Monday, February 25, 2013

Leaving a legacy

I met Barry when we were both 15.

We were at a church camp and for some reason we were divided up into state delegations.There were about 15 kids from my church. Barry represented the rest of the Georgia contingent.

As it turns out, his aunt had been my freshman English teacher.

A few years later, we both ended up as students at Georgia Southern University. We ended up in the same campus organization. While we weren't best friends, we certainly hung out a lot, making random trips to the beach, playing video games, going to football games and plenty of late nights playing Risk with our friends.

Risk, for the uninitiated, is the game of global domination in which you roll dice and move armies across a map of the world, seeking to occupy every territory on the board. Attack to quickly and you'll end up spreading your army too thin. Wait too long and your opponents will become so powerful that there's not much you can do to to stop the ensuing onslaught.

So we must have played dozens of games of the course of the time we were in college. Over time, we learned the different strategies and patterns of everyone who played. I would end up being overly cautious, hoping to lay low while other players battled amongst themselves. Another friend would basically draw the game out a long as possible in an attempt to wear us down mentally as we got tired of waiting for him.

This brings us to Barry. Barry is what I imagine professional Risk players (an occupation I really hope exists, though I doubt it does) call a "wild card." Barry would seem to eventually grow restless and want something to happen, so he'd load up a country with as many armies as possible and then go on a marauding campaign that seemed to have no rhyme or reason. It was a military excursion for the sake of doing something. I'm not sure if there was ever a long-term plan associated with the attack or if it was just boredom.

Whatever the reason, if you were in the path of Barry’s destructive rampage, whatever plans you had were likely ruined. To make this post even more nerdy, it was like playing with a “chaotic neutral” character from Dungeons and Dragons. You weren’t sure what was going to happen, you just hoped you weren’t involved.

I graduated from college in 2001. I mention this because from time to time (including last weekend) some college buddies still get together to play Risk. We make the same jokes about the Ukraine being weak,  referring to Alaska as "The Fightin' Palins" and other geopolitical jokes that we all know are coming, but we laugh anyway. Barry lives about two hours from us, so he’s not among the players, but we still make references to someone “Pulling a Barry.” More than 13 years later, his legacy, or something like that, still lives on.

*Barry is currently a United Methodist minister so hopefully he’ll forgive me for giving away his Risk strategy to any of his new friends/parishioners who read this before his next Risk game.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The rise of the sports nation

If you’re reading this, please send help.

I’ve been hiding for years, besieged on all sides, trying to hold out against attackers who want nothing more than to force me to assimilate into their culture while abandoning all pretense of my current life.

At best you would call me a conscientious objector. At worst, you’d call me a traitor.*You see, My alma mater has insisted on branding itself “Eagle Nation” and has basically declared that anyone who attended classes, graduated, watched a sporting event or knows someone who has heard of the university a part of the nation.

*Should I ever run for public office, please correct anyone who uses that phrase out of context.

But I’m holding out. I don’t want to be a part of Eagle Nation, or, for that matter, any organization that would have me as a member. I want to be an alumnus of the school and a fan of their athletic teams without having to buy in to some crappy marketing scheme.

As best as I can remember, this whole “nation” thing started with the Boston Red Sox and has spread to any team that has more than three fans who are more than five feet apart. I don’t want to be in Eagle Nation. I want to pay you money for tickets to go the games and then be left alone. I haven’t declared my intentions to join your nation-state and don’t appreciate trying to be forcibly annexed in.

We all know that “Eagle Nation” is just a blatant marketing ploy to try to build up a connection with the school so you can not feel so bad about asking for money. I get the feeling we’re only a few steps away from changing the terminology from “donations” to “taxes” so people can look down on those who take advantage of attending sporting events that don’t charge admission instead of revenue-generating sports. “Why won’t you pay your taxes to support the Eagle Nation?” When it stops being effective, they’ll move on to something else.  

Instead of worrying about me, Eagle Nation needs to go try and conquer Mountaineer Nation with its headquarters in Boone, NC to make Appalachian State a satellite campus of Georgia Southern.  

So I will remain here with attackers on all sides holding out. Please send help as soon as possible.  

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Good Day

My wife hosted a bridal shower today. That means two things for me.

First, it means I've spent the past few days trying to make our house look like no one actually lives here. Not in the "clear out all the furniture so we can fool the people who watch House Hunters" kind of way, but in the "everything is put in its place just like no time ever" kind of way. It fools no one and is frankly insulting to everyone who shows up. We're putting on a show for ... you know what, that's a rant for another time.

The second thing it means is that my son and I are essentially kicked out of the house for three to four hours so the ladies can do whatever it is they do at bridal showers. I'd initially planned on taking my 4-year old to the Georgia Southern baseball game, but an overcast day with scattered showers and a packed stadium isn't the ideal way to entertain a small child.

Fortunately, right around the corner from the stadium is the Georgia Southern Museum. For $4, we got to see fossilized remains of Mammoths, pretend to be a paleontologist and search for dinosaur fossils while seeing an 30-foot Mosasaur. There was even a small tunnel he could crawl in to and when he stood up, he was in the belly of the long beast. We saw diagrams of Native Americans and their progression to developing tools to making canoes and fishing. We also saw the exhibit on a Civil War POW camp located about 30 miles from the Georgia Southern campus. As you can imagine, my son was less than impressed, so we went back to the mosasaur exhibit for a bit.

After that, we headed over to the Wildlife Center where despite the chilly and windy temperatures, we had a great time wondering the outdoor exhibits. We saw two Bald Eagles, a Golden Eagle, a few owls, snakes, turtles, a falcon and a lot of other animals. His excitement level was unbelievable. "I can't believe we saw a falcon, right in our own town," he said. On our way out, we went back to the Bald Eagle nest to see the majestic bird up close (20 feet away). It was incredibly awesome.

From there, we went to his favorite frozen yogurt place where, as luck would have it, Cars was on. Honestly, I'm not sure they own another movie as it seems Cars is on every time we go there.

All in all, it was a perfect afternoon, and a lot more fun than going to the baseball game would have been.