Friday, September 5, 2014

Five Things on a Friday: Football is Back!

I'm still talking about Army's game against Buffalo tomorrow, so if you haven't read my preview of the game, go back and read that first.  I'm no football expert, but having done a little research, I now feel like I know what to watch for tomorrow, and that's got me all fired up.  I've even got a growler of beer I bought in Maine that I've been saving just for this occasion.

“Army is coming off a 3-9 season in 2013. Enter Monken, who came to West Point following four successful seasons at Georgia Southern…  
Army will continue to run the triple-option offense under Monken, who served as an assistant coach at Navy and Georgia Tech, and offensive coordinator Brent Davis.”

As I noted yesterday, Army is favored but only by 3.5-points, and odds makers typically give three points just for home field advantage.  So the game is basically a pick-‘em.  
If you want a reason to be scared, be scared of Buffalo’s passing attack, which looked potent against Duquesne.  If you want a reason to hope, then I’ll tell you that Buffalo got out to a 21-7 lead in the 2nd quarter but let Duquesne come back towards the end to keep things interesting.  Duquesne is a I-AA team, so Army ought to do well.
"We've been basically mediocre for so long and it's hard for us to get into that gear and say, 'All right, we are winners now,'" said senior defensive end Mike Ugenyi. "That's the No. 1 objective to make sure the juniors, sophomores and freshmen know at the end of the day after missing assignments or being tired or whatever happens, we have to win. We have to do everything we can to win. We have to do everything coach Monken says. If we do everything that coach Monken tells us, we are going to win."
It hasn’t been real easy finding information on Army’s transformation this season.  Northeastern beat writers don’t automatically flock to cover college football even at the best of times, and Army’s program has been in the basement for a good long while now.  Outside of official Army press material, there’s not much there.  This article, though, is a nice mix of quotes from the players and coaches, mixed together with a little general background on where Army’s program has been and what some of its better graduates are currently doing.
What I got out of it is that everyone involved seems to realize that they’ve got a big job ahead of them, and that’s good.  It’s good because it’s true and because it means—hopefully—no one on the team is suffering under any illusions about how the last few years have gone.  The team is working now, heading in the right direction, and at this point, I suppose that’s all we can ask for.
3.  Finally cleared to practice
I saw the doctor again on Wednesday afternoon about the infection in my leg and was finally cleared to start working out again.  I’d started bike commuting again late last week, but the doc was specific when I was in the hospital about the need for me to take it easy once I got out, so I didn’t want to start running or swimming until I was sure everything was okay.  I’m fine now, but the doc told me that I might feel a residual loss of endurance as I’m easing back into my routine, and as it happens, that proved to be frustratingly correct.  
I did my first run back yesterday, putting in an easy three miles at lunch.  I made sure to hold back at the beginning, but it still felt a tough slog on the back half, and there was nothing I could do about it besides working to hold my form together and keep breathing easy.  Granted, the alternative is laying on my couch feeling like shit, but still…  I have a long way to go to get back to where I want to be, and it’s gonna take deliberate effort to get there without any setbacks.  

Screenshot of yesterday's run from MapMyRun.Com.
I’m planning to swim Saturday morning, and I expect I’ll have a better feel for exactly how far I’ve got to go to rebuild my fitness after that.  What can you do?  Life is a contact sport, and sometimes we get knocked down.  There’s nothing for it but to get back up and keep pushing forward.
4.  The NFL season kicked off last night
The Seahawks won last night 36-16.
I didn’t watch all of last night’s game, but it seems like every prognosticator and their brother is either predicting a repeat by the Seahawks, or else they’re calling for the Saints to come charging back to the Promised Land.  Meanwhile, the NY Giants offense looked dismally bad in the preseason, and their defense is okay, but it’s not the kind of shut-down, lights-out bunch they’d need to cover for the sins of their offensive line.  I’m depressed about it already, and we haven’t even kicked off yet.  
Against all odds, it seems like my beloved Tennessee Titans may actually have the best shot amongst my personal teams, but it hurts to say that because they’re not exactly feelin’ the love in the national press, either.  I want to believe in the Titans, but Jake Locker has been injury-prone at best, and Tennessee’s defense still hasn’t recovered from the loss of Albert Haynesworth all the way back at the end of the 2008 season.  

