Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Painless Perspective

I've been better, but I've been a heckuva lot worse.

When I was on the instructor staff at the Air Command and Staff College, I served with an Army lieutenant colonel who, as a 19 year old enlisted man, had been taken captive after a Viet Cong ambush and held as a POW by the North Vietnamese. Wisely, the Staff College's commandant made it a point to have this officer speak to the assembled class each year about his experiences at the hands of the communists. At the conclusion of his presentation, he would describe his first day of freedom and his return to home and loved ones, and would sum up with the following statement: "...and I haven't had a bad day since."

I try, sometimes unsuccessfully, to put my everyday troubles, aches, and stresses into the perspective of some of the real hardships I've experienced. Now, I will admit that some will scoff at what I consider "hardships." I didn't grow up in rural Mississippi during The Great Depression (like many in my family). I wasn't in the first wave on the beaches at Iwo. I haven't been persecuted to the point of death for my faith. But, then again, I have a few painful benchmarks of my own against which to measure present difficulties. For example:

The best drink of water I ever had came from a puddle in a jeep track in Tunisia, after I scooped the green scum out of the way.

The warmest I ever felt was the ray of sunlight, after twenty hours of cold and dark, that split the uprights of two mountain peaks in Norway and touched my face.

The best shade I ever experienced was sitting with my back to a very hot M-60 tank in a very hot July California desert.

The best nap I ever took was on my feet, leaned up against a tree, twenty miles into a twenty-five mile forced march.

The second most beautiful thing I have ever seen (Miss Brenda being the first, of course) was a three foot square of muddy high ground after a night in a Panama mangrove swamp.
The sweetest sound I ever heard was Miss Brenda's voice on a cassette tape she mailed me while I was at sea in the Western Pacific.

Ole Miss Home Game #2

Moral victories, and statistics, are for losers.

My Rebels beat the point spread against Florida last weekend, but I have learned from long experience not to bet on, for or against, Ole Miss. They will give a top ranked team fits one weekend and then sruggle to eke out a win against a cellar dweller the next. I, like most Rebel fans, trooped into Vaught-Hemeingway Stadium on Saturday, expecting to see a 70 point Florida spectacle. But my Rebels kept it agonizingly close throughout the game, the stands stayed packed, and we held out hope for a third upset of Florida in three meetings. Tebow and company were too much, however. But I gotta be proud of the large percentage of Rebel fans who stood and cheered for the Rebels as they left the field 30-24 losers.

The Air Force put on the best show of the day, though. Prior to kick-off, the parachute team from the Air Force Academy jumped in and delivered the game ball. Then, right as the last note of the Star Bangled Banner was fading in diminishing stadium echoes, two F-16s roared overhead from end zone to end zone. One of the pilots was announced as an Ole Miss grad, and I assume it was his idea to make a second pass of the stadium at an even lower altitude, this time passing over the field sideline to sideline. They cleared the top of the stands by less than a hundred feet.

Miss Brenda turned to me as the roar faded, "Are they allowed to fly that low?"

"Nope. But I'm not going to report them."

One of these days, though, some jet jock is going to bring it just a little too low, catch a bump of turbulent air, and splatter himself among a crowd. That'll make 9-11 look tame by comparison.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Galloping Gator Guarantee

My Rebels play Florida here in Oxford tomorrow and it could be a historic day.

Florida hung 59 points on a pretty solid Tennessee defense last weekend. Vanderbilt (not the SEC's most impressive offensive unit) cruised for an easy 31 points against my Rebels Saturday evening. So, I'm thinking that Tebow and company should have a chance to score a hundred points against the most porous defense I've watched Ole Miss field in a long time.

The Ole Miss defense tackled so poorly against Missouri two weeks ago, that Coach Orgeron began each practice the next week with extended tackling drills. Didn't take--they missed tackles even worse against Vanderbilt.

