Sunday, February 19, 2012
This week it did warm up a bit but that in itself presented a different problem. Since it would warm up to the upper 30s during the day, the ice and snow would melt a bit before refreezing at night. And, since people in Tbilisi refuse to scrape the sidewalks, walking to work (or anywhere) was quite an adventure. I don’t know if you all saw my Facebook post about the Tbilisi Mayor coming up with a “brilliant” plan to pay for people’s medical bills that fell on the ice in Tbilisi. I just wanted to shout “Dumbass!” Just pass a law that requires businesses to scrape the ice from in front of their establishment or if you’re so willing to waste the people’s money, then pay the
unemployed to clear the ice off of your city’s streets.
All this thawing and freezing presented quite an interesting death trap out on my balcony as well. Since I’m up on the 10th floor, any icicle that forms has to fall to the ground and potentially injure someone if they are walking down there. One of my gutter spouts produced probably the biggest icicle I’ve ever seen over a three day period and broke off one day while I was at school. I didn’t see any ambulances when I came home so I assume no one was impaled by this 4 foot log of frozen death.
This ice has given me flashbacks to Kazakhstan and forced me to relearn all the ‘walking on ice while on a 40 degree slant with wind pounding into your face’ tricks. Luckily I haven’t fallen and have done well with the shuffle uphill and glide downhill tricks. Never let your feet get to close together or too far apart and as long as you stay light on your toes and never on your heals, you’ll be fine. (I know that is probably of no help to those of you in the South who probably won’t even see ice this year).
Anyway, like I said nothing much outside of the weather has been too exciting. Two weekends ago I went out to my local café for some coffee and to meet a new private student when I got a frantic call from my landlady. She was freaking out and told me to go to my apartment ASAP due to, “Water! Water!” I was nervous as hell because a flood in winter could be potential disaster. Luckily when I got home it was in an apartment on the 9th floor and flooding one on the 8th floor as well. There was a waterfall coming down the side of the building that, of course turned into a pretty cool ice blanket the next day. The guy who had called to report the flood had accidentally called the wrong landlady so there were three of four of us all rushing into the building at the same time asking each other what was going on before we found out that none of our apartments were affected. (My landlady owns a few apartments in my building). So, after we all caught our breath, we had a good laugh about it and chatted in the stairwell. This however did not go over well with the pregnant lady on the 8th floor whose apartment was being flooded from above by a family who could not be reached at the time. So, we all moved on. I think they got it cut off later that night.
After that, my day was shot so my friend on the 9th floor and I wondered over to the new grocery ‘supermarket’ that opened in our neighborhood. It’s pretty cool and I can get pretty much anything I need there for a semi-reasonable price. And, they carry Georgian products which is nice because I try to buy local products as much as possible. I can’t do it for everything, but cleaning products and such can easily be bought local and generally cheaper too.
Oh! As you read in the last post I had shown some people from Turkey around who were here for a visit that happened to know one of the girls that served with me here in Georgia as a Peace Corps Volunteer. She, my former fellow volunteer, had said she would send me a thank you package as payment. I thought that was cool but really didn’t expect her to. Anyway, the package got here and was packed with Southern Delights. Oatmeal Cream Pies, Charleston Chews (devoured within 48 hours), Red Hots, Sours, and a smart ass card too. So thanks to Jess for all that! Really this last week was uneventful and classes went pretty well. This weekend I didn’t do much outside of laundry and making some killer awesome soup. Soup that I’ll probably hate come Wednesday when I’m still trying to finish it off. I did go out yesterday to meet a Georgian friend who is trying to go to America next year through the IREX program. We chatted for a few hours about the interview process and then had some Georgian ‘Fast Food.’ However even that wasn’t uneventful since one of the American TLG volunteers happened to be at the café where we were spending the afternoon and felt the need to interject himself into our conversation every 30 seconds. Whatever; TLG kids are weird and it seems like every time I run into one I walk away thinking, ‘wow, what a strange guy.’
That’s it. I’m realizing now that I really have nothing to update you on and I might as well just sit around this afternoon, drink some coffee, watch a movie and then take a shower and get ready for Monday.
Just look at this an laugh instead.
Saturday, February 4, 2012
However, that is not what this blog post is about. I promised that I would do a better job of updating those of you back in the Land of Freedom about the goings on here in Tbilisi and what I’m up to. So a couple of weeks ago a group of Fulbright girls, and one guy, were in Tbilisi for a holiday and we were hooked up by a girl who had been in PC with me here who knew one of them from America. (Yeah, long strange connection there). Anyway, I agreed to meet them on a Saturday and show them around a few places. You never know who you’re going to run into when you agree to do these types of things, but this group turned out to be completely normal and we had a pretty good day walking around and seeing the sites of Tbilisi. It kind of works out too since I’m planning a trip to Istanbul in April for my Spring Break (my favorite holiday… JOB anyone?) and a few of them agreed that since they are all working somewhat near Istanbul that they would meet me there one day and show me a few of the sites. So, cool. I got a day out of the house and away from lesson planning and maybe a free tour guide when I go to Turkey.
This past Saturday I met up with a guy who is here from the University of South Carolina to start up a journalism school at one of the Universities. He and his wife got here in September and will stay until the summer then other faculty members from USC will come and spend anywhere from a semester or two working to keep the program up and going. We shared a few stories on what it’s like to work in a school with Georgian teachers and administrators and he expressed a few frustrations that I had to laugh at. I’m so glad I’m off the learning curve. Not to say that I know it all by any means, but there are very few things that surprise me anymore when it comes to the working relationships and dynamics of a school here in Georgia. Anyway, we had a good chat for a few hours and then I walked around for a while to stretch my legs and enjoy some pretty decent weather.
That weather was short lived by the way. This past week has been all snow, wind and cold. I saw the sun for the first time in a week yesterday and it’s gone again today behind thick clouds, fog and snow. Brrr… I’ll get back to this in a minute.
That day of fresh air though was much needed since my work load has increased a lot this month. I’ve picked up two more private students and my day now generally runs from 8am to 7pm. By the time I get home from school I have about an hour to rest and grab some food before I spend 2-3 hours with private students in the evening. I have at least one every night (sometimes 2) except Tuesdays. It worked out that way and now I’m holding fast to not scheduling any students or allowing any make up days on that night. I need at least one night to myself and so I can knock out some lesson planning at home rather than sucking up my 30 minute lunch break everyday trying to stay on top of it. I do have a good window in my schedule on Tuesdays at school so I can generally get most of the week’s plans out of the way then as well.
