Thursday, November 6, 2008

Please Friends, Come Together


I feel a sense of happiness that change is on the horizon. Although I greatly admire those who are able to put their faith unequivocally behind the ideals of one political party, I feel I will never be able to do this. The needs of our nation as a whole are much too fluid for one party's ideals to always include the right fix. That's one of the reasons our democracy has prospered for as long as it has. One of the reasons America has always been admired by other nations, even if in secret, is that as a collective we always find the right way and the good way. When we were split on the issue of loyalty to the king, the voice of liberty eventually cried above all others. When the question over whether one man could hold ownership over another man, the collective broke the chains of oppression. Now, we stand at a crossroads that while it may not be NEARLY as monumental as those I just mentioned, it is signficant nonetheless. We stand as a nation polarized by a hard fought election. Many have come out dissappointed by the results. Now a man who claims to have the interests of the common man in mind is going to lead our country. Having come out of nowhere, many are legitimately concerned by the programs he intends to put in place. Some of us feel it goes against the capitalist ideals that our nation was founded on, and that it will create a sense of entitlement among those who have not earned it. Undoubtedly, this goes against what we as a nation stand for. But do our ideals today truly stand in the place of honor our forefathers envisioned when they created this great nation?



We talk of how Obama's policies will bring forth an air of entitlement among those who haven't "earned it." And certainly, many are right in that there are some in this nation that will molest and expose social programs our government puts forward. It has been happening for hundreds of years, and it is ludicrous to think there is anything that will stop it. The notion of teaching a man to fish instead of simply giving him a fish is an ideal we have tried to emulate so many times before, only to fail. However, when we talk of entitlement, let's not forget the truths of our nation today. If we are to blame the mother of 4 who lives in the projects and doesn’t work for taking a welfare check every month, why don't we blame the mother of 2 who lives in the high end suburbs as well? She and her family make 10 times that of others, yet we turn the other cheek while they live paycheck to paycheck, spending every penny on the fancy cars, the big house, and the private school for the kids. They max out credit cards, yet get more because of the money that they earn. Do they have the capital to live the life that they live? Most certainly not, yet we as a nation have become so materialistic and petty that these very people would be looked down upon within their community if they do not maintain this lifestyle. When our economy re-adjusts itself as it is doing now, suddenly they are left without a job and with a pile of debt they will never be able to pay. How is this any less of a drain on our economy than the mother on welfare?


We like to blame the father who used to work at an assembly line, but is now clamoring for help because he can't make his mortgage, and his unemployment isn't getting enough food on the table. He is a drain on our society, a leech on the money that many of us have worked so hard for. Yet we applaud the capitalistic ways of the businessman who has outsourced 80% of his labor costs. He makes all this money, and we congratulate him, for he is living the American dream. But since when does the American dream include making profit by paying people in India half that of what your former American worker earned? Since when is it the American ideal to remove yet another job from the American workforce, and the capital that goes into the economy with it, so that Joe Businessman can make sure his kids can have their Nikes, their Xboxes, and their new, shiny bike. We commend those who have worked hard to earn what they have. It is a cornerstone of our nation. But is there no problem with the fact we live in a nation rubbed so callous by the bottom line of profit that we may forget our American brethren all in the hopes of another dollar?


It is time for change. And the next administration faces a challenge in which few presidencies face, and even fewer have succeeded. But with all the talk of change and hope, one must wonder when we will actually see change. And one must hope that what we face can be defeated by a nation united, and not one divided. We see in front of us a vast mountain range abounding with blinding snows, jagged cliffs, and a peak beyond our vision at this time. We cannot scale this mountain with one leg dragging the other. Our new president must be able to bring everyone together in the spirit of the greater good. The only way we will sea the peak, and the majesty and beauty that comes with it, is with the left foot and the right foot working in harmony, pulling the other up with each step along the way. If we are unable to do this, we simply stay where we are, and in time the rot of stagnation will overtake us, and we will most certainly perish. Not the left, and not the right, but us all. We are the greatest nation to grace the face of this Earth. We will prevail, but only together.


God Bless America

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Prayers of a Desperate Football Fan



There was once a time where God's people, the Israelites, strayed so far that God relegated them to walk the desert for 40 years. I will have to check up on my old testament, because today I would find no shock in learning that the idols taken were not golden cows, but golden Cowboys, and the Israelites had taken part in midnight yell the night before the beginning of their fateful trek. It seems that as this football season progresses, so does the misfortune of the football teams that I hold so dear.

Therefore, I ask you football gods, to take mercy upon a poor soul like myself. I now see the vastness of your wrath can bring down even the mightiest of quarterbacks by their little pinky. Much like the giants swarms of Locusts that descended on Egypt, on Saturday dirty sand fleas will fall upon Kyle Field, enveloping Aggieland in black and red masses of top 10 rankings, swash-buckling coaches, and tier 3 educations. Many say Tech could very well drop 100 points on A&M Saturday. I have seen Texas A&M football, and this is a team that has been cast from your light, o football gods. I turn to see the Dallas Cowboys, a team chock full of more talent than most could ever hope for. A team destined for glory in August, here we stand watching as this great entity crumbles and breaks upon itself, the future shaky and unknown. Men dropping like flies, Pac-Mans dropping like it's hot... well, OK, I could see where he had it coming. I beseech you o great 8 lb 6 oz. baby Tom Landry, help save my football teams from walking in nothingness for 40 years.

I have always followed the great game with utmost dedication. My faith has never wavered, even in the middle of purgatory..err, baseball season. I check my stats every day, I can name every Super Bowl winner in order from front to back. I have forgotten more about football than most will ever know. Despite the disturbing product that has graced Kyle Field this year, I have still been there every day 12th Man towel in hand, yelling at the top of my lungs surrounded by others who lost faith long ago. For the love of Vince Lombardi, I was there for every game Quincy Carter, Ryan Leaf, Chad Henson, Clint Stoerner, and Methusela...I mean Vinny Testaverde played in! Grant me relief football Gods!

I haven't forgotten glorious days that have come before. I still remember the rush of seeing A&M beat #1 Oklahoma in 2002. I remember the electricity of Kyle Field. 90,000 Aggies yelling with such intensity that I would swear to you that the sound transcended people yelling in unison; I would more liken it to the shrill boom that occurs when one's eardrums have been pushed to the limit of their own integrity, as if they are literally just moments away from bursting. I remember that day vividly, the day a single bright ray of sunshine burst through the clouds of an otherwise stormy season.

My youth was spent basking in the victorious ways of America's team. Perhaps I was spoiled by Emmitt, Troy, and Michael. Maybe it was youthful naivete that led me to believe the Cowboys were indestructable. As the 90's progressed into the 00's, I watched as the Cowboys toiled in mediocrity. I stuck by them, as I always will. This is supposed to be our year, yet the next thing I know Tony Romo is hurt. And Felix Jones. And Mat McBriar. And Terence Newman. And Anthony Spencer. And Sam Hurd. Need I go on? The Cowboys are supposed to win the Super Bowl, and everything is supposed to be right in the U.S.A. I am convinced the Cowboys winning the Super Bowl would likely end any recession talk, place a chicken in every pot, and America could once again return to its rightful place of unending prosperity. It's really simple logic. Please, o football gods, think of the children!

O, football gods, I ask forgiveness for my sins. I have felt your wrath this year, it is apparent we Aggie and Cowboy fans have been forsaken. I ask you to bring us back into your good graces. The dark clouds of strife have hung over Kyle Field for too many years now. I ask you to open them once more, and allow good Aggies to do what they do best; be the 12th Man on that fightin' Aggie Team! We will make you proud. In the names of Bear Bryant, Tom Landry, and the galloping ghost Red Grange. Amen!

BTHO Texas Tech!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Gerber Gang Rocked Again...


The first relatively "fall" feeling Saturday of the football season. Campus rich with the smell of autumn and 2005 grills cooking up delicious hot dogs, burgers, and briskets. There is always an electric feeling to this game, and with the way Aggie football has gone thus far, perhaps many Ags were going all in with what little hope they had left for this year. I mean after all, Kansas State, a fellow Big 12 dissapointment, at Kyle Field probably represented one of A&M's few remaining chances at a win this year. Ags headed in droves for their seats as we all looked forward to what many felt would be a great game. Four hours later, Ags once again left Kyle Field with their heads hung. Kansas State not only beat A&M Saturday, they also washed away what little hope most Ags had for a salvagable season.



Over the past few games, I have tried to maintain a positive attitude towards the growth of this team. I have not lost faith in the fact that this team could very well end up very good over the next few years. That said, one must be realistic about the situation. Here A&M stands, stuck plum middle in what will likely end up being one of the worst years of A&M football since Bear Bryant took A&M football out to Junction, TX and cleaned out the dead weight. Meanwhile, let's take a look at the rest of the Big 12 South.


texas: Very impressive win on Saturday against what most thought was far and away the best team in college football in OU. Now the number 1 ranked team in the entire nation, and once again right in the thick of the national championship hunt.


