Monthly Archives: November 2013

Going the Distance

How about that Iron Bowl?

For those of you who don’t know – or don’t care – the “Iron Bowl” is the name given to the annual football game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers.  It’s one of the fiercest rivalries in college football, and in recent years it has taken on added meaning because one or both schools have been in the national title conversation.

It’s the last regular season game that each team plays, and it’s always the Saturday after Thanksgiving; as such, I usually end up watching it since I’m too tired and full of turkey to be doing anything else of substance anyway.  Except this year, when my friend hosted a dinner and invited us all over to eat at his house where he doesn’t have cable.

So this year, I missed it, and of course it ends up having possibly the craziest ending of any game I’ve ever (not) seen.  After Auburn tied the game in the final minute, Alabama attempted a 934-yard field goal (distance approximate) to try to win the game in regulation.  The kick came up a yard short, sending the game to overtime.

Oh, wait, no, I’m sorry.  Auburn’s Chris Davis caught the missed kick and promptly returned it 109 yards into history for the game-winning touchdown.  The win put Auburn into the SEC Championship and gave the Tigers a chance at playing for the BCS Championship; possibly even more importantly to Auburn fans, it almost certainly ended Alabama’s quest to win a third straight BCS title.

It was a fantastic run by Davis, who had the wherewithal to stay inbounds the whole way, but it was also a great setup by Auburn’s special teams unit.  It seemed like it never occurred to Alabama that the kick might get returned, but Auburn was prepared.  And when it happened, the Tigers escorted Davis to paydirt with a series of blocks that allowed him to run the whole 109 yards essentially – if not completely – untouched.

What an incredible finish to a great game in a fantastic rivalry.  Too bad I didn’t get to see it.

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You’re So Cold

Yesterday was the Third Annual Thanksgiving Golf Classic.  My title defense did not go well.

For starters, it was cold.  So cold.  So, so very cold.  I am one of those golfers who takes his glove off to putt, and have also recently toyed around with the idea of wearing two gloves to improve my grip (or at the very least fool myself into being more confident with my grip).  Well, yesterday I had on a pair of those thin gloves you can wear while still using a touchscreen, as well as a pair of golf gloves, and left them on all day.

I was also wearing two pairs of pants (khakis on top, because this is a classy event), a long-sleeved shirt under another long-sleeved shirt, a windbreaker, a cap, and one of those ear-covering thingies that goes over a cap.  Suffice to say, I came prepared.

And it showed, as I hung around in contention while the other guys complained about the cold.  Conditions were obviously tough, and while the wind wasn’t too much of a factor, the greens were like glass tables.  You could just give the ball a tap and watch it roll clear across the green.  Of course, I still managed to leave a few putts short, which blew my mind, but I blamed my lack of touch on the fact that I was wearing four more gloves than usual.

Battling through all of that, I managed to hit a good number of fairways, and my charge really began when I made par on our ninth hole (we started on hole 16) to get to within three points of the lead.

Unfortunately, that’s where it ended.  Over the last nine holes, our new champion, Jose, turned that three-point lead into an 18-point victory.  He actually clinched the trophy with two holes to go, but then tacked onto the lead just for kicks.

We were playing a different course than usual, which made things a little different, but also fun.  However, more than any course, trophy, or good/bad performance, the key to the day was and will always be the people we played with.  It’s a good group, and having created a silly little tradition that means way more to us than it should is the best part about it.  The fact that we’ve actually kept up with it, even if it’s only been three years, is also impressive.

For the record, I was third, avoiding a last-place finish by a single point.  While not the result I was looking for, I guess it’s the result I deserved.

Until next year, when I get my hands back on that trophy.  Or not.  So long as I get to spend part of my holiday with the same three idiots I always do.

Turkey for Me, Turkey for You

Happy Thanksgiving!  Now let me get serious for a moment.

I’m not naïve.  I’m not one of those people who will campaign against or be offended by corporate greed.  I believe in capitalism and the free market, so I get it.  But things have gone overboard, so hear me out.

I know a lot of stores are offering great deals tonight, and I know a lot of people wrap up Thanksgiving dinner and then pile into the car to go shopping.  If you’re one of those people, and you happen to read this today, please at least consider staying home tonight.

See, if people swamp the stores tonight, it emboldens the companies to go even further next year.  Stores that are open at 8:00 tonight may open at 6:00 next year, and 5:00 the year after that.  Pretty soon, Thanksgiving will be just another day, where the local department store opens bright and early at 7:00 in the morning so people can shop while the turkey is cooking or the kids are at the parade with their grandparents.

Thanksgiving is supposed to be a holiday to spend with your family and friends.  Leave the shopping until tomorrow, or this weekend, or any day over the next four entire weeks before Christmas.

Way too many people have to go to work tonight.  Stay home, so that maybe next year they can, too.

You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet

The high temperature tomorrow is barely supposed to crack the freezing mark.  The wind will be blustery.  It will be sunny, but all told, it’s a good thing it’s Thanksgiving morning, because nobody has to go anywhere until later in the day.