Then, last Sunday morning I was sitting around having a relaxing morning cup of coffee when… AHHHHHHHHHHHH! (A blood curdling scream made me almost throw my coffee across the room). The screams continued for several minutes before I had the courage to open my front door to see just what the hell was going on in the apartment next door. Apparently the mother in the family next door had died during the night and as the family rose (late on a Sunday as normal here) they discovered her death. I quickly went back into my apartment as to not be the neighbor who hangs around during a moment of family grief. I could hear everything though from my living room as other family and friends arrived within the hour. More screams and crying as the medical unit came, I presume to announce the death and take any measures that were needed.
Now, what you need to understand here is that in the Georgian tradition the body is not moved out of the house and the wake lasts for 3-5 days depending. There is no embalming process. The coffin is just brought in and set up and the wake begins. So all day Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday the family’s door was open and people were coming in and out and generally hanging around in the stairway in the evenings. Incense was lit on Monday and for three days the stairway and even my apartment smelt like an Orthodox church. Since I elected to stay in my apartment all day on Sunday I did not have a chance to give my condolences to the father (whom I had only met once and spoken to a grand total of about 3 times since I moved in) until Monday when I came home from school. I had no idea what to say other than ‘sorry for your loss’ and give him a handshake and a knowing look. He seemed to appreciate it, but I have no idea if there was anything else I should have done. I was not about to do the Georgian tradition of entering the home and walking around the body three times. I’ve done that before and let me just tell you that there is something to be said for the work of a good mortician rather than the ‘natural’ look. No thanks. I could see it (the body and coffin) from the stairway and the only thing that told me was that they had set her up along the common wall with my bedroom. So for the next three nights every time I went to bed all I could think was, ‘on the other side of this 6” of wall is a dead body.’ I slept well enough, but it was not something I was overly thrilled about. Thankfully the funeral was Wednesday and all seems to have gone back to normal.
In other news, I thought I would share with you what is starting to become an annoying tradition in my 8th grade class. Each week they (the students) seem to get together and determine some kind of question that they want to ask me that has nothing to do with the topic that we’re discussing. And, they generally wait until the middle of the lesson to ask it. I, for some reason, have humored them for the most part and answered the questions. For example, this past week was on the topic of my wardrobe and produced a pretty funny back and forth. I wear slacks, a shirt and tie and my nice black shoes to school just about every day. One of the girls (after some clarification) wanted to know if when I went ‘out’ in the evenings with friends or whatever if I wore the same clothes. At first I was confused by the question because it struck me as completely off the wall. I told her that of course I didn’t and that I generally wore jeans, a sweater (in winter) and regular shoes or boots if it was really icy. This caused a mini discussion amongst them before the follow up question. “So when you go out, do you still wear such big shoes?” I almost fell out of my chair I wanted to laugh so hard. My shoe size has been a topic of humor among my friends and family ever since I was in 8th grade myself. I’m 5’10” and about 145lbs and wear a size 12 shoe. (This sounds even worse by the European standard since it translates to a size 46). My students honestly wanted to know if I just wore my nice black shoes because they are big and shinny. After I stopped laughing I told them no, that my feet were just big and no matter where I went I was always wearing big shoes.
Not all of their questions catch me in a good mood or at the right time either. For example, this past Monday during 1st period History, they decided to ask me why they should have to study World History. Fair enough, but it was the follow up reasoning that got me a little pissed.
“Why should we have to study other people’s history when we are Georgian and have the longest history? Do other people have to study our history? Why should we have to study theirs if they don’t study ours?”
Now I know that throughout my life I have sometimes said the wrong thing at the wrong time and I try never to do that at school. But at 9am on a Monday after just being interrupted by a girl with a bad attitude who just ruined a legitimate question with self promotion, my guard fell a little bit.
“You have the longest and best history?” I asked.
“Yes. Our history is the longest and best and other people should have to study us!” she replied.
“And let me ask you: just what have you done with your long and storied history? What have you accomplished with it? What have you given the world that would make it so that they would want to study what you’ve done with you looooong and rich history?”
She and the rest of the class had a mini discussion about this and then all sat quietly for a minute. I wasn’t going to let her off though because this one student has made it a point to generally bring her bad attitude to class with her every lesson. So I decided to make her answer my question. She simply responded with, “I guess nothing.”
Now, part of me wanted to feel victorious here and move on. Another part of me felt really bad. I know that Georgia does have a long and very rich history. I also know that they haven’t been able to translate that into much progress and historical “impact.” Not all of that is their fault either, but a lot of it is. This girl was simply a victim of interrupting the wrong teacher at the wrong time. I know when I’m at my best and when I’m not. And I am not my best during 1st period on a Monday. So, while I would like to apologize to that girl, I doubt I will since I’m pretty sure this next week will bring an equally asinine question which this time I will try to respond to in a more diplomatic manner.
So I’m going to make a little mention about the weather. December was great and January started off well enough. However the last week of January turned cold and February has been freezing! The sun is gone and the place is covered in snow. The one day it wasn’t snowing it was so windy that I had flashback to Kazakhstan and walking on the Siberian Steppe.
But, all this cold led me to one of life’s great pleasures. I love when I “discover” something that should have occurred to me years ago that seems so simple that I kick myself for not realizing it earlier. On the really cold days I break out those ‘hot hands’ packets and put them in my coat. Now they will last for about 10 hours. I only really need them between about 8am and 4pm when I get home. They still have hours of good heat left in them especially if you put them on top of the heater at home for about 15 minutes and get them ’charged’ back up. But why would I need them at this point? I’m home and relatively warm. Ah ha! With the new low in temperature during the day and since my floor is no longer getting sun during the day, my floors are really cold. Cue the light bulb over the head. After you recharge the hot hands packs, just stuff them down into the toes of your slippers! Warm feet for hours ahead! Now, as I said that may sound overly simple and obvious, but this week has been awesome walking around the house with toasty warm feet. I’ve even had to take the slippers off a few times to cool my feet off. I know. It’s dumb. But hey…
The only other thing I can think of is a movie update for you. I was super excited to the ‘The Rum Diary’ with Jonny D since it was supposed to be somewhat of a tribute to Hunter S. Thompson. I was a little disappointed though since Depp seemed to just act exactly the same as he did in ‘Fear and Loathing’ and the whole story didn’t seem to connect. The whole thing was just watered down in a way and while it did have a few great laughs, it just didn’t live up to my expectations.
