Winning or the tale of a “Damn Good DAWG”

“The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back. That’s real glory. Thats the essence of it.”
― Vince Lombardi

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(one dog in the continuous line of the last 7 UGA bulldog mascots / AJC image)

Attending the University of Georgia during the late 1970’s and early 80’s was a magical time full of pure wonderment and joy.
It was a time of National Championships, Heisman Trophies, broken records, sUGAr raining from the sky, and all of the things of which legends are made.
Those were heady days in which to be a college coed.
It helped if you liked football.

Being raised in the South, I indeed not only liked, but loved college football, as I still do. I do not speak of the round variety of futbol played world over—but rather I speak of the humble and odd oval pigskin variety which is the epitome of the quintessential slice of Americana.
Blame it on my father, for I was raised watching as well as loving college football.

Those exciting days of fame made oh so sweet by the likes of Herschel Walker, Vince Dooley and Larry Munson have all but long disappeared from the forefront of University of Georgia. Those legend makers have retreated back into the shadows where they now live as the ghosts of Glories past. Their phantasm images remain ready to haunt old, as well as new, fans and coaches alike as each season the hopes of the DAWG Nation silently, noisily, fantasizes “will this will be the year???”

That same nagging and haunting question hangs painfully and often bitterly over the heads, as the awkward elephant in the room, of colleges and schools nationwide. As time marches on and Legends come and go, their parting often brings the anxious anticipation and hope of recapturing those long past days of not only winning and bragging rights, but of fame and fortune. Because isn’t that what football is all about now, the fame and the fortune?

We need not look only to The University of Georgia as a school, a team and a fan base which seeks out those days of glory gone by, but we may cast our glances to schools such as Ohio State who wistfully wonder if their glory days, which harken back to the likes of Woody Hayes, may rest on the steely shoulders of Urban Meyer, as Buckeyes continue to exorcise the demons of the ingrained image of a beloved and aging coach, who’s frustration with a player and a game gone a rye, lead to the infamous punch seen round the world.

Ghosts of glory may also be found on the campus of the University of Alabama who’s legendary Coach Bear Byant is the standard bearer for all of college football and of what it takes to create winning programs. His image is hallowed with not only Bama fans, but with college football fans, young and old nationwide as no one can deny the immortal houndstooth.

And then there was the sad and tragic toppling of a legend in Pennsylvania which was shrouded in mystery, denial, pedophilia, fame and the defamation of a once almost holy character. I won’t go into the details of Joe Paterno as I was once a stalwart Penn State fan. I continue to sort out the horrendous accusations of a heroic legend of a man who I can’t wrap my brain around having not known what evils were taking place in his “backyard”. . .

Yet it is to the hallmark of the ultimate American tale, the one of seeking a better life, hard work and success, coupled with a tragic premature ending, which most likely captures the imagination of many a sports fan—that of the legendary player and coach of the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, Knute Rockne. Rockne immigrated with his parents to the US from Norway in 1903. He grew up in Chicago playing neighborhood ball. He played football in high school, but the lack of funding forced the would-be gridiron standout to head to the workforce. Four years of working at the Chicago post office, a 22 year old Rockne finally saved enough money to attend Notre Dame where he not only played football, earning the honor of All American, but where he also coached immortalizing the emotionally charged phrase “win one for the Gipper”

Sadly however, today’s college football, for good or bad, along with collegiate sports in general, has morphed into something almost unrecognizable, falling victim to the all mighty dollar. Today there is television and savvy marketing which brings not only popularity but millions upon millions of dollars to schools clamoring for a piece of the pie. Scholarships, advertisements, colossal stadiums, notoriety and endorsements run amuck. These are the things which now drive and dictate college sports. The winning at all costs mentality is sadly what keeps coaches with a job. And who wants to lose a multimillion dollar job?

Fans, alumni and sportscasters become a fickled lot. No longer is a winning record important but things such as key rivalry games and national titles now loom paramount. A beloved coach who “allows” the team to lose the hope of playing for, not only in a bowl game, as it must be an important bowl, but the loss of a potential national title, can quickly find any coach in the proverbial hot seat come Monday morning following any loss during the usual round of the sports talk shows hitting the airwaves.

