Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Deep South's Oldest Rivalry: 122 Years Renewed

2014 will mark the thirteenth straight Auburn/Georgia football game that I will have attended. The streak dates back to 2002. The only time it was ever really in n the balance was during the 2011 season as I was living in Jackson Hole, Wyoming at the time. Fortunately, I was able to fly back south for the game and keep the streak alive. I believe that this is one of the great cross state rivalries in college football. Two schools, only 178 miles apart.  The rivalry begin 122 years ago in 1892 with Auburn leading the all time series 55-44-8. So many great players and coaches have had an opportunity to take part in this rivalry: Pat Dye, Vince Dooley, David Pollack, Shug Jordan, Cadillac Williams, Herschel Walker, Bo Jackson just to name a few. One thing I think that makes the rivalry great is the number of Atlanta Metro area kids that go to Auburn. With UGA nearly impossible to get into, you got to imagine there's a little bit of spite from the Atlanta kids who grew up wanting to go to school in Athens, but were shunned away. Similar to my case as a cross state Birmingham dawg fan growing up wanting to go to school in Athens, but there is no spite held.

I grew up a big Georgia fan, which made going to school and converting to an Auburn fan difficult at first. Through my years at Auburn I was able to make the transformation though. Now Georgia is the enemy. Also not sure why they wouldn't want my talents in their school. Taking a look at the games in scope since 2002, there have been some all time classics. The implication of some of the games have propelled both schools into SEC Championships and further. In my opinion during the twelve year period, I would say 2002 was the most meaningful game for Georgia and 2013 for Auburn. Let's take a look at the high stake classic rivalry games over the past twelve years:

2002

Georgia travels to the Plains ranked seventh in the Nation, Auburn ranked twenty fourth. Georgia came into the game needing a win in order to win the SEC East. This is probably one of the more memorable Auburn/Georgia games I have been to. At the time I was 13 and a huge Georgia fan; this was the first Auburn/Georgia game I ever attended. It was a cold rainy day in Auburn and we were sitting up near the top rows of Jordan Hare's upper deck; what almost seemed to be another zip code. It was a classic rivalry game, both teams battling all day. Georgia was down 21-18 facing a fourth down and goal from the Auburn 19. David Greene lofted a pass to Michael Johnson in the right corner of the end zone for what became on of the memorable catches in Georgia football history. Larry Munson's call:


Georgia would go on to beat Arkansas in the SEC Championship and Florida State in the Sugar Bowl. The lone blemish on the schedule and the only thing that kept them out of an appearance in the National Championship game was a 20-13 loss against the Gators.

Michael Johnson goes 'over the top' to snatch the SEC East title for Georgia in 2002.



2005

Maybe the best year to sum up a classic rivalry game. Two good football teams battling through the crisp, cool November Athens air. Faced with a 4th and 10 and the game on the line Brandon Cox found Devin Aromashodu (great football name) who took the ball all the way down to the Georgia one yard line.



Originally the call on the field  was a touchdown. However it was then moved back to the Georgia one yard line. This actually worked completely against Georgia's favor as Auburn was then able to bleed down the clock to a few seconds and kick a field goal for a 31-30 victory. As a not yet converted Auburn fan, I remember this loss really stinging.

2007

November 10, 2007 Georgia calls for a blackout against Auburn. Wearing black jerseys for the first time in their programs history, and asking their fans to wear all black; Auburn never really had a chance. I have been to a lot of games in Athens, and this was possibly the loudest I have ever heard Sanford stadium.

My view from the blackout game. A see of black. I was pretty easy to spot in orange. 
The Dawgs were able to match the pre-game hype. Georgia would put up a 45-20 victory in a game that was never really close. I think this was one of Georgia's most talented teams in the past decade plus lead by Matt Stafford, Knowshon Moreno and Mohamed Massaquoi. Fast forward to 2008, Georgia was ranked number one in the Nation at the time, and welcomed Alabama into Athens. Georgia decided to pull out the black jerseys for this game. Alabama came into Athens and shocked number one Georgia. Black jerseys have since been retired.

2013

This one is still fresh on Auburn and Georgia fans alike. Auburn came into the game 9-1 still in contention for an SEC East Title and potentially  a National Title if their cards fell right. Auburn roared out to a commanding lead, holding a 37-17 lead a few minutes into the fourth quarter. Momentum quickly changed and Aaron Murray, Todd Gurley and company had comeback upset on their mind. The Dawgs chipped away and the Auburn offense could get nothing going in the second half. With a little over 2 minutes left in the game Georgia faced a 4th and goal from the Auburn 5 yard line. A gutsy fourth down run by Murray gave the Georgia the lead and left the Auburn faithful stunned from Georgia's comeback.


