America, We’re Better Than This

America, we’re better than this. We’ve allowed ourselves to be lied to. We’ve been willingly herded into ideological corrals based upon which news channel we watch or which newspaper we read, or in many cases, whether we choose to read a newspaper at all. We’ve accepted the rhetoric of angry demagogues who have labeled us and arrested our ability to think critically about the world. We have accepted those labels and segregated ourselves along false political lines.

We exchange angry messages with strangers of different political tribes on Facebook, but we no longer talk with our family at the dinner table about important issues because we have lost the ability to think with complexity, to speak rationally, to consider ideas that do not fit the talking points we’ve been given. We have entrenched ourselves in safe, comfortable spaces, where our assumptions are no longer challenged, and the information we receive is thoughtfully curated to reinforce what we’ve already decided is true, and to make us feel good about the political tribe we’ve chosen.

We’ve allowed ourselves to forget that we are a kind and generous people, which is a virtue and a strength, not a character flaw as some have asserted. We are a nation of immigrants who have built this republic into the single greatest country in the history of the world. We have been told that we must view our nation’s history through a lens of either mindless patriotism, or damning critique of past sins – there is no middle ground, no room for complex thought. “Kinder and gentler” is a punch line these days. You’re either with us or against us.

America, we’re better than this.

Fifty years ago, we landed a man on the moon. It was the culmination of a bold idea and an audacious challenge to do big things, great things, in the name of advancing science and technology, and for the sake of challenging ourselves as a people to be better. Twenty years prior, an entire generation of soldiers, sailors and Marines came home from the battlegrounds of Europe, having soundly defeated the evil of totalitarianism, and liberating an entire race from the ovens of a demented racist. They came back with a voracious energy and a single-minded drive to get on with their lives. The GI Bill sent them to college, and they spent the next several decades transforming our country into the single greatest economy the world has ever witnessed.

America, it’s time to get back to doing big things. It’s time to get back to talking with one another, exchanging thoughtful ideas, turning off the talking heads and rolling up our sleeves to do meaningful work in our communities and beyond. We must embrace our national heritage of leadership on the world stage.

It’s time to reengage with our allies and partners across the globe, to embrace once again the alliances, which have fostered peace and stability across the world for over seventy years. Its time to reject the false pretense of isolationism, and move once again with great urgency and energy into the world, to lend a voice for individual freedom and liberty at a time when totalitarianism seeks a second act.

It’s time cast off the shackles of hyper-partisanship, and to reject the dimwitted ramblings of political provocateurs. It’s time to peer over the fence and shake hands and have conversations. It’s time to strip ourselves of labels and engage in the exchange of ideas, to open ourselves up to intellectual challenge, and to be unafraid of “the other”.

We have painted ourselves into ideological corners, but it doesn’t have to be the case. It’s time to be complex thinkers, not adherents to the orthodoxy of “red” or “blue”. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

We can support our police forces, and honor the vital and noble work they do in our communities, yet hold them to standards of excellence and professionalism. We can support our military, yet demand of our leaders that armed force is used sparingly and intelligently. We can embrace the mantle of world leadership without being the world’s policeman.

We can embrace the words from “New Colossus” inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty – “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore” – we can embrace the energy and vitality of the immigrant which has made our country unique in the history of the world – we can show kindness and compassion – yet still develop common sense immigration policy.

We can embrace the Second Amendment, yet enact common sense gun legislation, and seek to address the underlying causes of gun violence. We can be proactive and not reactive in providing meaningful treatment for mental illness.

We can move boldly toward sustainable and clean energy by investing in science and technology. We can and should look toward solutions to protect our environment with all the urgency of a moonshot.

We should expect excellence of ourselves and our fellow citizens, yet provide meaningful assistance to those who fall behind. We can help without judging, hold accountable without dehumanizing, and find ways not to punish, but to rehabilitate, and to reintegrate into society in meaningful ways, with full rights of citizenship.

