The Joy of Kentucky Football

kentucky-football-helmet

I am a lifelong fan of University of Kentucky sports–basketball and football being my major loves.  Our basketball Wildcats have a storied history of success, winning more games than any collegiate program ever.  Add to that eight NCAA titles and numerous Final Four appearances, and being a fan is easy and rewarding.  Football, though, is another story altogether.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about our football woes. This was during the throes of one of our many downward spirals. I touched on the strength of our fans.  It’s time to give us our due.

WOE IS US

For all our basketball success, our football fortunes have been star-crossed, at best.  Football is the yin to basketball’s yang.  We are the Yankees of basketball and the Cubs of football.  Worse, we are the Kentucky of football and not in the basketball sense.

I could catalog the failures of our gridiron Cats, but I won’t.  Let’s just say that my Cats haven’t had much success.  Really, we haven’t had any success compared to the successful college football programs.  We also have the misfortune of playing in the Southeastern Conference, home of such traditional football powers as Alabama, Florida, LSU and Auburn.  Even the SEC’s lesser lights like Ole Miss, Tennessee, Georgia and Arkansas have proud football traditions.  I assure you that any fans of those schools would be enraged to hear them called lesser lights.  We UK fans would just nod and consider “lesser light” to be a compliment–a solid notch above doormat.

I’m writing this as a lament about UK football.  I’m here to praise it and us, its loyal fans.  I know the history as well as anyone. I remember losing a game on TWO pass interference penalties the covered almost an entire field as time expired.  We’ve lost as time expired too many times to count.  We’ve lost to teams that had no business playing an SEC team.  We can win 1 or 2 games and still be put on probation for recruiting violations.  Yes, we cheat, too, but we don’t even win.  One of our coaches, Bill Curry, referred to a portion our fan base as “the Fellowship of the Miserable.” Few of us disagreed.

We don’t stay for wins, and we don’t leave because of losses. Sure, one or two win seasons are tough. We gut them out. It doesn’t matter if brighter skies are not on the horizon. Let’s see other fans do that.

KEEPING IT REAL

We’re real fans, more so than the devoted following of our basketball team (of which I am certainly one).  It’s easy to cheer for a perennial winner.  What of a team which disappoints or, even worse, plays down to our lowest expectations?  We still show up to the games. We watch them on TV. We hold out hope, where no sane man would.  I have a friend who routinely predicts a 9 win season, even though that never happens. This, he maintains, will be our year.

Like all fans, we embrace victories as proof of our own superiority. Young men, barely out of high school, give us a sense of well-being. We call their success our own, as though we contributed to their efforts.  Kentucky fans, though, also embrace the losses. We are not a “we” win “they” lose crowd. However, we know that there will be games–many, in fact–which we cannot win. This does not dampen our enthusiasm.

We have no Bandwagon Fans. What are Bandwagon Fans? Anyone who becomes a fan of a team at the height of its success without another explanation such as geographic proximity. For example, if you became a University of Alabama football fan during the past four years, you are likely a Bandwagon Fan. Bandwagon Fans typically live far away from their chosen school and have no academic or family connection. They aren’t bad people, but they just aren’t as hard-core as some of us. If their team falls on hard times, they can just jump to another.

If anyone jumped on the UK Bandwagon, it was back in 1950 when we won the Sugar Bowl. If you’re that old, I’ll give you a pass.

Some of us, like me, are alumni.  As at all colleges, we alums have a special bond. It’s our school.  We’re honor bound to support our teams, regardless of the pain. Many are not graduates. UK has a statewide following, much like a professional sports team. This is certainly the case with basketball, where the fan base extends border to border. Our basketball fans include many folks who not only have never attended a game, they have never set foot on campus.

While the numbers are not as great, we have those folks in our football fan base as well. They have no school allegiance obligating this devotion. They’re fans, pure simple. One thing is certain. They didn’t develop their devotion through watching our Cats dominate.

There was time when we’d pack Commonwealth Stadium regardless of our Cats’ prospects. Times change and so have we. Like all fans, we have many other sports options.  Back in the ’80’s, you might have 2 or 3 games on TV over the weekend. Now, there are games on all day and night. Only the truest of the true Blue make it to every game now.  It’s like belonging a club.  We show up rain or shine, win or lose or just plain lose.  There’s something admirable about that.  Or sad.

THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE REASONABLE

My wife and I look happy, even though it's likely that this was taken in the midst of a crushing defeat.

My wife and I look happy, even though it’s likely that this was taken in the midst of a crushing defeat.

For many college football fans, every season comes down to one game–a loss.  One loss scuttles the whole season.  That loss is the difference between contending for the BCS Championship and a disappointing one or two loss season. I can’t imagine that situation nor do I want to do so.

Even UK fans can have a season ruined by one game.  With us, it’s usually the Louisville game.  We really want to win that one. Some seasons, we only win a couple of games anyway. Losing to U of L just seems unfair. However, if the Cats finished, say, 9 and 3, we’d get over a U of L defeat.  Not so at schools like Alabama, LSU, Ohio State and others.  For those teams, the three losses would be catastrophic. While a UK coach might look forward to a multi-year contract extension, coaches at these schools would find their very value as human beings questioned.

