For The Crimson Tide, The Price Is Always Right

My first sports memory is running to my room and crying after Georgia lost a bowl game in the early 80s. Against my will, I’ve relived that moment pretty much every football season of my life since then.

On Saturday, December 1, 2012, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray stood eight yards away from victory. There were nine seconds left on the clock and Georgia had no timeouts. They were four points behind Alabama. A field goal wouldn’t do the trick. Georgia needed a touchdown and if they got it, they would play and likely defeat an overrated Notre Dame team for a national championship.

Murray threw the pass and it was deflected. Fortunately, Georgia wide receiver Chris Conley was able to grab the ball before it hit the ground. Unfortunately, Conley went down on the five yard line. The clock ran out and Alabama won the game along with yet another national championship a few weeks later. Georgia won the right to play some forgotten team in some forgotten bowl game.

As the defeated Bulldogs walked off the field, my son looked at me and cried. I wanted to do the same thing but I held it together, gave him a hug, told him that we’ll get ’em next year, and sent him to bed.

We didn’t get ’em next year.

On Sunday, February 5, 2017 the Atlanta Falcons were beating the New England Patriots 28 to 3 at halftime. My son was sitting next to me as we tried to come to grips with the fact that our team was actually going to win a championship. I saw two things on my phone while I waited for the third quarter to start. The first was a video of people at the Atlanta airport celebrating the soon to be official Atlanta victory. The second was the ESPN app on my phone that said the Falcons had a four million percent chance of winning. Eventually it would say that our beloved team had a 73 percent chance of winning. And then 40. And then zero.

The Falcons lost 34 to 28.

As the confetti fell, my sons looked at me and cried. I wanted to do the same thing but I held it together, gave them hugs, told them that we’ll get ’em next year, and sent them to bed.

On Monday, January 8, 2018, the Georgia Bulldogs were dominating the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Dogs were winning 13 to 0 at halftime and Alabama pulled their starting quarterback to begin the third quarter. Their new quarterback was a freshman who hadn’t played in a game for a few months. By all accounts, it looked like our next year had finally come. We were finally going to get ’em.

But it turns out that Alabama’s freshman quarterback who hadn’t played in a game in a few months was the second coming of Russell Wilson. He threw the game winning touchdown in overtime. As people in crimson and white stormed the field, I turned the TV off. I turned and looked at my son but this time he spoke before I could get out my old familiar saying. He was tired. Not physically, though the hour was late. He was emotionally tired. Tired of the same thing happening. Tired of falling just short. So was I. We both went to our respective beds where we tossed and turned and hoped that we would wake up to find that this had all been a terrible dream.

If they had a Price Is Right for sports fans, the Roll Tide contingent would be the guy who gets called down, nails the right price on the first try, gets to play Plinko where he wins $48 million, and then ends the day by guessing the price on the nose and going home with the new car from his showcase and the trip to Paris from the other guy’s.

My sons and I, on the other hand, are the guy who comes on down with tons of promise only to continually get snubbed by those evil souls who bid $1 or $301 just after our bid of $300. It’s like we’re forever destined to stay in the studio audience. No meeting Drew. No Plinko. No spinning the wheel. No Showcase Showdown.

But in a way, I’m thankful for this. Don’t get me wrong. I want our teams to win. I want to experience that joy with my sons. But they’re learning a lot from coming in second place. They’re learning how to deal with disappointment, they’re learning that their identity and hope are not found in a sports team, and they’re learning that the trophies worth having aren’t handed out. They’re earned.

I have a friend who went to a taping of the Price Is Right. She even got to come on down. But she never got to play Plinko. She didn’t win a new car. She didn’t make it to the Showcase Showdown.

But whenever I ask her about her gameshow experience, she lights up. For her, the experience was enough.

For my sons and I, watching good games and cheering for our underachieving teams is enough. For now, the experience will have to do.

Until next year.

Because next year, we’re going to get ’em.

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That Would Make It All Worthwhile For Me

A while back my son got one of his toys stuck in a tree. Being the resourceful type, I threw his favorite football into the tree to knock the toy down.

