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.

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Auburn vs. Alabama Wrap-Up 2008

If there is one play that sums up Auburn’s season, it was the end of the first half. An Auburn kicker making his first ever field goal attempt in a football game nails a 40-yarder, only to have it nullified because of a CS, but admittedly legal, time-out by Saban. It has gone that way this season.

Alabama scored its first half TD because the special teams played soft on the punt, giving Alabama excellent field position. Soft defensive play let Alabama convert third and long. A missed defensive assignment led to the long run for a TD.

And then there’s the second half. What looks like it could have been a pick-6 for Auburn is dropped. Auburn gets the ball back and promptly fumbles, which was turned into six the other way, a huge swing in points.

From there, we blocked the extra point and another Alabama team with 16 points flashed in my head.

At least until the second fumble. After that, I think the dagger was officially planted in my heart and the game got as ugly as the two hound’s-tooth hat wearing platinum blonde chicks that the TV guys seem to like. However, when your kicker gets run into and can’t get a roughing call, you know it’s not your day.

However, congrats to Alabama. You played well.

For Auburn fans, the season is mercifully over. We have to look forward to next year.

War Eagle anyway! I still love my Auburn Tigers!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Auburn vs. Alabama 2008 Preview

I was at my favorite coffee shop this morning, a wonderful little place about a mile from my office. Every day they have a trivia question, which earns you a discount if you answer it correctly. Today’s question was “What is the nickname of the Georgia – Georgia Tech clash?” I responded that it was a phrase with “old” and “hate,” but I couldn’t remember the exact term. “Clean Old-Fashioned Hate,” one of the baristas said, and proceeded to give me the discount. I thanked them and then said I still preferred the term ‘Iron Bowl.” The barista, an Auburn fan, agreed. The patron behind me then asked who I thought would be Auburn’s coach next year. “Tuberville,” I said “With stocks in the tank, Bobby Lowder can’t afford to buy him out.”

It’s nice to be able to laugh. However, as the weekend approaches, I see little to make me happy. As I look to this week’s game, I note the following:

I know that no one expects us to win;
I know that we are 14-point underdogs (the last time I checked anyway);
I know that admonitions of “throw the record books out” are remembrances of upsets, not an understanding of statistical history. In the last eight games alone, the best team has won six times (75%).

And the pundits have measured our coffin and written our obituary,

However, I am reminded of that 25% and wonder what Auburn can accomplish.

Will it be like the start of this six-game streak, where no one gave us a chance and a 4th string tailback wrote himself into Auburn lore?
Will it be like ’82, where a freshman phenom ended nine years of Auburn misery?
Will it be like ’72, where a Tiger Team made the greatest comeback in Iron Bowl history?

Or will it be like ’99, when a valiant effort sputtered and ran out of gas late in the third quarter?

Is there anything in our favor?

We’re playing in Tuscaloosa, where we’ve never lost, and we have an opponent that has everything to lose. Last week, sportswriter Kevin Scarbinsky called this game Alabama’s worst nightmare. A dream season for the Tide blows up quickly if they lose to Auburn. And that may be the one thing in our favor. Alabama is playing for its season. For Auburn, our season is likely just 60 minutes. And for just once this season, I believe our team will finally give 60 minutes.

War Eagle!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Tradition Continues

Our first Christmas season in Atlanta (2006), we took out boys to The Polar Express in western North Carolina. Last Christmas, we took the boys to Stone Mountain for a Stone Mountain Christmas. We allowed Christopher to go The Polar Express with friends, but kept Andrew at home. (He knew he was growing out of it.) This year, we chose just to do Stone Mountain. This year, like last year, we had a great time. And we were blessed to have family with us. My wife’s parents were in town from southern California. Both my sisters and their families, as well as her an aunt and her husband, joined us as well. And it was good to have everyone.

The bigger the crowd, the more the body heat…and we needed it.

It was cold!

We had a wonderful time. We caught the Polar Express attraction and the parade. The kids enjoyed both. From there, we had dinner, which we had brought ourselves. We brought our meals, as last year was so crowded we had trouble getting something to eat. We needn’t have bothered, as the weather seemed to keep away the crowd. Last year’s 90-minute wait would have been a quick sitdown this evening.

