Ed. Note 1 by Seth C: I'm heading out of town for the rest of the week, so the fact that I'm publishing this will be a surprise to SARR. In my hurry to get things done, I forgot to hit record on the DVR before leaving the house to take our dogs to my mother-in-law's house for the last basketball game and as a result, I missed the final game.
Seth C: What a weekend for Texas Tech. Texas Tech received a non-binding commitment (I love the way that reads) from Jarrett Stidham, the best dual threat quarterback in the nation on Friday. The men's basketball team beat the Texas Longhorns on Saturday afternoon. The baseball team has now won 6 in a row (as of Monday morning) and swept New Mexico St. And Darrin "Big Money" Chiaverini helped get the commitment from one of his former players at Riverside C.C. Should we all go to Vegas?
Travis (SARR): Yes. We should go to Vegas.
I was thinking about that yesterday and how different the outlook is now compared to a few years ago. Our football team was uninspiring, our basketball program was in shambles and the baseball program was going nowhere. Contrast that with what happened last weekend and the progress made by all three. I think we have to give all the credit to Kirby Hocutt. He had the vision and in some cases courage to hire these guys and it’s paying off in spades.
I’ve heard rumblings and rumors from some of my friends and contacts that the Stidham commit is only the tip of the iceberg for Kliff. I think we’re going to see recruiting classes like we could’ve never imagined in the next few years. I’m talking top ten, top five classes. With the implosion of social media, these kids are looking for something "cool" to plug into. We can complain until we’re blue in the face about uniform choices and Kingsbury doing "fluff" interviews, but we’re not the targeted audience. It’s those five star recruits that want more Twitter followers that Kliff and company are going after, and it’s working.
And I’m so impressed with what Tubby is doing with the basketball program. He’s basically taken the same teams that were run out of the gym night in and night out over the past three years and made them competitive. I can’t wait to see where he takes them in two or three years.
Same thing with the baseball team. Just incredible stuff happening.
I remember in 2008 the night Tech beat UT and the radio guys were saying Lubbock Texas was the center of the college football universe that Saturday, and they were right. It’s starting to feel like that again. There are some special things starting to happen in Lubbock.
So if I remember correctly, you’re about to turn 40. I turned 40 last December. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time but since then some things have caught my attention. Everyone (me included) is always talking about how old Tim Duncan is and how many more years he can play. People are amazed that such an old man can still suit up. Old man jokes are made at his expense every night. Tim is about to turn 38.
It almost passes by without notice. Tim is an old man, but he’s two years younger than me.
With that, do you have any concerns, thoughts or even fears as you approach your twilight years?
Seth C: Thoughts and fears? Hell no, I'm going to live forever.
Well, actually, leading up to my 40th birthday, about a month before, I finished up Jim Harrison's book, Returning to Earth, and it actually hit me pretty hard. But I should back up a bit. Before the start of the New Year, yes, I need to make sure it's not a New Year's Resolution for some reason, I decided it was high time to get back into the swing of things. I felt like I wasn't doing enough, which seems odd since my days seem so full. Before the end of the year I decided that I was going to start working out again. I had worked out during the summer, but I totally quit once it got cold because beer tastes good and it is warm inside. It's the easiest excuse, but with football season underway, I just never felt like I had any time to do anything like workout.
So I made time. I decided to get up at 4 am and write and no matter what I'm doing, I'd leave my computer at 4:45 am and get on the elliptical for half an hour. So Part I of my plan was going to be in effect, but I also decided that I wasn't doing enough for my brain. Part II of my plan was to read while doing the elliptical because I wasn't reading enough. Sure, I read a ton during the day. It's essentially my job to read and write, but I didn't think I was doing enough reading to stimulate my brain in a good and healthy way. Reading Wills and Trusts and Contracts isn't the same as reading a piece of literature. At least not for me. And as much reading and blogging as I do, I didn't think that was enough either. So I dedicated myself to read and it's really what started The Weekender series for me, which is that what's the harm in trying to make us all a little better by reading something that you didn't know about before and it made me try to be better.
I read a ton of short stories and long reads and all sorts of things and I had purchased Returning to Earth. It was actually the book I bought, which was a gift from Grant as a thank you for going on his podcasts at EMAWdio which is really awesome and he probably has no idea he gave me such an awesome gift. In any event, Returning to Earth starts out about a guy that suffers from Lou Gherig's disease and he's about to die. The first part of the book is told from his perspective. This is a book that deals with death more than anything else, and recovering from death and living it and so many other things. It sorta pulled me back a bit to think that it's these little things that make our life better, these experiences, I was just sitting on my couch because it was easy and I wasn't doing anything to prolong my life or make my mind better. So I got up off my ass and did something about it.
