Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wow! What a Day!

(Nashville, TN) - Vanderbilt won its bowl game, 16-14 over nationally-ranked Boston College. It was the Commodores' first bowl game since 1982 and their first bowl victory since 1955! It was the school's second bowl win ever. My wife, a long-suffering Vanderbilt graduate, saw every moment of it and was thrilled. My daughter and I were pleased to be in her company. We had to earn it, though. It was COLD!
During the second quarter, temperatures were in the 30's with a stiff wind. I started to shiver and my daughter said her toes were numb. We thought we were prepared, wearing many layers of warm clothes; but were a little uncomfortable to put it mildly. It was the coldest I had been for any sustained period in at least fifteen years, probably more.
That's okay, though. The conditions made the experience more memorable. The truth be told, if it had become unbearable, we would have been okay. We had club level tickets, so we had the option to go inside and watch the game on television at any time. Why would you want to do that, though? It wasn't a particularly well played game, but it did go down to the final seconds. Vanderbilt intercepted a BC pass with less than two minutes left in the game to seal the victory. At that moment, the temperature didn't really matter.

It really meant a lot to my wife, who stayed long after the final horn to watch the trophy presentation, see a fireworks show and to find out who the Most Valuable Player was. Her phone starting buzzing immediately with text messages and calls from friends and co-workers who knew we had made this trip.
It's been a blast, to be honest. Given Vanderbilt's pace for winning bowl games, it may truly be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Let's hope not, but either way I'm glad we were here to share it.

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Low-Key Little Trip

(Nashville, TN)- This bowl game experience has been very nice so far. It's interesting to attend a "minor" bowl game as an outsider, since I've been so close to the one at home for such a long time. As a bowl visitor, it would be easy to note the absence of any kind of "buzz" around the game, but that's not something to complain about.
There was a significant gathering of fans on Nashville's famed 2nd Avenue for an outdoor concert and a "battle of the bands." You would think in Music City, USA you wold get frontline entertainment. Diana Degarmo sang the national anthem and hosted the event. The featured entertainers were the Carter Twins, who are poised to release their first CD. Front line? Depends upon your perspective, I guess. It was harmlessly entertaining. There was nothing wrong with it and there was very little intensity. This is how I imagaine many visitors to the Independence Bowl must feel.
On a personal level, the highlight of the trip has been catching up with old friends. My old Friend Tommy drove in from just across the Kentucky state line to join us for dinner. My friend Dave, a Nashville sportscaster, joined us in the Big Suite late last night to catch up.
It's been exeedingly pleasant so far and that's all you can really expect.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Confusing Hotel Matters

Over the last few years, I seem to have developed a loyalty to Hilton Hotel properties. I keep coming back, so I must be happy. I know exactly what I can count on at a Hampton Inn, for instance.
There are two things which confuse me, but they're not important enough for me to ask about them. I think I would get blank stares from the help if I did.
Number one: at Hamptons and other "lesser" properties, internet access is free. But, at the hotel like the one we're enjoying in Nashville and other "higher end" facilities in the chain in which I've stayed recently, internet access is ten bucks a day. That makes no sense to me.
Here's the one that gets me, though. I've recently stayed in "nice" Hilton properties in places like Austin, Lexington, Birmingham and Nashville. They've put these state of the art, flat-screen televisions in the rooms. They're BIG TV's, and they're High Defintion capable, obviously. But, in the rooms, standard definition. What's the point?
That's all.

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Memory Lane and Maybe A Glimpse Into the Future

(Nashville, TN) - Our daughter, a junior in high school, made her first official university visit today when she sat through an information session and took a long guided tour of Vanderbilt. This is exciting and scary for a lot of reasons. She really liked the place, but it's expensive! Also, she has to get in if she wants to attend. She probably will have the academic credentials, but the place is intensely competitive.
Her mother graduated from Vandy, which is why we find ourselves here for the football team's first bowl game since 1982. I wonder if having a parent as an alumna will work in the favor of an applicant? It can't hurt, can it?
There was a nice moment for my wife. We walked through the some of the buildings where she had classes and found a composite photo of her graduating class. She was front and center as class president! It was neat for her daughter to see that. It was also nice for me, because that's the year I met her. I told my daughter, "Look, that's the girl I met." Very sentimental.