I don’t want that. We already have enough of that with our basketball team. My dream is having a shot–a real shot–at the SEC Championship every few years. In the other years, we’d still be respectable–no more one win fiascos.  I don’t want to spiral into a funk with every loss.  We have basketball season for that.

It’s fun to upset teams. We beat LSU when they were No. 1. We won’t forget that. Or beating Tennessee with a wide receiver at quarterback. Or finally beating Steve Spurrier. Merely losing to UK can ruin a team’s season. If we were a great program, those instances would be little more than footnotes.

As I write this, the 2014 season is one week old.  My Cats are 1-0!  Our second year coach, Mark Stoops, impresses me. He’s not a Kentuckian, but he understands us. He preaches patience but knows the Cats can do better. Hey, that sounds like me! I wish him great success (just as I have his many predecessors).  However, I confess that the prospect of success scares me. We’ll no longer be Punter U. We won’t look at the schedule and immediately write off 3 or 4 games.  We might actually expect to win every game.  That’s a lot of pressure for a fan.

©www.thetrivialtroll.com 2014

The 100th Post

This is my 100th blog post.  That’s apropos of nothing, I suppose, except that I’m quite full of myself to believe that I have that much to say of interest.  A year ago, I said to my wife:  “I think I’ll start a blog.”  She said:  “A blog?  Those are just full of trivial bull shit that no one wants to read!”  True to her word, she has never even looked at my blog.  So, I can say things like this:  I’ve been married 25 years, but it seems like 100 sometimes.

She was wrong.  A lot of people have read my posts.  My posts have been viewed 18,500 times, in fact.  One I wrote about hippies is the all time leader at almost 2700.  It even drew the ire of a real hippie who posted a scathing comment castigating me as materialistic.  People as far away as Estonia and Moldova have read me.  America of course leads the way, but I’ve had hundreds of readers in the UK and Canada, too, this despite posts needlessly attacking both those fine countries.  Go figure.

People often ask me: “How do you come up with ideas for your blog?”  Actually, I’m never asked that, but I like to imagine that people want to ask me.  Things just pop into my head.  I usually have drafts of two or three posts just lying around waiting for inspiration to finish them.  Sometimes, people suggest things–like my recent post about becoming Pope.  Other times–like the hippie post–I just spew a stream of consciousness which offends many, many people.  Occasionally, I’ve tried to be helpful with tips on small talk, child-rearing and the law.  Oddly enough, no one has thanked me yet for these pointers.

Some of my posts are torn from the fabric of real life experience–like the tale of my being violently assaulted by a coarse ruffian of a woman in a restaurant.  Some are apocryphal tales which could be true, at least to some extent.  Others are just things that interest me, like freak shows and the film Road House.  Sometimes, I blog about things I hate like TV’s The Waltons, Aunt Bee and Charlie Brown.  My blog is a vast array of trivial bull shit as some might say.

Some of the reasons I am so prolific:

  • I write a lot in my job, but that writing requires research and proofreading.  The slapdash nature of blogging is fun.
  • The use of curse words.  I don’t often get to use those in writing, unless I’m writing my Congressman.
  • It’s cheaper than therapy
  • It’s fun to broach a controversial topic and then deflect it with a series of flippant and inaccurate observations.
  • As long as I don’t defame someone, I’m free to write what I want.   Even if I do, it’s okay as long as the defamed person never sees it.
  • No one reviews or edits my work (obviously)
  • I can start sentences with words like “and” and “but,” and no one cares.

Now, I’m on the verge of a milestone:  100 posts.  What significant topic can I address?  Can I change someone’s life for better or worse?  Can I move someone to tears?  Perhaps I can intone on some mundane subject and move thousands of Brits and Canadians or even the random Moldovan to action.  What about that one guy or girl in Iceland who read one of my posts?  Maybe he or she is waiting for a topic of interest.  Should I blog about that Icelandic volcano–Eyjafjallajökull?  Probably not.  That’s just too damn goofy to type over and over.

100 is special.  A 100th blog post should be, too.

Dictionary.com defines 100 as “A cardinal number.  Ten times ten.”  That’s plain enough. It’s one after 99 and one before 101, too.  It’s the square of 10.  It’s also an 18-gonal number, which sounds slightly dirty but isn’t.

Anyway, 100 seems significant.  Why?  Maybe because 100 is an important number.  Don’t you feel kind of special when you have a $100 bill?  Four twenties or two fifties just aren’t the same.  The $100 bill is usually new and crisp.  It’s so special that you worry that people can even make change if you use it.

There are 100 pennies in a dollar and most other currencies are based upon units of 100.  100 is important.  Without it, our money would be a confusing mess.  We might as well go back to pelts.

If you’re a sports fan, answer this question within five seconds:  “Who scored the most points in an NCAA basketball game?”  Time’s up!  I have no idea, either.  Try this one:  “Who scored the most points in an NBA game?”  Wilt Chamberlain.  How do we know this?  Because he scored 100, not 98 or 102.  An even 100.  Wilt, as we know, was a man of prodigious numbers:  55 rebounds in a game; 20,000 women; averaged 50 points a game one year and 27 rebounds a game another; led the NBA in assists as a center and on and on.  But the number we remember is 100.  100 points in a game.  Because I am repository of useless information, I know that he also hit 28 of 32 free throws in that game, astonishing considering Wilt’s infamously horrible free throw shooting.  Others just know the 100.

wilt

Wilt knew how to set a record people wouldn’t forget.

One of the many reasons that American football is better than Canadian football is that our fields are 100 yards long, not 110 like our friends in the Great White North.  We know how fast is fast to run 100 yards or even 100 meters.  How about 110 yards?  No clue.

If a running back rushes for 100 yards in a football game, we take notice.  If he slogs for 99, we think “Eh, decent game, I guess.”   Pitchers who hit 100 mph on the radar gun are to be feared.  95 is great, too, but hittable.

It’s special when people live to be 100.  Bob Hope did (I think).  So did Charles Lane. Who?  If you watched TV in the ’60’s and ’70’s, you know him:

lane

Actor Charles Lane, TV’s grumpy authority figure.

I bet you’ll remember him from now on.  I’ve had a lot of relatives live into their ’90’s.  My Papaw died at 91.  An aunt at the same age.  I have an aunt still going strong at 95 and another at 93.  My wife’s grandmother is 95.  100 years old, though, is rarefied air indeed.   During one of my infrequent forays as a regular church-goer, I went to church with a man who died at 104.  He seemed like a super hero.  Let’s be honest here:  90 or 95 or 99 are just as impressive as 100, but we don’t think of it like that.

If you’re 100, congratulations.  Also, why the hell are you wasting what precious little time you have left reading this?  You were 16 when the stock market crashed in 1929 and 28 when Pearl Harbor was bombed. When you turned 40, I Love Lucy had only been on the air for a year.  You are 4 years younger than JFK. You were in your 60’s when Nixon resigned. On 9/11, you were already 88.  You’ve seen the advent of air travel, sound films, TV, computers, cell phones, space travel, innumerable wars, super models, the Internet and just about everything else that makes life worth living these days.  You were alive when the Tsar ruled Russia and outlasted the Soviet Union for its entire existence!  You survived the Spanish Flu Pandemic.  You’ve seen a lot and probably done a lot, too.  You may even remember some of it.

I suspect that living to be 100 isn’t so great.  We probably just see the folks who are doing well, like this lady:

100th

The ideal 100th Birthday Party

A lot of people at 100 are probably just like a lot of folks at 95–infirm and not able to do much.  Let’s just not think about that.  Some people make it way past 100–often in Japan.  That’s also impressive, but they usually die.  Even though living to 100 might actually be miserable, we all would like to do it anyway.

When the temperature is 100 degrees, it’s damn hot.  It’s still damn hot at 99, but 100 is worse.  Of course, I’m talking Fahrenheit, not Celsius of Kelvin or some other weird foreign scale.  100 is the worst.  100 degrees Celsius is probably a lot worse, but it could be better for all I know–I have no idea.

Take your temperature.  If it’s 99.5 degrees, you’ll think “That’s weird, but I feel fine.”  If it’s 100 degrees, you’ll become bedridden.  At 100, you’re sick as a dog.

What if you get a speeding ticket for driving 100 mph?  That’s seriously reckless behavior.  99 mph doesn’t seem quite so dangerous, does it?

100% is great in just about everything.  Athletes try to claim that 110% is better, but it isn’t, mostly because it’s not real.  100% attendance, grades, effort, etc.  All good.

100 is the sum of the first nine prime numbers which means nothing to me but is probably very cool to my son who is a math major.

100 is the atomic number of fermium which you can find in abundance in nuclear fall out.  Bad.

100 years ago is a long time.  A century is 100 years, not 90.  There’s a reason for that, I’m sure.

Everyone is interested in the President of the United States’s First Hundred Days.  No one gives a damn about his first 63 or so.

The number 100 is significant, for sure.  The evidence is undeniable.  A 100th blog post should carry the same significance.  Alas, I have failed.  Regardless, though, I can now truthfully say I’ve posted 100 times on this blog.  Now, that’s impressive.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2013

The Sporting Life of Me

I like sports. Maybe I love sports. Loving something like that (or is it those?) seems odd to say out loud, but it’s possible that I do. Why? I’m not sure, but I know this much: It isn’t because I was ever good at any of them.

If you’ve read any of my sundry blog posts, you know that I will opine on almost any topic–politics, religion, TV, movies, fighting girls, self-help and, yes, sports. These things interest me, and I like to write–and talk–about such things. One might call me self-centered. One might be correct about that, too. I assume that others will be interested in these subjects since they interest me. Mostly, I believe that others are, or at the very least should be, interested in what interests me. If not, they must be interested in me, generally. With that in mind, let’s talk sports.

I’m not an athlete. I never was. Oh, I tried my hand at various sports. Never, though, did I find my game.

BASEBALL

I played a lot of baseball growing up. I wasn’t particularly good, but I played. I had one God-given skill and that was speed. I was pretty fast. That was helpful, to some extent. I also have decent hand-eye coordination–decent, not excellent. I couldn’t hit very well nor did I have a good arm. In my 20’s, a doctor told me that it was likely that I had torn muscles in my shoulder when I was young, which would explain chronic pain and weakness. I use this now as an excuse to explain my overall mediocrity. I am now convinced that I tore my shoulder when I was 4 years old.