Fans and alumni begin clamoring for a “head on the plate” as something must change and change quickly because we are a Nation of winners.
Americans do not like losers.

Enter Mark Richt, the current head football coach at the University of Georgia.

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If I had a son who played football, I would want him playing for a man like Mark Richt.
Richt is a man of conscience, who is driven and steered by a faith based compass. His is a deep based unwavering faith in a God of mercy and grace.
Ohhh, I can hear those who lead the atheist protest groups and those of the ACLU raising their wary little antennas worried we’re mixing Christianity on the field of play. My observation of Coach Richt is not of a man leading a team of Christian soldiers—he merely happens to be a Christian who happens to be a leading SEC football coach who happens to merely be a ‘lead by example’ sort of man.

When Auburn’s current quarterback, Nick Marshall, who was recruited and signed by UGA, was caught stealing from fellow teammates, Richt cut him from the team. Richt believes that for all actions there are consequences and that everyone must see those consequences through, as painful as they may be for everyone involved, even at the risk of winning. Nick Marshall has since worked his way back to a leading role in the SEC, much to Richt’s delight. Never smug or condescending, Coach Richt is a believer in second chances and the turning around of misguided character. He was pleased that lessons were obviously learned and that this young man is finally seeing a dream come true.

The guidance and teaching of young men is a big factor as to why Coach Richt is in the business of coaching—for you see coaching goes well beyond the calling and formulating of plays–anyone in education or who has ever played on a team under the leadership of either a good or bad coach knows.

Yet frustratingly, positive events for Mark Richt do not always come easily or readily as they do for his counterpart head coaches who seem to bask in the ever constant lime light of the big wins and success. Why that is, I’m not sure but somewhere I hear the idiom “good guys finish last” rolling around in my head. He and his team often seem plagued and deluged by a constant series of bad luck, bad breaks and bad calls year after year after year. The latest incident of famed running back Todd Gurley, who just finished sitting out a 4 game suspension handed down by the NCAA for the profiting of signing sports memorabilia, is just one case in point—

The crowning blow of Richt’s season, a season that had been so highly anticipated as the Bulldogs were highly touted, sitting atop leading polls back at the end of the summer, in this now surreal world of a college football playoff. . .yet all of the hopes and dreams which had slowly faded from losses to both SEC rivals, South Carolina and Florida, came crashing down on one particular play at the end of Saturday’s game against Auburn. Todd Gurley had come back from the suspension chomping at the bit to play.

His Heisman Trophy hopes already dashed by his own poor choices, Gurley still had some things to prove. The first play of the game, Gurley ran the kickoff back for a touchdown which was then immediately called back due to a Bulldog penalty–the continuing curse of the penalties has been a self inflicted slow bleeding demise for the Bulldogs. Gurley continued to work in tandem with teammate and fellow running back Nick Chubb throughout the game, gaining yards and racking up points. Yet it was during one of the final plays of the game when Gurley, running the ball, was hit. He goes down grabbing his leg yet eventually gets up, walking off the field under his own power. He wasn’t carted off the field, he could even be seen walking the sidelines. However it was a MRI which later confirmed the fears of the Bulldog Nation, Gurley had blown out his knee, tearing his ACL– ending not only his playing season, but his tenure at UGA.

Does one player make a team?
No.
Does one play make a season?
Sometimes.
However Gurley’s suspension and now torn knee are but a few pieces of the never ending litany of bad breaks which have besieged this most mild mannered coach and of this often maligned and under respected team.

Todd Gurley will have surgery to repair his knee. He will rehab and be as good as new. He will most likely be a high pick in the draft, going on to a lucrative career in the NFL.

There will be those who question Richt’s decision for having left Gruley in the game when it was clear the game was in their hands. There are those who have thought that Richt is not aggressive enough, too nice to be a head coach in one of the biggest powerhouse conferences of the game. There are those who clamor that Richt just can’t win “the big one” or that the team lacks consistency. He hangs on to his offensive coordinator, Mike Bobo, when others have called for Bobo’s head on a platter. Anything and everything that is wrong with the Bulldogs all comes back to Richt.

