Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Season Has Begun

The final score was a thrill for at least half the parents watching.

Mill Creek Hawks 40, Brookwood Broncos 14.

My 8-year old son’s football team opened the first of the 8-game season with a victory. And though the score seems lopsided, it was a little scary at first. The Hawks took the opening kickoff and took but a few plays to score. The point after conversion was missed and my son’s team led 6-0. However, the opposing team scored on their first play from scrimmage and then led 7-6 after they made their conversion. Two plays later, the Hawks found the end zone: 13-7. Another two plays later, the Broncos found the end zone 14-13. Mistakes on the kickoff and then on the first play led to the ball changing hands twice before my son’s team found its groove. They led 27-14 at the half and then picked up two more scores in the second half.

I was proud of my son and the way he played. After two practice games where he looked lackluster, I saw him block and tackle other kids in game situations. It’s his first year to play football and he’s getting the hang of it. I know he enjoyed the game. He’s already looking at the schedule, trying to figure out who they play next.

However, I’m also proud of my older son.

My older son, now 13, has started fall baseball. He loves the game and will continue to play as long as he can. I like to go with him to his practices, because I know how much fun he has. However, on Saturday, he had a practice that started before my younger son’s game ended. And, as much as I wanted to go to his practice, I didn’t want to miss my younger son’s first game or leave it early.

But we had an option.

The practice field for baseball is a short walk from where we live. So, we asked him to go by himself. We armed him with a cell phone, a whistle, and a way to get in and out of the house. I knew he’d get to the field fine.

Still, I called the house a few times that morning to make sure. Called to check that he was okay. When I realized that the football game was going to start late, I called him and told him that he would need to walk home. I called to make sure that he arrived at the field. And, when his practice was over and we were still on the way home, I called to let him know that we were headed back. (We arrived close to the same time.)

He had a baseball scrimmage game on Sunday. I was there, keeping the book for his team and cheering loud. The game didn’t go particularly well. But my son drew a walk and scored his team’s only run. I was as proud of him as I was my younger son.

Both my boys are growing up.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Auburn's Biggest Problem: A Lack of Sex Appeal

This summer has seen USC stripped of its 2004 titles. AP took it away a few months ago. The Football Writers Association of America stripped USC last week. And when some Auburn fans hoped that these organizations might award Auburn the National Title, they were disappointed that these organizations have chosen not to make a decision.

Yes, these organizations had a chance to make a call and as the old Steve Martin joke goes, they decided to “punt on first down.” Oklahoma wouldn’t have their loss if they hadn’t played USC. Yes, Auburn was 13-0, but it didn’t have the opportunity. Utah was 13-0 and had a good team. All the arguments for leaving 2004 a blank are out there.

The truth I, though, Auburn was never going to get it.

In 2004, with several teams undefeated, the powers that be chose two of them to play for the title. And Auburn wasn’t in the mix. Cries of an anti-SEC bias rang throughout the South, charges ESPN and others vehemently denied.

There was no anti-SEC bias in 2004. It was a pro-money bias.

You had four universities with undefeated seasons: Utah was out of the discussion due to the conference they played in. That left Auburn, USC, and Oklahoma. Two of these teams had been #1 and #2 the entire season, though Auburn did actually tie Oklahoma for the #2 spot one week in November. In the end, someone was going to be left out. Auburn got cited for its weak non-conference schedule and got left out. That’s garbage. The reason is what I call Auburn’s lack of sex appeal.

Certain universities have an image and that image translates into ratings. It mostly goes with being a perceived “old” power, even if that power has faded. A USC-Oklahoma clash for the title translates into bigger ratings for advertisers then either of those two schools and a match-up with Auburn. And there’s no getting around that. Could Auburn have competed with USC that day? Many of the detractors say that Auburn wouldn’t have had a chance. However, given the SEC’s run of BCS championships, you have to go back a ways to find a year when the SEC lost the title game. One-loss. Two losses. Hasn’t mattered. The SEC walked away with the title.

Money talked. USC and Oklahoma played. Had there been a way to make a profit out of it, I’m sure the AP and the FWAA would have found a way to declare a national champion.

This lack of appeal hurts us on the other side, too. We’ve been good for many years. Unfortunately, this means we’ll never be the trendy conference pick. If a no-power team from a power conference has its lightning year, the analysts jump all over it because it’s fun. I agree. It makes for a heartwarming story. Watching the Auburn-Northwestern game last year, I found myself wondering if it was possible for the analysts to be any more pro-Northwestern. Someone told me later that ESPN used its ESPN-Chicago group to do the game. (That explains it, I thought.)

