Tuesday, September 23, 2008

FNL 101

So earlier in the week I heard the most crushing news I've heard in quite some time...


That's right, Friday Night Lights, fondly/annoyingly known by me as FNL, will be unveiled on DirecTV a full four months before (finally) airing on NBC. Season 3 premieres on DirecTV on Oct. 1 and won't be available to the rest of us until February!

Talk about disappointing.

FNL is one of the most underappreciated shows I've ever seen. (It's awesome. Even Peyton Manning thinks so!) I've loved it from the beginning, but NBC has threatened to pull the plug on the show every year since its inception. The show has shuffled around from timeslot to timeslot, night to night, and eventually last year landed in a pretty self-explanatory timeslot... Friday night.

What does this mean for avid FNL fans like myself? I'll suffer through a disheartening one-third of a year or I'll somehow cave and buy DirecTV. Personally, I'm hoping for the episodes finding their way to Hulu.

Anyway, as a big fan of the entire FNL franchise (yes, there is a franchise in that there's more than one), I'm frequently asked what the differences are between Friday Night Lights the book, the movie, and the TV show. Here is today's lesson:

The whole thing started with H.G. Bissinger's book, Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, and a Dream, a non-fiction book about the 1988 Permian football team in the west Texas oil town of Odessa. Bissinger followed the Permian Panthers around for a year, went to the annual watermelon feed, attended practices and games, and even sat in on halftime and pre-game pep talks on the team's quest for the Texas State Championship. The dark and beautifully written book was published in 1990 and exposed the unglamorous underbelly of racism, economic despair, and a community too focused on sports and not enough on education. Unsurprisingly my sentiments on the quality of Bissinger's work is not shared by many Odessa residents.

Then in 2004, the book was made into a movie called -- you guessed it -- Friday Night Lights. For the most part the movie followed the book, obviously many details were left out for the sake of time. The characters were the same, had similar dilemmas and personalities, and again was set in Odessa. Billy Bob Thornton played the part of Coach Gary Gaines. Oddly enough, Connie Britton played his wife, Sharon Gaines. Britton plays "the coach's wife" in the TV series as well.

Then, flash forward to 2006. Friday Night Lights, the TV series, hit the airwaves. However, unlike the movie, this one was not based on the book, but inspired by it. Oddly enough, the show's executive producer is Peter Berg, first cousin of the book's writer.

The TV show is a pretty sizeable departure from the book and movie. There are a few similarities, like the tragedy, immense sadness, and tough lives of the characters, the town's obsession with high school football, the team's mascot (the Panthers), and the small town Texas setting. The TV show is filmed in Austin and nearby suburb Pflugerville (note what real Pflugerville's football jerseys look like, pretty much the same look as those on the show) but takes place in fictional Dillon, Texas. The Dillon Panthers have blue and yellow jerseys, unlike Permian's trademark black jerseys (see below). Apologies for waxing Uni Watch again.

The TV show never really says where in Texas Dillon is. Sometimes you'll hear that it is a few hours from Austin, or a few from Dallas, but it never gives any real indication where in the state they're located. There are frequent references to Mack Brown and/or the Texas Longhorns. Honestly my analysis of the show could last for hours, but I'll curtail the details here. But like the book, the sadness and rawness of the emotions is what makes the TV show so beautiful.

If pressed for an opinion, I would say the book is the best, but it wins in a squeaker (over the TV show... the movie didn't bring much new to the table). Great writing (Bissinger formerly wrote for Sports Illustrated by the way) wins every time, but you have to keep in mind that the hugely successful movie and great TV show (bad ratings, but critically acclaimed) wouldn't exist without the book.

PS, one day I hope to attend a high school football game at Permian. I realize that likelihood hovers around nill, as it is a 6 hour drive, and um, 370 miles away. Couple that with gas for $3.70 a gallon, and yeah...

The end. Finally.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Tasty Trailer Treats

So one of my favorite things about Austin is the numerous delicious food-supplying trailers and carts.

This week I finally tried Flip Happy Crepes and Hey Cupcake!

Picture from http://stevieandkate.blogspot.com/2007/11/blog-post.html

While I enjoyed both of them, my favorite trailer foods still remain Torchy's (though I usually cheat and go to the Guadalupe location in the strip mall) and the snowcone stands Sno Beach and Molly's Sno Cups.

I enjoyed Flip Happy despite not being a bona fide "crepe fan." The lines are long, and I will definitely keep in mind to arrive there no later than 11 a.m. in the future. I tried an entree crepe filled with roasted chicken and goat cheese, and it was fabulous. I tried a dessert one draped with berry dressing as well, but I found the entree one to be the star of the show.

I thought Hey Cupcake! was a really cute place, but based on my limited sampling (Red Velvet and "The Standard," a vanilla cupcake with chocolate icing), I'd have to say it was a bit overrated. Plus $2.50 and $2 for cupcakes (respectively) was a bit much. But having had a rough week, I decided to treat myself. This will probably the most asinine food observation of all time, but I don't think I've ever had a cake (or cupcake) I've enjoyed more than one made from a Duncan Hines cake mix. I'm really not kidding. I'm all for making icings from scratch to add to these cakes, but the cakes themselves are so perfectly moist and tasty. This is probably why I have no future as a food critic.

Going back to Hey Cupcake!, what I found most disappointing about the cupcake was that the tops were especially hard and a little overcooked. Maybe I'm a picky cupcake-eater, but I like the cake portion to be reasonably consistent throughout, as in soft, but not falling apart.

I love all types of cupcakes... red velvet, chocolate, yellow, carrot cake, Funfetti, you name it. (By the way, I lump Pillsbury's Funfetti in that category of Duncan Hines-caliber amazing boxed cake mixes.) I have tried many far and wide, but I have yet to find one I thought tasted better than my Mom's Duncan Hines yellow cake with her own fudge icing. It's truly dynamite. If I'm feeling more charitable, I'll share the recipe at some point. Though I think she originally got the recipe from the cooking bible.

I'm looking to try some more tasty trailer and cart treats in the coming weeks as well. Right now I have my eye on Kebabalicious, Best Wurst (we'll save that one for a drunken night out though), and Rosita's al Pastor, should you feel compelled to join for sampling.

PS Thanks to my awesome friends. You've been fantastic, this week especially, but always!

Friday, September 12, 2008

More Microsoft WTF?

Here's the second installment of WTF? Microsoft. This time the ad is far too long, and instead of a lousy minute and a half, it reaches four full minutes and some change. Unbelievable. It's funnier, but still irksomely long and nonsensical. There are however, fleeting moments where I thought I was seeing a brand message or learning about Microsoft products, which is an improvement over the previous ad.

I did enjoy the double reference of Cabo San Lucas. Done so in a mocking manner of course, but I appreciated it nonetheless.

Jeers for ending the commercial in the lame, annoying way as last time. Seinfeld asks about the future of Microsoft to its founder, will there be a "Frog with an e-mail? Goldfish with a website? Amoeba with a blog?" Once again he begs Gates to "Give me a sign," this time with the billionaire performing the robot.

Oh, the commercial, it's something. But nothing I care for. It probably hits its campaign goals if Microsoft aims to succeed virally and by word-of-mouth in an effort to drum up brand awareness. If it's to take back some of Apple's market share though, I'd venture to guess it isn't going to be overly successful.

Here is AdAge's discussion, which found a lot more glimpses of excitement in the commercial than me.

Classroom chat with SVP

So in sports (journalism) class this week we had an hour-long conference call with Scott Van Pelt. As noted earlier, the key to discussion, as stated by the professor, was to treat celebrities like normal people and normal people like celebrities. We were prepared.

Scott, known as SVP in our class, is a very cool, laid-back, self-deprecating, funny, and articulate guy, just like the one he is on TV (and presumably the radio). He was so happy to answer the questions of a room full of aspiring sports writers, announcers, and marketers. He answered a wide variety of questions: really specific ones addressing past radio segments, hoping to get tips on getting the big break in the industry, how he enjoys acting in the ESPN commercials, how long his days are, and even "What did you think of all ESPN coverage of Brett Favre this summer?"

SVP was very honest in all of his responses. When asked about landing his ESPN job (he got it after 5 or 6 years at The Golf Channel and because of his ability to chase down Tiger Woods interviews when most journalists were unable) he even said, "you have to treat celebrities like they are normal people." Unseen to him, eyes darted around the room at each other, and of course, the professor. She prepared us well.

Well, I was watching SportsCenter last night and it was cool to hear the same relaxed voice anchoring the program a few days after the call. In watching highlights, I can't help but notice SVP's gift for saying my exact thoughts, but in a much more succinct and snazzier way. In reference to a UNC blowout of Rutgers last night, he said, "I've never seen Carolina with that shade of blue trouser. Whatever it is, it works, they win." Prior to the segment, I was aware that Carolina wasn't great at football and was surprised by their performance against a I-A football squad of any caliber not named Duke. When watching the highlight, the whole time I kept thinking "I don't think I've ever seen Carolina wear navy blue pants before. Not a good uniform choice. I miss the Carolina blue." Next thing I know SVP is commenting on the shade of trouser. I would have never put it so eloquently.

Anyway, all in all it's always encouraging to hear of likeable people finding so much success in their lives. Other celebrities (though SVP doesn't seem to think of himself as one) certainly could stand to learn a thing or two.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Reilly on Free Speech and Sports

When I was younger (10 or so, let's say), I remember helping my brothers make cardboard signs for them to take to a Steelers game. I remember vividly the Prang marker set we used and how clever my brothers and I thought we were when we made a sign that said

Body likes

when the game was televised on NBC. Oh, we were smart ones all right.

I think I speak for most when I say that signs are a fun and jovial part of the atmosphere at sporting events. Most support their team, sometimes they make small jabs at the opponent, and yet other occasions they call attention to completely different phenomena (for example "Hi Mom, please send $!" pleas). Whatever the inspiration, signs are overwhelmingly a tradition that many sports fans have come to embrace.

Not so at the University of Virginia, according to Rick Reilly's latest story. According to some sort of rule there, no signs of any size are allowed at sporting events anymore. Not even "Go UVA!," not even a message on a sheet of notebook paper. The only exception, unsurprisingly, are advertisements.

As a former UVA student myself, I'm pretty appalled by the school's stance against free speech. Apparently it is some sort of new athletic department policy. Reilly interviewed former UVA football standout Ronde Barber about the situation and Barber said, "Seems odd. You'd think if there was one university that would stand up for free speech, it'd be Virginia. When I was there, the signs were really clever."

I graduated after Ronde Barber, and thankfully, sometime before the new communist revolution. And I'd have to say, my experience was pretty much the same as Barber's. UVA may not have had national championships in football or basketball, but we had clever fans dammit!

Of all of the amusing signs people brought to games, my favorite was one that someone had a picture of Dick Vitale's head Photoshopped into a Duke cheerleader's uniform. Some friends and I had camped out 17 days -- yes 17 days! -- for the big UVA-Duke basketball showdown at UVA's University Hall (U-Hall, because we love to abbreviate everything at UVA). Anyway, my friends and I got front row seats to the contest, and a group with that poster was right behind us. To no one's surprise, Dick Vitale was there to broadcast the game.

I'm not sure this is the exact picture, but it looks exactly how I remembered it in my head. Source: http://www.truthaboutduke.com/news_month.php?m=November&y=2005

And how do you think he responded? He laughed and even autographed the sign for the students! Unbelievable. I think this says in a nutshell why people should be able to make signs; they make for a good laugh, add to the enthusiasm and atmosphere of the game, and hey, the best can take whatever heat is dealt. Like Reilly said about coach-slamming signs, "Who, exactly, is Virginia protecting here? Groh? The man can handle himself. After all, he was once the head coach of the New York Jets." Right on, Mr. Reilly.

The whole controversy is downright disturbing. UVA was founded by Thomas Jefferson. That's right, the very man who penned the Declaration of Independence, our nation's third president, and so fervently stood for rights like free speech. Good ol' TJ (or Teej as I liked to refer to him back in the day) would roll over in his grave if he knew what was going down at The University these days. As Reilly said, it's un-American, and where is the line drawn? Does this mean that in the coming years the Lawn won't have free speech either? No organizations intercepting unsuspecting students in an effort to get them to join their organization/show up to their meetings/donate money/buy their baked goods/rally behind their cause? As annoying as I found those soliciting tables (I'd walk the 2 or 3 minutes out of the way to avoid them), I 100% support their right to be there. Maybe it's time the UVA athletics department took the same stand.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Dr J, Dr P

Y'all catch the Dr. J Dr Pepper commercial yet? I get the vibe it's been around for a little while, but I've been seeing it a lot lately.

Well I must say I'm a fan. Why exactly? Because it is so perfectly corny in every way. Check it out:

It has all the "nos" of creative advertising wrapped into one beautiful, hilarious, so-bad-it's-good package.

How, you ask?

Does it have a ridiculous celebrity spokesman for the product?
Check, Dr. J, obviously a candidate who'd know lots about... soda. And Dr. J, Dr Pepper, very funny, we get it easily.

Oh, so an athlete is the spokesperson. Is there a cheesy slo-mo sports play in the commercial?
Check, oh you know it.

Ah yes, and for Dr. Pepper. Clever. How many times is that pun approached?
At least 3 times (Dr. J name is a pun in every mention, so there's at least a pun in introduction, when he mentions being a doctor, and tagline at end).

Is a cheesy over-the-top sports feat accomplished (an impossible goal or shot, slam dunking on the moon, etc.) to a play-by-play soundtrack or equally silly song?
Oh yeah, Dr. J hits the glass with his ice cube from 10 feet away. In slow motion. Gotta love the music during the shot though. It was my favorite part of the commercial.

How about a cringe-when-you-hear it line from the script?
"Trust me. I'm a doctor."

And a pun-tastic tagline to seal the commercial?
Check. Dr's orders. Doesn't get any better than that!

Apparently we can expect more where that came from from Deutsch/LA, where similar ads will feature another doctor with expertise, Dr. Frasier Crane. The boundless corniness of this installation will certainly be tough to top.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

What's up in Mad Men, by Gossip Girl

What's King D hiding?

Spotted. King D snuggling up to a mystery femme. Uh-oh. Looks like D is getting sloppy this season. He might be polished in the conference room, but how much longer will his extracurricular exploits remain hidden from view? Will his canoodling with all the ladies of Manhattan finally catch up with him?

Looks like Queen B's talking to a shrink and may be on to D's games. But has B taken a liking to the engaged man at the equestrian center? Or is it the other way around for Ms. Profoundly Sad? What does D think? Careful D, the perfect pitch might not get you out of this one.

Caught. P nuzzling with an unnamed model from a SC casting call. P might not be able to have children with T, but how many will he father outside his marriage before getting busted? Poor, sweet T. Little do you know you married a conniving, selfish slimeball.

Speaking of extramarital activities, how is our favorite mother, Lil P? With child and a shiny new copywriting job, but without allies, it appears Lil P might have gotten the big break, but has won no sympathies. Just because your motherhood is under wraps doesn't mean you aren't still a little girl in a man's world.

And what's that sparkle around the SC office? Why that's the shiny Harry Winston on J's hand; she and the doctor are finally engaged. What does R have to say about that? Guess everything isn't sterling in the office after all.

Gossip Girl


(King) D = Don Draper, SC creative director
(Queen) B = Betty/Bets Draper, housewife, married to D
P = Pete Campbell, SC junior account executive
T = Trudy Campbell, housewife, married to P
Lil P = Peggy Olsen, SC secretary turned junior copywriter
J = Joan Holloway, SC office manager and queen of the secretarial staff
R = Roger Sterling, SC partner
SC = Sterling Cooper, ad agency

WTF Microsoft?

Have you seen the new Jerry Seinfeld/Bill Gates commercial? Summed up in one uttering, it was WTF?!

The commercial drags on for 90 seconds and consists of Jerry and Bill shopping for shoes at a cheesy location of a "Shoe Circus." I'm guessing it's supposed to be like Shoe Carnival. Anyway, Jerry pretends to know a lot about breaking in shoes and makes awkward unfunny jokes for a good 70 seconds of the commercial. At the very end it is briefly mentioned that the ad was for Microsoft Windows. I have no idea what this message was supposed to mean. Was the spot supposed to be the next link we all forward on YouTube? Was it supposed to be funny? Am I the only moron that didn't get it?