Oklahoma: Loses to Texas on Saturday, yet still one of the top 5 teams in the country. More than likely headed to yeat another BCS game in January, something A&M has't seen in what is now 10 years.


Texas Tech: A team that came into the season very hyped has not dissappointed to this point. Narrowly beat an improving Nebraska team, but they have maintained top 10 status for a few weeks now.


Oklahoma State: Top 25 team goes into Columbia to face top 5 Mizzou and gets a convincing win. It's beginning to look like Boone Pickens' is starting to get a lot more moving than just another wind turbine out in West Texas.


Baylor: Yes, even Baylor has shown marked improvement this year. This team seems to really get behind new coach Art Briles' system, and you have to credit Briles' play-calling for setting this team up to make a move at every opportunity. This Baylor team will not go quietly into the night like those of the past.


Which leads us to Texas A&M. Suffers another loss at home to what was thought to be an "inferior" team at the beginning of the year. The offense, while showing marked improvement from the beginning of the year, can't seem to get things going until the opposition is well out in front. Which leads us to the A&M defense. This team's inability to win this year will end up being tied completely to the ineptitude of this defense. The upperclassmen on this team have shown zero desire to improve themselves. They have taken the quitting attitude that we saw too many times during the Franchione era. It has gotten to the point where true freshman are not only playing, they are starting. Kids who were in prom suits and high school graduation caps just five months ago are being asked to suit up and start against grown men who are five months away from taking part in the NFL draft. These guys are getting valuable experience, and they will undoubtedly be much, much better for it next year. The question is at a time when every other Big 12 South program seems to be at levels rarely seen before by their respectable schools, where will this leave a Texas A&M program that is just having to learn to walk again?


I feel like it is unfair to lay the blame of this situation right now on the entire football team, or for that matter the coaching staff, although some decisions have been questionable. Instead, I would like to direct my venom at the upperclassmen of this football team, especially the defense. You know the ones who are supposed to be the "leaders" of this team? Instead, a large swath of the upperclassmen only infest Texas A&M with the lackluster effort and quitting attitude of the past five years. This week provided a great example. Michael Bennett, the one A&M defender expected to get some looks by the NFL and one of the alleged "leaders" of this teams, was suspended for the KSU game for deciding to no-show on a mandatory defensive meeting. Mike Goodson, another Ag expected to get some hard looks by the NFL, was also suspended for the beginning of the game due to his decision to stop attending classes this week. Goodson, who is surely a lock to bolt for the NFL after this year, seems to have already cashed in on his education at Texas A&M. Don't forget other upperclassmen such as Jordan Peterson and Danny Gorrer, who have shown such little ability to pick up Joe Kines' defense that they have been replaced in the starting lineup by true freshman Trent Hunter and Terrence Fredrick. On offense, senior WRs Howard Morrow and Pierre Brown have been so dissappointing that A&M starts two freshman at Wide Receiver as well. It is to the point that I would challenge you to findany upperclassmen who seem to truly care about the welfare of Texas A&M football. Arkeith Brown, Travis Schneider, Stephen McGee, and Jordan Pugh. That is about it by my count. Thanks Fran.


Despite the fact that the majority of A&M's defense was apparently replaced this week by the Navasota Gnats of the Brazos Valley PeeWee Football league, A&M's young guys once again showed improvement and had some very impressive numbers. Jerrod Johnson had a great day, throwing for 2 TD's, 0 interceptions, and a new Texas A&M school record for passing yards in a single game. Over 200 of those yards went to freshman Ryan Tannehill who is looking more and more like Johnson's go to guy every day. The offensive line, while still showing a complete lack of being able to open up a hole in the running game, provided decent blocking for Johnson when A&M ran their 5 WR spread formations. On the defensive side of the ball, Trent Hunter and Terence Fredrick finished among the top 5 A&M tacklers. Linebacker Von Miller also had a good game getting after KSU QB Josh Freeman, including 1.5 sacks. Sophomore Billy Chavis, who many expected to redshirt this year after moving from Linebacker to Tight End to Defensive End and back to Tight End, saw his first action of the year at, you guessed it, Linebacker. Here is to hoping we see the big fast Chavis playing with his hand on the ground next week against Tech in an effort to slow down the explosive offense of the Red Raiders


I have typically tried to preview the upcoming game in these recaps. To be real honest with you, I am finding it to be real tough to spin any positive opportunities against Texas Tech. Much like their plethora of air-borne sand, there is an ever-burning desire to hate everything A&M that wafts through the breeze in Lubbock . They are going to walk into Kyle Field Saturday knowing where A&M stands, and they are going to do their damndest to destroy the Aggies. Having seen a bit of Tech's offense and alot of A&M's defense, coach Mike Leach may be better off saving money on the plane ticket it would cost him to get their punter to College Station. I have a sick feeling he may never be needed. If A&M comes out of the gates against Tech the way they have against Miami, Army, and Kansas State, Tech will go to the locker rooms at halftime with 50 points on the board. I know alot of Ags like to say that Texas Tech is not a rival. We like to thumb our nose at their school, their football program, and their women(followed by an immediate visit to the doctor). The fact is however, that Tech has spent the last 10 years kicking A&M's ass, whether we like to admit it or not. They have grown their program the right way, by not always trying to buy success with facilities and a sense of "rightful" belonging. Instead, they have a program that develops young men into football players who fit their system and who give 100%. Whether we want to call them a rival or not, Texas Tech will look at this as on opportunity to come into Kyle Field and kick in the teeth of the A&M football program. Ags and Red Raiders can go on and on until we are all blue in the face on whether this is a rivalry. But if the Aggie football team is unable to not only match, but exceed the intensity level that Tech will bring Saturday, then we will see just another in what is becoming a long line of blowouts at the hands of the Red Raiders. I'm sure those folks out in Lubbutt could care less what the Ags think about the "rivalry", so long as we let them keep stomping us.


Nonetheless, I will be in the stands at Kyle Field, yelling for my Ags just as I have all year long. This weekend, I had the pleasure of enjoying the company of my good friend Art Waterman and his family. Art and his wife Megan are truly salt of the earth kind of people, and sitting amongst he and his family on a beautiful Saturday night in October was one of those moments in which life truly shows its beautiful side. Art is currently in the process of moving to Louisville, KY, where he will be taking part in the contruction of the University of Louisville's massive new basketball arena. It will be tough not having them only 4 hours south of us, but I have no doubt we will find times to get together. This coming weekend will be just as enjoyable, as my best friend Wes and his wife Kristen, along with Wes' Pa and friends, will be making the trip up to College Station for the game. I am really looking forward to seeing both of them. Wes' seats will actually be sandwiched between Tech's cheerleaders and their fans and band. As we all know, Tech students aren't exactly infamous for their classy behavior at home or away. I will not be half-surprised to see poor Wes body slamming that Yosemite Sam mascot of theirs before all is said and done. Hey, us Ags gotta enjoy this football season somehow!


Gig Em and God Bless!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Texas A&M-Oklahoma State Recap


*NOTE* First off, I would like to apologize for the lull in between posts here. Work has been crazy, and Laura and I have been without internet at the house for a couple weeks. All is back up and running now however, so Im hoping to get back into the groove. Thanks for reading!

Everybody told me Saturday would be an ugly loss. Having beared witness to every game prior, I had no reason not to believe them. This is not a very good A&M team at the moment, and in a year in which 4 of the 6 Big 12 South teams are ranked in the top 20, it's tough to see things turning around in the standings anytime soon. Saturday's game in Stillwater did however open some eyes towards what could be. Let's break it down.

SPECIAL TEAMS

I will say that I have always been a big believer in the philosophy that you can typically grade how deep a team is by the play of their Special Teams. Depth seperates truly "good" teams from mere flashes in the pan. Texas A&M has struggled all year in the special teams department. To me, this simply highlights the fact that beyond the starting 11 on each side of the ball, the talent at Texas A&M is either very young or sadly, not very good. Oklahoma State drove this point home by averaging an amazing 33.8 yards per punt return, including a 78 yard jaunt up the sidelines for sophomore Dez Bryant. Bryant appeared to be bottled up initially at his own 20, however he was able to somehow break away from three different A&M tackelers. Beyond the initial tackler, we saw very poor pursuit from the rest of the team, as Bryant was able to hit the sideline and race untouched to the endzone. Throughout the year thus far, A&M's kickoff and punt teams have looked slow and timid. In a facet of the game where only those of the most reckless nature tend to prosper, timidity is a death sentence. A&M must tie up these issues, as a young team can ill afford to consistently give up good field position to the opposing team, especially those who still lie ahead on the schedule.

