Monday, September 29, 2008

Soccer -- my brother loves it!

Growing up, I used to watch my brother John play soccer and I thought it was pretty boring. Cleats running in a blur chasing after a black and white ball. Slamming it with the inside of the shoe to another blur of feet or at a white net on one end of the large, grassy field. But then he used all that kicking to snag a high school football kicking record...56-yard field goal that still stands today. Super cool to see in person. I started to rethink soccer.

Then in school I met a goalie. A big guy who guards the net as dozens of players stampede toward him in those cleats. They all have one goal: smashing the black and white ball completely through him. It's his job to stand in front of the goal like the Secret Service, taking one for the big guy except in this case the welts aren't typically life-threatening. Just hearing him talk about playing soccer made me rethink it. He ate, slept, thought, and breathed the sport -- passion could be heard in every word. Sounded a lot like my brother. The excitement from both mirrored SEC football in the south and as contagious as that is, I didn't stand a chance.

Then I had an opportunity that evidently was something soccer/futbol hooligans would kill for. I lived in Germany during the 2006 World Cup. When the US played Italy in Kaiserslautern, it was a mad house. I high-tailed it to Switzerland. In the cutest little guesthouse in the Alps - a place that you can only reach by rail - I was having dinner next to a couple from the UK. When they found out that my server was from Italy, it was like Alabama was playing Auburn. The teasing, taunting and relentless ribbing lasted the entire meal.

Later I walked down the main street where all the pubs were snuggled in between mountain wear stores, I could hear shouts pouring out into the streets. Goaaaal! Brazil was playing and losing to an African team. Sounded like Tuscaloosa. That same crazed-Saturday-in-the-South-gotta-tailgate-and-eat-BBQ could be felt from every pore of that sleepy little village. I can smell the burning fall leaves now (the ultimate fall, football, parade smell). It was intoxicating and I couldn't help it. I got into it.

Now I've decided to take a little vacation to one of the soccer/futbol capitals of the world - Italy. I love Italy but I've never been to Venice and have always regretted that I didn't make it when I lived there. On the way, I'll pop in to see my brother and I know I'll be watching soccer. The village will break out its spring team and they'll go to town. I'll watch as John gives me the players' stats and his own recruiter-like opinion about whether they are any good or not. The competition among the players alone will be worth going to see. Maybe that goalie could have held his own.

Either way, the pub will put on a spread. Soccer jerseys will be worn by babies in strollers, old men with pipes and canes, and girlfriends to show player ownership. It won't be BBQ but brauts and beer. And the shouts will reverberate off the trees and windmills. What a party and I can't wait!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mean people - why?

*Disclaimer - this would not be one of my more upbeat posts*

I am terrible at relationships. Do other people say that? I hope that I'm not alone in that. My problem is that I think I'm a good judge of character but my most recent relationship would prove that I'm not. The real problem is that I knew the guy had it in him to be nasty and mean and I stayed with him anyway. Always hoping that he would get better; believing him when he'd apologize and promise to get better. Does that make me weak? Probably.

Why can't he let it go? It's over and his answer to that is to make my life as awful as he can. I'm sure people have heard that before. What is it in someone that drives them to be so cruel? To rub it in when they are hurt. To make you as absolutely miserable as possible because if he is then I should be too. Beyond that though, what creates someone who isn't just mean but so vicious that they screw with your job, your family...everything you are.

I thought if you loved someone that you want them to be happy no matter what's going on. You don't stick the knife in over and over and then twist it again for good measure.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Middle of the Bread

I like the middle of the bread. Not just any bread. French bread. I like to tear off the top and dig out the middle. It's soft and filling. When I was a kid, I would hide the end I took off and put it back on the serving platter. After a few minutes, fits of hee-haws had me rolling off my chair and onto the floor when the unsuspecting spaghetti eater would reach for bread only to find a gigantic hole in it. Evidently I haven't changed that much.

I'm sitting here at Panera Bread eating a Greek salad with a large piece of sourdough, French bread. The middle is all gone. It was yummy too. I figure some psychiatrist would have a hey day with it. But they would with my good friend Stephen too. He can't have anything on his plate touching anything else or he won't eat it. He also refuses to let you eat french fries out of the McDonald's bag until we get where we're going to eat. Something about touching his food.

So I figure Stephen can't trust anybody. In contrast, I figure I'd rather to cut to the chase. Why waste all your energy on small talk? Well, down South small talk is a way of life. You have to get through it to get to the real stuff. It's invasive and happens everywhere.

A total stranger in the grocery store will talk to you about why you are buying cranberry juice. Bless your heart sweetie, trying to get regular?
Or at the gas station, another stranger will ask you where you work....because obviously you are high on the hog since you drive that BMW.
My personal favorite is sitting in the pedicure chair and the lady beside you wants to make sure you have a church to attend...since you so clearly don't have one seeing as how you are getting bright red nail polish on your toes.

If you understand how it works down here, responses are automatic and swift. No I'm regular...just need to clear up a UTI. My BMW? Honey, my 99-year-old husband bought that for me just before he kicked the bucket. And red nail polish? Why that's perfectly acceptable in my church. We also worship idols and talk to snakes.

This little ritual is taught from childhood and we can all do it. It's just part of life down here. It helps make new friends and helps you pick up on the new gossip but you can't let them get the better of you. Recognize the bad small talk from the good small talk. It can be a fun game.

Chatting in the grocery line is perfectly normal - just stick to what's on the magazine rack. Discussing outrageous gas prices will endear you to the other sucker who has to pay that much for gas too. And nail salons, stick to pink. And whatever you do, if you are not a card-carrying member of the NRA, don't tell anyone.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

ROLL TIDE -- Good start to the SEC year

Bama beat out the #7 team Saturday .... with a bunch of freshman!!!! JP Wilson had a great game and completed more passes than he did in all of last year! Not really, but he did have a good game.

Here's the deal. Alabama fans are fanatical. No pun intended. They are obsessive, crazy and still gloat about the Bear Bryant glory days. I should know, I was raised by one of Bears Boys.

Saturday was always dedicated to Red Elephant flags hanging off cars, off houses, on t-shirts and on tattoos. Chili, nachos, coke and beer -- all broken out before noon and stayed out until midnight. Whether we were at the game or in the living room, everyone wore red t-shirts, red hairbows, face paint. My aunt even wore red sweatpants. And "Roll Tide" was said as a greeting, a salutation, a high-five and even a curse.

And the stories were always the same. Remember the 1979 goal-line stand against Penn State? Bama held and we won another national championship. How about the 1993 Sugar Bowl when George Teague chased down that Miami guy and stripped the ball, held on to it and ran it back -- we won 34-13? You can't forget the Bear's last game: December 1982, the same year he became the winningest coach of all time.

There were also stories of us at home. Remember when Granddaddy jumped off the couch and launched into the air in front of the TV to catch a ball Joe Namath threw in the hopes of catching it for the win? How about when Momma was 8 months pregnant and hid behind the couch because she was afraid to watch all the excitement for fear of accidental delivery from football stress? And Sister...can't watch a game with her. She screams at the TV, the players, the coaches and you if you get anywhere near her view.

But that's SEC football. The best game in town. The fall is made for burning leaves, parades and tailgating. Down here it's religion. Down here it's life. And what better way to start it off than with huge win in Atlanta!? Next week's home opener is sure to be just as good. Doesn't matter that we're only playing Tulane. The stadium will be packed, tailgaters will be BBQing, cheerleaders will be screaming and ESPN is sure to notice the new Bama team from Tuscaloosa.