Under A Blood Red Sky Nothing Changes On New Year’s Day

On the night of December 31, 2010 I sat at The Bachelor Palace alone…except for Rocco….gently weeping and asking God to send me somebody to relieve the loneliness & lift the gloom. I’ve never told anyone that, and I’m not sure why I have decided to be so revelatory now. Maybe I have finally realized I have nothing at all to lose. It is certainly not to elicit any level of sympathy, but more to illustrate a point.

One year later I did not reach quite the same level of despair, although it was tempting since God had not yet answered my plea. I’ve set aside the emotion and become more contemplative, not only of my situation, but also about the world at large and this thing we call a “new” year.

I have grown to detest New Year’s Eve. There are two kinds of people to whom the event is targeted. The first type is the party animal. We all know these individuals. Some of us have been these individuals. They will happily use any excuse to “go out” and “party”, usually consuming copious amounts of alcohol in the process. Please understand that I am not being critical. Like I said, once upon a time I fit into this category like a glove. Sometimes I wish that I was still a party animal because life would be a lot more fun and much less solitary. The lifestyle of the party animal is also perfect for New Year’s Eve because their charismatic aura usually means they have lots of friends so their phone rings off the hook with invitations to all manner of social gatherings. The second target audience of New Year’s Eve are couples. Whether they are still trying to hang with the 20-somethings at the bar or have evolved into attending a fun little get together with friends complete with finger food and board games, it’s all about being with the one you love…or loving the one you’re with (Where are Crosby, Stills, & Nash when we need them??). And then of course those couples eventually have children so even if they stay in they’re usually doing something fun.

Unfortunately for me I am Choice C…none of the above. I’m single, have no children, don’t really drink or “party”, and even though I feel like I’m a nice person my phone n-e-v-e-r rings and I am never invited to or included in anything. I’m the person that will someday die alone in my apartment and no one will notice for several days until the stench becomes overwhelming. I am invisible and disconnected from society, which to some degree is probably my own fault but is largely a mystery…atleast it is to me. To be honest this relative anonymity doesn’t really bother me most of the time. But on New Year’s Eve it is gut wrenching. I’m not sure why kissing someone at midnight is a tradition…I just know that it is depressing not to have anyone to kiss.

Now once we get past that whole New Year’s Eve thing I’m okay, but I still find the concept of a new year intriguing. After all, January 1st is just some arbitrary day that was decided upon a couple thousand years ago by the Romans. January is named for Janus, the Roman god of gates, doors, and beginnings, of beginnings & endings and transitions. Janus supposedly had two faces…one looking forward and one looking back. Mythology is undoubtedly fascinating, and this story in particular is kind of cool. But let’s be honest…there is usually not one bit of difference between 11:59pm on December 31st and 12:01am on January 1st. There isn’t some bolt of lightning that shoots down from the heavens erasing all our worries, mistakes, & illnesses and magically making our lives perfect. But we do tend to gravitate toward that notion, imagining that magical bolt of cleansing lightning to be real.

Human beings love the idea of redemption. We embrace the thought of starting over with a clean slate. Folks happily latch onto the thought that the next 365 days are going to be better, happier, healthier, and more prosperous than the previous 12 months. Lots of people make resolutions, deciding with dogged determination that now is when they are going to lose weight, quit smoking, learn a new skill, or change some other aspect of their life. They weren’t interested in making such transformations in April, August, or November…but now all the sudden their going to turn over a new leaf because the calendar says January. We eat foods like pork, cabbage, or black-eyed peas (the food, not the horrible “music” group) because we’ve been told they’ll bring us luck, success, and affluence. I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve been eating that stuff every New Year’s Day my entire life and I’m still poor.

Is there anything wrong with the idea of New Year’s and a new beginning?? Not at all. Just because Jesus was almost certainly born nowhere close to December 25 and that date was simply co-opted by the early church to squash the pagan celebration of Saturnalia doesn’t mean that Christmas is bad. On the contrary…celebrating the birth of Christ is a wonderful idea. Similarly, making January 1st a day of renewal & restoration…a kind of rebirth of our lives…isn’t a bad idea at all. But much like Christmas I think maybe we kind of mistreat New Year’s nowadays. The aforementioned resolutions are too often shallow, vain, meaningless, and broken before the calendar turns to February. We love to talk about changing & improving our lives, but we aren’t really very committed to following through. We embrace the hope a new year brings, but abandon that hope as soon as things start to go to hell in a handbasket just like last year.

