Tag Archives: Arkansas

Returning with …

Returning with Some Random Thoughts

So I guess I should start out with an apology for not updating this blog over the last three or four months. Last semester got really crazy and pretty much stayed that way, and then the Christmas holiday travel and gift-shopping schedule took over, and then I had to prepare for this semester. In short, I’ve been swamped. I got very little done on my ongoing projects, including this blog. But I’m trying to start off this semester on a better note. I’ve been working on my young adult novel and have finished first drafts of two other projects. I continue to submit finished works to various places. And I’ve got a comic-book project percolating at the moment. As for this blog, I will do my best to update regularly, though when the grading crunch arrives, I’ll probably have to take some time off. Sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day.

As a way of reconnecting to all my faithful readers (all three of you), I thought I’d return to this blog with some random thoughts on things that have happened since the last update.

The Political Circus

In no particular order:

1)      I support the Occupy movement. It’s good to see Americans returning to their roots as protestors, dissenters, and activists. Naturally, the mainstream media’s dismissal of the now-worldwide movement was both expected and disheartening, but it’s done very little to stem the tide of the movement. Keep on occupying, folks. When they try to dismiss you as if you don’t matter, you know you’ve at least gotten their attention.

 2)      I have stated before that many Republicans seem to have gone functionally insane in the post-9/11 world, but this latest round of–*ahem*–“candidates” should make any thinking Republican shudder with fear and contempt. As they all scramble to take ever more reactionary positions in order to appease the fringe nutjobs, they get more and more laughable yet dangerous. Is the moderate Republican (and no, I don’t count Romney in that bunch after some of the things he’s said) really extinct? I hope not.

 3)      Barack Obama should have this election sewn up since the right can’t find anybody even remotely appealing to run against him. I’ve got mixed feelings. As an Independent, I have no particular loyalties to the Democrats, though the ever-more-radically-conservative Republicans present no candidates I could stomach voting for. That pretty much leaves the Democrats, since this country has no viable party beyond those two. It’s a damn shame, because we should be able to choose the best candidate, not the less-crappy one. As for Obama himself, I like a lot of what he’s done—ending the Iraq war and DADT, passing some semblance of health care reform, and so forth. But I’m troubled by other things he’s done or failed to do. He hasn’t addressed true financial reform; you can’t do that and still leave the same guys that got us into this mess in charge. I didn’t like the compromises in the health care bill, especially the lack of a public option. Some sources claim we’re the only first-world country without universal health care. If that’s even remotely possible, we’re not whom we claim to be as a people. And we still need to address LGBT and women’s rights, especially given how they’ve come under fire from the Republican candidates. Those are just a few of the actions and positions that please or disturb me, but I hope they demonstrate my concerns with the country’s directions. We’re much more on track now than we were under that jackass Bush, but we’ve still got a long way to go, and too many people still want to live in 1830, not 2012. I hope the President and his party gets off the fence and start addressing more of those issues.

Mixed Martial Arts

1)      I truly think that Shogun Rua vs. Dan Henderson was the best fight I’ve ever seen, but the end result was wrong. The fight should have been scored a draw, and I can’t believe that not even one judge saw it that way. Under the current scoring system, the winner of a round gets ten points, the loser nine or less. Judges are supposed to score rounds 10-8 or below only when one fighter truly dominates the round. Under that system, I would have given the first three rounds to Dan Henderson, all of them 10-9. Henderson’s camp has argued that you could have scored the round a 10-8 because Henderson dominated Shogun and almost finished him, but that only occurred over approximately one minute of a five-minute round. Later in the round, Shogun came back to stagger Henderson with several hard punches. That’s hardly a dominant round; it’s a dominant minute. But, demonstrating the kind of heart that both fighters have and that made the fight so special, Shogun came back and completely dominated Henderson throughout the fifth round. He stayed on top, much of the time in full mount, and bashed Henderson throughout the round. Henderson did nothing offensive and very little that could be called defense, other than rolling from side to side and covering up. If that wasn’t a 10-8 round at least, I don’t know what is. Thus, since the bout went to a decision, the final score should have been 47-47. This is especially true because, earlier in the night, these same judges gave Stephan Bonnar a couple of 10-8 rounds, even though he maintained less dominant positions (fighting in half-guard, for instance) for lesser periods of time. Inconsistent judging caused Shogun to take a loss, when both guys deserved equal status.

 2)      I’m glad Brock Lesnar is healthy again, but I’m not shedding any tears if he’s really retiring. I’ve never cared for the guy on a personal level, and it isn’t as if he needs the money. Go have a great life, Brock, and let the martial artists get that money now.

 3)      Jon Jones is hard to figure out, and I don’t mean his fighting style. One minute he seems like the most humble, respectful guy you’ll ever meet. The next, he has to be told to check on a downed opponent after a win. Weird.

 4)      So both Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida have knocked people out using what is essentially a Karate Kid-style crane kick, and now Edson Barboza has knocked out Terry Etim using a spinning-heel kick. I can’t believe either move worked in real life, but I watched it happen. What’s next? Shooting-star presses? Asai moonsaults? Crazy stuff, man.