We can do all of these things and more if we are not afraid to think and strive and accept nothing less from ourselves and our elected leaders. And to quote our 35th President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, we can do these things, “not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win”.

America, we’re better than this.

Lance, we hardly knew ye

There was a time when I defended Lance Armstrong vociferously. I was not blind – I knew that he was likely guilty of some form of doping. But I was also well-versed in the story of Lance’s triumph over cancer and gritty comeback to cycling prominence. I admired his “f-you” attitude regarding disease and anyone who stood between him and the podium. I took inspiration from his work ethic, his fiery attitude and his magnificent exploits in the Alps the Pyrenees and on his victory laps along the sun-dappled avenues of Paris.

I also found the US Anti-Doping Agency’s investigation into Armstrong to be more witch hunt than anything resembling actual jurisprudence and was uncomfortable, to say the least, with USADA head man Travis Tygart’s questionable motives, tactics and evident lack of any jurisdiction to even conduct such an investigation.

Then there were Lance’s vehement denials, his passing of over 500 drug tests, administered at times and places of the governing body’s choosing. In my mind, he was probably guilty of at least blood doping, if not synthetic doping, but I also could not understand exactly why putting your own blood back into your body would even be against the rules. Yet there was never any doubt in my mind that even if he actually doped, he still worked harder, rode faster and kicked more ass than any other doper out there.

Armstrong reigned in a period of ubiquitous doping, and had he not found a way around the rules, he likely would never have been competitive. The Tour de France, you will recall, is a 2,000 mile road race that takes place over the course of three weeks and is sometimes won or lost by a margin of mere seconds. It was a “dope or go home” culture that pervaded the cycling world and Lance found a way to make it work for him. A testament to the pervasive levels of doping in the sport is that the International Cycling Union – cycling’s governing body – chose not to award Lance’s seven vacated Tour de France titles (1999 – 2005) to any other cyclist because there was hardly another competitive cyclist available who had not been guilty of doping during those years.

In the end, much like Barry Bonds in Major League Baseball, Lance Armstrong will be the poster child of the “doping era” in professional cycling. God, I hate to mention Lance Armstrong in the same breath as Barry Bonds – it’s nauseates me.

When he quit his fight against the USADA back in August, I was still a Lance defender, right up until Tygart finally (and quite belatedly) released his evidence in October. And damning evidence it was. Though it was mostly testimonial evidence and, as far as I know, included no positive test results, some of the names of those testifying lent tremendous credibility to the USADA report. You can discount the likes of Floyd Landis, but when Levi Leipheimer and George Hincapie talk, people listen. Accordingly, within the span of several days, Lance was abruptly and unceremoniously dumped by his myriad sponsors and cast aside by the cycling community. He was proven to be, ironically, a cancer upon the sport.

Why Oprah, why now?

Thus followed several months of silence from the Armstrong camp. As Autumn bled into the Christmas season and 2013 rolled around, Armstrong was mostly forgotten, replaced in the media and in our Attention Deficit Disorder-stricken minds by the latest bowl results or for the political-minded, by the ever-raging gun-control and fiscal debates – or perhaps for the truly stupid among us, by the Golden Globe awards.

And then it came – the announcement that Lance would appear on Oprah this Thursday to bare his soul. This was a surprise to me. I fully anticipated (and hoped for) a long period of silence from Armstrong during which he would reconnect with his family and begin to rebuild his life in a positive way. I figured it would be at least a year. But three months? Oprah?

If he must do it now – and his megalomania, I have no doubt, dictates that it must be so – wouldn’t he be better served to go on a real talk show – Jim Rome, lets say – where he can take real, hard questions? Instead, he is opting to appear on Oprah, where she will toss him softballs, give him a platform to shed a few tears, whereupon she’ll proclaim him healed and forgiven. I think it’s lame. And desperate. C’mon, Lance!

The American public is a forgiving one. We love a redemption story. But if you make fools of us, you’re screwed. Just ask Barry Bonds.

