Monday, September 29, 2008

WEEEEEE are the Champions...

What a satisfying sensation to log on this morning, go check on my fantasy baseball team, and find this staring back at me:

I'm the Champion
Click HERE to enlarge

(nodding my head...) It feels good. It feels good.

Its always a little bitter-sweet to me when fantasy baseball ends. For you fantasy football monkeys & other fantasy geeks out there, you must understand that fantasy baseball is superior. It is because baseball is a sport unlike any other in that they keep track of EVERYTHING statistically. Fantasy baseball is always a fun diversion for me, and generally just gives me something to look at & enjoy whenever I log on.

Plus, I dominate. Three championships in four years. Holla.

Do I let that go to my head? Maybe a little. :) But league-mate Dave kept me from getting too big of a superiority complex a few years ago when he said, "I think this just goes to show that nobody cares about fantasy baseball more than Philip."

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Slurping the Sabanade

What a great win for 'Bama. Here's some post-game festivities...

Power 12: The Homer Edition

1.) Alabama
Senior QB. Hard-nosed style of play. Anybody really want a piece of 'Bama right now? Plus, nobody else has as good a resume as we do, having beaten 2 preseason conference championship favorites in Clemson & Georgia AWAY from home.
2.) Oklahoma
They may deserve to be #1, but I'm playing the homer right now. Sue me.
3.) Missouri
Best QB in the country.
4.) LSU
5.) Texas

It's all SEC & Big XII right now...

6.) Penn State
7.) Southern California
8.) BYU
9.) Florida
10.) Georgia
Matthew Stafford showed at the end of the game Saturday night why the Bulldogs are so dangerous. They could still win out.
11.) Ohio State
12.) South Florida


Play Alabama at the end of the season in Tuscaloosa. They've NEVER been beaten by Alabama in Tuscaloosa.


Lost to the fightin' Rich Rod's. Ouch.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Steinbrenner. As Usual.

Eleven months ago, Joe Torre's contract was up & the offer that Hank Steinbrenner delivered was essentially a slap in the face. Everybody saw the writing on the wall: the Yankees had had enough of Torre, and were ready to move on. The only reason he received that piddling offer at all was simply a politically-strategic tip of the cap by Hank to what Torre had done to bring 4 World Series titles in his tenure.

Here we are almost a full year later. The Torre-led Dodgers (currently holding an 83-76 record in a competitively weak division) have clinched a playoff berth. The Torre-less Yankees (with an 87-72 record in what is widely-considered the toughest division in baseball) have been eliminated from the playoffs.

So what's a Steinbrenner to do? Hank's father, George, would make sweeping changes, take verbal pot-shots, and generally look foolish & inadequate in his attempts to defend his own massive ego. However, according to the media & sports talk radio, Hank is DIFFERENT! He's more calculating; he's SMARTER! He won't repeat the mistakes of his father, and he is the agent of change to oversee a new reign of Yankee dominance in the coming years.

Too bad that's just a fallacious fantasy. Hank has already demonstrated that George's same insecure blood runs through his Yankee blue-blooded veins. ESPN's Page2 writer Jim Caple seems to have a skill for lampooning the Steinbrenners, as he did with this hillarious column back in the spring. To me, it came close to topping his famous "Praise Steinbrenner" column (starring the former Iraqi information minister, Mohammad Saeed Al-Sahhaf) from several years back.

So how has Hank responded this week to Joe's success coupled with his own franchise's failure? From an article attributed to him in the Sporting News (thanks to The Newark Star-Ledger):

On revenue sharing: "That's a system I don't particularly like. It's a socialist system, and I don't agree with it. Does it work? It depends on your point of view. But is it right? Is it even American? I'd argue no on both of those points."

On the divisional setup: "... If you want to talk about things that infuriate me about the game today, revenue sharing doesn't top the list. The biggest problem is the divisional setup in major league baseball. I didn't like it in the 1970s, and I hate it now. Baseball went to a multidivision setup to create more races, rivalries and excitement. But it isn't fair. You see it this season, with plenty of people in the media pointing out that Joe Torre and the Dodgers are going to the playoffs while we're not. This is by no means a knock on Torre -- let me make that clear--but look at the division they're in. If L.A. were in the A.L. East, it wouldn't be in the playoff discussion. The A.L. East is never weak."