Auburn got the ball back with a little under two minutes. Time ticked away and Auburn faced a 4th and 18 at their own 27. Only a miracle could keep Auburn's dreams alive. And so it ensued:


It is one of those plays that almost just leaves you speechless. The ball was poorly under thrown by Marshall, but it ended up being the perfect pass. The only thing Georgia really got out of 'The Miracle at Jordan-Hare' is a heavy dose of irony. The two Georgia defenders who tipped the pass to Louis no longer play at Georgia. Tray Matthews transferred to Auburn and Josh Harvey Clemons transferred to Louisville to join former Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.

What is often overlooked is Aaron Murray nearly led Georgia back down the field for a come behind victory after the Ricardo Louis touchdown, but the Dawgs fell just short. The 'miracle' victory for Auburn propelled them to an SEC Championship and an appearance in the National Championship game. It was a fitting end to a magical season for Auburn.


2014

With all the great games over the past 12 years, it's hard to believe the SEC considered breaking off the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry after the expansion of the SEC adding in Missouri and Texas A&M. The conference reshuffle did see Auburn host back to back games in 2012 and 2013. I would say 2012 was the worst game to watch over this time period; the Dawgs put a 38-0 pounding on Auburn in a year in which Auburn failed to win an SEC game.

With Auburn's loss to Texas A&M last week, their hopes of an SEC West title have faded significantly, but are still alive.  Georgia is still in serious contention for the SEC East and a victory over Auburn compiled with a Missouri loss would send them to Atlanta in December.  2014 is setting up for another potential classic. Two good teams with a lot to still play for, leaving us with one simple question:

 How will the 122nd chapter of this rivalry unfold?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Winters Reflection: 6 Months in or 6 Months out

Six months ago in I was in the Monashee Mountains in British Columbia, Canada on a week long helicopter skiing tour. For miles upon miles all that could be seen by the naked eye is mountain tops covered in fresh snow. Fast forward six months from March to today;  I am sitting in a chair looking at a computer screen, which is apparently contributing to my eye sight failure. My eye sight in my right eye has gotten slightly worse, but my left eye has gotten better. Thankfully the chair I set in everyday is ergonomically designed, otherwise I would probably be blind by now.

Like any form of vacation, they tend to go by too quickly. This one was no different. It's always amazing how quickly the distance of an incredible week tends to dissipate from our memory. I remember one week after returning from this trip and falling back full force into the work grind, making it feel like it had been months ago that I had been stepping out of a helicopter and found myself skiing down untouched powder perfection. While I have posted a few initial thoughts from this excursion, I have not fully captured everything that it was. As the summer days dissipate, the weather turns cooler and the air becomes a little bit less thick, we know that winter is soon on it's way and it's only a matter of time before our winter playgrounds are accessible. I felt it was important to reflect on some highlights of the trip  as the working life begins to completely stricken my sight and sends me into blindness, and I am unable to do so.

1. The Waiting

Just like the Tom Petty lyrics, the waiting is the hardest part. The planning for this trip began almost a year in advance. Once we confirmed it was a go, the trip begin to consume my mind. It's amazing how much of my free time became dedicated to the trip. I began reading up on avalanche safety, back-country etiquette and tracking the winter patterns throughout the northwest. Even my daily workout regiment became focused on ways to prepare for powder skiing. You can talk to others who have experienced heli-skiing, read stories of the experiences people have had and even watch video of the entire process. But until you are actually there engaged in the experience you find your mind constantly envisioning and trying to set the stage for what the experience will actually entail.  I don't think I had ever been in a position where I had such much excitement  and nervous energy flowing over a trip. The days leading up to the trip finally began to dwindle and the time had come to set dreams into motion. Here. We. Go.