So, with that said I’ll leave you with a quote from the movie that did have me laughing. The three main journalists are on their way to get their prize roster blessed by a witch so they can win some money in a cock fight to hopefully print one last edition of their newspaper:
“By day she drives a garbage truck. By night she becomes Papaneemu the hermaphroditic Oracle of the Dead.”
Friday, January 13, 2012
Have you written or called your Senator yet?
Dear Senator Graham,
Dear Senator DeMint,
I am writing to request that you NOT support HR3261 or the SOPA Bill. Senator, this Bill is just another way for the government to grow larger and interject itself into our daily lives. It will hamper our economic growth by limiting online e-commerce in our nation and is a huge threat to web related businesses. In these tough economic times do we really want to waste millions on growing the government through more bureaucratic oversight and putting further restrictions on those who use the Internet to run small businesses?
Also, as an educator, I know that this Bill would restrict teacher’s ability to stream content into the classroom for both History and Science classes. Some web content is invaluable to teachers in the classroom and HR3261 would virtually eliminate the possibility of using this content as a resource. It could also threaten internal networking and sharing of information between teachers from different districts. Our educational system has enough problems without adding to them with the passing of the SOPA Bill.
Finally Senator, I would like to say that in America one of the things we value most is our Freedom of Speech. Don’t turn America into an Iran or China where the citizens are not allowed to grow the Marketplace of Ideas through free sharing of information. Please DO NOT support HR3261.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
So let’s see, I guess I’ll start back in November. The weather was really cold in November and I was really paranoid that this was going to be a very cold winter. We got a lot of snow during the month and it seemed like the sun was never going to return. Luckily, it did and so far this winter hasn’t been that bad. I am just so thankful to be living in a place with heat and hot water this year. Thanksgiving came and went without any real Thanksgiving feel to it. I did go out and meet up with all the Peace Corps volunteers and staff for their Thanksgiving feast and that was awesome. The volunteers did a great job of getting all the food prepared and it was a great meal.
Did a lot of ‘soul searching’ in November too. Just trying to figure out what it is that I want in life and where it is that I want to go. I feel better after doing that and I’m actually happy with where I am right now with myself and what I’m doing. There are some things I’d like to work on and improve on, but that will be a process that is going to take some time. No decisions on what will happen after the school year as of yet though. I’m leaving my options open and we’ll see what life brings my way.
By early November I was in full swing with my school and really getting to know how things were going to work there and how my students were going to pan out. I’ve got to say that I’m 50/50 on my students at this point. Most of them are great and really motivated to improve and learn. However, there are quite a few that just seem like they could give less than two shits about anything. I get it. I understand that school is not the most exciting thing in the world and a lot of kids have no desire to be there, but I really require the bare minimum from them as far as simple respect for me and their fellow students. I have a few kids who are not only learning nothing but are making it harder for their classmates to learn as well. That shit just pisses me off. When I was out in the village it was a given that every class was going to have a few kids that were going to be a problem. I guess I just expected more from a private school in Tbilisi. It’s not all bad though like I said. I have a lot of fun with some of my students and there are some of them that I feel can really go a long way if they stay motivated and focused.
I was also by this time settling into Tbilisi and getting into my routines. I’ve got to say that while Tbilisi is really nice and a decent place to live, the social scene sucks. A lot of that is just cultural in that people hang out with the people they went to school with or they are married by the time they are 20 and starting families and are not therefore out in the social scene as much. It’s just really hard to go out and meet new people that are interesting and that you’d want to hang out with on a regular basis. I went to this one party that was super cool and met a few people, but other than that it hasn’t been all that exciting. The expat parties suck and hanging around with other Americans here is just strange. A lot of them make a whole lot more money than I do since they work either at the Embassy or with banks and finance companies. And, with that it seems comes a completely alternate reality of what Georgia is. They live, work and shop in one district and have no idea about the realities of Georgia outside of their little bubble. They also have no interest in hearing about it either. And don’t get me started on the fraternity culture of some of the younger expats that are here including a small contingent of US Marines who are at times an embarrassment to their country. Overall, I’ve just been unimpressed with the social scene here; that’s my point.
December was a long month and it felt like school would never end. Luckily I got a nice break in the middle of the month and took a weekend trip to Armenia with a group of Georgians. It was a fun trip and I got to see a lot of really cool old churches and meet a few new and interesting people. I was really lucky to go and while it was a very long and tiring weekend, it was a lot of fun. Yerevan is a lot bigger than I thought it was going to be and it is a really well organized city too. I was really shocked at how easy it was to navigate on foot in a city that I’d never been in before. Armenia is the butt of a lot of jokes here in the region (it’s like the Alabama of the Caucuses) and I give you... Cigarette in a Pipe Man!
Like I said though, there were some awesome churches there...
My uncle (father’s brother) Richard died and that was some hard news to take for all of my family. He had been battling with cancer for a while and had been doing better but he took a fairly quick and dramatic slide before passing away. I was glad that, from what I heard, he was able to see everyone in the family before passing and get all of his affairs in order. He wasn’t old at all and it’s really sad that he wasn’t able to live a longer life. Also, both of my grandparents are having some medical problems as well and that is also very sad news because having a child die is hard enough without going through your own problems as well at the same time. Hopefully both of them will be able to recover as well as possible and be around for years to come.
But, as the Georgians like to say on the fourth or fifth toast, with death always comes new life. My friends Liz and Rett celebrated the birth of their third child this month. So congrats to them and hopefully Rett will be scheduling his vasectomy sometime soon. Hahaha. Sorry. Also, my cousin Jennifer had her second baby which was adopted by my other cousin Dayonna. Kind of strange but also really cool. But, for those of you that don’t know the Kendrick family, that phrase really sums them up; ‘a little strange, but super cool.’ I’m glad that all are well and healthy and I hope they both have long and wonderful lives.
Christmas was a lot better this year from the previous two here in Georgia. For one I didn’t have to once again explain what Christmas was and why it’s so awesome to my Muslim host-family and I was able to have brunch. I searched all over the city and finally found maple syrup so I made French Toast, sausages and mimosas for myself. I was amazed at how much maple syrup costs though. It’s so cheap in America I guess because we don’t import it but I got a tiny little bottle of it for about the equivalent of $9. Totally worth it though.
