the firefighters ushered the boys and chaperones out of the way. “A business alarm,” one said. Three firefighters kicked off their shoes and got ready, their equipment stacked to facilitate the quick preparedness. The boys went outside to watch the big truck roll out. The firefighters were ready and on the truck in less than two minutes. The lights flashed as they pulled out. All that remained were the firefighter’s shoes, lying beside where the big vehicle had been.

We continued with the tour, which had many shouts of “awesome!” from every Tiger Cub. Within 20 minutes, the truck returned, backing in to the fire station and managing not to run over their shoes in the process.

Overall, it was a great night for the Tiger Cubs. Thank you, House 24.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Auburn vs. Arkansas Preview

Sorry for the late post. I’ve had a busy few days. Usually, I like to post my previews no later than Tuesday night/Wednesday morning.

Besides, if I’d posted earlier, I would have missed the news. Tony Franklin fired. So, I find myself wondering who might call the plays.

Hugh Nall and/or Steve Ensminger. That worked really well in 2003.

Tuberville? He’s a defensive specialist.

Does Borges still live in town? (Ok, I’m kidding.)

This should be interesting.

And so we play football.

This weekend, Auburn faces Arkansas. It’s the first meeting between Tuberville and Petrino since the infamous night flight on the Colonial Bank jet to Louisville. They both publicly claim that there’s no hostility between the two of them.

I don’t think so, do you?!

Auburn and Arkansas haven’t been playing each other long. The first time was the ’84 Liberty Bowl. Auburn won 21-15. I was a freshman then. The schools started playing each other every year when Arkansas joined the SEC (and caused the implosion of the old SWC) in 1992. The 1992 match-up yielded a 24-24 tie. Auburn now leads the series 10-6-1.

Last year’s game was a 9-7 AU victory. Auburn held McFadden and Jones both under 100 yards total, if memory serves me correctly. We know the defense will be ready to play. However, will the offense?

I don’t think so, do you?!

The offense is hurting. I’ve seen more missed blocking assignments causing problems for Auburn than I’ve seen in a while. I’ve seen more lackluster play from Auburn than I’ve seen in a while. I’ve seen more backfiring when we could have taken control than I’ve seen in a while.

And our season teeters on edge as thin as an envelope that’s been sliced lengthwise with a surgical scalpel.

Still, it’s Arkansas, and our team has something to play for. We can salvage things going forward AND make this season better AND make it memorable. Does Arkansas have a chance to spoil it?

I don’t think so, do you?!

One more thing. Given the problems in the banking industry right now, do you think Colonial Bank still wants to keep that jet if they still have it?

I don’t think so, do you?!

War Damn Eagle!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

When Current Events Make History

When I was three years old, my mother woke me up to watch Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin land on the moon. As you might expect, I have no recollection of the day my Mom did this to me. (She mentioned it to me when I was older.) However, I can say with a straight face that I actually watched this historic event.

As parents, we’re more adept at seeing current events and recognizing their historical significance. Sports is one example, albeit a minor one. I remember coming in one evening with Andrew and flipping on the TV. I knew Mark McGwire was coming up to bat. He had already tied Roger Maris’s single season home record and was due to break it any day. I held Andrew in my arms as we watched McGwire hit 62, but he was too young to have a clue. Had he been older, though, I’m not sure anything would have changed. I remember, when I was kid, watching Hank Aaron break Babe Ruth’s record. I was several years older than Andrew was when I saw Aaron’s homer. I was happy, because Aaron was my favorite player. However, I didn’t understand the significance of what I’d just witnessed.

Then there’s politics. We had a current event a week ago, that will be noted in history: McCain and Obama debated on TV. Andrew has been studying the Civil War in school. He knows the reasons it was fought, as well as the battles, the technology, etc. For some reason, Reconstruction gives him problem. He gets terms mixed. (His test isn’t until Tuesday, so we have time to get it right.)

However, Andrew’s still a kid with a kid’s appreciation of current events. So, when the McCain – Obama debate came on, we tried to get Andrew (and his brother, Christopher) to watch it. For both boys, it was just to try and get them to understand we’re choosing a President. (When they pay attention to politics, both boys claim to be supporting McCain.) For Andrew, though, we tried to draw a correlation between his Civil War studies and what was going on in front of him. He said he understood. He gave us an hour of debate watching before boredom breached his senses and he called it night.

Hopefully, when he’s adult with an adult’s appreciation for history, he might recognize what we made him watch as a kid. Hopefully, when he’s an adult, he begins to recognize such events himself. Hopefully, when he’s an adult, he’ll pass the same things along to his kids.