I guess my overall reaction is that it was a humongous disappointment. My feeling is, if you're going to have a commercial run for that long I better be amused or learn something. I, of course, came away with neither. Choosing to have Jerry Seinfeld on the commercial certainly was a brilliant decision in order to cut through the clutter, but I was at a loss the whole time for why he was there and what was the message of the commercial. Either way it was 90 seconds of my life I won't be getting back. If you'd also to lose 90 seconds of your own life (you've been forewarned), feel free to click below:

After reading AdAge I realized I wasn't the only one confused. Apparently it was supposed to be some sort of teaser ad to hold us over until something else is launched. In the meantime, I don't get how Windows is supposed to be delicious. Or what's with the conquistador thing? I'm kind of surprised to see that this was a CP+B ad, as I'm usually a fan of their zany work. Everyone loved Mini of course, but I enjoyed the creepy Burger King and hilarious candid camera-esque Coke Zero ads with lawyers and "taste infringement." Maybe Crispin's follow-up for Microsoft will answer many questions, or we can hope, bring at least something funnier to the table.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Disgustingly Good Eats

What do you do when the gastronomic world of chicken fried steak with gravy, chili cheese fries, and Oreo brownie sundaes aren't unhealthy enough?

You throw a bacon cheeseburger on a Krispy Kreme glazed donut instead of a bun! Check out the insanity!

When on a friend's recently Dugg'd pages list, I found this incredible delicacy. Apparently it was served in Google's New York office in celebration of the cafeteria's chef's birthday. On my next birthday I'll have to remember to serve up artery-clogging goodness to my family, friends, and peers.

Now seems a good as time as ever to pronounce my love for adventures to find outstanding(ly bad for me) food. A few months ago, one of my friends came up with the brilliant idea to go on a Texas BBQ-themed road trip. We drove down 183 for about 30 miles or so and did a spur of the moment tour of the towns of Lockhart and Luling, Texas. In Lockhart we sampled the 'cue of Smitty's (my favorite of the trip) and Kreutz, and made a quick walk-through at Black's Barbecue in order to briefly relax our stomachs. In Luling we saw a ton of campaigning for the town's Watermelon Thump Queen, the pinnacle award at the town's annual watermelon festival. But we also took a whack at that town's best BBQ joint -- The City Market. In filling our bellies to our content, we took a stab 3 of what Texas Monthly named the top 5 BBQ joints in Texas for 2008.

Yes, I have a hankering for more trips like this in the future. It's been a dream for the past few years to sometime make it to the North Carolina State Fair where I've heard legends about the deliciously bad-for-you delicacies: fried Twinkies, fried Snickers bars, and fried who knows what else. All of them will one day be mine! Stay tuned to my post in 2015 when I finally get to fulfill my dream! In the meantime I'll lick my lips and gaze at the holy grail:

Special thanks to Channel M for her tantalizing write-up of the NC State Fair last year (and source of above picture). I can't wait to have my heavenly deep-fried experience as well as the chance to see pig racin' for myself!

Bandwagon of the moment

Hi. Just wanted to let you know I'm jumping on the East Carolina bandwagon. I want to make that known now, so you know well in advance of when the rest of the bandwagon will jump onboard in the coming weeks.

ECU is whipping up on West Virginia 24-3 with 5 minutes left in the 4th quarter. This team is for real. After an impressive win against Virginia Tech, ECU now seems even more poised and destined for a great season. Oh by the way, ECU is unranked (that won't be the case come Monday), and oh yeah, WVU is #8 and a sleeper pick for the national championship. Not anymore, if the finale of the 4th quarter is anything like the rest of the game!