My baseball career, as it were, can be summed up in one game when I was 14 years old. My team faced a pitcher who threw side arm. I couldn’t hit him neither could my team-mate batting in front of me in the order. In the last inning of an extra inning game, we both had struck out four times. There were two outs, and I was on deck. Since we both had the dreaded Golden Sombrero (four Ks), I silently prayed that my team-mate would get out so that I would not end the game for us. He did. On strikes. I was happy. There may be no “I” in team, but there damn sure is one in “strike out.”

I was also volatile and difficult to coach. I would argue with my coaches. I would argue with opposing players. I would argue with my team-mates. These may seem to be attributes of the modern athlete; however, they are best reserved for the modern, outstanding athlete. The borderline, average teenager in the 1970’s did not benefit from such behavior. One time, I even got into an argument with my coach’s father during a game. Not a good move.

I combined lack of skill and bad attitude with laziness. If I needed to work on something, I preferred to just sit around and hope I improved. Oddly enough, it didn’t work.

BASKETBALL

I also played basketball or, more correctly, tried to play. To say that I was not a good basketball player is to say that William Shatner is not a good singer. The speed which I flashed playing baseball disappeared with a basketball in my hands. I couldn’t go to my left at all. I could barely go to my right. But, could I shoot? No. Try as I might, my jumper was always an awkward “push” shot. It would have looked good in the days of the two hand set shot.

My lack of skill limited my play to pick up games, except for a brief period in elementary school when I played what we called “Little League” basketball in my home town. I played for Loyall Christian Church. Although I did not attend church there, they sponsored our team. I played three years and might have scored 10 points total. Honestly, that’s probably a stretch. I do know that my high game was four points. Wow.

The highlight of my organized basketball career was a fight–not involving me, of course. My Dad had an older kid walk me to my games at night (Dad was often on the road for work during the week). One night, we encountered a hoodlum of some renown. My guardian slapped the cigarette out of the hood’s mouth, picked it up and took a long drag off it. He then flicked the butt off the hood’s chest. I can still see those ashes exploding against his chest in the dark. Why did he do this? I think it was just to make a point. Okay, that’s not really a fight, but I was just 7 or 8 years old, and I thought it was cool.

I would occasionally play pick up games, usually quite poorly. The only time I ever recall playing well was in a one on one game with a friend in high school. For reasons now obscure, I had mouthed off about how I could beat him. I don’t why I did that since he was taller than I was and, by all appearances, more athletic. He challenged me to a game to 20 by ones. Something possessed me and, for that one game, I could really play. I couldn’t miss a shot. My awkward, two-handed J hit nothing but net. The game winner was made after a quite accidental cross-over dribble off my knee. My opponent slipped and I nailed a jumper from about 15 feet. My friend was wowed. I used up all my basketball luck in one game.

I also played in the occasional pick up game in college. Again, poorly. My friends tolerated me, because…well…they were my friends. I’m sure it pained them to watch me. Sometimes, I would play against girls. They were also better than I was. Perhaps the highlight of my college career was a violent body check/pick laid on me by a University of Kentucky football player. He was about 6′ 4″, 350 maybe. No front teeth and he wore a down vest to play basketball. After his bone-pulverizing pick, I predictably collapsed in a pathetic heap. He then screamed obscenities at me, rightfully questioning my manhood.

I used to play basketball with my kids. Then, they got better than me, too.

GOLF

I also tried golf. There weren’t a lot of golfers when I was growing up in Harlan County, Kentucky. Some people belonged to the Harlan Country Club. I heard that they played golf up there on a 9 hole golf course. Other than the occasional miniature golf game (they had miniature golf in Evarts), I didn’t touch a golf club until I was in my 20’s.

I thought golf would be a good game for me. It didn’t require much (or any) athleticism. I imagined myself strolling the links with fellow hot shots, playing and making lucrative business deals. Sadly, my golf play resembled nothing so much as Spaudling Smails in Caddyshack. Here are some of the reasons golf didn’t work:

  • I discovered that most people didn’t enjoy playing with someone in a blind rage the whole time.
  • People would give me pointers which I desperately needed; however, I HATE pointers, advice, helpful hints or whatever the hell you want to call them.
  • I broke my pitching wedge beating it against a tree after sailing an approach shot over the green.
  • I broke my 9 iron. By running over it with my car. On purpose.
  • I bent my putter. Throwing it.
  • I would curse loudly and often.

Ultimately, I abandoned the game because I was just terrible at it. Terrible. The only thing I liked about it was that one could drink alcohol while playing. In my case, it didn’t affect my game at all. Now, I often think about what my father said of golf: “If a man has enough time to play golf, he should do something productive instead. Like work.” That gives me some comfort. Some. I don’t do much productive, either.

BOWLING

I tried other sports. Bowling, for instance. Sucked. Like golf, I can tell you all the fundamentals one must embrace to excel, but I can’t execute any of them. Once I stopped drinking, I found out that the only reason I ever bowled was for the alcohol, anyway.