I’ll watch the Oprah interview on Thursday, mostly out of morbid curiosity. And if Oprah grills him, I’ll be both surprised and thankful. But I still have to wonder – does this man not have advisors? Does he not have publicists whom he pays to cultivate his public image? What are they thinking?

Fifty shades of grey – the troublesome case of Lance Armstrong

Let me state for the record – I was wrong. Well, sort of.

Two months ago, following the announcement that USADA would place harsh sanctions upon Lance Armstrong, including a lifetime ban from the sport of Cycling and stripping of his seven Tour de France titles, I wrote a rather blistering blog regarding USADA’s front man Travis Tygart and what I considered to be his witch hunt against Armstrong. Quite melodramatically, I titled the piece “USADA – Proof that we no longer reside in a democracy?” – but that is an accurate summation of what I felt at the time.

When I wrote that blog, I was disgusted by the way USADA prosecuted their case – their lack jurisprudence, their sole reliance on the testimony of shady characters, most of whom were admitted dopers themselves who likely harbored personal distaste for Armstrong. I questioned how an organization whose sole reason for existence on this earth is to monitor and regulate the compliance of Olympic athletes could spend such an overwhelmingly large amount of their time and resources investigating a retired cyclist – during an Olympic year, no less. I took issue with the very tone of Tygart’s press releases – their language spoke not so much of a determined legal obligation to shed light as it did bitter personal vendetta. I questioned USADA’s authority and jurisdiction to strip anyone of Tour de France titles. I admired Armstrong greatly and saw the entire episode as a miscarriage of justice.

Little happened to change my opinion in the seven weeks or so following USADA’s announcement of sanctions. They promised to produce a mountain of evidence to support their claims. As the days and weeks passed, I watched smugly as USADA missed their initial deadline to produce said evidence. I felt a growing confidence that in the end, Tygart would reluctantly and quietly close his case and retreat, much as US Federal Prosecutor Jeff Novitsky had earlier in the year.

That all changed late last week.

People need villains just as much as they need heroes

With USADA’s release of 1,000 pages of damning evidence against Armstrong, the former champ’s fall from grace has been harsh and swift – an unmitigated disaster for him, and a big disappointment for those of us who supported him. Just two days ago he was dumped by sponsors Nike, Trek and Anheuser-Busch, among others, costing him an estimated 30 million dollars annually in endorsement money. On the same day, Armstrong rightly stepped down as chairman of his highly successful cancer-fighting charity, Livestrong, in order to spare that organization some of the fallout from his troubles. He has been widely – and justifiably – criticized in newspapers and television and on radio sports talk shows across the country. He has gone from hero to villain, and it struck me this week that people need the one just as much as they need the other.

Say it ain’t so, Lance…

Lance Armstrong is one of the most polarizing sports figures of our time – perhaps of all time, and it will be interesting to see how his legacy continues to unfold going forward. To be certain, his brand has been devastated. His days of earning endorsement money is likely behind him for good – you just don’t pay someone to endorse your company who has approval and trust ratings lower than the United States Congress. But he is only 41 years old. He still remains active in Livestrong and he has an opportunity to slowly rebuild his image. We are a forgiving people in this country, but we only forgive those who humble themselves and admit wrongdoing. So far, Lance has admitted nothing and has even doubled down on the blame game. This doesn’t bode well.

Shades of grey

There are so many facets to Armstrong’s story. He is a cancer survivor who stared death in the face, then went on to inspire millions with his thrilling exploits in the world of cycling – winning arguably the world’s toughest sporting event a record seven consecutive times. He is also a serial liar, misleading the world for over a decade, raking in tens of millions of dollars in endorsement money – ill-gotten gains, as it turns out – in the process. He is the founder of Livestrong – an organization which has raised millions upon millions for cancer research and has provided much needed support for those grappling with that awful disease. He is also an out of control megalomaniac who has employed scorched-earth tactics against those who dared cross him and, it seems apparent now, even bullied reluctant teammates into complying with his systematic and pervasive doping program.

