Saturday, July 31, 2010

Week 4: Auburn vs. South Carolina

Week 4: September 25, 2010
Note to Reader: This is a pre-season prediction made in late July. If you found this information the week of the game, please note that my actual game preview will be posted on Wednesday with the postgame on Sunday. Please click on the Blog Archive 2010 heading to be taken to the weekly preview or postgame.

If Auburn has a trap game, this is it. South Carolina comes to town and is always tough in September. I expect Auburn to stub its toe sometime during the year. This is it as The Palmetto state exacts revenge.

Score Prediction: South Carolina: 24, Auburn: 20.
Record Prediction: 3-1

Friday, July 30, 2010

Week 3: Auburn vs. Clemson

Week 3: September 18, 2010
Note to Reader: This is a pre-season prediction made in late July. If you found this information the week of the game, please note that my actual game preview will be posted on Wednesday with the postgame on Sunday. Please click on the Blog Archive 2010 heading to be taken to the weekly preview or postgame.

With nine days to rest and a home game besides, I expect Auburn will be rested and the stadium to be rocking. (Since the game will be broadcast in 3-D, it will be interesting for the fans as well.) However, Clemson won’t be intimidated. Several of the Clemson players visited the Plains during the NCAA baseball tourney, winning the Auburn regional. This time, these players won’t go away as happy. Clemson will score 17 points, exceeding by a little what their baseball team did. It won’t be enough.

Score Prediction: Auburn: 34, Clemson: 17.
Record Prediction: 3-0

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Noodles

Sometimes we sleep in on Sunday mornings and opt to go an early afternoon church service. This past Sunday was one of those times. When we do this, we make sure to eat lunch before we go. My wife usually makes a decent lunch for us. Else, I drop hot dogs in boiling water. One way or another, we get it done.

However, as my older son is now a teenager, my wife and I have pushed him a little bit to learn a few things and become self-sufficient in the kitchen. It’s not like he can’t fend for himself. Like any kid, he can make cereal or peanut butter sandwiches. I also taught him how to make cinnamon toast in the toaster oven. Still, there’s one challenge we hadn’t let him try yet.

We’d yet to let him use the stove.

About a month ago, though, I pulled a bag of yakisoba noodles and a can of green beans from the pantry and we started with the most basic of all things.

1. Boil water.
2. Dump in noodles.
3. Stir and wait a few minutes.
4. Drain pan.

And that’s it. Of course, with yakisoba, you also add flavor packets. (And my son likes green beans in his yakisoba, which is why we cooked them on the side.) Still, even with the green beans, it’s a pretty simple dish to make.

Now, I realize that noodles like this aren’t the most healthy of foods and canned green beans don’t add much more. However, given that most college students live on the dried noodles that they can cook in their dorm, I figured that teaching him how to prepare his own noodles will give him a leg up on other students and the impetus to learn more.

And so, on this past Sunday when it was time to make lunch, I handed him the noodles and told him to have at it.

“Can I cook green beans, too?”

I decided against it, as I wasn’t going to be watching him for the first time. Still, knowing he needed veggies, he asked if there was any leftover broccoli in the fridge that he could throw in. He then got to work, paying attention to what he was doing. And, as he sat down to eat, he was happy and I was proud. We will have to work on other items (mac and cheese comes to mind), but I know we’ll expand his repertoire soon.

And, if you think this is crazy, remember the following proverb.

Cook for your child and your child eats a meal.

Teach a child to cook and you don’t have to get off the couch.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Week 2: Auburn at Mississipi State

Week 2: September 9, 2010
Note to Reader: This is a pre-season prediction made in late July August. If you found this information the week of the game, please note that my actual game preview will be posted on Wednesday with the postgame on Sunday. Please click on the Blog Archive 2010 heading to be taken to the weekly preview or postgame.

If you’re going to start your SEC schedule on the road, it’s best to start it with a team that’s supposed to be a lot worse than you are. However, with it being a Thursday night game, emotions and tension will be high. One of the things in Auburn’s favor, though, is that MSU’s opener against Memphis will be tougher for them than Auburn’s opener will be for us. This will be close for a while (like last season), but expect Auburn to get it done.

