Creepy

I managed to find the time to make a pit stop at Tim Hortons this morning to get some coffee. I stood in line for a bit, obtained coffees for myself, Steve and one of his co-workers and then left. No sooner had I exited the doors did I become acutely aware that someone was behind me. Really close behind me, shuffling his feet. That kind of shit doesn’t sit well with me to begin with – I think it’s rude and it makes me nervous - but to make matters worse I was carrying an unbalanced tray of coffee, my purse and my keys in my hands AND I was teetering along on heels, not to mention the pregnant belly.

I made my way across the parking lot and those heavy, shuffling feet were right behind me the whole way. The person had the whole parking lot but he remained very close behind me.

Once I got close to my car I saw Steve’s face looking at me and then at whomever was behind me. From the look on Steve’s face I knew something wasn’t right. I walked around my car to the drivers side and was finally able to see who was behind me. This big, ogre-like man with unkempt hair had stopped dead in his tracks and was looking at Steve. He stood there for a few seconds looking around, seemingly unsure of what he should be doing.

I got in the car and Steve said, “Was that guy following you???” I told him that he followed me all the way from the doors of Tim Hortons. Steve said, “He was following you and he stopped short when he saw me.”

The ogre-man then got in his car which was parked near ours and he sat in it with the drivers side door open, looked at himself in his rear view mirror and proceeded to stick his finger so far up his nose that I thought he might poke an eye out from the inside. He dug around his nose for a short while and then got out and went back into the restaurant.

Now, I don’t know what he was up to but it just didn’t look or feel right. The whole thing was weird and just... off. I’ve got sensors for that kind of shit and they were going off like five alarm sirens.

Thank goodness Steve was there. Can you imagine what might have happened if I was all alone and this man if he had tried something? Poor bastard wouldn’t have lived to see the light of day.
Winter affords a hibernation of creativity that begs to be expressed. But like the mind, the world seems grey here. The moist cold keeps me constantly adding layers for an added warmth that never actually reaches my fingertips or toes. The flowers and leaf buds wait, the fruit is long from emerging. But the birds. The birds are still present, ever talkative and plan-making, keeping each other going through the cold months. They keep me going too in their chitty chatty, planning, nest feathering, traveling, working, preparing, arranging, coordinating, calling, ever moving forward. Like my friends. I love them so.




Traffic

I live 7 kilometers from my place of work. How long should it take me to drive 7km? How long does it take YOU to drive 7km? 5 minutes? 10 minutes? What about during rush hour? For me, it takes 15 to 20 minutes to get to/from work 7km each way. Granted it’s over a very large, very busy bridge and is on one of the main traffic routes.

If I were to start/leave work a half hour earlier it would take me 9 minutes to get to/from work (I know because those used to be my hours). Quite a difference. I would avoid quite a bit of traffic and I would also rarely be late and the report that is required of me by 9am would also rarely be late. However, my boss does not like the idea of me modifying my hours by 30 minutes because she doesn’t get here til 8am and how would she know if I was really here at 7:30am or not. And also, what if one of the other two employees that work in this office wanted to modify their hours too? (What if I wanted to sit at my desk and read a book all afternoon like they do?? Oh whoops, different bitch session) Clearly it would just create chaotic anarchy and the company would fall apart.

That’s fine, I’ll work with it.

But what I’m not going to work with any longer, is the bullshit traffic that I’ve been dealing with lately. In three of my past four commutes to work, there have either been accidents, stalled vehicles or both adding on considerable commute time to my 7km drive. The other day I was in my car for an hour, driving 7km. And on another day I drove for 45 minutes before I reached my place of work.

In the morning when I'm getting myself, my baby and my husband ready for the day I listen to the news reports to see if there are any incidents on my route. When I hear that something has happened, I rush around my house and get out the door as early as I can so that I can try to get to work on time. It screws up my morning and can foul up my entire day.

This morning though, when I realized there was yet another accident on the bridge that I need to cross and also a stall on the road to get to the bridge, I decided that "Fuck It" was my going to be my new traffic mantra. It should not take me any longer than 15 minutes to get to work. Therefore I will leave 20 minutes before I need to be there. If it takes me an hour then it takes me an hour. And I will be late. My reports will be late. People will have to wait. I will not pay the price because some arsehole cannot put down the cellphone or some squeasle thought he shouldn't have to wait in traffic and so he drove in the wrong lane and squeezed in at the very last second causing a chain reaction behind him. It is also not my fault that some dim bulb spent all his money at the casino and couldn't afford to put gas in his 1984 Toyota Camry, causing it to stall mid-span on the bridge. And so I’m not rushing out of my house one minute earlier to get to work on time because other people are stupid.

It’s just not worth my time or stress. Work can just wait for me to get there.

Hacked

More frustrating than the fact that my hotmail account was hacked today and some loser masquerading as myself sent out a spam message from my email address, is the fact that this is the second time in 6 weeks that it has happened.

Even more frustrating than that is that I know have to field phone calls and emails from people who are wondering why I sent them an email telling them that I just got a new 3G iphone and that they should go to some spammy website and get one too, and also I hope you have a Merry Christmas - all in horrendous grammar.

Does that sound like me?? Do I talk/type like that? Do I think you would give a fuck if I got a new iphone? And that I loved it sooooooo much that I needed to email every single person in my contact list and let them know that they should get one too? Doesn't really sound like me does it? Not really.

It's irritating that this keeps happening and I'm seriously considering closing my hotmail account.

I could let the frustration take over and I could let this shit get to me and fall to pieces and cry (because I have a LOT of contacts in my hotmail account and every one of you got the spam and after a long day, this could just be the straw). But you know what? I wasn't responsible for sending the stupid email. I am not responsible for the spam. I was only the vehicle that some fuckhead used to carry out his little scam. I can do nothing more than change my hotmail password or close my account.

So to any of you who may have received one of these emails from my email address? Just delete it and move on with your life. And so will I.

The Super Bowl: Four Scenarios

Right, fast forward to the scene in Miami in a week or so's time. It's media week, and everyone from the Brazilian TV station who doesn't know crap about football to ESPN to Sports Illustrated are fighting each other to get the biggest and best interview.

