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Little Donkey at AvondaleBricksGallery
Enjoy tapas from Little Donkey, Wine Tasting by Athens Imports, Art Exhibition Opening. $15. Friday, November 30, 5-9 p.m.
Visit us during the Avondale/Forest Park Holiday Crafts Bazaar at Avondale Bricks Gallery, 130 41st Street South in Avondale. Must be 21 for wine tasting.
Write email@example.com for more information or questions. Thank you for joining the Revolution in Avondale.
Recently, Alabama lost its first game since the 2008 Sugar Bowl, and first regular season since the 2007 Iron Bowl. After facing 2 top-10 teams in a row, the Tide had to travel to Columbia to face the No. 19 South Carolina Gamecocks. The Gamecocks are a talented, fast team coached by Steve Spurrier. The Ol’ Ball Coach always seems to have one really surprising win every season, and this was his day.
South Carolina came flying out of the gates, playing fast and aggressive, determined to hit the defending champs in the mouth and really make them work for every inch. The Gamecocks aggression paid off as they were able to establish an early lead, but more importantly, control the tone and tempo of the game.
On the hard, downhill running of Marcus Lattimore and the strength and athleticism of their tall receivers, South Carolina responded with an impressive drive resulting in the game’s first touchdown – a 9-yard slip screen to Lattimore from QB Stephen Garcia, using the Tide’s aggressive scheme to create an open lane to the endzone. South Carolina was able to get a stop and take the ball back down the field to score to establish their hold with a 14-3 1st quarter lead they never relinquished.
Quarterback Stephen Garcia, the oft-criticized QB, played the game of his life. He repeatedly found his big targets on the outside, mostly Tori Gurley and Alshon Jeffery, who had 7 catches for 127 yards and 2 TDs. Garcia ended up an incredibly efficient 17-20 for 201 yards and 3 TDs. He was steady, avoiding turnovers, and costly mistakes; well, almost avoiding them. He did have 1 interception. Plus, on the Gamecocks opening second-half drive, Garcia went chasing after a snap that sailed over his head towards the endzone. Garcia recovered the ball on the 4… and immediately deciding to throw the ball through the endzone and hit the crossbar of the goal post, resulting in a safety – 2 points for Alabama, plus the ball and the momentum – and left Coach Spurrier scratching his head. The South Carolina fans let out a collective groan and I’m pretty sure Whitesnake’s “Here We Go Again” was playing in the background.
But the South Carolina defense came up big again, holding the Tide to another field goal. This, plus the ‘Bama’s failed fake field goal with the game 28-21, sealed the victory for the Gamecocks.
This was South Carolina’s first ever victory over a No. 1 ranked team.
Two things really stood out to me watching this game: first, the play of QB Greg McElroy and second, the way South Carolina was able to out hustle and be more physical.
Greg McElroy put up pretty good numbers. He ended up throwing for 315 yards and 2 TDs. But something just looked off. He didn’t go all the way through his progressions many times. He looked slow to react to the Gamecocks pressure, often holding the ball far too long which resulted in a sack (7 sacks in total). When his first or second read was open, he delivered the ball confidently and accurately, but he just looked a little slower than normal processing the game. It reminded me a lot of former Auburn QB Brandon Cox, actually. It makes me wonder whether McElroy was totally over his head injury he sustained against the Florida defense last week. It wasn’t considered to be too severe, and he didn’t miss any action last week, but maybe there were some lingering effects.
For Coach Nick Saban, this was a very uncharacteristic performance by one of his teams – especially this team. They looked flat. They made far too many mistakes. They didn’t execute. But most surprisingly, they were pushed around the field. The play-calling, especially in the first half, was gruelingly conservative. Don’t get me wrong, Saban loves to pound it down your throat, but this was different. McElroy didn’t throw the ball further than 10 yards for most of the first half, which allowed the defense to overload the box to stop RBs Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. When Ingram and Richardson did run the ball, it seemed like it was either off-tackle right or off-tackle left. There didn’t seem to be any creativity or inspiration behind the play-calling, or the execution. After the game Saban said, “It's not like we just lost. They beat us. They out-executed us. They played better than we played. They played with more intensity. They played physical." Saban is now 1-3 against Spurrier, who, in true Steve Spurrier form, rewarded himself the gameball.
