The Best Block of His Life

The skinny high school junior jogged to the line of scrimmage by himself like always. The center always went first to show the rest of the team where to line up. When the defense got into formation, he checked to see where the nose tackle was like he had done every snap of the game. It was mid-way through the third quarter, but the coach had drilled the habit into him over and over again during practice. Sure enough, the Central High School football team had finally lined up in the ON formation.

The skinny center looked left and right as he bent over to snap the ball and shouted “ON, ON” to both sides. He was so excited he shouted loud enough for the 500 or so fans sitting in the home team bleachers to hear him.

This was the moment the whole team had been waiting for. They had a special play designed for this formation. The head coach had seen a mismatch as he was watching Central on film he hoped his team could exploit.

That advantage was the home team had a better than average running back. The problem was the rest of the team had to work hard to reach the level of average. Including the skinny center. The coach knew this but thought if he could keep his team of average kids who didn’t know they were average in the game, they could bust a long run on the special play.

But could they hold on until then? When the visiting team finally showed the “ON” defensive formation would they be too far ahead for it to matter? The answer to turned out to be nope. Somehow, the home team was only behind 10-7.

The average guys on defense were hitting anything that moved wearing a white jersey. Especially the little 5’ 9” fire hydrant of a nose guard. Besides being fearless, he was also the dirtiest player on the team. He taped small metal plates to the top of his hands and then covered them with pads. All night long he would fire off the ball at the opposing offensive lineman by swinging his arm up as hard as possible. From time to time the lineman would get lazy and the metal plate covered hand would connect with a chin protected only by a plastic and cloth chinstrap. It wasn’t hard to tell when it happened because the lineman would be too busy rubbing his chin to block and the little pit bull would make the tackle in the backfield.

Now they had their chance. While the center was shouting “ON” to the lineman, the QB was yelling the same to the backfield. “Set-go” shouted the QB and the center snapped the ball then pivoted to his left. The left guard and tackle both took one step forward then stepped to their right. The center tracked down the line in the spaces where those two used to be. The defensive tackle, a great player who had been wreaking havoc all night, never saw the center coming. He thought the offensive tackle was tired of blocking and decided to take a play off, which in all likelihood, meant the play was going the other way. So he took a step to his left, which put him right in the path of the skinny center. At that moment the skinny center coiled his 175 lbs and caught the defensive tackle square in the side of his ribs. A textbook shoulder block. The block was so intense, the skinny center lifted the tackle off his feet. In football it’s called a de-cleater.

The tailback saw all of this happening and then a hole you could drive a truck through opened in the line as the offense guard and tackle took out the linebacker and other defensive lineman. The last thing the skinny center saw was the back of the tailback’s jersey as he ran untouched for a 40 yard touchdown. Now the score was 14-10 for the good guys.

But life isn’t a movie with a fairytale ending. The underdog doesn’t always win and they didn’t win that night. The visitors pulled out a win 17-14.

As the skinny center sat at his locker undressing after the game, he had the satisfaction of knowing he had thrown the best block of his life.

The Best Block of His Life

The Base Hit

It was the bottom of the last inning. Two outs, runners on second and third. Score was tied. All the home team needed was a base hit to win the game.

Seconds before you could hear the crickets chirping in the mid-summer night air as the batter walked up to the plate, then as if on cue, the crowd on both sides were on their feet.

The home team fans shouting words of encouragement to the batter, “You can do it” “Wait for your pitch!” “Just get the bat on the ball!”

The visiting team fans wanted to see their pitcher bring the heat “no batter, no batter” “Throw strikes, he can’t hit them!”

Nobody knows for sure but it looked like the batter and pitcher were barely breathing. The pressure on two nine-year-olds was immense.

The batter’s dad was coaching first base and didn’t know if could stand to watch his son under such pressure. His only thought was “please dear Lord, don’t let him strike out”.

The head coach shouted “Time blue” from his spot down the third base line. “Come here, son” he said as he walked towards his player.

“Oh great” thought the batter “Guess he’s gonna yell at me one more time about watching the ball and not leaving the bat on my shoulder”.

The coach was not what anyone would call touchy-feely. He was the kind of coach who would chew the team out after they played a near flawless game. Hugs and atta-boys were not part of his coaching philosophy.

But for some reason the coach went against the grain as he bent down so the batter could hear. In that moment the coach decided he was talking to a nine-year-old boy who was so nervous he couldn’t spit, instead of a baseball player.

The first word out of his mouth was “Breathe”.

The player was so startled he didn’t know what to do.

For a second time the coach said “Breathe”.

Like any good player, he followed instructions.

After a couple of deep breaths the coach asked “have you been giving me your best the whole game?”