BILLIARDS

How about pool? I love shooting pool. I can visualize every shot on the table. I can’t execute any of them. I’ve broken a couple of pool cues over my leg. I used to have a nice pool table, but I gave it away. It taunted me every time I walked by it. Again, though, one could drink beer and play. It had that going for it.

YO-YO

In the 1970’s, there was a yo-yo craze. That’s right–yo-yo. Everyone had a yo-yo, me included. The craze even reached Harlan County. Every hay-shaker and hill jack in the county was walking the dog, rocking the baby and going around the world. Me? I cracked myself in the mouth once trying to go around the world. Split my lip. Sometimes, I would walk the dog, and the yo-yo would pop up and hit me in the forehead. It was just sad.

EVERYTHING ELSE

My mediocrity knew almost no limits. Ping pong, darts, dodge ball, volley ball and softball all mastered me. PE in high school was a struggle, because there were no games at which I excelled. Our PE teacher was an affable enough fellow who went on to a successful career as a college football assistant coach. He was affable, that is, until he had a psychotic episode of yelling and screaming about something. He once hit a kid with a desk. He was better, though, than the head football coach who someone once aptly described as a “shaved ape.” They brought to mind the old Woody Allen joke: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach gym.”

Of course, it was a right of passage that one take PE. At the time, I suspected that it was because of a homoerotic desire to force us all to shower. I guess that was wrong, but–hey–I was 14. It made sense at the time.

One sport I never tried was football. I was WAY too small and have an aversion to being hit. I also don’t like injuries of any kind. When I grew no one played soccer. I never ran track or swam competitively or played Frisbee. I like to think that I could have excelled at any of those if I’d only tried.

Later in life, I met many people who didn’t grow up with me. Someone would ask if I played basketball, and I could say, “Oh, yeah. I was pretty damn good, too.” Or I could say I was baseball star. Fortunately, when you reaches a certain age, people don’t challenge you or invite you to join their teams. If they do, you can alway claim some injury like a torn rotator cuff or unresolved sports hernia prevents it.

Now that I’ve written this, I think I know why I love sports. It’s precisely because of my incompetence. Perhaps, I live vicariously through these athletes. Perhaps, I admire their expertise. It could be that they represent all that I wanted to be. Or maybe it’s because I REALLY love watching TV. I am very good at that.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2012

Soccer Punch

Typical soccer fans cheering on their teams

I’ve been watching some soccer lately.  I do that on occasion, like when I’m at the gym and flipping around the channels while I’m on the Stair Master.  I like sports.  Soccer is a sport.  I’m told it’s the most popular sport in the world, and that appears to be true.  Fans paint their faces and act nutty.  Sometimes, they kill each other.  Sometimes, they even kill the players.  The word “hooligan” is used almost exclusively for soccer fans these days.  I like that word, so I should like soccer, I guess.  But, I don’t.

Hooligans have their own version of The Wave.

 

I know it’s fashionable for Americans to say they hate soccer.  I don’t hate it.  I just don’t get it.  If I had grown up playing it, that would be different.  Where I was raised, we would have been more likely to play that Afghan goat carcass polo game than soccer.  I also know why kids like it (soccer, not that goat game).  It’s a bunch of running around and kicking things.  I would have liked doing that.

Heated buzkashi match, where the object of the game is to hurl a headless goat carcass across the goal line. How has this never caught on in Harlan County?

I also don’t dislike the foreign-ness of it.  I’d watch a buzkashi match.  In the early days of ESPN, it didn’t show any real sports, just stuff like snooker and badminton.  It did, however, have what was probably the exclusively North American right to Australian Rules Football.  I used to watch that and enjoy it.   It’s a hybrid of soccer, American football, rugby and a bar fight.  I came to believe that “Australian Rules” means no rules at all.  But, it’s not soccer–not even close.

If you’re anything like me–and you probably aren’t–you don’t much about soccer.  Watch a little, and you’ll pick up the basics.  Here are a few things I know about soccer:

  • I’ve tried to learn the rules, such as they are.  You can’t use your hands–that’s pretty clear.  Your head is okay.  We don’t like people using their heads to strike things in American sports, but it’s okay in soccer.  I guess the ball isn’t very hard.  Americans prefer sports where the things hit your head–football, boxing, MMA and baseball to name just a few.
  • Matches (not “games”) are divided into halves, each roughly 4 hours long or so it seems.  The clock never stops.  Some games are called “friendlies.”  Those don’t count.  A friendly is like an exhibition game, I guess.
  • You don’t play on a “team.”  You’re on a “side.”
  • They have offsides, which I don’t understand at all.  It happens sometimes, but I never see it coming.  Often, I think I see it, but I’m wrong. When it happens, a guy holds up a flag like at a NASCAR race.
  • Soccer is played on a field, except it’s called a “pitch.”  Why?  I don’t know.  It’s a big field.  BIG.  On TV, it looks about 500 yards long.  I’m sure it’s not, but that’s how it looks.  The players look like ants.  Maybe the pitch isn’t that big, but the players are tiny.  It’s hard to tell.
  • I think there are eleven players on each side.  Sometimes, it looks like there are 200 players on the pitch.  Other times, I think there are only about 5.  I’m sure it’s an optical illusion caused by television.  I’m not sure what their positions are, except the goalkeeper. I also don’t know what they are supposed to be doing, other than kicking the ball around.  Obviously, I know that they want to kick it into the goal, but most of the action takes place far away from the goal.
  • They have referees, but I don’t know what they do.  If you do something wrong, they whip out a Yellow Card, which is kind of silly, but no more silly than throwing a yellow flag, I guess.  A Yellow Card means you’re in trouble.  They call it “misconduct,” a polite way of saying you play like a complete bastard.  You’ve might tripped someone or spit on them or even killed them (not out of the question in soccer).  Something bad happened, for sure.  A Red Card is BIG trouble.  I think it means you’re ejected.  Maybe they throw you to the hooligans.

