Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Kicker's Christmas

Poor George O’Leary. His Central Florida Golden Knights had overcome two unsuccessful two-point conversion attempts in the second half of the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve, so O’Leary went to his reliable senior kicker Matt Prater and played for the tie. Down by ten late in the fourth quarter, Prater booted a 46-yard field goal to get the Knights within a touchdown.

Prater then executed a successful on-sides kick, practiced and run to perfection. The ESPN announcers noted that the kicker tied the ball up on the ground, leaning next to and against the black kicking tee. When Prater squibbed the ball, it took the usual two low bounces followed by a high bounce, resulting in the usual jump ball. But instead of going for the ball, two members of the Central Florida kickoff team plowed forward, blocking back members of the Nevada receiving team. Good coaching…and execution. Central Florida recovered, and marched down the field to score a touchdown. Down by one, O’Leary again called on Prater to tie the game. OT baby!

On the East Coast thousands were attending midnight mass, celebrating a different baby. Like in millions of households, my three children were a snug in their beds as my wife, her parents, and I scrambled about, preparing for the fun morning just hours away. My duties almost complete, I was finally able to focus on this suddenly exciting bowl game.

Nevada lost the toss, but drove down the field, converted a third down, and scored a touchdown. The extra point gave them a seven-point lead. Central Florida took over on offense and ran left for a six yard gain. Then Kevin Smith ran right, and the freshman halfback bolted into the open and dashed to the end zone for a touchdown. As the veteran Prater once again trotted onto the field, perhaps O’Leary turned his thoughts to the upcoming defensive series.

As a former kicker in high school, I concentrated all the more on the television screen. Field goals, even boring point-after attempts, were just as fun for me to watch as any football other play. Nothing gets my goat more than several replays of a touchdown overlapping the extra-point kick. The only time a kick is replayed is when something "bad" happens. Sometimes even missed extra points aren’t replayed! Why? Everyone knows the answer…kickers get no respect.

Take the New York Giant’s Jay Feeley. He became a popular guy the last few years kicking for Atlanta. The Falcons play in a kicker’s perfect environment…a dome. Artificial turf, no crown, instead a perfectly flat field. Certainly no wind. Feeley converted over 80% of his field goals, chatted on the radio, became a darling to the kind Atlanta press and fans, and raised money for his charities. He had as good a life as a kicker could have. But when his contract expired, his worth was more than the Falcons wished to pay. So he went to the opposite end of the football universe…outdoors, grass, wind, cold, inclement northeastern weather…as well as the New York City press.

Things go well for a while. Feeley is consistent, the Giants are winning, and he makes a United Way commercial. Then he missed three late field goals against the Seahawks. Seattle’s Josh Brown makes his chip shot overtime field goal and becomes the hero. Cameras focus on Feeley, head down on the bench. He is roasted in the press and even becomes the subject of a Saturday Night Live skit. Since then Feeley’s kicking rebounded and his upbeat attitude remained in place, though life in New York will never be the bliss he experienced in the ATL.

Same with Todd Peterson of the Falcons. After eleven low-key years with five teams, Peterson was able to sign with his home state team, who were fresh off an appearance in the NFC conference championship game. Peterson was perfect well into the season, and even kicked a game winner in San Antonio…after he was given a second chance when his miss was erased by a penalty. Yesterday his overtime 28-yard game winning chip shot was blocked, and the Falcons’ slim playoff hopes were extinguished. But Peterson’s faith and good attitude keeps things in perspective for him.

Matt Prater was a college senior, playing in perhaps the last football game of his life. A nice resume…4th team Sporting News all-freshman team, numerous highlights as both a kicker and punter, a psychology major. This year his stats weren’t bad…17 of 26 field goals made, with a long of 49. His career long of 53 yards came in his first college game, surely a glorious day at Penn State.

Earlier in the game Prater had shanked a forty-yard attempt. A kicker is dependent on his center and holder, and this time the snap had been imperfect. He did make all his extra-points and three field goals, from 47, 38, and 46 yards, moving him into second place on the UCF career field goal list.

His thoughts as he lined up for the overtime extra-point were probably normal kicker thoughts…get it off quick, get it up in the air. Maybe he thought to not pull the kick left. A veteran kicker surely used to pressure situations, the game circumstance probably didn’t cross his mind. But the touchdown had come quickly, and perhaps this threw Prater off. Perhaps he was about to begin his red-zone routine, as the Knights had just gone back on offense, and he had no chance to properly prepare his head and leg.

The snap and set were good, and Prater got the kick off quickly. The ball immediately went right. Prater finished his follow-through with his head down, then looked up, expecting the kick to be good. He appeared to be shocked with the result, and flung off his chinstraps in disgust. Merry Christmas.

Keep your head up, Matt. Just ask Jay Feeley or Todd Peterson. There’s a little more to Christmas than a football game.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Dogs and Cats…and Yellowjackets

If you’re like most fans, you hate your team’s biggest rival. Comes with the territory. I must confess…I’d just as soon watch the University of Georgia play as my alma mater, Georgia Tech. Around old school-mates I can’t let on, but when I get in the car, I tune in Larry Munson to get the picture.

How did this happen? Back in the day Tech was one of college football’s must storied programs, rivaling the likes of Notre Dame, racking up one of the best bowl records in history…in places like Pasadena, New Orleans, and Miami. Coached by legends named Heisman and Dodd, ruling the early days of the Southeastern Conference. Before my time, of course. Then Tech got the big head and dropped out of the SEC. Roses and Oranges became Bluebonnets and Liberties. Facilities grew old. Great players went elsewhere.

Wins were scarce during my years at Georgia Tech. It was a great day in 1980 when a skinny freshman tight end named Ken Whisenhunt took the snaps, and Tech tied top-ranked Notre Dame 3 – 3. Later that afternoon in Jacksonville Buck Belue teamed up with Lindsey Scott, and UGA went on to win the national championship.

Watching both teams up close, it was obvious which was the better football program. Georgia was expanding massive Stanford Stadium while Tech downsized quaint Grant Field. Dawg Coach Vince Dooley was a long-running class act. Pepper Rogers was fun and Bill Curry determined, but neither could match for the program built by Dooley. It’s still fun to listen to Dooley Thursday afternoons banter with the Two Live Stews.

And UGA had Herschel. Tech’s Eddie Lee Ivory broke loose in the Colorado Springs snow to break the NCAA single-game rushing record. Nice. Herschel broke the NCAA freshman, sophomore, and junior rushing records. His three-year rushing total still stands, and was second on the career rushing list at the time. Don’t get me started.

So I dutifully pulled for my Jackets, always with an eye on the glorious Dawgs. When they would play each other I usually managed to build up a nice hate for Georgia, only to return to normal after a few days. Most Tech alumni treated games as gentile social occasions, while students came off with an angry, "we’re better than you" attitude. But the scoreboard usually begged to differ.

Sure, in 1990 Tech rode an easy schedule to a share of the national championship. What national champion ties North Carolina? Since then Tech had some short-lived success, thanks to the coaching genius of George O’Leary and Ralph Freidgen. UGA had some down years, but under Mark Richt the Dawgs have returned to the nation’s elite. Current Tech coach Chan Gailey is a fine man and has his moments, but ranks several notches below Richt in the coaching pantheon.

During a turbulent week this past November, Tech (1) lost to Virginia, (2) extended Gailey’s contract (to dismay of many), (3) had the athletic director declare that consistent nine or ten win seasons were not to be expected (doing wonders for recruiting), and (4) had a local judge reinstate a player suspended for drug trafficking (isn’t that the coach’s decision?). The fact Tech completed the week by knocking off #3 Miami highlights my trouble with Tech football. I’d much rather see them beat the teams they should, like N.C. State and Virginia. Whatever happened to consistency? You don’t see UGA fall to Vandy or Kentucky.

Instead, Georgia has no trouble trouncing #3 LSU in the SEC championship game, and returns to familiar environs, the Sugar Bowl. And I’ll lower the shades, turn on the TV, and cheer them on.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Time to Shop!

Off tomorrow, and we drive to SC, coming back Tuesday, and I’m back here at work Wednesday and Thursday. Thinking of what we need to do to get away. We should be there by supper time, but I don’t see any way for us to get there by lunch.

Decided to try out for that sportswriter contest, and it’s much harder than I’d imagined. My hat is off to Lang. Everyone writes with such opinion, passion, and emotion…three things I lack. It's hard work and takes lots of time. There’s a lot of good writers going for it, so I’d think my chances to make the final cut of 16 are slim. One more thing to fill my schedule between now and New Years!

The Pratt signing surprised me as well…said he took less to stay in the NL East with the Braves. Guess they wanted a veteran. No one owns both an NFL and MLB franchise, but the Braves could do worse. I’d rather have Kasten…am I crazy?

After the Sunday Hawks game I snuck into the Braves Clubhouse Store and got Will a navy MURPHY # 3 tee…I didn’t like the replica…it doesn’t have the piping down the front. But it’s what he wanted. Would’ve gotten Matthew a McCann tee, but they only had adult sizes. Yesterday I got the red Braves jersey Will wanted, but I think at lunch I’m going to check a couple more places to see if there’s a nicer one.

Got a busy day today, will probably miss the lunch in the main office building. Yesterday I had to drag it out of a salesman that a 105,000 pound / $ 50,000.00 October shipment hadn’t been invoiced. No one in Birmingham cared that they were off 200,000 pounds / $120,000.

According to my count sheet I’ve hit 320 cups, but I reconciled the actual coupons/cups I haven’t sent in, and was about eight short of my count. The ones I’ve sent in have been slow to post, but every now and then another posting shows up. Guess they’ve been deluged with coupons, plus they probably have employees taking vacation. It’ll be hard to stop.

Finally watched Fever Pitch. Real good, but Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon seemed to be playing themselves…I saw them, not their characters. Would’ve been interesting to be at the game where they filmed her running across the field. Ceil thought it was ok. A coworker says Fun With Dick and Jane is great, and he also like The Family Stone. Looks like the Wallace & Gromit movie is in my future. So I was wrong about Calvin Williams!

Had to go downtown at lunch, and the whole way back got to listen to a good interview with Dominique on 790 the Zone. Ran into an old friend who said he’d take me to a Tech game.

Time for me to start my Christmas shopping!

Shameless Bowl Predictions

Everyone has them. Everyone’s an expert. Everyone has an opinion. What makes me different? I’m cold…no emotion. Just watch…my picks will beat anyone’s on this board. This is where we separate the men from the boys. To show you how tough I am, I’m fighting this age of commercialism by dropping the sponsor’s name…if I can remember the bowl's original name!

New Orleans Bowl…Southern Miss won 31-19. OK, it was last night. But who would pick Arkansas State over Brett Farve’s Golden Eagles?