Go Time



2. There is a first time for everything

There is a first time for everything: what a terrible, cliche saying. But when you add on to that: stepping out of a helicopter deep in the Monashee mountains preparing to ski down an untouched powder tree or glacier run, it has a little better ring to it. We were skiing out of Mike Wiegele's; a five start mountain resort known for some of the greatest powder skiing in the world. Everyone is typically there for a week and guests are divided into groups of 7 or 8 which is the group you will ski with for the week. The helicopter's essentially operate as ski lifts. They pick you up in the morning. They drop you off at the top of each 'run' and pick you up at the bottom. Each morning the group gathers near the heli pickup spot and waits for the distant sound of helicopters to start up from a near by heli hanger. I will never forget our first pickup. The heli comes in from a quarter mile out over the tree line and lands to pick you up; the engine never stops nor do the blades so obviously safety is of the utmost concerns. Boarding beneath thumping blades all communication is non-verbal.  I had so much nervous-energy getting on that helicopter for the first time. Taking in the entire experience: here I am buried deep in the British Columbia mountains about to be dropped off into a powder paradise: Let an epic week commence.

First time ever in a helicopter. So much energy. 




3. Powder, Powder, Powder

I have grown up my entire life skiing and I spent a winter in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and while most of my skiing had been in-bounds to this point, I had what I thought to be some fairly decent powder experiences. Everything that I had ever experienced to that point in my life was no comparison to the six days of powder skiing at Wiegele. Every run: untouched, untracked powder. As a skier, that is what you dream about,. At a resort on a good powder day, you might get 2 or 3 runs before the entire mountain gets skied off. At Wiegele it's untouched on every run. While I had skied some powder coming into the trip, I had never skied powder every day, every run. As the week began, I did not present the best form and found myself exerting more energy than necessary. As the week progressed, my form steadily improved and I became more confident and comfortable with every turn. Over the course of the week I saw a drastic improvement, with some help and tips from our guides who ski powder every day of the winter I found my self flowing in a powder paradise.

Hitting stride, mid-week



4. A Little Wind

One of the more memorable experiences that sticks out that didn't actually take place while on a pair of skies was the wind. Not the wind that was encountered on the mountains but the wind was encountered in the heli while trying to land in our drop off zone. Several times we tried to land, and the wind was simply to much. Strong gusts pushed the heli back and forth. Here you are hovering over a ledge, a glacier and or a tree line and you can't go to the ground. Move on to the next spot.

Throughout the entire trip I think the only time I really felt my heart jump was experiencing some serious winds on a Glacier Tour in the Monashee's. This shot was taken as we begin the travel deep into the Monashee mountain range.


5. Glacier Skiing versus Tree Skiing

Our skiing ether consisted of high alpline (above the tree line) or in the trees. Skiing in the trees is in incredible. It's what powder skiing is all about. Higher degree pitches and deep flowing pockets of powder. Outside tree skiing is high alpine. It's more open and less vertical pitch. One day we did a glacier tour deep in the Monashee Mountains. It was a crystal clear day and the views were surreal. The pictures don't even really service it justice. Your deep within mountains upon mountains surrounded by glaciers and a select group of people. While the skiing is not as optimum as the trees, the views of the glacier/alpine skiing we did will be forever etched in my mind.

The black steak represents the heli-drop spot on top of a glacier. Our glacier tour provided unreal views of the Monashee mountain range. Pictures don't even serve it justice. 

A brief opening in what was one of many incredible tree runs. 




6. Stretching?

Days on this vacation started early, a little before 6:00 am to be exact. There is very few things that make it easy to get out of bed that early, skiing qualifies as one of them.The day started each morning with a 6:30 am stretching class. This was not a mandatory class, but because of the magnitude and the physical level of exertion involved with powder skiing it was highly recommended. It's funny thinking back on the time since this trip and the number of things that have really gotten me enthused to wake up prior to 6:30am. Stretching still tops the list, and it is an experience that doe not justify a picture.


7. Oh, Canada

There's nothing like some dog food nestled in the middle of the steak section. Canadians also love hockey and curling.



8. The Ultimate Chair Lift

Ever since returning from this trip, the sound of a helicopter has never sounded so good.  I look at them with a completely different context. Every time I hear one now, it triggers thoughts and memories of this incredible trip. Unfortunately the context of the sound of a helicopter now takes place in a concrete jungle. For six days I was fortunate enough to have a ski life in the form of a helicopter.  Now as winter approaches as does the time to get back to the mountains, I move back to what I knew before the helicopter chair lift - a soft seat with a bar - never losing sight of what needs to be done to get back to the ultimate chairlift.

One of the great shots of the trip. Seems to sum it all up.


Never lose sight of your dreams.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Georgia vs. South Carolina Implications, Williams-Brice, and Visor Throwing

Georgia vs. South Carolina, a cross state rivalry game that has grown from a regional rivalry to a rivalry with national implications on it year in and year out. Typically the first SEC slotted game on each schools schedule, this game puts the winner in the drivers seat to win the SEC East. This year will be no different.

