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Thursday, January 15, 2015

I Still Hope You Dance

Just's never too late to dance.


So go dance, goddammit.

Go dance.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Dear Aunt Matilda

From the wayback machine.

One of my early pieces, from my days as an 84-year old Southern Woman, Matilda Mae Sugarbottom (of the Andalusia, Alabama Sugarbottoms).
Dear Aunt Matilda, 
I read your article "Time to reassess and redirect," in the January Splash! and have a question. Number 8 on your list must have some hidden meaning. I asked several persons about it and they could not understand what "Look into a dog's eyes until you see God staring back at you" means. Would you please explain what this means?? 
Signed, Steve B.  
Dear Steve,  
Thank you for reading the column and for taking the time to write. I am happy to explain what I meant by the "dog's eyes" item on the list. 
I was taught as a child that God loves me unconditionally, that He will always protect and comfort me, and that He is always there whenever I call for Him. But it is so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind of life and forget about the importance of having God in your life. As I became an adult, I found myself growing further away from God. When I was pregnant with my second child, the doctor told me I had to spend the last four months of my pregnancy in bed. I was frightened and felt completely alone. I lay in the bed and prayed frantically, but found no solace. 
About a month before Samantha was born, I was lying in bed next to Goldie, our two-year old Cocker Spaniel. I was sobbing uncontrollably, crying out to God, asking why He had left me all alone. In the middle of one particularly ungrateful tirade, Goldie laid his paw on my stomach and stared at me. This distracted me from my hysteria long enough to return his gaze.
When my sobs subsided, I began to feel something I hadn't felt in years. As Goldie lay there staring at me, I began to feel the presence of God. I had been so petulantly demanding that God bring me comfort that I hadn't stopped to listen and see if He was there. Goldie reminded me that God is with me always. I need only sit quietly and let Him comfort me. 
I then realized that God had been with me all along, in the form of a gentle creature whose spirit was far more pure than mine would ever be. Just as I'd been taught about God, Goldie loved me unconditionally. When I was in danger or despair, Goldie protected and comforted me. And no matter what he was doing, Goldie would come running whenever I called. I had only to call, trust that he was coming, and sit quietly until he arrived.  
God has an amazing capacity for finding ways to reach us. For me, he used a furry, barking creature that even I could understand. 
Love, Tildie
P.S. To experience seeing God in your own pet, check out those available for adoption at Santa Rosa County Animal Services. You can call (983-4680) or email ( for more information. To see the pets, go to 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Meet Black Lassie

Just a quick update to this blog from a few years back.

Sold the 2006 a couple years ago.  Missed it just about every day since.

So last Saturday, I went and picked up this:

Remember:  live with no regrets.

Smokey Joe

Friday, March 14, 2014

A Trip Down Memory Lane

I found an old (2010) piece I dredged up from an email exchange between me and Jerry Greene, formerly from the Orlando Sentinel and

Keep in mind that in 2010, Regis Philbin was not a member of the FoxSports1 Crowd Goes Wild team.  Yes, I'm just that prescient.

The Ten Most Overhyped Events/People in Sports

10.  The Super Bowl:  Naw…just kidding.  This one’s PerfectlyHyped©.  On the standard Hype-O-Meter 6,000™, with settings of 1-10, The Super Bowl registers an eleven.  You know, because it’s one louder, isn’t it?  Just as God intended.

9.  Televised Major League Baseball Draft:  Bud Selig was particularly crazy when he decided it would be a good idea to televise the annual Major League Baseball paint drying…er, amateur draft.  Except the draft makes the games look exciting.  Crazy like a fox.  Well…really more like a ferret but you get my point.

8.  Televised Women’s Sports:  As the father of both daughters and sons, I fully support equal athletic opportunities for both genders.  I also support makeup and feminine hygiene products but I don’t want to watch them on television.  EXCEPTIONS:  Any sport that allows mature, athletic women to compete on the highest level.  This is known as "the Dana Torres clause."

7.  SEC Football:  Formula for success:  A fundamentally flawed ranking system + 2-3 decent college football teams / 9-10 good high school teams ^ no playoff system = 4 BCS Champions in a row and 5 of the past 7.  However, let Northwestern play Vandy, Mississippi State, and Ol’ Miss every year and they’d be in contention, too.  Oh, and newsflash:  the SEC has sent a team to the BCS championship game six times.  Just like the ACC.  Ouch.

