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!