Life in the SEC finally caught up to the mighty Tide. Every week you face a team that is solid, well-coached (except LSU), fast, and can beat you. And every one of those teams is targeting the defending champs and giving them their best. An inexperienced defense and facing their third top 20 team in a row just wore down Alabama. It makes it a lot easy for David to topple Goliath if Goliath has just finished fighting two other giants. But you still have to execute and compete. South Carolina played a nearly flawless game. Just because Goliath was a little tired, doesn't mean David didn't hit it perfectly with his slingshot.
Congratulations Boise State, you basically beat Hoover High School 59-0 (actually, I’m not so sure Hoover wouldn’t beat New Mexico State). That’s the key here. The “marquee” team that they beat at the beginning of the season is a Virginia Tech team that lost the following week, at home, to James Madison. Scratch that one off your strength of schedule list Boise. Marquee win number 2? Oregon State.
Thanks to the magical wonderland, where double rainbows soar like a flock of seagulls, known as the interwebs, unimportant and nerdy people like me have access to a font of statistical analysis that allow us to sound far smarter than we really are. Let’s give a little head-to-head, anonymous comparison.
Overall FBS Rankings
Team 1: Passing – 29th (255.6 ypg); Rushing – 23rd (214.0 ypg); Scoring– 4th (44.6 ppg); Scoring Defense – 45th (21.4 ppg)
Team 2: Passing – 95th (173.8 ypg); Rushing – 27th (207.6 ypg); Scoring – 48th (31.0 ppg); Scoring defense – 54th (22.2 ppg)
Team 3: Passing – 87th (185.8 ypg); Rushing – 92nd (121.0 ypg); Scoring– 60th (27.8 ppg); Scoring Defense – 95th (30.8 ppg)
Team 4: Passing – 9th (301.2 ypg); Rushing – 56th (167.6 ypg); Scoring– 31st (34.6 ppg); Scoring Defense – 68th (24.4 ppg)
Both Oregon and Boise State have played, and beaten 2 of these teams. They are arguably each team’s best – in terms of impressing the pollsters – wins. One of these teams played Team 1 and Team 4, while the other played Team 2 and Team 3. Now remember, both teams won. But that’s pretty much where the similarities end. As you can tell, statistically speaking, the team that beat teams 1 and 4 has the far more impressive ‘impressive’ wins. Now let’s look head-to-head.
Team 5: Passing – 12th (297.8 ypg); Rushing – 18th (229.3 ypg); Scoring– 3rd (45.0 ppg); Scoring Defense – 15th (15.0 ppg)
Team 6: Passing – 42nd (238.2 ypg); Rushing – 2nd (331.0 ypg); Scoring– 1st (56.6 ppg); Scoring Defense – 15th (15.0 ppg)
Pretty close. Team 5 is definitely more balanced. But Team 6 is extremely far ahead of Team 1 in rushing as far as actual yards per game. Plus there are ahead in the two most important categories – points scored and points allowed.
Okay, enough for anonymity. It’s just confusing.
Team 1: Stanford
Team 2: Virginia Tech
Team 3: Oregon State
Team 4: Arizona State
Team 5: Boise State
Team 6: Oregon
Based on this raw data that I arbitrarily pulled out of mid-air (or ESPN.com), I can’t see how you would argue in favor of Boise State. Oregon has put up more impressive numbers against much better competition. I understand that Boise State can’t control Virginia Tech being overrated; when they scheduled them, it looked impressive. And they are stuck, for now, with their soft WAC schedule. But the fact still remains that Oregon has played and beaten teams week-in-and-week-out that are much stronger than anything on Boise’s schedule. And Oregon has basically scored a point for every minute that they’ve played this season. That’s pretty freaking cool.