6.  Franco Harris:  DISCLAIMER:  I’m a Raiders fan.  ‘Nuff said.

5.  The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament:  I know…blasphemy, right?  Most overblown collection of college misfits since Radiohead.

4.  Bob Costas:  Somewhere, a ring is demanding to be carried off to Mordor…

3.  Professional All-Star Games:  Whether MLB’s annual midsummer “classic,” the NBA’s annual “Def Traffic Jam,” or the NFL’s Pro Bowl, all star games are boring, irrelevant, and superfluous.  Note I did not include the NHL because, well, I specified “professional” in the title.

2.  Soccer:  Seriously…did you watch any of the World Cup?  That’s eight minutes of my life I’m never getting back.  (NOTE:  had the US won the World Cup, soccer would have tied with the Super Bowl for the Most Perfectly Hyped Sport in the World.)

1.  Regis Philbin:  While granted he is not a sports event or person, any hype he receives is, by definition, overhype.  I mean, for gawd sake, what kind of name is Regis?!?

Friday, January 31, 2014

No winners in Super Bowl XLVIII

Before launching into my Super Bowl XLVIII prediction, I have to make one thing clear:

I am an Oakland Raiders fan.

Perhaps that’s understating things by a factor of about 10,000.  I have been an Oakland Raiders fan since 1968.  Cut me and I bleed Silver & Black™.  Just Win, Baby™.  Commitment to Excellence™.

I mean, just take a look at a sampling from the ’68 Raiders:
  • Pete Banaszak (RB)
  • Fred Biletnikoff (WR)
  • George Blanda (QB)
  • Willie Brown (DB)
  • Billy Cannon[1]
  • Ben Davidson
  • The Mad Bomber, Daryle Lamonica[2]
  • Double Ought, Jim Otto
  • Art Shell (before he was a catatonic coach)
  • Gene Upshaw (before he sold out NFL players)
  • Warren Wells
  • George Atkinson
I started watching football the year before, in 1967.  I grew up in Northern California but was actually a fan of the Rams.  More specifically, I was a fan of Roman Gabriel[3], Jack Snow, Les Josephson, and the greatest defensive front four in history:  Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen, Lamar Lundy, and Roger Brown[4].

But while the ’67 Rams (11-1-2) and the ‘68 Raiders (12-2) finished with comparable records, Oakland looked like they were playing a different game.

The Raiders games seemed faster, like the old NFL played on ice skates.  While the pace was quicker – the ’68 Raiders ran 59 more plays over the course of the season (4.2/game) than the ’67 Rams – it was the types of plays that made the game so exciting.

In 1967, the Rams ran the ball 56% of the time (490 passes to 390 runs).  In 1968, in addition to averaging more plays per game, the Raiders passed the ball almost as much as they ran (468 passes to 471 runs).  The ’68 Raiders threw 21% more passes than the ‘67 Rams and even back then, everyone knew that chicks dig the long ball.

Part of this was, of course, due to the style of the AFL but part was Raiders Owner/General Manager/Eventual Destroyer Al Davis’ philosophy.  Davis believed in speed and the “vertical passing game” from the time he joined the Raiders until his death.  Play faster, play deeper, play meaner.

They threw the ball to the running backs.  They were rough and tumble even before the Kenny “The Snake” Stabler and John Madden years[5].  The ’68 Raiders were new, sexy, and news.  The Heidi game was in 1968.  The Raiders finished 12-2 before falling to the eventual Super Bowl III champion Jets in the AFL Championship.

Additionally, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were killed in 1968.  The Vietnam War escalated in 1968 with the highest number of fatalities (16,899) recorded in a single year.  There were beatings at the Democratic National Convention and Richard Nixon was elected President by a margin of less than 1% of the vote in 1968.

In 1968, the winds of change were everywhere.  The new generation challenged the old.

And the NFL represented the old way.  The AFL represented the new generation.  The Raiders swaggered and gave exactly zero fucks.  They rebelled against the status quo.  They were anti-establishment in an era when the establishment was starting to look like the problem.

And that’s why I fell in love with the Oakland Raiders in 1968.

It was an exciting time to be a football fan.  The AFL brought a new type of football, exciting and different.  Old timers were with the NFL; the cool kids were loyal to the AFL.

So when I say I’m an Oakland Raiders fan, I don’t mean that casually.  I am able to assess the team’s chances objectively but am unable to watch them unemotionally.  They are my team and will be until the day I die.

