Sunday, December 12, 2010

Week 15 Recap (God Bless America!)

In all my years of being a college football fan, there was one event that I had never attended that I badly wanted to do should the stars align: the annual Army –Navy game. This year I was fortunate to be in the vicinity on business and was able to join friends and family in attending one of college football’s holiest grails. The event for me began the Friday before the game as I met up with old college friends and Army buddies throughout the weekend. I was invited to tailgate with a crew that originated with the Cliffside Park, NJ class of 81 football team, one of which was my college fraternity brother, Ray Carlucci. We were joined by other old friends from Frostburg and West Point Alumni connected to the Cliffside boys or the “Goodfellas” as I prefer to call them as most of their last names ended in I or O and talking with their hands is a requirement. In our crew were several people that I consider hero’s for the sacrifices they made for their country. One in particular is my good friend Lou Cappezzuto, USMA class of 86. I have known Lou since my freshman year in college as he was one of the Cliffside boys. Lou is the most humble and modest guy I know so he will probably kick my ass for saying this. Three years ago, long after he had worn the uniform and had become a successful corporate attorney, Lou felt the need to serve his country again. In the infinite wisdom of a sometime beuracratic Army, they would not take him back as an Officer. He proceeded to enter the Army as an E-5 (Sergeant for the civilians) and joined a National Guard Infantry unit that he knew was being deployed to Iraq. He put aside his career and put his life on the line for his country. At age 45, Sergeant Lou manned a 50 Cal and patrolled the streets of Baghdad with his Stryker Brigade. Lou, I along with all your friends, we salute you for what you did. Now don’t hunt me down and stuff me a trunk! I also would like to give a shout out to my brothers Bill and Chuck, both Vietnam combat vets who were under the weather and not able to make it in for the game.

The tailgating was classic with every kind of food and beverage imaginable. Retelling old stories with friends from my past and present and now future (for the instant buddies of the world). I was in awe at the camaraderie shown between the opposite camps of Army and Navy. There was no gang banger crap or fisticuffs one can expect while attending a USC game (Sorry I had to take one more shot). You see this event represents much more than just a rivalry game. Many of these people attend year in and out not only to attend their Alma Mater’s biggest game and reconnect with classmates, they have also given a substantial part of their lives to serving in the Armed Forces. An event and venue like this is the most natural kind of homecoming for these patriots. They will visit with old buddies from units they served in and retell the most interesting stories you will hear. Not stories of kicking ass in combat but the funny stories of getting in trouble and pulling shenanigans while wearing the uniform (As Bill Murray so eloquently pointed out in Stripes "it's the stories you guy's tell"). These events are the ones that bonded them with their unit buddies for life. I connected with my old buddy the legend that is Buck Oxendine and we retold the story that almost cost me my marriage one year into it. After Buck got out of the Army he came and stayed with us in Atlanta for a bit to look for a civilian job. Amy and I had been married less than 2 years at this point. A few days became a few weeks and next thing you know we had the basis for “You Me and Dupree”. After pouring down substantial amounts of liquid courage at a local watering hole one night, Bucky and I thought it would be a good idea to go back into the Army and join the Georgia National Guard as they were about to deploy to Saudi Arabia for Gulf War 1 (Fall of 1990). So we contacted the Georgia Guard and were offered two Captain’s slots immediately. We came home probably by way of Taxi and announced to my new bride our bright idea. The next thing I know her wedding ring was on the counter and Buck’s bags were thrown out the front door. I got the distinct feeling that she didn’t share our enthusiasm. Better judgment or a good hangover prevailed and we did not follow through with our plan…marriage saved, friend still kicked out. So Buck, I apologize I need to show a little more “Danness” next time we get one of these ideas.