GMAC Bowl…UTEP wins. Same theory…who picks Toledo? Nice story though…they’re here only after scoring a last second TD to beat the Northern Illinois Huskies. UTEP coach Mike Price was so confident he gave his seniors off two days worth of practices. Got you suckered in yet?

Las Vegas Bowl…California over BYU. Lavell Edwards, bless his heart, as we say here in the South. Those old BYU fathers always play hard, but will be no match for Cal, who endured that tough PAC-10 schedule. But BYU has the nicest uniforms, but one of the lowest graduation rates of all the bowl teams.

Poinsettia Bowl…Colorado State over Navy. The Midshipmen will come ready to play, so this could be a close one. I know, pretty weak.

Fort Worth Bowl…Kansas over Houston. Will the Jayhawks bounce back after missing out on the conference championship game? Coaching will determine the winner Friday night.

Hawaii Bowl…Central Florida over Nevada. My man George O’Leary will have his guys ready. This will be no day at the beach for Nevada.

Motor City Bowl…Akron over Memphis. Akron is closer to home, and more used to the cold. Wait, the game is indoors. I’m sticking with the Zips.

Champs Sports (Tangerine?) Bowl…Clemson over Colorado. The Buffalos gave up against Texas, and lost their head coach. Things are a mess out there…how can they rise to the occasion? Bowden’s Tigers were one play away from losing in five of their seven wins, and were said to be overrated by experts (including me). Clemson has a way of playing at the level of their competition, so if Colorado brings their A game, here’s the upset.

Insight Bowl…Arizona State over Rutgers. Another home game for the Sun Devils.

MPC Computers Bowl…Boston College beats Boise State. A home game for Boise State on the blue turf, but the BC Eagles always play tough. And they have one of the best bowl team graduation rates. Love these facts I’m feeding you? I do wonder if the gift package given to the players includes a laptop.

Alamo Bowl…Michigan over Nebraska. The Wolverines played a tougher schedule, and the Huskers ain’t what they used to be.

Emerald Nut Bowl…Georgia Tech beats up on Utah. The Jackets have something to prove, having been out-politicked out of two closer bowls by teams with lesser records. Chan Gailey’s teams have won bowl games these last two years by large margins, and with a healthy P.J. Daniels running the ball, should add to their college bowl record win total. Hope they don’t tear up the outfield too bad for Barry Bonds, and I hope someone shows up to watch the game in person. Tech has donated over 6,000 tickets to local children. They’ll enjoy singing ‘I’m a Ramblin’ Wreck From Georgia tech and a helluva Engineer.’

Holiday Bowl…Oregon over Oklahoma. The Ducks have something to prove, having been shafted as bad as Georgia Tech. Nike will have them outfitted in the latest techno-uni, and the Sooners won’t know what hit them.

Music City Bowl…Minnesota over Virginia. The Cavaliers have some athletes and will make this tight, but Minnesota will come to the table hungrier.

Sun Bowl…UCLA over Northwestern. A cold day could spell trouble for the Bruins, who are eager to bounce back from being embarrassed by USC.

Independence Bowl…South Carolina over Missouri. Spurrier is used to bigger stages, but will have the Gamecocks ready, even though Missouri may have more talent.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl…Miami over LSU. Sorry for the sellout, but those sandwiches are great…hope you’ve tried one. Hate it that next year the lovely Peach Bowl name goes away, and probably the logo as well. That big ole LSU QB is hurt, and the over-rated Tigers are down after being out-coached by Georgia in the SEC championship game. The ‘Canes will but an old-fashioned hurtin’ on the Bayou Bengals. Sorry for lapsing into Southernese, y’all.

Mieneke Car Care (Charlotte?) Bowl…NC State over South Florida. Even the Wolfpack has better personnel the South Florida. Since Coach Chuck took off his shades, they’ve been winning. But he may need them, considering the early 11 am New Year’s Eve start.

Liberty Bowl…Fresno State over Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane may be tough, but the Bulldogs will have an easy time. Weren’t you convinced after that thriller against USC? But if it’s a cold day in Memphis…

Houston Bowl…TCU over Iowa State. Is this list of bowls ever going to end? The Horned Frogs are on a roll with nine straight wins. The Cyclones played a tougher schedule, but haven’t felt that winning feeling enough. Notice there’s no mention of point spreads here...I’m not that good!

Cotton Bowl…Alabama over Texas Tech. Just a feeling on this one. Tech comes in expecting to win close to home. Bama, shamed by it’s fall from it’s lofty mid-season ranking, comes ready to play. Brodie goes out a winner.

Outback Bowl…Florida over Iowa. The Gators are another team on a roll.

Gator Bowl…Virginia Tech over Louisville. Everyone loves the Cardinals, but the well-coached Hokies bounce back from the ACC championship game embarrassment.

Capital One Bowl…Auburn over Wisconsin. What do I know, picking all these southern teams? I do know Auburn-they’re for real. The Badgers are no slouch, I know. But trust me…War Eagle.

Fiesta Bowl…Notre Dame beats Ohio State. Charlie Weiss is the edge here. With so much time, he’ll have another superior game plan. OSU came up short against Texas, and this game should be a classic. Coaching wins this one. Anyone still reading this?

Sugar Bowl…Georgia over West Virginia. The Mountaineers had a good year, but Mark Richt will have the Dawgs ready…no letdown here. Could be a rout.

Orange Bowl…Penn State over FSU. What? I picked a southern team to lose? Bowden gets the nod over Paterno when it comes to charm, hands down. But Bobby simply doesn’t have the horses this year. Another rout. They preempted Commander In Chief for this?

Rose Bowl…USC over Texas. Longhorns fold on the big stage. Reggie Bush is great, but Heisman winners are famous for being letdowns in bowl games. Matt Leinart will pick up the slack, showing everyone that he shouldn’t have been second-team All American. Gotta go do the dishes and watch some GMAC commercials!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

NFL Uniforms

Uniforms are what I know. I turn on the NFL to see who’s wearing what. For years I’ve taken note of all the tweaks and overhauls. Got so into it that I started writing letters to teams and the NFL home office, since they keep such tight control on such matters.

Extra credit is given for the old school look…especially my beloved grey face masks. Colored masks only look good when it matches the helmet color.

Here’s how the teams rank, from best to worst:

1. Giants. Old school home and away. Classic.
2. Colts. Ditched the blue mask, added black shoes. Peyton’s idea?
3. Chargers. Give me the powder blues any day, and the white helmet…all they need are the old yellow pants.
4. Raiders. Simple and unchanging, and classic.
5. Cowboys. The everyday look is classic, the white throwback helmet all the more so. They should alter the blue jersey again, since they still can’t win in them.
6. Bears. Even the navy pants are classic. But orange jerseys?
7. Steelers. Love it when they changed the number font.
8. Chiefs. Great look designed by owner Lamar Hunt.
First to go with white facemasks.
9. Bills. Great call to go retro this year…complete with the striped socks. Even the newer white jersey with blue shoulders is a nice, unique look.
10. Jets. Went old-school like the Giants,
but the green masks ruin the look.
11. Packers. What is it about green facemasks?
Also dump that huge striped collar.
12. Browns. Next year they’re considering going even more old school…they noticed all those Jim Brown throwback jerseys everyone wears. Yes, they desperately need grey masks to complete the look.
13. Redskins. The white on whites were a nice changeup.
Throwbacks are the best. But ditch the yellow masks!
14. Vikings. Tweaks over the years haven’t messed up the classic look that much. Here’s an idea…bring back the dark pants,
like everyone else.
15. Bucs. Makeover several years ago was great… every combination.
16. Saints. Like the Vikings, all the tweaks haven’t messed up the classic look. But black socks coupled with black pants give off the leotard look!
17. Patriots. Winning makes these otherwise unremarkable outfits ok. Say it with me…grey masks would be better!
Give me the throwback uni any day.
18. Cardinals. They kept the classic helmet, and the new look is ok…especially the white jersey with red shoulders.
19. Bengals. Winning can make anything look good.
One of the best helmets.
20. Seahawks. Great helmet and logo, nice shade of blue. I like the tiny bits of green. A different look without being terrible.
Loved the old jerseys with the logo on the sleeve.
21. Rams. Another great helmet, whatever the rest of the uni looks like. Nice colors.
22. Broncos. The overhaul several years back was ahead of its time, but it’s worn well.
23. Dolphins. Great logo, but the uni has been tweaked into mediocrity.
24. Ravens. They kept it simple…dark is great for football.
Nice helmet and shield.
25. Jaguars. Forgettable unis made interesting with all the jersey/pants color variations.
26. Titans. Nice shades of blue. Cool shoulder trim.
Cruddy logo brings it down.
27. Texans. Plain unis dull up the nice big helmet logo.
28. Eagles. Classic winged helmet hasn’t been screwed up too much. Plain unis, after several sets of great looks.
Remember Ron Jaworski?
29. Lions. Another great logo, but the uni has been tweaked to hell. On Thanksgiving they should break out the classic 60’s era look…those plain outfits do nothing for me.
I’m not stopping with the grey masks.
30. 49ers. Rode their original throwbacks to the Super Bowl, then completely messed up one of the best unis in the NFL. At least they break out throwbacks every now and then.
31. Panthers. Worst logo in the NFL. Black and grey is nice, as long as the teal is only used for trim. Grey masks would improve the look.
32. Falcons. Great logo update overshadowed by all that ugly trim. What’s with that ‘stripe’ on the pants? The different color combos are fun, and Vick makes anything look better. Thanks, Reebok.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

This Year's Nuggets?