He is equal parts Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. A hero, (though greatly tarnished now), and a villain. Fifty shades of grey – though most of those shades seem a little darker now than they did a few weeks ago.

If Lance were smart, or if he were able to overcome his ego long enough to listen to good advice, he might issue a statement explaining himself. He owes that to his supporters – because they are not simply fans, they are donors. Better yet, he should hold a press conference in which he finally comes clean. He should sit there and answer every last question from media and fans alike. And then he should go away for a long time – spend time with his family, figure out where things went wrong, get that ego under control and focus on quietly rebuilding his image in the coming years. Focus those considerable energies on the lighter shades of grey.

Still a fan

I am still a Lance fan. To be certain, I am bitterly disappointed, and I will never again trust a thing that comes out of the man’s mouth. He is a liar and a jerk and an off-putting, pompous ass. But then again, athletes at the top of their sports have a long and well-documented history of being off-putting, pompous asses (see Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods for starters).

I cannot ignore the overwhelming testimonial evidence in USADA’s report – especially the statements from those I respect, such as George Hincapie and Levi Leipheimer. But I will always have fond memories of Armstrong’s amazing seven-year run in France, and the fact remains that even if he cheated to achieve those titles, he still pedaled faster, longer and harder than all of the other cheaters. I will always support and admire his Livestrong organization. What he has done for those battling cancer through that charity transcends anything he ever did on the bike – it makes him more important than any Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods. Despite everything he has gotten wrong – which is a lot – he has inspired millions of people to fight their disease. That achievement is separate from his current troubles and can never be tarnished.

I am still a Lance fan. A smarter one now to be sure, but still a fan, nonetheless. Life is complicated. One’s life is not written in bumper sticker slogans but rather in long, often complex paragraphs and pages and chapters. Here’s hoping for better times and happier chapters going forward.

USADA – Proof that we no longer reside in a Democracy?

I woke up this morning to the news I had hoped I would never hear – Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong had given up his fight against the USADA and, like jackals in the night, the agency moved in swiftly for the kill – stripping Armstrong of all seven of his Tour titles. Forget that the agency has no jurisdiction to strip Tour de France titles. Forget that they violated their own statute of limitations of eight years in bringing charges going back as far as 1996. Forget due process and the burden of proof and anything remotely resembling fairness. Forget it all. We no longer live in a Democracy.

Just this past February, US Federal prosecutors, led by Jeff Novitsky – the man who brought down Barry Bonds and Roger Clemmons – closed their investigation, which had been brought before a grand jury. After a lengthy subpoena process during which former teammates and international cycling officials were interviewed, blood and urine samples examined and all evidence thoroughly scoured, Novitsky threw in the towel. The evidence he had would not hold water in a court of law. Lance had been vindicated, it seemed.

If only Federal prosecutors were not subject to standards of proof – if only they did not have to deal with a pesky jury – if only they could cast aside due process and adjudicate on a whim. If only another organization not tethered to standards of fairness and law could take up this case…

Enter Travis Tygart and the goons of the United States Anti-Doping Agency

Created in 1999 (ironically, the same year as Armstrong’s first Tour victory) at the recommendation of the U.S. Olympic Committee to address and regulate the anti-doping campaign of the USOC – the mission of this quasi-governmental agency is to manage the anti-doping programs for Olympic, Pan-American and Paralympic sport in the United States. The USADA is not a government entity and as such is not subject to the aforementioned Constitutional standards of proof and due process. Yet, it receives a majority of its funding by tax-payer dollars through the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The non-profit status of the USADA also allows them to prosecute athletes with a lower burden of proof than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that the Department of Justice would have had to adhere to. Uncomfortable yet? It gets worse.