Anyway, we've thought of a few scenarios for media day. We hope you like them.

The Hall of Fame Media Day: Indianapolis Colts vs Minnesota Vikings

Peyton Manning and Brett Favre face up for the game of a lifetime. Peyton Manning, owner for four NFL MVP awards and one big fat ring, could retire tomorrow and still make the Hall of Fame. No-one knows who's retiring yet - and after both quarterbacks' performances against the Jets and Saints respectively, it's not looking like soon. Everyone keeps asking Brett if he's going to retire, and keep asking Peyton whether he thinks Peyton's going to retire. No-one really knows.
Oh, and let's not forget that this game also features future Hall of Famers Reggie Wayne, Adrian Peterson (if he can stop dropping the damned ball), Dallas Clark and some brilliant young players, including Sidney Rice, Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon. Garcon uses the media opportunity- quite rightly - to promote the Haiti disaster. The journos pitch in $20 each to interview Garcon, and Haiti raises over $2,000.


The 'Oldie Versus Rookie' Media Day: New York Jets vs Minnesota Vikings


Aged warrior Brett Favre manages to surpass even the heady bullshit spoken in the NFC Championship win in New Orleans, and now he's facing up against the young pretender - Mark Sanchez. Sanchez, the smiling kid, nicely explains that he didn't get paid to play at USC and how he's always looked up to Brett Favre. People also crowd round Darrelle Revis, who shut down Reggie Wayne in the AFC title game. "Sidney, Sidney, Sidney", he says. And then Rex Ryan shuts him down with quote of the century by guaranteeing the title. Joe Namath potters around, and everything thanks God that he's now sober. He's not wanting to kiss anyone now.


The ' We Played For Pete Carroll (and other schools, too' Media Day: New Orleans Saints vs New York Jets

After blowing out the Vikings, the Saints fans are out to party, and Drew Brees is looking a little worse for wear after spending the previous week celebrating with drive-through-dacquiris in the Great State of Louisiana. Reggie Bush, who managed to put up a sprightly 200 yards of total offense against the Vikings, steps on, and is immediately bombarded by questions about agents, USC and Pete Carroll. He leaves after a minute. Drew Brees tells everyone that he thinks Brett Favre should be in the Hall of Fame, but adds: "The Cardinals could do with a QB." Suddenly Arizona's the place to be for Brett Favre 'will he, won't he?' questions. Au revoir, Kurt Warner. Oh, and some kid called Revis is offering to shut down a couple of nightclubs in Miami after the Jets' Super Bowl victory. Shonn Greene gets woefully ignored by the media. It's not that he's not a very good running back, it's just he's really freaking short.


The 'Explosive' Media Day: Indianapolis Colts vs New Orleans Saints

Having overdone the word "high-octane" to describe the offenses of the Colts and the Saints, we're all getting a little bored with TV guys using the word "explosive", too. The media is secretly hoping that Peyton Manning and Drew Brees will look at each other and say: "Hey dude, you can ****ing throw!", because otherwise, we're all getting a little bored in the Florida sun. Chris Berman shows up on media day, says absolutely nothing special - expect for crying a little that his Buffalo Bills didn't make the Show this year - and gets a standing ovation. Reggie Bush cries a little because one reporter decided to stop asking about USC and instead ask about his 'intimate time' with girlfriend Kim Kardashian. "They are great," he espouses. "Even better than the time I had during my time at USC." Then the reporter mentions Vince Young. "Who's a better NFL player, him or me?" Reggie says. Then he walks off when the reporter says: "Well, none of you have really proved yourselves yet, but at least you're better than Leinart."

 

Gene (Ruby) Simmons

A Quick Decade of Highlights

We don't know if you watched ESPN's College Football Live prior to the National Championship Game this year, but you would have seen a rather good montage of college football memories from the last decade.

If you didn't, here's a quick summary from the VFA, with a couple of our own:

First of all, we cried a little bit. Adam Taliaferro's return to a packed Beaver Stadium after sustaining a massive injury against OSU that left his near-paralysed was one moment, to Chris Fowler trying to hold it together during Virginia Tech and ECU's entrance onto the field after the massacre, to the excuse-me-while-I-applaud bit (insert your Reggie Bush highlight here).

Crowds didn't get a whole lot of look-in - so no love for Penn State's student section against Ohio State in 2005, or the whole damn stadium against Notre Dame in 2007.

Ohio State had a few of their own, from "Holy Buckeye" against Purdue in 2002 to the 2003 NC game. I would have put OSU-Michigan game in 2006 there too. Michigan, on the other, didn't have too many (we're not going to feature Mario Manningham's catch against Penn State in 2005- the memories are still too painful), and nor did the University of Notre Dame during the reign of Charlie Weis.

But let's think about the players. Who could forget Tyrone Prothro's catch for Alabama in 2005,  Calvin Johnson for Georgia Tech against NC State in 2006 (his highlight reel's also sexy),  incredible plays (Knowshon Moreno, step up!; 'The Catch' that led Iowa to a 2005 Capital One win over LSU).

We saw eyes shining brightly for Texas - Vince Young, led them to a National Title against USC was simply ridiculous (Chris Simms' interception against Oklahoma in 2001). But no love for 45-35 in 2008 - a game we were proud to say we attended).

This was also a decade in which Florida State's Greg Jones using North Carolina players - and his own -as skittles, Jordan Norwood got flattened by Taylor Mays in the Rose Bowl in 2009, and CJ Spiller did his thing -torching defences - brilliantly.

Then, there's the locker room. While we'll choose to ignore the fights, but choose the inspiration. Take your pick: Tashard Choice's speech for Georgia Tech in 2007, Paul Rhoads' "I'm so proud to be your coach" after ISU's stunning upset of Nebraska in Lincoln this year, or Ed Reed's "I'm hurt, dog" halftime mouth-off against his Miami Hurricanes colleagues against Florida State. One can only imagine what Byron Leftwich said to his Marshall teammates after being carried the length of the field after breaking a shin - also in 2001).

 And we loved the press conferences. We are all men, Oklahoma State. And don't get in the way of Les Miles, who apparently isn't going to Michigan. You have a great day too, mad hatter.