Maybe a better idea is to treat every single day as a gift from God and an opportunity to be a better person than we were yesterday. Sammy Hagar sings a song called Give to Live that I absolutely love. In the song The Red Rocker gives the following advice: “If you want love you’ve got to give a little. If you want faith just believe a little. If you want peace turn your cheek a little. If you know what you want just go on out and get it. Don’t give up…don’t give up…don’t give up”. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been tempted to give up many times, especially on lonesome days like New Year’s Eve when feeling forgotten, overlooked, and taken for granted. But then I remember that every day is New Year’s Day in some way. Oh sure we are going to have bad days. We are going to fail, screw up, not feel well, and come face to face with the abyss. But, as Tom Hanks says in Cast Away (#40 on my Favorite Movies list), we’ve “got to keep breathing because tomorrow the sun will rise and who knows what the tide could bring”. And hey…maybe I’ll have a date next New Year’s Eve!!

Saving College Football – Part Deux Revised

I was wrong, and I am not afraid to admit it. That’s not really difficult since it happens so rarely.

I jest.

Anyway…in June of last year I published the second part of my plan to save college football, detailing how I would abolish all existing conferences and put each team into one of 10 regions, with the ten regional winners + 6 at large teams making up a 16 team playoff. However, in pondering the situation as the 2010-11 season has unfolded before my eyes, I have made a significant revision. I think it would be preferable and allow for much more flexibility to only have 5 regions, with the five winners + 3 at large teams comprising an 8 team playoff. This also would make the survival of the bowl system more viable, with much more entertaining contests possible than if 16 teams were in the playoff.

The current bowl season has about 3 dozen bowl games, which is ridiculous. I cut that in half and hearken back to my childhood when the New Year’s Day bowl games meant something. I am suggesting that there be 19 bowl games broken down into three tiers. Tier 1 consists of five games all played on January 1st. They would have the first choice of the non-playoff, bowl eligible (atleast 7 wins) teams. Tier 2 is comprised of six games played between Christmas and New Year’s. They would invite their teams after the Tier 1 games are all set. Tier 3 would be comprised of eight games all played before Christmas and would choose from amongst bowl eligible teams remaining after Tiers 1 & 2 make their choices. No bowl game would be tied into any particular region, but it obviously would make sense to consider geographic proximity and ticket sales when inviting participants. The three military academies…Army, Navy, & Air Force…would compete for an automatic bid to the Freedom Bowl in Philadelphia. Since I am setting the threshold for bowl eligibility at 7 wins out of an 11 game season we should see more quality matchups, but it still remains possible that some 7 win teams might not get invited anywhere. If that happens the powers-that-be at those schools would be well advised to do a thorough analysis of their program to discover the reason they were left on the outside looking in, whether it be a weak schedule, lack of fan support, or a general perception issue. In the unlikely event that there are not enough eligible teams to fill all available bowl slots Tier 3 bowls would be allowed to appeal to the NCAA for an exemption to be permitted to invite teams with 6 victories.

The 8 team playoff would take place over the course of 2 weeks in December, concluding on January 2nd with the National Championship game. I will not address television contracts for the bowls or the playoffs, and I will leave it up to folks smarter than I to decide where the championship game would be played, although first round and semifinal games would take place at the home field of the higher seed. The three at large teams would be the 3 highest ranked teams who did not automatically qualify by having the best record within their region. The 8 playoff teams would be seeded according to ranking in the one and only poll, which would be comprised of the following: the 25 most recent living Heisman Trophy winners, 100 members of the print media (2 from each state), 25 members of the television sports media, 25 members of the electronic media, 25 former college football coaches, and a nationwide fan vote to be conducted via The Internet on the NCAA website. Voters would be urged to take into consideration strength of schedule when casting their ballots and all ballots (except the fan vote of course) would be made public. No official pre-season rankings would be issued, and the first poll would be done after the 3rd week of the season.

Here are the redrawn regions and the bowl game lineup:

Atlantic South Central Midwest Pacific
Army Black Knights Alabama Crimson Tide Baylor Bears Akron Zips USC Trojans
Boston College Eagles Arkansas Razorbacks Houston Cougars Ball State Cardinals Arizona Wildcats
Buffalo Bulls Arkansas State Red Wolves UTEP Miners Bowling Green Falcons Arizona State Sun Devils
Connecticut Huskies Auburn Tigers Texas Tech Red Raiders Central Michigan Chippewas Wyoming Cowboys
Kentucky Wildcats LSU Tigers Air Force Falcons Cincinnati Bearcats BYU Cougars
Marshall Thundering Herd Clemson Tigers Texas State Bobcats Eastern Michigan Eagles California Golden Bears
Maryland Terrapins Duke Blue Devils Kansas Jayhawks Illinois Fighting Illini Fresno State Bulldogs
Massachusetts Minutemen East Carolina Pirates Kansas State Wildcats Indiana Hoosiers Hawaii Warriors
Navy Midshipmen Florida Gators Louisiana Tech Bulldogs Kent State Golden Flashes Idaho Vandals
Old Dominion Monarchs Florida Atlantic Owls Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns Louisville Cardinals Nevada Wolfpack
Penn State Nittany Lions FIU Golden Panthers Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks Miami, OH Red Hawks Oregon Ducks
Pittsburgh Panthers Florida State Seminoles Missouri Tigers Michigan Wolverines Oregon State Beavers
Rutgers Scarlet Knights Georgia Bulldogs Minnesota Golden Gophers Michigan State Spartans San Diego State Aztecs
Syracuse Orange Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Tulsa Golden Hurricane NIU Huskies San Jose State Spartans
Temple Owls Georgia State Panthers South Alabama Jaguars Northwestern Wildcats Stanford Cardinal
Charlotte 49ers Wake Forest Demon Deacons UTSA Roadrunners Notre Dame Fighting Irish UCLA Bruins
Memphis Tigers Miami, FL Hurricanes North Texas Mean Green Ohio Bobcats UNLV Rebels
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders UCF Knights Oklahoma Sooners Ohio State Buckeyes Washington State Cougars
Vanderbilt Commodores Mississippi State Bulldogs Oklahoma State Cowboys Purdue Boilermakers Utah Utes
Virginia Cavaliers NC State Wolfpack Rice Owls Toledo Rockets Utah State Aggies
Virginia Tech Hokies North Carolina Tar Heels SMU Mustangs Western Michigan Broncos Colorado Buffaloes
West Virginia Mountaineers Ole Miss Rebels Tulane Green Wave Wisconsin Badgers Colorado State Rams
Western Kentucky Tennessee Volunteers TCU Horned Frogs Iowa Hawkeyes New Mexico Lobos
Southern Miss Golden Eagles South Carolina Gamecocks Texas Longhorns
Iowa State Cyclones
New Mexico State Aggies
Troy Trojans South Florida Bulls Texas A&M Aggies  Nebraska Cornhuskers Washington Huskies
UAB Blazers Boise State Broncos
 
 

Rose                                                                                          

Pasadena, CA                                                       

January 1                                         4pm

 

Sugar                                                                                        

New Orleans, LA                                               

January1                                          6pm

 

Orange                                                                                     

Miami,FL                                                              

 January1                                          8pm

 

Fiesta                                                                                       

Tempe, AZ                                                           

 January 1                                         3pm

 

Cotton                                                                                     

Dallas, TX                                                             

January 1                                         1pm

 

 

Gator                                                                                      

Jacksonville, FL                                                

December 31                                    7pm

 

Sun                                                                                          

El Paso, TX                                                             

December 31                                    9pm

 

Alamo                                                                                   

San Antonio, TX                                                  

December 30                                   8pm

 

Peach                                                                                    

Atlanta, GA                                                             

December 29                                   8pm

 

Liberty                                                                                

Memphis, TN                                                        

December 28                                   8pm

 

Citrus                                                                                    

Orlando, FL                                                           

December 27                                   8pm

 

Cajun                                                                                    

New Orleans, LA                                                  

December 23                                  7pm

 

Holiday                                                                                

San Diego, CA                                                         

December 23                                  10pm

 

Independence                                                                

Shreveport, LA                                                     

December 22                                  8pm

 

Freedom                                                                            

Philadelphia, PA                                                  

December 21                                   8pm

 

Big Apple                                                                            

NY, NY                                                                        

December 20                                  7pm

 

Aztec                                                                                     

Mexico City, Mexico                                         

December 20                                  9pm

 

Continental                                                                     

Toronto, Canada                                           

December 19                                   6pm

 

Aloha                                                                                  

Honolulu, HI                                                          

December 19                                   8pm

 

In the next and likely concluding installment of this project I will tie up some loose ends, addressing things like scheduling, corporate sponsorship, and network affiliations. Until then, enjoy what’s left of this season, and looking ahead to the 2011 season let me just say Go Herd!! and Go Mountaineers!!.

