Monday, August 26, 2013

College Football 101: Crash Course

Do you hear the rumblings? Can you feel the excitement in the air? Are you counting the minutes until kickoff? If you have no idea what I'm talking about, this post may help get you up to speed a bit. You see, we are entering a most magical time of year, especially in the South. College football season is almost upon us. Before we break out the koozies, sing the fight song, and head to the tailgate spot, let's cover some basics, shall we? A little preseason drill for the rookies out there. For the rest of you armchair quarterbacks, consider it a pregame show.

Some of you are puzzled by what you just read. Is this seriously coming from a girl who doesn't particularly like sports, and who will only break a sweat in the name of weight loss or sun tanning? Yes, it's me, but I can explain. Please don't think for half a second that we are about to discuss the hurry-up offense or the shotgun formation...oh heavens, no. You can get that pretty much anywhere; I am here to provide you with college football from a Southern belle perspective. Darlings, I am in it almost entirely for the social aspect.

For the sake of self-indulgence, please let me throw in that Clemson takes on the Georgia Bulldogs for their season opener on Saturday. ESPN's College Game Day (more on this later) will be live on Clemson campus, and the Good Year blimp will be there, too. Students started camping out in what was nicknamed "Tentville" nine full days before the game to make sure they got their tickets (all students are supposed to get game tickets, but it's not guaranteed and it's first-come, last-in-line-sits-up-near-the-blimp). To top it off, our head coach came out to Tentville and surprised all the students waiting with doughnuts for breakfast. It has given me serious heart palpitations from excitement. It's almost too much, except it's deliciously just enough. As great as all this is, it is not a fluke or anomaly: This. Is. College. Football. See what all the fuss is about yet?

So it's almost time, and it is practically a religion. But you don't want to get started off on the wrong foot. Badmouthing someone's team, especially if it also happens to be their alma mater, is right up there with insulting their mother. Rivalry runs rampant, so tread lightly. This is a house divided between my husband, the Georgia Tech alumnus, and yours truly, a Clemson grad. We pull for each other's teams all season long, until the dreaded day when the Yellow Jackets take on the Tigers. Then, we sit and watch in tense silence. The winner has unspoken bragging rights for the next year, which basically means they know their team won and have thereby earned the right to give smug looks whenever it is mentioned, but it cannot, must not, will not be spoken aloud.

While we're on the subject of bragging rights, in college football timetables, there is no statute of limitations. Clemson fans still talk about the '81 championship, Alabama has won back-to-back national championships (so your children's grandchildren's children will still be hearing about that one), Georgia Bulldog football fanatics will say Herschel Walker three times in a ten second sentence. Some years, nostalgia is all you have. The good years are the ones you will cling to and talk about...forever.

Now, let's get you dressed for the occasion. Most importantly, wear team colors. This is all about spirit and is not the time to show up in your khakis and white button-down. Unless you went to GAP University, in which case, go Chinos! I, personally, would discourage you from body paint or spirit wigs and say keep it simple with a cute dress for her and a team appropriate polo shirt or button down for him. You aren't sitting in the sorority or fraternity block any more, so you don't have to go too overboard. Unless you (like myself) just enjoy dressing up. In which case, be my well-dressed guest. These lovely Bulldog belles have it down beautifully:

(Photo courtesy of Ashley Culberson)

It is inevitable that discussions of football will arise during tailgate time. If you have no idea what is going on or what is being discussed, always fall back on the aforementioned College Game Day. This is essentially the papal mass of college football Saturdays. This will be easier for you if you actually watch said program (on ESPN for the uninitiated), but if not, you can fake it. Say things such as, "Who did Corso and Herbstreit pick today? Well, they are doomed!" Bonus points if you can work in Lee Corso's mainstay, "Not so fast, my friend!"

And now more detail about my personal favorite: the tailgating. Tailgating is serious business. People show up hours, sometimes days in advance to get their spot and get the party going. And sure, everyone has grills and coolers, but nowadays there are real tablecloths, fresh flowers, flat-screen TVs, and signature cocktails. At my alma mater, a Tiger can't swing its tail without hitting a plate of just-smoked barbecue, and Ole Miss fans are infamous for boasting, "We may lose a game, but we never lose a party." You don't want to miss a minute of it either. I would be remiss if I didn't take the chance to brag, er, inform you that Clemson did in fact win the South's Best Tailgate Competition in 2012. Those folks at Southern Living know what they're talking about.

In the realm of college football, tradition (and superstition) runs rampant. There are chants, cheers, good luck charms, and rituals abounding. Don't question it, just go with it and enjoy the fun. At Notre Dame, before the game begins, the team makes its way to the "Touchdown Jesus"—a mural overlooking the stadium showing Jesus with his arms raised like a referee declaring a touchdown. Mississippi State fans will drive you insane with ever-ringing cowbells. At the University of Pennsylvania, fans throw toast on the field after the third quarter at every home game, a tradition started in the '70s when alcohol was banned from the stadium and fans used it as a way to "toast" the team. Ohio State's band is famous for it's tradition of "dotting the i" during their pregame show, and it's been dotted by tuba players, famous folks and tons of special honorees over the years. There are a million examples; every school does something unique--that is the fun and fascination of college football. It's pure spectacle.

There are so many things to love about college football; I think that is why the fan base is so enthusiastic. It takes something pretty special to entice a grown man to paint his team logo on his bald head, yes? At any rate, I can tell you about it all day long, but the best thing to do is pack up your cooler and your pom poms and experience it for yourself. And with only a handful of days left until the season starts (fourth and inches, if you will), it's time to get going. That tailgate isn't going to set itself up, and the die hard fans are probably already on campus, raring to go.