There was a beautiful reunion with my wife's college best friend. I told our daughter this would be noteworthy because no one makes her mother laugh as hard as Dana does. The occasion did not disappoint. The hilarity started on the phone and less than five minutes into lunch, my wife had tears shooting cartoon-like out of her eyes. It was immesnsely entertaining for near observers, who can only imagine what life must have been like when thosse two were together on a daily basis.
Soon, we will turn our attention to the business of football. I hope the Commodores cap off an already memorable trip with a nice victory. It doesn't seem likely, but a Vandy fan can dream. My wife and her schoolmates have been waiting more than a quarter-century for this. Win or lose, it's been worth it.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Quick Hitter From the Road

(Nashville, TN)-My wife is true blue, no doubt about it. She has long vowed that the next time her school's football team won its way into a bowl game, she would be there to witness it. After all, The Vanderbilt Commodores haven't been to a postseason game since 1982, which was before we even met (and we've been married a long time). As luck would have it, Vandy finally makes it and fate leads them across town instead of across the country. They're in the Music City Bowl, so we are in Nashville.
It works out well. Her College Best Friend lives here, so she's excited about seeing her. I have a good friend who works at a TV station here, so we will spend some time with him. Another old friend lives about an hour away. So, like the song says, "Through the years, we all will be together if the fates allow." So, fate creates a set of happy reunions. Plus, our daughter can look over the campus while she's here to see if she wants to consider following in Mom's footsteps.
It's a long drive and we spent the day in the car. It's an easy drive, though. Once again, I connot recommend books on CD enough. The time just flies by if you pick a good one.
It's colder here than I would like, and I'm not sure how to dress for cold weather. I'll figure it out. Now, it's late and we are road weary. More to come.

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32 of 33's not Bad

At the Independence Bowl
Originally uploaded by Darrell
We made it to the Independence Bowl, and it was a pretty entertaining ball game. Louisiana Tech outlasted Northern Illinois, 17-10. It wasn't a dream matchup, in fact far from it, but it got the job done.
I went to my first Independence Bowl in 1976, when I worked as an usher as part of my school's commitment to community service.
I've been to every one, except the 1984 game. I had traveled to Charleston, SC to cover a Louisiana Tech football game that day. So, there's a nice little bow to tie things up, wouldn't you say? In 1984, I did drive past the stadium during the 3rd quarter on my way home from the airport. So, I can say I have personally witnessed at least part of every Independence Bowl.
It's much more fun to be a spectator than to cover it, although this year might have been a little different because a local team was in it. There seems to be more pressure when big-name schools from power conferences come to town.
It was a rather unremarkable day, although the people around us were consistently entertaining.
I plan to see number 34 next year.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Best Dog Ever

Originally uploaded by darebouche
I have enjoyed almost fifty years of uninterrupted dog ownership. There was a 2-3 year period in the early 80's when I did not live with a dog due to apartment complex rules and an ugly break-up with the co-owner of a sweet little puppy named Bear.
In my life, I have buried six dogs which lived long, happy lives. I loved them all and each had a distinct personality. None of them compares to our golden retriever.
This is the smartest, sweetest, most expressive and affectionate dog I've ever known. She is remarkable. Her only flaw is an annoying tendency to shed, but she just can't help it. Other than that, she is essentially flawless. She will be six years old later this week, just about middle age for a dog.
We have been advocates of what I call "doggie overlap." This means you get a puppy or young dog long before your current dog runs out of days. It serves many purposes, but mostly it's to soften the blow when that sad, sad day comes.
We agreed long ago to get a second dog when this one was six years old. Now that the day is upon us, I'm not so sure. Our relationship wtih this great llittle friend is so good, I don't want to do anything to alter it. Plus, if she lives a long doggie life, we will be well into our fifties and the children will be well into their twenties before we don't have her anymore. By then, we may have grandchildren. We also may not want the responsibilty of another mouth to feed and another life for which we will be responsible 24 hours a day.
I just don't think we can do any better. I think we just go out on top (hopefully a long time from now) and then take some time to reassess.
I hope every dog lover is fortunate enough, at least once, to have a pet like ours.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Truth Hurts

My daughter turned seventeen this week, and I'm having trouble dealing with that. Seventeen (17!) is just different from sixteen. Think about it. How are movies rated? The worst film these days is rated "NC-17," which means no one under 17 is allowed in. Reverse that logic. The people who rate movies think it's okay for a 17-year-old to see serious pornography and/ or violence. That's where my baby is right now.
She said, reflecting on reaching seventeen, "This means if I get a ticket I don't have to go to traffic court." I guess not. Daddy just pays the fine.
Did I say "Daddy?" Forget about it. I've been "Dad" for a long time now, unless she wants something. Then, conveniently, I'm "Daddy" again, but only for a moment.
Janis Ian sang that at seventeen, she learned the truth. I'm not sure my daughter knows the truth yet, but if you ask her she will tell you she does.
I'm proud to have known her for seventeen years. That's the truth, for sure.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Surrender Your Manhood at the Door

Christmas spectacular
Originally uploaded by Darrell
Any cool points I may have earned by hanging around the sidelines of the Cowboys-Giants game two nights ago were surrendered immediately and with prejudice when I found myself at CenturyTel Center for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring The Rockettes.
The show had its moments. Production value was high. It was colorful and lively. I could not identify a single masculine moment.
I feel compelled to explain how I wound up there. A lady we know, the mother of one of our daughter's friends, bought a row of floor seats for the show and invited the crew of girls to go. They all showed up last night, but their tickets wouldn't scan. It seems the tickets were for Tuesday, not Monday. Oops. Sadly, several of the girls had plans for the next night and couldn't attend.
Seeing the unused (and expensive) tickets sitting on the counter was too much for me to bear. The waste was just eating away at me. A futile attempt to sell them was made, so there they sat. What else did I have to do on a December Tuesday? Off to the show we went.
It was old fashioned, you might say "tradtional" and not very stirring. Still, it was wholesome and basically harmless. There was actual livestock in the show: a camel, a donkey and some sheep. I guess the only shot I had at being manly would have been to pull out a shotgun and go hunting. But, really, would that have helped anyone?
Maybe it will spark my Christmas spirit. If you see me high-kicking at the mall, you know things have gone too far.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Still a Thrill

I've been standing on the sidelines of football games for more years (decades) than I care to admit. Still, the opportunity to see the reigning Super Bowl champion NY Giants up close against the Dallas Cowboys was too good to pass up.
When you hear a coach say, "I had the worst seat in the house," he has a point. One can actually see each play develop much more clearly from an elevated vantage point. Still, nothing gives you a sense of the size of the players or the speed of the game like standing right there with 'em.
All that being said, the event seems much bigger when viewed on television, especially in HD.
The Cowboys found a way to win in prime time and the assembled crowd raised quite a ruckus. I don't know if I'll ever get back to the sidelines, but I'm glad I made my way to the floor of Texas Stadium one more time before the Cowboys move out.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Mouth of the South

public address
public address,
originally uploaded by Darrell.
The people I have known since childhood are not the least bit surprised that for many years I made a living by talking. It's what I do the most, if not what I do the best. The most recent opportunity to spread my vocal wings presented itself when I was asked to be the public address announcer for a college basketball game.
If you've watched basketball in person or on TV, you know it's hard to miss the PA guy a lot of the time. There are similarities to ring announcers in boxing. You have to really sell it hard when the home team makes a big basket.
You also have to pay attention and know the rules. If the PA guy blows a call, he can impact the game. In my game, for instance, a foul was called on number 30. None of us on press row saw the referee make the hand size for the "zero," so we thought the foul was on number 3. It would have been his fourth foul, which means trouble. It was 30's first foul. When I said, "the foul is on number three, so-and-so, his fourth personal...." the game came to a halt. Coaches, players and refs all stared at me.
"Correction. The foul is on number thirty..." and everybody felt better.
It's not as easy as it looks, plus now I'm hoarse. But it was fun and I had the best seat in the house. Next time, we'll watch those hand signals from the guys in stripes a little more closely.
And for all those teachers who gave "B's" in conduct because I couldn't keep my yap shut: The foul's on you.

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Through The Years, We all Will be Together

Sweater Vest and Tennessee Dave
Originally uploaded by Darrell
My buddy Dave blew into town for a few days and it was great to see him. He lives in Nashville now, living a local sportscaster's dream. He's anchoring in his home town, covering the SEC, NFL and NHL. It's a kind of perfect storm: the best thing short of ESPN or an actual network.
He had a voucher for a flight, so why not come back to Shreveport where he made many friends?
We rectified an obvious oversight. He claimed (and this is an outrage) that all the years he lived here, he never went to Herby K's. So, he rounded up his crew and to Herby's we went.

Dave and Darrell at Herby K
Originally uploaded by Darrell
Being on vacation, he was able to relax, enjoy the company and a big mug of beer.
It has been almost three years since I had seen him, and happily it will be a just three weeks until I see him again. We're going to Nashville for the Music City Bowl!
That trip works out well for everyone. The Daughter gets to look over a university or two and Joe College gets to live in the house without family encumberance for a few days. Who knows what he will do? That's a little scary. As long as there's no damage and the place is cleaned up when we get back, we'll be okay.
By the way, We saw Dave two days in a row. On the second day, he was wearing a very familiar sweater.

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Sad Times In Shreveport

Three Bowl Amigos
Originally uploaded by Darrell
Take a look at this photo from 1991. Independence Stadium is packed on a December afternoon. It was a Sunday and the Georgia Bulldogs were playing the Arkansas Razorbacks in a game nationally televised on ABC. Standing there are the sports directors of the three local television stations. As of this week, none of them works in local TV anymore.
Sadly, the last man standing, Bob Griffin, was shown the door by KSLA this week. He had been there for 48 years. His goal was to make it to 50, and he had gone part time a few years ago in an effort to get there. The fact that he wasn't allowed to leave on his own terms is a shame.
The bowl game has also fallen on hard times. Its sponsor squirreled out with almost two million dollars in debt hanging over the organizers. The football gods conspired to deny the game teams from major conferences, to boot. So, instead of SEC vs. Big XII, it's MAC vs. WAC.
Maybe things will improve and a year from now the stadium will be full once more and everyone will be ready to smile again.

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Gone But Not Forgotten

KTAL 2001
Originally uploaded by Darrell
This photo has been a recent phenomenon on FaceBook. It started innocently enough when the guy standing to the right of me in the image added a simple comment: "I still have that sweater." Ultimately, every person in the photo except for the blonde in the black sweater in the front row weighed in. It turns out, everyone wearing a sweater still HAS the sweater.
That may say something about salaries in local television, or it may say something about temperate southern climates. Who knows?
Cool weather gear notwithstanding, there is something more noteworthy: All of these people worked at a local TV station in 2001. None of them works there now. Moreover, Daddy D is the only one still in town.
There was talent assembled there. They have all moved to bigger cities, and I hope they have found happiness.
Back row (l to r): Providence, Memphis, Nashville, Shreveport (me).
Front row (l to r): Nashville, Denver, Denver (different stations, a happy coincidence).
Maybe their wardrobes have improved. As for me, I wore that sweater this week!

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Reluctant Unclehood

There's a new member of the family named Grant. I'll spare the details because I don't really have permission to go all up in somebody else's privacy, but let me make one thing clear: We are not yet grandparents. The fact that we have the potential to be so in less than a year hangs over our heads at all times, but I can honestly say we're have not been emotionally prepared for the arrival of a newborn. Yet, here he is, a nephew. The guy has a 16-year-old sister. It saddens me at this moment that her name is not "Denise," because I have no legitimate reason to call the new kid "DeNephew," a joke which always cracks me up even though it's stupid and ancient.
Let me make another thing clear: nobody around here is pregnant, as far as I know. I'm just saying that things can happen quickly. I'm looking forward to being a grandfather, I just don't want it to happen anytime in the next five years or so.
For now, Grant's arrival is the most momentous thing to happen in the family in a while. Let's hope things settle down around here now. I've spoken to his mother only briefly since she came home with the baby, because I assume she's losing sleep. I will be interested, in a month or so, to depose "Denise" about how she's dealing with all of this.
For now, let's just say congratulations to the excited family. Welcome to the world, Grant.

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Leftovers From the Road

Just in case you were wondering, you can make it from the parking lot of Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa to my garage in six hours. However, on game day it takes three hours and forty-five minutes to get from a hotel room in Birmingham into the press box.
In Birmingham, three and a half hours before kickoff, it took us an hour and ten minutes to travel eleven miles on an interstate. It was all gameday traffic, I assure you. Keep in mind, Birmingham is more than fifty miles from the stadium.
There were times when traffic moved at a reasonable interstate pace, but most of the time the assembled masses were cruising along at about seven miles per hour.
LSU fans claim Tiger Stadium is the loudest in the SEC, but I've been in Jordan-Hare and Bryant-Denny this season and trust me, those Auburn and Alabama people in full throat rival Bayou Billy and Tiger Tommy. Put them together in one place and you have something.
If you have satelite radio, you are spoiled on the road. You can listen to so many games or any kind of music or talk you want. When you don't have it, you really miss it. Our rent car was equipped with a receiver, but the unit wasn't activated. I took a shot and called my frends at XM. After the requisite recorded voice menu gauntlet during which I gave my phone number, address and other identifying information, I was connected to an actual human who asked how she could help.
I explained that Traveling Companion and I are XM subscribers but we were in a rental car and we were wondering if we could somehow activate the receiver in the rent car for 24 to 48 hours. She asked for the radio ID. I was hopeful.
She said, "That receiver hasn't been activated."
I said, "I know. It's a rent car. We were hoping you could just turn this one on for a couple of days."
She asked for the radio ID for my primary receiver. I said, "I dont know. I'm not in that car. I'm in a rent car." So, we looked up my account by asking for my phone number (which I had given, as you recall, earlier).
She said, "I see you have 'XM Everything.' Is that what you would like to have on this second receiver?"
I said, "How much will that cost for 24 or 48 hours?"
She said, "Sir, the service is for a minimum of one year."
I said, "But, I told you this is a rent car and I just want the service for the weekend. That, in fact, was the first thing I said to you."
She said, "I'm sorry, sir. I must have misunderstood."
I said never mind. She said, "Thank you for calling XM."
Now, XM and Sirius have merged. I can only imagine how customer service will be the next time I call.
Auburn was never in the game. Since we were there to court them if they won, we decided to leave early to beat the traffic. We had learned our lesson earlier in the day. This allowed us to listen to Crimson Tide broadcasters for the 4th quarter and post game. The team finished the regular season undefeated and ranked #1 in the nation. Although they must win twice more to hoist the national championship trophy, it is easy to get an undeniable sense that Alabama fans believe the top of the heap is their birthright. That's where they feel at home.
Random personal observation: I crossed paths with representatives from many bowl games this season. Most people were somewhere between cordial and nice. For my money, the people from Atlanta were outstanding and personable. By far the most open and friendly (and for some reason this surprised me. I can't tell you why) were the Sugar Bowl representatives. Maybe it's a Louisiana thing, but the pleasant people from New Orleans served as a reminder that I need to spend a couple more weekends a year in their city. Who knows? Maybe I'll go to the game.
If Nick Saban wins a national championship this year, LSU fans will be puking boudin until September. I still have an LSU coach's shirt that Saban gave me during his second year in Baton Rouge. Now, I have an Alabama coach's shirt that I got during his second year in Tuscaloosa. I still haven't figured out when and where I'm going to wear it, but I'm thinking about sporting it around town just to find out how many people yell at me. Think I can get a state police escort?

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Crimson Christmas

Alabama golf shirt
Originally uploaded by Darrell
(Birmingham, AL) - I opened my gift from the Alabama athletic department. It's a fantastic Alabama golf shirt made by Nike. It's a great color (Crimson! Coincidence? I think not). I am proud to have it.
Where will I wear it? I live in Louisiana where the Alabama football coach is public enemy number one. I'll have to wear it on the road, I guess.
The rain seems to have stopped, but the morning is foggy.
With a couple of exceptions, this is the last Saturday of college football's regular season. This is one of the best places in America to spend it, even if I'm behind enemy lines.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

