Tuesday, July 26, 2016

2016 Gator Football Prognostication

“So let me start out by saying I have not seen any secret practices nor do I have a crystal ball! These are my guesses as to the year that will be Florida Football year 1 under Coach McElwain. I predict that the Gators will go 8-4 on the season and will finish unfortunately third or fourth in the SEC east. Now if things go perfectly and they have a better offensive year than most expect, they could go 11-1. If they turn the ball over and bad things happen in a couple of close games they could end up 5-7. How’s that for covering all the bases. Here’s how they get there.”

That’s how I began last year’s blog about the Gator Football season. They went 10-2 in the regular season and lost the SEC championship game and the bowl game. My reasoning was solid and they did have a better year than I expected. Now let’s turn the focus on this year’s season and try it again.

UMass comes into the swamp for the first game and while it may not be a repeat of last year’s opener, the results will be the same. The Gators will win easily and Luke Del Rio will be hailed as a potential Heisman winner by some Orange and Blue maniacs. The only thing that could derail the victory would be another late night thunderstorm!

The schedule changes this year and Kentucky comes a calling earlier than usual. Stoops has things headed in the right direction in Lexington, but this game ain’t in the bluegrass state. It won’t be as close as last year and the Gators move onto week three undefeated again. Just like the Vols schedule is easier in the month of November, the Gator’s is always easiest in September.

Week three features the match with the Mean Green from North Texas. It won’t be close and the Gators will be getting some good national attention about now. A night game in the Swamp in late September is as good as it gets. That is unless you are on the visiting sidelines. Gator fans should get to see the backup QB in this one.

The real key game again is with the Vols. This time it’s up in Knoxville. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Creamsicle clad bunch celebrating the end of the streak. I mean it can’t last forever can it? But until they actually win one, I’m still calling this one a victory for the guys from Gainesville. It will also mark the beginning of the end for Butch Jones if they don’t beat the Gators, so it’s a double win for the orange and blue! But remember, I am hedging my bets here because the Vols will be better, just hope the Gators are better too!

So at worst the Gators head to Tennessee in back to back weeks, thanks SEC schedule makers, for a road game with Vandy. It’s possible that the Gators will be either looking back at what should have been or looking ahead to LSU and make a real mess of this game. They shouldn’t but it seems that the Gators struggle in the Music City. This could be an upset that would all but end the dreams of another trip to Atlanta, but I think Coach Mac will have them ready to play regardless of what happened on Rocky Top. Gators win but we all breathe freely only after the game ends.

So a 4-1 or maybe 5-0 Gator team comes home to face the Mad Hatter and the LSU Tigers. This game should feature two top 15 at worst and maybe top 10 teams at that point and be the featured game of the day. If LSU can keep the RB healthy and playing hard, the Gator defense will have their hands full all day. The real question is can the Gator offense come around fast enough to take the pressure off the defense. The crowd can be a factor but only if the Gators can keep it close enough to force Miles to try another trick play. This time it won’t work and the Gators win another close game in the Swamp. That will be one big party on University Avenue if they win this one!

Another group of Tigers roll into town the next week but the claws aren’t as sharp in this bunch this year. Missouri will present a tough test but I don’t think they will spoil the homecoming festivities this year. The Gators head into the bye week with a 7-0 or 6-1 record.
I think that this year the celebrating in Jacksonville will be done by the dogs. This will be a hard fought defense led football game. The kind that Keith Jackson would call an old fashioned slobber knocker. I think that the run game of Georgia will be just a little better than the Gators if they stay healthy and I don’t think Coach Smart will play the waterboy again at QB. It could be changed by a turnover for the Gators and the fact that Georgia tends to play tight when they cross the St. John’s River.

Having to travel to Pig country after an emotional game will be tough for the Gators and could cause them to lose back to back games and demolish any chance of being in Atlanta. I think the biggest factor in this game will be the weather on the first week of November in Arkansas. If it’s a cold and windy day, the Hogs would have the advantage. If it’s a crisp but sunny day, I think the Gators will be able to throw on the Piglets. So without being able to call the weatherman this far in advance, I’ll go with the Gators to win it in their first trip to Giant Walmart Stadium in a long time.

Coach Muschump will return to the swamp the next week. He’ll be all hyped and bloody from smashing his face into a locker or something, but it won’t really matter. He’s not going to have enough offensive talent to do much against a great defense. Heck, if he had offensive talent, he’d move them to the defensive side. So as long as the Gators can field punts, they should be able to win this one. So the winner of the TN-UF game should be the winner of the East unless GA beats TN and that could happen, in which case we have a real mess.