He was the best in the business when properly motivated.
I’m forty-one years old, and in a lot of ways 2008 feels like yesterday, but it was actually six years ago, and that’s a lifetime for a football team.  Alas, Tennessee always seems to come up a yard short, even when they’re 13-3 and widely considered the best team in the League.  I strongly doubt they’ll win more than ten games this year even if they’re far more successful than anyone has so far predicted, which leaves me hoping for the best but not exactly filled with optimism.
5.  Writing Update
A tip from a friend led to a talk about my book this week with a successful professional writer.  It was helpful in the extreme.  Among other things, she said:
 -- My book sounds like a “middle grade” book.  This is apparently not the same thing as a YA book.
 -- At 130,000 words, my book is at least twice as long as it needs to be.  This means that I don’t really have one book, I have two—The Priest of Loki and its sequel, The Crown of Pluto.  Having given the damned thing out to a few test readers, this was not the most surprising thing I’ve ever heard.  Even some adults have struggled with its length, and both my kids were overwhelmed by the thing when they tried to read straight through it in a single reading.  I’d been considering separating the parts for a while, and now I think that instinct was correct.
 -- If the book is really gonna be a pair of middle grade books, the Prologue and the Epilogue have to go.  One of my classmates had already convinced me to move the Prologue to the middle of the book and make it an intermediary chapter, but some of what happens there just isn’t appropriate for a middle grade reader, and anyway, those two short stories, “The War Master” and “Rags to Riches to Rags Once Again” work together.  They absolutely won’t work split across two books.  I liked the way “Rags” tied up the story when it was a single work, but I think I can take both bits out without losing anything vital, and that means that they probably needed to go regardless.
-- Finally, my new friend recommended I join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, get into a writer’s group, and then network and get feedback on my book from other writers.  This is obviously the right move, especially from a networking standpoint, but it’s also frustrating.  I want to be done with this project and move on.  In fact, I was on the point of self-publishing the damned thing last week just to get it out of my misery, but…  Sending the book to my friend Alan, two classmates, a fellow triathlete, and four would-be agents is not the same thing as putting it out there and giving it a chance to succeed.
Alan writes Rival Angels.
Its a webcomic with several
trades available on Amazon
With all of that said, I am more than tired of dealing with this stupid book.  If the blog had more readers I would definitely just stick it up here and be done with it.  Maybe getting into a writer’s group will re-energize me, but right now I want to start training again, thinking about how to rebuild my triathlon club, and plan for next season’s races.  I took 2014 off from competition so I could finish my book.  Now it’s done, and I’m ready to be a triathlete again.  Meanwhile, my book is just sitting here, and while I know it could be better, I also know that life moves fast, and I have more I’m trying to accomplish than just writing and re-writing this one silly project.
Well.  I’ve come this far; I may as well go a little further.  Besides, I’m sure it’ll do me some good to connect with other writers.  And anyway, no one’s saying I can’t write.  I probably don’t need to keep obsessing on this particular project without more feedback on it, but that doesn’t keep me from writing more, new stuff.  I just wish I had more readers.  But that’s always the way, isn’t it?

I'm back in the water tomorrow, and Hannah's heading back ice skating.  My friend Ben is riding a charity ride for cancer tomorrow (mental note: I need to go sponsor Ben's ride today), another friend is racing, and bottom line, I'm pretty sure that means that no one else is going to be at Tri Practice.  

All things considered, that's probably not a bad thing.  It gives me time to do some easy swimming and see exactly how much fitness I've lost--and get a feel for how long it's going to take to get it back.  I felt okay running yesterday, and I've felt fine on the bike all week, but I was tired last night.  The combination of running and commute riding was way more physical activity than I've been doing, and it hit me hard once we finally sat down.  I slept well, but I had the kind of super-strange dreams you can only have when you're really exhausted, and that's a little crazy.  A three-mile run mixed with an eleven-mile ride shouldn't crush me quite that completely.

Well.  It's Friday, and that's what matters.  Have a great weekend!

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