A few years ago, I got a framed sign for Christmas with some sage college football advice: "Arrive early, stay late, be loud, wear orange" (you have my permission to insert your own team colors into that equation). Amen to that! Now that you've had your tutorial, you are ready to live this season to its fullest. May the best team win--especially if it's MY team!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Weight Loss Challenge

I know, I know, this is not my first post discussing diets and weight loss. But I have to think about dieting every single day, so the least you skinnies can do is read about it every few months or so. Now grab yourself a cupcake and read away. Mmmm, cupcakes. Sorry. We now return to your regularly scheduled blog post.

It would appear, at least from my 35 year old perspective, that getting old is hell. Last year, I went to my doctor and asked him to test my thyroid. You see, I was watching every calorie that went into this big mouth of mine and working out about five days a week (and we're talking really working, bless my heart) and still not seeing any results. I figured it had to be some sort of medical condition, because clearly, it was no fault of my own.

My cute, sweet, Brooks Brothers-wearing doctor, who is about the same age as moi, said he has never seen anyone so disappointed to get good test results. I kept asking: are you sure my thyroid is working? Really? Noooo! It can't be! He explained that the older you get, the more effort it takes. I asked him if everyone has to work as hard as I had been, and he said that most people are content to gain some extra pounds as they age. Um, no. I am not one of those people.

I moved on to plan B and asked him if he could please send me to some sort of fat farm. Ever the patient professional, he managed to keep his laughter to a minimum and said that he did not believe a fat farm would accept me as a candidate, and also that the other folks there might be a bit hostile towards someone (such as myself) who came to such a drastic measure to lose ten pounds. Then he diagnosed me with perfectionist tendencies and made me promise to relax. Yeah, I see that happening.

I knocked off those pounds through some extreme measures (800 calories a day, ultra low carbs), but found that it is next to impossible to sustain such efforts without become homicidal. I decided that a little extra candy coating on my frame was probably more flattering than shackles and an orange jumpsuit, so I eased off on my diet. By the time winter passed and the holidays were gone, I was back up my ten pounds, plus some change. It's a shame that, in order to look decent, I can't hang out with my good friends Little Debbie and Chef Boyardee. They really are good people.

Since January, I have gained and lost the same four pounds over and over again. I will have a good week and lose a couple of pounds, have a fun eating weekend and gain it back. Lose one pound, have an extra slice of pizza, gain it back. It is the Groundhog Day syndrome of weight loss. And suddenly, our tropical vacation is looming large. When faced with the option of wearing a wet suit instead of a bikini, and walking around the Bahamas in jeans because all my summer shorts are too tight, I saw it as a call to *immediate* action.

Which brings me to my current adventure. I am, deep breath, embarking on the Adovcare 24-Day Challenge. The details of this ditty include no cheese (which I swore I would never do, but you know what they say about desperate times), no alcohol, no sugar. Not even mushrooms--apparently these are mold/fungus and the goal of the first ten days of this challenge are to 'cleanse' the system of such toxins. No Diet Coke...Lord have mercy on my Coca Cola soaked soul on that one. This avoidance of processed foods also means no Baked Cheetohs (which are kind of my jam), no Saturday morning Egg McMuffin runs, no handful of Teddy Grahams after dinner (hey, they are nutritious and vitamin-enriched--it says so right on the box). Sigh. A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

So, none of that stuff, and plenty of healthiness. For a girl who doesn't like fruit, cares little about meat, and doesn't get super excited about veggies, this has been a bit of a change. There have been plenty of supplements (I have to keep a chart on my fridge to keep track of it all), three ounce servings of lean proteins (no red meat), egg whites, and plenty of salads with lemon juice instead of salad dressing. These are not typically my favorite foods, but believe me when I say, you get hungry enough and this stuff will taste pretty good. Did I mention I can have unlimited green vegetables at any time? Green beans and broccoli, you sexy beasts, you!

All in all, it has gone pretty well. There was a panicky incident on day one when I accidentally ate an extra tablespoon of almond butter (I wrongly read the serving size for 'medium' sized people--damn you, small frame!), and a few less-than-delicious episodes with a fiber drink that tasted the way I would imagine a hay milkshake to taste, plus a near sobbing incident when I passed the frozen pizzas in the grocery store, but I'm plugging along. I may--but probably not--be a bit "hangry" from time to time (angry because I'm hungry), although I feel that all things considered, I am maintaining quite the sunny disposition. Clint may tell you different, but who knows why men say the things they say, am I right?

At this point, I am seven days in and four pounds down. Our trip is in exactly three weeks, and I am determined to be a buff bodied, lean, mean, beach dwelling machine. Or at least not swimming in a t-shirt and wearing a muumuu to dinner every evening.  Will I find these lost pounds over one family-sized plate of pasta at Carmine's in the marina village? Or sip them back on, one Miami Vice cocktail at a time out by the pool? Hopefully, the fact that I am leaving for vaycay a few pounds lighter will lessen the chances of the muffin top becoming a pound cake.

I'm off to eat my half piece of fruit and 1/8 cup of almonds as my second meal of the day. "Meal," ha, ha. Hopefully I have expended enough calories typing this post to burn off that meal replacement shake I enjoyed for breakfast, because every bit of effort counts at this juncture. I leave you with this little bit of wisdom I found last week, and I hope it inspires and motivates you as much as it has me: