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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Monday, November 03, 2008

Star of Screen

Martha on LPB
Originally uploaded by Darrell
My mother-in-law showed up on statewide TV tonight. A couple of weeks ago, she took some collectible dolls to the Louisiana State Exhibit museum. The Secretary of State was there, along with the state archivist, and they asked people to bring in their Louisiana-flavored collectible items.
The hand-made dolls from her collection attracted the interest of a crew from Public Broadcasting which was producing an hour-long special about the event. They brought her over and asked her to tell the story of her dolls on camera.
I have to say she did the family proud. Her little dolls, too!
She's apparently got the TV bug now. A couple of weeks ago, she snuck down to 30 Rock and somehow got on camera over Matt Lauer's shoulder during the Today Show.
Next thing you know, she'll be dominating local access cable. Too bad I'm a DirecTV guy.
Martha on TV

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Have a Seat, Say a Prayer

prayer bench
Originally uploaded by Darrell
"Remember to feed the hungry, clothe the poor and love those who have no one but you to love them" is the inscription on a new prayer bench dedicated on All Saints Day at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Lafayette, LA.
The bench is a memorial to my wife's father, a priest who unexpectedly passed away earlier this year. St. Barnabas was the last church at which he served full time.
You knew something special was happening because my 18-year-old son actually entered a church and sat through an entire service, including a baptism.
The whole family assembled, along with many of my mother-in-law's friends. It made her happy to have everyone together. She said she has lots of happy memories of her grandchildren visiting that church.
It's sad it took a tragedy to get everyone together there one more time.
The inscription helps the membership remember how my father-in-law would dismiss them at the end of a service.
Let's hope, as the years go by, that the bench continues to get more than a passing glance.

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Mr. Movies

Helicopter sunset
Originally uploaded by Darrell
Until a couple of weeks ago, I hadn't heard in a legitimate context the words, "Action!" and "Cut!," but now they're echoing around my cranium. Not only did I make an unancticipated return to the set of an actual feature film, but I've also been acting as a de facto executive producer on a little film for the employer.
I've been leading a real director and his crew around town. One of my favorite moments involved this helicopter. You know you're doing something when you call in the chopper!
We dragged a couple of interns around all week, and they seemed to gain a new appreciation for real work. They agree they had fun working with the production crew, but one of them said, "One thing I've learned is I definitely don't want to go to film school"
Earlier, despite my vow not to return, I was compelled to take another pass at "Leaves of Grass" starring Edward Norton. I got to be within a couple of feet of Mr. Movie Star much of the time. I had lunch with a character actor and a gaffer. Can a SAG card be far behind?
The attention to detail, even on my little work project, is a long way from the slash-and-burn work of local TV news. There's a whole lot of standing around, waiting and doing it again.
I have two premieres to prepare for. I guess it's time to buy a roll of red carpet.

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