I’m not up on all the rules, but this appears to be a misconduct.

  • There aren’t a lot of goals made. Most Americans complain about the lack of scoring in soccer.  That doesn’t really bother me.  Let’s face it, in football (by the way, I KNOW that every other country calls soccer “football” or even “futbol.”  I don’t care.), there aren’t that many scores, either.  It’s just that, as Americans, we were clever enough to count each score 3 or 6 points to make it seem more action-packed.  My problem is that I never know when they are close to scoring.  Fans will be cheering wildly and I’ll think there is no chance of anything happening.  Maybe they’re cheering about something other than scoring.  Possibly, there’s been a fire set in the stands.
  • I think they run plays in soccer, but they might not.  Occasionally, it seems that the players are working in some type of coordinated effort to get the ball past midfield.  Near the goal, it’s bedlam.   Eventually, someone will actually kick the ball toward the goal, but it’s rarely successful.
  • I’m never quite sure if I’m seeing good plays or not.  Someone will post on Twitter something like:  Egbert cocked up the play with that flick header. Barmpot!#DIEMANU.  I will have been watching the same match but see none of that.
  • The exception to the paucity of scoring is the penalty kick.  A player gets to kick the ball at the goal with the goal keeper standing there trying to block it.  I don’t know when or why they get these kicks, but it has something to do with the Yellow Card business.
  • Like a lot of European-ish sports, gentlemanly play and sportsmanship ought to be important.  Then again, maybe they aren’t.  Soccer hooligans certainly don’t follow any such rules what will all the burning and killing that accompanies many matches.  No insult is too politically incorrect nor is violence necessarily frowned upon.

Poor Jimmy Hill. Not only is he openly hated by this child, but he’s also apparently a “poof.”

  • Soccer broadcasters are good.  They are very into it.  ESPN has a guy who sounds the Lucky Charms leprechaun.  He’s entertaining.

Soccer uses a ball and keeps score.  That makes it a sport by my definition.  The players are certainly athletic, running madly about the pitch.  The games are competitive, and the fans are insane.  It has all the elements of something I’d like, but I just can’t get there.  I’ve thought about it, and I have a few ideas about spicing it up.

What could soccer do to hold my interest?  Here are a few of my thoughts:

  • Let them use their hands.  Hell, let them throw the ball to each other but not backwards, only down field.
  • Put in some real defense.  If a player has the ball, let the defender knock him down.
  • Let them pick up the ball and run with it.  With that many players on the field, it’s going to be tough to get very far anyway.
  • Make the goal bigger.  I mean REALLY bigger, like the entire width of the field.  Oh, and get rid of the goal keeper.
  • Instead of just running around willy-nilly, give each team 3 or 4 shots at moving the ball toward the goal.  Let’s say that you can keep the ball if you can move it 30 or so feet.  If you can’t score, you can just give the ball to the other team.
  • Instead of the odd random markings on the pitch, maybe you could mark it off in a grid to keep track of team’s progress.
  • Limit the kicking of the ball.  Honestly,  99% of it doesn’t accomplishment much anyway.  Maybe you can keep the old goal to kick the ball into, but make it count less than running the ball across the goal line.
  • Rethink the ball itself.  Instead of round, it could be kind of oblong.  That would discourage all the kicking and make carrying it easier.
  • You might want to change the uniforms to provide a little more protection.  Instead of shorts, I’m thinking odd, tight knee pants with padding in them.  Maybe a helmet of some kind, too. If you really want to rev it up, let the players put padding on their shoulders to wallop the hell out of their opponents.

With these few little tweaks, I think I’d watch.  They could put games on TV on the weekends–Sunday would be good.  Monday night, too.  I think it would work.

If you’re a soccer lover, you’ve read this and are poised to rebuke me with the beauty of the game.  Don’t bother.  This lad sums up your views perfectly:

Enthusiastic young soccer fan expressing his displeasure at this post.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2012

Music City Mayhem: One Night In The Box

It was 1999.  These were halcyon days of University of Kentucky football.  We had endured 8 years of the Bill Curry Era which resulted in one non-losing season.  Even that season ended in disappointment with a disheartening Peach Bowl loss to Clemson.  Curry was eventually fired.  In 1997, UK hired an unknown and incredibly ill-prepared coach from a Division III school–Hal Mumme.  Mumme brought one thing to the table: An insanely pass-happy offense.  We loved it. Our Kentucky-bred hero Tim Couch played quarterback and broke every school passing record.  At the end of the 1998 season, we actually went to New Years Day bowl game, losing a close game to Penn State in the Outback Bowl.

