Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Some people were more bothered about it than others. But as sure as the sun came up in the east, no one really questioned that Mr. Smats hated cats.
It became more tangible when you saw his tombstone. The infamous mausoleum projected an eerie gloom on the horizon of the town. It became almost a rhythmic reminder, every time you passed that way. The sheer number of repetitions beat on our brains the melody of unrivaled truth...Mr. Smats Hated Cats.
But a dead man feels no wrath or indignation.
The objects of the venom of reprisal were his sons. Their last name was forever forced into the rhyme..."Smats" and "Cats".
Sam and Will Smats had consciously and unconsciously done all they could to escape the mantra.
Sam Smats had climbed a tree to rescue a frightened kitty only to have fallen and broken his leg so severely that he walked with a limp. It was so peculiar that you could identify Sam Smats from as far a distance as his dad's eternal resting place.
Will Smats kept cats in his home. But no one bought it. It took a good bit of looking, but Will Smats' cats were not cared for. Often people commented on the ragged fur, hungry eyes, timidity, and poor health of any poor cat in the care of Will Smats.
One day a report exploded on the town square that Will Smats had buried a cat in his backyard. The pressure on City Hall to investigate was immense and an investigator was dispatched to collect information on the abuse.
Sam Smats limped and Will Smats pleaded for folks to stop with the nonsense.
"Yes, our dad hated cats.... but we reject such a horrible view. Will someone please stand up for us?"
I thought about it for many days. I talked to a friend over coffee...
"What if Sam were trying to help that kitten?"
He looked at me in disbelief. "You are kidding me..right? Didn't you hear what the people said about his features? He was angry. He was going to kill that cat. Thank the Lord, that he fell out of that tree before harming him!"
I tried again... "But we weren't there! What if he wasn't mad? What if he was just scared of heights?"
My friend interrupted again in a huff! 'So why was he climbing that tree? Why go to all that trouble if he didn't just HATE that poor creature!"
I tried again....
"What if he was so sad about how his dad treated cats, that he wanted to go out of his way to help one?"
He glanced at me with a suspicious eye as he sipped again on his brew.
One day I did find someone who agreed with me!
As I slowly approached the subject, I felt his support rather energizing!
He had the biggest smile I had ever seen!
"Yes, yes, yes! Mr. Smats hated cats - but Sam and Will Smats love cats!"
We laughed together.
'Crazy!, why don't people see that?"
"Maybe it will just take time!"
But that concerned me... I don't think time was going to help us. I had heard it on the playground one day... 'Sam Smats hates cats' by a little girl jumping rope. A little boy echoed a similar song "I step on a crack and Will breaks my cat."
I looked at my new friend... "Will you come to the coffee shop and talk to my friend? Maybe he will listen to us together?"
A block down the road, the coffee always smelled so good and fresh!
We sat down and laid out the best argument we could..... 'Mr. Smats hated cats. Will and Sam did not'.
My newfound friend shook the hand of my old friend and walked out, confident that we had made some progress for truth and good.
But I now saw two suspicious eyes over the coffee cup!
"What! Why do you not believe us!"
"Why should I? You have no clue who that was...do you?"
"Well, I just met him", I replied, "his name is Mark."
"Ha! You fool!" He smirked. "You have been deceived by no other than Mark SMATS... and a nephew hates cats as much as a son."
And I just stared in disillusionment... why even try?
Tuesday, December 02, 2014
But I would be lying if I said that I wasn't a participant and consumer of the the bark and bluster.
This post is no different.
But I feel like I needed to offer some restraint on those who have written off Alabama's defense based on the Auburn game.
I have spent most of my years as a coach on teams that emphasized defense. Most coaches would admit (if they HAD to choose) that they would rather be good on defense better than being good on offense. A great defense keeps you in every game.
Most teams who are better on offense will have the ability to light other teams up...but there is always that sad loss where you are a better team, but you just keep mis-firing and you get run off the field by an opponent you should not lose to.
Alabama lives and thrives on defense.....
But, when you look at an entire season, it always makes you feel good when an offense saves you when you have a poor defensive outing.
In Alabama's case, an explosive offense and an aggressive play caller avoided what could have been an ugly upset last Saturday night.
And what makes this Alabama team fun is that they win games as a complete team.
Through a coaches eye... I see where good play on both sides of the ball aided the win against Auburn and failure in all three areas (special teams/defense/offense) contributed to the close loss in Oxford.
Why is Alabama the most dangerous team in the country? They are the deepest team in college football and they play as a team.
When an analyst says Alabama was torched by the Auburn offense... he is really pointing to long passes that were outstanding plays by the Tigers.
Alabama's worst stretch of the game defensively was EARLY in the game, where... even though they were up 14-6.... had given up too many big runs inside the tackles.
Once the inside game was plugged up. Auburn was left to connecting over the top. That is a play Alabama wants teams to take. The theory is that if you can keep those throws from scoring TD's, and you make teams kick FG's in the red zone.. you can win IF you play good offense and special teams.
The biggest improvements I have noticed this season include Alabama using 4 defensive linemen more and getting a great pocket push from those 4. And it is a deeper team. I thought Alabama looked fresher in the 4th quarter than Auburn, in spite of the many number of plays Auburn ran.
The other improvement is the mobility of the QB. Simms' ability to extend plays has done what McCarron was not able to do last season (no disrespect to him intended- who can argue with his career?)
This is the most explosive offense Alabama has shown even though other teams may have been better. You have to credit Lane Kiffin's style.... he has no fear and calls the game loose and confident.
Special teams still frustrate the fan in me. UA's punter is amazing, but kick-off coverage scares me and FG situations make me very uneasy.
And Alabama is VERY good on defense. If you end up in 3rd and long... look out!
Based on that, here is how I see the rest of it playing out.
Missouri will be toughest against the Alabama offensive line. But Alabama's defense will limit Missouri's scoring opportunities. If no one panics at a low scoring and close halftime score... Alabama's depth will salt the game away in the 2nd half.
With Mississippi State being out of the 4 team playoff...that has helped Alabama. There will be no team in the final 4 that has the defensive front 7 like Alabama.
Missouri is the most dangerous game of the 3 potential games remaining.
If I were having to guess... (no particular order after Mizzou)
Alabama 31- Missouri 17 in a game that was very close until mid-way thru 3rd Q.
Alabama 24- FSU 13- Defenses dominate the game
Alabama 28- TCU 21- Exciting game with good plays on both sides
Alabama 35- Oregon/Baylor 24 (people will be surprised at how athletic defensive linemen hold down 'super spread' teams scoring)
Alabama 31- Ohio State 24- (people will be surprised how well OSU plays the Tide)
And my predictions are worth about the same as any other..... meaningless and likely not close to reality!