Rivalries and Chicken Livers

by Rich on November 13, 2017

There’s an old joke that we’ve all heard about college football in the South. You know the one…”college football in the South isn’t a religion…it’s much more important than that.” It was funny the first fifty times I heard it, but whatever. I only bring it up because we are hitting the rivalry stretch in college football, and while the game may not, in fact, be more important than our faith (one hopes), it can have the same chilling affect on family and friends that, say, religion and politics can have.

Almost every family has it’s own internal struggles when it comes to these rivalries. It’s usually an in-law causing all the ruckus, but not always. Sometimes it’s a sibling. And on occasion, even a spouse. You’ve seen those “House Divided” car tags. Personally I don’t get it, but I know plenty of relationships that appear to work just fine within this diametrically opposed atmosphere.

And for most of the year, we can all live with these differences. Our team of choice becomes one more item to add to the “unacceptable holiday meal talking points” list. Yep, your family isn’t the only one that has one of those. My family’s list also includes the following: presidents, elections, the Pope, chicken liver and 1983 (don’t ask). And college football. In my particular circumstance, there are 3 teams that are rooted for with equal vigor. And they all play each other right around the holidays. It makes for some very interesting dinner table conversations.

“So…how about that Google, huh? Man, you can look up ANYTHING these days!”

“I’m pretty sure we have squirrels in the attic again.”

“Uncle Rich, tell us that story about when you rammed your bike through the basement door because you thought you were Ponch from the hit TV show ‘CHiPs'” (this is a thing that happened.)

Meanwhile, seething just under the surface, is a raging passion that is barely controlled. I wont call it hatred, for I do not hate my brothers-in-law, er…”family members”. But there is a very real and present understanding that if the college football can of worms were to be opened, a vortex would appear over the dinner table. One of those big ugly things like the one in Ghostbusters. And my mom would start crying and begging us all to just eat more mashed potatoes and why can’t we have just one meal where nobody chunks a salad fork across the room?

So we let it be.

I have learned, the hard way, that in this day and age of instant digital communication, social media platforms have, in essence, become our much larger, communal dinner tables, only with annoying pictures, GIFs, and videos. So for the last couple of years I have imposed upon myself my own personal lock-down when it comes to my friends and family from the “dark side”. I try not to be rude or ugly. And I don’t just disappear. I let everyone know up front that I am taking a break from interacting and that once the game is over, I look forward to catching up with them again.

I do it for the same reason that I don’t talk about things on my family’s “Do Not Talk About” list: I love and care about these people. I value the relationships. I don’t want something like religion, politics or football to erase their inherent humanity in my eyes. They are family and friends for who they are as people, not what team they cheer for.

As long as that team isn’t chicken livers. Then they’re dead to me.

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A Leap Of Faith

by Rich on November 6, 2017

Remember this: all of life is a risk.

There is a common discussion around sports surrounding the art of decision making during competition. I call it an art, but really it’s a process. And as a fan, or even a competitor or coach, it’s easy to second guess that process once the decision has been made. We see it constantly. It’s what sports talk radio and TV networks use to fill air-time when there are no games to broadcast. Many people have made ridiculous amounts of money doing it. It’s their entire career. You know how it goes.

It’s a crucial football game late in the season. Two rivals are squaring off, and the game is close. Perhaps one has had an “iffy” season. A couple of good wins, a couple of bad losses. The locker room isn’t confident. At some point in the game, it’s fourth down and short and the coach of that team has to decide whether or not to go for it. There are all kinds of factors going into that call, but a lot of times it comes down to a hunch. A gut feeling.

It’s the rubber match of a baseball series. It’s late in the year and one team is fighting to get into the post season. every win counts enormously. The game goes to extra innings and the manager of that team is running out of bodies to put on the mound. But one run scored means his team wins, and he has a runner on third with two outs. His guys are exhausted. Does he try to bunt the run in? Does he go for the squeeze play? Does he put in a pinch runner to steal home?

These are just a couple of easy to understand examples, but they happen in every sport. Pulling the goalie in hockey, putting in a pure shooter in basketball, laying up or going for it in golf. Big risk, big reward.

The problem is that in life, we, as a species, are genetically designed to avoid risk (unless you’re a 17 year old male. Then you track it down and give it a bear hug). Sure, you may drink from the milk carton a day after the expiration date, but it’s calculated. We want the reward to be worth the risk. And if we can’t quantify it in some measurable way, it very often comes down to our gut feelings.

I have used all of these sports analogies because I was reminded this week that it is healthy for us to step out of our comfort zones and take risks, even when the odds may be stacked against us. Because there are long range benefits to taking a leap of faith without a safety net that go beyond the immediate results. What does it say to your players about your belief in them if you make the call to go for it on fourth and short? Or if you attempt that squeeze play? Or even to yourself when you don’t lay up but whack away out of the woods, firing for the pin? Big risks, yes. But big rewards, even if you fail. Because living through the failure teaches us the real risk is letting the fear of that very failure control us. So maybe you didn’t get the big reward on this one. You still learned from the experience, and that’s a win. Don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.

Remember, all of life is a risk.

 

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Spooky Good Looks

October 30, 2017

Halloween is this week and parents are scrambling to find politically correct, non-offensive, eco-friendly, culturally sensitive (but not culturally appropriating) costumes for their children to wear. It’s a tough call and I’m grateful that I’m past that stage in life. I mean, I still dress up, but my child has long since outgrown the tradition. […]

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College Football Is A Chore

October 23, 2017

Most people hate chores with a passion, but sometimes having chores is a saving grace when other enthusiasms in life begin to fail. Midway through the college football season, there are a lot of fans turning to those chores as a distraction from their team’s now unreachable preseason expectations. But who wants to do work […]

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Failing On The Pitch

October 16, 2017

Here we are in the middle of October, knee deep in the sweet spot of sports. Multiple leagues are playing and a couple are about to tip off (literally): Major League Baseball, professional and college football, the NHL, and even golf and NASCAR are still going. So naturally I want to talk about soccer. This […]

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Funny Sports

October 9, 2017

There is a stand-up comedian that I really enjoy named Brian Regan. I’m not going to go into all the reasons why I think he’s brilliant, but I will say that I can, without reservation, recommend you look him up and watch some of his videos. And I recommend you do that with friends, family […]

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Beer And Basketball

October 2, 2017

Well, it’s been quite at week for college basketball and shoe companies, hasn’t it? I certainly don’t claim to be an expert on all that’s happened or continues to happen as this story unfolds, but it certainly doesn’t look good. I know… innocent until proven guilty. I get it. The legal system will play this […]

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Paint And Second Chances

September 25, 2017

I am so lucky that cellphones with cameras didn’t exist thirty years ago. Neither did Facebook or Instagram. I dodged a technological bullet. Because brothers and sisters I am here to tell you, I did some really, really stupid stuff. I mean next level lunacy. Just flat out dumb. And guess what? So did you. […]

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Reality Sets In Weekend

September 18, 2017

Week number three is in the books for the 2017 college football season, and that means it’s time for teams, coaches, and administrators to cinch up their collective belts and take a good, long, hard look in the mirror. We are now a quarter of the way through the season. All of the naive dreams […]

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Routine Football

September 11, 2017

I’m a creature of habit. Some people call it being in a rut, I call it consistency. I eat the same thing for lunch every day, I have my 2 cups of coffee every morning. I do my weekly grocery shopping on the same day every week. Likewise, my weekly laundry, meal prep and  aforementioned […]

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