After dinner, we got in line to catch the train around the park. By this time, we were chilled completely through. There were four passenger cars on the train, but three of them were open air. As the crowd seemed to all head to the covered wagon, we knew we wouldn’t have a shot by the time we hit the turnstiles. (Yes, I know there are no turnstiles at Stone Mountain. I’m just speaking figuratively.) Luckily, my wife brought blankets. They were for us to sit on at the laser show, but we pulled them out to keep ourselves warm. The ride was enjoyable, at least when we weren’t shivering.

And of course, it’s Stone Mountain, which means nothing’s complete without a laser show. Then we called it a night, as our bones started creaking as slowly as a glacier and we couldn’t wait to find out if global warming was actually going to melt us or not.

There was more to do and we’ll be back again next year. However, if it’s cold like tonight, we hope Stone Mountain will have a second covered train.

The attraction lasts through December 30th. If you buy your tickets at Kroger, you can get three dollars off per ticket. There are special deals for groups of 15 or more.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Auburn – Georgia 2008 Wrap Up

For those of you that read my preview, you know that I owe a friend of mine Starbuck’s for Auburn’s loss this past weekend. However, it was a close game, when many didn’t give us a chance. We were close at the end. But like many game this year, we couldn’t get it done.

I could cite some of the curious (let’s say BAD) interference and lack of interference calls on Georgia’s go ahead drive and as well as the ones we didn’t get on our final drive. (Yes, I know there was one call we did get. Small gift. Why did the refs even bother?) I know that SEC coaches send a film of blown calls to the SEC ref coordinator every week. Tuberville has a lot to choose from.

However, special teams cost us this game. Without that botched extra point. We’d have been within a field goal. We could have tied it with the next to last drive or the last drive. The damage we did to ourselves against Vandy, Arkansas, and LSU came back to haunt us again here.

Still, it was close, and for that I was proud, though luck has not been on our side. I remember back in 1982. Auburn lost a tough, close one to Georgia. After the game was over, the team was in locker room when they heard the Auburn student section still as loud as ever, despite the game having ended over 10 minutes prior.

“It’s great…to be…an Auburn Tiger!”

“I said ‘It’s great…to be…an Auburn Tiger!’”

“I said ‘It’s great…to be…an Auburn Tiger!’”

That team went out and upset Alabama the following week, ending a nine-year domination. Nothing has gone Auburn’s way this season. It’s finally time something did.

“It’s great…to be…an Auburn Tiger!”

War Eagle!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Auburn- Georgia Preview: Shades of Georgia 2006

A friend of mine at work IM’d me about a straight-up bet on this weekend’s Auburn-Georgia game. While I appreciate a friendly bet, my friend wanted to put lunch at a sushi restaurant on the line. I asked him how many points I was getting.

My friend jokingly seemed insulted saying that his team’s defense sucks. I responded by saying that Auburn’s offense was worse and our defense was on crutches and playing third stringers. We settled on Starbuck’s.

However, with the odds against us (we’re 8-point underdogs and playing at home), I wonder if Georgia isn’t a possibility for a season turnaround. It was two years ago when the Dawgs came into Jordan-Hare as a 6-4 team and fans wondering if they even had a shot against Auburn. Brandon Cox had his worst game of the year, throwing four picks and completing only four passes all day. Auburn got stomped 37-15 and I don’t think the game was really that close. Georgia finished with wins over Georgia Tech and in the Peach Bowl over Virginia Tech and to a hugely successful 2007.

And so we renew the 112th meeting of Auburn-Georgia; the game known as the oldest rivalry in the South; the game that gave legend to the creation of War Eagle, the game that feels like, given the history of the two school, your scrimmaging your cousin’s family in the backyard at Thanksgiving more than meeting a hated rival in battle. The current record between Auburn and Georgia is 53-50-8. The points differential is 45 in UGA’a favor with the lead having come all in the last two years. Hopefully, we can begin to make up some of that deficit. Maybe Kodi Burns will have his Matthew Stafford first defining moment against a team that’s heavily favored to win.

War Eagle!

P.S. I have no news on the rumor that Tuberville may be the next head coach at Clemson.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Auburn vs. Georgia: The Prelimnaries

When you've played somebody over 100 times, it's hard to come up with a fresh perspective. However, coming later this week, Shades of Georgia - 2006. Stick around.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Look Back at Halloween 2008

I stepped on the scale this morning and watched nervously as a line ran across the LCD readout screen several times, figuring up the weight. It was taking extra long it seemed, a sure sign that my weight was ballooning. When the amount finally displayed on the readout, I realized, belatedly, where all the leftover Halloween candy, as well as the discount Halloween cookies my wife bought on November 1st, had gone. Fortunately, I can diet…again. Also, fortunately, some images will be with me much longer.