DEFENSE

Going in to Saturday's game, Oklahoma State brought with them a rushing attack averaging well over 300 yards a game, a running back in Kendall Hunter who has been drawing comparison to OSU alum Barry Sanders, and a quarterback in Zac Robinson who is just as acclaimed for his feet as he is his arm. Considering A&M had been gashed by lowly Army on the ground the week prior in a narrow 21-17 victory, many were expecting Oklahoma State to run roughshod over the Aggie defense. Surprisingly, A&M's defense held tight in the first half and only gave up one touchdown to one of the country's best offenses. Ok, granted special teams and the offense did give up THREE touchdowns themselves in the first half, but the defense held strong in the first half and showed glimpses of what could be. I feel we are starting to see linebackers who understand their critical role in this defense. On the defensive line, we are beginning to see the push from big guys like Kellen Heard that was expected this year, yet had been missing in action up until then. In the secondary, true freshmen Trent Hunter and Terence Frederick have begun making contributions. Hunter, the defending Big 12 player of the week following his 17 tackle performance against Army, played well against a much more daunting opponent. One of the highlights included a goal line stand in which A&M was able to hold OSU out of the endzone on a 4th and goal from the 1 yard line. To say that was unexpected would be an understatement. The defense has an opportunity to build on their effort this week against a more vanilla offense in Kansas State.

OFFENSE

Last year, A&M trotted out 26 and 25 year old Mark Dodge and Misi Tupe to head the linebacking corps known as "The Geritol Gang". Well, consider this year's offense the "Gerber Gang". Having been largely dissapointed in the inability of many upperclassmen to pick up the offensive system, Mike Sherman has not been hesitant to give the starting spots to anyone willing to step up, including true freshman. Sophomore quarterback Jerrod Johnson, who himself has replaced senior QB Stephen McGee, has found his favorite targets to be freshmen Jeff Fuller and Ryan Tannehill. Neither has dissapointed, as Fuller leads the team with 4 receiving touchdowns, while Tannehill led A&M Saturday with 7 receptions, including 2 TD catches. Freshmen Cyrus Gray and Bradley Stephens have also found many ways to contribute. Both tailbacks return kickoffs, while Gray has also played a little quarterback in the newly popular "wildcat" formation. Unfortunately with youth comes inexperience, and in the end this is what did in A&M's offense. A&M's offense gave up a beleaguering five turnovers in the first half, including two interceptions returned for touchdowns, as well as a fumble that left the A&M defense with little field to defend. At times, A&M's offense showed glimpses of the promise these young guys have, only to end with disastrous results. A great example was in the second quarter, with A&M down 21-7. The A&M defense, coming off the momentum of Mike Goodson's electric 80 yard touchdown run, stopped the OSU offense and forced them to punt. A&M partially blocked the punt, which left the offense only 45 yards away from making this a one touchdown game. The first play from scrimmage on the ensuing drive for A&M resulted in a nice nine yard rush by Gray in which he left a couple OSU defenders eating grass. The very next play, Gray was able to cut outside for another 5 yards. Unfortunately, he failed to hold onto the ball, and the Cowboys recovered, sucking back all the momentum the Aggies had built. Plays like this will kill a team, and the sooner the young guys are able to understand this, the sooner A&M can be competitive. The top end of the talent is definitely there, and I could see this offense scaring a few teams so long as they can limit the mistakes youthfulness often brings.

OVERALL

Texas A&M went into a hostile environment against one of the hottest teams in the country and came out as many expected, in a 28 point loss. However, don't let the statistics fool you. A&M actually outgained the vaunted Okie State offense by a yard. In the end, A&M simply turned the ball over way too many times. Call it what you will, but Oklahoma State is not known for an opportunistic defense, which leads one to believe the mistakes lie more on A&M's poor decisions than the Cowboy's ball-hawking defense. If A&M wants to have a chance in any of their remaining Big 12 games, they will have to learn to mitigate the ways of youthful recklessness in an effort to move the ball. That said, I feel this team has shown improvement in every game this year, and despite the score, I feel they showed it again this week. Each week we are seeing flashes of what this team could be, and there could come a week before the end of the year where everything comes together long enough for A&M to put a scare into one of the bigger teams they face. That said, big mistakes like the turnovers of the first half this week could lead to a blowout to the likes of someone like Baylor. It will be interesting to see as the team continues to grow more confident in the new offensive and defensive systems, if these mistakes will start to fade away.

THIS WEEK

This week, the Kansas State Wildcats make their way to Kyle Field in a one of the few games remaining that A&M is believed to have a legitimate shot to win. K-State is coming off their own 58-28 thrashing at home to the likes of Texas Tech. Kansas State's defense may be among the worst in the nation, as the week before they surrendered 37 points to lowly Louisiana Lafayette. This one could get ugly going either way this week. Nonetheless, I will be there supporting our school through thick and thin. My good friend Art Waterman and family will be there, and I look forward to enjoying a beer on a beautiful fall Saturday with a brother of mine, and hopefully a good game as well. Let's face it Ags, this year can not be just about wins and losses, or you will be sorely dissappointed. Despite a couple pretty lopsided scores this year, this team has yet to show an ounce of quit in them, something that couldn't be said about the Fran-led teams of the past few years. They are fighting no matter what, and I will stand behind them, because that's what we as Aggies do. Why? There's a fight song sung when A&M falls short and there's a line that I feel encapsulates our current situation.

When we’re down, the goin’s rough and tough,
We just grin and yell: “We’ve got the stuff
To fight together for the Aggie dream.”
We’re the 12th Man on that FIGHTIN’ AGGIE TEAM!

Aggies never quit. Gig em and God Bless!

Taylor

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Short, Random Political Side-Note


My good, close friend Andrew Fair has been nice enough to let me post a few of his thoughts on my blog. Andrew is currently serving our nation overseas. At a time of such political importance as we are in now, Andrew's perspective could be used by more of us stateside. As he gets the opportunity, I would like to link a few of is thoughts to my blog, as there are few I know in this world who can dissect cultural, political, and military issues better than Andrew, domestic or abroad. Enjoy!

A Short, Random Political Side-Note

By Andrew Fair

As some may have noticed, my political views are Scottish...not to be confused with the Scottish National Party that facebook eroneously tries to associate me with. Rather, as an adherent to Scotch ideals, I believe that most troubles facing America today can be solved by drinking and then getting into fist fights with friends.

As for the recent political hullabaloo back in the Great Ol' USA (I miss that place!), I'm struck by the dichotomous relationship between the Republican and Democratic nominees...they're near perfect inverses of eachother:

One on side we have a presidential nominee that is an old, white male with strong foreign policy credentials and years of Washington experience and a VP nominee that is a young, attractive political neophyte, a "political minoritee" (female) with little foreign policy experience but a great deal of appeal to the core of the Party.

On the other side we have a presidential nominee who is a young, attractive political neophyte, a "minoritee" (he's half white) with little foreign policy experience but a great deal of appeal to the core of the Party and a VP nominee who is an old, white male with strong foreign policy credenitals and years of Washington experience.

For the "nation of undecideds" that don't really make decisions based on passionate views of the issues (else they would not be undecided) it really comes down to this: who do you like more--the black guy or the white girl?

I realize that I may be one of the few people who actually "likes" John McCain in and of himself, and even though I pride myself as an issues-based voter, I admit it's largely based on the fact that he was a POW and a war hero...however his credentials as a reformer are admittedly hurt by the fact that he's been in Washinton for about six hundred years. A lot of people are uncomfortable with his age; but twenty-eight years ago they were uncomfortable with Reagan's age too...so who knows if it will matter.

Obama is an idealistic academic; idealism in politics can be a great thing, but it has to be painted in the tones of the real world, as policies based in ideals often end up bureaucratic nightmares down the road (Social Security, the Great Society, etc)...As a fellow half-minoritee, I also take issue with the way the media, and Obama himself, have "decided" that he is black...I cannot simply decide to be Mexican (why would I want to), because that is only ONE PART of who I am...more over, the racial categorizations that the media clings to only furhter serves to artificially divide us based on non-existant factors. We are all Americans...hell, we even let Arabs in this country (sorry Taylor, it was too easy)...our greatness comes not just from our diversity, but our ability to mix that diversity into something larger, stronger, and greater than just the sum of its mult-ethnic parts.

I could wax philosophic about the issues for hours, but fundamentally it doesn't matter...for one, Washington doesn't really address issues so much as it talks about them until the People rise up and force their hand...which WE THE PEOPLE rarely do, two, most American's who vote in November will not vote based off of any one or a dozen issues, but off their gut sense of the person they see on TV...yes, TV...

That Americans don't much care is demonstrative that the Status Quo, as bad as it sounds, isn't so bad at all...deep down we know that our economic woes and windfalls are not magically manipulated by Washington, but it's nice to have someone to blame. I think most Americans are content that NOTHING get done in politics, because no one wants to shake up the good things we already have going...this is nothing new either, for most of American history we preferred our politicians to stay out of matters unless explicitly outlined as a constitutional role.