Also, at school I was able to do some Christmas projects with my kids for once. I had my 4th graders write Christmas poems since we’d been doing poetry a lot this semester and then make Christmas cards for their parents. It was fun. The younger kids are a lot of fun sometimes because some of the stuff they come up with while learning English is just hilarious. Anyway, here are some pictures of my 4th graders and their cards and one of my favorite card covers.
One of the girls in these pictures is named Nini and one day I was feeling a little low and not all that happy to be at school when she came up to me and gave me a card she had made for me. I'll type it out here exactly as it was written for full effect:
for Mr. andrew (picture of a heart) -Nini: I love you Mr. andrew. you are best ticher is the world. I love your leson. you are tiching wery interesting. I love you and your leson. you are my lovely ticher. (another heart) -x- :) Let's just say my day was a lot better after that. Too cute!
I did make a trip back out to Muganlo for my host-dad Akif’s 50th Birthday! There was boiled sheep to be had, but thankfully there were also other options as it was his birthday and there would be many guests. I think my count (could be unreliable as it did get hazy after midnight) was 25 people there for the festivities. And that is without my host-brother Aslan, his wife and their baby who were in Azerbaijan. Needless to say the night went on till the wee hours of the morning and the next morning picked right back up with my least favorite “breakfast supra” that lasted till after noon. I hate when a long night of drinking Georgian wine is followed up with a long morning of cha-cha and tequila. Oh, yeah. My host-dad decided to break out the bottle of tequila I had given him after we had put down two liters of cha-cha before noon. I warned him, but he didn’t listen. At least it tasted good on the way down. My drunky host-cousin got sick and had to leave after the tequila to the sounds of Akif and I laughing at him. So wrong on so many levels, but we were having a blast at this point. After a few hours I did manage to make my way back to Tbilisi and crash out for about 12 hours. Muganlo is like the Twilight Zone to me now. Every time I go back there my mind is spinning with thoughts of, ‘how in the hell did I live here for two years?’ But at the same time it has that nostalgic element to it as in when I see one of the kids beating on something with a stick I just think, ‘ah that little shit, he’s just the same as he always was; how cute.’ However I was not wax poetic about my trips to the outhouse. If you have the money, why not just build an indoor toilet?
So really I’ve got to say that this winter so far has been fairly uneventful. I did find a bar near my house that has a couple of Belgian beers on tap so that’s cool. Too bad the food there is Georgian. Oh well. I tried to convince the manager to get wi-fi in there but I don’t think he wants to turn it into a café style bar but keep it as a restaurant. I can’t blame him I guess because if you’re going to get Georgians in there you have to offer them what they want and that’s more of the same as every other place has. More Georgian food.
A couple of funny stories for you:
So there are people that will wander around the residential districts and sell random things such as fruit and vegetables. They will carry their products or have them in a car and just yell out whatever it is that they’re selling. When I’m out on my balcony I can sometimes here them and I don’t think much of it because it seems completely normal. I can even see that working in America to some extent. Have a mobile farmers market much like the ice-cream trucks come around and sell fresh produce. But the other day I was out in my balcony and I saw this woman down between the buildings with a cart loaded down just yelling out, “Brooms! Brooms! Brooms!” For some reasons I could not stop laughing at this. The absurdity of walking around all day yelling out “Brooms!” was enough but the idea of seeing that in America was something I could not imagine. You have to understand that a lot of Georgians use these crappy straw brooms that wear out in a few months so there is a need for them to be replaced, but all I could think of was seeing this scene in Anywhere, USA. As if I were sitting there one day reading a book or watching TV and hearing a lady yell out, “Brooms!” and immediately jumping up with the thought that, ‘you know what? I really could use a new broom about right now.’
Anyway, I had a stellar string of crap days this past week. One, my door has been broken for a few months now and I’ve repeatedly told my land-lady that it needed repair because the locking mechanism was busted and that the key would eventually break off in there. She is a rich lazy ass woman and never made so much as an attempt to do anything about it. So the other day as I was locking the door, sure enough the key snapped off in the lock preventing me from either latching the door or locking it. I called her and she asked if it could wait till tomorrow. I told her no, since I could not leave my apartment with a door that would not latch or lock. So she sent a man over to look at it. He got here at about 7pm, naturally too late to do anything about it that day. He said he would be back between 1 and 5 the next day. (I’m guessing “locksmiths” in Georgia are like the cable guy in America).
This was how I ended up securing my door while I waited on it to be repaired. Crack security that is.
He did eventually show up and get the door fixed telling me that it would cost 70 GEL ($45). I told him to take that up with my land-lady since it was her door and her problem as I had reported the problem to here over the past few months. He asked me to call her since they were friends and naturally could not discuss such matters of business and money. (???Georgians!!!). I called her and she told me that since I had broken the door, it was my problem. Naturally I paid the man. But, I hope she realizes that whenever I move out of this apartment, that I’ll be taking that lock with me. Why should I pay for an improvement to a place that will stay here after I’m gone? I think that since I paid for it, it’s mine. Now I know that I’ll have no use for that lock, but the satisfaction of throwing it in the dumpster on my way out will be worth the 70GEL.
After the lock fiasco, I was sitting around that night and started feeling really poorly. I don’t know if it was something I ate or what but my stomach was all cramped up and I was not feeling good at all. Needless to say I got zero sleep and was up and down all night visiting the toilet. I eventually just moved to the couch around 4am and laid there till about 9 when everything seemed to be over. Now you know how after you’re sick you just want to change out of your clothes, wash them and just be over the whole incident right? Well that’s what I did. And, after I had made my coffee I felt the need to have a smoke and just stand out on the balcony with my morning cup of Joe. Hold on. Where is my damned lighter? I looked everywhere for it. Couldn’t find it. Then I hear this loud clanking in the washing machine. Oh no!
So I really can’t think of anything else to update you on at this point dear reader. We’re about to enter that dark period of the year between the Super Bowl in February and Opening Day of Baseball in April where the sports world goes dark. I hate Basketball, so I guess I’ll have to read those two or three books I’ve out off for the past few months. Not such a bad thing I guess.
I’ll try to make a better effort to update you more regularly on what’s going on with me on this side of the world over the next few months. Until then… Peace!