On Joe Torre: "I'm happy for Joe, but you have to compare the divisions and the competition. What if the Yankees finish the season with more wins than the Dodgers but the Dodgers make the playoffs? Does that make the Dodgers a better team? No."

On his case for the divisional setup not being good for the game: "Go back to the 2006 season. St. Louis winning the World Series -- that was ridiculous. The Cardinals won their division with 83 wins -- two fewer than the Phillies, who missed the postseason. People will say the Cardinals were the best team because they won the World Series. Well, no, they weren't. They just got hot at the right time. They didn't even belong in the playoffs. And neither does a team from the N.L. West this season."

On the media: "The divisional setup is not right by any definition of logic. But the sports media rarely deals with logic -- so you never read about this."


I like what Bud Poliquin had to say:

Now, does Steinbrenner have a point to make when he declares the eight best squads in baseball don't necessarily comprise the postseason field? Well, yeah. But so what? That has forever been the case whether we're talking the NCAA Tournament's 65 teams (hello, Syracuse University, in 2007), the NBA playoffs (greetings, Golden State, just this spring), the NFL postseason (where some wretched group from the NFC West will qualify later this winter) and so on and so forth.

Baseball? The geographical gods can giveth (as they have forever done to the Yankees, who enjoy the vast revenue streams generated by the kind of dense population that, oh, Kansas City will never see) and they can taketh away (which they've done for so long now to the Jays and Orioles, to name just two cursed franchises). And [those geographical gods] can do so without having to consult with Henry Steinbrenner, despite what Henry might think.

Yeah, certain things are unfair, all right. And George's son ought to be thankful because if he'd been sired by, say, a short-order cook (not there's anything wrong with that) as opposed to a ship-building magnate, he might be flipping a burger even now.

Ouch. Put simply: "Just hush up, Hank."

Of course I hope my Red Sox win it all this October. But if they or the Rays happen to fall to Torre's Dodgers this October, I will enjoy the heck out of Joe Torre making Hank Steinbrenner look like an absolute fool.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Charlie, John Locke, and the moth: An Object Lesson

I've really come to appreciate the ABC television series, "LOST." It is a carefully well-constructed piece of art. And like all my favorite shows, they really hone in on the character development.

The other night, I caught a re-run from the first season: an episode entitled "The Moth." It is a great parable. It involves Charlie, a drug-addicted former rock star who's stash is running low now that he's on this deserted island. He gives the rest of what's left over to his new friend, John Locke, who keeps it & inspires him to kick the addiction. What ensues is great drama, and would make a great sermon illustration sometime.


Charlie (menacingly): "Give my bloody drugs."


Charlie: "Did ya hear what I said? [...] I want my drugs back! I need 'em!"

John Locke: "Yet you gave them to me. Hmm..."

Charlie: "... and I bloody well regret it! I'm sick, man. Can't you see that?!"

John Locke: "I think you're a lot stronger than you know, Charlie. And I'm gonna prove it to you. I'll let you ask me for your drugs three times. The third time, I'm gonna give 'em to ya. Now, just so we're clear, THIS is one."

Charlie: "Why? WHY?! Why are you doing this? To torture me? Just get rid of 'em & be done with it."

John Locke: "If I did that you wouldn't have a choice, Charlie. And having choices, making decisions based on more than instinct is the only thing that separates you from him." [... as John points to a boar he's just captured]


[John Locke is skinning his boar & prepping it for roasting. Charlie comes stumbling up toward John with a single-minded look on his face, staring at John.]

John Locke: "Something wrong, Charlie?"
[spoken in a detached way. He knows something's wrong, and he knows exactly what it is that's wrong. He knows Charlie needs a fix.]

Charlie: "Yeah... Jack!... He's, uhhh... there's been an accident. At the caves. Jack's trapped in a cave in."

[John pauses to consider the gravity of the situation, but then continues skinning the boar before he asks...]
John Locke: "Is anyone trying to get him out?"

Charlie: "Yeah, there's a bunch of people there now."

[Still focused on skinning his boar...]
John Locke: "And why aren't you with 'em?"

[There's an uncomfortable pause. John finally looks up to make eye contact with Charlie, and then steps away from the boar to give his full attention to Charlie. Charlie is filled with shame. John's stare is pressuring him to not say what he wants to say -- to ask for the drugs back.]