This year’s surprise NBA playoff team? The Atlanta Hawks. Avoid the rush, jump on the bandwagon early…there’s plenty of room. After a slower start then last year’s NBA worst season, the locals were calling for Coach Mike Woodson’s head. A defensive coach, but his team wasn’t playing defense. His first hundred games ranked among the worst in league history for any such stretch. Team chemistry and leadership were questioned. The few veterans on one side of the lockeroom, the many rookies and second-year players on the other. Then a funny thing happened…they started winning. They beat the world champion Spurs, and they’ve won four of their last five. Main cogs Joe Johnson and Al Harrington started playing like main cogs. Others, like dunk champion Josh Smith and fellow 2004 number one pick Josh Childress, learned their roles, and their play flourished. Johnson, the $70 million dollar sharpshooter obtained from Phoenix for two number-one picks and first-round bust Boris Diaw, displayed frustration with the early losing. The experimental move to point guard didn’t last long. Johnson picked up his game and has taken charge of the team, averaging over 25 points-per-game in the last week, earning Eastern Conference Player-of-the-Week honors. Trade rumors have not deterred Harrington from remaining the veteran inside presence sorely needed by the team. He too stepped up his scoring, as well as averaging an amazing eight assists per game from his forward spot. In Sunday’s overtime victory over last year’s surprise team, the Denver Nuggets, Harrington followed a Tyronn Lue miss by sweeping into the lane for a one-handed putback jam. Diminutive point-guard Lue gave the Hawks a spark Sunday when he came off the bench and hit two quick three-pointers, before missing a lay-up. An owner of two championship rings from his years with the Lakers, Rue knows winning, a feeling the Hawks are experiencing more often these days. Josh Smith also played well, and Woodson let him play most of the overtime. He played hard at both ends of the court, not letting up as he did his rookie year. Smith had five fouls in addition to some alley-oops and other dunks worthy of highlight reels, but also added some nice drives and outside shots. Postgame he spoke how knowing his role allowed him to contribute more, as opposed to being a one-dimensional dunker last year. Only days ago Smith turned twenty, and as Woodson’s top project, has a tremendous upside, if he continues to work and progress. Against the Nuggets Childress provided a huge contribution off the bench, and got the big steal at the end of regulation to force the OT. Also in his second year, Childress’s four years at Stanford are reflected in the poise and steadiness with which he carries himself, contrasted sharply with Smith’s youthful unevenness. Throughout last year’s nightmare Childress learned the ropes, and this season he too has stepped up his level of play. After the season ended teacher Woodson continued classes, taking the two Joshes to the NBA finals, to show them what the goal is. This year’s draft picks will be needed for a playoff run, but neither the second overall pick, UNC 6th-man Marvin Williams, nor lefty sharpshooter Salim Stoudamire, have yet to make an impact. Williams has played tentatively when he has seen action. Stoudamire set records and led the nation in three-point shooting percentage last year in Arizona, but didn't play much Sunday. He came off the bench and immediately made a long three, but forced his second attempt and missed. Free agent big man Zaza Pachulia leads the team in rebounding and was a force inside against the Nuggets. Unfortunately many of his rebounds were off his own misses, as his shooting touch was terrible. While the Hawks could find themselves with the last playoff spot in the East, the lack of more inside power would doom Atlanta in the playoffs. Popular center Jason Collier suffered a fatal heart attack in the preseason, and will be missed in the paint. Typical of many Hawks games, they were in the game down to the wire. Except this time they didn’t waste possessions, and came back to tie the game. When it went to overtime I thought the Hawks might've blown their best chance, but they controlled the period. Denver was the one to blow opportunities, and Atlanta won 110 - 105. With all this young, explosive talent learning how to convert close losses into victories, combined with few dominant teams in the Eastern Conference, this could finally be the season Hawks fans have been waiting for. GAME NOTES…when a big white guy named John Edwards checked into the game, all I could think about was the VP candidate. Noticed both Mike Gearons sitting courtside, the father/son part of the Hawks/Thrashers ownership group. Junior was casually dressed. Thought nothing of it, until that evening I read the bit in the AJC, how he'd been wearing the same lucky outfit to every game. As the Nuggets were about to attempt a foul shot in the third quarter, a small child trotted down about a quarter of the front row seats, until Gearon Jr. reached out and grabbed him. The Hawks, or at least Sunday’s celebrity announcer Ryan Cameron (a local DJ), joined the unattractive parade of organizations de-emphasizing Christmas, calling what mascot dunker SkyHawk trampolined over a “holiday tree.” Ninety-nine percent in attendance were in the demographic that would call it a Christmas tree. To escape their losing ways, perhaps the Hawks should change their colors and logo. Predominantly always red, perhaps they should focus this year on wearing the yellow alternate unis. Not the most attractive in the world, but red has gotten them nowhere since the days of Dominique. Then next year the Hawks can follow this year’s NBA throwback trend, and bring back the Wilkins-era uni (worm by Josh Smith) in the dunk contest, if not the royal and lime of Maravich.

King Kong

You can get an 82 game Braves season package for $249.00…upper pavilion aisles 421 and over. Or behind the plate/between the bases ‘upper box’ 30 games packages for $330.00. They have two practice games against the ChiSox that the boys will want to hit. Matthew opted out of yesterday’s Hawks game, but asked questions about the experience when we returned.

Partied out from the weekend…out til 12:30 Friday and Saturday night. Saturday there was an afternoon party, then the kids went to a friend’s house while we ate out and shopped. Sunday was constant from 7:30 am to 6:30 pm. Missed the sermon. Andy had a death in the family, so Buckhead’s Jeff Henderson filled in, the ex-Chick-fil-A / basketballer.

"Top Ten King Kong Pet Peeves"
10. No "Big & Tall" shops in the jungle.
9. The Empire State Building is always chafing inner thighs.
8. Child-proof aspirin bottles apparently also gorilla-proof.
7. Has to pay for extra seat when flying coach.
6. Peeling 6,000 tiny bananas daily.
5. All-you-can-eat shrimp at Red Lobster not available to giant apes.
4. "One size fits all" -- like hell!
3. Statue of Liberty won't return phone calls.
2. Tired of acting, wants to direct next film.
1. Electrolysis.

"Have you seen the 'King Kong' movie?
Kong falls in love with an actress.
You can tell because he jumps up and down on Oprah's couch."

Monday, December 19, 2005

Stan's the Man Column

Word is out that AOL/Time Warner is looking to sell the Atlanta Braves. Who should the new owner be? The three early favorites…past owner Ted Turner, Falcons owner/Home Depot co-founder Authur Blank, and former Braves/Hawks/Thrashers exectutive Stan Kasten…all would be good choices. They're committed to winning, know how to build a successful organization, and how to balance the delicate art of leading out front versus staying out of the way. They also know you can’t build a winning team on the cheap, and losing is no fun for owners or fans.

But there’s only one great choice.

These days Turner stays busy, doing what he likes, sitting on corporate boards, tending his herds of bison, expanding his Ted’s Montana Grill chain, playing the wise old wizard role. Blank sits back, enjoys his Falcons, and lets his wife run the philontropic arm. But the younger Kasten is still in the empire building stage, a shark on the prowl, organizing a group to purchase the Washington Nationals. Stan’s the man.

Kasten put the Braves in position to start the most successful roll of any team in history. He is focused on being the best, though he was never able to make the Hawks a winner (bad GM and coaching choices?). Many don't like Stan because he doesn't detail to the press negative organizational situations, instead remaining positive. Falcons coach Jim Mora Jr is the same way, and he's pretty popular. It's not their job to inform the outside world of all the particulars of bad things going on with the team, contract negotiations, and potential free agents.

Now that he’s out from the umbrella, Kasten articulates his opinions freely…except on the status of the purchase of the Nationals. Politically correct because he wants to return to the fray, there’s much more under that dome than what he lets out. Mentioned as a successor to MLB commissioner Bud Selig, he’d much rather own a team and win World Series.

One similarity of Turner, Blank, and Kasten is how they became successful…they worked their way up. Turner built his father’s small billboard business into an empire, expanded a tiny cable channel, bought the Braves, and created a worldwide broadcasting network. Blank had an idea, opened a store, and expanded it worldwide. Out of college, Kasten wrote letters to all the MLB teams, offering to work for free. Approached Turner at a game in St. Louis, and worked his way up the ranks, eventually running three major sports franchises. Either would make a much better owner than some huge corporation.

AOL/Time Warner views the Braves like any other division of their empire. Are they making us money? Are they an asset? After cutting payroll twenty million and still losing money, AOL/Time Warner wants to get rid of it’s unprofitable division. Reasonable decision for a corporation in business to make a profit, to satisfy shareholders. When Turner sold his broadcasting empire to Time Warner, the Braves were one piece of the pie. Typical example of how sports franchises are acquired by corporations…part of the deal. Individuals buy teams for love, power, ego…not to make money.

Look how the Hawks Joe Johnson trade played out. When the other Hawks owners wanted to trade two number one draft picks plus the little-used Boris Diaw to the Suns for Johnson and his $70 million contract, owner Steve Belken took his ball and went home. Sold his share to the others. When Johnson didn’t turn the team into a winner in the first ten games, Belkin played the “I told you so” line. After that quote the Hawks have won three of four, including a decisive victory in Cleveland. Way too early to make such judgements.

The perfect owner? Open the checkbook, provide an attractive facility, AND avoid national embarrassment. Sail an impressive ship regularly deep into the playoffs, annually competing for titles. Ted donned fake stirrups one fateful night in Pittsburgh and rode an ostrich. Arthur pushed Michael Vick’s wheelchair, but for the most part they’ve been well above reproach. Now it's Kasten's time to take the Braves even higher.

Fox Sports (temporary?) Blog

Perhaps I'll write a few real columns for the Fox Sports blog website. Most of the work will be copied here, but here's the link...

And here's the link to Anna's photo...

Hawks OT Win

We made the Hawk game yesterday, and missed the Saturday Thrasher game. Left directly from church with Will and Anna, stopped at Wendy's, eased through the CNN Center, and got our tickets 45 minutes before the gates opened. That gave us time to find Will's brick in Centennial Park (section 23, the bottom left corner of a dark section), and check out the Braves store. Before the game Will took up Lang's old spot in the seat closest to where the Hawks go in and out, and gave the team fives as they returned to the locker room. After the game Will almost caught Josh Smith's headband, but another boy snatched it away. Our seats were in that same section, the next-to-last row of the lower level. Couldn't see the jumbotron, only the TVs they had on the overhang. Anna enjoyed the game as well, and learned to scream when the other team attempted foul shots. Before the game she shot hockey pucks and got her picture taken on Santa/Harry the Hawk's lap...just enter the code 8584 hawk s594 4477 on the Hawks website. Lue didn't start, but did give the Hawks a spark when he came in and hit two quick three-pointers. Then he missed a lay-up. As he hit more threes, I kept thinking how that lay-up miss had hurt his shooting percentage. Josh Smith also played well, and Woodson let him play most of the overtime. He played hard at both ends of the court, not letting up as he did his rookie year. Had five fouls, some alley-oops and other dunks, but also had some nice drives to the basket and outside shots. Salim Stoudamire didn't play much, but came off the bench and made a long three. He forced his second attempt, and missed. I'd like to see him do well, and earn more playing time. Marvin Williams played like a rookie as well. Zaza was getting all the rebounds inside, but his shooting touch was terrible. Childress was the biggest contributors off the bench, and got the big steal at the end of regulation. Looks like Johnson and Harrington have stepped it up, as they did in the Friday night game. A big white guy named John Edwards checked into the game. Every time they called his name, all I could think about was the VP candidate. Noticed both Mike Gearons sitting courtside. Junior was casually dressed, and I thought nothing of it, until that evening I read the bit in the AJC, how he'd been wearing the same lucky outfit to every game. In the 3rd quarter as the Nuggets were about to attempt a foul shot, a small child trotted down about a quarter of the front row seats, until Gearon Jr reached out and grabbed him. Exciting game. When it went to overtime, I thought the Hawks might've blown their best opportunity, but they controlled the period. Denver missed on several straight possessions, and Atlanta won. My weekend was so busy that I only saw two games...that Hawks game and part of the Falcons. I felt the same way about the play-calling, as the Bears were stuffing the run. Vick must've been hurting, he wasn't sharp. You'd think that after four or five years he's know he can't throw deep, off-balance into the wind, without it being intercepted. That when you make an interception on the one-yard line and fall down, perhaps that's not the best time to 'make something happen'. Nothing went the Falcon's way last night, and that's the mark of a playoff team. Friday night the Bobcats play at home. Don't know if I could get Ceil's gang to go. It's Okafer bobblehead night.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Stan Kasten

Who should buy the Braves? I think Turner, Blank, or Kasten would be good choices...they're all committed to winning. While many don't like Kasten, he put things in place to put the Braves on a roll. He seems to be focused on being the best, though he was never able to make the Hawks a winner (bad coaching and GM choices?).

