Tuesday, January 29

The Song About the Sweet Lovin' Woman

For anyone who’s been along for the ride from the very start, you may recall back in August reading about the unfortunate meeting of my knee and momentum’s sudden change. While I can recall the immediate pain of that moment and all the laments about fate sticking its thumb in my eye, I easily forget how close this trip came to never happening. For about a week, the entire endeavor hung in the balance. Thanks to a non-disastrous diagnosis and a lot of hard work at Athletico, I was hardly even limping when I rolled into South Bend.

This is a day I’ve been looking to with equal parts eagerness and dread for the last five months. I am not nervous about the procedure itself, for I have a capable and talented doctor ready to work his modern medicinal magic. However, the aftermath causes me great anxiety. I have no option but to deal with it. I have already put in countless hours of physical therapy every day since the injury occurred. The “kneehab” that lies ahead will be slower and surely more painful than the previous experience. It’s not something to be feared, but it is where the dread comes in. It is perhaps fitting that for the first time since mid-November, the knee has been hurting over the last few days. Maybe it knows what’s about to happen and is sounding its last yelp of independence.

Over the course of seventeen hard-hitting football games, I saw my fair share of injuries. Some of the players went down with bad knee sprains or perhaps worse. It’s so hard to tell when you’re watching a game live. Needless to say, I felt a sort of kinship with those kids in their moments of agony. They didn’t know of me, and had no idea the empathy I felt when they fell. But it was there nonetheless. I also had the good fortune of meeting dozens of regular Joes like me all across the country who’ve gone through this same experience and come out on the other side good as new. Today, I think of their encouragement more than anything else. While I know this will be painful, arduous, and perhaps even emotionally trying, I am sick of having a busted knee. I want to run again. Even a few steps would be exciting. This is the only way to do it.

I had the mixed fortune of stumbling across a video of one of these operations on Youtube. I provide the link here for those of you who are less squeamish. I really wish I would have waited to watch this until after I was finished. Click here if you’re up for it (not safe for lunchtime). Here’s a much longer one with way more information, and they actually digress to college football at some point.

Obviously the blog will take a hiatus for at least a week or two, but thanks to everyone who’s been wishing me luck lately. And thanks to all the folks, young and old who have shared their success stories with me. I’d like to claim that I’ll be thinking of you as they cut and yank and drill and fasten, but I clearly won’t be thinking of anything. That’s for the best, to be sure. With any luck, by next fall you can toss me a pass on a deep post pattern. I can’t wait.

Monday, January 28

Haiku Review, Part V

Last round of these. Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Vermont, you'll all have to wait for the next excursion since I didn't see ya this time.

The Hill’s built to thrill
I found mine in Knoxville with
Tons of joyful Vols

Dallas sprawl and smog
Texas weather at state fair
Such deep-fried goodness

You can’t comprehend
The Salt Flats’ beauty unless
You’ve been there yourself

Three lines can’t describe
Exuberance of D-3
Visit Stone Station!

The hardest I worked
Many were too cool for school
A grand old venue

My two quick pass-throughs
Bolstered the stereotypes
Before AD did

Rowdy or vulgar
Bucky loves a good party
My hosts gave me one

It’s oh so vacant
The more I think about it
My ticket’s BS

Thursday, January 24

Haiku Review, Part IV

By now, you know the drill, right? In case you don't click here.

National Mecca
It's not for everyone, but
You must respect it

I’m just passing thru
Do they have college football?
Maybe a hoops book…

My first second state
Family took care of me
Columbus meant well

Oil wells bore away
While butterflies gently flit
Until I smash them

Can’t pump your own gas
Everyone gave me the bird
Not sure what I’d done

If I never drive
In this friggin state again
It will be too soon

The break I needed
And the school that embraced me
Fiiine ladies each time

Great to see old friend
Shocking how long it had been
Whoah, you have two sons!

Wednesday, January 23

Haiku Review, Part III

Sorry this post is up a bit late today. I was interviewing SEC Commissioner Mike Slive. Nice guy. I'll figure out what I can share with everyone from the conversation and post here if appropriate. On with the review! Again, refer to the initial posting for info about this feature.

Blurred shot apropos
St. John’s merits a visit
Before it gets cold

I met you lonely
Frustration with all of it
Life’s a slower pace

Dad’s alma mater
Best season ever, but I
Only scooted through

Grandma said go on
Five hundred thirty five miles
That’s a big damn state

A warm reception
Until my faulty ticket
Nearly caused a fight

Did my own gambling
With the sheriff’s radar gun
It’s a sucker bet

Hosting number 2
Young brash fan base kept it clean
Rushed the field again!

Sparse to say the least
Something poetic in the
Lonely little towns

Tuesday, January 22

Blogger Awards

For anyone who writes one, it is a commonly held belief that blogging is its own reward. It won't make you famous. It likely won't earn you any money. It certainly won't get you any chicks. I can personally attest that this is all true.