John Locke: "You didn't come here to tell me about Jack, did ya?"

[With a great deal of shame...]
Charlie: "I want my stash, Locke. [...] I can't stand feeling like this."

John Locke [gently]: "Come here. I'm gonna show you something."

[John leads Charlie over to a small tree with a cocoon attached to it. He points at it with his knife and asks...]

John Locke: "What do you suppose is in that cocoon, Charlie?"

[frustrated at being force-fed a metaphorical lesson that he doesn't know where it will go or how long it will take because he just wants John to give him his stash back, he answers choppily...]
Charlie: "I don't know... a butterfly, I guess--"

John Locke: "No. It's much more beautiful than that. That's a moth cocoon. It's ironic - butterflies get all the attention, but moths, they spin silk. They're stronger. They're faster--"

Charlie: "That's wonderful, but..."

[interrupting, and pointing with his knife...]
John Locke: "You see this little hole? This moth's just about to emerge. It's in there right now, struggling. It's digging it's way through the thick hide of the cocoon.

NOW, I could help it - take my knife, gently widen the opening, and the moth would be free. But it would be too weak to survive.

Struggle is nature's way of strengthening it.

Now this is the second time you've asked me for your drugs back. [John holds up a tiny bag of heroine] Ask me again and its your's.


[Scene begins with Charlie "jonesing" for a fix really bad. Sweating. Nervously shaking. Feeling awful. He walks over to John, who is waving a palm reed over his boar to keep the flies away as it roasts over an open fire. It is a slow, determined walk, and he does not make eye contact until a moment before he utters the phrase...]

Charlie: "Give them to me."

[John has a sour, disappointed grimace come over his face as he looks at Charlie very carefully.]

John Locke: "This is the third time. Are you sure you really want--"

Charlie: "I've made my choice."

[Charlie holds his hand out

John briefly gives him that disappointed grimace one more time, then reaches into his pocket, pulls out the heroine, and drops it in Charlie's hand. Charlie stares at it with a sinister grin -- like Gollum holding the ring & hissing, "MY precious."

But then Charlie does an amazing thing: he flicks the small bag of heroine into the fire. The fire consumes the heroine completely.

It seems that Charlie was tired of the withdrawls. He knew he had to face them eventually. And as far as he had already progressed through this spell, he didn't want to have to start all over & begin again at square one. Charlie had decided that there was no going back, and it was time to destroy the heroine.

A rye grin appears on John's face. He turns to Charlie, squints his eyes, and declaritively says...]

John Locke: "I'm proud of you Charlie"

[Charlie looks up like a lost puppy dog, not believing what John just said to him. By now John's little rye grin is a full-scale smile as he continues his admiration of Charlie...]

John Locke: "... always knew you could do it."

[Charlie furrows his brow, realizing the wisdom of John's statements all along. He looks up & sees a moth fluttering away. John sees it as well, looks down at the fire, and smiles a private smile of satisfaction.]

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Sky Angel Cowboy

What an emotionally moving story!

That really hit me hard. I first saw this on Monday. The day before, I'd just preached the Lazarus resurrection story out of John 11 & the very notable verse, "Jesus wept." The main point I emphasized was that even when we experience hard times -- even when we wonder, like the disciples did, if God even cares -- God absolutely does care for us. And, of course, I wouldn't have done that sermon justice if I hadn't faced my own grief when I considered the grief of Mary & Martha. So when I play this clip & listen to this kid lend perspective about death, it gets a little "dusty" over here. :)

God does care.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

These are a few of my Favorite Smells

I love smells. A good smell can give you an instant natural high, and totally change your attitude & state of mind. In a very special edition of the Power 12, here are my top 12 favorite smells listed in inverse order.

12.) Gasoline, and Car Exhaust
      What is it about this smell that makes it so good? I can't figure it out, but it is just inherently good. When I was a kid, I used to enjoy sticking my nose right next to the tailpipe of a running car just to suck in the wonderful smell of exhaust. Apparently that can kill you, but at least it's pleasant-smelling.

11.) Sauteing onion & green pepper in butter
      I do this whenever I'm preparing my favorite spanish rice dish. Just do it sometime & add it to any dish: one green pepper & one onion (chopped up, of course) in one melted stick of butter in a frying pan over a stove. You don't even have to eat it -- it just smells great!

