Thursday, March 30, 2023

Spring Break at 6900 Feet

Introductory note:
This blog is essentially dedicated to documenting my specific journey in life for the main purpose of leaving memories for my children and family.

My inspiration originally came from Ben Franklin's Autobiography in which he begins:

I have ever had pleasure in obtaining any little anecdotes of my ancestors. You may remember the inquiries I made among the remains of my relations when you were with me in England, and the journey I undertook for that purpose. Imagining it may be equally agreeable to you to know the circumstances of my life, many of which you are yet unacquainted with, and expecting the enjoyment of a week's uninterrupted leisure in my present country retirement, I sit down to write them for you.

and later an admission:

Hereby, too, I shall indulge the inclination so natural in old men, to be talking of themselves and their own past actions; and I shall indulge it without being tiresome to others, who, through respect to age, might conceive themselves obliged to give me a hearing, since this may be read or not as anyone pleases. And, lastly (I may as well confess it, since my denial of it will be believed by nobody), perhaps I shall a good deal gratify my own vanity.

So, in that spirit...I write....

My daughter and son-in-law are new residents of Craig, CO and I had an opportunity this spring break to see their new way of living.

An easy but beautiful plane ride to Hayden CO changed my climate and altitude considerably. On the day I left, Bham was going away from 82F and I live my life at around 760 feet above sea level. I landed in the cold (22F), with snow, at nearly 6900 ft sea level.

During the flight, I had breathtaking views of our wondrous land. I am reading at the same time an amazing book, The Heart of Everything that Is- an account of the great Indian warrior, Red Cloud by Bob  Drury and Tom Clavin.

I had recently read a quote from that book that became vividly expressive in my imagination as I peered at the great plains- there is such a dramatic change when you see the rocky mountains begin to rise from this remote area!

East of the Mississippi civilization stood on three legs-land, water and timber. West of the Mississippi not one but two of those legs were withdrawn--water and timber. Civilization was left on one leg--land. It is a small wonder that it toppled over in temporary failure.
-Walter Prescott Webb, The Great Plains

God definitely was impressing these ideas all during the trip. I had pondered this originally in my reading about the early westward expansion that led to the series I finished on the Burned Over District and watching a few episodes of the Paramount series 1883 on the plane trip added to the book as well. 

The drive and perseverance to survive these elements in the 19th century is so foreign to me. How did they do it? 

Craig, Hayden, and Steamboat Springs Colorado

Melissa and Conner have been residents for about a month and are loving it- they like to ski and no better place for them than Steamboat. They have hardly unpacked due to the lure of the powder as Steamboat has had record snowfall. Every opportunity that they have to get away from work is a jump in the car and drive about 1 hr to the parking lot of the resort.

I found my stay quite the adventure and found a number of surprising discoveries- 

22F is not as cold as 22F in Birmingham. The dry cold wasn't that bad with the right layers and sunshine. Throughout the week, I found myself wearing less heavy stuff and feeling quite comfortable. The wind was tough and shade or lack of sun wasn't pleasant- but a bright Colorado day afforded a marvelous walk in the brisk, cold, and dry air.

The Old Time Mineral Springs Health Center was probably my favorite stop in Steamboat. For a small fee ($29) you could take residence in that place for the entire day. It had lockers, exercise and weight equipment, climbing wall, snack bar, a warm fireplace, but also large outdoor hot springs pools that were so healing and peaceful to sit in.

My first morning there, after a long workout and stretching routine, I sat in a pool with snow coming down on me a just meditated for a long time. It was an amazing way to recover from a fast paced 2nd semester at work. After that, I showered and just enjoyed downtown Steamboat- fun things to see and very friendly people.

Nature/Creation is God's gift to my sanity. Being in a majestic setting with woods, water, and wildlife is my natural battery charger and each day was what I needed.

I was also heartbroken during the trip as I learned of the school shooting in Nashville where TWO of the 9 people killed I knew personally: Katherine Koonce and I worked together at CPA and Cyndi Peak was my realtor there. 