Oh, and who could forget Tebow, who may well be the player of the decade? The fourth-and-game stop by Ole Miss that upset the Gators in 2008 took Tim to the podium, and he made a speech that sent shivers through the spine of neutrals and 'Gator Nation' crazy. They won a National Title in 2009 soon afterward. We'll forget about his tears against Alabama in 2009 - the guy was an inspiration to many. Thanks for playing all four years, Tim.

There were games of the decade. We talked briefly about 45-35, but how about the Florida State vs Miami games- almost all of them have been great to watch? Or how about the Paterno-Bowden Bowl in 2005, or the Boise State- Oklahoma Fiesta Bowl, which might just have been the best game ever? This video by Fox was almost as insanely good as the game itself, but not quite). 

But what we really live for in college football is the upsets. Stanford vs USC (2007), when Mark Bradford caught a dying-second touchdown to life the Cardinal over the Trojans. Heck, I even cried when we heard that Bradford's father had died on the same day as he took THAT catch. We loved Kentucky's stunning victory over LSU the same year (though the 2005 Hail Mary game was pretty cool), but then again, there wasn't a whole lot we didn't love about the 2007 season, where top ranked teams fell like the October rain or December snow.

And speaking of upsets, there was one upset - the biggest college football has ever seen. We at the VFA think we may have written about it before.  

 

Foggy morning walks bring on a new perspective of the world around, an enshrowding of the known into something unknown, enigmatic, potential.







Derek Who? Will Derek Dooley Succeed As The Next Coach of Tennessee?

I read a rather good article today on Bleacher Report that applauded the people at Neyland Stadium's decision to hire Derek Dooley as the next coach of the University of Tennessee Volunteers.

After slaughtering Auburn for the hiring of Gene Chizik last year and then watching as his team posted great performances against Ole Miss, Tennessee (and in a losing effort, Alabama), I'll shut up and say that Derek Dooley - son of Georgia's great (and retired) head coach Vince Dooley- will be quite the "wait and see" coach for Vols fans.

If the track record's anything to go by, Orange people, ain't anything special. At Louisiana Tech, Dooley's was a WAC-mediocre 17-20. He missed two bowls out of three, although in 2008, Dooley's team took the Independence Bowl.

His first job? He fired Kiffin's assistant coaches David Reeves and James Cregg. He's hired recruiting coordinator Terry Joseph and Eric Russell. Russell has experience with big-time football, after coaching with Mike Leach's Texas Tech team as a special teams coach. And apparently he's pretty darned good as a special teams coach, people.

But get this, I'm unsure about Joseph as a recruting entity. Sure, he helped to turn around Louisiana Tech, but let's face the fact: he's recruiting in the SEC now, boy.

But Dooley hasn't exactly got appalling experience -having helped to recruit top teams for Nick Saban at LSU before trekking off with Saban to the Dolphins.

Anyway, Dooley's game against Georgia should be a special one on October 11th - after all, expect legendary Georgia coach Vince Dooley to be watching. Should be interesting to see who he'll cheer for.

Here's the big highlight from Tech's season:

Party's Over

The first time I was pregnant, I was all in love with the whole experience. Every single thing about it was neato to me. Even the parts that I had to give up and/or change. I was parting with my party-party lifestyle to grow my little precious angel in my belly and I didn’t mind one bit. In fact, I had a bit of a romance going on with the whole experience.

I actually found it fun to still go out to the odd party or the pub and I thought it was neat to order O’Douls or a Cran with a splash of soda garnished with a lime, or the odd virgin margarita. I would sit through all the beers and booze talk and I would laugh along with my husband and friends at their antics and it was fun. And then I would be the designated driver and even that was kinda fun. I always kinda hoped I’d get pulled over by the cops or stuck in a roadblock so that I could proudly show off the boozers in my vehicle and see the cop’s realization of his error when he saw my belly. (I never did get to experience that one).

Sure I wasn’t up for staying out all night – even though Steve would have liked to a couple of times (I adjusted before he did, naturally), but I was out late quite a few times.

The whole thing was fun for me. I liked having the special reason for not drinking, or eating the pizza with lunch meats and feta cheese on it or the rare steak with the blue cheese crust.

Ahhhh…

Then I got pregnant again. Nine months after giving birth. And things have changed. Let me tell you, the romance is dead.

I’m going to admit it right here and now, O’Douls and any other “near beer” is vile and disgusting. You couldn’t pay me to consume that crap and then endure the gastrointestinal havoc that it imposes for hours afterwards. Why I would drink that shit if it’s not giving me a buzz is beyond me.

And sitting around and watching you jerks drink your cocktails and get buzzed and talk nonsense while I sit and sip my water (because I don’t want to gain a bunch of unnecessary weight so ginger ale and the fancy virgin drinks are out of the question this time around) has somehow lost its luster. In fact, it’s actually quite annoying. Sitting through your "hilarious" story once in the evening is plenty for me, hearing it three or four times? Makes me want to cut off my ears and shove them in your mouth.

And you want me to be upbeat and fun and funny? When I’m feeling tired and achy and worn out from carrying around my belly all day while running around after a toddler? Get bent.

You'd like ME to drive you piss tanks home afterwards??? And listen to your annoying conversations while your stinking booze breath saturates my car, making me want to gag? Get a cab.

The party doesn’t start until what time? Which means I will be up past 9pm??? Oh get real! Do you mind if I nap on your couch for a couple of hours then? Or would that be a buzz kill for the rest of you? Because I still have to get up with a toddler at 6:30am while all you assholes will be sleeping off your hangovers.

Oh! And I need to arrange a babysitter to look after my kid so I can go out and watch people have fun and get on my nerves and eat food I can’t eat and drink drinks I can’t drink and exhaust myself so that I suffer for the entire following week???

Why don’t I just stay home tonight, where it’s acceptable to be in my pyjamas with the stretchy waist band by 6pm and I’ll lay on the couch watching Sopranos reruns until I fall asleep at 8:30pm and nobody will look at me like I’m a wet blanket and a total buzz kill.

We can revisit this issue sometime after June, but until then please understand if I have “other plans” and can’t make it out tonight.