For those of you truly interested in the history of college football, you must know that this game was once one of the most meaningful game in the country played every year. This was the 111th time these two teams played. Between the two schools there are 5 Heisman Trophy winners: Glenn Davis, Doc Blanchard, Pete Dawkins, Joe Bellino and Roger Staubach. These two teams would regularly compete for the top spot in College football rankings. But as the game of college football grew in prominence it became harder and harder for the service academies to attract the type of talent that would one day play for money on Sunday’s. Instead they get the kind of young men that are solid athletes, sometimes undersized and not always as fast as the more well known powers in CFB today. But what they get more than other schools are young men of the greatest character. The kind of player that will always out work you and try harder than their opponent. Simply becoming bowl eligible for a lower tier bowl and beating the other academy are usually the goals set at the beginning of each season. These young men that are Seniors are usually playing their last game in pads ever will wear their next team’s logo on their shoulders, designating their unit assignment upon graduation (this year both teams will play one more game in their respective Bowls). All of these young men will go on to a minimum 5 year commitment on active duty. Some will even pay the ultimate sacrifice. Although the rivalry is monumental, they realize that this is just a game and the real war may await them later. The mutual respect between the two squads because of this bond is apparent throughout the contest as the game is played the way it should. No cheap shots, no taunting or trash talking, no dancing and no Pete Carroll antics! The game itself does not stand up to say an Alabama – Oklahoma shootout but it touches you more than any national championship game ever could. With parachuters, apache helicopters, the hair raising F-18 flyover prior to the game and of course the National Anthem sung with passion by 70,000 fans…you get the meaning of this game real quick. With Navy having won the previous 8 years, the feeling was that this Army team had a chance to break the streak. However it was not to be as Navy prevailed 31- 17 in a game that was closer than the score as Navy capitalized on a few key plays and one major turnover. As tradition will have it, each team faced the student sections together after games end sung each other alma mater songs.

The night did not end there as the tailgate was fired up for a few more hours in the parking lot and an after party back at the hotel. A great time was definitely had by all! If I can recommend one book for any College football fan to read it is called “A Civil War”, written by John Feinstein. It is the story of the rivalry between Army – Navy. The author followed each team through a whole season in the early 1990’s culminating in the year end rivalry game. If I have not convinced you about the need to see this game live, this book will most certainly do the trick. I certainly plan on attending again and tailgating with my friends and brothers who make this an annual event.

Other news in CFB this week, congratulations to Cam Newton on winning the Heisman. Not only did you do it on the field better than anyone else this year you fought through serious adversity off of it and only played better each week. We may never know what truly happened with the scam but as I have said all along you were the best in the business this year. You even gained more respect from me for giving a shout out to God and the Men and Women fighting overseas for your freedom in your acceptance speech. Will see you next year on Sunday’s. Perhaps a Redskin? In coaching news, Pittsburgh made a serious blunder in forcing Dave Wannstedt to “resign”. I felt that Mr. Wannstedt did a remarkable job with a program that will never be what it once was without its own facilities. Pitt's boosters have unrealistic expectations. Are we sure our boy Urban won’t change his mind again and send Brutus in waiting Will Muschump crawling back to Austin begging Caesar Brown for forgiveness? The proverbial "spend more time with your family” sounds like a good idea at the time until Mrs. Meyer has you filling your time with runs to Piggly Wiggly and carpool duties. Miami should look no further than Mike Leach as its next coach. With his contrarian image and ability to put up big points, he is the perfect fit at the U. Also, I will slit my wrists if I have to hear him announce one more game on CBS sports as his ability to commentate does not match his coaching genius.

Next week the Tailgate will attend its final game of the season at the Las Vegas Maaco Bowl with Boise State taking on the Utes of Utah. I will do one maybe two more blog entries this year and then go on my 8 month annual sabbatical. Unless of course something really interesting pops up to talk about like Lane Kiffin, Big Smo, Pete Carroll, Mark May, Craig James, Rich Rodriguez or any of the Tailgate’s other favorite people.

Happy Tailgating!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Week 14 Recap

Peggy is that you? Yezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…you inspire me! I am not too old to hunt you down boy or Mam. Like Peggy, I too seek inspiration after having no chance this year for the Irish to show in a major bowl and Boise’s loss a week ago relegating them to the sin city bowl and my wife’s Cow Chokes losing their shot at a BCS bowl. The good news is that there is still a lot of football to be watched over the next month. Personally the Tailgate has 2 more stops; The Army - Navy game in Philly next week and Boise’s bowl game in Las vegas. Now that the BCS picture is settled and all but one bowl means anything other than a few sheckles for the chosen ones here are more words of observation from week 14:

Best games of the weekend – Arizona pulling a Brotzman and losing to the Vontaze Burfict led ASU Sun Devils, The Sooners downing the Huskers in their last matchup ever as Big 12 foes advancing to the Fiesta Bowl, Ohio University upsetting NIU Friday night for the MAC crown and oh yeah that sham of a league champion Connecticut barely beating South Florida and advancing to a BCS bowl. I feel sorry for the Fiesta bowl hosting an 8-4 team….Really? Auburn and Oregon both won big after running the regular season gauntlets of their respective conferences. The right two teams will be playing for the title in the screwed up world of what is the BCS. I am looking forward to watching this one. Congratulations to VA Tech for ripping off 11 straight wins since the loss to Dolly Madison and winning the ACC ship over the Noles. Boise, nice rebound win…on all accounts a great season but with no playoffs it did not turn out the way it was planned. Fresno State knocked off Illinois in the Valley on Friday night in an exciting contest. USC won the knife fight in the parking lot as well as the cross town rivalry game against UCLA in the battle of the two most non controversial coaches in College football! SC this is college football, leave the gang banger crap at home! (I will miss taking shots at SC over the next 9 months)

Next week we will see Cam Newton accept the Heisman as the game’s best player. But let’s not forget the following players who also had fantastic seasons: Dennard Robinson, Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Mallet, Andrew Luck, La Michael James, Brandon Weedon, AJ Green, Justin Blackmon, Colin Kapernick, Andy Dalton, Terrelle Pryor, Ryan Broyles, Michael Floyd, Kellen Moore, Titus Young, Marcus Lattimore and Mark Ingram. Most forgettable seasons for Texas, Florida, USC, Miami, Tennessee, Clemson, The whole Big East. Top coaching honors to mike Gundy, Mark Dantonio, Chip Kelly, Jim Harbaugh, and Mike Sherman.

Gripe of the week – penalties on punt returns. If there ever was a single type of play to wager a sure thing bet on it would be on a punt. I would bet that 1 in 3 punt returns in college football this year have been flagged with a block in the back, clipping, holding or some other brain dead penalty. Don’t these guys rehearse this during the week that these infractions often nullify a great effort by the guy returning the punt? For whatever reason this year seems worse than ever. Maybe it is a factor of the personnel on the field during the returns, in that they are not players that would sniff the field otherwise. Regardless, if I were a coach I would threaten scholarship revocation to the next player that committed an egregious infraction during a punt return!

See some of you in Philly next week for Army- Navy. Make sure you tune into watch this as these two schools represent the true spirit of College football.

Happy Tailgating!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Week 13 Recap

Week 13 is college football fan’s dream weekend with many games on Friday and Saturday doubling the pleasure and doubling the fun. The Tailgate ventured up to Reno for the greatest game that city has ever witnessed. After scoring two choice tickets off of craigslist we loaded up the tailgate necessities and made the 4 hour trek over the snow covered Donner Pass (no we didn’t stop for a bite) and into the Reno Basin. We set up shop on the north side of campus and grilled up beer brats, bockwurst, corn on the cob and swilled cold MGD. The charcoal grill doubled as our homeless heater as temperatures were below freezing. The parking lots were littered with many Boise and Wolfpack fans. We chatted with Boise fans who made the trip down from Idaho. There was a certain energy in the air as Reno was bracing itself for the most important game it ever played. The stadium was rocking with fans from both teams chanting for their squads. It is one of the few college stadiums on campus that stills serve beer which may have added to the raucousness in the Wolfpack cathedral known as Mackay Stadium. Temperatures dropped to mid 20’s with a wind chill dropping it even lower.We all know now the outcome of the game and these were two excellent teams going toe to toe taking each other’s best shot. Nevada is no “little sisters of the poor”. They are a darn good team with one of the top 5 quarterbacks in the country in Colin Kapernick. In the end despite Brotzman’s best Ray Finkle impersonation missing the 26 year chip shot to win the game, Nevada was the better team that night and deserved to win. The loss strips away any chance of making the pilgrimage to Glendale this year let alone any BCS destination. It also damages Kellen Moore’s Heisman hopes even though he had a strong game and put his team in position to win the game. The fans in our section were courteous and respectful and grateful for the win. However there were a number of yahoos that I will address later. Nonetheless we left Reno with our spirits dampened but knowing this is what college football is all about.