The news was so disturbing that I just had to get outside and pray and once I walked back all I felt I could do was to read some Scripture. For some reason, I was drawn to Ecclesiastes and I spent a good part of the morning reading and praying- it had a very comforting presence that day.

I tweeted my thoughts at the time-

Ecclesiastes is my help for hard times and hard reality. It has a strange authenticity and scabs the wounds as we heal. The Bible does not run from darkness - that is what I tend to do. Distraction only delays despair. A life of activity is not a life of meaning. God IS here.

and a few days later:

News of crime, economic distress, surging AI warnings, and the alliance of enemies can bring despair and hopeless. God’s Word is a great tool to help us navigate these valleys with light and hope. Ecclesiastes has been a great help to me this week. Keep reading, praying, loving!

Where would I be without this gift of direction and comfort!

As I live each day, I often take for granted the special gift of God's presence in my life and the world view that has been shaped by His Word.

It helps me on plane flights, when I am alone, and when I get to enjoy the blessings of family... even if they now live far away.

I wanted to write about His good providence as well.

The week before I went on the trip, my truck started running rough. It happened in the school parking lot and though NO ONE wants car trouble, the fact that it happened in that place and not in the middle of Hwy 280 is a blessing. To have insurance to get it towed.. a blessing. Getting it repaired without MAJOR issues.. a blessing.

Then, on that Sunday in Craig, our heating unit went out! The forecast that night was 2F - this was a Sunday... who is going to be able to fix it!? But once again, we discovered it early... a blessing, someone came out and fixed it...a blessing!

God's Word and a worldview of trusting in His care and provision allows us the be thankful... and yes, bad things happen... but our view of His goodness has an eternal timeline... and His promises are good! His grace is unmatched!

As a follower of Christ, we must never lose hope.

God has given me a life of treasure... and though I suffer the consequences of sin, both my sin and the evil world of sinful man... we get to rejoice in the now and not yet.

What a grand trip- beauty... good food and fellowship... God is good.

I read more Red Cloud on the way back... and arrived home thankful for God's good gifts.

It was a healing I needed and a new adventure to remember.

Conner and Melissa are in a good place and family is a wonderful thing. Though I miss them, "This is The Way." (I also watched a good bit of the show Mandalorian  at their house- another fun thing that I get to enjoy is this blessed life!)

I guess that Ecclesiastes will be my next Bible series on this blog and I will have to write some thoughts about Red Cloud at some point as well. Til next time.....

Friday, March 03, 2023

Changes Beyond Recognition or Remembrance

Time for a football post..... haven't done one in a while.

Every year about this time, I begin to do some deeper dives into trends and changes in football. As a person who played from 1972- 1985 and then coached from 1991 to the present, I often can't even believe what I am seeing.

Everything changes, and at some point the change is so great that all you have from the past is a reference. Even the super QB sneak used by the Philadelphia Eagles this season is similar but different to that ancient play from old. The short yardage OL technique used by them harkens back to the 'hunker down" days of 6-5 goal line defenses and games won in bloody 3 yard skirmishes in tight spaces. The rugby scrum still exists from the origins of 'foot'ball.

And yes, it all builds on itself and may come full circle... but likely never just the same.

The evolving nature of the sport can make it difficult to teach and reach the new players properly. And the lack of connection can actually hinder the education process going forward. That is why a lot of coaches have to go back each year and build it fresh. The battle of schemes causes action/ reaction cycles that spin into things that connect to the past but are also totally new.

And rules changes come into play as well. I think the NFL will change the short yardage rule this year to prevent the push from behind scrum and there aren't as many powerful QB's in the league like a Jalen Hurts, but I could see teams subbing their squat champions to push the pile of humanity 1 yard.

Change is inevitable.

And it can create issues, the older people who see the past connections may get isolated from the new generation and that gap can hinder important elements necessary to successful adaptation. If the old stay old... then they will disappear into history as the game moves by. If the new never knows the old, they may lose important lessons or fundamentals that actually lend itself to achievement.