Many don't like Stan because he doesn't detail negative things about his organization, instead remaining positive. The Falcons Jim Mora Jr is the same way, but he's pretty popular. It's not their job to inform the outside world of all the particulars of bad things going on with the team, contract negotiations, and potential free agents. Similarly, it's interesting how the whole Belkin thing played out. Now he's saying 'I told you so' about the Johnson trade. Seems too early to tell. Perhaps winning two games in a row will help them turn things around.

Still worn out from the weekend, but am feeling better now. Matthew was sick last week...said he had rabies. Then Anna got sick...both were feeling run down. As usual, it's December at work and everybody is slow...except me!

Like his parants, I too learn a lot about Lang from his articles. I think I actually remember that story about the shorts, for some reason. I had read his article Monday afternoon, then went home and read a similar article on, the Uni Watch...a guy Lang had told me about.

Yesterday a bigwig took my department to lunch at the Atlanta Athletic Club. We ducked in and saw all of Bobby Jones' trophies, which was neat.

Hopefully I'll take the kids down to the Saturday Thrashers game, and perhaps the Sunday Hawks game. It's the last of the summer reader program vouchers the kids got. Will's Sunday School teacher has offered us some Hawks tickets in January, but Will never goes to his class...every week he helps out in a four-year old class!

Stayed up late last night and watched Fever Pitch, the DVD filmed when the Red Sox won the Series. Real funny, but the guy lets the girl down several times before they make up at the end. Don't know if Ceil would really like it.

I was forwarded this message about a contest I'd love to win. From reading what's already out there, the competition looks tough.

Monday, December 12, 2005


Watching a hockey game is hard work. I would think this would be true even if I was very familiar with the game. The speed is faster than most games, and just following the puck is hard enough…but there’s more to it than what’s going on around the puck. Players have to move without the puck to get in position. What’s going on with two opposing players defending each other, that may progress into a fight. Penalty killing strategies. One of the easier things to watch is a team on offense, working the puck around, creating an open shot. Breakaways are infrequent, but thrilling. Some of these are good problems.

Basketball is easier because the court is smaller and players and ball bigger. Football has lots going on, but it’s not constant. Baseball is slow and relaxing, making the bursts of play all the more exciting. The soccer ball and pitch are big, the players spread out. With only two or four players, tennis is simpler, as is golf.

Friday night December traffic was gridlocked both downtown and in East Cobb, so we were late to the game. The kids had more fun with their friends there, so it was a good time to talk with Jim. The Thrashers won, we saw our first hat trick, and a guy from Marietta won a Volvo for a year. Stressed over the traffic (my excuse), I screwed up and took his $20.00 for parking. Then Saturday I picked Azoni’s pizza, when both Jim and Amy could’ve been on diets. We did have a good time.

Sunday was part one of ‘Make Believe Christmas’. Think about what’s dreadful about Christmas…being with certain people that one time a year, that for some reason somebody can’t get along with…there’s always that tension. Honestly, most of the time I am the one who creates the tension. Why? We’re imperfect…sinners. All this bad stuff takes us away from celebrating Christmas…the birth of God’s Son. God send Jesus to earth to deliver us from sin. If it wasn’t for all this we dread about this time of year, there wouldn’t be Christmas! So you (and I) are the reason for the season! To help remember, they gave out ’you’re the reason for the season’ stickers.

We got the playhouse put up in the backyard. Saturday Jim and I worked on it until 6:30, after Ceil had taken the kids to see Narnia. Sunday when we got back from church, they all went out there to play. At one point we looked out there and Anna was just sitting there. Yesterday we got the two heavy roof sections attached, so now it really looks like a playhouse.

Getting the two heavy roof sections on top of the playhouse was a task. Thankfully neighbors Larry and Jeffery were available to help out. The first section wasn’t that bad, but after we had it up for several minutes, as Jim was securing the front side, the back side decided to slip off. I was able to catch and hold it before any damage was done. The second section was tough, as the ground low lower and uneven. As the four of us hoisted the heavy section up onto the board, I was in the middle, underneath. My fingers were almost crushed as we set it down, but I got them out of the way at the last moment.

There are still a bunch of finishing touches to put on it…the shingles on the very top, the windows, screens, and doors, caulking and painting, some front steps, and a little more siding. But at least now it can be played in. I’ll try and take some pictures by next weekend…unless I can get Will to take them during the week.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Pop Quiz

1) Who batted leadoff the last time Atlanta played in the NLCS?
2) How many NLCS & World Series games has Furcal played in?
3) Who batted leadoff for Atlanta in their last World Series appearance?

1) Marcus Giles - replaced Quilvio Veras midseason, around the time of Furcal's injury, and he was put into the leadoff spot. Julio was signed near the end of August and he was put in the 2nd spot.
2) Zero.
3) Gerald Williams - with Brett Boone batting 2nd

Matthew hasn't seen the Marlins play. Guess we'll have to take them in this year or next, before they move. Also hear things aren't going well for the DC stadium deal. They just made the division tougher today, didn't they. Will will want to see the Nats this year.

Renteria will be an upgrade. Supposedly he played hurt last year when he struggled defensively, but he still scored 100 runs…same as Furcal. Also good they got Boston to pay for part of Renteria’s salary, so there’s money left for a closer…if there’s one still out there. Back during the season there were reports that Edgar wasn't adjusting well to the pressure cooker situation in Boston, but I haven't heard that this week, just that he committed 30 errors. He'd done such a good job with the Marlins and Cards.
Hadn't realized how little value Estrada had, due to the collision and perhaps his salary…I'd hoped for more in return, but no big deal. Can’t believe they actually got something for Kolb in a trade! Thought they’d have to release him. To get anything in return for Kolb seems good, plus we're rid of his salary.

Nice to know the Braves were at least making an effort to keep Furcal, and I agree that LA overpaid. Giles isn’t Furcal, but does have higher career BA and OBP, and when you hit so many doubles, you don’t have to steal second base. Someone compared Giles to Pete Rose, which isn't too bad of a comparison. Someone else noted that with all the doubles Giles hits, it compares to Frucal getting a single and stealing second.

Yes, the Mets are fun to watch load up every year. I’ll miss Julio, though he only hit .275 last year. Guess it’s nice if you can get a two year contract when you’re 47. Hope it doesn’t backfire on Julio, as it’d be nice to see him get a few more hits and homers. Unfortunate that they weren't able to hang on to Julio, but like all these deals, it's not the end of the world.

Interesting that Brian Jordan and Eddie Perez were offered arbitration (out of respect?), but not Hollandsworth. Johnson and Langerhans should do fine in LF…could not they be leadoff hitters? Funny the AJC mentioned that Salty is such a good hitter that could be moved to another position (1B?).

Will the World Cup be more than exhibition games, with pitchers only going two innings? They're saying it won't be too competitive, just the DR and US and one other team, but Japan and Cuba should be ok, and Mexico and Canada shouldn't be terrible. Italy will have Piazza and DeRosa.

The Lost series has helped us discuss getting more serious about paying off debt and doing a better job living within our income. While the NYC and Chicago trips were such fun that it's made planning this AirTran trip fun, Ceil's concerned with how we'll pay for the rest of it (as am I, though I'll complete the cup project). Even a short trip would be fun.

My boss wondered how family-friendly SF was, and I need to do some research. We'll need to do more than go to ballgames…there's sightseeing…that windy street, the cablecars, the sequoia forests, the pacific coast freeway, Lake Tahoe. Surely SF beats SD or Denver. And I'm so tempted to go for that 6th flight (or 6-1/2?), to have either for an emergency or quick trip for me and Ceil or one of the kids, or just for me to go somewhere for a day or two.

Kentucky sounds like an NBA team, but it seems like NBA teams aren’t that tall any more!

Sent that email to my sister and asked her to check into it, but on the way home last night I realized I hadn’t called her to check on it. Left my parents a message yesterday.

This morning mom says Nita had looked into it. Doesn’t seem like the answer has to do with changing the subject line of the email! Didn’t check emails last night, but it seemed like the night before several messages had come through from you…don’t know if all had or not. I’ll try and talk to her later today…I had tried to send an email from home and couldn’t.

Hopefully tonight Ceil will be able to get away and do some shopping…the kids and I are going to the Thrashers hockey game.

Tomorrow the guy is supposed to come work on the playhouse, but it seems like there’s more than one days’ work to do. Those projects always seem to go slower than you’d like. Did get a bunch painted on it over Thanksgiving, as well as several other projects around the house. Painted outside during the day (until 8pm), then moved inside and painted a bunch of boards that I’d moved inside, during the entire GT/UGA game. Typing this, I just remembered something else I’ve got to do on it.

Last night Matthew was dressing his build-a-bear cat in some American Girl clothes!

Looking forward to getting up there for Christmas as well! Hated to miss seeing everyone over Thanksgiving.

Mom says she’s having gall bladder surgery on the 19th.

Never watch Leno, but surfed past when he told this one…
...hear about the guy dumping his mother’s ashes on the field...
...the Packers held her to two touchdowns!
There was no mess, however. As the guy ran along dumping the ashes, Michael Irvin was running behind him, snorting it up!

Got a Christmas card from EJ and Kelly Curran Johnson. Their youngest kid has EJ’s hair (cheap joke!).

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Rumor of the Day

Interesting tidbit from today’s AJC…Giles actually has a higher career average (.292) and OBP (.366) than Furcal. Thought I read here lately where JS was ok with WB at SS? Since the article about how good he was doing in winter ball. They’re just waiting until JS’s son is ready…will he be in Richmond this year, or was he already there last year? Often times they trade players they don’t think are as good as their clippings, unlike the Komminsk days. Seems like they held on to WB because they knew Furcal would be leaving eventually. Interesting that Grady Little was hired by LA…was he ever with Furcal before?

