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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Is This Real Life? Part 3

Hold up wait a minute... y'all thought I was finished? -Meek Mill, Dreams and Nightmares

As I prepared myself for the Eagles to compete in an ultimately win the Super Bowl I knew I needed to send all of the appropriate vibes to Minneapolis for the team. What did that mean? Curating a Philly experience for myself here in North Carolina.

First, what I did not do, though I considered it for longer than was logical: Before there was a Rita's Water Ice here in Greensboro (it since has left), my wife and I used to plan our trips to Charlotte or the Triangle such that a trip to Rita's was involved. I remembered that during one such trip, we passed what seemed to be an exclave of Philly in Mooresville: a Rita's right next to a pretzel jawn (which I now know to be Philly Pretzel Company). It's about an hour and 20 minutes from home, but I thought about making the trip. In another direction, I had heard the team on 919 Beer speak of Patrick Jane's in Cary, which "imports" Amoroso rolls for its cheesesteaks.

Still, I stayed local. After crowdsourcing recommendations for cheesesteaks, I landed on an option right around the corner from which I had often ordered pizza, and Burke Street Pizza (pictured) is legit. I grabbed some Tastykake products (and introduced my kids to Butterscotch Krimpets) locally as well.

Then there was the beer selection. In a normal year, I'd typically do a make-your-own-six pack with representation from the cooties/regions of both teams, or perhaps the host city, but for obvious reasons I was going all Delaware Valley. I knew my first call was going to be Victory - from Downingtown, and appropriately named. I got a six of Home Grown lager. Turns out my choose your own ended up all Victory as well - Festbier, Mighty Things, Dirtwolf, 4 Front, Golden Monkey, and HopDevil.

 What I left out? Dogfish Head. I came to be an Eagles fan through Delaware, but Dogfish Head is downstate. I can't promise the folks in Slower Lower are thorough - too many Skins fans down there. Plus, Sam named Dogfish Head after a place in Maine. No New England here.

The Philly love continued into the broadcast: God Bless America by Leslie Odom, Jr. The National Anthem by Pink. And of course the team taking the field to Meek Mill. And after the victory, Philly's own Kevin Hart getting bounced from the dais. Back in Philly, the parade feature Jason Kelce dressed as Mummer and reprising a Philadelphia Union chant, and Chris Long in an Iverson jersey. The city and environs responded in kind, turning out in an estimated 700,000 for the victory parade.

Postscript: I offer no apologies and seek no absolution for backsliding and watching the Super Bowl. Still, if there were any team I was proud to root for in the midst of Kaepernick remaining unemployed, the Eagles were the best choice available. I don't yet know what the future holds for me and the League, but now and always, Fly Eagles Fly.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Is This Real Life? Part 2

"If you from the hood, I know you feel me..." -Freeway, What We Do

Sunday, February 4, 2018 was an emotional day, and I found myself teary-eyed quite a bit. I have no intention of presenting myself like Stoick the Vast of Billy Bad-Ass, but I don't find myself moved to tears quite as often as Jimmy V recommends, even after fatherhood. That day, however, an incomplete list, from the normally insignificant to the sublime, of things that brought tears:

-The climax of "Going the Distance" from the Rocky soundtrack
-SNL's Super Bowl sketch
-Posting about my Eagles flag on Instagram
-When fans of other teams reached out to tell me they were rooting for the Eagles
-When the Eagles took the field to Meek Mill's Dreams and Nightmares
-Pretty much the entire 4th quarter through the failed Hail Mary, confirming in disbelief that the clock had hit 0.0, and the Eagles were World Champions
-Getting texts from people I hadn't spoken to in a while because I am "their" Eagles fan
-The trophy ceremony

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Is This Real Life? Part 1

I used to pray for times like this... -Meek Mill, Dreams and Nightmares

The Philadelphia Eagles are Super Bowl Champions.

The Philadelphia Eagles are Super Bowl Champions.

The Philadelphia Eagles are Super Bowl Champions.

Nope, it doesn't get old.