The rest of the weekend provided us with some memorable games. The echoes are awoken and the Irish finally took down the Trojans after 8 straight losses to the men of Troy. I just wish Cheat Carroll was around to witness! Cam Newton secured his grip on the Heisman with an unbelievable come from behind victory over the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa. Oregon left no doubt in Eugene as to whom the #1 team in the country is this week. Bedlam in Stillwater was exactly that. If you did not watch the last few minutes of the game you missed some amazing football. The Cowboys again became Choklahoma State or the Cow Chokes (You choose) and bowed down to the superior Sooners again. The Big 12 is all knotted up at the top with three teams with one loss each. Of Course we will do the only logical thing and let the BCS decide which one ends up first and makes the trip to Pasadena. Jim Harbaugh coached his last game in Palo Alto in front of 25,000 empty seats. The Big House can guarantee Jim 110, 000 filled seats wearing maize and blue…and they will appreciate you. Coach Rich Rod is done holding the bag for you and will be moving on. Stanford fans that was despicable. You have the now # 3 or 4 team in the country and you show little interest! Michigan needs a Michigan Man, time to come home Captain Comeback. We say goodbye to Cal’s Memorial stadium as we know it as it begins its transformation into a more modern facility over the next 2 years with real bathrooms in case someone really needs to go while attending a game. Florida State chomped down on the Gators as they are now the kings of the sunshine state. Randy Shannon, it’s a shame that cleaning up an out of control program, graduating kids and having a winning record was not enough for the Miami fans…all 100 of them that showed up for your final game. You will be an asset to some other program. Did anyone notice Mack Brown asking the president to be pardoned on Thanksgiving Day before the A&M game? Does anyone care that the Big Least (BCS AQ)might be sending UConn with 4 losses to a BCS game? I am sure that game will have great TV ratings. I guess the turf in Little Rock did not taste so good to Les Miles on Saturday? And last to my Maryland friends, the Turtles were to be feared on Saturday with a convincing win over NC State at Byrd Stadium.

Gripe of the week – The classless and uniformed fans – I take this opportunity to call out two types of fans that I classify as Stains on the sheets of life. The first is the classless fan who has probably had more beer than the 2 they can handle, and probably does not even follow football closely but yet feels compelled to yell derogatory things at the opposing fans such as %&$#ing Boise you eat %$#@ your team sucks! Or the vertically challenged moron who taunted the dejected Boise defensive end on the field at the game by jumping up and down and screaming at him. I was hoping to see that scene turn into King Kong swatting away pesky little agitators. And then there is the uniformed fan who knows nothing of College football but feels compelled to send me text messages stating that my team sucks. You know who you are and you are coward who was probably out enjoying a day of black Friday shopping with the gals instead of manning up and attending a real football game. This is not indicative of the fans at Nevada, most were great. This kind of fan is at every game I have ever gone to. USC at last year’s Emerald Bowl had perhaps some of the worst fans. If you see this kind of fan, call him out, test his knowledge for the game, and then proceed to humiliate him in front of his friends, family children, etc..and expose him for the fraud that he is.

The Tailgate will be home bound next weekend in preparation for the big trip the following weekend to the Army Navy game in Philadelphia. It has been a great season so far and wouldn’t be fun if we had playoffs to look forward to? Did you say Playoffs? Playoffs! Are we talking about playoffs?Yes Jim Mora, we are talking playoffs.

Happy Tailgating!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Week 12 recap (The wet & cold weekend)

It was a wild weekend with many games decided in the final minutes, and we’ll talk about them in a few minutes. But first we must address the controversial issue of the Tailgate’s planned trifecta weekend. As fans all over the world now know and the blogosphere is abuzz, the trifecta became a deuce as the Tailgate was flagged for failing to convert for the three. After two night games in the great wet & cold Northwest, the executive committee of the Tailgate thought it more prudent to not take on the third game of the weekend in Provo, UT with a forecasted winter wonderland looming there. I come to you my readers on bended knee, humbled an begging for forgiveness for not being able to complete the feat. And if you can’t find it in your heart to forgive me..then the hell with you…at least I went to 2 games this weekend!

Game 1 was Thursday night in Seattle as the Washington Huskies took on UCLA in their Senior night in a stadium “Black Out”. Ever since the days when Don James paid for the best talent to come to UW I have been fascinated with their stadium. It is only 1 of 2 College Football Stadiums in the country where you can take the ferry to as it sits on Lake Washington. With the setting of boats moored outside the south end zone and Mt. Rainier looming in the background, it is perhaps one of the most beautiful settings in America for the world’s greatest game. But, being that it was a night game and in the rain, my visual sensories were limited to the confines of the interior of Husky Stadium. Although open ended and adorned with a track, it is perhaps one of the loudest stadiums I have been too. Great energy in the crowd which was aided by the Huskies thrashing the Bruins in a game where the referees had more yardage attributed to them then the Bruin Noffense. Final score UW 24 -7. No tailgating before the game as we were rushed to get to the game by kickoff. Tablegating after the game took place at Roasters Sports Bar in Burien, WA.