However, the one thing it may get you is the admiration of your peers. The community of college football bloggers is one that is supportive and friendly. I was able to experience this as well as anyone while out on the road. I once again urge you to visit the Friends of the Program at the top right. For the second year in a row, the community is trying to honor bloggers who gave it their all this season and produced tears of laughter, empathy, or just plain insightful content. Full detail of this endeavor can be found here. Readers are encouraged to submit nominations for any college football blogs, and Brian has set up an easy-to-use gizmo. Please don't get the gizmo wet or feed it after midnight. Also, do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.

Without further ado, here are the Road Games nominations for the 2007 CFBA:

Funniest Blog
Danny Ford is God - Totally irreverent and partisan in the best possible way. They'll hate on the opponent's mascot if they have to. "Dumb Shit on Tigernet" is an excellent ongoing feature, and they always manage to dig up ridiculous random hilarity like this, this, and unfortunately this.

Also, Every Day Should Be Saturday for all the obvious reasons (though they're not eligible as they won the category last year).

Best Community
d3football.com - I am sure that most D-I blogs have not given D-III much thought beyond Trinity's 15 lateral astonishing finish. However, if there is any justice, d3football.com will win this award going away. Their Post Patterns message board is one of the main ways that fans around the country get news on other teams. There is no D-III Sportscenter, after all. I spoke above about the blogging community being a brotherhood of sorts. The same could be said for D-III football fans. Post Patterns is merely a starting place for many of them. Long-term friendships have followed. Lucky for me, I was able to attend this year's Stagg Bowl, the D-III championship game, and met scores of fans who wouldn't have been there if it weren't for the message boards. It's a whole different level of community.
Nine teams are represented in this photo alone

Best Youtube
I have to go with Autumn Thunder's Mike Hart for Heisman video. Cracked me up again and again, especially the shot of him holding pizzas.

That and absolutely everything LSU Freek did, wherever the heck he's located.

The Job Award
Midwest Coast Bias has chugged along, continuing to put out quality content and podcasts in the face of the most trying season Nebraska has likely ever endured. Unlike Notre Dame, Nebraska has been completely ignored by the community at large, and with good reason. They've been an awful team this year. But MCB has kept things rolling for the entire decline into irrelevancy. They've covered the ongoing malaise in Lincoln with equal parts incredulity and optimism, always coming with a direct attitude. I don't think anyone's stuck it out better in a worse situation in '07. Cheers to them for soldiering on.

Haiku Review, Part II

Hey that rhymes! See yesterday's initial post for what this is all about.

Never realized
Quite how long my home state is
And I longed for it

First stop on the trip
Domers showed me much kindness
My favorite tattoo

White knuckled skidding
Des Moines was first safe haven
God’s will was obeyed

Sky fascinated
Breathtaking moon and stars shone
Not a daytime state*

Bluegrass abounded
Between hills, dales, and cut rock
Horse farms a plenty

An all day party
Tiguhs roared into the night
Let the good times roll!

Thickest fog I found
Despite only a pit stop
Thought “I could live here”

Two days all too short
For long ago stomping grounds
Great fun anyway

Homecoming weekend
A truly amazing time
‘Cept the football game

*Missed the Kansas sign, and only had one crack at it. What can I say, the state snuck up on me!

Monday, January 21

Haiku Review, Part I

Before I forget everything that happened this season, I’m taking a look back at every state I visited this fall. There are 43 in all, and I’ll have a new posting each day this week. I thought about writing a paragraph for each state. However, due to time constraints (mine and yours) I am keeping verbosity in check and utilizing the haiku. Some will be a bit tongue in cheek, but all are from the heart. Each photo was taken from behind the wheel of a moving car, which was rather foolish of me. It is also the explanation for the blurriness of certain states.

I fought exhaustion
War Eagle welcomed me, but
Mongrel had me scared

Grand Canyon indeed
One intrinsic conclusion
Nothing more awesome

Scary weather was
Nothing compared to germ filled
Burrito outcome

At end of my rope
SC fans know how to fete
“This is South Central”

Pricey tolls peeved me
Denver area bypass
That no one uses

An old nemesis
Always a difficult drive
Nearly peed my pants

Visit all too brief
Wesley College next time ‘round
In corporate land

J-ville felt sterile
Dawgs barked, Gators chomped, I gorged
SEC love-fest

Most billboards per mile
A sweet hangout OTP
Athens again please

Tumbling knolls gave way
To unbearable odor
Cows are really gross

Monday, January 14

Why We Do This

With preemptive apologies to all the Indiana fans (sorry Joe), check this one out:

(HT: mgoblog)

I love this play more now than I ever did before. In 17 games, I was fortunate to meet passionate people from every corner of this country, all of them in love with this game. Over the course of the season, I became addicted to that passion, especially to the cheers erupting in stadiums on every big play. I miss it already.

When I attended Michigan I of course became a fan as soon as I arrived on campus. This play is way before my time, yet has been in my memory for well over a decade. I happened to watch it again the night before I drove to Ann Arbor. It was my fourteenth game of the season - my personal homecoming. Seeing the play again after everything I'd experienced this year, I latched on to something in the footage I'd never noticed, or at least never cared about. When Anthony Carter scores that touchdown, a fan, security guard or just some random dude in a yellow jacket who was lucky enough to be in the back of that endzone runs over and jumps up and down with him in unbridled euphoria.