Yet one thing is certain, Mark Richt is consistent.
He does not bend under pressure. He does not acquiesce, he does not put his moral compass aside if its inconvenient for his audience.
He is a leader,
a quiet man,
a kind man.
He is often unruffled on the playing field.
He is steadfast, not one given to the emotional fits and tirades often displayed by so many other emotionally charged college coaches.
He is a rock during a crisis.
He consistently does the right thing by all under his command regardless of position, his paycheck, or pressure.
He is the example of how one human being should treat a fellow human being.

College coaches are often compared to opposing strategizing generals who formulate plans of attack against “the enemy”—a steely game of chess with the elusive checkmate hanging in the balance. I know that I would be more than happy to follow a man like Mark Richt into battle as he is cool under pressure and always has the best of his men in the forefront of his mind.

All those attributes are great and grand you say, but they don’t win football games.
What about the Glory days you ask.
What about the multimillion dollar endorsements?
What about all the money generated and brought to the schools that win?
What about the fame, the fortune?
Yeah, you’re probably right. . .
. . .but there once was a time when winning wasn’t everything.

Don’t keep your head in the sand

“How long am I gonna stand,
with my head stuck under the sand?
I’ll start before I can stop,
before I see things the right way up.”

lyrics by Coldplay

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(grazing sandpiper / Watercolor Beach, Florida / Julie Cook / 2014)

I realize it’s been quite sometime since I last wrote a post regarding Dad.
Oh, not to worry, he’s fine—with fine of course being a relative term with Dad.

You should know that my dad loves college football, of which I figure is pretty much where and how I learned to love the sport as well, as countless Saturdays at home were spent with Dad glued in front of the TV watching every game imaginable. Remember, these were the days before Game Day, Hulu, Tivo, remotes, split screens, etc. It was not uncommon for my dad to haul every television in the house, the tiny black and white in my bedroom, the larger black and white in their bedroom, setting them up in the den in order to watch the games playing out on all three major networks- – -remember this was the time when there were only 3 stations of choice. . .no ESPN, no SEC network, no Sports South, no CBS Sports. . .well you get the point.

His favorite team of course is his alma mater, the GA TECH Yellowjackets.
I was singing “I’m a rambling wreck from GA Tech” before I could count.
I know what you’re thinking, “didn’t you go to UGA and are not Tech and UGA huge in-state rivals?”
The answer to your query is “yes, indeed” (slight smile forming at corner of mouth)
I can’t help that a Tech man sent his daughter to THE University of Georgia—I suppose he’s the one who has to live with that, but I digress.

So imagine my surprise Saturday when I called Dad following the exciting climax of Tech’s narrow victory over their conference rivals Va Tech and he seem clueless as to what I’m talking about:
a groggy warbley “heeellllooo”
Hi Dad
uh Hi. . .
Boy what a game, that was something wasn’t it!? (note enthusiasm)
Game, what game? (total confusion)
Dad, what do you mean “what game”??!! (aghast surprise)
Uh, who won? (again confusion)
What do you mean who won?? It went down to the wire. (frustration)
Did we win? (ugh)
What do you mean “did we win”???!! (aaaggghhhhh)
Were you not watching the game? (ditto that)
uh I guess I dozed off. (resignation)
Dad, are you kidding me??!! (grave concern)

That is not like Dad to miss Tech.
It’s not like Dad to miss a football game.
And whereas I have visited him throughout the summer months, popping up for lunch and short visits here and there, I have, however, backed off with my pursuit of his paper chase—the statements, the bills, the invoices, his insistence that “he’s got this and to leave him the hell alone.”

I’ve rationalized that if the lights are still on, the phone still works, they have hot water and air-conditioning, then things are good, right?!
I had grown weary of the weekly assaults by a feeble old mind that continues to slowly fade which imagined me as agitator over very real financial disasters, etc. His cursing at me which is so out of character, his childlike temper tantrums which really began when my mom died 28 year ago and his defiance and refusal to simply recognize that all I’m doing is trying to help.

And yet, it is time, I suppose, that I suck it up and get back to the task of putting his house in order by pulling my head out of the proverbial sand by actually taking an honest look and making certain that all is well rather than assuming such—as we know what happens with that business.