 

 

Sammy Claus Wish List 2010

It’s that time of year once again. Your local shopping malls and department stores all have a fat guy in a red suit with a white beard on whose lap the kiddies want to sit so they can lie to him, say they’ve been a good little boy or girl, and receive an overpriced toy on Christmas morning that they’ll be bored with by New Year’s. Well here at The Manofesto we like to get in on the fun too. The rules are a bit different though. First of all, I am only wearing half of the Santa suit. I will let you guess which half. Secondly, no one is currently sitting on my lap, but I am allowing females over the age of 21 to audition for the role of a naughty elf. Call or text me anytime. And unfortunately I wield no real power in getting the following recipients their potential gifts. I can only hope that in between checking his list twice, stalking all the children while they are sleeping AND awake, and stuffing his chubby face with tasty treats the real Santa Claus does a bit of Internet surfing and is a regular reader of this humble website of mine. However if there are any kind souls who would like to bring yours truly some milk & cookies I prefer 1% or skim and am partial to chocolate chip or Oreos. Enjoy.



The People of The Gulf Coast …..continued economic and environmental recovery from the oil spill


Pittsburgh Steelers Linebacker James Harrison…..an increase in salary equal to the amount NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has screwed him out of this season


Katy Perry…..modesty


The New Incoming Congress…..success in dealing with The Obama Regime and returning America to its Constitutional roots


The Republican Party…..an emergent, fresh, interesting, viable Presidential candidate that believes in core conservative principles


The Hockey Player Who Stole Carrie Underwood From Me…..eternal damnation


The iPad…..a much lower price


Rich Fraudriguez…..Josh Groban’s Greatest Hits


The Minnesota Vikings…..a new stadium


Hardees/Carl’s Jr……the return of roast beef sammiches – please


Miley Cyrus…..grace & caution as she understandably sows her wild oats


The Big East…..a map

The Big 10…..a calculator

The BCS…..a playoff


Larry King…..a happy retirement (but no more wives young enough to be his granddaughter)


Time-Warner Cable…..The NFL Network


Atheists, Non-Believers, Heathens, & Scoffers…..prayer & salvation


The View…..cancellation


People Who Watch Reality TV…..better taste


American Citizens…..job opportunities & lower taxes

American Soldiers…..home



Let me leave you with a quote from the Rankin-Bass animated classic Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town:

Lot’s of unhappiness? Maybe so. But doesn’t Santa take a little bit of that unhappiness away? Doesn’t a smile on Christmas morning scratch out a tear cried on a sadder day? Not much maybe. But what would happen if we all tried to be like Santa and learned to give as only he can give: of ourselves, our talents, our love and our hearts? Maybe we could all learn Santa’s beautiful lesson and maybe there would finally be peace on Earth and good will toward men.”


Superfluous 7 – New Year’s Resolutions You Won’t Keep

A new year…a new decade…has dawned. What better time to introduce a new feature here at The Manofesto, a little ditty I am calling The Superfluous 7. Modestly modeled after Letterman’s Top 10, I am calling my lists superfluous because I am not arrogant enough to think they are in any way necessary or important. Most of the time they’ll be flippantly fun, sometimes maybe a bit more mocking and edgy.

 

Our first topic of 2010 will be, fittingly enough, New Year’s resolutions. I am not a big fan of the resolution. It just seems like an exercise in futility. If you really want to accomplish something just do it. There’s no reason to wait for an arbitrary date on the calendar. There’s no way of knowing how many people actually keep their resolutions, but I suspect the percentage is extremely low. As I write this it is the 3rd day of the year and I’m betting the vast majority have already broken promises they made to themselves. I am not trying to be negative, I am just being honest.

 

So, without any further ado…

 

 

from the home office in Waxahachie, Texas…

 

 

The Superfluous 7 New Year’s Resolutions You Won’t Keep:

 

 

7 Stop Smoking

I’m not a smoker. Never have been, never will be. Oh sure, I’ve smoked a cigarette or two or three in my time (usually in a dark bar at 1am while under the heavy influence of adult beverages while in college), and I have nothing against the occasional cigar…..but that does not a smoker make. I put this in the 7 spot simply because I do know people that have quit successfully, and I think more often than not, out of all of these resolutions, this is the one people really WANT to keep. But I also know that quitting is a very difficult task and something that has to be done because a person is really truly ready to make a change and not just because the calendar says January 1.

 

6 Get Organized

What does this even mean?? I live a fairly simple life, so I don’t really have all that much to keep track of and manage. As long as I remember to feed the dog, pay the cable, phone, and internet bill, and show up to work on time it’s all good. I did go through a phase where I carried around a very nice looking planner for a couple of years, but I came to realize that I rarely had anything to plan. Now I know life can be a bit more hectic for folks with a spouse, children, an important job, and lots of social activities. But it is my opinion that there are two kinds of people…those fastidious, Type A, jet setting, always-on-the-go types who need to “be organized”, and then the other 90% of the population. If you fall into the first group you are probably already organized, and if you’re a common ordinary schlub like me then why bother?? Really, you aren’t that important. Nothing in your life is that dire of an emergency…you just like to ramp up the drama to inflate your sense of importance and self worth. Calm down, chill out, and have a beverage. As long as you feed your kids and keep them in school, make sure you’re a good employee at work, and keep the car gassed up you’ll be okay.