The Tide is High

(Birmingham, AL) - As promised, the weather has been bleak at best. There was never a moment in our seven-hour drive to Tuscaloosa, and on to Brimingham, when it wasn't raining. I'm sick of being wet.
I expected to check into our hotel before we went on to official business at the University of Alabama, but that didn't work out for me. We were invited to a "casual dinner" at a yacht club in Tuscaloosa. As we sat around a Chicken Wing Place watching LSU lose to Arkansas, I sent a text message to our host asking for a clarification on "casual." That meant "no tie," I soon found out. Since I was in blue jeans, tennis shoes and a damp Polo shirt, I figured I needed to change. So, off I ran to the rent car to get my bags.
I have to admit I felt pretty silly carrying two suitcases into the men's room of the Chicken Wing Place, but a man's got to do what a man's got to do. As I walked in, I was greeted with curious stares from the wait staff and a hostess. I just said, "Hi, kids! Daddy's home!" Only one laughed. It was the smart one, to be sure. I did my best Clark Kent impersonation in a bathroom stall and emerged slightly wrinkled but reassuringly dry. Appropriately attired in slacks and blazers, off we went into the drizzly Alabama night.
This was one of those "I can't believe I'm invited to this party" moments for me. I sat at a table with the Alabama Athletic Director and representatives from the Sugar and Orange Bowls. I sort of felt like the little step brother being allowed to sit at the big boys' table. Everyone was kind and gracious and the conversation flowed well. I was one of the two youngest men at the table, so I sat all "gee whiz"-like and listened to stories mostly about Bear Bryant, which is what you would expect at Alabama.
The unspoken awkwardness came from the obvious: we are here representing a bowl game which needs Alabama's opponent to win. Yes, Traveling Companion and I are here to gladhand Auburn. That didn't stop the Crimson Tide people from being warm hosts. They even had a gift with my name on it. I'm waiting until tomorrow to open it. Maybe Christmas will come early.
Maybe the rain will stop, too. Otherwise, the rising tide you see will not be a football team, but a flash flood.

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On the (Wet) Road Again

Bryant-Denny Stadium
Originally uploaded by Darrell
It's an abbreveiated day at work for me, because I'm off to Tuscaloosa for the Iron Bowl! Alabama hosts Auburn in one of the oldest rivalries in college football. The Crimson Tide is undefeated and ranked #1 in the nation. The setup is perfect for Auburn, because they can salvage a bruisingly disappointing season by ruining their rivals' run toward a national championship.
The traveleing companion and I will be driving. Not only does the Tuscaloosa forecast call for an 80% chance of thunderstorms at game time, but the regional forecast tells us it will likely be raining on us all the way there.

Daddy D Outside Bryant-Denny
Originally uploaded by Darrell
It will be slow going, and I hope the trip is worth the trouble. There will be stories to tell, that's for sure.
The last time I was at Bryant-Denny Stadium, which was last season, Alabama fans were flush with hope for a resrugence of their program. They're on the brink of realizing their dreams. No matter which way Saturday's game goes, it should be interesting to watch the reaction from both sides.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I'll Never Be a Hunter

I've never been deer hunting, and if I had any expectation of cultivating an interest in that sort of thing, it's obliterated. Earlier this week, I saw several deer grazing in a field near my house. I eased my car onto the property, slipped my camera out of the back and squeezed off a shot or two from a great distance. Of course, I scared them away.Maybe it wasn't me. As I was preparing to snap my photos, someone pulled up beside me to ask what I was doing. I said I was "shooting the deer." Dude freaked a little. "You're not going to kill those deer!" "No," I said. "Shooting photos." He calmed down immediately. The images were most disappointing.
Of course, I am determined to get better photos. I saw the deer three evenings in a row in the same spot, so I convinced my wife to join me on a deer stakeout. We plopped ourselves behind a tree and hung out for an hour and a half.

What you lookin' at?
Originally uploaded by Darrell
As you can see, she became bored and a little perplexed. There were no deer. I told her it was her shocking blue hoodie that scared them away. Everybody knows deer have a keen eye for colors that don't occur in nature.
Actually, I have no idea what a deer's senses are like. I just know I don't want to kill anything for sport and I didn't like sitting around hoping for a deer to show up. You can't count on a deer. The good news is, the weather was beautiful and so was the company. So, it wasn't so bad after all. Just don't expect me to cover myself in camo gear and squat in a tree all day to get my pictures.