Here’s to a trip to Atlanta!
Here’s to Dad!
How ’bout them DAWGS

Cutting losses

“Everything’s not going to go perfect. You’re going to have some losses that you’re going to have to bounce back from and some things that are a little unforeseen that you’re going to have to deal with.”
Tony Dungy

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
― Lao Tzu

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(a sad sight in the garden / Julie Cook / 2014)

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run

Now I’m no gambler mind you. . . but the lyrics to that song certainly sum up my attitude right about now.

Plus, you may not have noticed– but there is a bit of change in the air.
Do you hear it?
“Hear what?”
The drums, do you hear the drums?
“Drums?!”
Yes, drums, as in the high school is having band camp. . .I hear the band practicing way off in the distance.
“Ohhhh, those kinds of drums. . .”

That means only one thing. . . .
“Football season is getting ready to start?”

A shift in seasons.

“But it’s only July 15th for heavens sake. . .the middle of Summer!!”
Ahhh perhaps so, but try telling the school systems around this country that it’s just the middle of summer.

In just a few short weeks teachers will begin reporting back for duty.
Football camps will be soon be underway.
The back to school sales are already gearing up.

Change is in the air.

And with that change comes a bit of resignation on my part.
Did you notice that corn cob picture at the start of today’s post?
Here’s another one just incase you missed the first one.

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You must know that I have been dealt a one two punch.
The deer and raccoons are back, each night in the garden, with a maddening vengeance.
Seems they have grown accustomed to the scent of a Guerlain doused scarecrow and the heavy scent of Irish Spring soap lining the garden.
The deer have trampled down the corn.

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The trampling came as a result of the deer obviously racing willy nilly to eat off the tops of the beans, the peppers, the okra, the eggplants, the peas. . .even the cucumbers.
Pigs won’t eat cucumbers!
What’s wrong with these animals??!!

My husband has an ominous and foreboding sense that this is all a sign.
“A sign of what, hungry animals?”
Yes, as in gearing up for a harsh winter to be. . .
“NOT AGAIN?!”

On top of the animals, Mother Nature has been a bit selfish as of late with her water supply as we’ve had weeks without rain. Passing summer showers have been a hit or a miss. Even this latest “cold front,” which brought flooding rains to parts of the Nation, delivered not even a drop to our yard. To water this size garden properly, night after night, would mean our paying the county a small fortune.
We’ve done what we can and simply hoped for the best.

The coup de grâce has now been dealt- – – the current attack of the fire ants, slugs, worms, caterpillars, as well as the other creepy crawlies, who are laying claim to my succulent vegetables, is proving to be a fatal blow.

I waged a valiant fight.
I was determined.
I was persistant.
Yet I was outgunned and out maneuvered.

I did not give up nor give in.
I kept going.
But. . . .
It is time.

Wisdom in life comes from knowing when when is when.
When it is time. . .
and
when it is enough . . .

and that when, is now. . .

“It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things.”
Theodore Roosevelt

Now when did you say college football kicks off. . .

Be of Good Cheer

“Be of good cheer. Do not think of today’s failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.”
― Helen Keller

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(photograph: giant sunflower at the shore of Lake Michigan / Chicago, Illinois / Julie Cook / 2013)

I know what you’re thinking—“you’re wearing me out Julie, two in one day–not to mention those postings over on the ” the legion of door whores” and now the windows of “what light through yonder window breaks….”

Do you actually think I could leave you on a Friday on a sad note… albeit a note of birthday wishes and blessed redemption— but still with a sad taste in all of our mouths!!??

Heavens NO!!

It’s Friday for goodness sake!!!…. plus a Friday marking the start of a holiday weekend, not to mention the kick off to a season of college football—it doesn’t get much better—whoowhooooo!!!

So on this wonderful Friday afternoon, may I offer you a sun filled weekend spent doing whatever it is your heart desires—sans the labor…..that is if you’re fortunate enough not to have to go in to work—but even if you do have to work–here’s to blessings at work as well….

and incase you’re interested:
thelegionofdoorwhores.wordpress.com
whatlightthroughyonderwindow.wordpress.com
I know, I still hate the door title…but I love the doors…and now windows—–