10.) Florist Shoppes
      I love the fresh smell of stepping into a florist shoppe. But beyond the smell, it just feels good for a guy to step into this place to buy flowers for his woman. Florist shoppes have the affirming smell of, "I'm about to make a special lady REALLY happy in a minute!" :)

9.) New car smell
      This is sort of a stalwart of favorite smells lists, and it deserves to be listed here.

8.) New book smell
      There's nothing else like opening up a brand new book & inhaling that inspiring smell. It's a bold scent that silently screams, "You're about to receive a lot of new knowledge and get SMARTER!"

7.) Cinnamon Brooms
      Publix grocery stores here in Florida carry these things every fall. You buy a couple & place them strategically in your house, and the sweet smell of cinnamon will permeate through air. Pure serenity.

6.) Girls' Hair
      Ahhhhh, the sweet & fruity smell of a recently shampooed head of female hair. It's intoxicating! One of the most frustratingly tantalizing smells that exists for a single dude trying to stay pure.

5.) Barbeque Joints
      Is there any walk that is more exciting than the walk from the car to the door of your favorite BBQ joint? Okay, maybe the walk to the ballpark -- that one's more exciting. But with that great scent of expertly-grilled meat wafting through the air, it's just an exhilirating smell.

4.) French Vanilla Candles
      That's right -- I like to burn candles. I'm a dude, and I stink, and I'd like to smell something more pleasant than my own smelly behind from time to time. As for french vanilla, it's just the best candle smell. Bottom line: I've never spent money on a french vanilla candle & regretted it.

3.) Fresh Laundry
      I think we could probably all agree on this one.

2.) The Scent of a Ballpark
      I need to clarify here. I'm not talking about the kind of mammoth structures that I visited on my Pilgrimage. I'm talking about your average, ordinary set of ball fields: whether softball, little league baseball, high school ball, etc. Places where you can actually catch the scent of the dirt, and the pine tar, and the gloves. There's just something about the smell of a good ballpark that just fires me up.

1.) Crisp Fall Day
      This is simply the best smell there is. It brings me to LIFE! It is the scent of relief & refreshing after a long, oppressive summer. And the best is that FIRST fall day where there is no humidity and you just can't get enough deep breaths. It is almost always my very favorite day of the year. It's a fundamentally depression-proof day!

If you're friends with me, chances are you've heard me talk about this. I was on the phone yesterday with some college friends of mine from 8 or 9 years ago (Justin & Kristen), and they were excitedly relating to me about how they had their first fall day a few days ago. They opened up all the windows in their house & they said that they thought of me. I'm so jealous. I can't wait to have mine. :)

What are your favorite smells?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Power 12: Economic Meltdown Edition

1.) Southern Cal
2.) Florida
3.) Oklahoma
4.) Georgia
5.) Missouri
6.) LSU
7.) Alabama
I'm still not comfortable ranking them this high with shaky QB play. But with how physical the Tide plays, does anyone really want to line up against them?
8.) Texas
9.) Wisconsin
10.) BYU
Outscored opponents 103-0 the last two weeks. Gotta show 'em love.
11.) Penn State
12.) Ohio State
Buckeyes in full-scale rebuilding mode.


I had already bumped them out last week. But they still look physical & tough despite that silly offense they run.


East Carolina
It was a good run, Pirates. But that WVU win looks a lot less impressive now, and you gotta beat teams like N.C. State to stay in the Power 12.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mourning Through "The First's"

I remember it like it was yesterday.

Last September, Alabama was hosting Arkansas for an annual game that usually ends up being a "tell" game for how well each team is probably going to fare for the rest of the season. It was the primetime game on ESPN.

We had just moved Mom home a couple months prior to that. The cancer had spread to her brain, and she hadn't been doing too well. August was a particularly somber month, because we had been expecting that she might die very soon. We were very concerned. But with the coming of September her health & strength had started to improve some. So on a mid-September evening, she stayed up late with me to root on her Alma Mater against the Hogs.

It was an exciting game. Alabama came out of the gate hot, and amassed an early 3-touchdown lead. But the Razorbacks had two dynamic running backs. And between those two guys & a couple of big mistakes by Alabama, Arkansas came roaring back to take the lead.