I have goal line seats--I should get to see a lot of the game right in front of me.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Losing the "Long War"

My contemporaries at the Pentagon, planners imprisoned in the mind-numbing drudgery and perennial politics that is high-level staff work in the Puzzle Palace on the Potomac, have, out of political necessity, seized on the concept of "The Long War" to which to hitch their wagons of war strategy. Not allowed to take this fight to the true centers of gravity supporting the radical Islamic insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan, they have pulled a faded recipe from a discredited cookbook. The idea of fighting a war of attrition against Islamic terrorists without ever taking the fight to their state sponsors is an attempt to appeal to the squeamish majority in a democratic republic whose temper flashes and cools in a time span easily measured in months, not years. Here's why the "Long War" strategy won't work:

1. A "free" nation has never won a long (hot) war. War weariness (capitalized on by opportunistic politicians) prevents it.

2. We ain't ruthless.

3. Time is always on the side of the ruthless. (See reason 2.)

4. Attrition is the ally of the ruthless. (See reason 2.)

5. Long War focus requires ruthless control of the populace, both at home and abroad. (See reason 2.)

6. Long War focus requires ruthless control of the media. (See reason 2.)

7. Insurgencies are cheap. Counter-insurgency is expensive. Time is money.

8. Wars (long or short) require popular support. Popular support requires ownership. Ownership requires involvement and sacrifice. (I haven't seen any ration cards, have you?) America is not at war. The Army and Marine Corps are at war. America is at the mall.

9. We can't even control our own borders--how are we going to keep Amadawhatshisname from slipping arms and funds across the Iraqi border?

10., I mean, American, politicians care more about personal power than about what is right for our nation.

Remember 9/11. Remember. Remember.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ole Miss Home Opener 2007

First home game of the 2007 Ole Miss football season last Saturday, and I learned a very valuable lesson--always bring two women with you.

Kickoff was at 5:00 PM and Miss Brenda, our loveliest daughter, and I got to campus a couple of hours early to take in the sights, sounds, and smells of one of the most hallowed rituals of fall at Ole Miss--Tailgating in The Grove. After a forced march (only slightly less grueling than the Baatan Death March, if the complaints of the women were any indication) from strategically planned post game escape axis of attack parking off campus, we found a bench situated between The Grove and the Student Union by which the vast majority of the female student body passed in review. Had I only had Miss Brenda in tow for this pre-game ritual, I would have been restricted to furtive glances at coeds dressed in the traditional Ole Miss home game finery. But, with our loveliest daughter along, a running critical fashion commentary between the two of them inevitably (I feigned resistance to participate) included me. At every disagreement about fashion and form, I was asked for my critical judgement--"Daddy, look at her. What do you think of that dress?" Oh, the sacrifices I make for my family.

The game went well for Ole Miss...until the kick off. Since we only play two decent quarters of football per game (a long-standing tradition, dating as far back as the inception of Tailgating in the The Grove), and it was a bit warm with the sun still up, we decided to reserve our best play for the half to be played after dark. Unfortunately, Missouri's spread offense scored with every possession and we spotted them 28 points before we decided to start playing. We played the best two quarters of football I've seen in Vaught-Hemingway in the second half, but two good quarters of football don't cut it in the SEC. Final score: 38--25, Missouri.

Our coaching staff is still oblivious to the concept of clock management. Orgeron's a great recruiter, but he can't tell time--even on a digital clock.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Pigskin Patterns

It wasn't pretty, but it was a win.

My Rebels started off the 2007 college football season in much the same fashion as they finished the 2006 season. They let a team run all over them in the second half, but still eked out a win. For the second game in a row (albeit separated by 8 months) Ole Miss was significantly out-gained offensively, and yet points on the board were amazingly in their favor.

#2 son and I were desperate to find a place to watch the game Saturday afternoon. It was televised, but I didn't get the channel on my satellite system. So we headed in to O town with our significant others in tow and found a restaurant with enough TVs to give us opportunity to watch the Rebels jump out to to a 23-0 lead and then come within a tipped two-point conversion pass of going to overtime against the Memphis Tigers.

The Rebels ball-control offense worked as advertised in the first half, so Ed Orgeron decided to not use it in the second half! I really have to wonder what is in the water in the locker room at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium--for thirty years I've watched a steady stream of otherwise seemingly sane Ole Miss coaches completely lose their minds at half-time in Oxford. You can almost hear them coming away from the water fountain mumbling, "Our plan is working--gotta change our plan."

Next weekend we take on the second of four tiger teams when Missouri comes to town. Maybe I ought start a rumor that the water in Oxford is contaminated...