The football got stuck too.

I took this as a challenge. Not from my son. From the tree. My son had to see his dad show the tree who’s boss. So I grabbed another football.

That’s about the time my wife came outside with a BB gun. She was going to shoot the toy and the ball down with my son’s air rifle. I didn’t say anything but I didn’t want that to happen. I had to be the hero. The only rifle saving the day would be my left arm.

I won’t tell you how long it took me or how bad I was sweating or how tired I was or how bad my arm was hurting or how goofy I looked. It’s none of your business. But I eventually got the ball and the toy out of the tree. Score one for dad’s rifle arm.

I was the hero.

The end.

Or so I thought.

While I was taking my victory parade into the house, I heard crying. It was my son. And these weren’t tears of joy flowing from his proud eyes because he got to witness the greatness that was his dad’s throwing clinic.

These were tears of sorrow. Deep sorrow.

The ball that I rescued from the clutches of that tree had been hit by a BB. It was losing air. And fast. This was my son’s favorite ball. We never walked out into the backyard without him touching it. And now it seemed to be disappearing right in his hands.

It was time for dad, the resourceful hero, to step into action again.

I told him that I would get him a new ball but that we wouldn’t get rid of the old one. There was an Atlanta Falcons game that weekend – a divisional playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks. I told him that when the Falcons won the game, we’d write the score on the ball, and do it again the next week, and again when they won the Super Bowl.

Just like that, I was the hero again. The now deflated ball had become a trophy. My son’s tears dried. But there was only one problem.

We were building our hopes on the Atlanta Falcons.

The Falcons are my team. With the exception of a few seasons during my middle school years spent admiring the work of Joe Montana, I’ve cheered for the Falcons my whole life. I’d seen enough Falcons games to know better than to pin the hopes of a small child on their ability to win the Super Bowl. I would have been better off promising him a hot air balloon ride to Narnia.

But the promise had been made. There was no going back and there was no saving the day. This one was completely out of dad’s hands. There was the very real possibility that my son’s kids would one day ask him why he has a deflated football that has Seattle 73, Atlanta 6 scribbled on it.

The Falcons went on to win the game against the Seahawks and I wrote the score on the ball. 36 to 20. The next week, even though the kind folks at ESPN didn’t think that they could, our team beat the Packers in the NFC Championship game. With joy, I wrote 44 to 21 on the ball. The Falcons were going to the Super Bowl. I felt like Hannibal from the A-Team. I love it when a plan comes together.

Later that day we learned that the Falcons would be playing the New England Patriots in the big game. The irony of writing their name on my son’s deflated football was not lost on me.

Sunday night, about midway through the second half, my plan started to unravel. The Falcons stopped doing everything that they were doing right for most of the game. They started looking more like the Falcons I grew up with. For some reason, the Patriot’s historical comeback didn’t really surprise me. My teams have been in games like that many times, usually always on the wrong end of the comeback. But I was worried about my son. He was right next to me. How would he take it if the Patriots actually came back and won?

Apparently, pretty well.

He was fast asleep.

As far as he knew, the Falcons were still destroying the Patriots. I was taking it harder than he was.

The next morning, I went into my son’s room to wake him up for school. His first words were exactly what I had expected.

“Who won the game, dad?”

“The Patriots.”

The word Patriots had never been spoken with so little enthusiasm.

He had a puzzled look on his face. He didn’t say a word. He didn’t have to. His face said it all. Right before breakfast, ESPN was on our television. Both of my sons watched in agony as the experts praised the Patriots for valiantly coming back to beat that other team.

My son asked me to change the channel.

My hand was already on the remote to do just that. The hero strikes again.

When my sons left for school I grabbed a marker and wrote the score on the deflated football.

ATL 28

NE 34

OVERTIME

I’m looking at that ball right now. When I pick it up and shake it, I can still hear the BB that started all of this. I don’t know what my son will end up doing with that football. I hope that he keeps it. And whenever he looks at it, I hope that he remembers that things don’t always end the way we want them to end. I really wanted him to be able to look at that ball a few decades from now and remember the time when he and his dad watched the Falcons win the first of their fifteen Super Bowls.