“Yes sir coach” was the reply.

“Then all I expect out of you right now is your best. And remember, we lose as a team and we win as team. Together.”

A visible look of relief came over the boy’s face as he strode back to the plate. He dug in and waited for the first pitch.

“Strike One!” shouted the umpire to a pitch that was right down the middle.

The batter looked over at his dad who winked at him and said “you just saw his best pitch.”

The player stepped back in the batter box for pitch number two. “Ball, outside” was the call.

The sense of calm the player felt was so unusual it almost frightened him as he stepped out of the box to adjust his gloves.

Pitch 3 “Ball, too high”

The count was now 1 and 2 which meant the pressure had shifted back to the pitcher.

In a stunning display of wisdom, the batter thought the pitcher would go back to the fast ball. Sure enough it was right down the middle.

The batter swung his bat for the first time. Ding went the aluminium bat and the ball lifted in high in the night sky.

The home team dugout started shouting “it’s gone!” but because of their angle they didn’t see the ball drifting outside the right field line into foul territory.

The umpire shouted “Foul Ball!” and the home team groaned while the visitors started breathing again.

Now the count was 2-2.

Before the first pitch, the batter’s mom could not take the suspense and instead of cheering from her seat, she was pacing behind the bleachers. She ran to look when she heard the ding of the bat but was now back to pacing.

For pitch number 5 the pitcher did what all nine-year-old baseball players do, he went with what he was comfortable with. Another fastball down the middle.

This time the batter was ready. Aluminum met cowhide and the ball screamed by the second baseman into right field. Basehit. Runner Scores. Game over.

As the batter ran through the bag at first like he’d been taught, his dad, a man not known for outward displays of emotion, picked his son up in a hug and spun him around. Why? Because the dad understood that something even more important than winning a game had happened. His son had come through under pressure. His nine-year-old boy had taken a giant step towards manhood.

 

The Base Hit

Things That Tick Me Off

I was staring at my screen deciding what to write about today. Actually I’ve already written 500 words but because of certain circumstances I won’t post it until mid-April. Anyway, my cell phone started playing the MASH ringtone I use and I looked down at the caller ID and it read “Unknown”. For some reason I went brain dead and answered the call even though I never do for numbers I don’t recognize.

Sure enough it was a sales call from a guy and without a doubt english is his second language, maybe third. I cut him off and told him to put me on his do not call list.

It ticked me off more than normal because I’ve been getting a rash of marketing calls the last few days. I registered two domains for a new business over the weekend but didn’t pay the upcharge to mask my info on the whois page. The spammers were on me like a great white shark going after chum. So it’s partly my fault. But still.

Since I’m already ticked off, this seems like as good a time as any to go through a list of other things that tick me off.

People who do not use a turn signal

Driving 45 in the left lane of the interstate

Anybody chewing gum while running a cash register

Morning TV news shows who tease the one segment you want to see saying “coming up next” for hours.

“B” grade christian movies

Cheesy sayings on church signs, ex- God answers kneemail

People with 18 items in the express lane at Publix

CBS sports turning a college football game into a 4 hour marathon

Verne Lunquist not knowing he’s in Tuscaloosa Alabama and not Fayetville Arkansas (I know he retired, but still)

Filling out the same information on 3 different forms at the Doctor’s office

Taxes

Drummers who can’t keep tempo

Any fast food place who’s employees aren’t as friendly and efficient as those at Chicfila

Live sound engineers that have the band so hot in the mix, you can’t hear the singer

Football coaches who won’t run the dang ball

Preachers who preach two good sermons when he was only supposed to do one.

Preaches who try to sneak in another sermon during his closing prayer

Committees (my favorite joke about committees; do you know what a camel is? A horse designed by a committee. <rim shot>)

People who can’t park the giant pickup or SUV they insist on driving

The price of student parking passes at the University of Alabama (it’s a long story and I’m still bitter)

Paying $5 bucks for a bottle of water anywhere

NASCAR ever since they made all the cars look the same

Stand up comedians who aren’t funny and try to compensate by seeing how many F-bombs they can drop

Reality TV

Bandwagon fans

Fans who complain about a college football coach making millions per year but pay $500 per seat for the privilege of paying $750 for a season ticket. Don’t they see the irony?

Speed traps

Complainers

There, I feel better.

 

Things That Tick Me Off

April 3, 1974: A New Normal

April 3 1974 started off like any other Spring day in North Alabama. I got up and went to Miss Rochelle’s 4th grade class at East Limestone Elementary. The day was so ordinary in fact, I don’t remember anything before 5pm.