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A House in Disarray

The stove will be cold at our house on Thanksgiving. That's because it's outside in the garage. This hole is where the stove should be. We are remodeling the kitchen and shockingly the contractor hasn't finished in a timely fashion. It's not that bad, actually. We don't have a sink or a dishwasher, either. So, this means eating out a lot. Oh, sure, we could have sandwiches and things heated up in the microwave. Until yesterday, though, we had no countertops. We have no table space, either, because the contents of our kitchen are piled up in the dining room. We are doing our part to stimulate the stagnant economy by dining at reasonable restaurants and generously tipping our servers.
Forget about keeping the house clean, by the way. Sawdust rules the day with dirt tracked in by the workers making a case for control. The guys practically live here now. I know they're here in the morning because the dog starts wagging her tail when she sees them through the window. That tells you how much they've been around.
This project is more "Maintenance used as an excuse to update" than a true remodel. We're not increasing or reconfiguring the space, we're basically redecorating. Since I have no imagination for this kind of thing, I'm just going on faith that everything will look nice when they're finished. If it doesn't, we're stuck with the look. It will be at least another decade before we tackle anything like this again.
In the meantime, we will have a catered Thanksgiving at my mother-in-law's house. No muss, no fuss. I think I actually like it.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Lost Weekend

Louisiana Tech won in Las Cruces, New Mexico. It's the Bulldogs' seventh win of the season and that all but assures them a spot in some bowl game somewhere. It just might be Shreveport, which could be a nice result for all concerned. Arkansas came up just short against Mississippi State today, meaning the Hogs have no shot at becoming bowl eligible. The Independence Bowl's last glimmering hope to have a Southeastern Conference team this year seems to rest on the shoulder pads of the less-than-reliable Auburn Tigers. If they can somehow beat Alabama (#1 in the nation and undefeated, by the way) next week, then maybe things will shake the I-Bowl's way.
What a lost weekend. The high school team for which I do radio was defeated in the playoffs. LSU was embarrassed at home against Ole Miss, and the wife's college team lost, too.
I was disappointed, in a way, to stay at home this weekend. With the way things have gone, I'm glad now to be getting the down time.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Daddy D in the News

Howdy from the press box
Originally uploaded by Darrell
Having spent the majority of my adult life compelling people to speak for publication or broadcast, seeing myself quoted in newspapers has kind of an inside-out feeling to it. My mission was to raise awareness of the Independence Bowl in certain circles. So, with a nod to our departing president, "Mission Accomplished!" I was quoted as a representative of the game on the front page of the Nashville newspaper on Sunday and spoke of the bowl game in another story which was distributed by the Associated Press and Gannett News Service.
Our bowl game has been around for more than three decades and we're proud of it. The Traveling Companion and I rubbed elbows with representatives of games in much larger cities, most of them from NFL markets. One of the strengths of our event is that it's the only game in town, so visitors get a lot of attention from hosts, locals and the media.
We still don't know which teams will play in our game. We've had Alabama each of the last two years, and they're currently #1 in the nation. Eight Southeastern Conference teams have come to town, as well as many from the Big XII. We've even had Notre Dame. We've also has UTEP, Southern Miss and Miami of Ohio and all are welcome despite the disparity in national notoriety.
This was my first time to be a front man for the bowl and I was proud to do it. I just hope I didn't embarrass the bowl game or the city. I don't know how my superiors in the organization will measure my performance, but getting the name out there in the media means something. Now, we just need to get a couple of nice teams to come to down just after Christmas.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Leftovers From the Road