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
But, before I run down each and every game (Oh yeah, this is a long one) let’s see how the conferences finished up this year:
6-3 SEC: One of those losses came in the National Championship Game, so really the SEC should, once again, have the highest Conference Bowl record.
6-2 Big-12: The Big-12 had a very good showing this year and were helped out by two wins from its departing members Missouri and Texas A&M who are moving over to… the SEC.
3-2 BigEast: The “big”East may have pulled out a winning record, but their only two good showings were from Cincy and West Virginia.
4-6 Big-10: Ouch. The Big-10 got rolled over on January 2nd and did not have a very impressive Bowl Season.
2-5 PAC-12: If you thought the Big-10 had a bad one, what can you say about the PAC-12? Only Oregon stood out and with 7 Bowl appearances, the PAC-12 looked a little overmatched this year.
2-6 ACC: Not to be outdone by those guys out west, the ACC went ahead and took the cake for lackluster Bowl performances this year. Two words can really sum it all up: Clemson’s Defense.
So who was winning if all the “Big Boys” had so many losses? Well both the MAC and C-USA went 4-1 in their Bowls while MWC went 2-3, the SunBelt 1-2 and the lowly WAC goose egged at 0-3. I went 23-12 in my picks for the Bowl Season, so I can’t say too much. That’s waaaay below my season average, but hey, it’s the Bowls. Anything can happen.
I love the conference debates. I really do and I think this year once again proves that the SEC is by far the best conference in College Football and that while the PAC-12 and Big-10 may be on the rise after their respective realignments, they aren’t there just yet. And, while the Big-12 may be on the downslide, they haven’t fallen completely out of the debate just yet either. While I like to poke fun at the little conferences (and the BigEast), the little guys had a good showing this year and I enjoyed that as you will see in some of these earlier recaps.
So while all the kicking, tackling, passing, rushing and fumbling may be over; let’s toss the coin one more time and finish off this year. Enjoy!
GILDAN NEW MEXICO BOWL –
Temple (MAC) over Wyoming (MWC) 37-15
Nothing says ‘Lets kick off Bowl Season’ like a stellar MAC v. MWC matchup that ends in a blowout. Not all Bowls are created equal and this was a prime example of that. However, the teams did draw almost 26,000 fans to NM and Temple finishes the year with a 9 win season. And, as you know, for Temple, that’s pretty damned good.
FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL –
Ohio (MAC) over Utah State (WAC) 24-23
There is so much to laugh at when it comes to the “Famous Potato Bowl.” It’s on a blue field, it features a MAC v. WAC matchup and it’s the other UO and the forgotten Utah team. But! The last 4 minutes of this game were entertaining as hell. In fact, the second half in general was really fun to watch. Utah State’s run vs. Ohio’s pass was just fun. No, defense was not that big of a factor. In the end, Ohio scored on a weird TD and gave Utah State no time to mount a comeback and the MAC is 2-0 in the Bowls.
R+L CARRIERS NEW ORLEANS BOWL –
La-Lafayette (SunBelt) over San Diego State (MWC) 32-30
Congrats to the Ragin’ Cajuns’ kicker Brett Baer for booting a 50-yard FG as time expired to give his team the Bowl win. The SDS Aztecs scored a TD with 35 seconds left (missed the two-point conversion) and thought they had this wrapped up. But no! The Cajuns were playing a home game of sorts and sent over 42,000 liquored up fans home happy getting their 9th win of the year in the Bowl game.
BEEF 'O' BRADY'S BOWL ST. PETERSBURG –
Marshall (C-USA) over Florida Int. (SunBelt) 20-10
Aside from this being one of the worst Bowl names out there and one of those Bowls that needs to be eliminated, this was a crappy matchup. 6-6 Marshall vs. 8-4 FIU? Really? Who cares? And, as expected, this Bowl was pretty much a snoozer. They only thing of interest is the fact that Marshall won and will finish with a winning record on the year and FIU proved that yes, indeed, they do suck!
SAN DIEGO COUNTY CREDIT UNION POINSETTIA BOWL –
#18 TCU (MWC) over Louisiana Tech (WAC) 31-24
Remember when Bowls didn’t need sponsors in order to operate? What a dumb name. And why does a credit union need to advertise nationally? Anyway, I was really surprised that LaTech made a game of this. I thought TCU and their #18 ranking would run over the Bulldogs. Guess not. But can you blame TCU for not getting up for the Poinsettia Bowl? I can’t. Apparently neither could the fans since only about 24,600 showed up. Kinda sad that TCU now finishes with an 11-2 record and the only thing they were able to show us in this game was that they have the ability to sleep in the first half and then comeback and beat an 8 win WAC school.
MAACO BOWL LAS VEGAS -
#7 Boise State (MWC) over Arizona State (Pac-12) 56-24
Oh Boise State. What a waste of time this bowl was for you. I guess getting a win over a Pac-12 school in a bowl game is good, but you were so close to a BCS Bowl and now you fell all the way to the Las Vegas Bowl on December 22nd. And what happened to the darlings of the first half of the season at Arizona State? Ouch. Anyway, Boise dominated this game. They ran the opening kickoff back 100 yards for a TD and then Kellen Moore did what he’s done for the past few years and just controlled a very productive offense. Zzz… Oh. Sorry. Yeah. Not the best match up and a huge disappointment for ASU who now finish with a 6-7 record.
SHERATON HAWAII BOWL -
#21 Southern Miss (C-USA) over Nevada (WAC) 24-17
No real surprise here. Southern Miss was riding high after beating Houston and winning the C-USA Championship and Nevada really was only playing for respect. Which they didn’t get. Southern Miss finishes the year with 12 wins and that is awesome. But, their coach is leaving and a lot of guys are graduating, so I wouldn’t expect the same from them next year. Nevada on the other hand is… well… Nevada so I would think their good for another 7-6 finish next year.
AdvoCare V100 INDEPENDENCE BOWL –
Missouri (Big-12) over North Carolina (ACC) 41-24
Ah yes. Welcome to the SEC Missouri. Congrats on your Bowl win over an ACC opponent. You must have gotten the memo that we like to beat ACC teams every time we play them. I also like the fact that Missouri got the job done by running the ball. Nice! The Tigers finish with an 8-5 record but I wouldn’t expect the same with them making the switch to the SEC next year. NC on the other hand finishes at 7-6 and needs to win more conference games next year if they hope to improve. 3-5 in ACC play this year? Wow.