I realized that I may get to have that same feeling, for my team this time, the following day. Sadly, Michigan didn't score a touchdown vs. Ohio State, preventing me from the opportunity for even a modest jumping-up-and-down. I'd have to wait until watching the Citrus Bowl on television, which is like so much methadone.

That little guy in the yellow jacket is the reason we even bother. That guy is all of us - at least sometimes. He's why we're in it. He's all over Louisiana right now, and come September 1st, we're all going to be looking for him within ourselves again.

I can't watch this clip nowadays without getting nostalgic. Not for this particular play, but for all the plays. The Michigan ones I saw where I got to be this guy right then and there. The countless ones I watched with random folks from around the country this year. Heck, for all the moments yet to come. That little guy makes everything worthwhile.

Wednesday, January 9

Road Games Top 25 Ballot

In this ridiculously crazy season, it’s nearly impossible to come up with a list of the top 25 teams. Actually, it is impossible. But rather than complain about how the AP writers and coaches got things wrong (and there is much to complain about), I thought I would give it a crack myself. My perspective is going to be somewhat unique in that I was actually able to see most of these teams play in person. However, because of that, I rarely got to see the remaining slate of games on any given Saturday. So take everything with a grain of salt. I just found this a unique challenge so I gave it a shot. Note that these rankings are based on season-long performance, not “who would win right now.” Because that would be an exercise in conjecture and inherently debatable.

1) LSU
2) West Virginia
3) Georgia
4) USC
5) Missouri
6) Kansas
7) Ohio State
8) Oklahoma
9) Virginia Tech
10) Oregon
11) Auburn
12) Boston College
13) Texas
14) Cincinnati
15) Clemson
16) Arizona State
17) Michigan
18) Florida
19) Illinois
20) Oregon State
21) Wisconsin
22) Kentucky
23) BYU
24) Texas Tech
25) Penn State

Notes: LSU is the clear number 1. In fact, that is the only clear thing here. They easily performed the best this season. Sure, I was there for the Virginia Tech game, which was a blowout, but there's no other team whose resume comes close. OK, the other clear thing is that Michigan should be ranked ahead of Illinois, no matter what the other polls say.

I was extremely torn on Georgia/WVU. I’d like to call it a tie, but that’s chickening out. It was a very close call. WVU had the better resume by a whisker in my opinion.

I may be penalizing USC a bit because I saw them play three times and they never looked that strong to me in any of the games. That and they lost to Stanford. They were unfortunately given a bowl opponent who had no business in the BCS, so they didn’t truly have an opportunity to be tested like other teams. Same could be said for Georgia, actually. It’s not their fault, but there’s also nothing we can do about it.

Handling the Big 12 top three is more impossibility. Oklahoma doesn’t deserve a top ranking based on their season, and they only looked so-so when I saw them beat Texas. But they beat Missouri two times. I eventually opted to treat each team’s opponents as faceless entities and ended up with what you see. An argument could be made any which way, and they’d all be correct. And all wrong, too.

Normally I don’t believe in it, but because this year has so much randomness, I gave a few teams benefit of the doubt in injury situations. This includes Michigan (ranked above Wisconsin) and Oregon (ranked as highly as they are).

Whither Hawaii? They squeaked by again and again this season. Had they put up a fight against Georgia, they’d have made the list. But they didn’t. Strongest win for them this year was beating 4-9 Washington thanks to a fluke carom at the end of regulation. I believe any of the above teams would have easily beaten them at any point in the season.

Disagree? Comment away. I may even revise if the arguments are compelling enough.

Thursday, January 3

Tailgate Awards

Over the course of this fantastic trip, I have encountered two questions from people more often than any others. Early on, it was "Which place are you most excited about?" That's kind of like asking "Which Hawaiian Tropic model would you like to take to dinner?" It was totally unanswerable. I was excited for everything. As the journey progressed that query gradually changed to, "Which place was the best?" This question came from everyone. Fans, athletic staff, journalists, gas station attendants, friends and family all wanted to know.

That's such a difficult question to answer, but I've tried my best - at least from a tailgating perspective. To get the complete answer, I'll tell you to wait an unknown number of months and then "read the book." But for now, check out SI On Campus for a summary of the best tailgating I encountered in this wacky season of ours. Obviously, I couldn't get everywhere. Ole Miss is renowned for its Grove and its coeds. Penn State boasts the largest tailgating environment in the country. West Virginia fans e-mailed me throughout the season, demanding a trip to Morgantown for the big sofa bonfire. These places and many others will have to wait for future seasons. Believe me, I want to hit them all. But with 17 stops under my belt, we're working with a pretty wide swath here.
Dennis Blunden gets an "A" for Eats

Disagree with the awards? Rant, rave, or state your case here in the comments section.

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