Game 2 took place Friday night in Boise, ID for the WAC rivalry of the BSU Broncos and the Fresno Bulldogs. Although the weather was foul, the Tailgate was game for a late afternoon of trunkgating and lot wandering. I rediscovered a true Mark May Fan Club sign (See above) and a Pig who never saw it coming (also see above). The fans were fired up for this rivalry game. Despite the weather, the game was sold out with a loud and thunderous fan base watching a dominating performance by the mighty Broncos. It was not only the 51 points they submitted to the scoreboard, it was the stifling defense that limited the Dogs to less than 150 total yards and no points. The Bronco’s were attired in a new all orange getup that seemed to work out well for them. The game was intended to be an orange out but with the temperature dropping to the 30’s it became a snuggie fest of all colors. The Tailgate was accompanied on the trip by brother “Radio” (He likes football) and Tailgate Tony from the Yard. As Tony summed it up best with 9 minutes left and the score 44 -0 and his toes and nose blackened with frost bite “Hey Dan, are you ready to go”? He relayed to me later that he was met with a cold stare as we remained to the bitter end (Pun intended). It was also great to see my daughter again and visit my favorite haunts in Boise.

Around the Diamond…I mean horn as 2 games were played in the cozy confines of Wrigley and the House that The Boss built. Illinois ran one way aplenty against a High IQ Northwestern squad that could not solve for Mr. Leshoure as he racked up 317 one way yards. The Irish out maneuvered a game Army Team and put up an in impenetrable front that Army could not breach. In other games, Oklahoma State and OU both won in convincing fashion as they gear up for the Bedlam showdown at T- Boone Stadium next weekend. College Gameday will be in Stillwater for that big showdown. Bo “The Nose” Pelini not only lost the game in College Station but lost his composure doing his best Bobby Knight impersonation and is being reprimanded by Dean Wormer. Stanford Axed the Golden Bears in a blowout in the Canyon. For the third time in a row, the Mighty Trojans fell in Corvallis to a fired up Beaver squad. Les Miles, you have lived your ninth life for the last time escaping with a win over a poor Ole Miss Squad led by Felonomious Masoli. The Mullets of Arkansas pulled a tight one out over the MSU Bulldogs. VA Tech has won 9 straight after the disastrous start to the season and have captured the ACC Coastal division crown with its beat down of the U! The Noles did not fear The Turtle and Shell lacked (hahaha) them in College park. The Big Ten is still all knotted up at the top as MSU and OSU escaped with wins at the end of the game and Wisconsin put up big numbers in The Big House. Nevada routed NMSU in a tune up for the big showdown with Boise next weekend. The Tailgate will be in attendance in Reno Friday night for the big battle.

Gripe of the week – I have been waiting for this one all season but with the Notre Dame/USC game next weekend the time is upon me to blast the biggest weasel to ever coach college football – I am speaking of one Cheat Carroll, AKA Pete the Weasel or Hollywood Pete formerly of USC. Yes Pete Carroll, you who benefited from Reggie Bush and all the other highly compensated players to grace the SC campus over the last decade. Yes the same Pete Carroll who claimed not to know that the hammer was about to fall and ran like a rat out of glue trap before he was stuck in it. You can blame Mike Garret, and there is some truth there, but your legacy is tarnished forever because you were the CEO of the mighty Trojan Juggernaut of the first decade of the 2000’s that turned out to be to good to be true. In my world, a real man will go down with his ship and be the last one off the battlefield. In your weasly world you were the first to run and now your program is headed for 40 years of wandering in the desert. You left your Joshua in charge, who is an easy target for the Tailgate based on his past transgressions. But none of Boy Lane’s activities compare to what you have done to a storied program. You are a weasel, a coward, a wuss, Pop from Rice Krispies, and a person that would run from battle. I would not want you backing me up in a bar room brawl because you would be hiding under a table in your skirt sipping your umbrella drink. I could never see someone like a Joe Pa, Bobby Bowden or Bear Bryant run like you did Forrest Carroll. I hope the Seattle fans ultimately see through your disguise and kick you to the curb Cheaty Boy!

RIP Rob Lytle, star RB of the Michigan Wolverines in the 70’s who passed away last night.

Next weekend the tailgate will make the drive up to Reno for the Boise – Nevada showdown. Should Boise win, there is no doubt they will pass TCU in the BCS. I also predict that Auburn will fall to Bama in the Iron Bowl.

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Tailgating!