There were only a couple minutes left in the game, and Alabama had to drive the length of the field to win the game. QB John Parker Wilson led the Tide all the way down the field. And then this play happened...

It was one of those moments where, as a fan, you lose all sense of sanity & decorum. I jumped up like a maniac, started slapping the ottoman with both hands, and as the kids say, I went ape. I started screaming at the top of my lungs, "HE CAUGHT THAT BALL!! HE CAUGHT THAT BALL! OH MY GOSH, HE CAUGHT THAT BALL!!!"

Mama just started laughing. She thought it was so funny how excited I got over that play. But she had her moments in that game, too, as well as other games. Mom would always get excited when the little guy would bust free for a big play. She wouldn't go ape like I would, she would just sort of ball up & let out an excited squeal. This play especially, from last year's LSU game, with the fan reaction in the background, reminds me of how Mom got excited over big plays:

That's a warm memory. But it's one that makes me cry as I typed it out because Mom's not with me anymore. You see, football is a big deal to our family. It starts with my mother's mother -- Mama Jean. She is simply a fanatic. Most grandmothers, when you call them want to know who you're dating & what's happening in your life. Mine? She wants to talk about the quarterback situation up in Tide Town. At one time, it was such a joke among my friends that our fantasy baseball league was named, "Philip's Gramma Loves Bama." All of my cousins are gigantic Alabama fans. It unites us even more than religion. Literally. They're all Mormon. Football is a big part of our life.

Folks always say that the first time to experience things without a loved one are difficult. I think that's true, but it's different for different folks. Some of my friends were really kind in wanting to take my sister & I out for dinner on what was recently my Mom's birthday, September 4th. But that wasn't that big of a deal to me. That was Mom's day, not my day. So it wasn't that upsetting a day on the calendar for me.

My sister had a nostalgic time last weekend. A well-connected & wealthy friend of our's has luxury box season tickets to Alabama home games, and he gave them to us for the Western Kentucky game this past weekend (just because he didn't care to go). As Katie & I drove into Tuscaloosa, Katie marveled as we drove past The McFarland Blvd Mall. She remembered out loud shopping in those stores with Mom & eating at the Morrison's there with her. When we got on campus, she wanted to make a point to think about Mom. When we passed by some of the business & accounting buildings, we talked about how Mom had had some classes in there. Everything in T-Town reminded her of Mom, but it really didn't have the same affect for me. I've been to plenty of 'Bama games without Mom; Katie, however, was usually there with Mom. And while my Mom's relationship to the school played an integral part in developing my fanhood, it wasn't as personal of an experience for me as it was for Katie.

However, the fact that Alabama is traveling to play Arkansas this weekend seems significant to me for the fact that we shared that great moment together last year. I know that they're going to replay that play at some point during the game. Just thinking about the fact that I'm going through a football season without Mom makes me sort of sad. Mainly just because that I won't ever get to hear that excited squeal again.

They say the Holiday's & the Birthday's are tough. That'll probably be true. But just watching a ballgame this Saturday -- something that is normally nothing more than a simple pleasure -- will hold a lot more meaning to me this year.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Little Epiphany

A Facebook buddy of mine had a status update a couple minutes ago that just rocked my world.

Donald P----- S------ says that life is all about change, and if the "NEW" facebook bothers you that much, it might be an indication of your false sense of control over things...

Donald speaks truth...

Addicted to Springsteen

I'm not writing as much lately here because I don't have my computer. Hopefully I'll get it back later this week. But I do have some good blog thoughts saved up to write about whenever I get the laptop back.

In the meantime, maybe you'll enjoy this. I'm on a big Springsteen kick right now. I never appreciated his music before, but I've just really started to admire some of the sounds he puts together. Here's a good little spiritual with a Cajun flavor:

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Power 12: Hurricane Ike Edition

1.) Southern Cal
They always dominate in their non-conference schedule & bowl games. They will now procede to play down to the level of their competition in conference play.
2.) Florida
3.) Oklahoma
OU quarterback had more TD passes than he had incompletions against Washington.
4.) Georgia
Carolina always plays Georgia tough.
5.) Missouri
6.) LSU
7.) Texas
8.) East Carolina
9.) Wisconsin
10.) Alabama
11.) Ohio State
12.) BYU
How good of a coach is Rick Neuheisel again? Not very...