Probably good that Juan Pierre is off the market. I do like him, except the rag arm. They say he’s a hard worker and stuff, but Langerhans and Johnson aren’t that big a drop off for the money. How can people say we need to upgrade LF and 1B when we’re loaded at 3B, 2B, CF, and RF, and not bad off at C (and really 1B)? the Yankees we’re not!

Hear that Garner is doing business as is Clemens is retiring…so there may not be the millions available for when Roger changes his mind. And if Clemens really wanted to protect himself he'd let them know, so they could be putting together the best team possible around him, so he won't be on the losing end of so many close games, like last year. That's got to bother guys like him, Hudson, and Maddux. Didn't Clemens say he wanted to pitch in the World Classic? The US has 40 commitments and will have to pare the roster. Can you tell I've been doing a better job of reading the AJC? Would Ridge be worth Marte (or Salty?).

Once I went off with the boys, with Ceil gone and Anna at a neighbors, with telling Anna or the neighbor. Anna was ok, but I should’ve have done that. As a very capable middle child with a great personality, and the only girl, she gets the least attention. In some ways like me, except she had me beat in the personality department.

Thought about the snow in the northeast while watching the Monday Night game last night.

For years I would see some of my favorite ECS and SPdL kids and Mighty Mites (like Lang and Claire!). I used to tell people that I taught Andrea Irwin, Stacy Head, and Tripp Mullen in their 5th grade SS class, but now they remind me how old I am!

Remember Wayne Smith? He was one of my roommates at Tech, coached Mighty Mites, as I recall. Sang in the adult choir for a while, married a girl from the singles department. He’s been living in McDonough for years, going to FBC McDonough. Today he tells me that Marsh is the interim pastor down there. Y’all may have known that. Rick Statum, who married Miriam Crumpler, is pastor of another Baptist church down there in McDonough.

Top Ten Reasons Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey Have Separated
10. Tired of Jessica's parents asking, "So Nick, what do you do?" at family gatherings
9. Irreconcilable differences on the issue of "tastes great" versus "less filling"
8. New state law mandates that all families must have combined IQ of 100
7. Constant bickering over who's prettier
6. They finally watched their own show
5. Nick just got tired of all those discussions about nuclear physics
4. They read in the tabloids that they were separated, figured it must be true
3. Unlike TomKat, they couldn't agree on a catchy nickname
2. Jessica caught lip-syncing during sex
1. Who cares?

Monday, December 05, 2005


Vince Young wasn’t jinxed by being the SI cover boy. Interesting AMEX ad where Tiger and Coach K filled out a questionnaire, a column wondering if the Marlins would move, Mack Brown article, LSU was picked to beat UGA, Larry Brown’s return to Detroit, Dany Heatley, and HS roundball. The high school basketball article picked Norcross as the country’s 14th ranked team, Wheeler as 18th, and Mitchell Memphis 20th…with the GT signee.

Comparing the class of 96 receivers featured in this week's SI…
name, school...round...pick...rec...yards...TD...yd/catch...catch/TD
OWENS,T…TENN CHAT...3...89...716...10535...101...14.7...7.1
MOULDS,E...MISS ST...1...24...648...8791...47...13.6...13.8
MUHAMMAD,M...MICH ST...2...43...626...8312...47...13.3...13.3
HORN JOE...MISS JC...5...135...524...7641...53...14.6...9.9
GLENN TERRY...OHIO ST...1...7...506...7444...35...14.7...14.5
KENNISON EDDIE...LSU...1...18...462...6996...36...15.1...12.8

Funny how JS took a dig at the agent for not giving ATL the last look, even though everyone knew that price was way too high. Makes sense to take the shorter contract over the Cubs 5 year $50MM. The Joe Johnson comparison is interesting in that the AJC article said he was having a ‘career’ year, not really mentioning his frustration at losing or his lack of leadership…basically the previous two articles. Everyone knew much would be expected of Johnson, though that makes it no easier for him having to live it.

Would be interesting to see if Lugo would be worth McCann…putting him slightly in the Nick Green category…he seems to be more than a one year wonder, though would he not be at best .280 career hitter (with some power)? His return is already more than Green.

Saturday I looked for the Freunds at Anna’s recital (we saw Sunny on stage) but never saw them. Halfway through our 10 year old camcorder died…doesn’t seem to be the battery. Nothing on it works.

Got to watch just about all of the SEC game…nice win for UGA. Would be good if they handled WVA the same way.

Happy to see GT beat UVA. See where during the game they announced the bowl the football team would be playing in, and there was a loud boo. The FSU win was partly to blame for Tech’s relegation to the Emerald Bowl, but it seems like they didn’t do as good a job lobbying the Music City Bowl…another Braine screw-up? UVA and NC State both beat GT but finished with worse records. That Charlotte Bowl seems to want a NC or VA team every year.

Clemson got an Orlando bowl. They travel better than GT and had the same record. Friday’s AJC had the top 5 overrated teams…LSU was second and Clemson was 4th. Clemson was ranked ahead of four 7 – 4 teams that had tougher schedules…Oklahoma (toughest schedule), Northwestern (3rd), Minnesota (8th), and Tech (9th). Clemson played the 34th toughest. In five of Clemson’s wins they were one play away from losing the game, only beating Duke and FSU soundly. That program should be better.

Didn’t get many cups this weekend, but I hit the third RT mark. If I were to keep up the same pace, I could have six flights by year end. But I know that week after Christmas might be a tough week finish strong. Three coworkers out today. Got one coworker a drink at lunch, so no afternoon run today. I’ll make my usual stops on the way home, and mail off some coupons.

Yesterday’s NP was the recap. Andy said he often tells himself something similar to what I often tell myself…when I see a nice car or something nice I wish I had, I can tell myself “I could have that, but I chose not to”...
1. Choose a percentage of your income on which to live.
2. Track your spending.
3. Get rid of dumb debt.
4. Give first, save second, and live on the rest.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Hot Stove

Things seem to be heating up with player movement. Did the Phillies overpay to get Gordon, out of desperation from seeing what the Mets and Yankees did? Guess overpay is a relative term. The closer market is way overpriced this year... it will be interesting to see who picks up Reitsma and Kolb after they are non-tenderedby Atlanta. The Mets do win/make the playoffs from time to time, and are as competitive as most teams. Wagner’s going there seems to go against some of the comments he made last year, but money talks…you can’t blame him for taking the money.

What's the status of the Marlins closer? Did he not have a good year last year? He's the veteran from Marietta by way of the Tigers, is he not? Probably not a fit for the Braves, as the Marlins would probably want too much for him… Todd Jones - I expect to see him playing for Atlanta next year - probably setting up Baez...I know two other Todd Jones’s, so I always think the reliever has a slightly different name.

Nice that JS is so patient. Would the Braves give up Marte for those TB pitchers? Wouldn't seem so. Everyone will be asking for Marte, but I only think JS will trade him in a Zito-type deal…even if JS and BC don’t think Marte is as good as his clippings (though hopefully he is).

Matthew was not happy when I told the family that there is a small chance that McCann could be traded. Not surprising to learn that Francoeur has a beard. He is the grand marshal of some Lilburn parade on the 10th.

We all also discussed where to go more last night. Ceil started off with Boston (later a child called out Maine, though the time we went to Boston we also tripped up to Arcadia), but she came around to SF. Anna wants to return to Chicago, but we could drive there.

Interesting article about the Hawks…could be a long season. They have several players…it would be nice if they could jell and improve over next year.

Small group tonight. After I mentioned to the leader we should try and plan better to avoid people missing, Ceil will be taking Anna to her ballet dress rehearsal. And we’ll miss the group party in two weeks as well.

More posted to my account and Ceil’s, but there’s another batch that should soon hit Ceil’s account. Another co-worker says his wife wants to collect cups…but he said he had a cup for me. Just made an afternoon run for the office, and dropped off a batch at the PO at the same time. I'm so far ahead of schedule, thanks to my co-workers, I'm having to buy less for me. I'll be out running around some this weekend, which makes Wendy's stops easier. Lots of good football on…I too am more interested in the SEC game. Rented 2 movies to watch sometime: Fever Pitch & Something's Got to Give.

Speaking of unis, I'm hooked on the uni watch column on…Paul Lucas. He seems to have a following, but returns most of the few emails I've sent. I had asked him something about facemasks, and he sent me a column he had written a few years ago. Guess you’ve already seen this on the Brewers ‘new’ Sunday unis...

Back in the 70’s Falcons safety Ray Brown broke his jaw, and played the rest of his career with a huge mask the likes of which I never saw worn by anyone else. I also liked that plastic shell the Buffalo safety worn during their Super Bowl years.

As few things as we have here, it’s always nice to get things cleaned up. I had the house looking half decent by the time Thanksgiving weekend was over…when we got out the decorations, I put a bunch of stuff in the attic.

The youngest flowergirl in our wedding is getting married new year’s eve in Columbia SC. Her sister got married a few years ago, and Matthew and Anna were in the wedding. Mother of the bride was a good friend of Ceil’s, so we’ll be on the road during the holidays. Since I’ll have to work the 28th and 29th, at least I’ll be making two trips to SC.

I didn’t do everything in the right order for month end yesterday, and didn’t enter an order until everyone else had gone home. It went on credit hold, and thanks to Sarbanes Oxley, I can’t release it any more, so I couldn’t invoice an $8000.00 surcharge at 100% profit. Not the end of the world, but I won’t wait til the last minute next time. My department is on track to break 100 million in sales for the first time in our nine year history…we’ve already passed last year’s record.

SI had an article on the youngest Clausen brother, finishing his junior year of high school ball at a small private school in California. They list the top HS QBs…#2 has committed to UGA and #4 to Clemson.

Fell into some Thrashers tickets…taking Matthew. Anna wants to stay home…her calendar is marked for tonight’s American Girl movie ‘Felicity’.

You might be interested in this…

At least now we won’t have to worry about Reggie Ball and GT football much longer this year, and hope the basketball team surprises us. As good a game as last year’s win over Illinois-Chicago was, getting beat by them this year was no surprise. Hopefully they’ll learn from it.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Thrashers game

Matthew went with me to the Thrashers game last night…his first hockey game. As much as he likes going to Braves games, he didn't like hockey. We got the tickets through a summer reading program, so I was expecting nosebleed seats. We arrived semi-early, around 6:15, but at the ticket booth I could tell we weren't the first to redeem the voucher. I wasn't that familiar with the Phillips Arena seating sections, but we were given terrific seats…section 109 row 11…right behind the goal.