There are other teams that have this same appeal problem. Michigan State comes to mind. Swap Auburn with Michigan State in 2004 (assuming Michigan State had a 13-0 year that year) and the same thing would have happened.

This “appeal” issue has been around for a while. In 1983, Auburn went 11-1 against what had to be one of the toughest schedules in history, a year in which all non-conference foes were ranked. The homecoming opponent that year, Maryland, was ranked in the Top 10. However, Auburn sat in the #3 slot with Nebraska and Texas #1 and #2 (and Aubunrn having lost to Texas early in the season). When both those teams lost, Auburn hoped to be #3, but discovered that Miami had vaulted them from the #4 spot, having beaten Nebraska in what was for the Hurricanes a home game. Nebraska, with its one loss, dropped to second. Auburn stayed at #3.

An analyst, I think it was Ivan Maisel, once referred to Auburn as the Boston Red Sox of college football in terms of respect. He made this comment prior to the Boston Red Sox winning their first World Series in nearly a century. Since then, the Rd Sox have gained that measure of respect they needed.

So it will have to be for Auburn. It will come down to Auburn not having a year where they are as good as the other teams. It will come down to a year where Auburn proves they are markedly better than the others teams. Only then will they have the right to play for the Championship.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Cup of Coffee meets a Child in China

My friend and fellow blogger C.J. Redwine is trying to adopt a little girl from China. Though originally schedule for 2005, this process has now gone on for five years.

Finally, there is an end in sight, but it will cost $8,000. C.J. has asked her friends to help her raise the money. It what she officially titles “Skip a Starbuck’s Day,” C.J. is asking people to forgo one daily visit to their favorite coffee shop and donate the money to help her bring home her daughter. C.J.’s story is below. I hope you will check it out.

From C.J. Redwine…
We had three biological boys in four years and then I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. I had a hysterectomy and while I mourned the fact that I couldn't have any more biological children, I was certain our family wasn't finished. My husband wasn't so sure. :) I'd talked about adopting and I always saw us with a little girl from China. He came up with a ton of reasons why now wasn't the right time to adopt. Then, on Mother's Day of 2005, he leaned over to me in church and said, "We have a daughter in China. We need to start the adoption proceedings to bring her home." I adjusted to this unexpected news (we hadn't discussed adoption for months) in about 15 seconds. :)

The next day, we began researching adoption and we picked out her name: Johanna Faith. Johanna means God's Gracious Gift and Faith is what it is taking to bring her home. We signed up with Chinese Children Adoption International agency based out of Colorado. We completed our stateside paperwork and homestudy within a few months, sent off our dossier to China with the understanding that it would be a 6-8 month wait, and eagerly planned to bring our daughter home. Soon, though, we began to hear rumors that the wait time was extending. Then we heard that the government had cracked down on orphanages who were receiving money from the state but who weren't keeping all of their beds full and the wait slowed to a crawl. Our dreams of having her home for Christmas were dashed. And then our dreams for having her home in time for summer were dashed as well. Before we knew it, another Christmas had passed and we were still waiting. Meanwhile, the Olympics were coming to Beijing, and the word was most adoption processes would stop altogether because China didn't want unfavorable international attention on their orphanages.

As the wait stretched from 8 months to three years, I struggled with depression. I could hardly bear Christmas, because she wasn't yet there. I shut the door of her bedroom and left it closed because I couldn't bear to walk past it in the hall. It hurt to think about having a child out there whom I couldn't protect. Couldn't love. Couldn't save. Three years became four with no real change. Our homestudy expired. Our immigration petition expired. Three times. Our fingerprints expired. Four times. And China raised the orphanage and court fees by thousands while we waited. Suddenly, the cushion of money we'd fundraised at the start of this process was almost gone and China was picking up speed in their child match program.

In September, it will be five years since we officially started our adoption process to bring Johanna home. We expect to receive her picture, information, and permission to travel sometime by the middle of September.

I opened her bedroom door for the first time in 3 1/2 years.

And we need to raise 8k to cover travel and the cash required to pay the orphanage for Johanna's freedom.

Please click on the picture below to be taken to C.J.’s website. Some wonderful prizes have been donated. The overall post is educational. The feeling is better than an espresso shot.