The only thing worse than Auburn's offense is Mississippi State's.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Power 12: Post-Convention Edition

1.) Southern Cal
2.) Sarah Palin
The Real 2.) Florida
3.) Oklahoma
4.) Ohio State
5.) Georgia
6.) Missouri
7.) Texas
8.) LSU
9.) East Carolina
10.) Wisconsin
11.) Auburn
12.) Alabama


West Virginia

Monday, September 08, 2008

Foot In Mouth Syndrome

I think that one of the better things about being an introvert is that you don't stick your foot in your mouth as often as extraverts do. Introverts are cursed with a different kind of folly. Most often, introverts will be in situations where what they want to say doesn't come to them quickly enough. And later, after these encounters have ended, they typically toss the conversation around in their head & aggravatingly figure out what they SHOULD have said (e.g. Costanza's "The Jerk Store" line). Not extraverts, though. They always get it out. Problem for them is that they can't take it back if the "it" is offensive.

I have a couple of friends from high school who I meet every so often for dinner just to hang out & shoot the bull. The husband (let's call him "Nick") and I enjoy cutting up together. Nick is such a naturally funny guy that he makes me want to be just as hillarious as he is. I do my best to raise my game in his presence.

Generally I don't think of myself as a comedian. To me, there are two kinds of people in this world: jesters & laughers. I'm generally a laugher. It takes all kinds of discipline & strength for me to not giggle at my own jokes when I'm trying to get them out. I'm just a laugher. But when I'm around Nick, I step up my game. He makes me want to be a better jester.

Anyhow, Nick's jestering & extraversion get him into trouble on occassion. Several months ago, at the end of May, I enjoyed dinner with this couple and Nick's wife told me a story about an encounter Nick had had at the grocery store with someone we all knew from our high school graduating class. You have to understand, Nick & his wife are very cute, and they were the first couple in our group of friends to get married (still no kids... kind of strange, no?). Anyway, Nick is at the grocery store getting milk & bread, and he runs into an old HS pal of our's (let's call her Ashley). Nick strikes up a conversation & asks how she was doing. Ashley, who apparently could not muster up the strength to feign joy, briefly explained that she was about to get a divorce. Nick, without missing a beat, said, "So are Hannah & I!" Awkward pause. "No, not really..." Crickets...

So awful. He might as well have continued, "Nah, our life is actually just fine. Sucks for you to be all broken up, huh..."

Anyway, eating dinner with them again this past Friday night, Nick told me his latest gaff. Nick does the kind of work where he occassionally goes on the road. There is a woman in his office in her 40's who also has to do work on the road for their company, and so they were in their boss' office discussing their next trip. This particular woman just got married a month ago, and Nick & his wife attended. They were proposing making the rounds of their next trip by renting a car together & swinging through all the places they needed to hit in about a 5-day span. So in the middle of the meeting, Nick says, "Yeah, boss, the real reason she wants to get away with me is that she's tired of this new husband & one month of marriage has just been too rough," or something to that effect. This was on Thursday. On Friday, this woman goes to Nick & has to explain how her marriage is actually having difficulty and how she's in the process of divorcing her new husband.

Foot right back in mouth. MAN I'm glad I'm not an extravert!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

What's the Appeal?

Okay. Beverly Hills 90210 started it. Melrose Place furthered it. The O.C. continued it. "Laguna Beach: The 'Real' Orange County" exploited it even more from a reality angle. And now we have The Hills and the CW's new 90210.

What is it with Los Angeles? I don't get it. Are people so intrigued that they'll watch the fantasies on TV just itching to be there?

I really don't understand the appeal. It's like I'm missing a chromosome that everybody else has.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Rays Will Fall

Friday night, Mike Lowell returned to the lineup by smacking a homer in his first at bat. Josh Beckett returned to pitch 5 innings and, for the first time this season, look like Josh Beckett. And the Sox are now just 2.5 games behind the Rays in the AL East.