Being so close made it cold (to Matthew…strike one). The Thrashers scored less than a minute into the game, and a big foghorn went off for the longest time…strike two. Two minutes later they scored again, and again the foghorn.

A Carolina player called for a penalty, and the scoreboard showed video of the player stepping into the penalty box, sitting down next to a guy in a tie, talking off his gloves, and reaching for a water bottle. Later another Carolina player was sent to the penalty box, and again the video screen showed him entering the box. But this time when the player reached for water, the guy in the tie got out two cowboy hats and ukuleles, and they proceeded to play dueling banjos, the theme from Deliverance. Matthew said it was his favorite part of the game.

He also liked shooting the pucks at the video goaltender, and prized the puck he got almost as much as the Happy Meal toy he got on the way to the game (he was trying to shoot the puck with his hockey-stick shaped thunderstick, with little success). We left after the second period, though he was ready to go after the first. Perhaps he'll change his mind about going back. When I told him we may return on December 9th, he said, "That's when Narnia opens!"

Speaking of misspelling words, I've been noticing that I've been doing lots of that myself. Three excuses…getting old, all that diet coke I've been drinking, and my public school/Georgia Tech education (and I went to Dekalb CC for two quarters as well, when I flunked out of Tech).

Doesn't seem huge that Farnsworth is signing with the Yankees…considering his inconsistency and what the Braves have in Boyer/McBride/etc. The only relievers you'd want to pay for would be a young, lights-out, battle tested closer, but there aren't many of those around. I should reach that halfway cup point today. I don't think I could manage a sixth flight by year end, but the thought had crossed my mind.

Lang had a nice article about Saturday night's game:

Did see one red Atlanta Flames sweater…probably a newer throwback. I was going to comment that more than the big three sports, you see so many fans wearing hockey jerseys to games. Last night was my second Thrashers game, and the number of jerseys being worn was amazing.

Matthew probably had a hard time following the puck. The dad and daughter next to me seemed to be having a good time, but they left after the first period. I enjoy going for several reasons, including stuff other than the game, like people-watching, the ‘event’, letting the kids experience it, etc…but I think one hockey game every few years will be plenty. There a few players I know other than the Atlanta standouts, unlike basketball, where you’re familiar with most of the NBA players.

There are two more reading program voucher games…Will and Anna want to go. It may give Ceil a chance to get away and go Christmas shopping, though she might like to go if the tickets are good.

Have I missed an analysis of face masks? Like the Browns, gray is the color of choice. Is it because that was the only option when we came of age? USC wised up and went back gray a few years ago, to match Notre Dame. But why does no one make a big deal about Penn State? People call their unis bland (I call them traditional), but no one makes a big deal about their navy up-to-date as Oregon (and ugly and mismatched). Penn State's masks should be gray!

As good as the Cowboys, Raiders, Giants, Colts, and Cardinals look, several teams can improve immediately...the Jets, Dolphins, Browns, Lions, Bears, Vikings, and Packers to start. White helmets look fine with white masks (Miami and Texas, for starters), but horrible with dark ones (Penn State, Nebraska). White masks look OK on some helmets (Chiefs, UGA, UNC, Clemson), but gray would be nicer. Am I repeating myself?

Monday, November 28, 2005


Unscientific list of 2005’s top college QBs…that I've seen:
1 Matt Leinhart, USC senior
2 Vince Young, Texas…a junior?
3 the guy at Notre Dame…junior
4 the guy at Vandy…senior
5 Chris Leak, Florida junior
6 Brodie Coyle, Alabama senior
7 DJ Shockley, UGA senior
8 Marcus Vick, VT underclassman
9 Josh David Booty, USC backup, junior
10 the guy at Miami…underclassman
11 Eric Ainge, Tennessee sophomore
12 Charlie Whitehurst, Clemson senior
13 the guy at UVA…a senior?
14 the Bama backup is supposed to be pretty good…underclassman
15 that Clausen recruit is supposed to be pretty good.
16 Chauncey Stuckey, Clemson…will they move him back to QB?
17 Reggie Ball, GT junior
18 the guy at Auburn…an underclassman?
19 I’m not that impressed with the guy at LSU
20 those guys at FSU
21 the guy at Duke

Movies I've seen recently:
14 Old School…Will Ferrell…comedy
13 Close Encounters of the Third Kind
12 Jurassic Park III…Tea Leoni…sci-fi action
11 Gothiga…Robert Downey Jr, Hallie Berry…horror
10 Top…romantic comedy
9 Dude, where's my car!...Ashton C
8 Gone in 60 Seconds…N.Cage, A.Jole…what a guy'll do for his bro
7 Jessica Stein…made for TV romantic comedy
6 High Fidelity…John Cusack, J.Black, Joan Cusack, C.Zita Jones…romantic comedy
5 The Matrix…Sci Fi action
4 Charlie’s Angels Full Throttle…action comedy
3 Amelie…laugh out loud romantic comedy
2 Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones…Sci-Fi action
1 The Family Man…Nicolas Cage, Tea Leoni…romantic comedy


Hung around the house all weekend, watching football. Didn’t bother me that GT lost, though it was nice that they played with them the whole game. Is Reggie Ball the Frucal of college quarterbacks? Talented, but flawed. The way he played this year, I suppose no one will unseat him next year. How long will Gailey stick with Travis Bell at kicker? Bell will have the off-season to get back in good graces (have everyone forget how many he’s missed). I love that young UGA kicker, and both punters.

Eating at my brother’s meant I missed the Falcon game, though we watched the end of the Dallas game. Speaking of kickers, Jay Feely had a rough game yesterday. Supposedly he’s had a good year, but it’s got to be tough to kick for a team in NYC.

Got lot’s of sleep yesterday, but I’m still tired from staying up late painting playhouse stuff. Jim was working on his house this weekend, and won’t be back until the 10th. Still more to paint in the meantime. Matthew called me this morning looking for his little game. On the way to work today I noticed he left it in my car last night.

Missed being in Jefferson this weekend…with everyone there, the football in the yard and the paintball/weenie roast, and you know I’m a sucker for all that good food. And I hated that Ceil had to make the drive themselves. But with some good homemade soup and beef stew (and hamburgers and chicken) left over, I wasn’t hurting for food! I only left the house for two short trips, once because we were out of paper towels.

Did get a lot done around the house, getting stuff cleaned up and put up in the attic, organized the coat closet, and got a lot of painting done on the playhouse. Saturday I painted out in the garage until after 8 pm, with lamps out there to help me see. Didn’t quite finish, but it was getting cold. Then I went inside and turned on the game, and painted the boards that I had moved inside. I kept painting until 12:30 am!

I don’t know exactly what the kids had on their lists, but here are some things I had thought of for them, in case they didn’t have good stuff on their lists…
Will…a golf club or two (he’d probably take Ben’s leftovers!), a golf cap (Titleist or Nike), long pants and long-sleeve tee shirts. He did want a Clemson cap. Some of those flip-flops that everyone wears, and/or some Nike “soccer slides” …those sandal things that we wear at the beach…he’ll probably be wearing size 10-1/2 by the time it’s warm again. Hardy Boys books…I can tell you which ones he already has.
Anna…American Girl books, and Boxcar kids books, jeans and warm shirts.
Matthew…I hear Matthew is going to be tough to figure presents for this year…perhaps some games for that thing he plays…is it a color Pixter?

Went to see 'Two For the Money' Tuesday night, with Al Pacino, Renee Russo, and Matthew M. Interesting look into the world of gambling. Don't know if it’s an accurate portrayal or not. Nice shots of Manhattan, but all the football clips of nondescript college and pro teams could have been left out. Matthew plays a nice character, and you think Pacino's character is going to die the entire time. Russo appears to have had a botox treatment, or something.

Should get to the halfway point to my 320 magic number by the end of the week, which is well ahead of the pace I set. I’d said halfway by December 10th, and the 6th is the actual halfway point since I started through year end. I need to keep pushing…yesterday I didn’t make it to a Wendy’s (I should have, as I made a Kroger run). Ceil got one Wendy’s drink, and this morning a coworker had placed three on my desk, so I came out of the holiday weekend about the way I had planned to. I’m also current on cutting out coupons, so I’ll continue sending them in. Late today I’ll check to see if any have posted.

I’ve forgotten to ask my new friends if they’ll be open thanksgiving. In past years I have gone out early, but no shopping this year. Didn’t make it to NP, so I’ll have to listen on-line.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


My problem about writing is, I couldn’t imagine making up an entire story interesting enough to make book length…I’d much rather write about real stuff (Braves, particular real people or events). Not very important to me that my opinion be heard by the masses (I only consider calling in to talk radio when I’m so mad that I’ve lost my head).
Kelly in our small group had her first book published this spring, a short fictional novel...even had a book signing at Johnson Ferry Baptist (she happens to work there).
I won’t leave today until I stuff an addressed envelope with these 16 coupons I left on top my desk last night (under my stapler), and try to mail off 16 most work days. I’ve sent in 48 already (16+16+16), of the 102 total cups so far. Just returned from a 5 cup run…4 were bought by co-workers). Tomorrow I’ll check to see if any have shown up on the account.

Perhaps I’ll try that Wendy’s on 120. I’m beginning to become a regular, hitting the same Wendy’s at the same time every day. Yesterday I had my first large frosty (my first in several months) and it filled me up pretty good…that won't be a daily thing, as much as I like it. My co-workers have been good the past several days to let me get them a coke in the afternoon. If they keep up their excellent help, I can scale back slightly and still finish earlier than plan.

Starting but not finishing...I have a book sitting here that I’ve read 38 of 40 chapters…I won’t put it up until I finish, but it’s been several months. Blame having three kids, but that’s not really it.

Not much else going on, though work is busy with month-end and year-end stuff, and the regular stuff as well as some new stuff.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Miami upset!

This past weekend was a great college football weekend. That Vandy game was something, and I was hanging in there on the GT game. Thought the ESPN announcers were good, it was fun to hear Wes Durham call the end of the upset. After they cut to commercial after the game, WREK switched away from the locker room coverage, back to student programming. I too was excited about the GT win, but as good as they are/can be, I'm trying not to get my hopes up!

The game with UGA is at 8pm at Grant Field on ABC. Those night games are fun, and it’ll be great if Tech shows up two weeks in a row. They say it would be a no-win situation for GT to play Central and they say no big deal, lose and you're a bum. I hoped beating Miami might get them a better bowl, though I don't think GT packs them in as good as other teams (like Clemson). I'd still almost trade that Miami upset for a win over hapless NC State...our national rank would be much higher.

