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Welcome to Jacksonville, you maniac

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Photo by Jay LaPrete via jaguars.com

When I found out that Steve Spurrier had broken my heart on January 4, 2002, I saw it on the ESPN Bottom Line. I walked into the hall bathroom at my mom’s house and started to cry.

Spurrier’s departure was sudden and unexpected. I just knew that he was going to grow old coaching at his alma mater, swaggering down the sidelines while his offenses ran up and down the field, scoring touchdown after touchdown and keeping us in the national championship chase season after season.

Spurrier’s 2001 team at Florida fell a two-point conversion short of playing for another SEC championship with a shot at the national title in the Rose Bowl on the line. On my birthday that year, Florida beat Nick Saban’s LSU Tigers, 44-15. The Gators beat Mississippi State, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida State and Maryland — all ranked teams — by 52, 14, 37, 24 and 33 points, respectively.

Many of the major pieces of that 2001 team were coming back in 2002. Rex Grossman at quarterback was to be a Heisman Trophy frontrunner. Certainly, Spurrier was ready to make a run at a second national championship.

I was wrong.

Wrestling with the Hall of Fame

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Photo courtesy of Marc Lancaster

In the years before I crossed the threshold to become a Baseball Hall of Fame voter, I always swore I wouldn’t be one of those writers who yo-yoed on candidates from year to year. 

Some voters’ apparent distinction between a “first-ballot” Hall of Famer and a run-of-the-mill Hall of Famer — like the handful who dropped previous support of other candidates to vote for Derek Jeter and no one else last year — made no sense to me. Hall voting is mostly, though not entirely, a function of statistics. And it’s not like any of these guys’ statistics change from year to year once they retire. 

Yet there I was late last month, agonizing as always over which boxes to check, reevaluating a couple of players who have been on the ballot for years and never received a vote from me. 

Point-counterpoint: Bulldogs and Gators edition

Given that 2020 was pretty much a dumpster fire of a year, Joe VanHoose and Johnathan McGinty decided to kick off 2021 in a more lighthearted way. If you know them, you know that informal back-and-forth exchanges can make for some pretty entertaining literary journeys. For instance, just check out the time the duo went to see Bruce Hornsby and wrote up a review for Athens’s independent newspaper, Flagpole (additionally, Bruce Hornsby fans can be INTENSE). With that in mind, they decided to write about their collective best of times and worst of times in Jacksonville, Florida.

JOE VANHOOSE: First of all, happy new year. Can’t fall through the floor, right?

Anyway, as we flush 2020 down the toilet and hope 2021 brings us something better, now seems like the perfect time to take stock of some of the disasters of the football series that binds us together.

Because, man, I have had some bad times in Jacksonville at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. 

JOHNATHAN MCGINTY: I mean, to be fair, it is Jacksonville. You’re already starting your weekend off behind the curve.

‘A right jolly old elf’

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Photo courtesy of @OfficialSanta

It’s Christmas Week, and we figured there’s no better topic to dive into this week at Beyond The Trestle than that of a big guy himself – Santa Claus. 

The world’s most famous gift-giver has a history that spans more than 1,700 years, with geographic roots that are as diverse as Asia Minor and Scandinavia. He’s been viewed as a cheerful, round grandfather figure who delights in the joy of children, as well as a truly weird, fairly terrifying hairy beast that demands offerings and sacrifices.

Fortunately, the story of Santa today is one of merriment and joy. So, in the spirit of the season, we’ve decided to dive into the history of Santa by asking a few key questions and sharing the origins of his story.

Let’s dive in.

Rebuilding the Ramblin’ Wreck

This week’s article is made possible thanks to a collaboration with Matt Brown’s Extra Points newsletter, which shares news and analysis about some of the forces that shape college athletics beyond the field. It’s one of our favorite reads at BTT, and we’d encourage everyone to sign up for his free subscription and consider supporting his work with a paid one as well.

This piece was written by Jake Grant, a History and Non-Revenue Sports Editor for SB Nation’s Georgia Tech team site, From the Rumble Seat. He hails from River Forest, Illinois, outside of Chicago, and is a 2020 graduate of Georgia Tech in mechanical engineering currently pursuing an MS ME back on the Flats. Feel free to follow @jakegrant98 on Twitter.

The headline “Georgia Tech cuts Swimming, Golf, Lacrosse, and Tennis” might not be all that out of place in our current circumstances. Schools, even Power Five (P5) schools, are dropping sports programs almost every month. And yet, even in these times, if another P5 school with a long history in high-level college athletics were to trim half of its teams in a single cut, it would certainly be national news. 