Let’s face it, the seniors on the even years get the best of the Senior Day games. They can almost always count on a win, oh unless Chump comes back to coach the offense against Ga. Southern. But since the Gators are playing a Denominational school, they should win this one easily. All of the Seniors should see some playing time in their final home game, even the ones where this would be the first time they have seen real game action.

So a 9-2 Gator team heads out west to face the clowns. Unfortunately I think the clowns will have the last laugh again this year. The one possible problem could be if the Heisman hopeful at RB goes down for the Noles. In that case, I think it would be a coin toss. No great kicker, no great runner, and no great QB could mean a closer game than most would expect. That’s a lot of ifs for the Gators, so I don’t think those of us who love the Gators will want to talk to our Nole Friends over Christmas Break.

So there you go, that’s my picks for the year. A 9-3 season that may be good enough to get the Gators back to Atlanta or it may only be good enough for third in the east. Let’s hope we can keep our starters away from GNC this year and perhaps we will have an even better ending to the season than the beginning. I’m sure some of you will disagree with what I wrote and that’s okay. Just put your comments down for the reckoning that happens in January. By then we’ll all know which teams stayed healthy, which ones overachieved, and which ones were bitter disappointments again to their fans! Between now and then, we all get to have a great fall watching college football and talking smack! Let’s keep it classy and friendly because we all know it’s just a game, a very important one, but still just a game!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Flash Point is a great late Summer Read from Thomas Locke

Have you ever had a dream where you were just flying across the sky, unhindered by anything physical? Well, ok, so maybe I am the only one who has ever had a dream like that. That’s sort of what I imagine the characters in Thomas Locke’s newest work Flash Point experience when they “ascend”. Only they are not even limited by time and space in their journey.

Flash Point continues the story from Trial Run which was published last year but you don’t have to have read that book in order to enjoy the new one. Enough of the back story is included so that the reader will not be lost as to why the characters are important in the current volume. But for those who read the first installment in the series, you’ll recognize several prominent characters. Brett Riffkind, Charlie Hazard, and Reese Clawson are all intertwined again in the drama and espionage that unfold in this story. We are also introduced to some new characters with the lead being Lena Fennan who is drawn into a series of events that change her world forever.

The pace of the story is fast. The reader is drawn into the next chapter naturally and most will find it hard to put the book down or to stop swiping the page of your kindle reader once you meet Lena in her New York City cubicle. The settings are realistic and as usual well described so that you can see the action as it is happening. There is intrigue, romance, tension, danger, sadness, and joy to be found in the reading of Flash Point. It has all the marks of a great science fiction work but maintains the tether to the real world enough that you start to believe this thing just might exist in some lab somewhere.

I really enjoyed reading this volume in the series. I hope there is more to come. I can’t wait to see where the story leads next as the possibilities are truly endless. What would you do if you had access to any information and I do mean any from the future or the past or the present? That’s the ethical question that the characters face in this series. As the series moves forward, where will they end up. If only we had one of the nets for real we could already know!

I give this book a five star rating. It’s entertaining, engaging, and is well written as usual. The characters are realistically portrayed as are the settings for the action. The technology is probable and the use is definitely believable if it were real. This series will make a great movie plot someday.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell in exchange for my honest review.

About Thomas Locke

Thomas Locke is an award-winning novelist with total worldwide sales of seven million copies.
His work has been published in twenty languages, and critical acclaim includes four Christy Awards for excellence in fiction and his 2014 induction into the Christy Hall of Fame.
Thomas divides his time between Florida and England, where he serves as Writer In Residence at Regent’s Park College at The University of Oxford. Visit Thomas at http://tlocke.com.

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Friday, July 8, 2016

It's a sad week for America!

This is a sad week in America. It should have been a happy week. It should have been a week of celebration but instead it is a week of mourning. My Facebook wall has been deluged with so many conflicting thoughts from my friends. I’ve said it before; I have a diverse group of friends on most issues. I don’t believe this is an issue that can be addressed in 140 characters or maybe even 140 years!

First, I’m not a black or dark skinned individual. I have no way or no right to tell others how they should feel. You feel how you feel; whether I think it’s right or wrong doesn’t matter. If I don’t feel the same on that issue, that shouldn’t force me to negate your feelings. I can stand with you even if I don’t have the experiences to be at the same place as you are. I’ve never been scared that I was going to be shot by a police officer. But I have been asked to step out of my car when a police officer had his gun drawn and pointed directly at me, but that’s a story for another time. My experiences led me to trust that the officer would understand I wasn’t the one he was after. Had I been black my experience might have led me to a different conclusion. I’ll never know because I am not black. So let’s stop telling black people how to feel unless we’ve been there ourselves.