A Cup of Coffee Meets a Child In China

My friend and fellow blogger C.J. Redwine is trying to adopt a little girl from China. Though originally schedule for 2005, this process has now gone on for five years.

Finally, there is an end in sight, but it will cost $8,000. C.J. has asked her friends to help her raise the money. It what she officially titles “Skip a Starbuck’s Day,” C.J. is asking people to forgo one daily visit to their favorite coffee shop and donate the money to help her bring home her daughter. C.J.’s story is below. I hope you will check it out.

From C.J. Redwine…
We had three biological boys in four years and then I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. I had a hysterectomy and while I mourned the fact that I couldn't have any more biological children, I was certain our family wasn't finished. My husband wasn't so sure. :) I'd talked about adopting and I always saw us with a little girl from China. He came up with a ton of reasons why now wasn't the right time to adopt. Then, on Mother's Day of 2005, he leaned over to me in church and said, "We have a daughter in China. We need to start the adoption proceedings to bring her home." I adjusted to this unexpected news (we hadn't discussed adoption for months) in about 15 seconds. :)

The next day, we began researching adoption and we picked out her name: Johanna Faith. Johanna means God's Gracious Gift and Faith is what it is taking to bring her home. We signed up with Chinese Children Adoption International agency based out of Colorado. We completed our stateside paperwork and homestudy within a few months, sent off our dossier to China with the understanding that it would be a 6-8 month wait, and eagerly planned to bring our daughter home. Soon, though, we began to hear rumors that the wait time was extending. Then we heard that the government had cracked down on orphanages who were receiving money from the state but who weren't keeping all of their beds full and the wait slowed to a crawl. Our dreams of having her home for Christmas were dashed. And then our dreams for having her home in time for summer were dashed as well. Before we knew it, another Christmas had passed and we were still waiting. Meanwhile, the Olympics were coming to Beijing, and the word was most adoption processes would stop altogether because China didn't want unfavorable international attention on their orphanages.

As the wait stretched from 8 months to three years, I struggled with depression. I could hardly bear Christmas, because she wasn't yet there. I shut the door of her bedroom and left it closed because I couldn't bear to walk past it in the hall. It hurt to think about having a child out there whom I couldn't protect. Couldn't love. Couldn't save. Three years became four with no real change. Our homestudy expired. Our immigration petition expired. Three times. Our fingerprints expired. Four times. And China raised the orphanage and court fees by thousands while we waited. Suddenly, the cushion of money we'd fundraised at the start of this process was almost gone and China was picking up speed in their child match program.

In September, it will be five years since we officially started our adoption process to bring Johanna home. We expect to receive her picture, information, and permission to travel sometime by the middle of September.

I opened her bedroom door for the first time in 3 1/2 years.

And we need to raise 8k to cover travel and the cash required to pay the orphanage for Johanna's freedom.


Please click on the picture below to be taken to C.J.’s website. Some wonderful prizes have been donated. The overall post is educational. The feeling is fantastic.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Titanic Struggle

My eight-year old son has become fascinated recently with the story of The Titanic. He brought home a book from the library and has been reading up on it. He knows that we have the movie so he asked to watch it.

At first, I said no.

While I applaud my son’s attempt to learn history and I’m willing to help as best I can, I didn’t want him watching the Titanic movie. And it had absolutely nothing to do with him seeing Kate Winslet nude, though that can be skipped over.

It had to do with the children.

The one indelible image I carry from that movie is the kids. Mothers putting their children to bed, knowing that the boat is sinking. A lifeboat returning to pick up survivors and the boat's passengers finding the dead floating in the ocean, including parents holding their children. It’s in those scenes that the director, James Cameron, captures the futility and the heartbreak. The movie was on TV recently. My wife and I watched the first half of it. We didn’t watch the second half.

Eventually, I gave in to my son’s request. He was reading about it. He wanted to learn more. He was asking questions about the iceberg and how it could have happened. (And, of course, there’s the old standby of “My classmates’ parents let them watch it.”)

The movie is long and it took about three sessions to actually get through it as our viewing impinged upon bedtimes and other scheduled activities. This served to break up the tension, had he watched it all the way through. As I expected, he asked a lot of questions. Some were easy.

