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‘My people are food people’

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Photo courtesy of André Gallant

This is a guest essay from André Gallant, who is a writer, editor and photojournalist based in Athens. His work has appeared in The Oxford American, Gravy, Bitter Southerner, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Southern Cultures and Atlanta Magazine. He is the author of The High Low Tide, a work of narrative nonfiction about the Georgia oyster industry published by UGA Press in 2019.

I’d wager many of us — those of us who are being COVID-19 cautious — pine for a sit-down restaurant meal, and that longing is accompanied by harsh physical symptoms, not unlike the gut punch that DeVonta Smith delivered as he slipped behind a Georgia defender en route to an agonizing run to the endzone in 2018.

Recently, when I returned home from my first day of public, face-to-face work in months, teaching part-time at the University of Georgia, I wanted to do nothing more than shake off the stress at my most happiest of places: a booth at Tlaloc in North Athens, where I’d normally line up empty glasses of charro negro, a spiced and limed Coke and tequila cocktail, consume my weight in enchiladas de mole, and regain some sense of calm.

That therapy hasn’t felt like an option lately and I feel worse for it. It’s not the lower caloric intake or diminished buzz that hurts the most. I miss my people. 

My people are food people. 

The redeye(s) to Mississippi

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Photo courtesy of Joe VanHoose

I had no good reason to check into a king suite at the Hampton Inn in Tupelo, Mississippi the evening of Friday, Sept. 23, 2011 — well, the morning of Sept. 24. I still had tickets in my pocket to the Florida-Kentucky football game in Lexington scheduled for that evening. I didn’t even have a change of clothes. 

Nevertheless, I slid in the room key, used the complimentary toothbrush and toothpaste to scrub away the lingering taste of fried chicken and beer, and slid into the king-sized bed. I looked at the clock on the nightstand. It was way too late. 

But as my head hit one of the five pillows on the bed, I was entirely too awake.

Huh, so that’s what Adderall does.

There is no moral path back for college football

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Photo courtesy of Pixabay

This is a guest essay from Jason Smith. He holds a Ph.D. in theology from Vanderbilt University and, by his own admission, writes about sports, theology and philosophy on the internet sometimes. He teaches at Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi.

Making moral decisions requires knowledge.

This might sound counter-intuitive at first. After all, isn’t living ethically more about doing the right thing — about carrying out a certain series of actions — rather than just knowing stuff? That instinct can seem right, but put it under even mild scrutiny and the appeal of it almost instantly disappears.

Let’s channel Chidi Anagonye from The Good Place for a moment.

If you subscribe to Deontology as a moral philosophy, this requires that you deduce ethical maxims that apply to all persons in all situations. In other words, there are moral rules that apply to everybody all the time, but the universe requires you to use your reason to figure them out—to deduce them. Sure, you have to follow those maxims, to do them, but first they have to be deduced. You have to go through a process of discernment and arrive at knowledge of the universal rules and, after that, you’re good to go. But the deducing comes first.

An unfortunate hiatus

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Photo by Jeff Blake

The SEC’s decision to pursue a 10-game, conference-only schedule has sent shockwaves through college football, uprooting longtime rivalries and upending a season that some are skeptical will happen anyway.

Nowhere is this disruption being felt more deeply than in South Carolina as the Clemson-South Carolina game, after more than 100 years of continuous play, will be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. It’s why South Carolina was the only SEC institution to vote against the conference-only plan in hopes of preserving what is affectionately known as “The Palmetto Bowl.”

Where are the prophets?

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This is a guest essay from Jason Smith. He holds a Ph.D. in theology from Vanderbilt University and, by his own admission, writes about sports, theology and philosophy on the internet sometimes. He teaches at Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi. Earlier this year, he explored the morality of college football returning to play during the pandemic.

When I was a sophomore at the University of Georgia I decided, like a lot of nerdy sophomores in college do, to watch all of the 1001 Movies You Have to See Before You Die. I realized pretty quickly this was a terrible idea because I did, in fact, have to attend class and read books.

I settled instead on the 100 Greatest Movies from the American Film Institute since 100 is less than 1001 and got to work filling in the gaps of my cinematic knowledge.

One of the movies that has stuck with me is On the Waterfront, the Elia Kazan Best Picture winner starring Marlon Brando. You’ll know it as the “I coulda been a contender!” movie, if you know it at all.

The only thing I knew about On the Waterfront going into it was that line. I had no idea that the plot revolved around a mob boss taking over a longshoreman’s union and black balling a washed-up prize fighter — a prize fighter whose career he himself soiled after convincing him to throw a fight.

I’m not sure I would’ve found that all that interesting but for the inclusion of a priest — Father Barry, played by Karl Malden and his legendary schnozz.

Father Barry has stuck with me because he was the first time I saw a fictional representation of a Christian minister advocating for economic justice. I was used to priests and pastors in movies symbolizing a hypocritical hyper-morality that had to be sloughed off, institutional corruption that had to be fought, or a benevolent yet myopic concern for the soul and the soul alone.

