Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Food, family and football

I don’t know what year it happened but there’s not much of a doubt in my mind anymore. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  Once I outgrew the feeling of excitement that came with waking up and opening Christmas presents, it became apparent. You cannot outgrow Thanksgiving.

There is nothing like Thanksgiving dinner.  My personal favorites are stuffing, cranberry sauce and of course turkey. I was never wild about dessert but if someone makes a cherry pie, I’ll eat it. Taking in a great meal with many family members and watching football will never get old.  On Sundays during the NFL season, sometimes I feel spoiled sitting and just watching football and not doing much else with my day. But on Thanksgiving, I get to do this, eat a ton and enjoy the company of my family. All of it is okay on this day.

I’m lucky enough to still have all four of my grandparents still alive. I have an aunt, uncle and two cousins that live only an hour away. I have an older sister in graduate school and a younger brother in college just like I am. Everyone congregates somewhere and recently it’s been my house in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. I’m sure this is no different than many other Thanksgiving celebrations across the country, but it doesn’t have to be different to be enjoyable. I’ve grown to respect the tradition of Thanksgiving. It doesn’t have to change to get better. I don’t want it to change because as long as it stays the same I’ll always enjoy it for what it is.

I never particularly cared for the Thanksgiving Day parades. My family has had a dog for 10 years so the National Dog Show is pretty much a staple in the living room after the parades. It’s all part of our thing. Being in college, there aren’t as many moments like this anymore. Certainly the other holidays are separate moments, but in my opinion, Thanksgiving is the one that has changed the least.

The older I’ve gotten, the less I need to be crossing my fingers for that big holiday gift. I don’t need the surprise of what’s under the Christmas tree or in my Easter basket.  Now, I just enjoy the value of a long-lasting tradition like Thanksgiving. In many ways, it’s kind of like my annual trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame for induction weekend. There’s almost nothing different each year, with the exception of a few additions or subtractions to the group of people on the trip, but there’s a beauty in doing the same thing over and over again, and not changing anything. That’s what Thanksgiving has become for me, and I love every second of it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A weekly exercise in futility

We’re hitting the stretch run of the college football regular season. Teams are vying for berths in conference championship games and eventually the College Football Playoff. Every Tuesday, we get a glimpse of what things might look like come playoff time as the new rankings are released from the committee. The first set of rankings came out last week and the latest set will be made public tonight.

Last year, I blogged about how I felt eight teams was the answer for college football. I still believe that to be true. This year, I find myself getting so annoyed by these weekly discussions of who’s in and who’s out when there are still huge games left to be played. Last week, LSU and Alabama were both in the top four with a showdown in Tuscaloosa looming later in the week.  So it was pointless to discuss if both teams were going to be in the playoff, because one was inevitably going to be knocked out. Now, Alabama is in the driver’s seat in the SEC West and it will be almost impossible for LSU to make the College Football Playoff given the Tigers likely won’t even be playing in their conference championship game.

While these rankings strike up conversations each week, it’s ultimately a bunch of nonsense. The real conversation didn’t come until the first weekend of December. It was a forgone conclusion that Alabama, Oregon and Florida State were going to be in the first ever playoff. But the fourth spot was very much up for grabs. TCU entered the final week third in the playoff rankings, ahead of Baylor and Ohio State despite losing to Baylor in the regular season.  Baylor had an unconvincing 38-27 win against Kansas State. TCU and Ohio State both had blowout victories over Iowa State and Wisconsin respectively. Iowa State went 2-10 last year and Wisconsin was 11-3. The committee gave the final spot to Ohio State for beating a better team than the team TCU beat. I disagreed with this. TCU took care of its business and left no doubt in the process but was left out. Being third in playoff ranks before the season’s final weekend was essentially pointless. You know how things ended by know. Ohio State stayed hot, beating Alabama and Oregon en route to a championship.

In last week’s first release of the playoff rankings for 2015, there was an emphasis placed on strength of schedule. Undefeated teams Baylor, Michigan State, TCU and Iowa were behind one-loss Alabama and Notre Dame. With Michigan State and TCU losing over the weekend, there’s no longer a case for those teams to be higher in the rankings. LSU will likely drop out of the top four and Notre Dame will slide in. That will leave the top four at Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame. It’s not rocket science to say those are the best four teams in the nation right now. But what does that mean? Alabama will still have to beat Florida in the SEC Championship game. Ohio State still has to go through Michigan State and potentially Iowa in the Big 10 Championship game. Notre Dame has to travel to Stanford, another team on the outside looking in of the playoff picture. There is plenty of football left. This is where it really gets interesting. So who cares about the top four teams are in the playoff rankings right now? I certainly don’t.