Score Prediction: Auburn: 31, Mississippi State: 14.
Record Prediction: 2-0

Friday, July 23, 2010

Week 1: Auburn vs. Arkansas State

September 4, 2010
Note to Reader: This is a pre-season prediction made in late July August. If you found this information the week of the game, please note that my actual game preview will be posted on Wednesday with the postgame on Sunday. Please click on the Blog Archive 2010 heading to be taken to the weekly preview or postgame.

With Auburn traveling to Starkville to play Mississippi State in a Thursday night ESPN contest, the team will have part of its mind (as well as part of its game plan) established on the SEC schedule. However, with the team chomping to hit someone other than itself, there will be enough focus on the game at hand to get new QB Cameron Newton’s feet wet in a live game situation and find out whether he can pass or not. It won’t be close and it won’t be pretty.

Score Prediction: Auburn: 38, Arkansas State: 7.
Record Prediction: 1-0

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Are You Ready For Some Football...

In the second year of Gene Chizik’s tenure, we’ve established a trend with positive variance.

I know. What does that mean?

Last year, when I looked as the projections, I discovered we were a near consensus pick for 5th place.

This year, we’re a near consensus pick for 4th.

Most of the prognosticators have Auburn behind some arrangement of Alabama, Arkansas, and LSU. One exception to this is Phil Steele, who bills himself as the most accurate forecaster out there. Steele predicts the Iron Bowl will match two 11-0 teams. However, he still picks Alabama to win it.

Whatever the prediction, we know two things.

1) It’s a lot of fun with little basis in realism.

2) Games are won on the field.

At the very least, Auburn should better it’s 8-5 record. How much it does so depends on defense. Auburn’s defense was pathetic at times last year, having to play soft to conserve energy as our lack of defensive replacements was on display much of the year. It definitely cost us one and possibly cost us three games.

Over the next two weeks, I’ll be giving my game-by-game prediction. Through the season, I’ll be giving previews with wrap-ups after the game is over. My wrap-ups may be a little delayed this season though. My younger son is playing football for the first time this fall. His games will be on Saturday. And though my son’s game times will vary, I may find myself watching games delayed on replay. I’ll put my thoughts (and my score out there) for comments and I’ll hope you’ll drop by to see the picks and then see my game week reviews (and occasional post mortems).

War Eagle!

And let’s play some football.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Metal Castles

We went to Mobile this past weekend to visit my Uncle Steve and his wife, Brenda. When they invited us, we searched our schedule, hoping we would be able to make it over there sometime this summer. The only weekend open was this past one. Thankfully, it worked for them, too. It was a last family excursion before our chance at summer trips were over. School is still three weeks away. However, my younger son’s football practice begins this week (initial evaluations) and that will soon be an everyday thing.

While in Mobile, we visited the U.S.S. Alabama, a battleship moored in Mobile Bay. The submarine, U.S.S. Drum, is set up next to it. There’s also a hangar with a number of planes on display. I had never been on a battleship before, so I was looking forward to seeing this one.

My kids and I first viewed the firing area for the large guns on board. I don’t mean the ones where the gunners themselves can change the elevation with a crank. Instead, these guns stretch several decks, being aimed on one and loaded on another. We also walked around the deck of the ship, trying to imagine what it was like back then.

And then we took the self-guided tour. To go below deck, you have to descend a steep set of stairs. My first thought was for the safety of my kids. What if they fall? Whenever we got on these stairs, I made sure I got under them, particularly my younger son, whose legs are shorter and who tends to be less careful.

Oddly, though, my second thought was of Himeji Castle in Himeji, Japan.

Himeji Castle is a seven-story structure and one of the few original castles remaining in the country. It also has steep stairs with narrow entrances between floors. We visited Himeji Castle on our last trip to Japan. As I ascended the stairs, my wife worried that I would hit my head going up or else fall. Apparently, hitting your head was a concern on the Alabama. As I climbed up the above ground decks, I noted small pillows attached around the openings to the next level. (I found out later that those pillows were likely put there for tourists after the boat was retired.) My kids and I climbed as high as we could, then waved at my wife, who had chosen to remain on the deck.