An article by Tim Dockery on the website provides a chilling account of the inner-workings of the USADA’s tribunal process. The basics are as follows:

• Travis Tygart and his USADA staff serve the accused wrong-doer (in this instance, Lance Armstrong), with a letter accusing him of violating Anti-doping rules. As evidence of this charge, only prior drug tests (that Armstrong passed) and anonymous witnesses are cited.
• Armstrong then had ten days to provide a written response to a review board hand-picked by Tygart. He was not given the opportunity to personally appear in front of this review board, nor was he provided the names of the “witnesses” who accused him.
• This hand-picked “review board” reviews the evidence and decides whether the case should go to a full arbitration hearing, which in similar fashion to the review board, is a kangaroo court made up of Tygart-approved “yes men” who make a ruling.
• Unsurprisingly, cases that are prosecuted by the USADA are successful over 95% of the time.
• At this point, Tygart and the USADA board recommend sanctions, which include lifetime bans, stripping of titles and the like.
• No appeals process, no opportunity to cross-examine witnesses (who, in Armstrong’s case were all proven dopers offered immunity for their testimony), and apparently no thought or consideration as to the fact that the USADA has no jurisdiction to even conduct such an investigation, much less administer sanctions.

Dockery rightly points out in his article that in 2012 – a year when we sent our Olympians into competition in London – the USADA spent a vast majority of its time and resources not assuring the compliance of those Olympians (which, it should be reiterated, is the mission of the organization and the sole reason for its existence), but rather going after a 40 year old retired cyclist with unsubstantiated allegations of wrong-doing going back some 17 years.

Some men do great things in this world. Some men are achievers, strivers and world-changers. Other men exist, it seems, solely to tear great men down – haunted by their own shortcomings and the frustrations of otherwise insignificant lives. Decide for yourself who is the former and who is the latter in this case.

The USADA has made a mockery of justice. Their corrupt abuse of power is flagrant and shocking. I would expect this in North Korea, or Iran or the former Soviet Union, where tyrants and personal vendettas and secretive, one-sided hearings leave innocents subject to the abuse of the State. That this happened here leaves me wondering; do we even live in a Democracy anymore? If Lance Armstrong can be stripped of seven Tour titles without one iota of physical evidence, what’s next? Who’s next?

Still the champ…

In the meantime, Lance will move on. He will continue to raise millions for cancer victims through his wildly successful Livestrong organization. He will continue to live a good life and maybe one day the USADA will be discredited and his trophies will be returned – because he will always be the winner of seven Tours de France – nothing can change that. Until then, at least he no longer has to wallow in the mud with Tygart and his minions.

Ol’ Ball Coach, Stephen Garcia and Hank Williams, Jr

It’s been a crazy couple of days down in my hometown of Columbia, S.C. Within the span of two hours yesterday, Coach Spurrier abruptly called The State (Columbia) paper columnist Ron Morris onto the carpet at the start of a previously scheduled press conference and former starting quarterback Stephen Garcia was permanently dismissed from the football team. OBC noted that in 27 years of coaching he has only had to disassociate himself with two members of the media – Ron Morris and a Florida journalist in the mid-nineties. He went on to elaborate about the source of his angst, stating in essence that he could handle negative stories about the team and about himself, but he could not tolerate untruths. The well-documented spur under his saddle dates back to an April, 2011 article in which Morris speculated that Spurrier “recruited” Bruce Ellington to the football team and away from Coach Horn’s basketball team, where he had served as the starting point guard. Coach Spurrier took exception to the article, calling it a fabrication and clarifying that he and Ellington never spoke until Ellington had approached Coach Horn regarding his desire to play football in addition to basketball. Evidently, the option to play football was an accommodation Coach Horn made during the recruitment of Ellington two years ago. Spurrier went on to say that in the future, he would not address the media while Morris was in the room. He then invited members of the television media to a separate room for one-on-one interviews, and then came back later to address the members of the print media, sans a chastened Morris.