The BCS Championship Game

The LSU Tigers had what may well be the greatest regular season ever. You’ve all heard the numbers—wins over eight ranked teams, a division title, a conference title, wins over two or three top-three teams, wins over two BCS-bowl-bound AQ conference champions. Certainly no team has accomplished so much in my lifetime, and only that one Notre Dame team from seventy or eighty years ago has come close. I’d say it’s much harder to accomplish today, too, given the methods of preparation and the state of today’s athletes.

But the team that played in the regular season was not the team that showed up in New Orleans. They looked flat, lifeless, uninterested—especially on offense. The regular season showed that they were the best team in the nation, but on that night, I’m not sure they would have beaten anybody. As an LSU graduate, I’m very proud of them for the year as a whole, though that final game leaves a bad taste in my mouth. In theirs too, I’m sure.

Most of LSU’s problems over the last four years can be traced back to two things—poor quarterback play, and Les Miles’ refusal to take Jordan Jefferson out of the game. I don’t like to pick on college players; they’re all very young. They are amateurs. They have their whole lives in front of them, and I don’t want to throw them under the bus. But four years of Jefferson’s lack of pocket presence, middling accuracy, and panic-mode bone-headed mistakes have tried my patience. I truly believe that LSU would have been near-unstoppable over the last four years if we had had a strong quarterback. What else have they lacked? The offensive line was porous for only one year. The running backs and receivers have all been awesome. The defense has been great. But at the most important position on the field, we’ve been lacking.

I don’t know what Jefferson has on Miles, but it must have been really damning. I can’t think of any other reason Miles would have stuck with Jefferson against all logic, common sense, and evidence. It took Jefferson’s arrest to get him out of the lineup, and even then, Miles seized on the first opportunity to yank Jarrett Lee out of the game—when he had two interceptions in a row against Alabama. Lee seldom saw the field after that, in spite of his excellent play in the first two-thirds of the season. And when did LSU’s offense start struggling? When did they suddenly find themselves trailing in games, needing the special teams to give them the spark they needed to come back? It all happened after Jefferson took over.

All of this was never more evident than in the title game. Jefferson was the only player on the field who looked terrified, overwhelmed not by Alabama (whom he has faced multiple times and beaten before) but by the stage he was playing on. He made bad decision after bad decision, looking completely lost. And yet Miles never pulled him. When asked why, Miles claimed that he thought about going with Lee, but that given the pass rush, he needed a quarterback that could run.

Yet Jefferson was not running effectively. More often than not, he folded like a cheap card table. At some point—trailing, in the last half of the last game, the national championship on the line, the crowd chanting for Lee—why not try something?

I still don’t get it. But at least now LSU goes into next season with new people at quarterback. We don’t know if they’ll be better yet, but we know they can’t be much worse. And on behalf of Tiger Nation, I’d like to wish Jarrett Lee a great life. You deserved better than you got.

Aftermath of the BCS Title Game

I’ve been really dismayed by the responses to the game I’ve seen, both from the national media and from people I know personally.

The AP ruined its credibility in my eyes when they failed to vote for a split championship. If ever a year screamed out for co-champions, this was it. Look, the Alabama Crimson Tide are my second-favorite college football team. I have worked at the University for six years. I don’t begrudge them their national title; they were certainly the better team on championship night.

But they weren’t the best team this season. Not even close. Like I said above, no one had a season like LSU’s—not this season, perhaps not ever. They won their division; Alabama didn’t. They, not Alabama, won the SEC. The Tide did not beat every SEC team they played, or Oregon, or West Virginia, and so forth. Going into the title game, everybody in the nation agreed that LSU should be there. The controversy revolved around Alabama, given that they didn’t win any championships to get there and lost to LSU during the regular season.

The voters have split the national championship several times before, for much worse reasons. LSU certainly did a hell of a lot more this year than USC did when they got to split the championship with LSU.

No, the refusal to split had nothing to do with credentials, or fairness, or a holistic view of the season. It was borne out of a backlash against the SEC.

In the wake of the all-SEC title game rematch, the BCS is considering changes to negate any such possibility in the future. Before the rematch was announced, fans and sportswriters from all over the country lamented the possibility and voiced their displeasure with the SEC’s dominance, as if the conference’s strength was somehow a bad thing for which it should apologize. Tons of people threatened to boycott the game, even though the only non-SEC team with any claim on the title game was Oklahoma State. I publicly claimed that Oklahoma State had an excellent argument for being in the title game; they had a better regular season than Alabama, even though I still felt that Alabama would beat them if they ever played. Eventually, Alabama got its rematch, leaving the rest of the country out of the sixth straight SEC national championship. And the whining, kvetching, and tantrums commenced.