The Future of Football: Collective bargaining

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Picture of Alabama football players on the field.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

We’ve updated this story after some additional conversations and new developments in the past day.

The demands don’t seem to be that outrageous, right?

Fair wages to compensate you for your work. Appropriate safety protocols to help navigate a global pandemic. A comfortable, trusting environment that fosters open dialogue.

It’s what most employees would want in their workplaces, and it’s what most individuals can seek through a variety of measures, such as job transitions or collective bargaining. In the world of college athletics, however, such demands are treated more often than not as controversial requests.

But both the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests surrounding the tragic death of George Floyd have spurred an important awakening among athletes at all levels of play. While professional athletes have the protection of their unions to give them the necessary leverage to demand — and enact — change, student-athletes have lacked that type of singular, unified voice to push for change.

That appears to be changing.

COVID Vacation, Vol. 1: Freeways & Face Masks

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Photo of the Batesville (Arkansas) Speedway courtesy of Joe VanHoose

This was supposed to be a big vacation year for me.

After moving back to Athens in February, I had laid out a fairly long list of festivals, three-day weekend vacations and races to go see this year: the Shaky Knees and Sweetwater music festivals, my annual trip to the Indy 500, visits to Martinsville and Darlington for some NASCAR races, and a few days out in Colorado at the end of summer to play some golf with a few of my oldest friends.

So much for best-laid plans. By the end of May, it was clear that most all of these events and trips were off. From March through June, I hardly ventured outside of my house. And it was eating at me.

I was ready to cancel the Colorado trip, too. As a guy with Crohn’s Disease (an autoimmune disorder) who takes bimonthly doses of an immunosuppressant drug, I thought flying may be a bad idea.

Then, one night, it hit me: I could just drive there. Man, what a trip that would be. I could eat a lot of good takeout food, check out a lot of state parks and see plenty of sights that I had not seen before. Heck, I could take a full two weeks off to do it.

The Future of Football: Bowls, scheduling and more

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Photo by Paul Abell via Abell Images for the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

The haze of the COVID-19 pandemic has clouded the picture for all sports, and few have been impacted more than college football. 

While the NCAA did share some health and safety protocols on Aug. 5, it’s primarily been conferences and schools taking control — as much as one can in the middle of raging pandemic — of their destinies in an attempt to save football.

Teams have shuffled their schedules around and athletic directors have offered hopeful, yet vague comments about the prospects of playing football this season. The only thing to be certain of in the middle of the pandemic is uncertainty. 

That said, the prospects of conference-only schedules and spring football are intriguing to many fans, largely because it offers the promise of live sports. These adjustments, seemingly shifting on a daily basis, breed questions, suggesting that many long-sought changes might be within reach.

The question is if the pandemic has done enough to foster significant, structural change with regards to scheduling, the bowl system and the future of the College Football Playoffs.

The answer, of course, is … maybe?

COVID Vacation, Vol. 2: Donuts everywhere

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Photo of Grand Elk Golf Club in Tabernash, Colorado

Earlier this year, Joe VanHoose decided to take a cross-country road trip to see how the rest of the country was dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. In Part Two, he visits Oklahoma, sees the end of the world in North Texas and takes up hiking in Colorado. Check out Part One here.

Friday, August 21, Edmond, Oklahoma

After a full 24 hours into my road trip, I was starting to see how many states seemed to have a handle on COVID-19. On Friday morning, I drove out of Arkansas, stopping at the Donut Palace south of Batesville on the way. I was greeted with a large, plexiglass shield that separated me and the shop worker, who used tongs to carefully grab the donuts I was pointing to.

These were the best donuts on a trip full of them. I’d never tasted a glaze that was so thick and rich. Now six weeks removed, I still think about those donuts and wish that Arkansas was a bit closer.

Not that there was time to linger. I was due to meet up with my old boss and good friend Dave outside of Oklahoma City for the weekend.

Dave and his two sons had been quarantining in style, getting a lot of use out of the swimming pool in the backyard and the music studio complete with all the instruments that I kind of know how to play.

COVID-19 Road Trip, Part III: Revelations and Return

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Photo courtesy of Joe VanHoose

I didn’t meet an unpleasant person in Colorado. Nor did I meet anyone who wasn’t wearing a mask.

Florissant wasn’t much of a town, but everyone wore their mask at the market next to its one stoplight. The same scene occurred in Divide. Up the road, Idaho Springs had moved its entire downtown outside. At the Kum & Go at the end of the street, not only did the clerks enforce wearing masks, but they made sure to keep my friends and I from getting too close to the pizza counter.

At the end of the long weekend, I dropped off my buddies at the Denver airport and headed east. My friends are sure that everything surrounding COVID-19 is overblown. They were quick to bring up the latest CDC data about how few people are dying due to COVID alone. They weren’t happy about having to wear masks everywhere, but they did it just the same.

They believe personable responsibility should dictate our response to this global pandemic. I agree.

I believe we all have a responsibility to contribute to the communities we are in, and public health is part of that contribution. If me wearing a mask and staying away from people can make a me-sized dent in dealing with the pandemic, that’s all I can really control.

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