Another indicator...most Americans prefer the President and the Congressional majority to be of opposing parties...why? So that nothing too crazy gets done. Congressional approval ratings clearly show that the Democrats voted in to end the Republican-control congress are no more popular than their GOP predecessors, but Americans felt more comfortable with Dems in place to offset Bush's policies...vice versa in 1994 with Clinton and the "Conservative Revolution;" the swings in power are not mandates, but merely ad hoc preferences toward how things should be...its like America adjusting the AC in their house when it blows too cold; they don't want to be HOT, just not so cold...

Call me foolishly idealistic, but maybe American politics was better back when our Congressmen used to get in drunken brawls on the House Floor...Not sure if it accomplished much more, but it had to be entertaining...That's how we Scotch would do things...so vote SCOTCH 2008...its a good year.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

So That We May Never Forget...



...let us remember on this day, the 11th of September, the feelings we felt that fateful day in 2001. Recount the pain, recount the horror, recount the anger, disgust, sadness, and sympathy we all shared on that day. Remember where you were when you heard what had happened; all of us do. Remember the terrifying sights you saw on television that day, and the feelings you felt seeing your fellow Americans suffer like they did. For we will remember today, next year, and every September 11th that shall come until we are gone, so that our children, their children, and their children's children shall never forget the blow our nation endured. Although the wound still aches, every year that we continue to hold the values of freedom, justice, and the American way above our own well-being, every year that we all continue to chase the American dream, we hit back at our enemy with a force they can never replicate.

It's funny the things you remember. I still remember that day like it was yesterday. It was the beginning of my freshman year at Texas A&M. On that morning, here I was this kid, trying to juggle moving away from home, starting school, getting to know a new town, and the Corps of Cadets all at the same time. Couple that with the fact that a university campus the size of Texas A&M literally has something going on at any moment of the day in just about any direction you could look, everything is a blur from that entire first month of school. But for a day that month, it seemed as if the Good Lord himself stopped the world from turning.

I was coming back from my 8:00 AM Political Science Class. I was dog tired, and a little ticked at the inordinate amount of reading this prof of mine was giving me for a introductory Poli-sci class. I was still learning just how to wear a uniform, and I knew if I didn't take the time to try and make my shoes look more like I had shined them with wax than my butt that afternoon, I would be feeling it soon. The thing about being a fish in the Corps of Cadets is there is always something for you to screw up; and always someone waiting to bust you and make damn sure you know you screwed up. This early in the year, it was pretty much a guarantee that when you got back to the dorm, you would have plenty of upperclassmen waiting in the hallways to get you for something. And as I walked up to our dorm, I looked down at my butt shoes, and I knew exactly where this was going to take me.

When a fish gets to his dorm, as soon as he walks in, he gets to running. It was kind of a way to make it that much more difficult to be a fish, but to be honest with you, a fish in the hallways is kind of like blood in the water for a shark. Only the shark wore a khaki uniform, was only about a year older, and had been waiting 365 days to get YOU in that hallway for that very moment. When you enter your outfit's hallway, as a fish you had to take a look for any upperclassmen that might be out in the hallway and get "against the wall" and acknowledge them. Strangely, when I got to our floor, it was eerily silent. I ran, and just as I was about to enter my "fish hole", one of the seniors walked up the stairs and into the hall. I hit the wall, ready to acknowledge him. "Howdy Mr. Ro-." He stopped me mid-sentence, he seemed shaken. "Musa, shut up, get in your hole, and get on your computer(we weren't allowed to keep TVs in our rooms as fish). A plane just hit the World Trade Center."

The chaos was suddenly gone. For the first time in my short adult life, a momemnt of clarity presented itself in the worst of occasions. The bustle was gone. I didnt worry about my shoes, or class, or anything. Those pissheads that haunted me throughout everyday suddenly didnt matter to me at all. If you were to ask, I would swear to you that for a moment, the birds stopped singing, the clouds shrank away and all there was was a grainy video of a flaming building in New York City streaming on the internet. How could something like this happen? Was it an accident? Was it purposeful? Who would do something like this? I sat there and watched along with millions of fellow Americans as a second plane suddenly hit the World Trade Center. I watched as reports began to circulate that a plane had also hit the Pentagon. Another plane had been reported missing. Planes throughout the country were being forced to land. The towers FELL? How could this happen, New York City, our nation's greatest city, is being suffocated in flames, smoke, and rubble. Where were we going to get hit next? Will it ever stop? How many TENS of thousands were going to die on this day? I remember my American history lessons. WE win, we ALWAYS triumph over evil. Rare has there been a time our nose has even been bloodied. And here it was, our great nation, the shining beacon of right in this world for so long, being brought to her knees before my eyes.

It is funny how you feel when you bear witness to such an event. There is a rush of emotions unlike anything else, all powered by the vast uncertainty that such a situation brings. For me, it was a literal storm of emotions. I shed tears as I thought of those suffering. My tears were dried by the flames of rage that built within me when I thought of those who had done this. The rage was soon cooled by the cold, biting wind of fear, knowing this world will never be the same. We thought at the time this would just become a part of our lives. That every so often, one of these attacks would occur, and it would just become another dynamic of life. As a Muslim, I thought to myself will I be blamed for this? Is this my fault? Could something that had cultivated so much love from my heart also turn others into cold blooded animals? Would my family be able to live in peace, or would some hunt them down for their religion, deeming them the enemy?

Besides the images of destruction I saw, I have one truly vivid memory of life that day which I know will stay with me forever. I remember that afternoon, all of our Corps activities had been canceled for the most part. I mean, why do anything? It seemed to all of us that doing anything except wait, listen and pray for the well-being of those directly hit would be utterly trivial. All of us fish were gathered in one room. A couple weeks into even knowing these guys, I didn't think I would care less about what anyone else may have been thinking. My roommate and I had already discussed the situation a bit, but the pain I felt could not be verbalized, so why try? The silence of a group of 20+ young men and women spoke volumes on the situation, however. I looked into the far away gaze of every single one of them, the people that would soon evolve into my brothers. I saw the air of uncertainty that I felt within every one of them. I did not expect this. One of my buddies came from a military family in every sense of the word. His father was in the military, and they'd moved from place to place. His brother was an officer, and even though I had only known the guy a couple weeks, it was pretty obvious that he would one day too follow in their footsteps. Yet, here he sat with me, just as unsure of what the future would bring. I saw uncertainty, I saw fear, and I saw sadness in the eyes of everyone of my buddies.

Looking back, sometimes I wish I had taken the long route to class that day. The one that traveled through the trees and past the prettiest of the buildings on campus. It was a nice morning, I do remember that. I try to recount the beauty around me, I try to remember what the world was like before that fateful day. But it all blurs, it all runs, and I am left with the painful memories for the most part. Our world changed, and those of us who were just entering the adult world lost alot of our innocence that day. The hazy shade of winter seemed as if it had set upon us, never to leave. But just like all difficulty in life, the world began to turn once more. And as the world turns, life goes on. The birds began to sing again. And from the strife of that day sprouted a newfound value of what we have in this great country. We all hugged our loved ones a little tighter, and we treated each other a little better, knowing we are all brothers and sisters in at least some form. We united, and told the world in one voice, "We will not give in." We showed them they may have brought us to our knees, but we will not cry for mercy. We will always get back up, and we will never back down from the field of battle when the way of America is jeopardized. When it's all said and done, we remember not for the pain that returns, but to rekindle the resolve that was brought forth by that fateful day in September, 2001.

It is truly surreal to comprehend that it has really been seven years since September 11, 2001. I know we all have memories of that day and the pain and hurt it brought. And we should honor those we lost that day. In addition, revel in the fact that we have not had an attack since. Honor those we lost that day, but also honor those brave men and women who have since laid down their lives in the effort to ensure your peace and prosperity may continue. Honor those who fight for you today, who everyday go to work to defend me and you. Many of the buddies I mentioned in the story have gone on to be members of our military. Others who did not go the military route have gone about their ways, maximizing their pursuit of the American Dream. The look of fear and uncertainty in their eyes that day has long since been replaced by the steely gloss of their resolve to ensure this never happens again. Even though our world is much different that that before 9/11/01, we have worked hard to ensure it is still a world suitable for our children to one day take on. We will teach them the lessons we learned that day, and God willing, they will go forward with the appreciation of our great country that was rekindled among so many of us by a day of tragedy. God bless you, my friends, and

God Bless America.

Friday, September 5, 2008

VICTORY!!!

In case anybody didn't know, Laura and I have been fighting a summer long battle against the evilest of all evil bugs, the wasps. You know I have a theory about wasps. You know, it's kind of like Bees are Arabs. For the most part, they are peaceful creatures. They like to live their lives in relative peace, and the well being of both colony and country rely on viscuous liquids people can't get enough of(honey and oil). Both bees and arabs will fight back when provoked or feeling threatened, but for the most part, they are likable, if not overly fuzzy, creatures. Unfortunately, both we and bees also suffer from another problem; evil trouble causing cousins.