*Disclaimer: This doesn't mean that you are off the hook for inviting me to all the fun outings and events - oh I still fully expect to still recieve any and all invitations to such things to prevent me from feeling out of the loop or unwanted or not cool or fun anymore (even if I'm not). My feelings get hurt very easily now that I'm pregnant and you don't want to be responsible for making a pregnant woman cry, do you???
The ladies had their portraits taken today. Their loving guardian, my farmgirl friend Sarah wanted something in the print to catch the viewer's eye. Eleanor, Nancy, Daisy and Martha make their debut here. They were really quite nice subjects to photograph. I dare say, our shenanigans never even ruffled their feathers. We will now call her oldest son the Chicken Whisperer. Aren't they stunning? 







NFL playoff rankings

Now that the college football season is over and it's just the University of Tennessee who's looking for a new coach after Lane "Weasel" Kiffin took on the job at the USC and Skip Holtz is now the new coach at USF (good hire, by the way, USF), a few points about the NFL.

In my article for Sky Sports about the next round of the NFL playoffs, I thought it would be high-time to rank the strongest teams, quarterbacks, defenses, home fields, and, of course, cheerleaders.

We hope you like it.

STRONGEST TEAMS

1. Indianapolis Colts - The two end-of-season losses mean nothing: Peyton Manning & Co is the best football team in the league right now

2. San Diego Chargers - Er, the winner of the Indy vs Baltimore game will be nervous.
3. Arizona Cardinals - Great, a double team on Larry Fitzgerald. So then Kurt Warner has a choice of three more receivers (or hand it off to quick rookie Beanie Wells).
4. Dallas Cowboys - People are talking good things about Big D's 'D', but has anyone talked about the weakness of Tony Romo?
5. Baltimore Ravens - Tom Brady will tell you: the Ravens 'D' is nasty, people.

6. New Orleans Saints - A late season skid helped the Saints to shoot themselves slightly in the foot. Can they find some form?
7. Minnesota Vikings - Brett Favre may be good, but Adrian Peterson has gone from 'All Day' to "All Inconsistent".
8. New York Jets - While Darrelle Revis is a revelation in the secondary, there are still question marks about the Jets' offense - good running backs or not.


BEST OFFENSES

1. Arizona - Frightening.
2. Indianpolis - Great balance
3. New Orleans - Great all year long
4. San Diego - PR and LT, and a little bit of VJ. You get me?
5. Baltimore - The blow-out of the Patriots was marked by a couple of great runs from Ray Rice. Rookie Michael Oher is dominating as an offensive linesman.
6.  Minnesota - The Brett Favre/Adrian Peterson double act makes the Vikings a worry.
7. Dallas - As we said, the defense is a lot better than the offense.
8. New York - Great running-based attack. We're not so sure throwing the ball.


BEST QUARTERBACKS


1. Peyton Manning (Indianapolis) - Enough said, really.
2. Drew Brees (New Orleans) - It isn't his fault his defense sucks.
3. Kurt Warner (Arizona) - Please, please don't retire.
4. Philip Rivers (San Diego) - San Diego's charging, and this kid's good.
5. Joe Flacco (Baltimore) - He's backed by a great defense, and his arm's pretty good, too.
6. Brett Favre (Minnesota) -Was pretty good on interceptions this year. But can it last?
7. Mark Sanchez (Jets) - Hey rookie! You're good, but you're not that good.
8. Tony Romo (Dallas) - As I said, I think he sucks.


Best Defenses


1. Baltimore - Ray Lewis and Ed Reed still frighten the beejesus out of quarterbacks, don't they? Oh, and that Terrell Suggs kid ain't bad, either.
2. Indianapolis - Opportunistic, and good in short yardage positions. Just ask Tom Brady.
3. Dallas - The key to the Cowboys' recent climb has been the 'D', who may well get a NFC title ring this year.
4. New York Jets - Brilliant job at stopping Cincinnati last week. As we said, the kid Revis will be key.
5. Minnesota - The fact that they give up 20 points a game ain't lovely.

6. San Diego - It's still suspect, kids.
7. New Orleans - Very good at throwing away their offense's big leads.
8. Arizona - Ditto.


Home Fields (Not That We're Going To See All Of Them This Year)


1. Dallas - JerryWorld is a thing of beauty. As is the monster TV screen. Everything's bigger in Texas, after all.
2. Arizona - Lovely weather, lovely people, lovely stadium.
3. New Orleans - Historic because of Hurricane Katrina, but the atmosphere is unbeatable.
4. Minnesota - Cold outside, warm inside. Could be frightening for Romo & Co.
5. Indianapolis - Will host the first cold weather Super Bowl since Detroit in 2012. Can't wait to freeze my butt off lining up to get into the ESPN party!
6. Baltimore - Not a bad stadium in a bad-but-improving city.
7. San Diego - Like the City of San Diego itself, it lacks a little bit of character. Sorry guys - but it does!
8. New York Jets - Sorry to say this guys, but I'm pretty glad they are tearing down Giants stadium. It was the Newark of the North-East in terms of stadiums. And I'm not joking.


And finally.....Cheerleaders


1. Dallas - When we said "Everything's bigger in Texas", we also meant....
2. San Diego - While San Diego itself is a little dull, you can't criticize the cheers. USC Song Girls - your future lies here!
3. Indianapolis - Something to warm the crowd up as they get into the field on a cold November/December/January night.
4. Arizona - Compared to the Arizona and Arizona State cheerleaders, they come a distinct third. But they still are as smoking as the summer heat.
5. New Orleans  - Absolutely Saint-sational! (That's enough puns - Ed)

6.Baltimore Ravens - It's not only the defense that's hot in Baltimore

7. New York Jets - The 'Flight Crew' will make you fly high
8. Minnesota Vikings - Good, but not good enough to break the Top 8.

Why I'm Cheering For Charlie Weis

Listen, I'm no fan of Notre Dame.

It's not because every kid from South Bend I've met in London has been a horrible piece of work (actually, I've only met one of them like that), or that the fact that 'Rudy' never made me cry (it did - a bunch of times).

For some reason, when Charlie Weis came to Notre Dame, the expectancy got picked up a notch.

Everyone then talked about how wonderful Notre Dame was and how we'd see national titles behind the coach with the, well, big behind.