What I remember most about the ship, though, was what was below the main deck. When at sea, the battleship carried 2,500 people. There were beds everywhere and many of the areas aboard ship could be converted to makeshift sleeping areas (via hammocks). I’d expected to find metalwork and other functions that repairs of necessary shipboard items. However, there were cobblers, barbers, paymasters, a general store, bakers, movie rooms, a laundry (and a place to have your best uniform pressed if there were visitors), films, and many more functions you’d never consider. It was a floating metal castle, a self-contained city.

Himeji Castle, like most castles, was built for defense. However, it was never actually tested. The Alabama though, was built for offense as well. A castle ready to move forward. A castle ready to do battle and to take that battle to the enemy.

And I’m thankful for those served aboard her.

Postscript: The next day, we went to the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola. Pensacola is just over an hour from Mobile. It showcases a complete history of naval air warfare. My kids loved it. (You can touch most of the exhibits and climb inside cockpits.) The admission is free. And it’s worth the look if you’re close.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Nine Holes

For the longest time, my older son, Andrew, has been nine holes short of a golf merit badge. He’d started on the badge late last summer, studying grips, swings, and etiquette. However, he needed to play eighteen holes as one of the requirements. We‘d been to driving ranges and had practiced a lot, but I hadn’t taken him out to complete this final requirement. We’d played nine one morning late last fall. Bad weather and schedules prevented us from making a return trip.

So, one Friday night a few weeks ago, Andrew came up to me and asked if we could play golf the next morning. I promised him we would if the weather was good. I woke up early the next morning and it looked fine. I got the clubs out, expecting Andrew to get up soon. He did.

However, my younger son, Christopher got up first and saw where we were headed.

“Dad, I want to go.”

I hesitated. Andrew is quiet and knows how to behave on a course. However, Christopher has a short attention span and I feared he wouldn't last nine holes. I knew it would tear at me, though, if I left without him. “Come on,” I said. “Just remember, we’re trying to finish Andrew’s badge. You have to behave.”

He promised he would, so we got in the car and headed out of the subdivision. Andrew was excited. Christopher was quiet and even looked sad.

‘What’s wrong, Christopher?”

“Dad,” he said, “you may be missing one of your clubs.”

I scanned through a host of replies, but knew none of them were appropriate. I headed back to house. “OK, go get it.”

Thirty seconds later, he returned with the putter and I made a mental note to check that all my clubs are in the bag in the distant future.

We hit the links and played the first hole. I let Christopher putt for me to get him involved. By the second hole, I felt brave and decided to let him tee off. I stood behind him, figuring that to be the safest place. Then the ball came at me on his backswing.

“OK. My turn.” I teed off and then chipped onto the green. I allowed Christopher to putt for me again. Andrew marked his double bogey and we continued. Two holes completed. Andrew was having fun. Christopher was still engaged.

Then it happened.

“Dad,” Christopher said, “I’m tired. My feet hurt.”
I'd been wondering how long it would take before those words came out. I realized I thought we’d get at least halfway though.

“You gotta be kidding me,” Andrew said in response.

“Shut up, Andrew” Christopher shot back.

People were within earshot. Some of them were trying to hit. “Both of you. Quiet. Now,” I whispered.

I imagined the next seven holes with these two going at each other and wondered if I was going to be able to handle it. Finally, I knelt down and looked Christopher in the eye. “What did I tell you to do before we left?”

Christopher looked sheepish. “Behave.”

“Mm-hmm,” I said, nodding. He promised that he would.

Christopher was true to his word, lasting a few more holes, as I worked with him on his grip and swing. He also got in extra exercise, running back to the greens of previous holes to pick up clubs he’d left. Andrew began having problems and I realized it was his aim. I put clubs on the ground and lined them up toward the green, reminding him of the need to hit straight.

As we hit the ninth hole, I breathed a sigh. I’d had fun but was ready to go home. Andrew hit his best drive of the day on that hole, with the ball flying so well it went into that lake that I thought he wouldn’t reach. We holed out, called it a morning, and headed for home.

And maybe one day we’ll play something more difficult than a Par 3 course.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

And The Oscar Goes To...

The World Cup is almost over and I’ve learned a bit watching it. I now know what it means when they call “offsides” in the sport. I now understand why people say America’s biggest problem is a lack of strikers. (Strikers require breakaway speed. Any American with that much speed is playing wide receiver somewhere. What America has is decent corners, who occasionally get beat.)