It didn’t work out that way.

I hated seeing the Falcons lose that Super Bowl. I hate that my plan didn’t come together. But maybe one day my son’s kids will ask him why he has the score of Super Bowl LI written on a deflated football and he’ll just smile and say, “Because my dad loves me.”

That would make it all worthwhile for me.

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My Childhood Was Awesome

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Someone sent me a picture of Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant about to fight each other. The text said, “If you remember this, your childhood was awesome.”

My childhood was awesome.

Channel 17 used to show wrestling matches from Atlanta for an hour every Saturday night. When that was over, channel 36 would show wrestling matches from all over the world until about 2:00 Sunday morning. I don’t think I missed an episode until they quit coming on TV or I found out that wrestling was fake. I can’t remember which came first.

Either way, my childhood was awesome.

I grew up right next to Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, the home of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta Braves. Actually, I grew up about 20 minutes away. But when my friends and I played football in my front yard, it was as if I was playing on the Falcon’s field. The only difference was that our quarterback could throw better than the one playing for the Falcons at the time.

The cul-de-sac across the street from my house was the home of many, many World Series games. I was terrible at baseball. But when the kid down the street was pitching me underhanded tennis balls, I was a legend. Those huge fields were the places where I got into fights, got hit in the head with an aluminum bat and learned that throwing curve balls just wasn’t my thing. Now, when I drive back down that street, our football and baseball fields don’t look nearly as big. I wonder how so many of us managed to fit. Maybe that’s why we fought. But we sure had fun.

My childhood was awesome.

One night at dinner, my kids asked me who I played with when I was a kid. I told them that I played with the other kids on my street and they were astonished. They couldn’t believe that there were so many other kids who lived that close. Today, when kids play sports, it’s usually only in a league. When I was a kid, it was in the yard. All afternoon long. And into the night. Until all the moms gave the call to come home.

My childhood was awesome.

When I was a kid, we didn’t have words like selfie or texting. If one of us got caught taking a picture of our food, we’d be sent to our room. If we got caught taking a picture of ourselves, we’d get sent to Milledgeville. Milledgeville. That’s the place where every kid in Georgia was told that he would be sent if he ever acted too crazy. I never got sent to Milledgeville. But I did eat at a Chick-fil-a there once.

My childhood was awesome.

Writing something like this means that I’m old. I’m okay with that. I embrace my oldness. That’s because my oldness is pretty awesome too. My kids are growing up completely different than I did but it sure is fun leading them through it.

One of my kids’ favorite songs is called, Stressed Out by Twenty One Pilots. It’s a pretty upbeat song and, whenever it comes on, there’s dancing, singing and laughing. But if you take the time to listen to the words, it suddenly becomes quite sad.

Wish we could turn back time, to the good ol’ days,
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out.

Tyler Joseph, the writer of the song, is 27.

27.

It doesn’t take long for you to start feeling old. It doesn’t take long for you to miss the so-called good ol’ days of your childhood.

I’m not interested in turning back time. I’d rather keep moving forward. But I am thankful for some good ol’ days to look back on.

My childhood was awesome.

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Football Is Back!

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Another football season is officially upon us. You can already tell it in Atlanta, Georgia where last night there was a perfect storm of traffic all because of the arrival of America’s favorite pastime. Thousands of Falcons fans had traffic blocked for miles as they headed to and from the Dome to see their team find new and creative ways to embarrass themselves. In an effort to avoid all of that, many commuters chose to walk but it just didn’t work out as planned. The 13 Georgia Tech fans who went to see their team, ahem, play last night had sidewalks all jammed up with their Segway scooters. It was not a pretty sight. Thankfully, they were all able to make a detour to DragonCon where they had their pictures taken with that guy from Sharknado and Reggie Ball.

That’s why I prefer to watch the games at home. Just me, my wife and my kids. My young kids. My young kids who like to ask billions of questions. Here are a few that I’m sure to hear from them as the season wears on.