As a result, there are teams that are either respect-hated or just plain hated by Raider fans.  In the former category are:
  • Pittsburgh Steelers:  Raider-Steeler battles in the early 1970’s were epic and it seemed the Steelers were always in our way of winning it all.  Oh…and Franco trapped it.
  • Miami Dolphins:  Ditto, except for the Franco thing.
  • Kansas City Chiefs:  From the time Al Davis joined the Raiders as an assistant in 1960 until the end of the 1969 season (ending with the AFL Championship game in January 1970), the Raiders and Chiefs split their twenty-two games, with eleven wins a piece.  The two teams represented the AFL in the first two Super Bowls and were true rivals for dominance in the final years of AFL history.
In the latter (pure hate) category are:
  • Dallas Cowboys:  Because Dallas Cowboys.
  • Everyone besides Kansas City who has ever been in the AFC West
The final category includes the San Diego Chargers and the two teams set to battle for the Lombardi Trophy in SB XLVIII, the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks.

The Seahawks joined the NFL in 1976, just before the Raiders won their first Super Bowl[6].  It would be twelve years before the ‘Hawks would win the AFC West and another eleven before they’d do it again.

But they were the upstarts, the pesky team from up north[7] with guys like Steve Largent (or, as we called him, the poor man’s Fred Biletnikoff) and that wacky southpaw QB, Jim Zorn.  Later came Bo Jackson’s 91-yard run into the Seattle tunnel and Bo shutting Brian Bosworth up by trucking him in a 1987 Monday Night Football game.

So the Seahawks were rivals only in the sense that they were a pain in the ass.  But they were in the AFC West so it was a given that they were to be despised.  They were like a little brother.  We usually were fond of them but every once in a while they would puff up and show no respect.  So, yeah…screw them.

The Chargers and Broncos are hated at a deeper, more visceral level.  They have historically been impediments to the Raiders reaching and advancing in the playoffs.

But no team is hated like the Denver Donkeys.  The Mike Shanahan years were the worst.  After the acrimonious break-up of Shanahan and the Raiders in 1989, Shanahan joined the Broncos (offensive assistant), 49ers (offensive coordinator), and Broncos again (head coach).  In the first seven years as Denver’s head coach (from 1995-2001), the Broncos went 12-2 against the Raiders, with an overall 21-11 record over the Silver & Black under Shanahan from ’95-‘08.

I hate the Denver Broncos.  I hate them like they killed my puppy.  Or screwed my wife.  Or screwed my puppy.

You get the idea.

So I had to ask myself how I could provide an objective assessment of SB XLVIII and pick a winner.

I like Peyton Manning.  He’s been a class act, showing respect for the game and fellow players/teams since he came out of high school.  His return from four neck surgeries is indeed inspirational (or stupid, depending on your perspective).  And his faux United Way commercial and dance bit on Saturday Night Live remain the standards by which athlete hosts will forever be measured (apologies to Derek Jeter’s Taco Hole).

I like the way Seattle plays.  It’s team first (with the occasional exception of Richard “Look at Me!” Sherman), hard-nosed defense, and a freak of a running back who doesn’t want to talk about himself.

John Fox came back from a heart attack.  The Seahawks apparently are battling the first recorded case of mass Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in history.

The Broncos set offensive records and the Seahawks defense is nasty.

Seattle opened as 2 point favorites with the Broncos moving to -1 within 20 minutes before settling in at 2.5 point favorites by Monday (and where they remain).

Experts are split almost down the middle.  Half pick Denver, half Seattle.

So who will be the winner?

Denver will run the ball and Seattle will throw it more than most expect.  Someone unexpected will play a key role in the outcome of the game.  A quarterback will win the MVP.  There will be no (exposed) breasts during the halftime show.

But the bottom line is that neither team will be the winner.  They’re the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks.  Neither will ever be winners in my book.  I am an Oakland Raiders fan and cannot bring myself to choose either the pitiable Seattle Little Brothers or the Rocky Mountain Dipshits, with or without Peyton Manning.

So I pick neither.  Bet your money or not.  Pick one side or the other.  I don’t care because the Raiders are sitting at home.  Which is where I’ll be Sunday at 6:30 pm ET, feasting on food that’s horrible for me but that tastes good.

So I guess I’ll be rooting for buffalo chicken dip and sausage balls.

And Tums.