I guess I hung out with both David’s and Rapeh during recess. More than likely I enjoyed Alabama History more than cursive writing. Miss Rochelle most likely scared the crap out of me at some point because she managed to do it at least once a day. The only thing I know for sure is what I had for lunch, a peanut butter sandwich. How do I know? That’s what I had every day for 12 years.

I got home from school sometime after 3 and sat down to watch afternoon TV. I don’t remember what I was watching but I do remember Adrian Gibson, the channel 31 weatherman breaking in with a special bulletin. I was nine so my only concern was how soon he’d stop talking so I could watch more TV before we left for church. He said something about a tornado hitting Guin Alabama. I had no idea where Guin was, but Mom and Dad didn’t seem too worried so I wasn’t either.

That’s the last image I ever saw on that TV. Dad turned it off and we walked out the door headed for the First Baptist Church of Athens Alabama. Come to think of it, that’s the last time I ever saw that house.

Baptist love going to church. Sunday School, Sunday Morning Service, then back that afternoon for Training Union, Sunday Evening Service, Wednesday night kid’s choir practice then RA’s. We didn’t miss any of them. If the door was open, we were there. That’s why I left my house for the last time even though I didn’t know it was the last time, on April 3, 1974.

That day/night turned out to be one of the two deadliest tornado outbreaks in US History. Because this was pre-twitter, pre-facebook, and pre DOPLR radar, we didn’t know how severe the storms were.

The next memory I have after Adrian Gibson is someone breaking into kids’ choir practice telling us to get to the basement. This had never happened before but I wasn’t scared. I was happy for the escape from kids choir practice. No nine-year old boy wants to sing. At all.

The rest of the night is a blur. At some point my parents scooped me up and we went to spend the night with friends. I didn’t know why but I didn’t really care.

The next morning my mom told me what had happened. Our house had been destroyed by a direct hit from a F5 tornado. But a nine year old can’t process that kind of information, my house was gone? It didn’t become real to me until we were driving to where my house was supposed to be. We topped the hill on hwy 72 and the only thing left were my house was the night before were piles of rubble and two giant Oak trees laid over like toothpicks.

We didn’t use words like this back then, but at that moment I was living in a new normal.

April 3, 1974: A New Normal

Do You Have The Nerve to Change Your Course to the Good Life?

Don’t be afraid to change course. Even if you declared your present course “the one”. Even though you invested lots of money, time and energy developing your course. You read books, consulted with your mentors and allowed yourself to dream bigger than normal. When the course was set you were out of your comfort zone headed for places you’d only heard of.

Most of the time all of the work you put in beforehand means you can stay on the course for a long time. Maybe a slight mid-course correction but nothing is changing the ultimate destination. Like driving from Jacksonville Florida to LA on I-10. You might have to take a temporary detour due to construction or an accident, but the destination is not changing.

But what would you do if you got a call or text inviting you to aa once in a lifetime event in Seattle? Would you stubbornly stick to your course because you’ve got too much invested or are afraid your friends and family will call you “flaky” if you change? Are you the type of guy who would blow off a chance at the Best because you’d rather stay with a for sure Good?

Humans are creatures of habit and we don’t like to be ridiculed. A dangerous combination. Mix the two together and you get men who are paralyzed by the status quo. Good job, good life, good house, good wife, good kids. Just good.

There’s nothing wrong with good UNLESS it keeps you from going for Great. Steve Jobs went for great. Bill Gates went for great. Tom Brady goes for great. Nick Saban goes for great. Steve Jobs could have stopped when he got a job at Atari. Bill Gates could have finished school at Harvard. Tom Brady could have been content to hold a clipboard for Drew Bledsoe. Nick Saban could have remained an assistant coach.

All these guys had something to lose when they decided to change course. But look at the payoff because they took the chance.

Most of you have already come up with the question you should be asking “how to know when a course change is pointing a guy towards the best?”  Great question because the little voice telling you to change course could be last night’s pizza talking.

The answer is there is no easy answer. No formula to plug in a a few numbers and the answer pops out. You have to go back to the beginning and evaluate the possible course the same way you evaluated your current course.

Like i wrote in the second paragraph.

You invest lots of money, time and energy evaluating the new course. You read books, talk to mentors and dream bigger dreams. One good indicator is if the new course moves you even further out of your comfort zones and points to places you’ve never even heard of.

One confirmation point I do believe in is you don’t care what your friends or family say. They can call you flaky all they want because you have an inner peace about your decision.

Are your struggling with changing courses?

Do You Have The Nerve to Change Your Course to the Good Life?