Other college football observations:
  • I wasn't sure about the Dr. Lou segment on ESPN last week, but now I am. I don't like it. It may cause the occasional "heh" laugh, but it doesn't induce amazement and wonderment like his pep talks of last year. (Dr. Lou is Lou Holtz, and by the way, Skip Holtz, Lou's son, is head coach at ECU.) I did enjoy that they had an "anonymous caller" who complained of migraines caused by Notre Dame football play, as it was very very obviously the voice of Regis Philbin.
  • I love ESPN commercials (duh). The latest I saw today was one with Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit (the most attractive broadcaster in the history of broadcasters), and USC coach Pete Carroll. They were riding a tour bus to an unknown destination and Herbstreit was ignoring phone calls from Carroll, but unbeknownst to Herbstreit, Carroll was on the bus and caught him. Not the best of their commercials, but amusing nonetheless. ESPN commercials are reason #357 that I wouldn't mind working for Wieden + Kennedy NY.
  • I miss the East Coast. I have such a hard time finding the games I want to watch. This week UVA was rarely televised for more than 5 consecutive minutes and Texas is on, but not until much later today . SEC and ACC games have been few and far between. Thankfully the weekend's headliner matchup, the big Florida-Miami showdown, will be televised tonight. The Big 10 is ubiquitous, and it makes me want to gag. I was so excited when Ohio State entered halftime earlier today trailing Ohio, but unfortunately they turned it on somewhat in the second half and won by 12. But still, I would have preferred to spend my college football watching on other games or conferences.
  • The UVA throwback jerseys were interesting today. They won 16-0 in a game my cable plan only allowed me to view for a few minutes. Instead of the usual navy blue ensemble with orange splices and "V-sabers"-emblazoned navy helmets they wore orange jerseys and white pants with white helmets. The pants and helmets donned a similar blue & orange stripe. Here's a look:

Anyway, congrats to the gentlemen in orange and blue on their first victory of the season. Onward to the next 12 wins (because they're going to be in the ACC championship and national championship games for sure)! That was being facetious, just in case you didn't already know.

Also if you're interested in sports "packaging" and design, as in the study of uniforms (color/font/design choices and more) I enthusiastically recommend Paul Lukas's Uni Watch on espn.com. I've been reading it off and on for quite a while, but if you're interested in "the aesthetics of athletics" with a dose of sarcasm, Lukas is your man.

OK, back to the games. Más later.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Best Class Ever?

(No, really!)

So today was my first day of my "sports journalism" class. Assignments include normal activities, like blogging about sports, watching high school football games, and video conferencing with sports celebrities.


Yeah, so among other "famous" people we'll get to talk to in class, we'll be doing video conferences with both Scott Van Pelt (as in the SportsCenter anchor) and Rick Reilly (Sports Illustrated back page columnist-turned ESPN.com writer). Um, yeah, craziness! The professor is even talking about us heading down to interview several of the UT Olympic swimmers. You know, the Brenden Hansens, Garrett Weber-Gales, and Aaron Peirsols of the world. What?!

Well apparently rule #1 (actually #2 if I want to quote correctly from the professor's journalism tips handout from today) is that as writers we're to treat famous people like normal people and normal people like famous people. Clearly I have a long way to go.

In my head I giggled at all the new UT female students going gaga that Matthew McConaughey was at the football game this past weekend. Little did I know I'd fall prey to that same type of "OMG celebrity!!" ludicrousness a few days later. Sigh. Pathetic.

In other (though actually related) news I finally remembered to bring my camera out this past weekend and was able to snag a picture of what I wanted to photograph for the past few weeks. This is the sign just outside Kerbey Lane Cafe on Guadalupe Street. Ian C = Ian Crocker, yet another UT/US Olympic swimmer. Note to self: obsess much? The Olympics ended weeks ago!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Mulligan, por favor

So last weekend wasn't the best for college football teams I was rooting for.

The only game that I was bursting at the seams to see was USC's visit to UVA. Unfortunately it conflicted with a tailgate I was attending (the best tailgate I've been to in my Austin stint thus far, mind you), pre-Texas vs. Florida Atlantic.

So unsurprising to all, Texas rolled over Florida Atlantic with a 52-10 score. I can't admit any sadness over this outcome. However the state of Virginia, my beloved Commonwealth, ended far from unscathed.

Despite being a Wahoo fan, I find myself rooting for Virginia Tech in various instances. I know this is a majorly frowned upon fan faux pas. I rationalize it in a variety of ways: "when VT is good, it's good for the state," the victory over VT (the .06% of the time it happens) is so much sweeter when both squads enter the contest undefeated (a rare situation, of course), and probably the worst of justifications: "but my brother goes there!"