Much like the extremists of the Middle East, wasps give the hymonoptera order a bad name. They arrive in droves, and hold their new found dominion hostage, forcing co-habitants to live in fear, pain, and destitution what with the rising cost of Benadryl. Laura and I have fought this problem all summer long, and we have caved to the wasps' terroristic ways. But no more. On Wednesday evening, "Operation: Jihad to Piss Me Off" commenced against the flying infidels. Let me say with pride it was an undoubted success!

Having had enough of these bastards and their aggressive, leaf eating ways, we took advantage of the cloudy, windy day and attacked at about 1800. Having to admit air superiority to the enemy, Laura and I decided that our attack must be quick, devastating, and we would likely need it to be a long distance attack. Therefore, after contemplating the possibility of artillery(roman candles), infantry (my pellet gun), or armor(running my car through our front yard into the tree), it was decided each method involved too much collateral damage. Therefore, I made the decision few want to make; chemical warfare would have to be waged. At approx. 1815, a lethal dose of pyrethrum and refrigerant, also known as Raid Wasp & Hornet killer, was applied to the entire nest. Having not seen it coming, the wasps had very little chance. Locals (me & Laura) danced in the streets as wasp after wasp fell from their fortified positions dying slow deaths at the hands of the chemicals. A second, strafing application of Raid was applied to the nest, after which I knocked that sucker down.

Now, you have to understand that it has been a rare moment this summer that I have been able to go into the front yard without one of these suckers coming after me. The nest, which we found last week, was deeply interwoven in the back of our tree between multiple branches. To finally have found and rid our house of these mofos was a joyous occasion. So after Laura and I had finished dancing in the streets (we celebratorily danced for about an hour or two), we decided to end the night's festivities with a great feast(aka Chicken Express). So we jumped in the car, ran over the remnants of the nest a couple times, and went on about our lives, knowing the world is a better place.


Praise be to God, those lint lickers are dead! If anyone else is having Wasp problems, allow me to suggest you get in your trees, storm drains, easements and get them while you can, or you too may end up hostages in your own home!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Beard Off Week 2


Pay no mind to my sad face. My frowning muscles cramped up watching the A&M atrocity on Saturday, and I'm still suffering. As you can see, the beard is coming in quite nicely. Laura even said she likes it, which I was not expecting.

Who Spilled My Maroon Kool-Aid?!?



18-14. Had I told my fellow Ags last week that this would have been the score in the Arkansas State game, many would have found themselves with one foot off the bandwagon. And that would have been with a victory. But instead, we Ags find ourselves running out of time in a game against a 5-7 Sun Belt team. With a brand new offensive line. And only one returning started in the defensive backfield. Oh, and did I mention they are a freaking run of the mill average Sun Belt Conference team!?! Where did we go wrong?



Arkansas State is not a good program. I mean sure, they've got an NFL worthy running back this year and they took Texas to the wire last year, but let's not kid ourselves. This is a team that went 5-7 last year with a senior laden roster in the Sun Belt conference. They lost to Middle Tennessee State, the great state of Tennessee's equivalent of the University of North Texas. Hell, Arkansas State IS UNT. So how does a program that boasts multi-million dollar facilities, a great fanbase, and a seat right plum in the middle of one of the biggest recruiting hotbeds in the nation lose at home to a team like this? The easiest way to put this is to break it down by unit.



OFFENSE: Texas A&M came out in the first half running the offense many of us expected. Lots of pro formations (fullbacks!) and lots of running. And through the first half, it looked like it was going to work. Mike Goodson showed all of us why many think his junior year at A&M is his last as he continued to show his electric ability to not only make people miss, but pull away from them when he got the space to do so. A&M came out utilizing pitches and sweeps to the outside for Goodson, and the offensive line showed the ability to pull to the out side and make some holes. The first possession consisted almost entirely of outside runs, and A&M promptly responded to Arkansas State's opening field goal with a touchdown. Going into halftime, A&M's biggest concern lie with the meek passing yards gathered in the first half. But with the success of the running game and the relatively solid blocking thus far, who was worried? In fact, with A&M receiving the second half opening kickoff, I almost expected Coach Sherman to go for the throat on the possession and begin employing some play action to look for the deep ball. Sure enough first offensive play of the second half, Stephen McGee dropped back and faked the hand off to Goodson. Just as I thought.



And that is when it all went wrong. McGee has had a supposed problem since he stepped foot on campus with making reads and progressions on passing plays, but with Fran's option based offense, it was easy to find an excuse. Saturday night, on this very play, McGee showed that there is at least some merit to this critique. Having found his primary receiver covered, and pressure coming, McGee began scrambling backward trying to escape the pressure. The result? A sack and a 17 yard loss. This play was the catalyst in the collapse of the A&M offense. Arkansas State keyed in on the fact that A&M's offense was focusing on an outside running game, and sold out to stop it. When A&M could not get their offense going in any other way, it stalled. The receivers could not gain seperation from their defenders. When they did, McGee missed them on his check downs. And when he didn't just overlook receivers, he was getting chased out of the pocket by defenders who met very little resistance from the offensive line. The offense didn't just sputter, the engine blew up. Meanwhile Arkansas State kept plodding along on offense, which brings us to the performance of the A&M defense.



DEFENSE: Let me say this about the defense's performance. When they brought the blitz on passing downs, they showed us a glimpse of what we all hoped to see out of Joe Kines' defense. Guys flashed off the edges, cornerbacks and safeties flew recklessly for the quarterback. We even got to see a quarterback get blown up and fumble, which I can tell you I haven't seen an A&M defense do since the Clemson game in 2004. Now, to the long list of negatives. The zone read absolutely killed A&M Saturday night. For those who dont know, the zone read, or smoke draw (which we saw gobs of at A&M recently) is when the quarterback, usually in Shotgun formation with a running back beside him, "reads" the block progression. Based on what he sees as far as holes opening up, he will either hand off to the running back, or fake the handoff and run it himself. With the way the middle of the A&M defense was opening up, ASU QB Casey Leonard had a galore of options. The Aggie defense was giving up 5-7 yards just about every first down on the zone read. The line failed to plug the holes, and the linebacking corps failed further by frequently failing to recognize the runner and making contact near the line of scrimmage. Instead, A&M's LBs were often dragging the runner down from behind, only after they had gained considerable yardage. This, coupled with Aggie cornerbacks STILL standing 5-10 yards off the receivers, made for the impression that A&M will continue to try the bend but dont break defense of the previous couple years.



WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?


This loss was a sobering reminder of just how tough the next couple years can and will be. Harkening back to 2002 when R.C. Slocum was fired, the hiring of Dennis Franchione did far more harm to the Aggie football program than many of us take account for. Even though Slocum's teams had been in steady decline since 1998, he was able to use his defensive prowess to help keep the Wrecking Crew respectable. By hiring an unorthodox offensive coach like Franchione in 2002, A&M shifted away from defenisve focus and began recruiting players geared toward Fran's offense. Today as it stands, we have a set of Offensive lineman built to pull and sweep run block for an option based offense, WRs built to block and gain short yardage more than stretch the field, and a Quarterback who for the last four years has been taught to look to run instead of being groomed and instructed on the intricacies of the QB position. On defense, we've got an entire two deep of players who have been groomed to read and react to what the offense does, not just fly to the ball. In defensive football, what sets you apart is the ability to move quickly and fiercely to the ball without leaving gaping holes for the offense to exploit on fakes and whatnot. The past coaching staff's emphasis on reading formations and plays, and THEN reacting has left a very timid group of players. Aggie DB's lack the confidence to fly in on a wide receive screen, because they havent been taught enough tackling funamentals to believe they can make that open field tackle. Aggie linebackers don't throw themselves into the middle of the offensive line on a running play because they lack the coverage fundamentals to react in case the play turns into play action. As much as these issues are fundamental, they are just as much challenges in changing the attitude and thought process of 105 different football players.



If A&M hopes to contend again for titles, we are going to have to believe that Mike Sherman has the ability to change the mindset of Aggie football. We as fans have to believe that he can change the demeanor in these players. The football players are going to have to buy into the ideology the staff is pushing on them. They are going to have to trust that when they are told to be in a certain spot, that the staff has set them up for success, no matter how little it makes sense at the time. Installing a new offensive and defensive system is not easy, and at this early point in the season, it doesn't look like many pieces seem to be fitting very well. It will be interesting to see how much the team buys into what the staff is selling, and how much confidence can be gained from this. This season cannot be graded on wins and losses alone. Those who do this will find themselves sorely dissappointed. That said, had we stayed with Fran we could've expected an 8 or 9 win season this year, only to be followed by another sub .500 season when we have to travel to Norman and Lubbock. I believe that Coach Sherman's staff has the ability to instill a sense of belief in Aggie football that we do belong with the OU's and t.u.'s of the world. But it will take time. Each game, we will hopefully see the right block here, the right defensive adjustment there, and with this will come more confidence and a belief in the system and program that we strive for.