“Dad, why does everything look so old?”
“Dad, why do icebergs float?”
“Dad, what happened to the girl’s mom?” (Actually, this question was a little difficult, as it was hard to explain to him that some of the characters in the movie, such as Benjamin Guggenheim and Molly Brown, were real people while the main characters were made up.)

But then the others proved a bigger challenge.

“Dad, how could they hit an iceberg?”
“Dad, in my book, there are other ships close. Why can’t they get there in time?”
“Dad, why don’t they have enough lifeboats?”
“Dad, why aren’t the lifeboats going back to get people?”

Even as an adult, it’s hard for me to understand the level of hubris combined with fear that led to the death of so many. The question that follows any attempt to understand a disaster like this is also followed with asking what you do about it.

My favorite Titanic-related story actually deals with Guglielmo Marconi, the Italian who invented wireless radio. In those days, radios broadcast on all frequencies, crowding out other senders and receivers. Marconi was so moved by the tragedy, he supposedly spent the rest of his life refining his technology in the hopes that nothing like it would ever happen again.

For now, all I can explain to my son is that sometimes bad things happen to people through no fault of their own.

For those of you with elementary school age children, would you let them watch Titanic?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Week 12: Auburn at Alabama

November 26, 2010
Note to Reader: This is a pre-season prediction made in early 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.

Last year’s loss went down to the wire. This year’s game will likely do the same. (Expect to hear Alabama whine about how Auburn had two weeks off while they had a tough contest against somebody. Granted, they've been whining already.) If Auburn can win the game, they'll go the SEC Championship game. I hope they do. However, I think Cameron Newton will come up short in a final drive.

Score Prediction: Alabama: 24, Auburn: 20.Record Prediction: 10-2

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Week 11: Auburn vs. Georgia

November 13, 2010
Note to Reader: This is a pre-season prediction made in early 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.

Auburn has lost five straight to Georgia. We’ve been beaten, beaten ourselves, and just not had the ball fall our way. Today, that bad luck ends.

Score Prediction: Auburn: 29, Georgia: 21.
Record Prediction: 9-2

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Week 10: Auburn vs. Chattanooga

November 6, 2010
Note to Reader: This is a pre-season prediction made in early 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.

Chattanooga comes to town. Auburn will be thinking about next week’s game against Georgia. The distraction won’t be enough for the Moccassins.

Score Prediction: Auburn: 41, Chattanooga: 13.
Record Prediction: 9-1

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Old and New

It was a busy weekend at our house.

My younger son had his first football game this weekend, a scrimmage game against another group of eight-year olds from a different city league. The teams shared the playing field with another couple of teams also having a scrimmage, so each team would start at the 35 –yard line and continue until they made a TD. Penalties were called (always against the offense, regardless of team), but no yardage was ever marked off. Downs were tracked, but there were no chains to move. My son’s team dominated the first half. The other team did better in the second. Somebody asked me the score when it was all over. I guesstimated it at 22-16 in favor of my son’s team. At the pro and collegiate level, there would have been a post game discussion on how well the players did. Here, the post game featured mothers from each side swapping last minute suggestions about good prices and locations on hard-to-find school supplies.

Sunday, my older son was up for the beginning of his sporting fall with baseball tryouts. He moved up to the Pony League this season, requiring a bigger bat. Unfortunately, the “Big Barrel” bats required for the league are in short supply in the fall, making what is a $40-$50 spring purchase into a $170-$200 fall purchase minimum. Thankfully, there’s Play It Again Sports nearby. We found a bat that was used in name only and counted our blessings. The bat was heavier than the ones he used previously and will prove to be a good intermediate bat to use until he goes to high school. Still, it was heavy for him now. However, he choked up on it and had probably his best tryout ever.

So what does this have to do with Old and New.

On Sunday afternoon, we began cleaning the basement. It was a long overdue mission. There’s a lot of junk down there that needs to be tossed, things like memorabilia that might have been important 20 years ago but not so much now. But how do you decide what to throw away. We developed a rule of thumb. If it’s hard to explain now, it will be worse in the future. Toss it.

But among the items we found were pictures of me and the sports team I played on when I was my sons’ ages. I had baseball, football, and basketball shots. By age 13, the age of my older son, I’d already given up baseball. However, at age 8, I was definitely playing football. My kids thought the pictures were funny. I did, too.

Sometimes, when my kids are grown up and out on their own, hopefully it will be important to them to save their team picture moments. And maybe, when the time comes and they’re in their houses cleaning out their basements, they can laugh with their kids, too.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Delayed

Due to circumstances beyond by control, my post is postponed for a day. See you on Wednesday.