Jumping Oregon over Boise isn’t so much a punishment for Boise State as it is a reward for Oregon. Does this mean the Boise State couldn’t beat Oregon? Of course not. If you remember, Boise actually beat Oregon in the first game of last season. But that’s just it. That was last season. And the only reason that Boise was ahead of Oregon anyway is due to an arbitrary preseason poll that was based upon what people thought would happen. The new polls are based upon what hashappened.
Which leads me to my real point. Get rid of preseason polls. They don’t do anything good. They build up hype, creating artificial scenarios where one team will get screwed and another will reap undo rewards.
So far it seems like the only teams that are living up to their ranking are Alabama and Ohio State. Alabama is definitely the number 1 team in the nation, and Ohio State looks like a very solid, impressive number 2.
The 2010 version of the Auburn Tigers certainly have their flaws. They certainly have their positives. You can watch the exact same game and offer them the highest praise, and in a matter of minutes, the strongest criticism. I have, and probably will continue to, criticize their defense, specifically coordinator Ted Roof, for their passive and reactive style, allowing for short, quick passes to turn into huge momentum-shifting plays. But one thing that is undeniable – the Tigers are exciting. Whether that is a good or bad thing is contingent on whom you ask. For one, it will be enthralling and entertaining. For another, stressful and nerve-racking to the point of breakdown. But the Tigers continue to win, which is the most important thing for life in the SEC. Every week, you will be tested, but you must learn how to respond and dig deep for those crucial moments that make or break games, and entire seasons.
Auburn’s last three games have been decided by 8 points or less, and all of the games coming down to the wire in the fourth quarter. The Tigers survived a strong fourth quarter push, including an aggressive and threatening final drive, from Mississippi State. Auburn returned home to face out-of-conference foe Clemson, in a nail biter so close, it left many fans with claw marks in their seats. The Tigers fought hard, but rode a wave of luck to beat the energetic and determined Tigers of Clemson on a missed field goal in OT.
Then the #12 South Carolina Gamecocks came calling to the plains, ready to establish themselves as the beasts of the East. It was a hard fought game again, with the Tigers trailing for most of it. Through some big plays, mostly by QB Cam Newton, the Auburn offense was able to rally and get some momentum in the second half. The Tigers were pulled ahead through the air, as Cam Newton threw two fourth quarter touchdowns – the first to Phillip Lutzenkirchen, which put Auburn ahead 28-27, and the second to Emory Blake that extended the lead to 35-27. The defense came up huge forcing four fourth quarter turnovers, which included intercepting QB Connor Shaw, who replaced starter Stephen Garcia, on consecutive drives to close out the game.
While it hasn’t been exceptionally pretty and leaves plenty of room for improvement, the Tigers have displayed many promising things on the field. The most important thing of all, of course, is the ability to win. These close games against some tough early season opponents will be crucial for the Tigers as they looked to push forward and prepare for the rest of a brutal SEC West schedule.
But this week, Ingram was back and healthy and ready to go. After being cleared to play, Coach Nick Saban placed Ingram back in his familiar spot as the starter. It didn’t take Ingram long to remind people why he is the starter and the defending Heisman winner. On his first carry, Ingram broke loose for a 48-yard run down the sideline. Granted he was running against Duke’s porous defense, but Ingram came out on fire. He eclipsed the 100-yard mark on his first three carries, busting a 50-yard run after his 48-yard first touch (there was a short run in between, but not nearly as fun).
On the day Ingram carried the ball 9 times for 151 yards, reaching the endzone twice. It looked like he was playing against high schoolers. He was simply too strong, too quick, and too fast for Duke’s defenders. The only one capable of stopping him on Saturday was Saban, who limited him to only 9 carries.
The final score was 62-13, Alabama winning in a landslide. This was the most points Alabama has scored in a single game since Zach Morris was ordering pizza during school with his backpack-sized cell phone (just shy of two decades). The champs and Ingram look impressive in the early going as they look to repeat.