Hope is alive! I suspect that this will be a fun month of baseball in that division. I should have probably written it here, but I guess I didn't quite have the coconuts to go so far out on a limb in public. But here's an E-mail I wrote this past weekend to my buddy Jordan, who's a regular reader here & can vouch that this E-mail is true & accurate:

Subject: Calling a Top‏
From: Philip Cunningham III
Sent: Sun 8/31/08 9:46 PM
To: Jordan Powell

Alright, here it is. August 31st. Rays have a 5.5 game lead on the Red Sox in the East. They play all but 10 of their remaining games on the road.

* This will be the largest lead they keep on the Sox from hear on out.
* The Red Sox will come back & overtake them to win the East.

I'm putting it out there. In stone. Or, at least to the extent that E-mail can be considered stone...

Philip III

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us."
Romans 8:18

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Bama is Back?

Three years ago, right after Alabama had a big blowout victory over highly-ranked (and clearly over-rated at the time) Florida, Sports Illustrated made a bold declaration:

Bama is Back

Now, two years and 11 months later, following a big blowout victory over highly ranked (and clearly over-rated) Clemson, Sports Illustrated has evidently decided to do it again:

SEC Beware

There's a strong sense in which, to Alabama fans, this pub is unwarranted & unwanted. We don't want it, and it really chaps our behinds.

'Bama hasn't really done anything yet. Sure we beat Clemson, and looked good doing it. And, as the mag cover says, we served notice that we're among the ranks of the "contenders" again. But we still haven't beaten Auburn since 2001. We've won our conference division only once in the last eleven years. And some of us are tired of celebrating smaller victories (e.g. recruiting "National Championship," etc.) in place of ultimately consummating the rebuilding process into something real and substantive.

And Nick Saban feels the same way. Here is his attitude concerning the mindset that Alabama can start to feel confident & good about itself:

(Warning: A little profanity)

That man has got a fire in his belly! I love it!

Here's how one guy put it on an internet forum I read:

I think feet and I are in total agreement here. I want people to continue to downplay our excitement by pointing out what a dismal team Clemson is. I don’t want the media on our side right now. I want to beat Georgia and have them claim they were a paper tiger. I want to beat Tennessee and have everyone point out what could be a dismal record by then (Florida, Auburn, and Georgia all before they play us). I want to go into Baton Rouge and beat LSU. After ending the streak in Tuscaloosa (he's talking about the Auburn game here), tell us how Florida is going to show us how the big boys do it.

It's fun to go through a season as the underdog with a perpetual chip on your shoulder. More fun than having an early coronation only to discover later that it was premature.

There’s another sense in which this SI cover is unwelcome to me. I’ve become almost completely cynical when it comes to my view of the mainstream media. They all hated on us when we hired Saban (aside from a select few -— Herbstreit, and maybe a couple others). And I just knew they would start to pump us up again once we started winning. And here it is already. The media is so transparent. They’ll build us back up so they can tear us back down. I’m still harboring some seriously awful feelings for mainstream media.

'Bama is on a mission. And it's about ACTUALLY being back. Not just a magazine proclaiming that we're there.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Power 12

1.) Southern Cal
They look goo-oo-oo-oo-ood.

2.) Florida
A good, fast ballclub. Defense didn't look half-bad against Hawai'i, either. They may be a little soft, though.

3.) Oklahoma
The Sooners scored 50 in the first half of their cupcake opener.

4.) Ohio State
Buckeyes aren't as good with a hobbling Wells.

5.) Georgia
UGA keeps racking up the injuries.

6.) Missouri
Chase Daniel appears to be the real deal.

7.) Texas

8.) LSU
Bengal Tigers looked tough against App State.

9.) West Virginia
Conceded 21 points & 399 yards to Villanova. They can't play defense.

10.) Wisconsin

11.) Auburn
Spread Eagle Auburn meets Spread Eagle Southern Miss this weekend. Gotta root for my Dad's Alma Mater this weekend -- Go Golden Eagles!

12.) Alabama
'Bama isn't soft anymore. And they looked good enough Saturday night to compete right now. And yet, the conference is so good that they could finish third in their division.

(The SEC is just as dominant as it ever has been, or really as it ever will be. The ACC is going to start selling itself as a place where a championship program can be built. There is too much of a vaccuum there in the ACC & too much skill in the SEC for there not to be a coaching exodus over to that conference.)


Somebody wrote, "There's a decent chance they could lose their opening game of the season against a certain crimson-clad school." Does that count as an upset prediction? ;)