“Dad, why are that man and woman in that commercial sitting in separate tubs and holding hands?”

“Dad, why do people cheer for Clemson?”

“Dad, how is it possible for New York City to have two professional football teams and really not have any professional football teams?”

“Dad, do they give you free tuition at Florida if you wear jean shorts?”

“Dad, why can’t teams from Alabama just pick one mascot and go with it?”

“Dad, why do so many of Florida State’s players wear those electronic things around their ankles?”

“Dad, what is DeVry doing in the Orange Bowl?”

“Dad, is this ESPN or the Oprah channel?”

“Dad, why are Georgia Tech’s games played on the Oprah channel?”

“Dad, Notre Dame is 1 and 7. Why are they on TV and ranked number 3 in the country?”

“Dad, why is Ohio State playing against my soccer team this week?”

“Dad, shouldn’t they make the team that finishes in last place have to go to Washington D.C. and just send the champions to Disney World?”

If you need me over the next few days, I’ll be preparing my answers to these very important questions. In the meantime, enjoy the season, don’t throw anything and try not to laugh too hard and that dude in the yellow wig riding on the Segway. He can’t help it.

Oh, and Go Dawgs!

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I Predict, 2015

Here’s what’s going to happen in 2015. Trust me on this.

Politics

Through the cutting edge research of one of its top donors, Cobra Industries, the Democratic Party will develop a way to bring back an old hero to run for president in 2016. Joseph Stalin.

In typical fashion, the Republican Party will follow suit. But they won’t have to bring anyone back from the dead. They’ll just give us one of the Bush brothers. Jeb, to be exact.

Before the year is over, Stalin and Bush will emerge as the two likely candidates for 2016. Conservatives will encourage us to vote for the lesser of two evils. It’ll take most of us the better part of the year to figure out which one that is. By the time November of 2016 rolls around, only 300 people will care enough to vote. Twenty-five people will vote for Stalin. Fifty people will vote for W’s brother. 225 people vote for one of the Kardashians. If we’re still around, let me know how that works out. You can write me at the following address.

Rural Route 1

Gretzky Orr, Greenland 45612

Race Relations

Race relations in this country will actually improve after people finally get fed up and decide to start obeying the following self-imposed rules.

1. We shall no longer listen to what someone has to say about race if that someone calls himself a reverend but does not actually go to or pastor a church or if that someone is the host of a show on Fox News, MSNBC or CNN.

2. We shall make every effort to enjoy a nice meal with people who do not look or think like us. At said meal we will discuss what troubles us. We will be free to disagree but only under the condition that we have another meal together real soon.

3. I’ll bring the sweet tea and gluten-free brownies.

Freedom

A police department in the northwest will confess to buying a tank so that they can use it to fight against people who own guns and believe in the Constitution. Oh, sorry. That happened in 2014.

Sports

The Atlanta Falcons will make history by becoming the first team to make it to the Super Bowl with a losing record, get beaten by more than 75 points in that Super Bowl, fire their coach and general manager and continue to make their fans pay for a new stadium all in a two month time span. Somebody’s got to do it. Why not the Falcons?

Music

Florida/Georgia Line will win the award for Best Musical Act or Performance to be Used for Interrogating Terrorists. They’ll have to give the award back a few weeks later after Diane Feinstein decides that such torture is simply too inhumane.

Also at the Grammy’s, someone will sing something that involves a gospel choir in the background.

Nickelback will have the number one album in the country for a few weeks but you won’t be able to find anyone who will confess to owning one.

Movies

Someone will make a movie about a disgruntled Atlanta Falcons fan who tries to blow up North Korea after his team gets embarrassed in the Super Bowl and he finds out how much he’s going to have to pay for tickets and taxes because of his team’s new stadium. Florida/Georgia Line and Nickelback will team up to provide the soundtrack for the movie.

And then the world will end.

Unless President Kardashian can do something to save us.

Again, let me know how that works out.

You’ve got my new address.

The Monday Morning Quarterback

It’s time once again for me to ramble on and on about football. I like to call it The Monday Morning Quarterback.