However, I now have a new understanding about a certain aspect of football loved all over the U.S. It’s punters and kickers.

In the game of football, place kickers perform their duties in a method that used to be called “soccer style.” I say “used to be” as the method referred to as soccer style is now the norm.

After watching the World Cup, I understand why some soccer players become kickers. It’s not that they weren’t good enough athletes.

The problem is that they weren’t good enough actors.

We’ve seen it before. Punters. Kickers. Sometimes they do get knocked around and “roughing” penalties are justified. There are some that are definitely questionable. (For those of you remember the roughing the kicker penalty in the Auburn-Northwestern game on New Year’s Day, replays showed that the Auburn player did not run into the kicker. Instead, the kicker was in one-leg up follow through and hopped forward two steps, tripping and falling over the Auburn player.)

However, there are times when kickers are barely grazed, yet they hit the ground like they collided with a truck. After watching the World Cup, though, I have to say that at least our kickers in football at least get off the ground when the referee tells them to quit faking it. In soccer, though, it’s considered sportsmanship to put on a drama scene.

For starters, I will admit that Ghana outplayed the U.S. and deserved to win the Round of 16 game. Congratulations to them and on making it to the quarterfinals.

But what I saw in the extra time period soured me on soccer as a sport. I saw a Ghana player, untouched, hit the ground and start moaning in pain. After another Ghana player touched the ball, the refs called time to talk with the player who was on the ground, apparently was in grave pain. A stretcher was brought out and the player was carried off, all the while time continued to run on the clock. Once the stretcher hit the sidelines, the player JUMPED up, grabbed some tape from a Ghana trainer, and wrapped his own ankle, bouncing on his feet. Additional time elapsed, as the player’s sub had to come in. A minute later, the “injured” player returned to the pitch, wasting additional time. And while there is extra time put back on the clock. It never equals the amount of time lost in such performances.

This may be “sportsmanship” to some, but these actions should be viewed as an embarrassment. That such actions are celebrated speaks volumes.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Say Goodbye to the Happy Meal

My 13-year old son is at Boy Scout Camp this week. It’s his first time ever to go to camp. He has been on weekend camping trips with his troop and I’ve joined him on a few of these excursions. However, on his only week away from home without the parents, he was with his grandparents. This hardly qualifies as getting out on his own. He couldn’t go to camp last year, because my wife and kids went to California to visit her parents for a month. He’s been dreaming about Scout camp ever since.

A lot of prep work went into this trip. My wife, admittedly, did most of it. She made sure he was packed and ready. I only realized how well my wife had packed things when I dropped my son off at the meeting place on last Sunday morning. Many of the kids had their sleeping bags on their trunks. My son had his “in” his trunk. This job was also confirmed by one of the older, more experienced scouts. When my son opened his trunk to toss in a troop t-shirt he received that morning, the older scout looked inside and uttered a soft “Wow!” I watched him climb into the SUV of one the Scout leaders and leave. And now that he’s away, I’m dealing with the feelings I have.

One of the things the adult scout leaders prepped the parents on was how to talk to the kids before the trip. The one item they were adamant about: Don’t tell the kids you’re going to miss them. The kids are going to be busy. (My son is taking five merit badge classes while he’s there.) However, there will be some lonely feelings. Letting your son know how much you’re going to miss him will compound his feelings by mid-week. Being away is difficult for the kids anyway. Just tell them how much fun they will have.

I did my best to adhere to this rule. Sometimes it was hard. We talked about the work he would be doing. We talked about him needing to pay attention in his classes as well as the pay attention to his Scout leaders. Another thing we talked about, though, was money. There is a camp store and the kids can get things there. We give the money to the Scoutmasters in one dollar bills. They boys then get $2-$3 each day, if they want it.

The last thing I did was to give him money for lunch on his trip to camp. The plan was to stop for lunch at McDonald’s before they checked in. I gave Andrew $5 for his usual happy meal.

“Dad, I can’t do that. I need to do something else.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I can’t get a happy meal. They come with toys.”
“And?”
“The other kids will laugh at me if I get something with a toy.”

I smiled. He was right. I gave him some extra money and we discussed some other menu options, so he could make a quick decision.

And I’m glad I gave him the extra money.

The troop took a last minute vote and chose Wendy’s. It’s more expensive.