The 1999 season was also a success, albeit not quite what we had under Couch.  Dusty Bonner was our quarterback, and UK had another winning season!  For the first time in 15 years, we were going to bowl games in consecutive years.  This time, it was the Homepoint.Com Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tennessee.

At the time, I worked at a law firm which had an office in Nashville.  The Firm secured a luxury suite at Adelphia Stadium for the Music City Bowl.  Normally, I would have been excluded from benefitting from this without a second thought; however, I had stumbled upon some good fortune which made it possible for me to at least request a couple of tickets for the BOX.

Like most large law firms, the Firm embraced a concept known as “origination credit.”  Essentially, this was a system (I use that word loosely) which gave attorneys credit for bringing clients into the Firm.  Once you got origination credit, all the money generated by that client went into a column called “Origination.”  You wanted that column to swell.  If it did, you not only could make more money, but you could also gain access to some of the perks reserved for the Firm’s high rollers.  The Box was definitely one of those perks.

I had (and still have) a very close friend.  I shall call him “Nick” for purposes of this tale.  That is not exactly his real name.  Nick, too, had worked at the Firm where we became fast and lifelong friends.  Unfortunately, he parted ways with the Firm on bad terms.  As fortune would have it, he became quite successful, much more so than I.  Eventually, he became an officer in a large, publicly traded corporation.  He, understanding origination, sent me some work.  Not much, but some work.  I had the origination.  Nick’s company had myriad legal battles and eventually sent substantial business to the Firm for which I got all the origination.  I was now a “rainmaker,” the most envied title in any law firm.

At this point, you may ask:  How does this origination thing work?  If there were rules, I never saw them.  There weren’t in writing.  Origination was a Byzantine morass of standards and exceptions to those standards.  As its most basic, it worked like this:  Imagine that you are a salesman.  You sell a pencil to new Client X.  You are now the “originator” of Client X.  Next week, another salesman sells Client X a nuclear submarine.  You’re still the originator.  You get credit for both sales.  Makes sense, huh?  Just accept it.  Don’t question the logic.

In any event, I saw my opportunity to get into the Box.  I requested two tickets–one for me and one for Nick.  The Firm may have been aware of the possibility of offending Nick because of its troubled past with him.  Our Managing Partner quickly agreed and gave me two tickets to the Box.  We were in!

Now, Nick and I had a long, storied past of attending UK sporting events.  For example, the previous season, we took a road trip to Knoxville, Tennessee to witness a thorough thrashing of our beloved Wildcats.  That weekend was a booze-soaked orgy of football and revelry.  We were also well-known for our unique tailgating at home games where we carried beer in a plastic bag and roamed the parking lot looking for friends–old and new–who would provide us with more to drink.  You get the picture.  We weren’t exactly accustomed to life among the hoi polloi.  When we drank we became loud, obnoxious and wholly unmanageable.  Nick would frequently yell:  ZOOM! ZOOM! ZOOM! for no reason.  I would laugh uproariously.  Good times.

We were indeed Bacchanals, but our drinking habits were vastly different.  Nick was–and is to this day–a “party” drinker.  He would go long stretches without drinking only to blow it out on occasion, at the risk drinking himself into a stupor.  I, on the other, drank more as though I were taking an ill-conceived medicine of some kind.  Imagine you are given a prescription for a drug.  This drug is harmless in small quantities but deadly poison when consumed to excess.  The instructions with the drug read:  TAKE DAILY UNTIL THE DESIRED EFFECT IS ACHIEVED.  THEN TAKE MORE.  Despite our varying approaches, we could match each other drink for drink.

I drove to Nashville and arrived on game day at around 1:00 p.m.  On the way, I  purchased a 6 pack of beer to ensure I had something to start the party with while awaiting Nick’s arrival.  Nick, experiencing largesse of which I had no understanding, flew to Nashville on his company’s jet.  While waiting at the hotel, I received a call from a client of mine.  His office was in Nashville.  He thought I might be down there and wanted to know if I could attend a meeting at his office at 10:00 the next morning.  After I explained that I would be adorned in UK clothing from head to toe, he assured me that it wouldn’t be a problem.  One of his business partners was a UK grad and would be glad to see my school spirit.  I began thinking that I should take it easy so I would be in tip-top shape for my meeting.  So, I drank the six-pack and took a nap.  Nick arrived soon after I awoke (or “came to” as some would say).

We immediately headed downtown.  Neither of us were very familiar with Nashville, so we had the taxi drop us off when we saw a lot of people.  We began our bar crawl which lasted a couple of hours.  Time to head to the stadium.

Nick and I are both small town people.  As a result, we are, to some extent, socially inept, but we both have an “every man” quality which allows us to move at will among all social strata.  The problem–and it was a bad one–was that drinking often left us confused as to which stratum we were in at any given moment.  I, in particular, had a disquieting habit of becoming verbally abusive to people who would be considered my superiors–both professionally and socially.  It was a volatile cocktail that night, but I was ready to roll.