That headline was real — the budget constraints of the Great Depression forced Tech to shutter each one of those programs. However, thanks to an interesting collaboration, the hard work and investment of the Tech student body, administration, and alumni, all of those programs recovered, and (in all but one case) returned to full competition by the end of the decade.

In a time when people are looking left and right both inside college athletics for some direction, Tech’s Depression-era recovery seems like a good example of how to navigate these waters while minimizing athlete harm. Maybe we can use some of the lessons from Georgia Tech’s past to help us think about what may come next. 


A trip worth taking

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Photo courtesy of Relton McBurrows

The plot is simple, yet far-fetched.

There’s this freshman college student who heads off to the stereotypical party atmosphere that many of us might associate with our days on a university campus. He sees a familiar face in a young woman with whom he shares a few classes and, well, one thing leads to another and they share a blissful evening.

Of course, plots need twists, and this plot has plenty of those. For starters, this freshman foolishly videotapes the encounter and then, somehow, a videotape of this encounter is inexplicably dropped in the mail and destined to reach, of all people, his high school sweetheart at her college a few thousand miles away. 

What ensues is a race against time to intercept the delivery of the footage before the original girlfriend has a chance to see it. As you might expect, hijinks ensue.

That’s the story of Road Trip, a raucous and, at times, raunchy comedy set at a fictional college in upstate New York. To tell it, Dreamworks and The Montecito Picture Company looked south and turned to the small college town of Athens, Georgia

McAdenville: A drive through Christmas Town U.S.A.

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Photo courtesy of Steve Rankin

Do you remember the final scene in “Field of Dreams,” the aerial shot of hundreds of pairs of headlights snaking single-file through the darkness to their floodlit destination? 

That’s what I imagine McAdenville, North Carolina, looks like from above in December — but without the contrast. Instead of dark Iowa cornfields, the drive-in pilgrims are surrounded on all sides by bursts of red, white and green light. 

Inching off Interstate 85 at exit 23, they turn onto Main Street and make their way, single-file, past the old brick duplex mill houses, then turn right onto Wesleyan Drive at the only traffic light in the center of town, then ease past the lake and the fire station, down the hill to the newer, Charleston-style homes of McAdenville Village. 

This is where Christmas Town U.S.A. comes alive these days, though none of the two-story houses with sweeping verandas existed 20 years ago. Now, however, they’re a sight to behold, every house adorned every December for the pleasure of tens of thousands who make their way to and through this town of 800 for an unfiltered dose of holiday spirit. 

From boomtown to bakery, Todd and its Mercantile endure

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Photo courtesy of Joe VanHoose

Helen Barnes-Rielly needed something to do besides tend cows in Todd, North Carolina.

Her husband Jack, a Todd native, had convinced her a decade ago to move to the unincorporated town on the banks of the New River between Boone and West Jefferson in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but there wasn’t much of a plan on what she could do when she got there.

Jack had an office on the second floor of the Todd Mercantile, a 19th Century wooden structure with a front porch, bakery and art gallery, among other amenities a sprawling community of about 2,100 might need.

Sometimes, things just work out.

‘Grasses of the margins’

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Photo courtesy of asergeev.com

Let’s start with an exercise.

Hold out your thumb and observe how large it is.

It’s likely no taller than two nickels stacked on top of each other with the thickness of a couple of pencils. The variation of size might vary from person to person, but the general sentiment remains the same.

Hold up your thumb in the room you’re in. How much space does it take up now? 

Step outside to your patio or your yard, and repeat the exercise. The ratio has gotten increasingly smaller.

Keep that perspective in your mind because that thumb — that imminently crucial yet disproportionately small portion of your body — is roughly the same size as a cultivar of grass. This might not mean a lot at first, but hold that image for a bit and you start to understand how much influence these tiny tangles of blades and roots possess.

Augusta’s parallel economy

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Photo of The Executive Club courtesy of its website

It’s all about knowing your angles.

If you’re going to fit 35 cars onto a little less than an acre of property in a way that offers them the ability to actually get in and out in one piece, you really have to map out where each vehicle can go. You can park trucks in the back since there is more room to turn around, but you can fit smaller cars up front and possibly squeeze in one or two extra customers.

For nearly 70 years, my grandmother has lived in a modest, but lovely brick ranch home on Magnolia Drive. The street is so named because if you extend Magnolia Lane, a particularly famous tree-lined stretch of painted green pavement, across Washington Road the two roads would almost perfectly fit together. 

Living in such close proximity to arguably the most famous golf course in the world hosting arguably the most famous golf tournament in the world has its perks, and I, along with other family members, took advantage of them. From my elementary school days in the 1980s on, we’d gather at her house, wave our arms in a windmill fashion and funnel in 30-plus cars each day.

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