None of that was LSU’s fault. It wasn’t Alabama’s fault. But LSU—the only team to truly dominate on a national scale—was the only team to pay the price. I truly believe that the AP was terrified of the backlash against their own writers and voting system if they let not one but TWO SEC teams take home a national title. So they acted like chickens and voted for the team that won, even though all logic, evidence, and precedent screamed for a split title. Shame on you, AP writers. As far as I’m concerned, you undermined your own integrity.

Some of my Alabama friends and acquaintances have also been a bit overenthusiastic about how things turned out, to say the least. When LSU beat Bama in the regular season, theoretically ending their national title hopes, I could have rubbed it in. I could have acted immaturely. But I knew that the game and the team were really important to my colleagues and students, so all I did was congratulate the Tide on a good game and a great season.

Unfortunately, in many cases, that courtesy was not returned. As soon as the game was over, I saw several Facebook posts whose contents might be summarized thusly: “Nan-neh nan-neh boo boo, my team won and your team sucks! Ha ha-ha-ha-ha!” The LSU jokes flew fast and furiously. In other words, even though many people knew that my team and that game were important to me, they did not congratulate my team on a great season. They took the opportunity to poop on something that I cared about. And these are highly-educated, really nice people that I like very much.

I even had one fifty-to-sixty-something acquaintance who got on Twitter and taunted Tyrann Mathieu. He’s like nineteen years old and can thus be excused for a certain amount of immaturity. I wonder what my acquaintance’s excuse was.

Then there’s the contradictions in attitudes that drive me crazy. Bring up the idea of a split title with some Alabama fans, and they’ll shake their heads firmly and say, “No way.” Uh-huh. Right. But I guarantee you that if the situations were reversed—if Bama had had the kind of season that LSU did, and beat LSU on Nov. 5th, and won the division and then the conference, but lost the title game—this entire state would be screaming bloody murder for a split title. (Well, probably not in Auburn, but you get my meaning.)

The advent of social media has taught me that there’s something about sports that make people act irrationally, even with mean spirits. You don’t have to like LSU’s football team to respect me and have some courtesy for my feelings. Why are your loyalty to your team and your investment in them more important or legitimate than mine?

I saw a lot of this earlier in the season from some of my Arkansas acquaintances. I grew up in Arkansas, so, according to some people, I’m legally and morally required to root for the Razorbacks. I reject that notion. I’ve got actual ties to LSU and Bama; I’m going to root for them over a team that happens to be located in a state I used to live in. But according to some folks, I’m not allowed to choose my own teams.

Moreover, there’s been a real double standard about who can say what. My Arkansas friends can apparently make all the LSU jokes they want, even when such “jokes” attack the character of the young men on the team or the intelligence of the schools’ personnel. I find nothing funny about those kinds of jokes. They’re just mean and have nothing to do with football. But these folks claim that they can do whatever they want, whenever they want. If I say anything back, though, all bets are off. I made some football-related Arkansas jokes and got lambasted for being unfaithful to my home state (whatever that means) and for taking college football too seriously. I should also point out that when my team beat theirs, I didn’t rub it in. You can bet I wouldn’t have gotten the same consideration. I know, because I didn’t last year.

See how that works? When they do something, it’s fine, all in good fun, light-hearted. When I do the same thing, it’s overly sensitive, disloyal, grumpy. I didn’t think you could have it both ways.

Here’s grumpy: “Oooh, I see what you did there. I’m shocked the Nobel committee doesn’t know about you—your depth of thought, your awesome creativity, your sheer originality! You actually managed to rhyme the word ‘who’ with the letter ‘U!’ Wow! I bow to your awesome intellectual and comedic prowess!”

I didn’t say that. I have tried to be light-hearted and generous and kind in both victory and defeat. I’m not perfect, but I’ve sure tried. I wish everybody I knew would do the same.

Basically, social media is ruining sports for me, not because people root for different teams but because so many are hateful or hypocritical about it. We’re all mean and distant from each other for so many reasons already; do we really want to let sports divide us even further?

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Kalene and I went to see it on our ten-year anniversary (yes, I know it’s hardly a romantic choice). We both liked it a little better than the original. Excellent film, but for God’s sake, don’t take the kids. Hoo boy.

More soon, I hope. And more focus next time.

Follow me on Twitter @brettwrites.

Email me at semioticconundrums@gmail.com

Arkansas Possums–a poem #poetry #writing

I am completely swamped with grading and won’t have time for much new material, if any, until after final grades are turned in three weeks from now. In the meantime, here’s an existing poem from my younger days. Can you tell where I grew up?

Arkansas Possums
For Miss B and Mister L

The August night skims
On a million wings,
Vampires who make love
Malarian position.

The moving storm drops
Cloudy pods of light,
Fitful sparks against
Dusty, ancient Mason jars.

The humid night wraps
Tight about the Earth,
A bitter fisted
Salute to her nothingness.

Young boys panther roads,
Search back seats for love,
Dropping fifths and pints
In weedy summer ditches.

Possum smashed to dust,
Blood still fiery bright,
Solitary waste
On hellish backroads,
Transfixed in gravel,
Its surprise like a buck deer’s
Round spotlighted eyes.