Week 9: Auburn at Ole Miss

October 30, 2010
Note to Reader: This is a pre-season prediction made in early 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.

Auburn turned its season around last year with an upset at Ole Miss. The trip to Oxford will be long, hard and difficult. Auburn will pull it off, but not until the end.

Score Prediction: Auburn: 28, Ole Miss: 24.
Record Prediction: 8-1

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Week 8: Auburn vs. LSU

October 23, 2010
Note to Reader: This is a pre-season prediction made in early 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.

I hate LSU. I hate their friggin’ luck. I hate the hat. I won’t hate this game. For the second week in a row, a streak ends.

Score Prediction: Auburn: 23, LSU: 21.
Record Prediction: 7-1

Friday, August 6, 2010

Week 7: Auburn vs. Arkansas

October 16, 2010
Note to Reader: This is a pre-season prediction made in early 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.

Auburn plays host to Arkansas. The Tigers didn’t show up for last year’s game after blowing it the year before. Auburn will finally end the embarrassment that this streak to Arkansas represents. Ryan Mallette will have a good day. Cameron Newton will have a better one.

Score Prediction: Auburn: 38, Arkansas: 34.
Record Prediction: 6-1

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Week 6: Auburn at Kentucky

Week 6: October 9, 2010
Note to Reader: This is a pre-season prediction made in early 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.

Auburn is mad…again. They haven’t forgotten the embarrassing loss at home last year. Lexington will add orange to its blue.

Score Prediction: Auburn: 28, Kentucky: 10.
Record Prediction: 5-1

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

War Games

“You shot me,” I said.

“No, I didn’t, Daddy. You shot yourself.”

Now while the above may sound like a bad family western, it’s a conversation that takes place a lot in our house. My younger son and I are now teaming up on Wii to take out the bad guys. We have two favorite games: Tank Battle and Blazing Angels.

Tank Battle is my favorite of the two. In the game, you play seek-and-destroy with successively harder to kill enemy tanks. The game ends when both players are destroyed on a single mission. The winner is the person who destroys the most tanks.

My younger son is better than I am at this game and I’ve only bested him a couple of times. The problem, though, is that he really likes to win. And, while he supposedly doesn’t mind working as a team, occasionally he thinks he will do better on his own and is convinced that I’m in the way.

“Dad, stay hidden. I’ll take care of these guys,” is one such suggestion.

“Dad, come out and draw their fire so I can shoot them from behind.”

Sometimes, if the game starts in the same area, he takes me out to leave the board for himself. Whatever happens, the result is the same. He amasses points. I get blown to smithereens.

Admittedly, I have done damage to myself. The shots have long rebound after hitting one on the walls on the game. I just don’t move fast enough. I’ve also been known to swing my turret the wrong way, catch a wall square, and blow myself to bits quickly.

However, there are those times when he gets shot early and he had to sit back and fret that we might not make the next round. He’s tried to remedy this.

“Let me have the controls, Dad. I’ll get us out of here.”

“No, you have to depend on me to get to the next level.”

“Oh my God. We’re doomed”

The tank battle game, which has sort of a simplified look, is tame compared to his favorite game: Blazing Angels. In Blazing Angels, players are WWII fighter pilots. You get to choose numerous battle sights, planes, and time periods during the war. I do wonder a little about the game’s accuracy. (I don’t remember there being any Gloster Meteors in the Pacific theater, but watching Midway 30+ times doesn’t make you an expert.). However, I can’t deny its challenge.

In this game, you go into battle, getting attacked from all positions. You do have some radar to tell you where the enemy is, but there zooming by you fast and it’s hard to get a good read, much less a good shot. Sometimes, you’re only warning, is a radio signal from another “pilot” telling you that “you’ve got someone on your tail,” “check your six,” or “if you’d stop flying straight, they might not shoot at you.”

I’m worse at this game than I am at tank battle. I’m lucky when I shoot down the enemy or actually get a bomb to hit right.

However, thankfully, he doesn’t feel the need to shoot me in this one.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Week: Auburn vs. Louisiana-Monroe

Week 5: October 2, 2010
Note to Reader: This is a pre-season prediction made in early 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.

Auburn is mad. They take it out on ULM.

Score Prediction: Auburn: 45, ULM: 13.
Record Prediction: 4-1