In a statement released Thursday, Bush announced that his decision to return the award was not an admission of guilt or any wrong doing; rather, Bush stated that the decision was motivated out of his respect for the prestige of the award and its previous winners. Citing his recent negative publicity and association with the award, Bush told reporters that he didn’t want to tarnish the reputation of the award in any way. The media is creating the negative attention, guilty or not, so Bush respectfully walked away. At least this is his reasoning.
My question though is this: even if Bush is 100% guilty of the infraction(s) of which he is accused, should those affect his Heisman Trophy?
My personal answer is no. The Heisman Trophy is voted on by members of the media and the elite fraternity of previous winners and given to the player whom they see as the best player in the country based on his on-field performance. I think that is the key here. You can argue that Bush was ineligible – and you would be right to do so; however, that ruling was only made after the fact (5 years for goodness sake), and Bush did play that season. And based on his performance and his ability as one of the most exciting and dynamic college football players ever, he was awarded that year’s trophy. And the vote wasn’t even close. Bush won by a landslide over Texas QB Vince Young.
I think it is a much different argument for USC vacating their team’s championship and any wins in which Bush was playing. The team was using an NCAA ineligible player, in NCAA games, and won an NCAA championship. Bush, on the other, was not cheating personally. He wasn’t caught using any performance-enhancing drugs, or steroids, and using a jet pack, he simply excelled on the field through his own abilities. Plus, the Heisman Trophy is a privately awarded honor, and not directly affiliated with the NCAA. Bush really did play, and on the field, he didn’t cheat, for which the award was given to him.
Either way, what’s done is done. Some are saying that it is a mature move on Bush’s part. Perhaps they are right. I probably wouldn’t have given it up (that probably bodes well for Bush’s maturity). I do applaud the Heisman Trust’s decision to leave the 2005 award vacant, rather than passing in onto another person, presumably Vince Young. If one thing is for certain, he did not win it. Would Young have won it if Bush were not allowed to play that season? Probably. But he did. And he didn’t. I think the Trust got it right in 2005 (barring the National Championship game, and I blame that on Pete Carroll) and right again in 2010. Well done.
A.J. Green, star WR for the Georgia Bulldogs, has been declared ineligible by the NCAA for the next 3 games. For the Bulldogs, this means Saturday at (24) South Carolina, home against (14) Arkansas Sept. 18, and at Miss State on the 25th. Green was already held out of Georgia’s game against Louisiana-Lafayette this past Saturday – the Bulldogs won easily 55-7 – in wake of the NCAA’s investigation.
Green reportedly sold a jersey that he had previously worn during the Independence Bowl to an person who falls under the NCAA’s “definition for an agent” for an undisclosed amount, though it is reported that the sum was under $1,000 (that’s good news). Green has paid back the money to charity according to ESPN.com.
Green said in a statement: "I want to apologize to my coaches, teammates and the Georgia fans for the mistake in judgment […] I very much regret all that has taken place and the distraction that¹s been caused."
Georgia looks to move on and prepare to face its tough upcoming SEC schedule, though the school does plan to appeal.
Green is ranked 4th on Mel Kiper, Jr’s Big Board for the 2011 NFL draft.
The Auburn Tigers were back on the field for the first time on Saturday as they welcomed the Arkansas State Red Wolves to the Plains for a little tackle football. Electricity was in the air with the excitement and hope that comes with a new season. Tiger Walk was packed. The stadium was packed. It’s good to be back. As the eagle soared around the stadium (the greatest pregame ritual in the country in my humble opinion), goose bumps and voices soared with it. Pregame videos rocking. Music thumping. Band marching. Everyone was on the edge of their seat. It was finally time to put all those expectations to bed and start analyzing the results.
There was plenty for the Auburn faithful to be excited about. The offense looked explosive and exciting, piling on 52 points, 23 first downs, and a staggering 608 yards of total offense (367 on the ground). Freshman phenom Michael Dyer made his Jordan-Hare debut rushing for 95 yards on 14 carries.