Which is why I’ll be up at 7:30 to check in with the golf course to make sure it’s still open.

That’s right, tomorrow is the third annual Thanksgiving Golf Classic.  And lest you think this is just for fun and isn’t serious business, we even have a trophy.

A couple years back, one of my buddies (we’ll call him Chuck – all names will be changed to protect the hideous golfers being mentioned) commented in mid-September that it looked like his golf season was over.  He works every day, and usually gets out around 2:30 or 3:00 on the weekend, so during the summer we have plenty of time to make it to the local golf course and get in 18 holes before it’s too dark.  But by the end of summer, the days are just a little bit too short for him to get home and make it to the course in time to finish the round.

Anyway, since he didn’t have any days off, he said “unless we play on Thanksgiving, when the store is closed, I guess I’m done for the year.”  About two-tenths of a second later I replied, “so let’s play on Thanksgiving then!”

I pitched the idea to a couple of our usual playing partners; the response was immediate.  And thus, the TGC was born.

We use a modified Stableford scoring system, and it is modified in a way that really exemplifies just how bad we are.  In a Stableford system, birdies and eagles earn positive points while bogeys and worse earn negative points.  We usually play with double bogeys or worse being -3; this year, triple bogeys or worse get you a big honking -5 on the card.  We made this change to reduce the chance of a tie, which has been an issue in the first two TGCs.

In 2011, “Donny” led for most of the day, but I made a late charge.  On the par-3 17th, I missed a par putt that would have tied the score.  This was critical because our agreed-upon tiebreaker was that whoever had the best Stableford score on the 18th hole would win; if that was a tie, then we’d work back in reverse until we had a winner.  Essentially, whoever caught the leader would get the win.

On 18, Donny had made his double or triple bogey or whatever, and I had a bogey putt that would have closed the two-point gap, tied the score, and given me the trophy.  I missed it, and Donny was the champion.

I was crestfallen, but resolved to win it the next year.  And I did just that…kind of.

See, we found ourselves on the same course and in the same predicament; Donney led by two points after 16 holes.  This time, however, I made the bogey putt on 18, he went high, and I took home the trophy on a tiebreaker.

In sum: I am the defending Thanksgiving Golf Classic champion, even though I didn’t actually win, per se.

Tomorrow’s event is at a different course, albeit one that I’ve played.  Donny beat me that day by making par on 18 while I shot closer to 12 than four.  I guess it was my turn to blow a lead to him, huh?

Obviously, I will be disappointed if I don’t win, but with a tougher course, in what are sure to be difficult, uncomfortable conditions, I really don’t know what to expect.  Anyone can win, and that’s part of the beauty of the thing.

A week and a half ago, when I went out for my “return” round, it was chilly.  I wore shorts, as I almost always do when playing golf, but I had longsleeves and a jacket.  I still felt the chill, especially when the breeze was blowing, but I was too happy to be out on the course for it to matter.  Donny, on the other hand, had on golf pants and a “performance” fleece or whatever, but afterwards noted that while the weather was nice, it was just a little too cold for him.

Oh, man.  You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, kid.

Seein’ Red

As anyone who watched Monday Night Football last night could see, the Washington Redskins are a garbage football team.  Some are surprised at just how garbage they are, considering they made the playoffs last season and are quarterbacked by the electric Robert Griffin III, but the truth is that “RGIII” led the team on a seven-game winning streak to close out the regular season against something less than a tough schedule before tearing his ACL in the playoffs.

Maybe they weren’t as good as anyone thought.  Maybe RGIII isn’t as good as everyone thought.  Or maybe he’s still recovering from his injury; many who have suffered ACL tears don’t feel “back to normal” for a full year after surgery.  Griffin missed zero official games (he sat out the preseason).

So maybe the Redskins are garbage because their quarterback isn’t at a hundred percent, or maybe they were just always garbage.  Either way, Griffin and his head coach, Mike Shanahan, have been under fire.

The franchise itself is under fire for a different reason: its name.  If you follow sports at all, you’ve heard the controversy over whether or not a name that also serves as a derogatory term for Native Americans has any place in sports.  You’ve heard the arguments against changing the name: there’s a long franchise tradition, and people aren’t offended by it, so why change it?  You’ve also heard the arguments in favor of a change: people are offended, and what other racial slur would make for an acceptable team name?

I haven’t really picked a side in this debate because it’s really not my place.  I see why it’s an offensive nickname to many, and I also understand that many, even in the Native American community, aren’t offended by it.  I know it’s been the team’s name for a long, long time, and the current era of “political correctness,” as my father would call it, kind of makes me roll my eyes.  I also know that just because things have been a certain way for a while doesn’t mean they are right or immune to change.

But last night, I think I made up my mind.  The team honored a few Navajo Code Talkers on the field at halftime.  This was a nice gesture for an NFL team; these men are heroes who risked their lives to fight for our country (if you don’t know their story, read up on it; in essence, they used a code based on their native Navajo language to transmit messages during World War II that was indecipherable to anyone who didn’t speak Navajo, which was like 99.999% of the world’s population at that time).