THIS WEEK: This week, A&M travels to Albuquerque to face the New Mexico Lobos. The Lobos were surprisingly drilled at home on Saturday 26-3 by a TCU team few were expecting to win. A&M needs to go into New Mexico and bring home a win, and they will be facing a team looking to make a statement. Both teams suffered huge embarrassments in their first game, and the loser of this game will likely be facing big questions on the future of their season. That said, A&M has the talent to go into Albuquerque and leave with a victory. The challenge will lie in whether or not this team can go into a hostile environment and still limit the mistakes that plagued them so much against Arkansas State. The game is slated to start at 3:30 pm, and will be televised on the Versus Network.



DID YOU KNOW?



To go along with A&M's early growing season pains, I wanted to try and bring forth a little hope for the Aggie nation. We are not the first team to be in such a situation. Do you remember that just recently

  • Michigan lost to Appalachian State. At home?
  • That Alabama, under first year coach Nick Saban, lost to a Louisiana-Monroe team that A&M had just beaten by 40 two weeks prior?
  • Just this week, Eastern Carolina walked into Lane Stadium, one of the most intimidating stadiums in the country, and beat Virginia Tech?

In addition, have you ever heard of a couple guys by the names of Paul "Bear" Bryant and Jackie Sherill? Easily two of the top 3 coaches in Aggie history did not see immediate success.

  • Bear Bryant's first game was against none other than the tortilla flingers of the west, Texas Tech. Tech walked into Kyle Field and promptly handed Bear Bryan a 41-9 loss in his debut. Bryant went on to go 1-9 that year, only to follow it up with a 7-2 record the next year, followed by an undefeated season in 1956 and a 1957 season in which A&M was a favorite for the national championship up until the closing weeks, when Bryant announced he would be leaving for Alabama.
  • Jackie Sherrill, whom Texas A&M made the highest paid coach in college football in 1982, awarded Texas A&M with a 38-16 loss in his debut against Boston College in Kyle Field. He went on to go 5-6 that year, capped by losses to SMU, Arkansas, and Texas in which they were outscored 114-25. Three years later, A&M went 10-2, winning the Soutwest Conference by beating three fellow SWC top 25 teams (including a 42-10 thrashing of then no. 18 texas). They went on to the Cotton Bowl that year, and defeated the Bo Jackson led Auburn Tigers in a game highlighted by A&M's goal line stand of Bo on four consecutive plays. Bo knew the wrecking crew.

So keep the hope Ags. We might have some toes hangin over the edge, but don't jump off the cliff quite yet!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Obama & McCain..Einhorn & Finkel..Finkel & Einhorn?

I'm sick to death of seeing things

From tight-lipped, condescending, mama's little chauvinists

All I want is the truth

Just gimme some truth now

I've had enough of watching scenes

Of schizophrenic, ego-centric, paranoiac, prima-donnas

All I want is the truth now

Just gimme some truth

No short-haired, yellow-bellied, son of tricky dicky

Is gonna mother hubbard soft soap me

With just a pocketful of soap

It's money for dope

Money for rope

Ah, I'm sick and tired of hearing things

From uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocrites

All I want is the truth now

Just gimme some truth now

I've had enough of reading things

By neurotic, psychotic, pig-headed politicians

All I want is the truth now

Just gimme some truth now

All I want is the truth now

Just gimme some truth now

All I want is the truth

Just gimme some truth

All I want is the truth

Just gimme some truth

-John Lennon

Tay's Beard-Off 2008



Alrighty, for the past 13 years that I have been growing facial hair, I have denied my Arab roots and kept the facial hair to a limit. Well, I have decided that I can no longer deny my genes. I have decided to grow the beard of all beards! Well, OK, maybe it will be more like Tom Selleck's 5 o'clock shadow than Santa Claus, but it will definitely be rockin. As you can see from this picture, I am 2 days into Beard-Off 2008. If any challengers would like to join my beard off, join at your own risk. I'm gonna see how Saturday's game goes, I might have myself a new lucky charm. Can you imagine how much Laura is gonna love it when she finds out I've become superstitious over shaving my beard in fear of jinxing my Ags? Should be a fun Thanksgiving ;)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It's been a bit...

"Life is a vast mountain range. Sometimes we trudge through the depths of the deepest valleys. Sometimes our bodies are broken against the rocks as we climb. But after all is said and done, when we look back we will remember the breathtaking euphoria of reaching our various summits. Savor them friends, drink them in, for they are more valuable than any earthly good."

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood...


...a beautiful day for a neighbor, would you be mine? Could you be mine?

How many people from my generation are unable to recite these words? I would be willing to bet very few, and probably even fewer from the generation before me. Mister Rogers was an icon to children throughout the United States. He taught us core lessons in becoming good people in this world, all in a language that children could understand and relate to. I remember the excitement of seeing Mister Rogers come in and welcome me to his home, and I remember the disappointment I felt when it was time to go again for the day. But Mister Rogers always reminded you that tomorrow was a happy tomorrow, and he liked you just the way you were. Laura forwarded an email to me which I am posting below. I also read that PBS has reduced 'Mister Rogers Neighborhood' from 5 days a week to just once. I feel bad for alot of kids these days, because it doesn't seem like there is much connection anymore. Maybe in this day of video games, DVD's, educational toys and whatnot, children just can't relate to the message Mister Rogers conveyed. And that makes me really sad. For all you old fogies out there, here's a little something about our favorite neighbor.


Fifteen Reasons Mr. Rogers was the Best Neighbor Ever
By Mangesh Hattikudur
1. Even Koko the Gorilla loved him. Most people have heard of Koko, the Stanford-educated gorilla who could speak about 1000 words in American Sign Language, and understand about 2000 in English.
What most people don't know, however, is that Koko was an avid Mister Rogers' Neighborhood fan. As Esquire reported, when Fred Rogers took a trip out to meet Koko for his show, not only did she immediately wrap her arms around him and embrace him, she did what she'd always seen him do onscreen: she proceeded to take his shoes off!
2. He made thieves think twice. According to a TV Guide piece on him, Fred Rogers drove a plain old Impala for years. One day, however, the car was stolen from the street near the TV station. When Rogers filed a police report, the story was picked up by every newspaper, radio and media outlet around town.
Amazingly, within 48 hours the car was left in the exact spot where it was taken from, with an apology on the dashboard. It read, "If we'd known it was yours, we never would have taken it."
3. He watched his figure to the pound. In covering Rogers' daily routine (waking up at 5 a.m.; praying for a few hours for all of his friends and family; studying; writing, making calls and reaching out to every fan who took the time to write him; going for a morning swim; getting on a scale; then really starting his day), writer Tom Junod explained that Mr. Rogers weighed in at exactly 143 pounds every day for the last 30 years of his life.
He didn't smoke, didn't drink, didn't eat the flesh of any animals, and was extremely disciplined in his daily routine. And while I'm not sure if any of that was because he'd mostly grown up a chubby, single child, Junod points out that Rogers found beauty in the number 143.
According to the piece, Rogers came "to see that number as a gift... because, as he says, "the number 143 means 'I love you.' It takes one letter to say 'I' and four letters to say 'love' and three letters to say 'you.' One hundred and forty-three."
4. He saved both public television and the VCR. Strange but true. When the government wanted to cut public television funds in 1969, the relatively unknown Mister Rogers went to Washington.
Almost straight out of a Frank Capra film, his 5-6 minute testimony on how TV had the potential to give kids hope and create more productive citizens was so simple but passionate that even the most gruff politicians were charmed. While the budget should have been cut, the funding instead jumped from $9 to $22 million.
Rogers also spoke to Congress, and swayed senators into voting to allow VCR's to record television shows from the home. It was a cantankerous debate at the time, but his argument was that recording a program like his allowed working parents to sit down with their children and watch shows as a family.
5. He might have been the most tolerant American ever. Mister Rogers seems to have been almost exactly the same off-screen as he was onscreen. As an ordained Presbyterian minister, and a man of tremendous faith, Mister Rogers preached tolerance first.
Whenever he was asked to castigate non-Christians or gays for their differing beliefs, he would instead face them and say, with sincerity, "God loves you just the way you are." Often this provoked ire from fundamentalists.
6. He was genuinely curious about others. Mister Rogers was known as one of the toughest interviews because he'd often befriend reporters, asking them tons of questions, taking pictures of them, compiling an album for them at the end of their time together, and calling them after to check in on them and hear about their families. He wasn't concerned with himself, and genuinely loved hearing the life stories of others.
And it wasn't just with reporters. Once, on a fancy trip up to a PBS exec's house, he heard the limo driver was going to wait outside for 2 hours, so he insisted the driver come in and join them (which flustered the host).
On the way back, Rogers sat up front, and when he learned that they were passing the driver's home on the way, he asked if they could stop in to meet his family. According to the driver, it was one of the best nights of his life the house supposedly lit up when Rogers arrived, and he played jazz piano and bantered with them late into the night. Further, like with the reporters, Rogers sent him notes and kept in touch with the driver for the rest of his life.
7. He was color-blind. Literally. He couldn't see the color blue. Of course, he was also figuratively color-blind, as you probably guessed. As were his parents, who took in a black foster child when Rogers was growing up.
8. He could make a subway car full of strangers sing. Once while rushing to a New York meeting, there were no cabs available, so Rogers and one of his colleagues hopped on the subway. Esquire reported that the car was filled with people, and they assumed they wouldn't be noticed.
But when the crowd spotted Rogers, they all simultaneously burst into song, chanting "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood." The result made Rogers smile wide.
9. He got into TV because he hated TV. The first time he turned one on, he saw people angrily throwing pies in each other's faces. He immediately vowed to use the medium for better than that. Over the years he covered topics as varied as why kids shouldn't be scared of a haircut, or the bathroom drain (because you won't fit!), to divorce and war.
10. He was an Ivy League dropout. Rogers moved from Dartmouth to Rollins College to pursue his studies in music.
11. He composed all the songs on the show, and over 200 tunes.
12. He was a perfectionist, and disliked ad libbing. He felt he owed it to children to make sure every word on his show was thought out.
13. Michael Keaton got his start on the show as an assistant. He helped puppeteer and operate the trolley.
14. Several characters on the show are named for his family. Queen Sara is named after Rogers' wife, and the postman Mr. McFeely is named for his maternal grandfather who always talked to him like an adult, and reminded young Fred that he made every day special just by being himself. Sound familiar? It was the same way Mister Rogers closed every show.
15. The sweaters. Every one of the cardigans he wore on the show had been hand-knit by his mother