Aairon Savage and Zac Etheridge both made triumphant returns from injury and getting back into the starting lineup. Savage has missed the passed two seasons with injuries – 2008 with a knee injury, then 2009 with a torn Achilles – but was awarded a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA and was back on the field and ready to go, racking up 7 tackles. Etheridge was carted off the field to end his season last year, but it was highly likely that it was the end of his career. Etheridge tore ligaments in his neck and crack a vertebra while colliding with defensive end Antonio Coleman during a tackle in the Ole Miss game last season. But Zac returned to practice and was cleared for contact a couple of weeks ago. He had 4 tackles in his return against Arkansas State.
The defense gave up 366 yards to the Red Wolves attack, 323 of those through the air. Arkansas State established sustained drives that were 10+ plays. They controlled the ball for much of the first quarter. The visiting Red Wolves were the first team to strike where it hurts – the scoreboard. Not exactly what the Tiger fans were hoping to see out of the revamped defense. The Tigers’ only prevented Louisiana Tech from scoring 20+ points last season. No such luck here. The Red Wolves put 26 on the board.
Ted Roof is not an SEC caliber coordinator in my opinion. Given the speed and talent of the Auburn defense, the consistent lack of results is troubling. The Tigers finally have something they didn’t have last year as well – depth. Granted a lot of it is young talent, there is still talent in the depth chart. Experience in the starting lineup, and talented youth in the depth chart. Tough combo to beat… unless you’re the opposing offense it seems.
Roof’s zone defense is soft and reactive. The Tigers almost never blitz. And when they do, it’s usually only one extra person. The corners consistently play 10 yards off the ball. The linebackers drop deep. This leaves gaping holes in the flats and underneath across the middle. Rather than utilize the speed of the secondary and running tight man defense to force bad throws, or the speed of the linebackers and run zone blitzes, Roof runs this weird mini-prevent. Which as my pop says, all it does is prevent you from winning. It’s a bend-but-don’t-break defense that bends all the way to the endzone. Arkansas State consistently attacked the lack of coverage on the slot receivers by running little bubble screens and quick hits to get their receivers the ball in space, allowing them to pick up 6 or 7 yards at a time.
Roof is slow to make adjustments. It took him an entire half to adjust the linebackers to get out onto the slot receivers and pull in the corners tighter. I can’t understand why it would be so hard to see that what you are doing isn’t working and adjust. It cost Auburn many games last year, including the Iron Bowl. Alabama simply ran two plays down the field on their game-winning drive – a 7-yard hook route to Julio Jones and a swing pass to Trent Richardson.
But there is light on the horizon for the Auburn faithful. QB Cam Newton shined in his debut. He was crisp throwing the ball, and when the opportunity presented himself, Newton tucked the ball and gained positive yards – a lot of it. Newton finished the day 9-14 for 186 and 3 touchdowns passing, and 171 yards on 15 carries plus another 2 touchdowns on the ground. He looked composed and confident in the pocket, and elusive out of it. The thing that impressed me most was even when Newton was scrambling, he still had his head up looking downfield for a target. Once he decided to tuck it though, he was off. His release is quick. His pass was accurate. His arm is big. Incredibly quick for a man his size, Newton will be a tough man to sack for opposing defenses. Good start to the season for Newton and the Auburn offense. They’re gonna need it.
College Football season is officially here!
I knew it was football season once again when I turned my television to ESPN at 6 pm sharp and saw Lou Holtz’s beautiful, wrinkly, potentially fake-tanned, definitely covered in makeup, smiling face. Oh how I love thee, Lou Holtz. Let me count the ways. Basically, it starts with his slurring and spattering voice that is only slightly harder to understand than the actual words coming out of his mouth. Somewhere admist the “thuffering thuckatashes,” there are supposedly nuggets of football wisdom, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out what they are. But for some reason, that crazy old coot is music to my ears. And that reason is: College Football has finally arrived!!!
No more previews, overviews, reviews, topviews, sideviews, insider views, nor any other views matter now. It’s all about what you do – more specifically, what you do on the field. And there were teams doing just that last night. For the first time in far too long real, live college football was on my television, and in my heart. Sigh.