But he's out of Notre Dame now (he's got a 1-1 record with my beloved Penn State Nittany Lions), and he's going back to a job where he can take a 'program' from nothing and take them back into the 'big-time' in the Kansas City Chiefs.

The story in Kansas City is actually worth rooting for (unless you're one of the Chiefs' biggest rivals). You know why? Because in the last few years, the world hasn't been nice to Charlie Weis. The media - during Notre Dame's fall from grace - gave him the proverbial finger, but no-one questioned how good he is as an offensive coach.

There's all the elements of a potential New England Patriots 'repeat' here: Matt Cassell will be coached under the offensive genius (Tom Brady, Brady Quinn and Jimmy Clausen haven't been bad quarterbacks under Weis, have they?), and the Chiefs have a breakout running back in Jamaal Charles, who nicely replaced Twittering Larry Johnson.

Romeo Crennel will be taking over as defensive co-ordinator, which means that 'Pats experience' will return. Now, where's Bill Belichick?
I am so lucky. Do you know why? Because while I convalesced through a bad cold, my lovely daughter took it upon herself to don the orange rubber washing gloves and clean the dishes. Generally my young ones put all the dishes away, among other household chores. Washing food yuck is probably her least favorite task. This was her selfless act in an attempt to help me. And it did. 
Thank you Miss S for your kind deed. :)

Kiffin Hire Is Great News for USC - Or Is It?

Read all about it! Read all about it! Lane Kiffin now the head coach of USC!

Lane Kiffin, who told the world about the future of Tennessee, has now left the snowy Appalachians for the beautiful-if-a-little-in-debt rolling California hills, taking the job at the University of Southern California.

Kiffin turned around Tennessee in one respect, taking them back to a bowl game after a horrible 2008 year - although the game against Virginia Tech showed that the team had a lot to do.

Kiffin is an ace recruiter and he's not a bad coach, which will mean that a lot of the 'lost' recruits may well come back to Cali.

But here's the problem: Kiffin is not unknown to have recruiting violations. Hell, he reported most of them himself at UT, when he did everything for recruits except get an air force flyover. And USC, at the moment, is the hub of recruiting violations, with questions being asked about agents, Reggie Bush, and Joe McKnight.

Kiffin's 'anything to get a recruit' philosophy may have worked in the SEC, but one can only doubt that after the mayhem of the last few years, one dumb mistake may cost Kiffin his job and the school its scholarships.

Good luck to him, though.

So, Who Replaces Pete Carroll?

So Trojan fans, Pete Carroll is off and now you're looking for a new coach to try and keep everything at bay.

But fear not - the job at the University of Southern California is one of biggest in sports (well, it will be until the NCAA sanctions come through!) and there wil be plenty of takers.

We can count out every successful NFL coach - and Charlie Weis - from going for the job, leaving most of college football's coaches as potentially suited for the job.

Here's who we think would be potential candidates at the country's biggest team.

1) Chris Petersen (Boise State)

Petersen's done wonders at Boise State. Suddenly, no big-time team likes going to the blue turf, and certainly NO team comes to their place expecting victory. Anyway, Petersen's gadget plays - and strong recruiting - has suddenly made Boise, Idaho a bit of a destination for bigger players, and Petersen is definitely a good quarterbacks coach.

2) Lane Kiffin (Tennessee)

After causing enough crap to sink at ship at the University of Tennessee, Lane "Recruiting Violations Self Reported Or Otherwise" Kiffin decides to take the role at Southern California. He's already coached at SC as a head coach, so should fit in well.

3) Nick Saban (Alabama)

Never say never. Loyalty's never been his thing - especially after winning a National Title, as he did with LSU. Best coach in the land. Period.

4) Will Muschamp (Texas)

Muschamp is perhaps the best defensive co-ordinator in the land, aside from Tom Bradley. Has big-time experience in the NFL and with Auburn, and would graduate nicely. Considering Mack Brown ain't going anywhere, he might be fed up with being the world's highest-paid coach in the waiting.

5) Tom Bradley (Penn State)

Like Muschamp, waiting around for the head coach to retire/die must be getting his feet tapping. The chance of taking over a massive program, get some sun, and then come back after Paterno retires must be an awesome prospect.

6) Tony Dungy

Right, so get this: Tony Dungy seems to be eager to get back into football. While he's talking to USF at the moment (helps, since his family's in Tampa and he loves it there), he has also been 'reached out to' by Seattle. So why wouldn't he want to change the way USC has done things (by all accounts not exactly legally) and bring forth a big-time, clean program - something that would be unlike all the rest of them?

7) Jack Del Rio (Jacksonville Jaguars)

According to ESPN, his future's not certain with the Jags, who once again didn't make the playoffs. He's a former star at SC, and people see him in the same mould as Carroll, which should make things good for potential recruits....if they haven't all 'flown the nest' and run off to Florida, Texas and Alabama!

8) Norm Chow (UCLA)

Would be nice to reunite Chow with SC after a few eyebrow-raising years away from the Coliseum. He's a great offensive co-ordinator, and LA papers say that SC want him back.

But the big question is: will they be able to play with the 'poisoned chalice' of USC sports, which might see wins and scholarships violated as a result of high-level recruiting violations?

Sometimes inspiration comes from the inside, literally.
Even after a brisk hour-long walk through vineyards yesterday, the fog and damp left a chill that permeated through every layer of clothing, negating any desire to seek out imagery. Eager to find something beautiful, it forced me to look closely, right at home. It was point and shoot time yesterday, using the wee little Nikon Coolpix Santa brought our family, a challenge self-imposed. It's been a long time since using a P&S. Although tempermental, the macro optics have a lot of potential, and although I know this, but must be reminded occasionally....it is not what you have, but what you purpose to do with it.  
Here are a few images of peace and solace, thanks to the tool that was available.  The pitcher is actually a creamer. The little dainties are each no bigger than a quarter.
Wants and wishes are good, and can propel us forward, 
but don't we usally already have enough?





So many projects in mind, but first, completion of those already begun. At least that is the intention. And that intention deliberately slows me, focuses my attention on that which already awaits. It is so very easy to become distracted. In fact, another project beckons me from the other room, so I will speak no more of it until its time. That Miss Teapot has me wanting to make a knitted cozy for a family room lampshade...focus...focus...