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Aggieland Air?


We all loved Dennis Franchione's intricate 7th grade offense right? I mean, who can't possibly love strong-side option, weak-side option, smoke draw, punt? Of course, much to the chagrin of many Aggies, it was soon learned that Big 12 head coaches get paid millions of dollars because they have a penchant for at least knowing how to shut down elementary offenses. When Franchione was fired, one of the main qualities looked for in a new coach was the need for an offense that could score with the Texas Techs and Oklahomas of the world. In steps Mike Sherman with his "West Coast Offense". But is it truly a West Coast offense?

Over the last few years, attending a Texas A&M football game has afforded you a special treat. Usually before the game, and sometimes even at halftime, Aggie fans have gotten to experience the exhiliration of a formation of military aircraft flying by at an ear splitting pace. Perhaps this is the birth of another tradition that makes a fall Saturday afternoon at Kyle Field that much more special. My personal belief was that the boom of jet engines flying by at near Mach 1 speed was necessary in order to resuscitate the 12th Man after two quarters of "Franball". This coming fall, you can expect things to be a little different. The fighter jets will still fly by, but they won't be the only thing flying through the air. Word is the Aggies plan to run a "West Coast" offense, and with the current staff, this should surprise nobody. Sherman and offensive coordinator Nolan Cromwell, both longtime Mike Holmgrem apostles, have cut their teeth on an offense that Holmgrem has used to take two teams to Super Bowls, as well as made stars out of Matt Hasselbeck and Brett Favre. But what exactly is a West Coast Offense, and will Sherman's Aggies rekindle memories of Brett Favre, Antonio Freeman, and the Lambeau leap?

The premise of the traditional West Coast offense goes against orthodox football thinking. The late Bill Walsh revoltionized offensive football by literally turning all prior principles upside down. That is, instead of using a bruising running game to set up the vertical passing game, the roles are reversed. The short intermediate passing game is instead used to spread the field to open up gaps for the running game, as well as open up the 3rd level of the defense for the deep pass. In this offense, receivers are valued more for their adherence to technique, as opposed to physical tools. Additionally, the tight end, fullback, and running back become essential tools in the passing game, as one or two are often in the flat as a check down option for the quarterback. Which brings us back to Texas A&M and Sherman. One thing that is guaranteed with Sherman and Cromwell's offense is that you will see the short intermediate passing game as a good part of the Aggie offensive strategy. But that is where the similarities end.

To call the offense Texas A&M will run a "West Coast Offense" in the traditional sense would be short-sighted, especially in this first year. A traditional west coast offense is predicated on a drop back quarterback with a quick, very accurate release as well as disciplined wide receivers who run crisp routes. These two commodities are quite unproven at Texas A&M, especially at wide receiver. In addition, the Aggies trot out a young offensive line that has very little NCAA experience. One of the staples of any sucessful passing offense is pass blocking. In the Big 12, where the 3 step drop can me nullified by the fact that many Big 12 defenses are geared towards speed to defend the spread , a quarterback must have time to read the defense and then make the pass. This seems to go against the very basic principles of the traditional west coast offense, which relies more on blind reads where the QB throws to a "spot" as much as to a wide receiver. Remember, with a true west coast offense, the short intermediate passing game is the key to which unlocks every other facet of the offensive game. Read up a bit on Bill Callahan and Nebraska to see where your more traditional West Coast offense will get you in the Big 12.

Now, let us dissect A&M's strengths on offense. As with everything, we'll start with quarterback. Coach Sherman has not announced whether Stephen McGee will return as starter, or if Jerrod Johnson will take over the reins. For now, we'll assume McGee will get the nod. Next, we have a the gem of the A&M program over the last few years, the stable of runners lining up in the backfield. Mike Goodson, with his electric speed and elusiveness, leads a list that also consists of Bradley Stephens, Cornell Tarrant, and incoming freshman Cyrus Gray. To add to that, moving to fullback we have Jorvorskie Lane, the "J-train." J-train has shown he can be the go-to guy in short yard scenarios, but has also shown the ability to catch the ball in the flats. Expect Sherman to utilize this in an effort to spread out the defense a bit more.

Given these tools, expect Sherman to go against the "West Coast offense" grain and use the running game to open up the passing game. Stephen McGee will not lead this team in rushing, and an RB with gamebreaking potential like Mike Goodson will not go under utilized. Goodson's biggest challenge will be establishing himself an an all-around running back, not just a bottle rocket. If A&M can establish a running game between the tackles, look for them to utilize many two back sets, where Goodson can run behind Lane, cut it outside, or even motion to a split out. This will also enable J-train to not only lead block, but also bruise the interior and exploit the flats. An effective running game will be the staple of this offense this year and will give A&M a chance. However, we all saw last year just how much damage a lack of balance can do to an offense. Franchione never seemed interested in an effective passing game. Sherman will have to be if he wants his system to succeed.

Harkening back to Sherm's cheesehead days, he had an offense that used power moreso than finesse to set Green Bay franchise records in multiple offensive categories. Given the speed of the college game today, expect the Aggies to fall somewhere in the middle. A&M will rely on their running game more than those Green Bay teams, but if McGee or Johnson are able to show they are not only mobile QB's, but can also hit the quick pass with accuracy, A&M can implement the intermediate passing game this system needs. Shoot, maybe we'll see those long balls flying again as well. If they cannot, we could see a disjointed offense that can not move with consistency, much like Sherman's first year in Houston. It will be interesting to see which of the freshman or priorly underused players will step up, as this will help mold the overall approach A&M takes this year. Expect to see alot of pro sets, I formations, and some single back and shotgun sets here and there. If Sherman is able to implement the majority of his system this year, then not only will we have jets flying over, but the Ags should be hearing a few more cannon blasts as well.

Just so everyone knows, Aggie training camp started yesterday. These first few days will be pretty quiet, as many players are still finishing out the last few days of summer school. Things should heat up next week. Also, a neat little tidbit, the team did not report to the Bright Complex or Kyle Field. Instead, the team was gathered at Duncan Dining Hall, in an effort by Sherman to bring the team closer to their fellow students. They will be eating breakfast there for the duration of camp, as well as apparently on Saturdays before home games. As of now, there is no confirmation on whether Duncan staff will be wearing riot gear in anticipation of hostilities between Jorvorskie Lane and the Band in relation to Duncan's donut reserve.

Friday, August 1, 2008

29 Days, 5 Hours and 12 Minutes until...


...until first kickoff of the 2008 Fightin' Texas Aggie Football season! Yes, well maybe I'm a bit more excited than most but I mean, c'mon. Fran is gone, and in turn, the Little Debbie snack inventory in the Bryan/College Station area has returned! More importantly, gone are the days of the "smoke draw" five plays in a row. Gone is our favorite insurance salesman/ defensive coordinator employing bend but dont break defenses. In comes a new wave of hope with a familiar twist. That's right, one of ol' R.C's men is back and determined to take A&M back to the glory days of the late 80's and early 90's. That is right Ags, we're gonna party like it's 1989!