[1] I bet you forgot Billy Cannon was a Raider, didn’t you?  Ostensibly a “running” back with the Raiders, Cannon was the predecessor of the Marshall Faulk-type back.  In 1968, he had zero rushing attempts but 6 TDs.  He redefined in my mind how the “running” back could be used.  At 6’1” and 215 pounds, he reportedly ran a 4.12 40-yard dash in high school, a classic Al Davis-type.  Plus he was an outlaw, spending 2 ½ years in Federal Prison later in his life.  A legendary, if little remembered, Raider.

[2] Second in the AFL in in 1968 with 25 TDs, behind John Hadl’s 27.  Add George Blanda’s 6 and the Raiders led the league with 31 TD passes.  Fun football to watch.

[3]  In whose honor I wore #18 throughout my playing career.

[4] Yes, this group was better than the Rosey Grier version of the Fearsome Foursome.

[5] Stabler was drafted by the Raiders out of Alabama in 1968 but didn’t join the team until 1970.  1968 was Madden’s last year as linebackers coach before starting his legendary head coaching career in 1969.

[6] Super Bowl XI, defeating the Minnesota Vikings 32-14 behind Willie Brown’s iconic 75-yard interception return for TD.

[7] Full disclosure:  I was born in Tacoma, Washington, a scant 30 miles down the Puget Sound from Seattle.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Writers Don't Surf!

Writers are faced with seemingly innumerable distractions, life stuff that comes between the ideas blowing across the barren wasteland of our minds and the words that somehow magically appear on our computer screens.

But the single greatest impediment to this successful thought transfer is the Internet.

This is a documented fact.  I know because I just documented it.  And it may even be true (though that’s not likely).

In fact, my dear friend[1] Chuck Wendig even included Freedom Internet Blocking Productivity Software as NUMBER ONE on his “Ten More Gifts for Writers (2013 Edition).”

Some blame Al Gore.  Others blame Bill Jobs or Steve Gates or one of those other computer-box dudes.

Personally, I blame Bush.  Vannevar Bush.  But that’s another story for another time.

Photo credit: MIT Technology Review

The point is that the Internet gets in the way of writing.

So I’ve come up with a solution.

Mind you, this is not an original solution.  Untold numbers of writers have already used this gimmick as blog fodder.  And by “untold,” I mean “a lot and I’m too lazy to get a real number”

It’s been said that if you do something for twenty-one consecutive days, it becomes a habit.  So theoretically, avoiding the Internet for three weeks would break me of getting sucked down the vortex of dancing bunnies and @KingBach’s Vines.

But, yeah…no.  That’s not gonna happen.  I’m a writer, not a hippy.

I do, however, believe that one week is possible and might create a third of a habit.  And as anyone who’s ever gotten a halfsie over a slutty nun costume can attest, a third of a habit can be pretty cool.

So as a means of becoming a more effective and efficient professional writer-type dude, I will spend the next seven days wholly and completely disconnected from the Internet.

I know what you’re saying.  “But Smokey Joe, how can you live without being connected for a full week?”  “How will you ever be able to research the veracity of the stories about Al Capone visiting Johnson City, TN?”  “How will you know the point spread of the NFL conference championship games?”  “How will we know if you’re a lying, cheating fink?”

To these people I say this:  Shut up[2].

Instead, I will read words on paper, write more words on other paper, and not bet on this week’s NFL Conference Championship games[3].

So wish me luck, faithful readers (thanks, Mom), as I launch out on my 2014 Freedom From the Internet-a-palooza For One Week Tour: Revenge of My Library.

Smokey Joe

LEGAL NOTICE:  I hereby reserve the right to violate this implicit contract between readers of this blog (again, thanks Mom) and the author in the event I come up with a really witty Tweet about farts.

[1] By “dear friend” I mean I met Chuck once at the 2012 Crossroads Writers Conference and I follow him on Twitter (@ChuckWendig).  I’m pretty sure he has no idea who I am.

[2] Translation:  I have no idea.

[3] Take the Broncos -5.5 and the Niners +3.5.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Back on top of the Mountain

And there you have it.

The 2013 NCAA Division I FBS National Champion Florida State University Seminoles:

And so now I put the college topics to bed and turn my attention to the NFL playoff betting lines for the next few weeks.

I'll also be bringing Seven 7hings back this winter but other writing projects await.  And I have miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.

2013 was the Year of Upheaval.  2014 is the Year of Simplicity.  Thank God.


Love, peace, & chicken grease,
Smokey Joe