South Carolina and Southern Miss kicked things off (for me at least). Steve Spurrier had his little, uh, Gamecocks out in full force. Southern Miss was overmatched. Stephen Garcia finally started living up to some of his potential, scoring the game’s first touchdown after a hard, athletic run. Marcus Lattimore, highly touted recruit, burst on the scene with an impressive display of power and speed. After a slow start out of the gate, South Carolina really turned up the heat. The final score was an embarrassing 41-13.
UAB lost a heartbreaker 32-31 at home against Florida Atlantic. The Owls blocked a potential game-winning field goal by the Blazers to end the game. Just brutal. But there was at least one bright spot for the Blazers: David Isabelle rushed for a school record (for a QB) 214 yards, scoring 3 times. Unfortunately he only completed 9 of his 19 passes for a measly 79 yards, 1 TD, and 1 Int (which also was caught for a TD). And so it goes.
Ohio State and Miami (FL) both put on impressive displays in their season openers. Ohio State silenced the Thundering Herd from Marshall 45-7 on the back off early season Heisman favorite Tyrrell Pryor. Miami shutout in-state foe Florida A&M 45-0. Jacory Harris is also making an early case for himself in the Heisman race. Every game counts these days. Both Pryor and Harris tossed 3 TDs.
Utah and Pitt brought us our first OT action of the year…on the very first day! Utah controlled the action for most of the game, but the steely Panthers from Pitt clawed their way back into the game, refusing to quit. With 3 seconds left on the clock, Pitt set up for a game-tying field goal to send it to OT. It’s up, and it’s good… oh wait, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham pulled a Bush League move and called timeout right before the ball was snapped. Replay. They set up again. It’s up, and it’s no good! Utah wins … oh wait, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham pulled a Bush League move and called timeout right before the ball was snapped. Great, Utah still has one more timeout. Are they gonna use it again? Nope. This time the kick is good and it counts. OT. Utah wins the toss and elects to go on defense first. Wise Choice. First play – interception. Utah runs it up the middle a few times and kicks a field goal (sans Time Out shenanigans) to win.
USC vs. Hawaii (who was basically representing the rest of the world). Lane Kiffin’s first game as USC tyrant, I mean, head coach. The Trojans are limited to just 70 scholarship players this season due to the majority of the players being financed by the booster clubs. Lane Kiffin held the team out of contact for the majority of fall practice to prevent injury, and some rustiness definitely showed. Trojan defenders missed many a tackle on the shifty, speedy receivers of Hawaii. But USC still had a ton of top end talent, which proved to be the difference. QB Matt Barkley looked sharp, finding new favorite target WR Ronald Johnson for 3 TDs, plus another 2 more (that’s 5 total, not too shabby). But what really caught my attention was how Lane Kiffin went out of his way to change the perception of USC. I know it’s been a bit of a dark spot for you USC, but never fear, Lane Kiffin? is here. It didn’t take Lane very long to let us know the new face of USC football. Pretty much the same arrogant, cocky, meany-pants approach as before. Kiffin decided to go for 2 on his first three touchdowns. Me being wildly optimistic I thought, “Well, maybe they don’t have a scholarship kicker right now…or any kicker.” But no, on the fourth TD, they brought in the kicking team and the kicker blasted it through the middle of the uprights. Nope. Lane Kiffin’s just a schmuck.
Well, shenanigans and hi-jinx certainly ensued, but nothing was great enough to distract me from the glorious news that college football had returned and all (almost) is well with the world.
Here’s to a great year. Cheers!
“Mark will definitely be out for this week’s game against San Jose State and we will manage this on a week to week basis beyond this week. We will make every decision in the future based on what’s best for Mark and his career as we consult with Dr. Cain and Dr. Andrews on his progress. This is not an injury that will affect Mark’s future ability to make a full recovery in a relatively short time frame.”
The team is probably hoping that the relatively short time frame will mean Ingram is ready for the second game when #19 Penn State comes to Tuscaloosa. It sounds like Ingram’s injury might be a little more severe if it required two opinions.