And for 31 of the league’s franchises, it would be simply that.  But for this team, in this climate, to do it just seemed disingenuous.  It just reeked of “hey, look at us, we love Native Americans!”  Maybe it’s the cynic in me, but it was either a blatant middle finger to everyone promoting a name change, or at best, a sign of an organization completely oblivious to anything going on around it; either way, it rubbed me the wrong way.

I don’t feel very strongly about it, but maybe changing the name of the team is just an idea whose time has come.  Things are different now than they were in 1933, and while the ubiquity of political correctness is often something that bugs me, maybe this time it’s just the right thing to do.

Addicted to Spuds

With the holiday season suddenly upon us, it’s the time of year for big meals with lots and lots of people.  First up is Thanksgiving in just a few days.  Since I’m now all kitcheny and stuff, I figured I would try to contribute.

Last week I made a coconut custard pie and a pumpkin cheesecake.  The former was pretty good; I need to figure out a way to make it set a little more, but it was certainly good as first cracks go.  As for the latter…well, when I pulled it out of the oven, it smelled like both pumpkin and cheesecake, but it didn’t taste like either.  Oh well.

Today I tried to make potatoes au gratin.  I figured potatoes are a staple of Thanksgiving, and everyone at our family dinner likes cheese, so maybe it would be worth making for the holiday.

Well, the preparation involves baking it for an hour and a half, and with turkey in the oven, that is not likely to happen.  However, a friend is hosting “Friendsgiving” on Saturday, and his list of stuff that people offered to bring included a sweet potato dish but no regular potatoes, so I might go for it.

Then again, these aren’t regular potatoes either, so we’ll see.

They turned out just fine.  I didn’t boil the potatoes in advance; I merely sliced them and laid them in the pan before pouring in a cheese sauce that is not all that dissimilar to the one I make for the macaroni and cheese and then baking them.  The recipe calls for slices of onion in between the layers of potatoes, but I used minced onion (for scent and flavor) and some bacon bits (for bacon) and I think it worked.

In the end, I think I’m going to make the coconut custard pie, and possibly potatoes of some sort if my aunt has too much to do for Thursday.  If not, I’ll definitely do something Saturday.

Sometimes, in the season of giving, it’s not just the gifts you buy, but the ones you make.  And then shovel down your gullet.

I’m Blue

I woke up early this morning – look, if I have a day off, 8:30 is early – to watch a soccer match.  With NBC’s new Premier League coverage, this is becoming a more common occurrence.  I find that I end up watching at least some of at least one match every weekend.

Of course, this is happening more often because my favorite club, Manchester City, is good, which means they get on television more often.  And when City is on, I do my best to watch.

Today was a big match, as the Blues were hosting Tottenham Hotspur, another nouveau riche club like City, except not as “nouveau” and nowhere near as “riche.”  Since the Premier League began in the early 1990s, there was the “Big Four” – Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Liverpool – and then everyone else.  Spurs has been in that next tier, and occasionally cracks the top four.  City, on the other hand, has risen over the last decade after infusions of cash, making them among the richest clubs in the world.  As I wrote about before, City reached the apex of English football in dramatic fashion, winning the 2011-12 title in stoppage time on the final day of the season.

Anyway, I woke up at 8:30, prepared for a close game.  City was undefeated at home, thrashing opponents to the tune of 20 goals scored to just two conceded.  The club’s away form, however, leaves something to be desired.  Actually, two somethings: goals and points.  MCFC has suffered four defeats on the road, with just one win and one draw; eight goals for and 10 against will do that.

As I unsuccessfully fought off some yawns, I flicked through the channels to settle in for the next couple hours.  I reached NBC Sports Network in the second minute of the match.

City 1, Spurs 0.  The Blues had scored just 13 seconds into the match on a strike from Jesus Navas.  And if you’re a Spurs fan, that was probably the highlight of your day.

An own goal followed by a smooth finish from Sergio Aguero soon after gave City a 3-0 lead at halftime.  I decided to have some breakfast; if I hadn’t, I would have gone back to sleep.  The match was over.

Instead, I’m glad I stayed up.  Goals on goals on goals for the good guys!  Aguero again, Alvaro Negredo, and then a second from Navas in stoppage time just to rub it in.  Aguero now has 10 goals in 11 Premier League matches; the entirety of Spurs’ roster has nine in 12.

I see a lot of people on Facebook or Twitter or other assorted internet media sources making references to the Premier League, and an inordinate number of them are Arsenal supporters.  After the Gunners, however, Spurs seems to have a strange swell of support.  I don’t get it.  I am, literally, the only person I know who likes Manchester City, but a quick scroll through my Twitter feed will easily find someone who supports Tottenham.

Well, more like NOTtenham, am I right?!  6-0!!  And if the morning couldn’t get any better, later on, Manchester United gave up a goal in stoppage time to draw with Cardiff City.

Of course, I didn’t see it.  I told you, 8:30 is early, man.