Yet, I do think we can work on the way we think. And I think that’s the real issue with what’s going on in our country this week. So let me help you think through some things that I have been thinking through in light of all that’s happened this week. And whether we are black or white, whether we think all cops are great or all cops are evil, whether we think the system is rigged or completely fair, we all can benefit from thinking the issues through before we react.
Justice is not completely blind in America. It never has been. There have always been privileged individuals and classes and races of people in our country. We still have a long way to go to provide equal justice for all. My family members who are poor and white don’t get the same representation as someone who is rich and white, or rich and black for that matter. If you “know” the right people, you can sometimes get things done that you couldn’t otherwise. But, this country is better than most on the matter of civil rights and working toward the ideal of justice for all. At least we have the ideal before us and the freedom to protest when we feel that we are not getting treated justly.

While certainly not the cause of the unrest, the unfettered access to social media is like a hand grenade in a dynamite factory. It has the capacity to make things explode quickly! We rush to judgment before the facts of the matter are even known based on what we see on our feeds and apps. The news reports are quick to post the videos not wanting to be scooped by the other sources. Sometimes our rushed judgments are correct in the end, but other times there is more to the story than we see at first. Some people are happy that the rush to judgment over Hillary Clinton’s email policy was proven at least by the FBI to be much ado about nothing. Yet we are quick to judge every police officer and post our convictions about his or her motive based on a video uploaded from a cell phone. The court of public opinion has never had more sway than in our day and age. If we want justice, let’s let that play out in the due process guaranteed under our way of law. If that doesn’t come out the way it should, then we can protest, then we can work toward changing the system. I don’t know who’s right in the deaths filmed this week. Time will tell. But this much I know, I don’t know all the facts of any of the cases.

It’s a tragedy anytime someone has to or chooses to take another life. It hurts my heart that my friends feel afraid of being stopped by a cop because they are black. It hurts my heart that my friends who are cops feel afraid to do their job for fear of being shot in the process or having to take another person’s life in the line of duty. I’m not choosing sides because I don’t have the courage to do so, but because I think I have to choose both sides. The truth is that all lives matter to me because they matter to my God.

There are many other factors but let me stop for today with this thought. When you remove the foundation for the Declaration of Independence and subsequent governing documents, that all men are created equal and endowed with certain rights by their Creator, you begin to have serious issues as a nation. We have taught our young men and women that they are no different than the animals for years now. We have continually spread the word that there is nothing special in mankind, nothing sacred, nothing of worth and value through the idea that we have evolved. We have not valued every life, only those that are convenient and wanted. We have created a society that does not have a reason to value another life whether it is black or white. We have said that all that matters for a police officer is to come home to his or her family because the only life that matters to him or her is their own. We have reared generations that continues to become more self-concerned and self-absorbed through the years, including my own.

The church has allowed our message to be blocked out because we have refused to stand in the marketplace of ideas and argue our cause on the merits of truth itself. We have undercut the power of the gospel by our refusal to live out the principles of it when it costs us part of the American dream. By failing to demonstrate that Jesus is real in our lives, we have made His claims untrue in the eyes of our neighbors and friends.

There is much talk about love today and will be for a period of time. But love devoid of source of truth is mere sentimentality. And sentiments change over time. We need to teach the truth of God’s word, so that we may truly know what love is. We need to return to teaching our children to value life because every human being is made in the image of God. We need to teach them that their Creator both loves them and has a plan for their lives. We need to emphasize that the “Imagio Dei” found in everyone should cause us to value their life and work toward the best life possible for every human being. We need to teach them that God’s love for them is what led and kept Jesus on the cross as He died as a sacrifice for all our sins and the way back to a right relationship with our Creator God. This shouldn’t start in the White House but in my house and your house. It shouldn’t have to be legislated but lived out. We need to help our children learn the Golden Rule not as a philosophy of life but as a truth to be lived because it was taught by our Creator for our good. We need to re-think the idea that survival of the fittest is the way life is or should be. We are proving that Hosea 8:7 is true, “They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.” We won’t change our world via a Facebook post or even a blog like this. We’ll change our world when we pray and seek God’s face and then love our neighbor as we love ourselves. All of our neighbors regardless of color of skin or profession.