LITTLE CAESARS BOWL –
Purdue (Big10) over Western Michigan (MAC) 37-32
Really? A Pizza Bowl? Really? Purdue struggled to beat WMU? I didn’t watch this one and I’m glad.
BELK BOWL –
North Carolina State (ACC) over Louisville (BigEast) 31-24
Well I guess if a pizza can sponsor a Bowl game then a discount clothing store can too. The only thing about this game that was satisfying was the fact that the BigEast school lost to an ACC school. What’s worse than losing to an ACC team that went 4-4 in conference play? Oh yeah. Playing in the BigEast.
MILITARY BOWL - PRESENTED BY NORTHROP GRUMMAN –
Toledo (MAC) over Air Force (MWC) 42-41
Now this is the most honest corporate sponsorship you will ever see. The Military Bowl presented by a defense contractor. Wow. Anyway, this was a pretty good game and strangely featured Toledo’s air attack vs. Air Force’s ground game. Air Force had a chance to tie it after scoring a TD with 52 seconds left but opted to go for the 2-point conversion and the win rather than playing for overtime. They missed it, and allowed Toledo to collect their 9th victory on the year and collect another win for the MAC. I guess in the end we learned that a rocket from Toledo can shoot down an Air Force jet. (Yeah, really bad pun there).
BRIDGEPOINT EDUCATION HOLIDAY BOWL -
#21 Texas (Big-12) over California (Pac-12) 21-10
Well, despite all the injuries and a sub-par season, Texas managed to finish the year 8-5 after taking out Cal in the Bowl game. Other than that, what is the story line for this game? Anybody? I guess you could say it was Texas showing some defense for a change. The Longhorns out rushed Cal 109 to 7. Yeah, you read that right. Cal managed 7 yards of rushing offense. They also turned the ball over 5 times!!! So did Texas win or did Cal yet again find a way to lose a game that they probably should have won?
CHAMPS SPORTS BOWL –
Florida State (ACC) over Notre Dame (ND) 18-14
Remember 1993 when this game was awesome? Remember when FSU started the season ranked #5 and had aspirations of winning a National Championship? It’s 2011 and both of these teams finished the regular season 8-4? Hmm… Regardless this was a cool matchup and actually featured defense. If you’re going to put together a bowl game featuring two teams that had ‘disappointing’ seasons, at least do it right like the Champs Sports Bowl did. I hate both of these teams, but I loved watching this game. FSU had a great second half and if they’re going to get a win, at least they beat the “fighting” Irish.
VALERO ALAMO BOWL -
#12 Baylor (Big-12) over Washington (Pac-12) 67-56
Whoa! Offense! Offense! Heisman Trophy winner RG III and the Baylor Bears just won a track meet! This was the highest scoring Bowl game in history and if you missed it, look up the runs by Baylor’s Terrence Ganaway. 21 carries for 200 yards and 5 TDs!!! Wow! 1,397 total yards in this game and it was amazing! Not the style of football I enjoy the most, but this was one hell of an entertaining game. I was really surprised that Washington was able to hold up as long as they did. Baylor finishes out their stellar season 10-3 and will have to rebuild next year if they hope to string together another season like this anytime soon.
NEW ERA PINSTRIPE BOWL –
Rutgers (BigEast) over Iowa State (Big12) 27-13
Um, the Pinstripe Bowl? I’ve got to admit, I’ve never heard of this one. No surprise with the outcome whatsoever seeing as Iowa State came in at 6-6 and already upset OKS for their “big win” of the year. Rutgers ran over them all game long and capitalized on 3 turnovers from the Cyclones.
BELL HELICOPTER ARMED FORCES BOWL –
BYU (Mormon) over Tulsa (C-USA) 24-21
Damn it! I so wanted to pull out the Mormon Girl one more time. I thought Tulsa’s offense would be able to put up more points and control the ball and the clock a little more but alas… BYU won. Congrats to them though for putting together another 10 win season. This was a pretty even game all the way through and BYU was just able to capitalize on their final drive and score with 11 seconds left to win their 6th Bowl in the past 7 years.
FRANKLIN AMERICAN MORTGAGE MUSIC CITY BOWL –
Mississippi State (SEC) over Wake Forrest (ACC) 23-17
A battle of two 6-6 teams in the Music City! Wooo! We need more Cow Bell. Another SEC over ACC matchup though, so that’s good. I was excited to see who would fuck up the most in this game and apparently that was Wake Forrest. Wake won the time of possession, passed for about 100 more yards and won the turnover battle 2-0. But… Miss State had scoring runs of 60 and 72 yards and a scoring pass of 31 yards. Big plays I guess make up for all the other 3 and outs. Miss State played crap football all season long and I was surprised they even made it to Bowl eligibility. However, this is two years in a row they’ve won a Bowl game and their 5th straight Bowl win. Better luck next year Miss State fans. It’s hard playing in the SEC we know. And poor Wake. They lost to Vandy to end the year and now Miss State? Ouch.
INSIGHT BOWL -
#14 Oklahoma (Big-12) over Iowa (Big-10) 31-14
OU almost let Iowa back into this game in the 4th quarter but put together 10 points in the final 3 minutes to ice the Insight. What a letdown year for the Sooners, but I guess they have to feel better now that they have a Bowl win and finish with 10 wins overall. All three of the Sooners’ losses came in Big-12 play this year hence why they were not in a bigger Bowl despite their #14 ranking. Iowa’s offense put up more total yards and controlled this game for the most part but just could not get it into the end zone. They didn’t even score till the 4th when they put together two drives that resulted in TDs. Oklahoma played the ‘bend but don’t break’ defense and ran the ball effectively enough to get a win.
MEINEKE CAR CARE BOWL OF TEXAS –
Texas A&M (Big-12) over Northwestern (Big-10) 33-22
Ah another future SEC team getting a Bowl win. Go Aggies! I was watching this game while waiting on midnight and the fireworks to start. Not too many fireworks during the game but it was entertaining. (For a matchup between two 6-6 teams) I liked that A&M’s new coach was on hand to watch them and “learn about his players.” A&M managed a fairly balanced attack and in the end I think they were the better team and good for them on finishing out their time in the Big-12 with a Bowl win.