A cold chill has seeped in. Hot tea aside, I am fully aware of the cold engulfing parts of the nation, and the gift of fresh local organic produce in the middle of winter.  Every Friday the box arrives at my front door. I somehow miss the delivery driver, so the discovery is a weekly "oh!", a treat to the senses.
And I am grafeful.


It'll be a worse LA without Pete Carroll

Before the VFA gets accused of being a 'USC homer' (hey - last week it was the Texas and/or the SEC, the week before it was the Big Ten, the week before it was USC - does no-one read a profile around here??), we just want to point out that we're not Trojans fans.

Having said that, we are fans of Pete Carroll.

If Carroll goes back to the NFL (according to the AP the Seahawks are in 'discussions' with Carroll, as opposed to Los Angeles Daily News reports that he'd signed a five year deal) to try and right some wrongs of professional seasons past, then college football will be all the poorer.

Although the 2009-10 was a pretty much complete disaster, Carroll has been brilliant for the University of Southern California. The list of recruits that have come to play for 'Coach Carroll' has been mouthwatering, with some of them  - who couldn't get into the USC program (see Florida's Emmanuel Moody for details) -play for other 'big-time program'. Carroll helped to create latter-day 'mystique and aura' at USC, and had the Song Girls happy almost every weekend as the Goddesses of Cheerleading celebrated touchdown after touchdown for their men in red and gold. Oh, and the superstars loved coming to the Coliseum, too.

ESPN and other organisations have tried to figure out why he's off. There's the thought that Carroll might be worried about possible sanctions against USC when Reggie Bush was at the program. The Joe McKnight doesn't exactly make everything look impressive, either.

But what I actually like about Pete Carroll more than anything doesn't have anything to do with football. It's his foundation - "A Better LA", committed to working with gangs and making the City of Angels just that. That ought to be applauded - and hopefully continued.

Anyway, if you're off, Mr Carroll, then thanks for coming and good luck. If you're not, then we're glad you stayed and Joe Paterno and the rest of us Nittany Lions fans will see in the Rose Bowl in 2011!!

Some Random Points About The NC Game

Now that the dust has settled on another National Championship Game, we'd like to make a few random observations about the game.

1) Congratulations UT Cheerleaders! You win the National Title. You were much hotter than the Alabama guys. Mind you, Texas cheerleaders might be able to graduate to the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans. Alabama cheerleaders will graduate, get a rock or work for a law firm. Plus, both of you have glass footballs now.

2) Where were the jets after the National Anthem? ABC somehow managed to miss them.

3) The streaker wasn't shown on US TV. He wasn't even a streaker. In the UK, 'streaking' is running on a pitch naked. This guy had clothes on. He was a pitch invader - and shouldn't be given the honored title of 'streaker'. Musberger called him an idiot. I would have loved to see Herbstreit laugh if a streaker came on the pitch. And a great comment from the ESPN guys on Twitter: "That's the deepest penetration there's going to be in the Alabama red zone all night!". That was in the first half.

4) Sorry Lisa Salters, but every red-blooded male wanted to see Erin Andrews on the sideline rather than you for one last time this football season. I wonder if EA was still crying about the SEC Title game Florida lost?

5) Brent Musberger, meet your mutual SEC lover, Verne Lundqvist. You'll be beautful together.

6) Kirk Herbstreit should ALWAYS get the National Championship game.

7) Pete Carroll should give up the coaching lark and go to work for ESPN. He was brilliant.

8) Lee Corso looked a little slow at half-time. It was as though he was trying to remember what he was talking about. Please tell us you didn't have another stroke, Lee.

9) Chris Fowler did his normally good job on College Gameday. He should stick to presenting. Then we can forget about his Thursday night TV commentary efforts - especially for Georgia Tech vs Clemson. Speaking of commentary, I wonder what the over/under is on how many days Craig James' son Adam is going to last in Lubbock?

10) When we said the Texas cheerleaders were hotter than Alabama's, can we also mention that Texas' dance team was hotter than Alabama's, too? And their band had better hats.

11) Mark Ingram + Trent Richardson = Running. All. Over. Penn State. Next. Year.

12) Mack Brown should hand over big game coaching duties to Will Muschamp.

13) No class from Alabama for adding another touchdown in the dying seconds with the game over. But what did you expect from a team coached by a guy who's thought of in the South as Satan himself?

14) Speaking of Nick Saban, we can only think he's up thinking about next year - already!

15) Loved hearing Dave Matthews 'Why I am' - It's a freaking classic. It's no Ants Marching, mind you, but it's an anthem.

16) If you're an Alabama fan, root for Alabama. But if you're an Auburn or LSU fan, you wouldn't stoop so low as to root for your most hated rival, would you, just because they are in the SEC? Well step forward two of my buddies....you did!

17) Did I mention, at all, that Texas' cheerleaders were hot?


 

 

Who Won the Battles In The National Championship?

Right, we all know that Alabama won the National Championship. Nick Saban may be the devil, but he can win football games. And as the Drive By Truckers say: "There's nothing more popular than football games and men that know how to win them." Well Nick, we can look forward to a few more glass trophies before you take the soon-to-be-vacant job at Notre Dame in 2015.

Anyway, who had the edge?

QUARTERBACKS

This wasn't a game for quaterbacks. Greg McElroy, Alabama's quarterback was downright awful in the game, but his only saving grace that Texas' replacement quarterback, Garrett Gilbert, was worse - for the first half, anyway. Both teams have a good future with McElroy and Gilbert in the huddle, but in the National Championship game, both players sucked.

BATTLE WINNER Gilbert. Sounds funny, but his recovery in the second half was remarkable. Just not enough.

RUNNING BACKS

You're joking, right? Alabama had four running touchdowns, and Texas didn't have any. Sure, Texas spent most of its life in the second half with an empty backfield and playing catch-up, but still, Tre' Newton really didn't do the job. Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson really did. And you know what the bad news is, SEC defenses? Both are back next year, too.