I must admit that I was impressed with the Box.  Very nice.  It was full of people sipping drinks and eating finger food, awaiting kick-off of UK and Syracuse.  Nick and I were already in our cups, but I felt we were both in fine form for some serious schmoozing.  We quickly made friends with the bartender and began to give him outrageous tips to bring us drinks.   Nick kept yelling ZOOM!  ZOOM! ZOOM! I kept saying:  “You’re gettin’ a night in the box, boy!” (in my best Strother Martin from Cool Hand Luke).  For no reason, we would periodically high-five each other.  Our language was punctuated with all manner of obscenities spoken too loudly for polite company.  It was like the caddy swimming party in Caddyshack, and we were the caddies.

After some time, I felt the tell tale signs of nausea and needed a rest, so I leaned up against the wall.  The Box had theater seating to which you could walk down for a better view of the game.  Nick was sitting on the steps down to the seats beside the Firm’s Managing Partner engaged in animated conversation.  I observed him wildly gesticulating–it was unclear whether he was actually speaking or just flailing about while listening.  Then, he began to make some point and leaned over toward the Managing Partner, tilting his nearly full beer sideways.  A small ribbon of beer began to pour from the bottle–directly into the Managing Partner’s shoe.  I began to watch as if detached from my body.  It was oddly mesmerizing.  It resembled nothing so much as a man with a grotesquely enlarged prostate slowly and deliberately relieving himself into someone’s shoe.

When the beer had drained nearly to the bottom, Nick turned the bottom up and downed the last swig with a satisfied gulp.  The Managing Partner never reacted.  Perhaps advancing age had dulled his senses.  Perhaps Nick had brought so much money to the Firm that the Managing Partner was willing to remain passive while he was publicly degraded.  Either possibility is equally plausible.

Oh, yeah. They played a football game.  To the best of my recollection, here’s what happened:

  • Sometime in the first half, UK’s best player, James Whalen, dislocated his elbow doing something.
  • At some point, I leaned out the window of the Box (likely to yell obscenities).  I spotted a guy from my hometown directly below the Box.  I high-fived him and gloated about being in the Box.
  • At the end of the game, UK let Syracuse score so UK could get the ball back and try to tie the game.  Apparently, the strategy failed, as I later learned that Syracuse won 20-13.

The rest of the game is forever lost to a black out.  A black out just means that my memory was erased or never recorded.  It’s not the same as “passing” out, but the effect is pretty much the same.

The game ended, but it was still early.  We over-tipped our bartender one last time and headed out.  Our post game bar crawl lasted several hours, most of which are obscured by a dense brain fog, but I do remember two things:

  • We happened into a small sports bar at some point.  Nick somehow struck up a conversation with two women. (Understand that we were NOT philandering husbands.  Nick just became extremely talkative as he consumed more alcohol).  After chit-chatting for a moment, Nick announced:  “I have to go to the bathroom.”  I responded:  “It’s over there.  Go on.”  Nick then said:  “I REALLY have to go. I have diarrhea!”  Needless to say, had we been philanderers, that would have ended our adventure.  The ladies looked horrified.  I, of course, burst out laughing.  After he returned and assured us all that he did NOT, in fact, have any gastrointestinal distress, he and I went on our way.
  • I wanted to go to the famous Wild Horse Saloon.  We stood in line for 20-30 minutes.  We were both a little unsteady, but I had learned to simply be quiet in such situations.  Nick, on the other hand, was ZOOM, ZOOM, ZOOMING and occasionally offering me an awkward high-five.  This caused me to burst into inappropriate laughter.  I cautioned him to be quiet when we got the door.  Finally, we got there.  I paid my $6 cover charge and stepped inside.  Nick then loudly announced:  “I AM SOOOOO F**KED UP!”  Boom! He was denied entry.  I stood staring at him and the long line, thinking about my $6.  Through the door, I told him to get back in line and be quiet.  20 minutes later, all was well and he gained entry.  Things happened after that, I’m sure, but I don’t remember.

That’s pretty much all I remember.  You may ask:  How did your meeting  go?  Surprisingly well.  I was hung over and reeking of beer sweat, but I managed to be engaged.  I was also fully decked out in my UK attire.  I returned home after the meeting, while Nick jetted off to parts unknown.

A few weeks later, the Managing Partner told me that he didn’t like the “atmosphere” in the Box.  I took this personally, of course, seeing as how Nick and I were the atmosphere that evening.  Perhaps having a beer poured in one’s shoe is more uncomfortable than it looks.  I’m sure I also berated him at some point.

Year have passed since then.  I’ve been a teetotaler for several years now.  Nick and I still attend UK sporting events.  He has risen to such lofty heights that he now has seats in his own luxury suite, and I cling to him like a stubborn barnacle during football season.  We still have a good time, and I remember all of it, which is not necessarily a positive given the fortunes of UK football.  Occasionally, Nick gives me a ZOOM! ZOOM! ZOOM! or a high-five and I vaguely remember our rough and rowdy days.  Things are much better now–and more fun–but I do think about our adventures.  I’m just glad it’s all in the past tense.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2012