NCAA

Does anyone remember the name of that Georgia Bulldog running back that future Heisman Trophy winner Nick Chubb is replacing? Thomas Gurlhammer? Todd Graily? Ted Nugent? Let me know if you figure it out.

Chubb’s Bulldogs had a strong showing against the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday. Early on in the game, one of the announcers said the following.

“Arkansas has to stick with what got them here.”

At the time, Arkansas was getting beat, 17-6 and hadn’t won an SEC game since the Clinton administration. Thankfully, the Razorbacks stuck with what got them there. Georgia won the game 45 to 32.

Even still, some drunken Georgia fan is sitting at some bar in Athens talking about how Mark Richt and Mike Bobo should be fired.

NFL

The Atlanta Falcons also stuck with what got them there. That’s another way of saying that they played like a middle school team and made everyone in Georgia consider giving up professional football for Conference USA women’s volleyball.

But all hope is not lost for the Falcons. They play in the NFC South which happens to be the worst division in the history of sports. Here’s a look at the current standings.

1. The Carolina Panthers

2. The New Orleans Saints

3. The Atlanta Falcons

4. The 1983 Montreal Expos

Quick Hits

If Steve Smith was playing checkers with a five-year-old, Steve Smith would find a way to get into a fight. And Steve Smith would win.

I was hoping that there was a way that both teams could lose the Florida State/Notre Dame game. I think that it may have happened. By winning with Jameis Winston at quarterback, Florida State will lose in the long run after the school has to vacate all of their wins once Winston is found guilty of selling his merchandise, terrorizing young co-eds and the Kennedy assassination.

By the end of the week, the Florida Gators will fire Will Muschamp and replace him with Super Creepy Rob Lowe.

Dear Hardee’s, 

Stop using porn to sell your food. I know, I’m probably being a little loose with the word porn. But I’m also being a bit loose with the word food. Seriously, how are you still in business? Please go away before I send Steve Smith looking for you.

Thanks!

Until next time, happy footballing!

A Theology of Losing

We’ve had a rough stretch at our house.

It was looking so good there for a while, like maybe things would be different this time.  And then Andrelton Simmons was called out because of a peculiar interpretation of Major League Baseball’s infield fly rule.  Well, that and the fact that the Braves, like they do every other post season, forgot about the importance of hitting and pitching.

So much for enjoying a Braves World Series win with my sons.

They handle losses differently.  My youngest son always asks who won.  In this case, when I said the Cardinals, he announced his undying support for the Cardinals.  My oldest son takes it hard.  To him, a loss is a personal insult.  I use theology to help him cope.

“Son, even if the Braves lose, Jesus is still Lord.”

The Lordship of Jesus Christ is proclaimed a lot in our house.  This approach seems to be helping but he also likes to look at things from another perspective.

“Yeah, and at least we still have the Georgia Bulldogs to cheer for.”

Fast forward to a cold night in December.  The Georgia Bulldogs were yards away from beating the mighty Alabama Crimson Tide and earning a spot in the national title game.  With no timeouts and just seconds left on the clock, Aaron Murray completed a pass a few feet from the goal line.  As the Bulldogs hurried to the line to run another play, the clock ran out.

Alabama won.

That’s when my youngest son pledged his undying support to the Crimson Tide.

My oldest son wanted to cry.

I wanted to join him.

Instead, I told him that Jesus is still Lord.

“Yeah dad, and at least we still have the Falcons to cheer for.”

Fast forward to a cold Sunday afternoon in January.  The Falcons were down by four points and just a few yards away from the end zone.  A score here would send them to only the second Super Bowl in team history.  On fourth down, with just a minute or so left in the game, a Matt Ryan pass fell harmlessly to the ground, effectively ending the game for the Falcons.

My youngest son then pledged his undying support to the San Francisco 49ers.

My oldest son was upset but not as much as I expected him to be.  He was getting used to losing.  But I still told him that Jesus is Lord.

“Yeah, and dad, we still have the Atlanta Hawks to cheer for.”

He’s got a lot to learn.

It’s a good thing that Jesus will always be Lord.