BATTLE WINNER Alabama. Not really an edge, more a crap-kicking

OFFENSIVE LINE

Both offensive lines were pretty awful in this game. If the game had gone one quarter longer, Greg McElroy could have been sacked for yards than he actually throw at the Rose Bowl. Colt McCoy and Garrett Gilbert's offensive line wasn't much better - both were injured only on. Thankfully for Texas fans, Gilbert came back, but McCoy didn't. But what really killed Texas was the penalties. The chop blocks were nasty - as was the holding. Alabama's seemed to get away with more (my Texas friend swears to God that Sergio Kindle was being held 'all night long') but that's football.

BATTLE WINNER Alabama When your team scores four touchdowns behind a much-maligned offensive line, you can't really complain.

WIDE RECEIVERS

The receivers on both sides had the dubious distinction of, well, not really distinguishing themselves. Apart from Jordan Shipley, who shone out in the second half with two Wes Welker-like touchdown receptions, this wasn't a game for the receivers. It certainly wasn't for Malcolm Williams, who managed to drop two fairly easy throws and an airmailed touchdown effort that would have made it 10-0 Texas. Oh, and Alabama's receivers should get plaudits for doing a really, really good blocking job on the perimeter, which helped Ingram pick up big yardage in the first half.

BATTLE WINNER Texas But really, that's thanks to Jordan Shipley and the fact that the other receivers.

DEFENSE

You're not going to believe me when I say this, but it was a pretty even battle - despite the 37-21 scoreline. Texas, knowing that their star quarterback was out, played with stunning energy on the other side of the ball - which made the game hellish exciting. It was like watching 11 whirling dervishes at times facing up to Alabama's offense. The fact that they didn't manage to stop Mark Ingram in the first half was more due to the brilliance of Ingram than a failure on Texas' part - Sergio Kindle made himself a few NFL dollars in this game. But in the defensive war, Alabama won the biggest war: the turnovers. 'Bama scored 21 points off turnovers, while Texas managed just three.
Oh, and speaking of defensive lineman, what's the over/under of Mount Cody's playing weight in the NFL in a year's time?


BATTLE WINNER Alabama. That defense is absolutely frightening, kids. Although a quick round of applause goes to Texas after spending most of the first half on the field.

SPECIAL TEAMS

If you were just talking about efforts to kick to dangerous punt returners, Texas didn't bother really kicking to Javier Arenas and Alabama's high, high punts made sure that Jordan Shipley couldn't run through and celebrate in their end-zone, so you'd have to call it evens. Texas gathered up an onside kick in the second half, and Saban's trick play in the first minutes of the game ended up as an interception.


BATTLE WINNER Alabama. Despite all of the good points for Texas, the Longhorns spent a lot of their time with their butts in their own 'red zone', thanks to great kicking, and Jordan Shipley wasn't a factor returning the ball.

COACHING

Saban will go to sleep with a glass bowl in his bed, while Mack Brown will be going to sleep thinking: "Maybe I should just give the damned job to Muschamp". Here's why: Mack Brown's decision to go for a shovel pass with just a few seconds remaining in the first half ended with Alabama celebrating in the end zone, Texas going in with a 24-6 deficit, and Brown looking like a twat. It was then compounded with his decision to 'go conservative' in the first half with Garrett Gilbert instead of letting the kid throw a bit also killed him. Nick Saban outcoached Mack Brown today- and yes, that means he's a better coach boys and girls. When these two superpowers meet each other in the regular season sometime in the middle of NEVER then we'll be able to change our thoughts, but right now, Saban rules.


BATTLE WINNER Alabama He may be the devil, but he wins football games.

Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, You Win It All, Alabama

Well done, the University of Alabama: you win it all.

On a lovely-looking night in California, Alabama rode the Ingram and Richardson train all the way to a 37-21 victory in the National Championship, making them unequivocal, unbeaten National Champions.

It's funny, because about three hours before the Crimson Tide victory, it had started disastrously, with two special teams turnovers inside the first few minutes. But on the second turnover, disaster struck for the Longhorns when 'Captain Fantastic' Colt McCoy injured a shoulder on a seemingly harmless tackle that took him out for the game, and put in freshman Garrettt Gilbert. Texas took a 6-0 lead, but the Longhorns cheers were muted.

After that, it was all Alabama. Richardson and Ingram scored touchdowns to give the Tide a 14-6 lead, and added a field goal to make it 17-6. And then, instead of simply taking a knee and going into the locker room at 17-6, the Longhorns then decided a shovel pass, which was picked off to make it 24-6. The eyes of (rage) are upon you, Mack Brown.

Then came the comeback. With nothing to lose, the Longhorns - and their brilliant defense - came to play and scored two touchdowns to narrow the deficit to 24-21. Suddenly it was the Crimson Tide fans - who had seen Alabama do absolutely nothing offensively during the second half - who were looking with rage.

But with Texas driving deep in their own end zone, another monster blitz from the 'Bama defense caught out Gilbert, who spilled the ball. Mark Ingram was then given the ball - hurt calves and all - and the rest was history.

Oh, and this is a song below is a story about 3 Alabama Icons. Expect Mark Ingram to be a fourth.

No Tears: Navorro Bowman off to the NFL

When I heard that Navorro Bowman had decided to go the NFL, I realised something: I didn't hate him as badly as I thought I would after he made the call.

After playing for a school and risking your limbs during three years playing for one of the best defensive co-ordinators in the country (and let's face it: Tom Bradley IS just that), it was probably time that Bowman - who has a six-month old kid - decided to go and play in the pros.

What I love, in fact, is Bowman's honesty. Unlike a lot of players who have gone to the NFL as a junior and insisted that it was important to play at the next level - and left it there, Bowman said in his interview about the green: "I've never been rich before, so it's always on my mind. Everything plays a part on the financial side. If you look at it, you want to make the best decision and be able to support your family."

And as the Inquirer also brought up, it wasn't until this year that Bowman decided to grow up. In October 2007, he got in a campus fight in State College (not bright). Then he was caught smoking dope last April (even stupider). But this year, he's been a model citizen, and hasn't found himself in trouble with Uncle Sam since then. Maybe the kid was a good influence on him after all.

For Penn State, though, the questions now remain over what state "Linebacker U" will be in for 2009. With Bowman - and seniors Sean Lee and Josh Hull - both gone things don't look as pretty as they once did. But Bradley's a good coach and the Nittany Lions have recruited well - they'll survive.