If you follow on any social media - and if you do, I appreciate it - you may have been surprised that while I talked some noise prior to the game, i was relatively quiet during it. I've mentioned in the past that the lines are blurred between 80 Minutes of Regulation and friendly, mild-mannered Curtis, and frankly, Curtis was far to engrossed in this game to give "content". Simply put, this was the game - and subsequently the outcome - that has meant the most of me in all of sport.

There have been scant few times when I've gotten to see "my" team win a championship. There have been some misses - Super Bowl XXXIX and the 2001 NBA Finals come to mind - but rarely have I seen a team I claim hoist the ultimate prize, and never has it been a team I care about as much as the Eagles. To name a few, in no particular order:

-2004 Boston Red Sox. To the degree that I care about baseball - not much - I'm a Red Sox fan. 2004 was about a point in time in history and the shattering of an 86 year curse that it made me feel in a way that I can't claim with the 2007 or 2013 titles. Still, baseball's not my thing, so happy as I was, I deflected the joy to my Boston area friends who were living this in a way I could not yet fathom.

-2008 Philadelphia Phillies. As noted above, I'm not a Phillies fan, but this one wasn't for the team, it was for the city, finally tunneling out of a 25 year, 100 season drought in the four major sports.

-2013 Carolina Crown. Crown finally made it to the mountaintop after some near misses in the previous seasons. I actually experienced the 2013 awards ceremony from a hotel in Virginia while traveling.

-2002 Maryland Terrapins men's basketball. Though admittedly, the Final Four loss the year prior, which I experienced from College Park, probably had more of an impact on me.

-1999/2011 Baltimore Ravens. I experienced the 2000 Super Bowl from the game room at UMBC. The Ravens weren't my team, I was only a semester into my Baltimore identity formation, and I wasn't nearly the sports fan then that I am now, but there was something about that city literally and figuratively lighting up purple. By the 2012 Super Bowl, I was all in, having done an entire undergraduate career and marrying into a Ravens family by that point.

-2003 Delaware Blue Hens football. I didn't go to UD, but the jerseys said Delaware.

Honorable mention: 2008 Phantom Regiment (I'm not typically a phan, but I was that year), 2017 North Carolina A&T Aggies football (Aggie Adjacent Pride!)

While I had some ownership of each of those, Sunday night was truly mine.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Grand Opening, Grand Closing

This past Saturday, the Honda Battle of the Bands, which had called Atlanta's Georgia Dome home since its inception in 2003, took place for the first time in Mercedes Benz Stadium, the new home of the Atlanta Falcons and most events that previously called the Georgia Dome home.

It won't return next year.

Band Room Nation broke the news just minutes before Honda stepped off: Because Atlanta will host the Super Bowl in 2019, they will not host the Honda because of the "scheduling conflict":



To be clear, there is no "scheduling conflict," at least not with the Super Bowl itself. Honda has always taken place during the weekend between conference championships and the Super Bowl, a weekend that has also been occupied by the Pro Bowl since 2010. Frankly, the NFL would do well to incorporate the Honda the "championship halftime" and to kick off Super Bowl week. But if The Shield, the city of Atlanta, or whoever else has determined it's a conflict, I suppose there's nothing to debate there. So where to next?

There are two logical choices, and I'll snowball a third longshot. Honda's late January timing makes an indoor stadium the ideal choice in pretty much the entire continental US except for Florida. Both the Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans and NRG Stadium in Houston fit that bill, are used to hosting HBCU events, and fall within the HBCU footprint. That footprint distinction is an interesting one: Should it land in either of those spots, it would make the move from MEAC (and SIAC) country onto the SWAC's turf. Certainly the SWAC bands that always have to take the hike would be pleased. Could a successful Honda in New Orleans or Houston - and with relatively little effort, a sellout is likely - have Honda questioning its allegiance to ATL, and lead to a rotation of HBCU marching's largest stage?

