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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.

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?

It only hurts so bad because you care so much

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Photo of Aaron Murray and Todd Gurley at the 2012 SEC Championship Game courtesy of Parrish Walton

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

There’s this longtime underdog team. Much of its existence has been a mixture of a few tantalizingly close highs balanced out by a preponderance of underachieving lows. The fans are loyal and true, but they’re growing more and more restless. The years of falling just short are wearing on them. 

They’re ready to win. Finally.

The team makes it to a championship game. Everything is on the line. The thing the loyal fans have wanted for so long seems within reach. 

And things are going great! The underdog has built up a pretty big lead early against an opponent that has long dominated the sport. Surely, this is the year it all comes together. This is the time they finally break through.

But … they don’t. 

There are some confusing coaching decisions. The once confident players now seem suddenly unsure. Anxiety builds among the fanbase. That dreaded, familiar feeling washes over them.

Here it comes again.

‘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.

Still in Dale Earnhardt’s shadow, NASCAR leans into future

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Photo courtesy of Joe VanHoose

It’ll be 20 years Thursday since Dale Earnhardt, the greatest NASCAR driver of his generation, died on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. 

No, that can’t be right. 

How can it be 20 years since my greatest hero was found to be mortal? I can still remember being bummed with my mom at Daytona International Speedway the Thursday prior when Earnhardt lost the lead on the last lap of his Daytona 500 qualifying race. I can still remember racing off to my job at Baskin Robbins as FOX left the air that Sunday, my mom saying to me, “I don’t like this” as I walked out the door. 

Me neither.

I remember the phone call from my brother at work. Fortunately, the ice cream parlor was empty. 

“Dale’s dead,” my brother’s voice told me directly. That’s when I found out, but I already knew. 

NASCAR changed forever that day, and it’s been changing ever since. An entire generation of drivers have come and gone since Earnhardt helped steer it to national prominence. It’s hard to say what he would think about NASCAR’s path it has been on since he left us. 

More than simple

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It’s just sugar, water and fruit with some lemon juice.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

Yet, such simplicity is deceiving. 

At the end of the day, the only one it’s simple for is my paternal grandmother, who has been making jars and jars of pear preserves since the 1940s. For years, various members of my family have attempted — and failed — to replicate what, on the surface, would seem to be the most basic of recipes. We’d look up methods in cookbooks, pick her brain and give it a go only to wind up with the same result.

It’s good, but it’s not quite there and I don’t know why.

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.

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.

Building a dynasty

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Photo courtesy of Lindenwood University

Tyler Peach is a Laker.

Not one of the Los Angeles variety, per se, but rather an Allendale, Michigan one.

He’s also a part of the most storied – and successful – college dodgeball program in the country. The Grand Valley State University dodgeball team has captured 11 of 16 national titles since the National Collegiate Dodgeball Association was founded in 2005.

When you think of dynasties in college sports, most tend to think of the modern Alabama football teams or 1990s Tennessee women’s basketball or “The U” back in the day.

But there are several non-traditional programs continuing this type of dominance today. GVSU recently captured its 11th national title this year after a 20-2 season. Peach, a former president and now co-captain of the team, is pleased to be a part of history.

“It’s cool to see we’ve been able to keep up with past years and continue to compete and win over such a long period of time,” Peach said. “Just to be a part of that, it’s pretty cool.”