I don't know if it was really spurred by turning 40, although you could probably argue that this was some sort of subconscious thing for me to think about that, but it was instead about how I feel like we all need to keep working to be better. For my wife, for my kid, for my kid that isn't here yet. Each and every day be better than the day before. Since I've started this kick, I've finished East of Eden (I will most likely try to describe the concept of "timshel" if I see you in person), I've read about history, and literature and so many other things that I do feel like I've made a difference.
What about you? Has 40 changed you at all?
Travis (SARR): I need to check out Returning to Earth. East of Eden has always been one of my favorites. Steinbeck did such a fantastic job of drawing you in and making you think something huge was going to happen on the next page but it never really did. I think about that book whenever I hear about the terrible drought happening in California right now.
Turning 40 didn’t really seem like a big deal. We didn’t have a huge "Over the Hill" party and I didn’t go into hiding. But, I have noticed the sense of invincibility slipping a bit. It’s human nature for people to think that nothing will ever happen to them and I think that’s how we cope. Recently though I’ve found myself thinking more about things that could happen to me, health-wise. In fact as I’m typing this I just answered a call from my doctor’s office to schedule an appointment. In the past, I would’ve let it go to voice mail and ignored.
Aging is such a crazy thing and I know most of the younger guys that read this won’t be able to relate at all, because just yesterday I was one of those younger guys. I still want to tailgate all day and play cards all night but then I look in the mirror and wonder who that old man is. Its so true that you never really grow up because I still giggle at stupid jokes and am tempted to play with Optimus Prime when I see it lying on the living room floor.
It’s funny you mentioned living forever because Billy Joe Shaver’s "Live Forever" is one of my all-time favorite songs (after all the Rocky songs of course). For those that may not be familiar, it’s about legacy and how he will live forever in his songs. I think about that sometimes when I’m writing a story and how I hope that years from now my kids and grandkids can read the things I wrote and feel close to me. While it may not be a library full of leather bound books, there will still be a pretty large sample to choose from when they google me.
So earlier this week I wrote about how the Rocky movies impacted me as a kid. I didn’t even realize until I started writing how vividly I remembered the events surrounding those films. You mentioned Returning to Earth, but are there any other books or movies that you look back at and think "Wow, that really triggers a flood of memories," or that impacted you? There’s a book called "The Moves Make the Man" that impacted me as a kid.
Also the song "Islands in the Stream." Don’t ask.
Ed. Note 2 by Seth C: I forgot to respond to this during the conversation, but growing up, my musical library consisted of Eddie Rabbit, Kenny Rogers and Alabama. Those were the three 8-tracks that my parents had when I grew up and they never bought any other ones. I could sing I Love A Rainy Night in my sleep.
Seth C: If you get Returning to Earth, start with True North first. That's sort of a prequel to Returning to Earth, but it's not necessary that you read one to understand the other, but True North definitely gives a lot more context.
I'm trying to think about a movie or books that triggered a memory. I was reminded about how nerdy my up-bringing was this weekend as I'm having dinner with my family and my in-laws and while most kids are out getting in trouble and doing fun things, my mom gave me a set of biographies of famous people that she read as a child. As a kid, I pretty much inhaled those biographies and read about Abraham Lincoln, Mozart, Beethoven, George Washington, Dave Crockett, etc. They weren't real biographies and weren't anything deep, but that's what I did as a kid. I actually read this because I liked to read. Sounds crazy now and my wife laughs at me because this is what I did to entertain myself.
And then that morphed into actually reading literature for fun. For whatever reason, I decided while I was in junior high that I needed to read something important, so I started to read Hemingway. I read 5 or 6 of his novels while in junior high and I don't think this was normal. I've never read The Old Man and the Sea, that seemed to small of a book for me as a kid, which is ridiculous, but that's what I thought. I needed to read The Sun Also Rises, For Whom the Bells Toll, A Farewell to Arms. And I pretty much loved reading all of them, even if I really didn't understand what I was reading, I read them again after that and then things started to click. I am sure that everyone laughed at me growing up, but I was fine. I always had a book with me.