Two years ago Georgia rolled in to Columbia, SC as the fifth ranked team in the country, South Carolina ranked number six. A highly touted showdown turned out to be no contest what so ever. The game was over mid-way through the first quarter as USC jumped out to a 21-0 lead. Aaron Murray and the Georgia offense turned in a dismal performance and might as well have just stayed on the bus.  Something about Georgia playing in Williams-Brice has always given them issues. This series has historically been a battle and Georgia's historically had trouble putting up offense and points in Columbia. Their point totals for their last six trips tell that story:

2012 - 7
2010 - 6
2008 -14
2006- 18
2004 - 20
2002 -13

 Saturday's game is a really intriguing matchup. I think it's going to be a battle as usual and has the potential to swing either way.  South Carolina is going to come in with a chip on their shoulder after an opening embarrassment to Texas A&M, but Georgia comes in with a lot to prove as well. It's going to be interesting to watch the game develop. I think the key player to watch is Hutson Mason. Mason wasn't asked to do much in week one as Georgia's four deep running attack wore down Clemson's defense. Georgia comes in missing their top two deep threat receivers so they don't bring anything intimidating in the downfield passing game. But, with the early issues shown by the USC secondary I think Georgia at least takes a few shots down field early. Georgia presents issues in their secondary as well, but I was impressed with the halftime adjustments they made against Clemson. Dumping Granthem and hiring Pruitt was a smart coaching decision.  If Mason were to come out and make a few early mistakes, I think that would put UGA in a position where it would be difficult to win the game.  Mason gained some experience in a few starts last year, but this is the highest pressure start he has had in his career and will certainly be the toughest environment he has every played in.

  Interestingly enough, Georgia and South Carolina both play the same SEC teams on their remaining schedule: Auburn, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky and Missouri. Both teams lucked out and  as they don't play any powerhouses from the West outside of Auburn (LSU, Alabama, Texas A&M). Again, this just sets this game for huge implications on who wins the east.

I think Georgia wins a close battle, but it wouldn't surprise me if they come out flat and have to fight from behind to do it based off their recent history in Columbia. If your Georgia, give the ball to #3 until South Carolina proves they can stop you.  When healthy, Gurley is the best running back in college football. If they are in a lot of third and longs, they won't win this game. I think if South Carolina's Mike Davis stays healthy he could be in for a big game as well.

On a separate note, I have always wished they would come out with a line for how many times Spurrier will throw his visor over the course of a game. Though Spurrier doesn't look it, he is aging. Thus I think there could be a drop in visor throws over the course of this season compared to previous years. However looking at this game and the potential of frustration that Georgia's running attack presents, I think the spread for visor throwing would come in at 2*

*Visor throwing point system
 1 point for visor off the head, makes contact with the ground.

Might be a good week to take the over.



-PAM



Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Snapping The Streak

The Braves snapped a seven game losing streak with a 2-1 win last night over the St. Louis Cardinals .  Gavin Floyd pitched really well in his first start since tommy john surgery, and the offense did just enough to get us back in the win column.

Cardinals starter Tyler Lyons had a solid start giving up only one run in six innings.

Freeman and Simmons turned a slick 3-6-3 double play.

BJ Upton striking out. As a Braves fan, we are all to accustomed to seeing this.


Gavin Floyd pitched seven strong innings in his first Major League start since having Tommy John Surgery. 

Justin Upton is greeted by Freddie Freeman after his fourth inning moon shot home run.


Friday, March 28, 2014

What We Called, You Saw

With The Braves season opener just three days away, it's time to relive one of the great moments of the 2013 season. With the Braves trailing the Dodgers 4-2 on May 17th, Justin Upton hit a Grand Slam to put the Braves in front 6-4. Drew Milton and I predicted the grand slam would happen and caught the experience on video. You only have so many Justin Upton grand slam predictions that you catch on video in your life:


Here's what we called:




Here's what you saw:



See you at the Ted.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Heli Ski Picture Highlights March 2014

6 days of helicopter skiing in Blue River, British Columbia.




One of my favorite shots.



Glacier Skiing in the Monashee Mountains. 


Perfection.




Hard to see, but that's my Dad skiing down that chute. 


The most unique Canadian take away.


View from the back of the Heli.





Avalanche run out.

Untouched tree skiing. About 110,000 feet of it to be exact.






Action Dust


Our lead guide cold rip it.

Great shot, my Dad ripping through the trees.