The third option - and full disclosure, I live in North Carolina - would be Charlotte. Bank of America Stadium is open air and farther north than Atlanta, making it a bit of a tougher sell. But the Queen City seems positioned as the next city up on the south Atlantic coast, and takes many of its cues from Atlanta: Hosting QC Battle of the Bands to Atlanta's Honda; the Belk Kickoff to Atlanta's Chick-Fil-A Kickoff. Both host college football conference championships. This past summer, when DCI's Southeastern Classic was moved and downsized in the Atlanta stadium interregnum, it was North Carolina (Winston-Salem, granted) who saw the biggest boon in the supersized NightBEAT show. Charlotte is just about as accessible by air and road as Atlanta. So while an outdoor venue is unlikely to be considered, Charlotte would be a strong choice.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Flesh is Weak

I'm not sure I know what my end game is. The end of the season? Until the league has made whatever I determine to be progress? Until Kap is employed? Until the Eagles make the Super Bowl and I ultimately backslide? Or am I done for good? At this point, I don't yet know. -Taking a Knee, September 2017

WELL, WOULD YOU LOOK AT THAT

The Eagles are in the Super Bowl, and my NFL boycott is over, or at the very least taking a one game hiatus. I haven't watched my team play a snap all year, and the first will be in the Super Bowl. 

I could start reconsidering and rationalizing why I've decided to go back.  The truth is I've given it some thought over the course of the season, but the answer here is far more simple. My team's in the Super Bowl. I told you that from jump. I even briefly considered not watching, convinced that I was the curse and that they'd do better if I didn't, but I'm certain I've not been granted that level of cosmic sway.

And now? While there's no question to my Eagles bona fides, I'll feel almost bandwagon having not watched this team all season. Looks like I gotta brush up on my own team.

Fly Eagles Fly.

Monday, January 8, 2018

You Can't Always Get What You Want

But if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need.

Running a site that is so intertwined with my personal interests and passions, it's sometimes hard to tell where 80 Minutes of Regulation ends and Curtis begins. Still, when I conceptualized the trip to Atlanta for the College Football Playoff National Championship festivities, it was an 80 Minutes trip. I'd document it. I'd gather "content". I even paid for it with some of the tens of dollars I've made running this place. With that idea in mind, I was on my way.

I'll note that when I updated the tagline to "The Cadence of Gameday," it was to more accurately reflect the site's offerings. Still, I know and embrace the fact that marching bands both began as and remain my wheelhouse. The trouble? There were no bands to be had.

It was a combination of the plans I made and the assumptions I made with them. When I booked the trip nearly a year ago, I intended to be there through the night of the championship itself (though attending was never an option). I'd embed myself in the championship weekend experience, checking out all that it had to offer, but most of all the bands. A four night stay was trimmed to two, but surely they'd make a weekend of it, and there would be plenty of chance, right? Nah.

My closest analog was getting to sneak a peek at SEC's fan central a month prior, also in Atlanta. That event featured pep rallies for both teams on Saturday. However, Saturday for that event was also gameday. The big pep rallies for tonight's national championship were this afternoon, not over the weekend. So while there were plenty of activities planned for the weekend, the marching bands were not among them.

It's a huge oversight, in my opinion. If I may quote myself from an earlier piece where I suggested that any championship bid worth its salt would include a parade in the plans:
The national championship festivities should be a culmination and celebration of all that is college football, and that includes marching bands. Without them, all you have is a minor league Super Bowl.
With  all that exposition, you may think I had a less-than-great trip. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The highlight was was getting to catch a live show of the Solid Verbal. While I've spoken about them before, they're one of my favorite pieces of college football media. The live show didn't disappoint, and in addition to everything both hosts bring, their guests included ESPN's Adam Amin, Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples, and SB Nation's Spencer Hall and Jason Kirk, all of whom I've come to appreciate individually and in association with the show. Ty recognized me by name as a long time listener (and occasional writer-inner); my only regret is that at the postshow at the bar, I ended up down on the far end (and perhaps more engrossed in the Falcons game than I have been in the NFL all season) and managed to completely miss hanging out. Next time, I suppose. That said, I did manage to experience and enjoy perhaps the most on-brand beer for me: Cadence, a Belgian dubbel by Georgia's own Reformation Brewery.