I spent Halloween night with two of my favorite people: Harry Potter and Jango Fett. Jango, aka my younger son, Christopher, was a little under the weather, but I was actually more worried about my older son, Andrew. When my wife took the boys costume shopping, she’d had looked for an Iron Man costume for Andrew, but none of what the stores had were big enough. Andrew knew what this meant. He was growing up. My wife put together a costume for him through dollar store items. Her biggest accomplishment was using a cereal box and felt to put together a prop that resembled the monster book from the movie, Prisoner of Azkaban. Mo worked similar magic for Christopher, taking a cereal box, plastic cups, and aluminum cans and creating a jet pack for Jango Fett.

Like Christopher, Mo was sick. However, she was ready to answer the door for the kids in the neighborhood, no matter how queasy it made her feel to stand up. With dusk approaching, she helped the boys get ready. I worked in the kitchen. The next day was Fall Festival. We had committed to four chocolate chess pies for the cakewalk. I put the first one in the oven and set the timer. I pre-made the second one and asked Mo to switch the pies out when the second one was ready. “Let’s go, boys!” I said.

We started down the street, going towards the front of the subdivision and opposite the direction of how we went last year. It seemed as if it was a slow night. We thought with it being a Friday, it would be packed. However, many people seemed to have left bowls of candy on their front porch with signs asking, “Take only one, please.” Still, we made the rounds, the boys knocking on every door and me saying “Hi” to neighbors I knew.

This year, like last year, Christopher tired early. However, our house is in the middle of the subdivision, so I dropped him off when we passed it. Andrew and I then headed to the rear of our subdivision for the final rounds of the night. As we headed home, Andrew decided he wanted to hit one more house. He knocked, but the occupants were gone. “One more?” I asked. “Nah, let’s go home,” he said.

As we walked the last few hundred feet to our house, I asked Andrew if he’d had a good time. He commented that he did, but said, “Daddy, next year, I’ll take Christopher out, like the other big brothers do.”

When we got home, I went back to pie making. Andrew took a shower, while Mo and I discussed the lack of visitors that evening. It was a nice night, so we figured the following:

1) People were voting and didn’t get home soon enough.
2) People were watching high school football (which explains why a number of cities in Alabama held trick-or-treat on Thursday).
3) People were at church, celebrating the day in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany.

Whatever the reason, I got two more pies ready and called it a night.

Auburn vs. Tennessee-Martin Wrap-Up

I’m glad I only listened to yesterday’s game on radio. When UT-Martin tied it as 20-all in the third quarter, I would have been hurling epithets in public. If watching on TV, I would have been hurling my coffee at the screen. As it was, I just wanted to hurl. Auburn was struggling to stop a Division II school and was looking more pathetic by the minute. However, that early third quarter TD by UT-M was the last score, as Auburn won 37-20 and gave up at the end to avoid scoring more.

So, is there anything to take from this week’s game?

1) We won, something we haven’t done since September, and evened our record at 5-5.

2) John Vaughn seems to have regained some of his abilities. Vaughn nailed two 40+ field goals in the second quarter, something we haven’t seen much of this year. Had Vaughn maintained this ability throughout the season, we would have probably beaten both Arkansas and Vandy and still had an outside shot at the SEC West crown (though our shot would have depended on Sly Croom making it three in a row).

3) Most of the players were second and third string, as the coaches chose to sit down a number of first-string players, particularly on defense. Auburn’s current defense resembles the Braves pitching staff, a banged-up M*A*S*H unit trying to cobble together innings (quarters). The good news is that these players will be back next week for Georgia. We’ll need them.

4) Kodi continues to improve.

5) I’m open to suggestions on this one.

We have two more games left in the regular season. We won’t be favored in either of them. However, I’m hopeful that we will come away with a win: one, at least, if not two. And, if Alabama fans try to elicit any grief, calmly remind them that in Tuberville’s second year, Auburn made it to the SEC Championship game, only to get blown out by Florida. The same fate awaits them.

War Eagle!!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Auburn vs. Tennessee-Martin Preview

Auburn plays a ranked team this weekend…for homecoming.