We exchanged tweets the other day about our kids playing t-ball. This is my first year for organized sports. I am at that delicate point where I want to make this fun for Fitsum and not drive him away from sports because I'm always telling him to do this or do that. From what I can tell thus far, this is an opportunity for Fitsum to play in the dirt.
Travis (SARR): Claire has been playing a variety of sports for about nine years, but this is Cade’s first venture into anything organized. We started in t-ball a few weeks ago and it’s been a blast. The first practice he wasn’t too sure he wanted to be there, but after about 20 minutes he was all in. They have a really young, passive coach which is the exact opposite of what 4 years olds need. They all just sorta line up around the infield and everyone of them charges toward the ball when its hit. That is, except for my son. He starts off running toward the ball but then for some reason he veers over and crosses the pitcher’s mound. Then he runs three circles around the mound before heading back to his spot at 2nd base/Centerfield/Right field every single time. It’s hilarious. Any epic t-ball stories that you’d like to share?
Also, you’ve written a lot about the basketball team, but any final thoughts as they wrap up a pleasantly surprising first year under Tubby Smith?
Ed. Note 3 by Seth C: I also forgot to respond to SARR's question about my t-ball stories, so this will be brand new to him.
Seth C: Well, thus far, there have only been two practices. The first practice went okay, but Fitsum has the attention span of a gnat when it comes to listening and doing things like that. He would chase after the ball and be really upset that he didn't get it. And then, when it was his turn to bat, he would literally tap the ball, but I think he wanted to make sure he didn't miss the ball. Plus, there's this thought that adopted children do lack that hand-eye coordination because of the time that they spend in orphanages and things like that and Fitsum is a bit behind his classmates at school, so I think there was some of that going on. His brain was wanting to make sure to make contact and the best way to do that was to go really slow.
But the second practice was awful. We had practiced during the weekend and really practiced on hitting and he was doing great. He was really starting to swing the bat. But we get to practice and he demands to swing the bat immediately even though everyone is practicing on throwing. He also does this thing where rather than say hello to another human being, he'll quack at you. We're working on that.
So I pull him aside, and give him the, "Hey buddy, all of your teammates are throwing right now, let's throw and take our turn." He is also doing this thing where he literally stomps off in anger and he pouts out his lips. Think Mick Jagger. Anyway, we did this multiple times and I was patient, but after the 4th time, we left practice. This all happened within the first ten minutes.
By the third practice, we were totally successful. He hit the ball well and there was no crying.
I've been told that there's no crying in baseball.
I was actually emailing with Dan about this earlier this week. It's amazing what one win means. Tubby Smith did something the Texas Tech football team hasn't been able to do since 2008, which is beat Texas. Granted, he got two bites at the apple, but still, that's pretty awesome. From that win, Texas Tech could have two or three commits that got to see a packed house and a ton of awesome fans cheer on their team.
The thing that I sometimes overlook is momentum, which is the idea of what one win can lead to, and then something else happens, and then another thing happens and pretty soon you're on a roll. From a pure basketball sense, that hasn't happened for this team, but from a program building perspective, that one win maybe meant more than anything that's happened this year.
I'm sure that Tubby is trying to figure out what's wrong with us. He's not used to losing this much, but here I am, high-fiving anyone that will listen to me about how much better this basketball team is. Meanwhile, Tubby is probably sick to his stomach that he's going to suffer his first losing season EVER and he's trying to figure out now to get better. I don't know if he'll really understand how after a losing season, he's a bit of a savior for this team and this program.
What about you? I am especially interested if you see any comparisons between Pop and Tubby as coaches, not necessarily X's and O's (you can if you want), but how they handle their team.
Travis (SARR): I think there are some similarities in the way they teach a team concept to the game. Neither has a team with just one or two dominant scorers, they really spread it around. The difference between the NBA game and college game is that while college teams run an offense, NBA teams run plays. It’s interesting to watch Popovich during a game because he either a) doesn’t care about offense at all or b) is so confident that the plays he calls will work he knows he can focus on defense. I think it’s the latter. The Spurs will score on some sick six pass rotation with three off ball picks to get a cutting guard a wide open lay in and he’ll go crazy because someone was out of position in transition defense.
There’s a lot of that in Tubby too. A guy that gets the most out of all of his players, not just the top two or three. He expects good play and holds them accountable without running them into the ground. And you can tell those guys really bought into his system, or as they call it down here "corporate knowledge."
Is that it? Are we done for the week? Is there confetti?
Seth C: No confetti, but we deserve fireworks. Cheers to you.