Coach Mike Sherman knows A&M. He can tell you about Silver Taps, Midnight Yell, and all about the 12th Man. It wouldn't shock me if I were a redass 2012 fish this year to see Coach out shining Sully. The guy embraces A&M, he loves what A&M is all about, and best of all, you believe him when he does so. And he should. Sherman coached A&M's stellar offensive lines from 1989-93 and again from 95-96. In fact, Sherman was appointed in 1996 to replace Steve Emsinger as the A&M offensive coordinator. Unfortunately for the Ags, Mike Holmgrem and the Green Bay Packers came calling that same year, and Sherman headed up north to coach for Holmgrem and his recent Super Bowl Champs. Coach Sherman, upon departing A&M, said, "There is absolutely no other college job I would have left Texas A&M for and only one professional job that I've ever had any interest in and that being the Green Bay Packers. I've enjoyed the small-town atmosphere of College Station for my family, and Green Bay offers that same atmosphere. If the truth be told, there is not a whole lot of difference between an `Aggie' and a `Cheesehead." The move ended up being a coup for Sherman, as he shot up through the ranks of NFL assistants to become on of the hottest names in the league. After following Holmgrem to Seattle to take over as offensive coordinator in 1999, teams soon began looking at the long time offensive line coach to run their team. After a subpar 8-8 season back in Green Bay, Packers GM Ron Wolf fired Ray Rhodes and replaced him with Sherman. Sherman induced many a happy Cheesehead moments from 2000-2004, compiling a record of 53-29 for a .663 winning percentage. This was better than every coach in Green Bay history, save one. Some guy named Lombardi, I believe?




Following a tough 2005 season, Sherman moved on from Green Bay and came back to Texas to coach for Aggie great Gary Kubiak and the Houston Texans as Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coach. After a 6-10 season in 2006 in which the Texan offense ranked 28th out of 32, Kubiak promoted Sherman to offensive coordinator to try and help his beleagured offense. In 2007, the Texan offense showed great improvement, finshing 14th in the league in total offense as well as posting a franchise best 8-8 record.




Following Little Debb... err Fran's dissappointing 2007 season, the Aggies were looking for someone to reinvigorate a fallen program. An embarrassing 35-7 thrashing by Texas Tech, coupled with news of a secret(and potentially illegal per NCAA rules) newsletter distributed by Fran crony Mike McKenzie, names began swirling of potential replacements. Big time names such as Steve Spurrier and Auburn Head Coach Tommy Tuberville began coming up for the position. Following Fran's dismissal immediately after A&M's 38-30 defeat of Texas, Bill Byrne began a comprehensive search for the next man to lead the Aggies. Byrne's search did not last long. In fact, he never made it past Houston. Coach Sherman was the first interview, and Byrne came away so impressed, that Sherman was introduced as the new Texas A&M head coach just a few days later.




"It's like coming back home," Sherman said. "I told my wife, you can unpack the
boxes on this move. I've moved about 10 times in my career. You can put up the
pictures and throw the boxes away, because we're going to be here awhile."




Sherman's performance thus far as Aggie Head Coach would certainly indicate he is in it for the long haul. He has shown a great work ethic, and seems to have really streamlined the difficult transition from the NFL back to the ever changing landscape of college football. Sherman brought in a very experienced coaching staff to help him lead A&M back to prominence. This staff ranges from long-time NFL assistants Nolan Cromwell and Tom Rossley, to long-time college defensive coordinator Joe Kines, who I am personally predicting will become a quick favorite among Aggies.(If you haven't had the chance, YouTube "Joe Kines inside draw") This staff has already shown their worth, as A&M already sits at 25 commitments for the 2009 recruiting class. Obviously however, a whole lot more can be said once September rolls around and the stuff that REALLY matters begins, but count this Ag as one who is truly excited about what this staff will be able to do with the talent already on campus.




After all is said and done, I am really impressed with what Coach Mike Sherman has brought to A&M already. Listening to him speak, you feel that the man is very authentic and passionate about the direction he wants to lead this team. He has an ominous challenge ahead of him if he hopes to bring A&M back to national prominence. Recent national champs Oklahoma, texas, and Louisiana State all reside within a stone's throw of College Station. Coupled with a rising program in Texas Tech, Sherman has his work cut out for him. That said, A&M is a unique situation. In Aggieland, you have top-flight facilities, money, and one of the most dedicated fanbases in the nation all at a flagship university smack dab in the middle of one of the largest recruiting hot-beds in the nation. A coach who can come in and maximize returns on these assets, while still simply "getting" a place as unique as A&M could truly make a name for himself among the college football elite. Whether or not Coach Mike Sherman can do that remains to be said. Based on the early returns however, count me in on A&M making a name for themselves again sooner rather than later.


I hope everyone enjoyed this. Stay posted, as I will be breaking down alot of the new things you will be seeing this year, including the new offensive and defensive sets A&M will be lining up in. I'll also be breaking down this coming season, including where I see Texas A&M finishing in the Big 12 South in 2008. So start exercising those vocal cords Ags, football season is right around the corner!



Thursday, July 31, 2008

I'm sorry, did I scare you?

"Islam is a cancer to the world. Sadly, it will, eventually, come down to either them or us. I just hope it comes to a head before they can destroy the US from the inside-out."
I found this on a discussion board that I like to frequent. Sadly, this is just one of many quotes I have begun to see in increasing frequency. In my free time, I like to peruse different blogs and discussion boards in search of insight from many different perspectives. Maybe it's a microcosm of my raising. I was raised in a family where my blood comes from two faiths. Although I am very proud to call myself a Muslim, I have also dedicated myself to learning and understanding the ways of other religions. I think growing up, my religion was always sort of a novelty to others. Here I was, regular Joe Schmo. No accent, no exotic wardrobe, no excessive body hair... well OK, maybe that one. I was definitely not the guy you saw walking down the street and instantly in your mind labeled "Muslim" or "Arab." Then the towers fell. Two beacons of our nation's prosperity, rising towards the heavens themselves, felled in one swoop. Along with those towers fell the lives of countless fellow Americans, just trying to work another day to put another meal on the table. Then came the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Regardless of your stance on the war itself, many brave men, good men, have laid down their lives fighting for OUR nation. As of late, we have seen Israel and Iran going back and forth with threats of nuclear weapons and retribution. Not a good combination.
One of the groups who have faced much tribulation in these times is the Muslim American. I tend to avoid using terms like Muslim American, African American, etc. as I believe they pack us all into neat little packages, and take ways from the unique qualities of individuals. As time has passed however, the hijab atop your head, or the dark skin or even just walking out of a mosque has brought forth labels nobody should ever be given without proof. Muslims in America are no longer a novelty. They come from the same place all these terrorists come from. If it looks like a terrorist, smells like a terrorist, then it's gotta be a terrorist, right? We scare people, for reasons not of our own doing. Well I'm sorry, did I scare you? Let me tell you about me, so that maybe I won't frighten you so much.
I shop at your grocery store. Hell, I go to the same convenience store because I know they've always got the freshest Copenhagen. My kids will go to school with your kids. We interact with one another in our community. Personally, I might be the guy doing your taxes next year. We sit next to each other at Aggie football games, yellin our asses off. Maybe I don't eat pork at the tailgate, but I'm there, and I probably know just as much or more about the goings on in Aggie football than most.
But I'm a Muslim. Everything I do in life is to glorify God(Allah)swf. I'll take my kids to the mosque and they learn the same things I was taught as a youngster, which is probably a whole lot different than what you think it is. I am personally against abortion, I think kids should be able to pray in school if they want to, and I think the moral climate of our nation isn't where it should be. I believe in God, Family, and Country. I pay my taxes, vote, go to jury duty, and celebrate OUR nation just like you do. Did you know that on May 1, 1776, a Syrian immigrant was killed fighting for his adopted nation's independence? Did you know that Muslim and Arab Americans have fought in every major U.S. conflict since? You can believe what you want to believe about the religion I follow. This is America, it's your right. But when you say you're an American, it doesn't mean any more than when I or any other American who also happens to be Muslim says it.
Alot of Muslim Americans are afraid of folks who say things like this. You scare them just as much as they apparently scare you. They don't want you to give them trouble. When you say things like this, it frightens them. "We're first generation Americans, we dont want any trouble. We don't want to rock the boat." Well, more Muslims need to come out and say ignorant statements like this don't scare me. You can't control whom I pray to just like I can't control what you think of my religion. But I will say this. Folks who judge others by labels such as religion, race, or creed don't get very far in this country. Never have, never will. That's why intolerant backwards and ignorant "Muslims" who resort to tyranny and terror will never get anywhere on these shores. Because we dont let people treat others like that in this nation, at least not for long.
So in short, think what you will. But before you tell me that that the faith that I hold so dear is a "cancer," get to know me first. Meet me at our grocery store, or at our kid's baseball game. Come see me at your local mosque if you can't find me anywhere else. Know me and what Islam has made me, and then make your judgement.