Normally, you don’t like to schedule ranked teams for homecoming. During the famous ’83 season when Auburn went 11-1, defeating eight Top 25 teams in 12 games (and losing to one, Texas, early in the season), Auburn played then #6 Maryland for homecoming. They had to sandwich between a home game against Florida and an away game at Georgia, two other Top 10 teams. Auburn may be the only team to face three Top Ten teams in three straight weeks and win all three games.

But back to focusing on our upcoming game…

Tennessee-Martin, out of the Ohio Valley Conference, is the #20 FCS team in the nation. For those of you unfamiliar with FCS, that’s what we used to call Division I-AA. UTM is 5-1 this season and 7-2 overall. The Skyhawks lost their opener 56-7 to South Florida and then lost their homecoming to division rival Tennessee State in overtime. Tennessee State apparently got mad for being scheduled as the homecoming opponent.

But back to focusing on our upcoming game…

Auburn, with losses in four straight games and five of their last six, rolled Toomer’s Corner on election night. It had been so long since the last time, the toilet paper left from the Tennessee game had already disintegrated. If Auburn wins this weekend, will we roll Toomer’s because of a victory over a Division I-AA school? It would hearken back to Tuberville’s first game, when Auburn needed a 4th quarter TD to beat an Appalachian State team that was nowhere near then what it is now.

But back to focusing on our upcoming game…

After the Ole Miss loss, Tuberville called out the offensive line for its ineffectiveness. In the spread, it seems the o-line didn’t understand the blocking schemes. Now, it seems like they’ve forgotten how to block…period.

But back to focusing on our upcoming game…

Auburn’s defense is riddled with injuries. We’re starting true freshman on the defensive side of the ball and some of our top players are done, possibly for the year. Do we have the horses to hold up against any team, let alone any of our November opponents.

But back to focusing on our upcoming game…

This season has been such a bust, that even in this economy, it might be worth it for Bobby Lowder to sell a lot of his Colonial Bank stock and buy out Tuberville’s contract, taking the lower capital gains rate of 2008 vs. the higher expected capital gains rate of 2009, if he has capital gains at all. (Granted, this fact could have been part of the reason for rolling Toomer’s after the election.

But back to focusing on our upcoming game…

And this is a problem. As I’ve tried to show in this post, there are many distractions surrounding the program. And it takes us away from what we need to do: concentrate on playing football.

Let’s play!

War Eagle!!!!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Auburn vs. Ole Miss: Post-Mortem

We lost this game at the close of the first half. Down 3-0, we allowed a late TD to Ole Miss to let them go up 10-0. Like Vandy and West Virginia, we allowed Ole Miss to have momentum going into halftime. But that was only part of the issue. With decent field position, three time-outs, and over a minute to go, we choose to run out the clock. Instead of trying to finish on a high note, we choose to run out the clock. Instead of attempting to get some points on the board, we choose to run out the clock.

And we hung our heads into the locker room. I still had hope that we would win, but I had to wonder. To win, an offense would have to score and score big. Our offense hadn’t scored in the second half of a game since LSU. (We actually scored in the Arkansas game, but that was a safety.)

We opened the second half with a touchdown. I had to admit I was surprised. The QB who can’t pass that well finally started hitting receivers. It ended with a 27-yard TD run by Ben Tate and Auburn trailing 10-7. An offense that had been lackluster in second halves for over a month began moving the football. Three times Auburn threatened again in the second half, only to have Burns commit young mistakes that led to interceptions. Frustration showed after the second interception, when Auburn was flagged for three facemask penalties on a drive that allowed Ole Miss to score again and make it 17-7.

The overturned fumble at the end hurt, but Auburn shouldn’t have been in that position. On the slow-mo replay, it looked as if the ball was coming out when the Ole Miss player’s knee touched the ground. It was a close play, but the refs overturned it and gave the ball back to Ole Miss, dashing any lingering hopes our beloved Tigers had. However, Ole Miss played better overall and we have to congratulate them and Houston Nutt.

Is there anything positive to take away from this game?

=> Kodi was able to move the offense. We picked up around 300 yards in the second half, eclipsing some of our game totals.
=> We do have a young defense that is playing gamely while gimpy. They return next year (if none of the juniors goes pro). Also, with injuries, our back-ups are getting large amounts of playing time.
=> Our offense is young, too, and will have a chance to improve.

Though the immediate outcome is bleak, the future is still bright.

War Eagle anyway!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

What to Play For

Tommy Hicks of the Mobile Press-Register has a wonderful column on what Auburn should be playing for. A link can be found here.