But in short, good luck, Navorro Bowman, good luck.




Better

When I picked Ruby up from daycare yesterday I was told that she had a good day and that she’s a good girl. And that perhaps the operator of the previous daycare should rethink her profession.

Ruby napped, she laughed, she smiled, she danced. She did not cry for more than a few minutes in the morning after I left because she was given a bit of TLC to comfort her and make her feel loved and cared for.

I cannot tell you the huge sense of relief I felt upon hearing those words.

This officially confirms it – I am not the mother of a closet daycare demon, just a little girl who gets a little bit nervous when her mom leaves her with someone new in a unfamiliar place. And I'm pretty sure that’s fairly standard for a one year old.

As a result, today I didn’t cry at my desk for 3 hours in the morning. My shoulders do not ache. My head does not feel like it might explode. My eyes are not nearly swelled shut. My heart doesn’t feel like it has been ripped from my chest. I haven’t even contemplated telling my boss how I really feel about this job and just what she can do with it.

Today feels better.

Praise The Lord! Evan Royster's Coming Back For His Senior Year!

Let the sun come up, let's the winds of change stop for another year, and ladies and gentlemen, let the good times roll - Evan Royster, Penn State's star running back, is coming back for his senior year.

And yes, we at the VFA are really, really happy about it.

Despite having a [insert joke about the offensive line here] offensive line this year, he still managed to run for more than 1,000 yards. We're not expecting a 100 yard game in Tuscaloosa on the second day of the season, but we'd love it to happen.

""I wanted to return to finish my degree and for my final year at Penn State," Royster said in a statement. "I'm looking forward to next season."

So are we, Evan, so are we.

Here are some of his 2008 highlights - we can't wait for more in 2010. Unless he gets injured to, of course.

So Who's Going To Win The National Championship Game?

While the rest of the country is freezing their collective butts off, the weather in California is 70s and sunny.

And now - with most of the important bowl games now just a memory (although the living nightmare of the Capital One Bowl field is still giving Les Miles and LSU fans nightmares)- all eyes are on the Rose Bowl for the Alabama-Texas game, which will see two unbeaten teams battle it out for the glass football.

This game's not about high-powered offenses. We expect Mark Ingram to batter Texas' defense and we expect Alabama's defense to live in the face of Colt McCoy. But then again, we expect Jordan Shipley to cause the Crimson Tide problems, and we expect Texas' defense to live in the face of Greg McElroy.

The biggest thing is actually going to be about attitude.

Here's why:

Alabama saw how badly Texas sucked against Nebraska, and regardless of what Nick Saban says about focus, they must have been laughing their asses off seeing the problems the Longhorns offensive line had with dealing with the Huskers 'D'.

Now, Texas could either learn from seeing their offensive line turned into a bunch of D-III players by Ndamukong Suh, or worry their butt off that a defense like Alabama's could probably be even nastier than the Huskers' were.

Here's the fact, Texas suddenly doesn't have a whole lot to lose. The world is expecting Alabama to win this game (they are 3/2 while Texas is 9/5) by just under a field goal. This is the first time Texas has been an underdog since THAT game against Oklahoma in 2008, and look what happened there. Alabama may be the most complete team since 2004-5's USC team to play for the National Championship. But you know what? Didn't people say that Texas didn't have a hope of beating USC in 2005. Can someone let us know what will happen there?

To win, Texas simply has to shut down Mark Ingram. Unfortunately, Texas hasn't faced a really, really good running back all season long, so Ingram will be a monster surprise. And the corners have to wake up. If they don't, Blake Gideon's going to be looking at the back of Julius Jones' shirt all day long.

For Alabama to win, they've got to concentrate. They've got to act as though they are the underdog. They've got to dominate the line of scrimmage and be faster than Texas on special teams. Remember the name Jordan Shipley, Alabama fans - he's a possible game-changer.

Our prediction is that Alabama will win. But it'll be in the last minute in one of the most dramatic finishes college football has seen for a long, long time. Well, since 2005, anyway....



Iowa stuns Georgia Tech

Listen, I know as a Penn State fan that I'm not meant to root for teams who've spent all the regular season wanting to get crushed, but while watching the Orange Bowl, I was rooting for Iowa.

Iowa were a little bit special last night. The defense was frightening, effectively blowing Georgia Tech's singing, dancing triple option. Only Anthony Allen distinguished himself for the Yellow Jackets, while Adam Clayborn, who had two sacks and nine tackles and always looked a danger defensively, shone out for the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Here's the worrying part for the rest of the Big Ten: Iowa's running backs will almost all be back for 2010. Adam Robinson and Jewell Hampton (who's back after a season-ending August injury) are back, and Ricky Stanzi will be back at quarterback. Oh, and that defense is going to be pretty good too.

And on the coldest Orange Bowl in history, we didn't mind the fact that the cheerleaders were wearing tracksuit pants. We would have done, too.

My heart

The other night I was giving Ruby a bath and she fell and smashed her face on the side of the tub. She was hurt and very upset. Her mouth was bleeding and she even chipped her front tooth (which really sucks). I scooped her out of the tub and held her and tried to comfort her. She screamed and cried and freaked out. Then Steve walked in the room and she started kicking and hitting me to get away from me and get to him. He took her and she stopped crying.

Ouch.

After she settled down he handed her back to me and she started crying again and kicking to get away from me. She reached out to my mom. When my mom took her she stopped crying again. It made me feel really sad inside.

Then this morning she hurt her hand or something and I tried to hold her. She wanted nothing to do with me. She reached for Steve again and when he held her she stopped crying.

*sigh*

So you can imagine how I felt when I had to drop her off for her first day at her new daycare today and when she realized I was leaving she started crying and reached out to me...

And I had to turn my back on her and walk out the door.


Here’s my heart. I won’t be needing it anymore. It’s been ripped out of my chest and crushed and broken and shattered into a billion tiny little pieces.

Party Over Here


It's a birthday, and all the dollies gathered, even Bobbie Six Shooter. What a lucky way to spend the afternoon, rediscovering Miss Teapot's adornments. Who's the guest of honor? Me!