But there is good news for the Crimson Tide. Sophomore Trent Richardson is ready to take the bulk of the snaps. Richardson was scheduled to split a lot of carries with Ingram anyway this season. As good as Ingram is and his 2009 season was, many are saying that Richardson could be more explosive and a touch more talented. Must be nice to lose your Heisman-winning running back (even for just one game potentially) and not really have to sweat it. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that San Jose State is coming to town.
But will this hurt – or even kill – Ingram’s chances of repeating as Heisman winner?
I believe so. The offense will plug in Richardson. McElroy will take on a little more responsibility. Even though it might only be for one game, there is no guarantee that Ingram won’t be out longer. He’s already prepared to share the carries and split time with Richardson. A porous San Jose State defense might have been just the thing to get some early padded stats. Not to mention that as the returning winner, Ingram will have to really wow the voters. Anything less than a more spectacular season is likely to be viewed as a disappointment for the voters.
As they say, only time will tell.
So this isn’t exactly a local story, but I think that the message hits home in a very real way. There are few things that are more important to people in the South than high school football and religion. Some would say that football becomes religion to many people. We attend weekly services – sometimes two or three times a week (kids in high school, college football a must, and pro football because there isn’t much else to do on Sunday, once church is over of course) - we say many prayers, and even throw up Hail Marys. I believe a wise man once said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” I don’t know what the hell it means either, but I’m guessing it has something to do with where you spend your time and energy, that’s what you care about most. Seems simple.
Well, if most of us are being honest, football wins almost every round versus church. Church might win when we tell other people what’s most important, but how often do we decide not to go to church this week because we went out of town for the game, or it was on too late? I say this, not to have a sermon or tell you to go to church, but rather to put into perspective the power of passion and the hold that football has in our lives. We sacrifice a lot for the things we love, and football is no different.
Family vacations, school, youth group, all kinds of things are shuffled around for football. It is important. But God will always be king in the South. Perhaps for no other reason than we don’t want to admit otherwise. Easter and Christmas will always, always win out over any and everything. Church mission trips are viable excuses for getting out of most anything. “Sorry Coach, I’ve got to circumcise orphans in the Philippines” (cheers Timmy) can get you out of the hot sun and those dreaded two-a-days, no questions asked. Well, unless you’re coach is a heathen who only cares about football … and is willing to say it out loud. But what if it could work the other way? What if football could help you practice your faith? What if we didn’t have to choose?
Dearborn High School in Dearborn, Michigan, a predominantly Muslim Detroit suburb, has arranged its football practices around the holy month of Ramadan. Ramadan is a month of fasting for Muslims. From sunrise to sunset, Muslims cannot eat or drink. Now I’m no doctor, but it seems like those two things would be kind of important for someone trying to play football, water especially. Never fear, there’s always a solution.
Dearborn High School is holding its practices from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. Players are allowed to drink water to their hearts’ content, and grab a granola bar for a little snack. That is something they wouldn’t be able to do in just a few short hours. While practically they needed it for the still grueling practice, they need it for the day to come as well. Avoiding the August heat didn’t hurt either. Ramadan fell during two-a-days this season, something that would have been nearly impossible to achieve with the majority of its players unable to drink or eat.
Dearborn is a highly competitive in the Michigan football world, often competing for the state championship. The team is coming off of a one-loss season, falling just short of the state title. Head coach Fouad Zaban, a former player at Dearborn and a Muslim himself, came up with the idea to avoid sacrificing the two things that mattered most to himself, the players, and most of the community – faith and football.
In an incredible moment of symbiosis, a compromise that avoided sacrificing either actually turned out to strengthen both. Observe holy month? Check. Practice football? Check. Not pass out and die while doing either? Check.
Coach Zaban made it clear that he never forced anyone to fast or even raised the issue; rather it was a compromise born out of necessity – the 95% who do fast. And let’s face it, practicing late at night sure beats practicing in the middle of the Alabama heat. Give me a little sleep deprivation over heat exhaustion any day.
Two-a-days: where faith and football meet. Cheers!