Members of the print media seem to have rallied around Morris, while fans have overwhelmingly voiced their support of the Ol’ Ball Coach, many vowing to cancel their subscriptions to the paper. Morris has yet to respond in print. There is one way to clear this up – Morris must now lay his cards on the table – he needs to provide proof of his accusations. Otherwise, The State will have some personnel decisions to make. Morris has no obligation to be a cheerleader for the University or it’s athletic teams. But, he has an obligation to report the truth, be it good, bad or indifferent. If he has done that in this case, good for him. Substantiate it. If not, well, the newspaper market is tough enough already without The State loosing the passionate legions of Gamecock Nation.


Quarterback Stephen Garcia was permanently removed from the football team yesterday for positive results from an alcohol test. ESPN has reported that the positive results included marijuana, however I have not heard that from any other source. Garcia’s troubles have played out on a national stage for the past five years. Five suspensions in five years, unprecedented highs and crushing lows on the football field… Garcia’s career as a Gamecock has been a stormy one.

I feel for Stephen. When I was in college, most of his transgressions wouldn’t have even been transgressions. All but one of his five suspensions were alcohol-related, the lone exception being a gargantuanly bone-headed/borderline criminal brain fart in which he keyed a visiting professor’s car. Yes, that was stupid. That was also back in 2007, one month after he arrived on campus. His other suspensions have come from under age possession of alcohol, having girls in his hotel room after “lights out” before last year’s bowl game, and other general goofiness that are par for the course for most college kids and wouldn’t have even raised an eyebrow for a collegiate athlete when I was in school. Today, these kids – especially quarterbacks, and extra-especially Spurrier-coached quarterbacks – live in a media fishbowl. Their every move is debated, criticized and scrutinized. Makes me want to have a beer just thinking about it.

Garcia led the South Carolina football program to, among other highlights, the program’s first-ever win over a top ranked team (vs. Alabama last season), the program’s first-ever SEC East Division championship, the first consecutive wins over arch-rival Clemson since the 1968-70 seasons (that last stat boggles my mind even today), he threw for over 7,500 passing yards (one of only three to do so in program history). He was a fearless warrior who played with reckless abandon and earned the respect of his teammates. That was the good Stephen. There were also the suspensions, the freshman mistakes made even as a fifth-year senior, the bad decisions both on and off the field, the 0-3 bowl record, the stormy relationship with his Head Coach. He was equal parts Jekyll and Hyde. He showed so much potential, yet was his own worst enemy in falling short of it. Reckless abandon works well most times on the football field. Not so much off it.

Stephen will be ok. He comes from an excellent family who will support him through this tough time. He graduated from Carolina this past spring with a degree in Sociology. He has much to be proud of from his time at Carolina and hopefully he has learned some valuable lessons.

Thank you, Stephen for the good times. You were without a doubt, the most entertaining quarterback in school history and it has been quite a ride. You are an alum and will always be a Gamecock. Best of luck and God speed.


“Are you ready for some football???” Country legend Hank Williams, Jr. has been asking that question of Monday Night Football fans for 22 years now, but the question has been asked (shouted) for the final time. After making an unquestionably over-the-top comparison between President Obama and Hitler on a Fox News morning show last week (you know it’s over-the-top when even Fox News morning hosts are stricken speechless), ESPN and Hank have parted ways. ESPN says it was their decision. Hank says it was his. One thing we can all agree upon (I would hope) is that it was a muddle-headed thing for Ol’ Bocephus to say. Check that… it was just plain stupid. Even the most vociferous anti-Obama tea partier would have to admit that. Hitler’s is quite possibly the most toxic name in the history of world. Had Hank compared Obama to Pol Pot, most people would have likely thought he was accusing the President of smoking marijuana. Mention Hitler and all hell breaks loose. And rightly so. It was a ridiculous comparison. As much as I love his music (the early 80’s stuff, anyway), I will have to admit that Hank can be a bloviating jerk-off sometimes. I cringe whenever he stops singing and starts talking. It’s not pretty. Why can’t all of my musical heroes just shut up and sing? (I’m talking to you too, Mr. Mellencamp/Springstein/Young, etc, etc, etc).