 

5 Do More Volunteer Work

Really?? Isn’t having a job enough?? I know volunteer work sounds like a really nice thing to do…like saving the planet or feeding those poor African kids that hang out with Sally Struthers. But the reality is that most of us get up, go to work, and by the time we get home, do any kind of family stuff, and do what is necessary to keep up the house our dance card is pretty full. Most of us want to spend any free time we have curled up with a good book, mindlessly surfing through the 500 channels on our big screen TV, or chatting with friends online. I myself am a Literacy Volunteer but if I am being completely honest I am a horrible one. I got into it at a time in my life where I had some surplus time due to health issues and not being able to work. Now that I am back on the job I just don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to be super volunteer…and I’m single with no kids and a rather sparse social life. I suspect most everyone is of that mindset, and you know what…that’s okay.

 

4 Take a Class/Learn Something New/Go Back to School

This is another example where there are two kinds of people…those who enjoy learning and those who do not. A lot of people look at the 12 years of public school as a marathon that they cross the finish line of sweaty, exhausted, and borderline delirious. Once they are out they are OUT. Some of us run a little further into college, but eventually we crawl feverishly across that threshold as well, glad that it’s over. Then there are those folks that never stop. They have 8 degrees, they take classes online, they attend workshops at the YMCA…they just can’t get enough. That second group of people doesn’t make this resolution because they don’t have to. The first group will never keep the resolution because if they were that sort of person they’d be in the latter group.

 

3 Read The Bible Through In A Year

I have real issues with this one. Reading…studying…The Word of God should not be an academic, organized, oppressive exercise. If you have to have a schedule to do it and force yourself to maintain that schedule then it is likely that you aren’t going to get much out of your reading. If we would all just shut the computer and the TV off for awhile each day and be lead by The Holy Spirit we would be guided as to what and how much to study. You might chew on a single verse of Scripture for a week, or you might get through all the minor prophets in a weekend. My point is this…don’t rely on a man-made schedule to compel you to mindlessly read what will ultimately be meaningless words. Be lead by The Spirit to engage God’s Word as you would any living, breathing thing. It’s the first step to what we really need to develop anyway…a truly close relationship with Jesus Christ.

 

2 Get Out of Debt

Depending on which source one believes, somewhere around half of us, give or take a few percent, are in debt of some kind. Credit cards, student loans, medical expenses, mortgages, and car payments take a big chunk out of a lot of folks’ paychecks. And every January people say “This is the year I am gonna pay everything off!!” But inevitably something happens…the car breaks down, the roof needs replaced, the kids get sick, the company downsizes. It’s called life, and oftentimes it isn’t kind. That doesn’t mean we stop trying. Hell no…we get back on that horse and we try again. And I am certainly not advocating wallowing in debt. However, I am also not a big fan of setting yourself up for disappointment and the discouraging feelings of failure that arise when you still owe some major bucks in 365 days. Unlike the previous entrant in this list, getting out of debt does require a plan and a steadfast, almost dispassionate commitment to a firm course of action. That’s why glibly designating it as a New Year’s resolution is a doomed proposition.

 

1 Lose Weight/Eat Healthier/Exercise

No you’re not. You’re just not. Weigh yourself right now. Weigh yourself again on December 31, 2010. My guess is that you will weigh the same or more, but almost certainly not less. You like to eat. So what?? A couple of years ago I lost 30 pounds. Want to know my secret?? I was in a “skilled” nursing facility, at the age of 33, for 6 months. I don’t really support that plan. And that experience also taught me that having access to tasty food is a gift from God that we shouldn’t dismiss so thoughtlessly. I am not promoting being purposely unhealthy. Don’t let yourself become one of those people on a Richard Simmons special that hasn’t been able to leave home since The Reagan Administration and needs a crane to take the side off their house and transport them to the hospital, like the mother from What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? who died and they burnt the house down because that was the easiest way to dispose of the body. But again, if you need an arbitrary date on the calendar to make an empty promise that you are all the sudden…overnight…going to change your unhealthy habits then your chances of success are slim (no pun intended). You will make those changes when you are really motivated and ready, and there is less than a 1% chance of that moment magically occurring on January 1.