Here is a somewhat silly or fun way to illustrate this.

I had the pleasure of getting a front row observation seat at the University of Tennessee from 1993 to 1998 because my old high school coach, David Cutcliffe was the OC there at the time. I was a young new Qb coach and OC at Briarwood and Coach Cut invited me to work camps and spend time up there each summer. It was a golden time.

It is a long story, but the genesis of it was that Coach Yancey used the quick passing game (the 3 wide receiver, under center, 3 step  90's game) that UT used at the time. He has been taught the system by WR coach Kippy Brown and then I called and re-connected with Coach Cut to learn more. 

Over the next 5 years, Coach Cutcliffe, Randy Sanders, Mark Bradley, and Coach Fulmer all helped generate ideas that we used to develop the original BCS 20 Personnel offense that had such a great run in that same era. That system evolved each year as well as we added the power gap scheme and early shotgun, sniffer back sets to better  utilize 7 man protections in the medium passing game.

I had the honor of sitting in meetings at Tennessee with Coach Cutcliffe, Peyton Manning, Randy Sanders, and Tee Martin as they watched film and discussed schemes, techniques, decisions, and issues. I found it ironic that both UT and Briarwood won championships in 1998 and I attribute a lot of that to our gleaning from the growth of the Vols at that time. There was a lot of UT orange in the coaches office those years: a lot of film, camp shirts, pictures, and hats. My Alabama friends were so confused in those days! But the John Chavis 4-3 defense and the David Cutcliffe quick passing, gap scheme, play action offense was right in line with how we were growing at Briarwood.

Back to the change and challenges....

UT had a play at the time called 'Meyer'- Coach Cut loved calling it. It had a glance at a post, and dig/curl conversion primary route, and a nice check down/ pressure answer. It was great any down vs any defense and they called it a lot.

In meetings and on the practice field, I heard a lot of 'Meyer' called.

My biggest problem was 'why do they call it Meyer?'.

I asked the GA, and he didn't know. "It's just Meyer"

I asked a few of the back-up QB's... "It's just Meyer"

Then I finally asked Randy Sanders who also played QB at UT years earlier.

He laughed... "Well, we used to have a play called "Oscar" and the companion play to that was "Meyer". Over the years, we stopped calling Oscar because Meyer was the better play."  The original term Oscar had a clear meaning, just like a lot of football language has.

As I am writing this, I actually just thought... do our kids even know "Oscar-Meyer"!? I can sing the jingle right now... My bologna has a 1st name, it's O-S-C-A-R-... My bologna has a 2nd name, it's M-E-Y-E-R.. oh i like to eat it everyday... you children of the 70's can finish with me.....

The point is this...

As we hand down concepts and 'systems' what connections need to be made so the next generation of learners can best use and help the assimilation?

Too much history can stall the process... not enough can stunt the process.

We need to see the world our kids live in and find connections to the present without losing the fundamentals or principles from the past that are essential.

I did not grow up with cell phones and Madden.... my lingo is not their lingo

No one calls "Meyer" anymore... it is lost in a sea of common concepts.... that play today in our world is called "Z Cleaner"... but others may call it Mavericks, or Dodgers, or 826 Frisco.

This is life as well... 

As I grow older, I have to stay in a growth mindset or I will get left behind. It isn't easy.

We can change too quickly or too slowly, I think collaboration and communication is very important in these processes.

Ask the whys- evaluate the results- and don't be afraid to try it a new way.

That offense we ran from 1996- 2003 was amazing. But to be honest, if we ran it exactly like the old way, it would not be successful today. The pass protections would not hold up and we could be defended in more multiple ways that create necessary changes.

But we also have some great fundamentals and principles from those days that are still applicable. I see teams doing many of the same things, but they are missing some fundamental principles in the application/ technique of those concepts.

The evolution never stops....