AutoZone LIBERTY BOWL –
Cincinnati (BigEast) over Vanderbilt (SEC) 31-24
Damnit Vandy! Why do you always have to play like, well, Vandy? You let down the SEC by playing your typical style of screw up football. Vanderbilt went up 21-17 in the 4th and then let up a 90 yard TD return on the ensuing kick, then threw an INT that set up another TD to go down 31-21 all in a span of about 10 minutes. It’s bad enough that they are the whipping boys of the SEC and have to struggle every year to become Bowl eligible, but then to lose their Bowl game to a Big East school? Ouch. Now Cincinnati was a 9-3 team this year (now 10-3), but come on!
HYUNDAI SUN BOWL –
Utah (Pac-12) over Georgia Tech (ACC) 30-27 in OT
Now, when the Bowls were announced, I thought this would be one of the “can’t miss” games. Two totally different styles of offence; and not a whole lot of defense. I was right. Utah took a 10-7 lead into half before GT ripped off 17 unanswered points in the 3rd the last score coming on an awesome 74 yard INT return for a TD. Then the 4th quarter happened. Utah, down 14, scores twice and forces OT. GT kicks a FG, Utah scores a TD. Done. What an awesome game. Quote of the night came from Tech’s Head Coach Paul Johnson, "We couldn't block in the fourth quarter and the plays we needed to make just didn't happen," Johnson said. "It feels like somebody kicked you in the gut. When you are competitive, it really hurts.” So coach… now that your team has lost 7 STRAIGHT BOWL GAMES!!! When do you expect to really be competitive again?
KRAFT FIGHT HUNGER BOWL -
Illinois (Big10) over UCLA (Pac-12) 20-14
Zzzzzz… Huh? What? Yeah yeah. Hunger is bad. Donate. Zzzzz… A 6-6 Illinois team versus a 6-7 UCLA is not a matchup I care to waste time watching. But, a win for Illinois does give us a Bruin team that finishes off the year at 6-8 or most likely the worst finish by any team that has ever even been allowed to compete in a Bowl game. Zzzzz…
Chick-fil-A (Don’t call me Peach anymore) BOWL –
#25 Auburn (SEC) over Virginia (ACC) 43-24
Auburn has to feel a little better about their season after this one. After winning the National Title last year they knew this was going to be a rebuilding year. Auburn lost their leading rusher before the game due to a suspension and then their QB in the first quarter due to an ankle injury and still managed to lay a beat down on Virginia. The Tigers ripped off 21 unanswered in the 2nd quarter (led 28-17 at half) and then outscored Virginia 15-7 in the second half. Virginia didn’t look all that bad and I could see where some people had them as an upset pick, but come on. It’s Auburn in a Bowl game. And damn you Chick-fil-A. I love your chicken sandwich, but you need to put the Peach back into the Peach Bowl.
TICKETCITY BOWL -
#19 Houston (C-USA) over #22 Penn State (Big10) 30-14
Ouch. You could understand Houston falling to a lower Bowl game after their loss, but Penn State from the Big-10? Nobody wanted to touch them and so they found themselves in the TicketCity Bowl against one of the nation’s top offences. Oh, and QB Case Keenum is pretty good in case you didn’t know. He went 45/69 (eh) for 532 yards and 3TDs on the day. How sad was Penn State’s season? Not only the sex scandal but their starting QB missing the Bowl game because he got a concussion from a locker room fight when one of his wide receivers knocked him out. Then Houston rolls up 600 yards of offense on them in the Bowl game to send them home losers with more questions than answers leading into next season. Yeah. Penn State is on the slide and it may be a few years before we see them in contention again.
TAXSLAYER.com URBAN MYER GATOR BOWL –
Florida (SEC) over Ohio State (Big-10) 24-17
I thought I put up my new calendar and it said 2012 not 2006. What is this? Seriously though, if you’re going to have two teams that finish with disappointing seasons, you might as well put them together for a rematch to see which has fallen the farthest. I’ve always hated Urban Myer, now I hate him even more for going to OSU. Anyway, Florida’s speed finally paid off for them and they exposed what characterizes Big-10 football: slow, slow power, un-athletic linemen and a lack of depth overall in the conference. Florida played some amazing special teams in this game and that really was the difference when it came to these two 6-6 teams fighting it out to see which one could secure a winning season. The Gay Acorns of Ohio State dropped four straight to finish below .500 for the first time since 1988, and lost seven games for the first time since 1897. Ouch. Well Myer is tired of hanging out with his wife and kids, so maybe he can turn things around. Right…
NOW ON TO THE REAL BOWL GAMES!!!!
(Well, except for a few that slide in here on the timeline).
CAPITAL ONE BOWL -
#9 South Carolina (SEC) over #20 Nebraska (Big-10) 30-13
Congrats to the Gamecocks of South Carolina for their first ever 11 win season. Wow. Who would have ever thought the Ol’ Ball Coach would have been able to do it at SC? Anyway, South Carolina showed that SEC speed again and racked up 6 sacks on the day, held Nebraska to 250 yards on the day and shut them out after the first quarter. Conner Shaw had a great day for the Cocks and Alshon Jeffery was his typical awesome self. (Well except when he and a Nebraska CB got ejected for fighting in the 3rd quarter). When the Bowls were announced I was surprised that Michigan State wasn’t picked for this game seeing as they were ranked higher than Nebraska. Nevertheless, this was a good win for South Carolina and another good win for the SEC.
#17 Michigan State (Big10) over #16 Georgia (SEC) 33-30 in 3OTs
What the FUCK!? Michigan State’s one strength on defense is the middle of their line. So why the fuck did Georgia try about 20 runs right up the middle? Georgia dominated this game in the first half (what else is new?) and lost for 3 main reasons: Mike Bobo’s play calling, Aaron Murray’s INTs and the lack of a run game (what else is new?). I think I’ll start two pages on Facebook and see if I can get a million likes on each. One will be ‘Fire Mike Bobo’ and the other will be ‘Cut Isaiah Crowell’. Georgia would be much better off without either of those two. Don’t blame the kicker or the defense for the OT loss. Blame Mike Bobo. Can I just say thank you to Brandon Boykin for his play on the day? When he caught that punt on the 8 yard line and ran backwards to the 5 my thought process was: NO, No, no… yes, Yes, YES as he went 98 yards for the TD. Wow. But alas, let all of Bulldog Nation stand and say… ‘Next year.’ Fandom aside, congrats to Michigan State’s Seniors for finally getting a Bowl win and finishing off their season with 11 wins and going out as the winningest class in school history.