After taking the kids up to the Clemson/Duke game, my twelve year old has been wearing football jerseys ever since, and my seven year old isn’t far behind. My kids were talking about school yearbooks last week, so I drug out a couple of the CHS yearbooks.

NP had a couple from sit with Andy for a Q&A on how they ran up over $100,000 in debt shortly after they were married, and their journey getting our of debt just before having their first child. Remember that messages can be listened to (and videos viewed) on the website...

Ceil was in a hurry Sunday (we left Kidstuf shortly after it started to come home), so we didn’t make a family Wendy’s run on the way home. I made late-night runs both Sat & Sun. Made it to Wendy's Fri-Sat-Sun, which is good, even though my big days will be weekdays. Sent off batch number two, and I need to ready another batch today. Don't know why I didn't do this earlier, but I'm going to start mixing in a large Frosty every now and then…since I love them so much, now they're certainly worth it. Tech was leading with twelve minutes to go, though they'd missed two field goals, when I made my Saturday night Wendy's run.

Watched some aquarium coverage Sat nite, but we probably won’t go until next year some time at the earliest. Matthew wants to go there for his birthday. Will y’all go?

Made progress on the playhouse Saturday, getting the bolt holes drilled, and assembled the four walls and triangle pieces in the driveway. Still need to put some 'finish' pieces of wood around the corners, but Friday hopefully we'll assemble the playhouse onto it's base/floor down in the backyard. Never goes as fast as you'd like, but we're making progress.

I may win a contest every now and then, but it's the Whitakers who get their letters to the editors published! Like sweepstakes, I guess you've gotta send letters to get published.

Thanksgiving sounds like fun. Thursday we're going to brother Frank's house in Suwanee with the rest of the Murphy family. Ceil and the kids will go to Jefferson Friday-Sunday, and I'll probably stay behind to work on a backyard playhouse.

Friday, November 18, 2005


Got a VP from Chicago sitting with me the rest of the AM.

Had another good cup day yesterday, Ceil is finally helping out. Mailed off a batch yesterday for my account, hopefully another today for Ceil’s account. Reaching the one RT mark today. After cutting out about 34 last night, and 14 more this morning (I was on a roll), I think I’ll be cutting out the coupons as I go from now on. Sounds like a good idea to send them incrementally.

Ceil would like to go to Boston, but we’ve been. It’s not far enough away. We both enjoy big US cities. We’ve been to LA, so I’d like to go to SF. That sounded good to the kids. I’ve already mapped out the Giants and A’s schedules…no overlap! We’d have to catch one team on a Thursday or Sunday, then cross the bay to see the other team the next day. It would be ideal to see the Mariners, the only MLB team I haven’t seen.

A co-worker had the idea just now to ask for a large water when buying a coke, to see what happens.

Haven’t read the Hoffman article, but he seems like the type to shop around, then return to his lifetime team…unless he’s so mad that he doesn’t want to go back. Wagner seemed like the type that would like to stay close to home (WVa or Va?). I’ve heard the Orioles are interested, as well as the Met$.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

cups cups cups

When you mailed in your coupons, did you put 32 in a #10 envelope? Send it certified mail? Though the rules say #10, some in that chat room you mentioned said that a bigger envelope was ok. Just registered on AirTran for me, Ceil, and my dad. He’s also named William, and they didn’t ask for age, so that works well. Did put his address in Macon.

Had another good cup day yesterday (defined as several more than seven), with ten. Still kicking myself, though, as I should’ve made another hit last night when I picked up Will at 9:15. As I walked in a Wendy’s on the way home yesterday, I held the door for a mom and her 13-year old son. Both had drinks, and the son had three empty cups.

Saw where Jason Salty…the Braves minor league catcher, had a big game for the USA over Mexico. He had a good year in the Fall League as well. What should JS try and get for Estrada…a SS or reliever?

Emailed Lee, our group leader, with ideas on how to increase small group attendance. We had 3.5 couples missing last week, so I guess we need to schedule better. Guess that happens when we try and meet on Fridays. Next is the Dec 2nd meeting, which I had expected (now that I think about it, we may have a conflict, though I doubt it). Last Friday we missed the Watkins and Longs, and the Fallis’s, worn out from running around, didn’t make it (but now they’re finished with their Friday activities).

Let me ramble with thoughts/brainstorm for a minute…perhaps the group can discuss in the future (or you can get a consensus) which Fridays will be most conducive to having the most group members attend…by looking at everyone’s calendars going out several weeks in the future. This could take a minute or two of the meeting time, though, like everything else, will take longer due to tangents. It may turn out that we meet two Fridays in a row, then skip one or two before meeting again. But that might lead to lesser meetings, or making some families feel left out (if we chose to meet while they’re away).

Just trying to figure out ways to have fewer couples miss our small group meetings, which I “enjoy” immensely (I enjoy the meetings, not couples missing the meetings!). What do you think?

We never go on vacations (except to the beach), but having enjoyed NYC and Chicago this year, we're talking about a trip next year. Then I look around the house at all the things that can go at any time...gutters, heater, AC, dishwasher, plumbing, the van, and wonder if I'm being foolish.
I keep thinking about the computer and remember that there was a time not too long ago that I wasn't spending any time on it...we didn't have one. I guess they are useful and fun (and cable TV and ESPN). Guess we're living in the future.

Worked for hours yesterday catching up on my calendar/scrapbook.

Started Monday with 38 cups…not bad for starting Friday evening. Figure my current pace will get me to the 320 number by year end, if cups hold out. That would allow for maximum help from coworkers, and mean I could drink the cokes I buy. Am I crazy not to try and finish sooner? I’d rather not get more than half before December 10th, based on budget considerations. Two of five coworkers are considering collecting cups, though I expect one to falter and give me any he gets (last night he left the two he had on his desk, and the cleaning woman threw it away). Today I’ve got to get moving on sending in the first 32. Had a good cup day Monday, and got co-workers to help.

Yesterday AM I went with the guy from my current small group to a deal at Roswell Methodist. Only 7 attended…2 entertaining leaders, an elderly chaplain, a biologist, and a graphic artist. But the leaders had a bunch of contacts. Lasted until 9 am, so I don’t know how often I could go if I went back.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Wendy's Cokes

I went three for three this weekend and have momentum going…my count is 18 cups so far. A and M went with me Saturday evening, and all three went Sunday evening after we saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (weird). I’m going to be the type to want to drink all the diet cokes. Friday I got my first five and drank them throughout the day on Saturday…we’ll see how it goes. I had stopped getting ice in cokes earlier this year.

My Friday stop was on the other side of 400 on Holcomb Bridge. An employee said one guy bought 100 cups…said his boss said it was ok to sell them all at once. One thing that worries me is it says…through Dec 31st, or while supplies last.

Never much of a drinker of alcoholic beverage drinker, mainly because I’ve never acquired the taste, except for daiquiris and the like. My vices have always been eating too much, TV, and diet coke. Earlier this year I went on a big diet, as I weighed more than I ever had in my life. Weaned myself from cokes, opting for more water. The diet went great, but I’ve slacked off. Don’t mind drinking all the diet cokes, though. Trying to figure out ways to get my co-workers helping me…perhaps I can bring their cokes in the morning, so they won’t have to stop.

Small group went well, except we had a tiny group…2-1/2 couples. We did ok. The kids put on a thanksgiving play at the end.

Friday night when we got back I started painting some of the playhouse stuff that we built last time, and I stayed up until 2:15 am. But the playhouse guy’s elderly mother had to go into the hospital, so all we did Saturday was go to home depot for some bolts and stuff. So we’re on for next Saturday. Supposedly the parts of the playhouse are ready to be assembled, so instead of working on it for a few hours on Sunday afternoon like we have been doing, the fellow is coming over next Saturday to make a day of it. That’ll give us Sunday in case we don’t finish. I’ve primed everything (with Anna’s help)…even surfaces that will be covered up by finished pieces, to help withstand molding, etc. It’s dragging out, but it’s not bad yet.

So Saturday am I cleaned upstairs, and got sneezing from the dust, as usual. Slacked off in the afternoon and saw parts of Clemson/FSU, GT/UVA, and UGA/Auburn. Ceil and Anna ran around Sat looking for clothes…I got onto to them for going to Chickfila. Sunday they watched SpaceJam again while I cleaned more upstairs and napped.

Last summer’s NYC and Chicago trips were so much fun, and when the 06 baseball schedules came out, I thought a little about where it would be fun to go. Perhaps I’ll get the in-laws and my parents involved.

Lang’s family always went on family cruises back in the late 70s when they were little.

Houston is also in some sort of regular preschool at least one day a week, at Johnson Ferry, I think. Brian is down in Orlando right now, and Susan is taking the kids down to join them for the weekend.

Friday, November 11, 2005


What will we talk about until spring training? I’ve yet to get into the Hawks, though I did switch over to last night’s game a few times. They didn't look too good on TV last night. Whenever I see a close-up of number one pick Williams, he doesn't look like he's having fun. Tech got a great recruiting class, but supposedly this is a rebuilding year with a new cast of characters to get to know, so that’ll take time. Not much going on with us…hopefully we’ll work on the playhouse this weekend. The water taxi sounds like fun. We rode the Staten Island Ferry for fun, and it was a welcome break to get off our feet for an hour. At Thrashers games, be sure to sign up to win the Volvo, somewhere on the mezzanine. They're giving one away at every home win. (ok, it's only a one year lease). Watched ‘Spacejam’ last night…it was the first time Matthew had seen it. I can’t get Matthew to wear Will’s old Air Jordans that Michael was wearing in the movie, and watching the movie didn’t help any. They look good, though. He and Will also like parts of the Steve Martin tribute on PBS, with old SNL clips like a dance scene with Gilda Radner, and King Tut. At Tech I actually performed that song in front of a student Baptist convention crowd of over a thousand. We had a backup band, and everyone, including the dancing girls, was dressed in togas. The leaders weren’t pleased. I guess I won’t pursue the Wendy’s thing…at least I haven’t talked myself into it yet. Today I was driving around at lunchtime running errands, and thought about it when I passed a Wendy’s, but I used a Chick-fil-A coupon. Most days I eat at my desk and don’t go out. Are you making progress? Susan finally got hold of Ceil. Houston takes art on Tuesdays in Roswell, so she’s been dropping by, but it’s when Ceil takes Anna to ballet, so no one’s home. Staci’s IKEA event sounds like fun, but it doesn’t look like Ceil will be able to go.

Toe Kicking

As a kid growing up in Macon in the 60’s, there wasn’t much exposure to the newly formed movement called soccer-style placekicking. Bobby Etter was one of a string of straight-on kickers the Falcons employed, that I grew up watching. Only when I was fully engrained as a “toe kicker” that I was exposed to some of the early sidewinders like Garo Yepremian, the Gogolak brothers, and Nick Mike-Mayer of the Falcons.