And maybe, by then, events like the above will no longer be considered historic anymore.

Auburn vs. Vandy: Wrap Up: This Mystery of the Back-Up QB

I …am…at…a…loss!

Why, after six games, does QB Todd have even less zip on the ball?
Why, after six games, does Auburn’s offense still look anemic?
Why, after six games, are we producing less and less yards?

It’s only early October, but this is elaborate trick-or-treat.


Our defense and special teams didn’t score their one TD per game.
Our defense, #1 in the nation on third down conversions, showed cracks that hadn’t existed before.
Our defense couldn’t cover the overdrafts our offense kept writing.

Tonight it bit our season.

What was the reason? Was it breaks not going our way?

On the missed PAT, we didn’t get the bounce.
On the late fumble by Vandy’s QB, we didn’t get the bounce.
On Vandy’s last punt, we didn’t get the bounce

And it signaled the end of any scant title hopes.

Congratulations to the Vanderbilt Commodores. You won. We lost. For the second time this year, we knocked out a team’s first strong QB, only to have the back-up perform like Kerri Strug with one vault to go.

And I am at a loss to explain why?

I’ll even accept the fact that, on the occasion of our four wins, I wore the same Auburn shirt. On the day of our two losses, I didn’t wear it. But I’m beyond believing my karma has any effect on a game’s outcome.

Unfortunately, I’m starting to believe that this can’t be righted this season.

Does anyone know?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Auburn vs. Vandy Preview

In 1899, Sewanee University, now called the University of the South, embarked on football season unmatched before or since. Sewanee set up a 12-game schedule that included 11 tough football programs and one cupcake (Cumberland). During the season, Sewanee won all 12 games, 11 of them by shutout. One memorable part of the schedule has Sewanee boarding a train for a road trip that will never be repeated. Sewanee played five road games in six days, including Ole Miss, LSU, Texas, Texas A&M, and Tulane. They also started the season in mid-October and finished it in early December.

Why did Sewanee do this? The reason relates to 1898 season. In 1898, Sewanee had upset the team that was supposedly the best in the south. That team decided not to play Sewanee in 1899. Sewanee decided to set up a schedule that would leave no doubt as to who was the best team in the South. The only team to score on Sewanee that year: Auburn. A John Heisman-coached Auburn team fell 11-10 to Sewanee. As for the team that chose not to schedule Sewanee in 1899: Vandy.

Was Vandy really that good back then? In 1893, Auburn won the first AU-Vandy contest by a score of 30-10. It would be 20 years (and seven games) before AU took another one. The record between the two schools is 20-19-1 in favor of Auburn. However, Auburn has had to win the last 13 match-ups to finally take the lead in the series. Vandy’s last win was a 25-13 Gator Bowl triumph in 1955.

So what about now? As I said in my Tennessee follow-up, we play one of the SEC’s three undefeated teams this week. (I stand corrected. There are four undefeated teams. Can you name them without looking?) Vandy is 4-0, with conference victories over Ole Miss and SC and nonconference foes Miami (Ohio) and Rice. How big is it that Vandy is undefeated? Vandy has not had a winning season since going 8-4 in 1982. (They were 8-3 in the regular season and lost the All-American Bowl to Air Force.)

Need more? Vandy is #19 in both the AP and Coaches polls. Auburn is #13 in the AP and #14 in the Coaches poll, making this weekend a match-up of Top 20 teams. ESPN Gameday is broadcasting from Vandy this week.

Therefore, this week, it’s a big game! But is Vandy good? They are led by such people as cornerback D.J. Moore, an all-SEC performer who could shut down our passing game on his side of the field. Their QB, Chris Nickson, is a senior, a dangerous thing to face in the SEC. For motivation, Coach Bobby Johnson has been showing film of Auburn’s 35-7 shellacking of Vandy last year. Also, Vandy, which had some injuries, early this season, had last week off and should be rested up to face Auburn.

So Vandy will be ready. I think we will be, too. Expect another close game, as if Auburn knows how to play any other way. Expect the Auburn defense to shut down Vandy’s offense. Auburn’s offense will likely pick up two TDs, which would put us above average for our SEC contests. (The offense is averaging one TD per game in SEC games.) Hopefully, the defense or special teams picks up one more. If not, however, those two TDs should still be enough. Expect to see Kodi more as well.

War Eagle!

One final note: In defense of Vandy’s loss to Sewanee in 1898, it was a rebuilding year. Vandy, who went undefeated in 1897, was 1-5 in 1898 with its only win coming against Nashville. This begs the question as to why Sewanee thought beating a 1-5 team made them the top team in the area.