ROSE BOWL GAME PRESENTED BY VIZIO -
#5 Oregon (Pac-12) over #10 Wisconsin (Big-10) 45-38
I love watching Oregon. High tempo offense, speed everywhere, and those uniforms are always entertaining. I was actually surprised that Wisconsin was able to hang with Oregon as well as they did. They were in it till about 4 minutes left when they fumbled the ball away and let Oregon go on to run out the clock. The Ducks racked up 621 total yards in this one and De’Anthony Thomas’ TD runs of 91 and 64 yards were just awesome. This was a very entertaining game and congrats to Oregon for finishing off a great season with 12 wins and their first Rose Bowl win in 95 years.
TOSTITOS FIESTA BOWL -
#3 Oklahoma State (Big-12) over #4 Stanford (Pac-12) 41-38 in OT
Woah! So if Alabama beats LSU in the National Championship Game did OSU make enough of a statement to say that they should be #1? Well, no. But, it does put them in position to finish in the #2 spot this year. Congrats. Motivation was a question for the Cowboys in this game after missing out on the BCS National Championship Game but they seemed ready to go and put on a pretty good show against Andrew ‘Draft me #1’ Luck. (I’m sorry, I know he’s good, but I’ve got a problem thinking he’s gonna be all that good in the NFL. We’ll see). Hey, Matt Millen likes him, so that should be enough to scare you off of the guy. Anyway, I know OSU is a passing team, but 13 total rushing yards? Stanford controlled the tempo of this game holding the ball for over 41 minutes!!! Guess it doesn’t matter though if all Oklahoma State needs to do is get the ball, score the ball. But in the end, it was the defense that actually won the game for them holding Stanford scoreless in the OT period. Really the end was a little bit of a letdown. I wanted some more scoring. Have all the points scored in these Bowl games changed my opinion on defense? No, but I do like point scoring bonanzas in Bowl games.
ALLSTATE SUGAR BOWL -
#13 Michigan (Big10) over #11 Virginia Tech (ACC) 23-20 in OT
A Sugar Bowl without an SEC team is just weird to me. This one was even weirder because the Sugar Bowl took Michigan from the Big10 instead of #6 Arkansas from the SEC. Anyway, both the Big10 and ACC are having crappy Bowl Seasons, so this was a “good” win for Michigan and the Big10. Virginia Teach in typical ACC style out gained Michigan 377 to 184 overall but still found a way to lose the game. This was a very good 4th quarter though with VT kicking a FG with 2 seconds left to send it to overtime. Michigan’s defense though held up in the OT period and got a big Sugar Bowl win to finish the year with 11 wins for only the 5th time in school history. Remember when Michigan was a joke a few years ago? Well, they’ve got a new coach and things may be turning around in the Brady Hoke era.
DISCOVER ORANGE BOWL -
#23 West Virginia (BigEast) over #15 Clemson (ACC) 70-33
Ah the BigEast’s one “bright spot” just embarrassed Clemson! Wow. 70 points? That should just speak for itself. Best tackle of the night goes to Obie the mascot after a 99 yard fumble return for a TD in the second quarter for WV. Go look it up. How about the numbers on WV’s QB Smith on the night: 31/42 for 401 yards and 6TDs with 0INTs. Wow. Anyway, like I said, the 70 points should just speak for themselves. Clemson: “We suck again!”
AT&T COTTON BOWL -
#6 Arkansas (SEC) over #8 Kansas State (Big-12) 29-16
Two of the big boys from both the SEC and Big-12 put on a really good show in this year’s Cotton Bowl. (By the way, some say the Big-12 is the second best conference in College Football and this was a huge game for conference bragging rights). If it weren’t for some great secondary play from Kansas State, this score could have been a lot worse. K-State’s defense really kept them in this game and played really well. But Arkansas to me was just the better team in every aspect of the game. Their only two losses this year were on the road to Alabama and LSU and with this win, they picked up 11 on the year and will defiantly finish in the top 5. And how exciting is Joe Adams for Arkansas? He’s like the Deven Hester of College Football. Anyway, this game was a really good one and really close throughout. K-State was within 3 late into the 3rd before Tyler Wilson and the Razorbacks just pulled away from them and played some shutdown defense.
BBVA COMPASS BOWL –
SMU (C-USA) over Pittsburgh (BigEast) 28-6
Really I hate these Bowls that they squeeze in between the BCS Bowls as a way to fill air time and sell more ad space. But, this one did give me yet another opportunity to laugh at the BigEast. To be somewhat fair, Pitt was without its head coach and the D-Coordinator who was coaching them was out the door as soon as the game was over too. But, they managed only 10 yards of rushing on the day and were out played in just about every aspect of the game. June Jones picked up his 100th collegiate win. So, that’s something. With this loss though, Pitt finishes with a losing record going 6-7 on the year.
GODADDY.com BOWL –
Northern Illinois (MAC) over Arkansas State (SunBelt) 38-20
Go Daddy! And go NIU to 11 wins on the year. Arkansas State committed 5 turnovers the last one a pick-6 that iced the game for the Huskies in the 4th quarter. Other than that, there isn’t anything of note from this game other than the fact that NIU trailed 13-0 early before mounting their comeback and Husky WR Martle Moore having the game of his life catching 8 balls for 225 yards and a TD.
ALLSTATE BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP -
#2 Alabama (SEC) over #1 LSU (SEC) 21-0
I thought it would take 21 points to win this game, and in a sense, I was right. Everyone knew this was going to be a game dominated by defense but not dominated by just one defense. Wow. Alabama’s defensive performance was one of the greatest I’ve ever seen. LSU didn’t even get across the 50 yard line until about midway through the 4th quarter and they were there for all total of one play. The Tigers managed only 92 total yards and 5 first downs with 2 turnovers. Alabama on the other hand controlled the field position, the clock, the tempo, and only committed one penalty and that came late on an off-sides call on a punt that didn’t even hurt them. Just a total dominating performance from the Tide and they certainly deserve to be this year’s National Champions. Say what you want about this rematch, but I think the best two teams were on the field on Monday night and the best team put on its best performance of the year. Just another year and another Championship for the SEC. Congrats to Alabama! (That kind of hurt typing that).
That’s it! See you all next year. I’m done! Now I can go back to typing actual Blogs about what’s up with me on this side of the world.