Elsewhere in the Cadence of Gameday, I got to check out the Tailgate Plaza outside of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, featuring various brand activations, not the least of which being the Nissan Heisman House. Media Day gave the opportunity at a fly-on-the-wall peek in at some of the media interviews of Alabama and Georgia players and staff, and Fan Central featured more activities in an inside venue. I even got to hoof and Über my way around Atlanta some, including revisiting the Flying Biscuit Cafe that I had enjoyed years ago, and catching Waffle House on my way out of town.

It'll likely be quite some time before I make it down for a championship weekend again - though I wouldn't rule out a Peach Bowl trip, with or without a playoff -  but I had a great time this year, and hope to do it again.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

From FOMO to Followthrough

I love it when a plan comes together.

A year ago, I felt a Fear of Missing Out as the College Football Playoff national championship took place on my Bulls' home field. I had lukewarmly considered attending and never actually followed through. I decided that a year later, I'd do my best not to make the same mistake.

I made a hotel reservation. No real commitment - fully refundable.

I solidified plans.

And here I sit, in Atlanta, the weekend of the national championship. I won't make it to the game - I won't even make it past the weekend, but I'm down here in the hoopla.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2018 College Football Playoff National Championship - Alabama vs. Georgia

One corner of the country gets to chant "SEC!" regardless of who wins in the most SEC championship game since Alabama and LSU met in a rematch at the end of the 2011 season. This game has the added element of being in the home of the conference championship game. While the two have never met in Mercedes Benz Stadium, both the Million Dollar Band and the Redcoat Marching Band got to scout their venue this season - Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, and Georgia in the SEC Championship.

Alabama: 
Georgia:

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Bulletproof Glass

The greatest trick the College Football Playoff ever pulled was forcing me to cape for C.Florida.

Two weeks ago in Atlanta, North Carolina A&T capped off a perfect season with a Celebration Bowl victory over Grambling. With the win, A&T earned the right to be called a champion.

When UCF tries to complete their perfect season on New Year's Day in the same venue, they'll have no such opportunity.

The Knights have already grabbed their brass ring, a consolation prize at best: The New Year's Six berth that comes with being the highest ranked Group of Five champion, and a shot at SEC runner you Auburn. Some would argue it's a no-win game for Auburn, but I find it similarly fruitless for UCF: Lose, and they were supposed to; win, and meet excuses about how an unmotivated Auburn didn't want to be there.

But what the Knights don't have is a shot at a championship. No Group of Five team does - at least not as a single year accomplishment. Houston came closest, chasing a bowl victory over FSU with an early season win over Oklahoma. But even an undefeated 2016 campaign by the Cougars would likely have served only to put them in the conversation, not the playoff itself. That slim chance was only a function of getting Oklahoma on the schedule, the likes of which is increasingly rare for high caliber Group of Five programs. It's not just a glass ceiling - it's bulletproof.

Three years ago, the MEAC and SWAC decided that instead of an autobid to the FCS playoffs, their champions would meet in December to crown the HBCU national champion. The SWAC ended its relationship with the playoff in the '90s in favor of a conference championship game, and the MEAC now sends its champion to Atlanta, though highly ranked runners up are still eligible for an at-large bid. Seasons that would have once ended in an early round playoff exit now had the opportunity for glory in a championship of meaning.

The system we currently have still keeps this opportunity from Group of Five schools. The common refrains are that "they ain't played nobody!" and "there's no way they're going defeated with [insert Power Five team]'s schedule!" - qualifiers that create an unbalanced narrative. After all, if you're going to mythically burden them with the schedule, you must also arm them with the resources these programs wield. For my money, I'm taking UCF with Auburn's budget over the opposite.

The fear of letting a deserving UCF - and to be clear, the language of the College Football Playoff is "best," not "most deserving" - is that it would result in a blowout of an overmatched team. Nothin prevents that from happening with the current setup - Just ask Ohio State, Michigan State, or FSU.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Bowl Bands: College Footbal Playoff - 2018 Allstate Sugar Bowl

They meet again! Clemson and Alabama go for the rubber match, this time in a national semifinal instead of the championship game. While the Tigers have the home team designation as the #1 seed, the Crimson Tide know New Orleans and the Sugar Bowl well.

Alabama:

Clemson:
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