The Football Gods

Last week my wife and I went to the Georgia Dome where we watched the Atlanta Falcons play the New Orleans Saints.

For us, it was a good time together with our favorite team.

Not so for the guy sitting behind us.

Earlier that day, a mafia hitman must have told him something like this.

“Look, Big Vinny said we could let you live but only if the Falcons win.  But don’t worry.  If you cuss real loud throughout the entire game that should be enough to help them pull it out.  Capisce?”

That’s the only explainable scenario I can come up with as to why this guy thought that it would be a good idea to use enough bad language to make Eminem blush.

He cursed loudly and frequently when the Falcons ran instead of passed.

When the Falcons finally ran, guess what?  You got it, more cursing.

He cursed when somebody called a timeout and the public address announcer had the nerve to wait a full three seconds before telling us the details about that timeout.

He cursed towards the end of the game when a Saints player got hurt.

But he saved his best curses for the woman sitting behind him who was dressed like a superhero who really liked the New Orleans Saints.  To be fair, she wasn’t exactly the picture of southern femininity.  Well, unless your picture of southern femininity is a cross between Roseanne Barr and Ice Cube.

Needless to say, tensions were high in the Georgia Dome.

I was glad that I had contraband with me, just in case things got real ugly.

Before we entered the Dome, my wife and I had to stand in a security check line.  As we moved closer to the checkpoint I suddenly remembered that I had my pocket knife.  I didn’t want to lose it so I had to think of something quick.  I took it out of my pocket and put it in my jacket.  When it was my turn to get wanded I took my jacket off and laid it on the table.

“Sir, you don’t have to take off your jacket.”

I nodded like I was new to the language.

When they let us in the Dome I felt like I had beaten the system, like I was a prisoner with a brand new shiv that made it through cell inspections.

Editor’s Note: If any Georgia Dome officials, ATF officials or officers from the Federal Department of Knives and Blogging (FDKB) are reading this, please be aware that this entire story has been fabricated by the committee of highly trained professional writers that make up the staff of jasonlsanders.com.  There is no real Jason L. Sanders.

As I was sitting in my seat listening to the chaos behind me I was glad that I at least had my trusty pocket knife.  If I had to defend my wife’s honor, I wouldn’t have to do it empty handed.

Once, after a particularly brutal, curse filled tirade from the man behind us, I apologized to my wife on behalf of the entire male species and football fans everywhere.  I couldn’t quite make out her response.  Something about joy.

I asked her to repeat herself because it’s hard to pick up a woman’s voice amongst 80,000 other voices, one of which is doing it’s best Chris Rock impersonation right behind me.

“It’s just sad because he has no joy.”

This time I heard her but I wasn’t sure if I heard her correctly.

It turns out that I did.

Her point was that this guy was taking something that was intended for fun and allowing it to ruin him.  The Falcons were his god, which explains his attitude during the evening.  Wouldn’t you cuss a lot if what you worshiped couldn’t complete a five yard pass?

This made me feel really bad.  Here I was, proud of my shiv, thinking about whether I should go for the knees or the guts if it all went down while my wife was more concerned with the soul.

I spent the entire game looking at this guy as just another person who was in my way.  To me, he was nothing more than an annoyance.  My wife, however, saw beneath all of that.  With every bomb that this guy dropped she heard a desperate cry to a god who was not listening.  She saw him as a man that was lost in his sins and needed to repent and believe in Jesus Christ – the God who listens.

The Falcons won the game and everyone was happy.  Almost everyone.  The lady dressed like a New Orleans Saints superhero probably wasn’t happy because she left early.

And the cursing Falcons fan sitting behind me wasn’t happy either.

After all of that emotion, even after his team one, he quietly left with a blank look on his face.  My wife was right.

He had no joy.

His god, even in victory, had let him down.

I pray that one day that loud, obnoxious Falcons fan will come to know the fullness of Jesus’ joy (John 15:11).

And I pray that one day this self-righteous pastor will stop looking at other people as obstacles and start seeing them as souls in need of the freedom that only Jesus can offer.