In tenth grade I started kicking with a square-toed kicking shoe. In the summer before 11th grade I remember riding downtown with Coach Brodie in his pickup truck, to Charlie Woods Sporting Goods. We went upstairs to the dimly lit attic and picked out a new, perfectly fitting Spot-Bilt kicking shoe. There were cool facemasks up there as well. But wearing a kicking shoe made me different, and I looked on punters and soccer-style kickers as being more cool, being able to do their job wearing regular shoes. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t make myself into a punter or soccer-style kicker.

After my sophomore season ended, I began taking the team ball bag down to the practice field to kick, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I would lift weights with the rest of the team. Sometimes my friend and fellow kicker Ricky Kurtz would join me kicking, but I was out there without fail. In the summer I kept the team ballbag in the back of my first car, the red ’66 Ford Country Sedan station wagon. I would practice kickoffs and field goals, moving around from the left hash marks to the right. To work on my accuracy I would kick one yard field goals, teeing the ball up on the hash mark in the end zone. Thankfully, I was always a guy who could kick it pretty straight, so accuracy wasn’t a big problem.

White cleats were becoming more fashionable, but it was only natural that the Central powerhouse wore black Spot-Bilt cleats. Some of my NFL heroes like Jim Kiick and Fred Belitnikoff would tape their shoes, and as a tenth grader dressing out for the big Friday night varsity games, I taped up my shoes as well. There was a small gang of shoe tapers, most of which were upperclassmen who got playing time, as opposed to 10th grade benchwarmers like me. I did it for the look, but my taped shoes elevated my status, as I would notice Poole and Putnal checking out each week’s tape job.

As a starter in the 11th grade I followed fashion by taping the backs of my shoes as well, creating an almost white shoed effect, contrasting against the black shoes of most of my teammates. The new coaches my senior year outfitted us in white shoes, so I reverted back to my 10th grade look, showing more black, like my current hero Belitnikoff.

Jim Holmes was a nice guy and decent football player. Started at tight end as a senior, but as a junior he played with me on the B team, going both ways. We had nicknamed him ‘Mobile Holmes’, but in the Athens game against Cedar Shoals, he scooped up a fumble and rumbled down the field for a touchdown. But he ran so slow, we were falling down laughing on the sidelines. It took forever, so after that Jim was called ‘mobile turtle’, even by the coaches.

Crazy center Mike Wager doled out the nicknames. Squat linebacker Danny Kurtz looked exactly like the clerk in MASH, so he was dubbed Radar. When his two younger brothers joined the team, they were Sonar and Quasar…by Motarola. Tackle Brannon was the Omeba, as he would engulf ballcarriers in his big belly. One day I lost my balance, and after that was called Surfin’ Murf, not knowing the character from old beach movies.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Kicking…the Early Days

As a kid, one year my dad took me to participate in the Ford/NFL’s Punt, Pass, & Kick competition. I remember pouring over the booklet that was published, with stories, drawings, and photos of the Cardinals’ Jim Bakken, the Vikings’ Fred Cox, and the Chiefs’ Jerryl Wilson. Every year I would pour over the booklets, particularly the kickers and punters. My interest in kicking may have been spurred on by the fact that in that lone PP&K competition that I actually took part, I placed third in the kicking part, for my age group. Forget that my kick only went 33 feet, or eleven yards…I was hooked.

The driveway in new house was long and straight, perfect for kicking. Most days after school I could be found kicking my football. At first the idea was to kick it over the wire that served as the crossbar. As I improved, the kicks would sail into the street, then into the yard across the street. I moved back, for longer field goal attempts. The pine tree guarding the end of the driveway has branches that never recovered, and I still look up to remember where the good, high kicks would knock away parts of the branch. The footballs would tear up from all the wear of the concrete.

Playing rec football in the sixth and seventh grades, it never occurred to me to try out for kicker. That job was given to the best athletes. No big deal, as there were few kickoffs anyway, and the rubber balls refused to be kicked as well as the regulation leather balls…though it took me years to figure this out.

My team in eighth grade went undefeated during the regular season, the Browns (though our jerseys were blue!). I weighed 120 pounds, which was the weight limit, and played defensive end and tight end. In the first game they called a pass play to me. Nervous, I didn’t hear the snap count, and jumped offsides. The ball was snapped, and I caught the pass for a ten yard gain…that was promptly called back.

Later in the year the halfback pass right was called. My job was to run a deep flag pattern. Danny threw a perfect ball that I caught, and I turned upfield, near the sideline. Nothing but the green field ahead. As I ran by our bench, out of the corner of my eye I spied the coaches and teammates on the sidelines, excitedly urging me on. The field was 80 yards long, and my touchdown covered 65 yards. Having often thought about what cool thing to do if I ever scored a touchdown, all I could manage was the throw both arms in the air, as teammates came to hug me in the end zone. Another highlight in the season was sacking the QB from behind, forcing a fumble. I also had an interception, when the QB fumbled, and I caught it in midair.

In ninth grade I joined the school team, and for the first few weeks I was just part of the crowd. Then one day before practice several of us were messing around kicking field goals. Later that same practice we worked on kicking for the first time all year, and QB George DuBose let the coach know that “Murphy can kick.” After a few kicks, the job was mine. DuBose was the one who cracked up the bus when leaving for a road game. Coach Jones had made a big deal that everyone needed to use the restroom before we left. As the bus pulled out, from the back George called out ‘hey coach, gotta pee!’ Hilarious, to us ninth grade boys.

Once during practice I kicked a field goal against a rushing defense, and someone hit me while my kicking leg was still up in the air. The hit must have made me land on my head, because the next thing I remember was opening my eyees to see the entire team crowded around me. It’s the only time I’ve ever been knocked out.

Though few opponents kicked point-afters, I was able to kick more and more PATs as the season rolled on. We had a dominating team, going undefeated and winning the 1973 city championship. The Georgia Military College B-team came over from Milledgeville for a game, and we beat them 66 to nothing. Several weeks later we bussed over there to play in their little stadium. After we’d score, their cheerleaders would do pushups. That stopped in the first quarter, and at halftime we had equaled the 66 – 0 score. With the stadium wall located right behind the goalposts, my extra-points easily soared out of the park. Everyone played, and the final score was 96-0…a game still discussed at school reunions.

My tenth grade year was spent kicking for the B-team, and again we were the city champs. It was fun traveling across the state to play, in Warner-Robins and Athens. Wherever we played, my dad would arrange his schedule to watch. He was becoming more involved with the Big Orange Booster Club, eventually serving as president. The varsity kicker was senior David Taylor, who made high-school All-American as a center/defensive tackle. He later kicked for Brigham-Young.

State Championship Season

On team photo day for my junior season, the trainer was handing out game jerseys for the first time. Whenever he’d pull out a jersey, I would quickly call out what player wore that number. He eventually got me to hop the equipment room gate and help him out. This enabled me to secure the number that I prized…twenty-one. The previous 21 owner had graduated, the cool David Poole. The Dolphins’ Jim Kiick was a hero, another twenty-one.

Though my status as the first-string field-goal kicker was never in question, the day that 10th-grader Ricky Kurtz boomed a single practice kickoff one yard deep into the end zone, I had competition for the kickoff job. Unfortunately for Ricky, his kickoff effectiveness decreased as games wore on, the toll of also playing offensive line. After a game or two, the kickoff job again was mine. Though my kickoffs almost always landed around the ten yard line, they were high and consistent.

In the first game I booted the first two extra points flawlessly, but missed the third attempt. The game film caught me slamming my feet up and down (once) in a small fit, and the coaches and teammates thought it hilarious. Lesson learned! That’s how the season went…most games I would go either 2-3 or 3-3. I was able to attempt a few short field goals as well.

In Augusta against Richmond Academy, I kicked off to open the game…a nice, deep kickoff. I was running down the field admiring my kick when my view was blocked by a big Richmond Academy lineman, who promptly knocked me down. I immediately bounced to my feet, only to be quickly knocked down again. This time I stayed down until the play was over. Later in the same game I was hit just after kicking a point-after. The breath was knocked out of me, though I was able to recover enough for the kickoff.

The trainer digged out a practice helmet with a single-bar facemask, and I wore it with pride. Eventually I tried to put it on my game helmet, but it didn’t work out. How I wish I had held on to that old helmet! Our punting specialist, Johnny Crawford became known as Thunder Foot, so I was called Lightning Leg. We decorated our practice helmets with stripes of athletic tape.

Though we won the region championship, the final game of the year was against the dangerous Northside Warner Robins team, led by the speedy RB Tony Dazvan. We lost a heartbreaker, but had a game-of-the-ages rematch the day before Thanksgiving, in the state playoffs. My job was to kick away from Dazvan on kickoffs, and I was successful on seven of my eight kickoffs in the two games, even though he was lined up on the left. It was much tougher to kick to the right, being right-footed. Once the two deep backs switched places before the kickoff, so I adjusted and kicked left, away from Dazvan. My lone screw up was on a wobbly kickoff that bounced to him. We won the playoff game 21-19, with my three extra-points being the difference in the game. QB Michael Jolly scored the winning touchdown on a sneak, with only seconds remaining in the thriller.

I kicked another three extra points in the semifinal win, and we advanced to the championship game in Atlanta’s Lakewood Stadium…covered in Astroturf. I had dreamed of kicking on Astroturf, the perfect surface for kickers. Georgia Tech had donated old Addidas turf cleats to us, and I found one left shoe that was my size (I wished I had found a pair, that I could’ve kept like a few senior teammates did). With an off week before the game, we were able to practice at Lakewood on Saturday and Sunday. This not only got us adjusted to the Astroturf, but we had a great time on the bus trips, and team unity was high. We dined at the state farmers market cafeteria.

The December night was so frigid that I actually wore gloves, years before the practice caught on (but these were heavy winter gloves!). I remember coming out of the locker room to run on the field before the game. Usually I would be one of the first running onto the field, but that night my grandfather was standing outside the locker room. I stopped to greet him, so I missed leading the team onto the field. I feared I had messed with my little superstition. As game time approached, several coaches asked how my footing was, but I wasn’t worried. I should’ve been, as my opening kickoff was low and wobbly.

We scored second to tie the game at six, but our coaches decided to fake the extra point, something we hadn’t done all year, much less practiced that much. The fake was to go left, so I sprang out ahead of holder/QB Jolly and blocked/fell on the only rusher I saw. Though it seemed like the corner was clear for a run into the end zone, Jolly passed…incomplete. We went for two after our second touchdown, but the third TD put us ahead for good. My extra point split the uprights, and we were the state champions, again by a 21-19 score.