Yet, we still live in a great country where people are free to make asses of themselves. The funny thing is, Hank owns the rights to his song and will likely take it elsewhere and make more money than he was making with ESPN. He’s an entrepreneur as well as a musician. Bottom line is, Hank had a right to say what he said, just as ESPN had a right to disassociate themselves from Hank. To be honest, the theme song had gotten a little stale anyway. Maybe now Hank can get back to focusing on music instead of being the court jester of the NFL. One can always hope.

Autumn’s awakening – shaking off a late summer malaise

I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from this blog since Melissa and I returned from Czech Republic last month. I had grand visions of all of the articles I would write chronicling our time in Europe – the food, the Martin-led forced march of “turbo-touring” (his term – an apt description), Prague and all of it’s wonders, summiting Czech’s tallest peak and discovering the singular and unexpected pleasure of cold beer for sale at the top, our time in the tiny village of Plesiste and “two quick beers” with Martin’s dad and friends… I was going to write about all of it. And then, within several days of our return it seemed like the world went haywire. A totally unexpected earthquake on the East Coast had me working over-time in Northern Virginia for several weeks. The earthquake was followed by a hurricane, which was followed by news of devastating drought in Texas, continued chaos in the Middle East, an escalation of the already chronic ineptitude and disfunction in Washington, rumors of collapse in the financial markets and the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Suddenly, Czech Republic seemed like a distant memory and blogging about my life seemed obtuse and self-absorbed.

There was also the mammoth distraction of college football starting up and swirling rumors of conference realignment. I am fascinated by the realignment topic and could talk for hours on end with anyone who indulges me (Melissa is not one of these people) about the various possibilities. (Texas to the Pac Ten, SEC or Independent? Who will be the 14th team in the SEC… Clemson? Georgia Tech? FSU? Missouri? Will the Big 12 try to pick up the pieces and forge ahead or will they attempt to merge with the Big East?) I never get tired of it. It’s a sickness, really – I don’t know what is wrong with me.  Add to all of this a general late summer malaise, a dash of writer’s block and, let’s be completely honest here, my own innate laziness, and you have a recipe for accomplishing very little in the way of writing for what is going on two months now.

But with fall comes renewal. I guess the whole renewal thing is supposed to correspond with spring, but for me, it’s fall. The cool weather seems to have a medicinal affect and it has me thinking about writing again. And I’ve come to the conclusion that the hardships in our world – natural disasters, anniversaries of tragic events (even one the magnitude of 9/11) and the general un-ease of our time should not be parlayed into an excuse to stop writing. These events should be observed with reverence, but life goes on – life continues to be good and worth chronicling.

Melissa and I are getting ready to embark on an epic (for us, anyway) cycling trip – the Cycle North Carolina (CNC) Fall Ride. This is our first time on this annual west to east ride across the State of North Carolina. This year the event begins in Elkin, N.C. in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and ends seven days later in the tiny Outer Banks town of Corolla. We’ll pedal a total of 492 miles over those seven days, averaging 70 miles per day. I figure, if nothing else, I’ll get a blog or two just from chronicling the size of the blisters on my saddle-weary rear end. But I have a hunch I’ll find a bit more of substance to write about beyond that. Melissa’s Dad (Fran) has been kind enough to “sherpa” for us on this trip. He’s flying out tomorrow and will follow us all week in his SUV, helping to set up camp (yes, did I mention we’ll be tent camping each night?), transporting our luggage and assorted gear, and even volunteering to help the CNC staff along the way. A few days into the trip, Melissa’s Mom (Nita) will join us. We start the ride this Sunday.

For now, it’s good to be back writing again. More later…

Thank you veterans…

“It is the soldier, not the reporter, Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet, Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the organizer, Who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier, Who salutes the flag, Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag, Who allows the protestor to burn the flag.”
– Father Dennis Edward O’Brian, USMC