Darrell in Kentucky
Originally uploaded by Darrell
(Lexington, KY) - Our departure from the Bluegrass state has been delayed slightly by the icy conditions. I've said many times, "If I ever talk about moving to someplace cold, have me immediately arrested." Daddy D doesn't do cold.
The Unversity of Kentucky's shade of blue is beautiful to my eye. if I lived here, I think I'd wear school colors almost every day. It's very tempting to load up on a bunch of UK gear, just for the color. I know that wouldn't fly in purple & gold country, though; so, my credit card is safe.
I spent a lot of time in the press box Saturday night and I was grateful for it. The driving rain never became snow, so the conditions were borderline miserable to me. I was amazed and amused by the number of people who were transfixed by their BlackBerries and i-Phones during the game. Between texting with friends and keeping up with scores around the country, people up and down the rows of media and dignitaries seemed to be in some kind of prayerful posture. I was among the devoted, keeping an eye on LSU's improbable comeback at home against Troy. The Tigers fell behind by 31-3, but scored 37 unanswered points to win. I watched it unfold through live stats on my Blackberry. Technology amazes me.
Here's something I don't understand: I've stayed in a lot of inexpensive hotels in my day, and usually internet access is free. I'm staying at a relatively pricey place this weekend, and they charge us ten bucks a day to get onto the net. Somehow, that defies common sense.
It's been a tough weekend for my blue-clad hosts. The men's and women's basketball teams lost and so did the football team. The volleyball team won, though. I'm in the same hotel with the volleyball squad from the University of Florida. Those girls are tall!
After the Vanderbilt football team beat Kentucky, I encountered a Kentucky fan who was attempting to deride the celebrating Commodores. They were thrilled to be bowl eligible. The Kentucky fan was screaming 'You're going to Shreveport!" He did not mean this as a compliment. I walked up to him and said, 'Hello, I'm from Shreveport. If your team comes to our bowl game, we would love to see you there. I think you would have a good time."
He stared at me. I said, "We're proud of our bowl game and we would be thrilled to have either of these teams. I just want to invite you to come and I promise we will show you a nice time."
He said, "You're making me feel like an ass. I'm just upset." I said, "Please don't use Shreveport as a taunt. It's a nice place and we would be excited to see you there."
He said "Okay, sorry."
Kill 'em with kindness. That's our way.

Now, it's time to de-ice the wings and head home.

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Happy in the Commonwealth

Another mascot!
Originally uploaded by Darrell
(Lexington, KY) - It didn't snow in Lexington, so that's a small disappointment. The good news is, I saw a nail-biter between Vanderbilt and Kentucky. The Commodores won 31-24 and the Commodore was ecstatic!
This means Vandy is bowl eligible for the first time since 1982. My wife, a graduate of that fine institution, has vowed to go to any bowl game her team is invited to.
I don't know where that will be, but apparently I'm going somewhere right after Christmas.
That is, of course, if she takes me with her. Let's go bowling.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

More Than the Grass is Blue

Self Portrait at Rupp
Originally uploaded by Darrell
(Lexington, KY) - My varying enterprises have brought me to Lexington, Kentucky where I visited legendary Rupp Arena for the first time. Expectations are always high for the University of Kentucky basketball team, so imagine the shock the Wildcat faithful are feeling after their beloved team lost its season opener to Virginia Military Institute.
The fans were bloodthirsty as the 'Cats fell behind by more than 20 points. Conversely, they were borderline orgasmic when Kentucky stormed back to take a second half lead. They were crestfallen as the plucky VMI crew took the lead back and kept it.
It was a thrill to see basketball"s big-time, even in November. I'm here for a football game, actually, but basketball was a welcome bonus to the experience.
It's supposed to snow on Saturday and I'm excited about the prospect. I don't get to see much snow. Lexington is beautiful and it wouldn't be so bad to be stuck here for an extra day.
It dawned on me that I have not been to the state of Kentucky before today, so I'd better check out the bluegrass before it's covered in a blanket of white.

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Back on the TeeVee

Darrell on TV
Originally uploaded by Darrell
In the "glass half full" world, I got another TV sports assignment and I don't think I embarrassed the network. I was sent to lovely Hammond, Louisiana to be the sideline reporter for a live broadcast of a game between the Texas State Bobcats and the Southeastern Louisiana Lions.
I had fun. The day was spectacular and the people were nice. The paycheck wasn't so bad, either. I deeply appreciate the opportunity and hope to be asked back.
In the "glass half empty" world, if I HAD embarrassed the network, no one would have known because we were on at exactly the same time as the LSU-Alabama game. Alabama is ranked #1 in the nation and this was the first time its coach, Nick Saban, returned to Tiger Stadium since his ill-fated departure to coach in the NFL. The game was a thriller. In fact, it went into overtime.
I didn't watch the game because I was situated an hour eastward, reporting on the battle of the big cats.
I can say I was in Baton Rouge for the finish of the LSU-Alabama game, though. Our game finished about an hour before LSU's, and I was driving through town listening to the final moments. I was on the Mississippi River Bridge as John Parker Wilson of the Crimson Tide scored the game winning touchdown. I had a beautiful view of the stadium. Given the ultimate outcome, a gut-wrenching LSU loss, I was grateful to be viewing it from a distance.
My glass is half-full after all.
Darrell and SLU mascot

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