Anyway, VT fan or not, the Hokies game against the East Carolina Pirates was disappointing. ECU is certainly far from a bad team, but unfortunately for Hokies fans, the general public probably now thinks their beloved squad is terrible this year, or that they lost to a bad team, both of which are far from the truth. Anyway, I watched this game in its entirety before the tailgate, and well, the Hokies looked sloppy. And the team had a penchant for sloppy play during the most inconvenient of times. An interception thrown in the red zone on the opening drive. Unsuccessfully trying to ram the RB Evans into the endzone on a 4th and goal play after his being halted at the line the two previous plays. Another red zone turnover, this time on downs (and on the very next offensive drive). With the final score of 27-22 in the Pirates' favor, you realize that if VT was able to get two field goals on the first two drives instead of two turnovers in the red zone, the game would have had a different winner. But there were many other mistakes, as well as a few instances of brilliance.

Macho Harris' injury certainly had an impact on the team, and they missed his leadership and spark on the field. Always known for Beamer Ball, with its intensity and acumen on special teams, there were some exciting plays, like when VT blocked a Pirate extra point, which resulted in a 2-pt conversion. However, these points were more than nullified with a variety of special teams miscues: by missing their own extra point, a moderate-length field goal attempt that smacked into an upright, and a VT punt that blocked and returned for an ECU touchdown in the game's waning minutes. The team certainly had their opportunities, but never was able to fully capitalize on them.

While I care an awful lot more about UVA's loss to USC, I wasn't able to see the game due to the scheduling conflict with the tailgate. As it turns out, 3 hours of deliciousness and fun probably was a better decision than 3 hours of heartache and disappointment. After viewing part of the NC State-South Carolina game on Thursday night, I had one mission for the Hoos: whatever you do, just please score! Though I didn't see the enough of the game to make a convincing point about this, there isn't a doubt in my mind that the Hoos were missing the leadership and impact of their now-NFL hero, Chris Long. When you lose 52-7, it's obvious that the team is lacking both offense and defense. And I'm pretty confident when I say that if Long was still a Cavalier, the Trojans would have scored less than 52. That's not to say I think "we'd" beat USC, but I think it would have been a lot more competitive. Well the good news is that USC is #3 in the country, so the scant few really expected the game to have a different outcome. Yeah, I'm not sure how mollifying that statement that really is.

Anyway, the state of Virginia will be looking for some sort of redemption next week. The Hokies will face Furman and the Hoos will host the just-down-I64 Richmond Spiders. Uni Watch promises that UVA will be wearing some sort of interesting throwback jerseys for the battle. UT plays away next week, so I'll be doing my darndest to find a way to watch the action, without conflict. The good news, I suppose, is that both teams are on an even playing field now, with a blank slate more or less. If both are 0-1, that means the Hokies can't already be bragging about their superior record. Either way, I was happy to see that UVA is getting credit in the press for their difficult schedule this season. Even with the caveat of it being an "inexact science" I liked that someone else acknowledged those playing tough schedules this year (the article gave UVA the #10 nod, with the Georgia Bulldogs topping the list).

By the way, college football season really makes me miss the East Coast. You're probably thinking, how is that possible? You live in Austin, TEXAS, the heart of all football action. Well you're right, that is true. But why, when I have hundreds of channels on Time Warner, am I only able to get 2 or 3 games on at a time on gameday? On Saturday, my options for early game were VT vs ECU on ESPN (solid choice), Pitt vs Bowling Green (not bad) on ESPN2, and some D2 or 1-AA game of one team I had heard of, and one I hadn't, on one of the ESPN HD channels. Well on the (amazingly awesome) East Coast I was always able to find decent football on non-cable channels as well. ABC always had at least one key SEC matchup (yes, the best conference in college football, more on that in future posts probably) and CBS would broadcast at least one ACC game. It is so difficult to keep up with my old region now that I'm in Texas. It always makes me sad, but I guess I'll just have to keep silently lobbying for more network coverage of those two conferences in other parts of the EEUU. Well see how successful that campaign is.