Men and Women ARE Different

People are hilarious. It’s amazing what we can be convinced of. Did you know people still believe:

  1. NASA faked all six moon landings
  2. Airplanes didn’t crash into the Twin Towers
  3. Elvis faked his own death

There’s no getting away from the fact that once certain people believe a “fact”, there’s no changing their mind. In the South we say they are hanging on like “a hair on a biscuit”.

My favorite myth people believe is that men and women are the same.

Seriously? How can any human with an IQ above room temperature believe women and men are the same? Men and women are different. Not just anatomically but in every other way.

If you’re one of those folks, here are a differences science and medicine have proven between men and women.

Women navigate using landmarks, men navigate using directions and distances.

Tell a lady to turn right at the Chickfila and she’s good. But you’d need to tell a man “go 3 miles and turn north.”

We’re on different schedules

Around the age of 12, testosterone receptors reset boys’ internal clock. He will stay up about an hour later than girls his age.

Our friendships are different

Most women have many friendships which act like an extensive emotional support network. A man’s friendships are different; they revolve around common interests, activities, competition and work.

Men and Women Don’t See the Same Way

Women have roughly 180 degrees of peripheral vision while men have better long range vision. This means women can see the entire contents of the refrigerator without moving her head but a man is a better driver at night.

So Many Words

Avg woman speaks 20k words a day, the avg man speaks 7k words a day. Enough said.

Sleep Behavior

When a man is in the deepest part of his sleep cycle, 70% of his brain shuts down. When a woman is the deepest part of her sleep cycle, 90% of her brain is still active

Skin and Touch

A woman’s skin is 10 times more sensitive than a man’s skin. Which is why ladies like to cuddle, touch or hug

He’s Not Ignoring When He’s Reading

When a man is reading he is virtually deaf. The reason is he must turn off the hearing part of his brain to activate the reading part. Think of it as when men leave one room they close the door, THEN they open the door to another room. A woman can have all the doors in her brain open at the same time.

You and your wife are different. Many of what you consider to be her weaknesses aren’t weaknesses at all. She’s not wired to be good at the same stuff as you. Thank goodness her strengths are where you are weak. A lot of your arguments are over behavior she can’t change. Same goes for you, she needs to stop getting mad at you because you can’t find the butter in the fridge!  

Celebrate the fact you married your opposite. Quit fighting and praise God for it.

 

Men and Women ARE Different

Free Writing

They say when you don’t know what to write, just put your fingers on the keyboard and start typing. Free Writing is the official title.

Free writing is weird. Who in their right mind would just start hitting the keys on a keyboard? After a few minutes wouldn’t you see line after a line of asdfjkl; asdfjkl; asdfjkl;? That’s what I thought the first time I heard about free writing.

But it turns out the human brain can work on it’s own. It’s like a crawler running at the bottom of the tv screen. No matter what is showing on the main picture, the crawler just keeps going and going. That’s what running somewhere in my brain. A stream of words making up of streams of thoughts that eventually make up sem-coherent ideas.

I don’t understand it but I do know it works. This post is proof.

I was talking with my oldest child yesterday about my project to become a writer. She has undergraduate and graduate degrees in English. She’s taught freshman english while in grad school and now she’s an editor for a publishing company. Her point of view and opinion means a lot to me because I know she knows what’s she’s talking about.

We were talking about the light bulb moment we both had when we realized writing is a skill that could be developed instead of mystical power a few lucky souls possessed. To show how much smarter she is than me all you have to know is she figured that out at 22 and I got it at 52. I guess I do feel a little better knowing her students didn’t believe it either.

She tried to introduce the freshman in her class to power of free writing and the way it can free up a locked-up brain. I wish I had known about free writing when I was taking English 101 and 102 as a college freshman. But you know what, either of my professors could have told us about it but I was trying to decide if I should leave at the break and go hang out with my buddy who lived next to the English building and didn’t hear them.

All I remember about those two classes is staring down at a blank sheet in college-ruled spiral notebook trying to come up with something to write. I was in college just after the end of the dark ages and we still used dead trees and pens to write papers. The challenge was we wrote some sort of paper every class. Persuasive, informative, Narrative and the dreaded 5-paragraph paper. The professor would teach for what seemed like 30 seconds then give us the rest of the class to writer the paper.

This was a cruel joke on those of us who wrote slowly and poorly because you were free to go after you turned in your paper. What 18 year old freshman dude can write while watching people leave after 20 minutes and all you’ve got is your name, date, class number and name of the professor. Now that I know about free writing I’m a little bitter because I missed out on some great parties sitting in class way longer than I needed to.

Look at that, I started typing with no idea of what I was going to write about and now I’ve 560 pretty decent words. The next time you’re stuck try free writing. You’ll be amazed at the results.

Free Writing